I want quiet but I want to be likable, retro pay for a late performance review, and more

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

1. Reconciling my need for quiet with a desire to be likable

I am seeking guidance on how to participate in social cultures in workplaces. FirstJob taught me that work is not only productivity, but also likability office-wide and mirroring what the big boss’s values are. My reputation at FirstJob was somebody who was very quiet and hardworking but not a member of a cherished inner circle and not a go-to person for projects.

I’m currently at a part-time job that has a full-time opening coming up. This time around, I’m much more aware of things like my likability and realize that too much quiet can be seen negatively. My work environment mores are also entirely different…. at FirstJob, I worked in the same cubicle setup with the same people for three years without knowing anything about them. Here there is a lot of chatter between cubicles, which I don’t particularly like but I deal with. I have to deal with constant interruptions from colleagues and their chatter, the gossip of the lunch table five feet away from me, and a boss who likes to come in and hang out for “bonding” but ends up just distracting me.

Do you have any suggestions for how I can reconcile my preference for quiet with my need to be likable should I want a position here? This is a field where working alone is very common. I am also wondering if I should prioritize positions where I can work quietly more often. Do you have suggestions on balancing priorities in a job search?

It’s true that likability matters, but you can be both quiet and likable. You don’t need to socialize constantly, but getting to know your coworkers and boss on a human level — how they like to spend their time, a little about their families, a mention of a TV here and there — will usually help you get along better with the people you work with. Again, not constant chatting, but small expressions of interest.

At the same time, though, you should screen for a culture where you’ll be comfortable and happy. Your current office sounds like the opposite extreme from your natural state, and there are offices that are less incessantly social. It sounds like this one might not be an ideal fit for what you want from a job — so I’d focus your thinking on the question of whether they are what you want, at least as much as you’re thinking about how to be what they want.

2. Responding to unqualified job applicants when I’d normally send more instructions

We’re hiring for a position right now where we request that the applicants fill out a standard job application. I just received a resume (no cover letter) from an applicant instead. Generally when this happens, I just email back and tell them that we’re requiring all applicants to fill out the job application, with a link to it. But after a quick look at this applicant’s resume, I know we will not be hiring them because they don’t fit our criteria. Now I’m in a quandary of what’s fair: treat it like everyone else and email back the standard email requesting the application or just send a rejection email. Is it fair to have him waste his time with the job application even though I know that we will not be hiring him?

Just send the rejection email. There’s no point in asking him to jump through hoops when you already know what the conclusion would be. (And keep in mind that ethics don’t require that you treat every applicant identically, particularly in this regard; ethics require that evaluate people on merit as objectively as you can and that you’re open and transparent with people throughout the process, but not that you funnel everyone through an identical process, particularly when there’s a foregone conclusion.)

3. I want retro pay for the delay in finishing my performance review

When I started working with my current company I was given an offer letter that stated, “Upon successful completion of your 90-day introductory period, your performance and compensation will be reviewed and you are eligible for an increase up to $XXX per year.”

After 90 days, a performance review was not conducted. My boss kept putting it off until this week, when HR informed me my increase for $XXX was approved, but the retro pay was denied (my job performance is not in question). If my review was conducted after 90 days (when it was supposed to), then the issue of retro pay would never have come up. How do I address this?

You can certainly point out that because your review wasn’t conducted at the agreed-upon time, you didn’t receive $X in salary that you otherwise would have received between then and now. A smart organization will give you retro pay to account for that — but ultimately it’s up to them. If you offer letter had said that you would receive an increase at that time, this would be more cut-and-dried, but it only said you’d be eligible to receive one, so there’s no real way to force their hand here (and you should weigh the benefits of pushing this hard against whatever impact that will have on your standing and relationship with your boss).

4. How can I propose making my role part-time without seeming like a slacker?

I work for an organization that is undergoing a restructuring. The process has been as transparent and collaborative as possible: the woman who will likely be my new manager has already reached out to discuss with me what projects I might be interested in owning from the scope of work my new team will assume. Our revenues took a big hit part-way through the restructuring, which has impacted budgets for our upcoming fiscal year and impacted head counts in the new organizational structure.

In being honest with myself and talking it over with my partner, the hours I’m working and the hectic pace of the work wear me down. We’ll be relocating in the next year and a half, so it makes sense to stay with my current organization until them as I am happy overall. But in light of our recent epiphany that I’m burning out, a knowledge that the budget just got tighter, and the fact that my future manager is actively soliciting my feedback in developing the scope of the roles on her new team, I was wondering how to go about bringing up my openness to a part-time role. I’m thinking 60% would be ideal. I understand my manager may need the full capacity of her team to carry out the work we’re charged with and I am happy to keep working full-time, but would like to find a way to let her know that she could use my capacity as a variable in her planning and budgeting. It’s worth stating explicitly that the organization I work with is full of type-A overachievers. While there are a few folks have a part-time arrangement, I’m nervous that this request would plant concerns about my being a slacker (I have a complex about this myself), especially since I don’t have a “legit” reason for going part-time, just my desire to continue doing work I enjoy with a better work-life balance.

“Would you be open to making this a part-time role? While I love the work I do, I’d love to talk about the prospect of going part-time, around three days a week.” I don’t think you need to have any reason beyond that you’d like to and could accommodate the pay cut it would entail.

That said, you’re far better equipped than me to judge how that might go over in your organization, so your knowledge of your culture should be your guide here. Also, factor in that in an environment like the one you describe, part-time could very quickly turn into more hours than you’re envisioning (while you stay at part-time pay).

5. How should my resume address job duties wildly outside my job description?

I work for a very small company (just myself and my two bosses). When I applied two years ago, the job description was geared towards a Marketing position, but as it turns out I do much more than marketing. In fact, I do everything from product development to shipping to assistant duties for one of my bosses. I’ve helped my boss unpack when she moved to a new house, organized things for her children and helped her complete projects for an auction she runs outside the business. I don’t have a problem doing things “outside my role,” but I will be moving out of state shortly and am unsure of how to describe my current job on my resume. While I definitely do a lot of marketing work, I also have multiple other duties within the company, as well as more typical “assistant” duties.

Additionally, one of my bosses works remotely and I’m not sure she knows about all the “assistant” duties I do. It’s all very awkward for me because we are such a small company and all three of us are very close. Both of my bosses have been mentors for me and have helped me out immensely during my time here. I’m just not sure how to approach describing what exactly I do because I do so many different things.

Well, do those additional duties strengthen your resume if you include them? Do they relate to the jobs you want to apply for? If so, by all means include them. But if not (and I’m guessing not, unless you’re applying for personal assistant positions), you’re under no obligation to include them. Just highlight the work that best represents where the majority of your time went and links to the jobs you’re applying for.

{ 172 comments… read them below }

  1. Confused*

    I’m curious to know what you mean by, “standard job application.” What does this cover that would not already be addressed in a resume?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      For employers that use them, the point is often to have the candidate sign off in agreement that the information is accurate, there are often permissions for various verifications and background checks later in the process, and so forth. Personally I think they’re silly and never use them, but they’re common for that reason.

      1. Confused*

        Thank you for explaining. I agree they are silly too. The background check section makes some sense but I feel it’s premature (like asking for a SS#) when you’re at stage 1 of gathering resumes. Signing off on you information makes no sense, however. If someone is going to lie about their information a waiver isn’t going to change that.
        “Yeah….I 10 PhDs and was the first person to land on the moon, yeah…that’s the ticket!” ;)

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          For companies that are (wrongly) afraid to fire people without a zillion pieces of evidence, having a signed form swearing the accuracy of false background info makes that an easier process for them. So that’s at least part of the thinking.

          1. Joey*

            Id agree with you except its useful to ask for all jobs (since resumes aren’t always all inclusive, compare the résumé to the app (you’d be surprised), and ask about convictions, etc.

            1. Elizabeth*

              Out of curiosity, why do you feel it’s useful to ask for all jobs? At this point in my career, I wouldn’t put all my prior jobs on my résumé exactly *because* I don’t think prospective employers would be interested in the fact that I watered plants in a greenhouse in college for $7/hour. At one point in time I might have left that on because it demonstrated responsibility at least, but now it’d only demonstrate that I lack the ability to edit.

              1. Joey*

                Because Id want to know if you left any fairly recent job on bad or good terms. And I’d want to if you took an unrelated job seriously. And i might be able to see that you’re willing to do menial tasks when necessary or that you might have some talent that may be useful down the road in another capacity.

                1. JustKatie*

                  But at what point do you have enough information? For somebody who’s been in the workforce for awhile, they could have had a huge number of jobs, even if they’ve been working at their current employer for a very long time.

                  Heck, I’m not quite 30, but I’ve had probably 15 employers if you include all of my high school and college seasonal employers (and would have a heck of a time dredging up exact dates and names of supervisors). How useful is this information in getting a clear picture of the candidate?

                2. A Teacher*

                  I technically have 4 “employers” right now. One of my jobs is teaching a one hour fitness class once a week, and I would include that on my resume as it fits the fields I work in.

                  If I went back through grad school, college, and high school I’d have to put more than 20 employers on and that’s way to much information. Most of those jobs are summer jobs from high school/college. WAY TOO MUCH info for an application system or resume.

                3. Dan*

                  Well, that particular job I leave off applications anyway. It was a three month stint right after school, so the time period doesn’t stick out.

                4. Joey*

                  It depends. Enough is different depending on your work history. Enough is when I have enough to be able to predict how you will perform in the next few years. For someone who rarely moves it will be less jobs than someone who has moved around a lot.

        2. PEBCAK*

          The signature usually goes under some fine print that says something like “I understand that falsifying this information is grounds for immediate termination.”

      2. Joey*

        They’re only silly when you don’t have any use for them-that usually when you’re hiring in small quantities. They’re not silly when you’re dealing with lots of positions and/or applicants or need to keep a database of applicants.

    2. Brett*

      Most of our massive (2o pages) application pertains to background check, but some things are job requirements commonly not on your resume: full driving record, academic disciplinary record (must be clean or have explanations), all sources of income and equity holdings (due to conflict of interest laws), and use of force history (i.e. have you ever shot anyone).

        1. Brett*

          Public safety. Even for public safety our background check is rigorous, but the elements I listed are more job requirements than background check.

          1. Ethyl*

            Can you explain what relevance my detention in 7th grade for skipping math class has on my ability to work in public safety at age 36? I’m not trying to be snarky but this amount of information seems ridiculous, and much of it sounds irrelevant, even for people who will be carrying guns.

            1. TL*

              It’s just to justify when your teachers tell you “It’s going on your permanent record!”

              Seriously, though, I know I got detention once for a string of tardies (thanks to my siblings) but I don’t remember when.

            2. Brett*

              7th grade has nothing to do with it. This is for post-secondary transcripts. A 4-year degree is required for most positions. If it will not show up on your transcripts, it is not an issue.

              Basically that requirement means that if you were ever suspended from college, that suspension has to be cleared. If you were ever expelled, that expulsion is going to have to be investigated before you can be hired. Most common disqualifying issue here is having an unpaid account or defaulted student loan.

              1. Ethyl*

                That makes sense, but from the phrase “academic disciplinary record” I assumed you meant pre-college, since most university students don’t really incur much in the way of a “disciplinary record.” When I’ve provided college and graduate school transcripts, it is just a listing of courses and grades. Is there some kind of other record that background checkers ask for?

                1. Ethyl*

                  Also, student loan information is definitely not found on transcripts. Are you outside the US?

                2. Anonymous*

                  No, but an unpaid balance with the institution would lead to one’s transcript being withheld.

                3. Brett*

                  What Anonymous said.
                  And a defaulted student loan will result in a financial aid hold on transcripts if it occurs during school (which is more rare, but does happen).

        1. Brett*

          Well, there is also a “would you shoot someone” question :) (but that is more about whether your would have reservations with using lethal force if the situation required it)

          1. JustKatie*

            Reminds me of those phone screening I had to do for my retail jobs… “is it ever okay to steal from your employer, even if it’s just a small item, like a pen? Press 1 for yes, 2 for no, 3 if you’re not sure”.

            Is it ever okay to shoot someone, just a *little* bit?

            1. Dan*

              JustKatie, the answer is yes — and that will be obvious the first time you are looking down the barrel of someone else’s gun and that person is not a law enforcement officer.

              I had a pre-screen test for a job that asked how much the average employee stole from a company every year. It was multiple choice with four options – $0, <$25, and two more that I forget. I didn't know what to put — the answer is clearly more than $0, but am I supposed to actually admit that? And then, are you talking about mean or median? That's a huge different depending on the spread. (I was interviewing for a math-based position at a transportation company.)

        1. Brett*

          That has been an issue of contention.

          For police officers, it makes sense, because there is no job interview. Your application is accepted or rejected without even a phone screen. Then you get a conditional offer and go through a background check. Why? Because after you are accepted you still go through academy, which is the real hiring process.

          But for civilian positions, it doesn’t make sense. Civilians do not have an academy and they go through a normal screening and interview process before their background check. It would make more sense to do a normal resume based application and then request the full application after the initial phone screen.

    3. OP #2*

      I meant “standard” in that it’s a fairly typical straightforward application. No social security number, asks for pertinent jobs, education, etc. Basically what you would have on a resume, but in a standard format so we can quickly find what we want.

      We use it because the type of the position we’re hiring for don’t require a high level of education, won’t be creating documents, writing, etc. (Its a field assistant/laborer type of position). It’s more productive to have them fill out an application (which they’re used to) than ask for a resume/cover letter that will not be well written or easy to read (since the position doesn’t require that from the candidates anyway).

      On the other hand, when I look for office positions, I ask for a cover letter and a resume. I want to see that they can write and format a document well.

        1. Us, Too*

          Pardon me, but… FOUR PAGES? I have 20 years of professional experience, 2 degrees, professional certifications, etc and I can still fit all my credentials on TWO pages. But you’re hiring for an assistant/laborer position. I may be missing something here, but what information are you asking for that takes up so much room?

          (I agree that four pages isn’t absurdly strenuous, I just don’t get why even four pages is necessary)

          1. OP #2*

            I think it’s just the spacing/format of it. A typed resume is going to be more condense then an applications with fields to fill in.

          2. Elsajeni*

            A lot of it is just the difference in formatting, especially if 1) it’s a paper application that people will be hand-writing their answers onto and 2) you’re including space to answer open-ended questions, like the “If yes, please explain:” that often comes after questions about whether you’ve ever been fired, convicted of a crime, had a professional license revoked, etc. Plus, the form has to include more than enough space for the average person — if you expect most applicants to have attended one college or university, you still probably want to include two or three lines in that category, to allow for the applicants who, say, transferred from community college after two years or are taking part-time classes toward a second degree.

          3. HR Lady*

            Ours is 4 pages, also, and it is really due to formatting. Basically the first page is all about your name, contact info, have you ever worked for us before, how soon would you be available to start working, etc. Second page is education. Third page is job information. Fourth page (just a half page) is your signature. Standard application that we bought from a vendor.

      1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

        Exactly. I agree that there are definitely jobs where an application is better than a resume. A resume is a marketing document you create because it will make you look good. An application is a specific set of questions that I, the prospective employer, have decided I want to know about you before calling you in for an interview.

        There’s a lot of overlap, but there are going to be some jobs for which an application is just much better, and some jobs for which a resume is just better as well. And not all applications are great and not all are needed, but that fact alone doesn’t mean they’re useless.

    4. Sydney*

      I created an online job application that I make applicants fill out. It’s a web form split into four sections:

      1. Name and contact info
      2. Education (college, high school if applicable)
      3. Job history (you must fill out current/previous employer, and then you can either fill out the remaining boxes and/or upload a resume for the rest)
      4. Four check-boxes that say stuff along the lines of “I can do this job,” “I’m not a criminal/can pass a background check,” etc.

      The biggest reason I want them to fill this out over just resume/cover letter is because resumes vary widely, and sometimes people don’t give me enough info about their past employers, specifically regarding supervisor’s name and start/end dates.

      I also use it as a test to see if the candidate can follow directions. You’d be shocked (or perhaps just saddened) by the amount of people who just email me a resume when the job ad clearly says “Apply online at xyz.com/app. Do not email resumes.”

  2. Vicki*

    #1 “work is not only productivity, but also likability office-wide and mirroring what the big boss’s values are.”

    I am saddened that the OP feels this way.

    You don’t want to be disliked, either, but you also don’t want to be seen as a suck-up. You want to be seen as someone who gets the work done. It’s god to ave your values align with those of the company, but mirroring the “big boss’s values” doesn’t make you someone the rest of the team wants to have around.

    Alison’s advice is something you need to consider: instead of trying to remake yourself in the image of this company’s culture, perhaps you should be finding a better culture to work in.

    1. OP #1*

      Well, my feedback at FirstJob was “productive, but not a member of the Team,” (at a job that had little teamwork) which I interpreted as, “We like you, but we don’t LIKE you.” Is there an interpretation I am missing?

      The thing about my case is that 1) I don’t own a television and 2) my major hobbies happen not to be workplace appropriate. So far I’ve gotten along on getting along ok, I think, but at the end of the day Boss will make a hiring decision out of my control.

      1. Bluefish*

        OP#1. I understand your struggle to find balance. I am someone who is “all business” at work. I get to work and am 100% focused on my job. I would just rather not waste time on the social aspects of being there. With that said. I’ve found a good balance for me is to have those small talk encounters with those I work with (at least once a week), and also if anyone refers to me as quiet I point out that I realize I come off as quiet, but its more that I get really focuse on the tasks I’m working on. I am aware that sometimes I can be too focused so I definitely am always trying to work on that. Once i explain this people seem to find me more “likable”. It’s almost like before I say it, they think I don’t like them and am just a cranky person or something. Once I reframe it as being focused, they are more forgiving because they no longer see me as a cranky person (which is inevitably how quiet people come across sometimes).

        1. NEP*

          #1 – Thanks for bringing up this important point. I’m sure many of us can relate. I keep to myself and focus on my work, and it’s often been taken as being aloof. I agree it’s helpful to make an effort to connect with people, and one can indeed strike a good balance; but it seems to me it’s not right for others to jump to conclusions and judge based on a negative and inaccurate impression. Both sides have a role here in fostering a positive, fruitful atmosphere.

        2. MissDisplaced*

          Yes, I’m thinking that too. It’s fine to want/need quiet space at work to… work. And it’s fine to let people know that at times you can be easily distracted and so need quiet to focus and concentrate on your work.

          But OP needs to then make a bit more effort at being social. Perhaps this can be done at certain times of the day (like the first hour of the day) before you jump into the workload. You can also reach out to people by being the one to initiate the social times, such as: “Jane I need to work on something for a few hours, but can we go out for lunch/coffee/walk etc. today at 1 o’clock?” It also helps if you take lunch when the “community” does, if the lunchroom becomes a social hub.

          I think generally people are pretty understanding of this and eventually your office mates will “get” the way you schedule your workday. But YOU have to make a bit of effort to participate too.

          1. LBK*

            +1, it’s one thing if your coworkers are truly rambling on about personal matters all day long, but it’s pretty natural for discussions to pop up a couple times a day. It won’t kill you to participate in them, or just look up/around when the conversation is going on to show you’re engaged and listening even if you don’t have anything to contribute.

            I also wonder if there are any team activities you don’t participate in, whether formal or informal. Do you coworkers go out to lunch together a lot and you’ve always declined the invite? That kind of stuff can put people off, too, and managers will notice if everyone else is out at lunch together and you’re the only one still sitting at your desk. I’ve gone on some department lunches where I didn’t really have anything to contribute because it’s just what the team was doing, and that’s part of being on one.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        I don’t think tv has any bearing here. Not trying to be mean- I own one and NEVER turn it on. Yeah, I miss some cultural stuff, some of the shared jokes but it’s really not that big a deal. I know quite a few people that never look at stuff on tv.

        As to hobbies- that could be anything. But you know, I like reading about foods and nutrition. This causes eye rolling in many people. So I keep that to myself. I also like reading about alternative medical modalities. Again, not something everyone enjoys hearing about. So yeah, sometimes we keep our personal interests to ourselves.

        Here’s the key- these are only two aspects of life: tv and hobbies. There are many more aspects of life. Nothing wrong with making small talk here and there. If you happen to remember that a coworker had car trouble last week then you can ask them how they made out with the car repair. You can commiserate about the cold weather for a moment. Small talk stuff but it gives people an idea of who you are.

        It could be, like Alison said a chatty office is just not for you. Which is fine also. It’s been my experience that chatters do not understand quiet people and visa versa. You may just have to directly say- “I am a quiet worker.” I have worked with people who have said that and my take away was- oh they are okay then. If they were quiet because of having problems, I would be concerned that they needed something and were not getting that something.

        Not sure why the boss will make a hiring decision beyond your control. Are you wanting a promotion?

      3. Anonymous*

        Here’s what I do.
        1. Never bash what other people enjoy doing. (Even if you are mocking them all to pieces in your head, just don’t say it. Just saying you don’t own a tv will be viewed by some as an attack. If someone asks if you watch X, say you haven’t had a chance to catch it yet.)
        2. Have 1-2 prepared anecdotes about your weekend or your plans for your weekend. (And if you think yours are inappropriate for the workplace, lie. But they don’t have to be big. “I went out for breakfast and the coffee shop had my food ready when I walked through the door because I’m always there at the same time.” It’s 5 minutes of your life, you explain it in 30 seconds. You’re done socializing for the day.)
        3. For about 1/3 or so of the conversations, lead with your anecdote, at least at the start of knowing people. This will make people feel like you’re open and sharing, and then as time goes on and people have firmly established this belief about you, you can cut way back.
        4. Smile. Fake it if you need, but smile a lot.

        This is given assuming you want people to actually like you or like the you they perceive. If you believe that the most important thing is being “genuine” or something then don’t worry about this. But you say you want to know how to be perceived as being likable so these are my practical tips from someone who is considered a whole bunch of very bad things.

        1. Cat*

          I don’t think you need to lie about watching TV – “I don’t own a TV” does usually come off kind of snotty but it’s easy enough to say “no, I’ve never seen that, what’s it about?” and let the person fill you in (which they’re usually happy to do).

          1. the gold digger*

            “I don’t own a TV” does usually come off kind of snotty

            I hadn’t thought of it that way. I didn’t have a TV before I was married because we didn’t have TV when I was a kid. (I grew up on military bases overseas.) When I was finally around TV, I discovered that I have no taste and would watch hours and hours of junk. So it’s not a snob thing for me but a necessary action to keep me from wasting my life on the home shopping network.

            1. Cat*

              Yeah, I don’t think not owning a TV is snotty, but volunteering that information can read that way. Especially these days when you can watch TV on the internet or with DVD box sets too; a lot of the people who volunteer that they don’t own a TV in conversations that are not about that are people who are making a point of not owning a TV. Which clearly isn’t the vast majority of non-TV owners; just, sometimes it turns into a tainted by association thing.

              1. Briefly anon*

                I had an ex who constantly boasted that We Didn’t Have a TV and was absolutely one of the annoying people you’re talking to. I wanted to avoid coming off like that, so I started telling people my TV was broken. (It was technically true; ex had deliberately tossed my TV antenna so it could only be used for DVD watching, and yes this was a major bone of contention…)

              2. Laura*

                A lot of people who say they don’t own a TV often come across as thinking they’re better than people who do. There is a vocal minority of non TV owners who look down on TV owners, and once you’ve encountered one of those you develop a negative association. I don’t own a TV, but watch TV a lot on Netflix. I think if you don’t own a tv/don’t watch tv, it comes off much better to say “I haven’t seen that show, what’s it about?” then saying “I don’t own a TV”,, because no one ever asks if you own a TV, and it’s highly likely that you don’t need a TV to watch whatever they’re mentioning

            2. Anonymous*

              Most of the people who I know who don’t own a tv are like this. But most of they also don’t talk about not owning a tv. Instead they talk about the other stuff they do. Which is I think why people have that reaction.
              (Same with people who are vegetarian, the people who talk a lot about it are bound to get annoying about it and come off a certain way, but your confirmation bias means you don’t notice the people who are but don’t talk about it. So people end up with a baised view of people who have that characteristic because of the people who talk about it.)

              1. VintageLydia USA*

                It always surprises me how many vegetarian friends and family members I have when I start plannign for a party. None of them are the “stereotypical” vegetarians (and one vegan! Who I didn’t know wasn’t vegetarian until I had a party and only had one thing she could eat. I felt terrible!) Made me realize the “stereotypical” ones are probably actually pretty rare. Same for TV watching. We don’t own a TV either, but I do spend a ton of time online. It’s more interactive, I guess, but really it’s not better than watching TV. It’s just different. Plus, I do have Netflix and Amazon Prime so it’s not like I’m totally out of the TV loop. I just watch significantly less HGTV and Food Network than I used to.

            3. Tris Prior*

              For me it was not having cable that isolated me from my co-workers at Former Company. Sounds silly, but it’s true. They’d gather around and talk about the previous night’s Dexter or Walking Dead, and not only would I have nothing to contribute to the conversation, I’d have to step away because I was Netflixing previous seasons and didn’t want to be spoilered!

              What sucked about the whole thing though is that I just plain could not afford cable, and I didn’t really want to go around admitting that at work. I used to get so angry when Boss would say “oh, you really should be watching this” and I’d want to retort, “yeah? Maybe I’d be able to if you paid me a living wage!”

              This was literally the only thing that co-workers wanted to talk about. I never did find a way around it.

              1. tcookson*

                This is my experience, too! We subscribe to the lowest level of cable (basically the three major networks and a few other channels), so I’m never watching the hot new shows while they’re hot and new; I’m watching previous seasons on netflix while everyone else is way ahead of me, talking about the current season. It hasn’t been a real social problem for me, but it does suck in a very minor way to not have anyone to have a tv bond with.

            4. Natalie*

              This is coming full circle in a way – I don’t own an actual television, but I watch a ton of TV shows. I’ve met more than a few people with the same set up – they watch on an iPad, or perhaps own a television but never actually watch over-the-air broadcast, just streaming Netflix and so forth.

              1. Dan*

                I dumped cable in 2001. At various points since then I’ve fallen into the “no TV” camp. But when I could watch Netflix streaming and DVDs on my laptop, the “no TV” moniker started to have less and less meaning. Honestly, that getup got me through grad school and it’s just fine.

                I now have a 65″ TV with a full 5.1 surround system. I still don’t have cable or an over-the-air antenna.

                Cable costs too much for what you get, and since Netflix has enough to keep me occupied, it’s an appropriate use of my entertainment funds.

        2. HRNewbie*

          While I agree with 1 & 4 I really do not think that lying is the greatest of ideas.

          Be nice, don’t bash people, regarding TV you could always say something along the lines of ‘you know, I don’t own a TV but I’ve heard a lot of people talking about it – it sounds good’ just keep the conversation going and ask questions.

          If you feel that your activities are inappropriate discussion for the water-cooler/coffee machine then give a vague ‘my weekend was good thanks’ and either return the question or change the subject.

          I would say occasionally socialising with colleagues after work is probably the best way to go.

          But definitely do not lie or be ‘fake’ because people can pick up on that.

          1. Anonymous*

            Lies are a huge social lubricant. And most people are so focused on themselves they don’t care that you just made up an anecdote about your weekend.

            People say they want the truth but if I tell my coworkers I spent all weekend reading I’ll get 30 minutes of them lecturing me about how I could be doing something else. Not interested in that. If I tell them I went for a walk and it was lovely they’ll accept it and move forward with their lives. People who don’t accept the truth don’t deserve it. If the truth is you’re quiet, or you spend all weekend tying your partner up for fun, or you run a secret website on the dark web and people aren’t willing to hear that then heck yeah lie. Keep it simple and let people turn the focus back to what they enjoy most (themself) and you’ll be much happier at work and so will they.

            People can’t pick up on fake. (Especially since you endorsed fake smiling…)

            1. KJR*

              I SO wish it were more “socially acceptable” to spend time reading (at least in my circle, it may be different elsewhere…one can hope!) Reading is one of my favorite things to do, it’s like breathing to me. But you’re right, you might get some strange looks if you say you read all weekend, vs. say, attending a few sporting events. I do both, but only because my kids are active in sports and I want to be a supportive mom, and my husband loves them. I’d like nothing more than to pull out my Kindle during some of them, but obviously that’s a no-no!

              1. AVP*

                That is totally socially acceptable to me, and would probably make you quite popular in my neighborhood!

              2. KAS*

                I once pulled out a book at a MLB game! My BF, just shrugged–but the folks sitting ’round gave me scrunchie faces.

                1. VintageLydia USA*

                  You know, I love going to baseball games but they are LONG with long stretches of time where not much exciting is happening. I wish I thought to bring a book before.

              3. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

                When I got the tour of my current workplace (which is my state’s education department) I was so thrilled– almost everyone has a whiteboard outside their office or cubicle where they say what book they’re currently reading. Recommendations are always flying back and forth, as are books that we’re lending to each other.

                It’s such a perfect fit for reading-addicted me. :)

              4. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I always kind of loved Laura Bush after hearing that when she married into the Bush family, she’d sit in the dark house and read while they were all outside playing football with each other.

              5. Laura*

                Reading all weekend is totally socially acceptable to me (and something I do sometimes!) . We should be best friends:) Luckily in my workplace it’s acceptable to read somewhat, so I mention the new book I’m reading, and don’t mention that all I did all weekend was read it and not leave the house. Apparently people are expected to leave the house on weekends and like do stuff.

              6. Fiona*

                I’m addicted to the written word…I’m usually reading at least two books at a time. I literally never go anywhere without a book (I have the kindle app on all my devices). I would not last long in any social circle that didn’t include a heavy percentage of fellow readers.

                That said, if someone asked me what I did this weekend, I might say “I finished reading the new John Grisham novel” – no need to mention that I started it Friday night and didn’t put it down until Sunday afternoon. ;)

              7. Cath@VWXYNot?*

                My family will quite happily sit around all reading silently in the same room for hours at a time. My in-laws? Not so much – they do read, but think it’s weird to do it if you’re not alone in the room.

                One of the best things about e-readers, IMO, is that whichever book I’m reading will fit into any purse. I love having my book with me everywhere I go!

              8. tcookson*

                I spend almost all my time reading (I read while I cook, during the commercials when I watch TV, in the bathtub, at the breakfast table by sneaking a peak when my family’s not looking . . . ). I was totally surprised, when I started my current job eight years ago, that my reading actually became the basis of my best friendships at the office. There are a group of about 5 or 6 women there who are as into reading as I am, and we all enjoy the same sorts of books (fiction by southern women), so we pass them around and talk about them. I haven’t had the same thing around the tv shows that I watch, but it’s been wonderful to have it around the books that I read.

            2. LBK*

              If your coworkers truly give you a 30 minute rant when you say you were reading all weekend, they are nuts. That’s not normal. I’ve never had to lie to my coworkers about what I did on the weekend unless it was of questionable work appropriacy, and even then you can just keep it vague – “hung out with some friends” is fine.

              1. Anonymous*

                Vague little things like that are “intriguing”. Small bits are much more useful, they make people feel like you really shared and keep people from feeling like you’re aloof. Specifics are really helpful when you are trying to make people feel like they know you.

                “Oh I’m a mom and I have to spend all my weekend taking care of my kids and how I wish I could spend all weekend reading and oh it’s such a luxury and you’re so lucky and on and on and on and on.” Not interested. It’s not normal but at some workplaces there are socially acceptable activities (having kids, going out to sports things, tv etc) and other that aren’t (reading, walking, etc). If you know your culture you can just share the parts of you that appear to fit, or make it up so you can get back to doing your job.

                1. Cat*

                  Yeah, there are few people more annoying than those parents who feel the need to point out that you have so much more free time than them every time you mention doing anything. Ugh.

                2. LBK*

                  Ah, that makes sense. Most of the people in my office are in their 20s/early 30s so only a few have kids, so I’m accustomed to a very different culture where children are basically never a topic of discussion.

            3. HRNewbie*

              They can – they also talk. Being caught in a lie will do alot more harm both likeability-wise and professionally than being known as ‘that quiet person.’

              Regarding a fake smile – yes – when it comes down to it, at difficult times a smile is so much better than a scowl.

              Also on a general level if anybody makes you feel that you have to lie to them to get them to like you, they are so not worth your time. Be polite, be cordial, be professional but definitely do not lie to them to make your life seem more interesting in their eyes. One thing that offices do is throw a lot of different types of people together, there will be somebody in your office that you can relate to as a ‘work-buddy’.

              Building a reputation as a professional, reliable and TRUSTworthy of you as an employee will create a better impression than a pack of lies ever will.

              1. Anonymous*

                It is a nice idea that anyone who makes you feel like you have to lie to them is not worth your time. But I guess I need a job more than you do. Or maybe I’m a less likable person when I’m just being me.

                And I am perfectly TRUSTworthy as an employee. I do my job extremely well, in a timely manner, in the way it was requested. But I have no desire to tell you the truth about my weekend and frankly you have no desire to hear it. I’m glad your world is full of people who are always totally accepting and never call anyone names or are mean or insulting because of something someone does but here in the real world people suck, are jerks, and are mean and you have to get through the day with your job. And yeah sometimes that means saying you went to see a movie when you didn’t or that you went for a bike ride when you really just hid under the cover sobbing all weekend. No one wants to hear that so stop acting like you do.

                1. HRNewbie*

                  Hang on a second. My comment was not in any way saying leave your job, everything is rosy where I am, people aren’t jerks. Do not twist what people say into something different than what it is.

                  Maybe it’s the job that I am in, but I would want to know if somebody is feeling overwhelmed and dragged down by the cultural environment of the office – or in general – I would like to think that if a colleague was as low as your comments examples say they are, that I could help them feel included or that there is somebody during the day that they could speak to when people are jerks. Because you are right – they are – it’s dealing with them which we clearly do not agree on. I wasn’t picked on in school – not horrifically – but I was nowhere near popular. I was quiet, I was a loner – and I still am to a certain extent. I tried to change who I was, I even followed what you advise and it just did not work.

                  I work with people who can be jerks at times – some have jerk as a default setting – and because of my job I do take the brunt of that. The way I have learnt deal with it is basically – ok you’re being a jerk today and the way you are choosing to deal with things sucks, but I am me and I am cool with that, so you do you and I’ll do me (not out loud)

                  From experience, and as a manager as well, if I found somebody lying about small things it would most likely cause me to question other things that they tell me- there would definitely be a niggling trust issue there. I would much rather advise a vague answer, subtle conversation change or just simply asking the questions rather than lying.

                  Just be yourself. do your work, smile at people and if you must make small talk – talk about the weather/ stay away from personal things that you aren’t comfortable with.

                  I am working alongside the people who decide promotions etc. in my organisation and how interesting people find each others weekends has little impact on promotion recognition/opportunities, their quality of work does.

                  If anyone watched Gilmore Girls, I would much rather have Rory reading a book and being herself than trying to be ‘cool’ with the Puffs because it just never ends well…
                  Here’s a link to the episode guide because I cannot explain it well, but essentially, it is similar just convert it to the workplace. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0588162/

                  And if all else fails, listen to/look up the lyrics/watch the video for Bowling for Soup – High School Never Ends because it doesn’t and work is essentially high school but with spreadsheets and a coffee machine…

            4. The Real Ash*

              Why would you stand around for a thirty-minute lecture? I hope you’re overexaggerating. Also what kind of person lectures someone else about something like that if they aren’t that person’s parent? Your co-workers are terrible.

            5. Vicki*

              Lies are a huge social lubricant… seriously?
              Maybe where you are. Where I am, that stops when they people you lied to find out (and oh, yes, we will find out.

        3. Lisa*

          TV shows are a huge office bonding thing, so that 30 min each Monday is dedicated to talking about the latest episodes. If you are a private person, this is a great way to bond. And kids of course, talk about the latest craze and you will bond with the parents / aunts / uncles / grandparents in the office.

          1. tesyaa*

            If nothing else, I find complaining about the weather gets co-workers chatting like nothing else! It’s really true that people love to talk about the weather!

            1. Del*

              Especially this winter! I’m not the type to generally strike up casual conversation, but I’ve met probably eight or nine new people in my part of the building this winter via “oh my god will this winter ever end?” griping.

          2. Anonymous*

            Oh yes. I would rather have all my teeth pulled than talk about my personal life — especially my relationship, family life, etc (I do it to some extent because of societal expectations, blah blah). But I actually watch quite a bit of television and tons of people can talk about Game of Thrones, How I Met Your Mother or The Good Wife (big fodder this week, hooboy).

            Is watching TV the most intellectually gratifying experience I have? Not usually (though I’d make a case for Breaking Bad). But does it help enormously as a social lubricant to the point that it’s a worthwhile investment of my time (plus, you know, enjoyable)? TOTALLY.

        4. holly*

          i smile at everyone all the time, but pretty much never talk about anything substantial. very infrequently my weekend plans. almost never television. usually it’s just, “hey how was your weekend?” “good, you?” and then we move on. or i’m a good listener :) sometimes current events like the boston bombing since my nearest co-worker lived there for awhile. again, mostly listening on my part.

      4. Graciosa*

        I suspect that you’re right in your assessment – being seen as a member of the team is important for many (but not all) jobs. Alison was correct in suggesting that you may want to find one that is better aligned to your personality.

        An introvert would find the environment you describe draining – I am one myself, and can see that my natural instinct would be to withdraw further, which doesn’t help. Intense focus can be read by others as rejection, which is probably not your goal here.

        The (sort of) good news is that this type of socializing is a skill which can be learned. Here are a few suggestions:

        1. Smile a lot – all the time. My natural expression of reserve read as severe or unhappy, so I changed it. I now smile automatically at everyone at work, even strangers I’m passing on the way to the bathroom. I can see the change in the way I’m perceived, as other people who don’t normally smile at work smile when they see me.

        It takes a little time to make this a habit, but it doesn’t take much effort once it’s automatic, and it buys you a lot of good will. It also means others are less likely to assume you’ve got your head down in a project because you don’t like them – kind of a silly assumption on their part, but it helps to deal with it.

        2. Make the rounds at work yourself. I make a circuit of my area at intervals (sometimes twice a day – morning and afternoon – and sometimes once every couple days depending upon what’s going on) and stop to chat for a moment with everyone who seems open to it. I give a quick greeting or wave to anyone who seems too busy to chat.

        This establishes you as interested in your co-workers, but you get to control the schedule. I find it more stressful to cope with interruptions, but not everyone feels that way. The time spent on my rounds is designated for this part of my job (improving relationships) so it feels like less of an imposition than coping with an unscheduled visitor. I often have a few work-related items to cover – casually, in between other comments – so I get that taken care of at the same time. It feels more like I’m accomplishing things that way.

        3. Remember that listening counts. You can do this successfully sharing much less about yourself than you would think. I know nothing about sports (and don’t care to learn) but the office sports fanatic is happy to have me stop by. I ask him how his team is doing (a generic inquiry because I don’t always know what season it is from a sports perspective) and he tells me all about it. I look sympathetic or pleased (as appropriate) and make remarks like “Wow, you must really be [excited / frustrated / disappointed / looking forward to the next game]” and he’s happy.

        4. Find ways to manage the interruptions. If you’re doing the above, you will have a lot more leeway to look regretful and say you need to get back to [critical project]. People will be more likely to believe that you like them and would love to chat because of your other behavior.

        Think about how to manage these intelligently – you can’t always use the same excuse or invariably refuse to chat, but you can do it sometimes and you can manage the length of the interruptions all the time. Pay attention to cues for ending conversations (some are matters of intonation, some are more explicit “Before you have to go” remarks) and use them to bring these conversations to a close.

        I hope these will help you manage your current situation at work, but don’t lose sight of the importance of finding a job that suits your natural preferences. You can develop the skills to cope in other environments – and I think that the skills are useful ones to have when needed – but we spend enough time at work to make it worthwhile to invest the time finding a congenial environment.

        Good luck.

        1. MissDisplaced*

          Good suggestions Graciosa!
          I’m a bit of an introvert myself. I’ll be starting a new job soon, and was thinking of ways I can work on my office social skills, which will be more important in my new role, while still maintaining the “space” I always need to fulfill my duties, which include a lot of writing and design planning.

        2. Julie*

          Great ideas! I’m not an introvert, but I’m shy, so I force myself to interact with coworkers even when it makes me nervous. A couple of friends have told me that they thought I was stuck up or aloof before they got to know me, so I try to smile and say hello when I pass people in the hallway. I genuinely enjoy taking with people, but it’s not easy for me to start a conversation. I’m going to try some of your ideas, especially the one about circulating around the office. It will be good for me physically to get up and walk around, and I’m sure I’ll find one or two people who want to chat for a few minutes. I feel excited to try this. :) Thanks for taking the time to write out your “friendliness” tactics!

        3. Another Sara*

          +1 for smiling all the time. Like you, my natural expression, especially when focused, reads as severe/annoyed. After a negative review one year because “it doesn’t matter how helpful I actually am, it matters how helpful people *think* I am,” I started forcing myself to smile constantly. I smile when people interrupt me. I smile when I make eye contact with anyone. I smile in meetings. I put smiley faces in emails. Without changing anything else at all, I suddenly received a flood of feedback about how helpful I had “become.” Now, the smiling is much more automatic, so it’s little trouble to keep it up. I think it’s ridiculous that I had to do this (and that my boss refused to evaluate me on the facts of my work), but it’s certainly been effective.

          1. Lili*

            A smile works magic. I have the same problem: if I do not put a smile/half a smile on my face I look angry or annoyed. Never my intention!
            Excellent suggestions, Graciosa!

      5. V*

        You don’t necessarily have to let them in on every detail of your life; even if your major hobby is not workplace appropriate, or you’re not comfortable discussing your personal life with coworkers, try to isolate 2-3 things which you *can* talk about that might be points in common.

        You don’t watch TV, but do you read books? Go out hiking? Knit? Cook? Sew? Play computer games? Own any pets?

        For example, all my coworkers hear about my garden, my cats (and not the snakes), and my house when they ask how things are. They don’t generally hear about the goth/industrial music DJing until I’ve known them for a while, and at this point the only thing they know about my personal life is that I have a boyfriend and family in town.

        My other suggestion would be to set a goal of spending 5 minutes chatting with your coworkers twice a day; you can start this right before a meeting if you want to make sure it doesn’t last too long, but most people like having a bit of a social connection outside of just the work you’re doing; if they see you as a person who they’re friendly with and not just a coworker it’ll help them remember you and might make them a bit more inclined to go out of their way to help out.

        1. MissDisplaced*

          LOL! People love to talk about their pets and kids! Big news stories are another top office topic. So even if the OP doesn’t own a TV, there are still plenty of things for small talk.

          1. JMegan*

            Yes! And if you see a picture of either pets or kids at someone’s desk, an “Oh, s/he is so cute/beautiful/handsome,” followed by either “What’s her name?” or “How old is he?” is an instant conversation starter. 99% of the time, all you have to do is smile and nod from there.

          2. Laura*

            I find it so easy to talk to people with pets or kids, because they don’t expect me to contribute much! My workplace does marketing for movies, so talking abotu movies is a easy topic – everyone knows about it because of work, so we just talk about our opinions. The never ending winter is an easy one too, as is the state of public transit (in the part of town where my office is, everyone takes public transit), or any big news , like front page of the newspaper news, since we have newspapers in our office and everyone can look at them , though I use them for work too

      6. NK*

        Now that I think about it, I chat a fair amount with my teammates about non-work things, but we have very little conversation about TV or hobbies (I don’t even think I do anything that would qualify as a hobby!) Most of what we talk about seems to be little life anecdotes that don’t necessarily have to be all that revealing. For instance, one coworker has obnoxious neighbors, and she entertains us with stories about them. So talking about your life doesn’t necessarily have to be all that revealing, or about TV.

      7. JustKatie*

        I think the key to work relationships (and really, any relationships) is to ask people about themselves. People love to talk about themselves. Just asking about their recent vacation, how their mom is doing after the surgery they had last week, how was their weekend. While work is for work, humans generally like to feel validated and listened to. All you need to do is show that you are interested in them in a small way as a person (not as a worker), and it will go a really long way.

        I think I’m similar to you in that I’d like to just hole myself up and get to work. I did this in my previous job as a teacher, closing the door to do work during my planning periods. I realized after a bit that just chatting with people at the copier went a long way to forge relationships- and meant that I had contact with people outside my department, which actually helped professionally.

        1. A Teacher*

          Its what I need to get better about doing…I have prep/lunch back to back so its a nice period of uninterupted time but I’m finding I don’t really know too many of my coworkers well and that can feel isolating.

          1. JustKatie*

            Yes, it can be so hard to get out of your bubble! My old school was huge and in two different campuses, and there would be people I had never met before, even after five years. It can be hard to make the effort, but I found that the teachers who developed connections with those outside their department tended to be the most successful.

      8. HR Lady*

        OP #1, I had to smile because I totally get having hobbies that aren’t work appropriate (or in my case, just really, really boring and nerdy to almost everyone else).

        In that case, as someone else mentioned, you could talk about the news (nothing too serious or politically-minded, though – that’s my opinion), kids (either your own or other people’s — I don’t have kids but people love it if you ask them about their kids and then follow up later, like “how did your daughter like her first day of kindergarten?”), pets (your own or other people’s), the weather, and travel. Man, people love to talk about travel!

      9. Anonsie*

        Hey OP– I hope this isn’t offensive, but I got a really distinct vibe from your letter (and I’m also getting it here) that you don’t feel like you “get” people. Like you try to analyze people and social parameters in a quantitative way, you feel like there are explicit rules you can follow… I’m imagining someone listening to how other people chat and trying to devise a template that they can also follow step by step to create the same interactions.

        Is this representative of something that’s maybe always been an issue for you in meeting or dealing with people? Or is it that you’re being very systematic with this because it’s related to your work and it worries you?

        1. LBK*

          You’re not alone, I got an oddly analytical vibe from the way the letter was written as well.

          1. OP 1*

            Yeah, I get the analytical vibe. I work at a job where a fixation in learning Social Rules has made me good at certain aspects of socializing. Good for picking up on that!

            FirstJob was a very group-y place and I didn’t realize the optional was required. This job is less group-y but the workplace is more chatty and personal share-y — kids, spouses, money issues, birthdays….. Spouses are not a topic for me, neither are kids, but I realize that saying if Iw ent anywhere where I WENT and not necessarily what I did.

            I appreciate this conversation but I think for me the smiling is a very easy one for me to include. I also have a similar taste is music to other people in the office. And yes, I try to avoid mentioning being without TV or Netflix because I don’t want to be seen as a snob, I am a vegetarian too…

            But as long as I show interest and engagement I think I can still be honest with myself here.

        2. OP 1*

          When I am with friends I am not particularly analytical about social interactions but in professional life I absolutely do follow a sort of script. I don’t “get” social cues in my regular life and I don’t “read” social situations well, but if I can rationalize social situations in the workplace I can understand them better. And I tend to mimic what I see that I like.

          As I mention below, this makes me good in scripted language (e.g. Sales calls) and terrible in open-ended socializing (e.g. Business lunches.)

          1. Anonsie*

            I definitely pictured you like that from your letter, yeah. If I’m picking up on it here, I bet your coworkers see it as well.

            Unfortunately, I don’t have any great advice because I have a similarly difficult time picking up on social cues in situations I’m not used to. I sympathize because it can be really, really frustrating when you know people around you mean multiple things with their words or actions and they think you’ll know but you just don’t. And it’s not easy to learn.

            I can say, though, that the analytical approach is likely not a good one, and mimicry only works a small portion of the time. People will notice when you’re doing things like that and it just makes them uncomfortable. I think it’s actually better to be awkwardly outside their expectations than to seem like you’re stiffly impersonating what you think is appropriate. That’s what’s going to set you back, not whether or not you chat with people about their kids or what’s on TV. You can be approachable and well liked by people you have nothing in common with, but not if you act like they’re research subjects you’re carefully studying. Square peg’s not gonna go in a round hole, but that’s fine. It’s weirder if you keep trying to cram it in there and pretend it totally fits.

            It’s helpful to be empathetic, I think, and just follow the golden rule. People aren’t as unlike you as you want to think– I always get in trouble when I try too hard to match what I’ve reasoned out must be the right thing people will want me to do. It’s a lot safer to just treat people the way you would want to be treated.

      10. Ruffingit*

        Now I want to know what your workplace inappropriate hobbies are. But I’m nosy that way :)

        1. OP 1*

          they are either highly obscure or of a sexual nature. Does that satisfy your curiosity and leave me in AAM’s good graces? :)

          I think part of my desire for complete work/life separation is psychological in the sense that I need discretion for some of my out of work life within the work realm.

          One of the things I’ve observed on this thread is that different people have different conversational norms in workplaces. At FirstJob there was some amount of one-upsmanship on who went to which bar where and so on. (Very young and image-centric office.) My current internship is mosly people with grad degrees, mostly middle age. Movies and TV are very popular topics. I have nothing to contribute here either! agh.

          But again, I’m reading this thread as a way of you letting me know it’s ok to not be conversant on these things and still be likable, as long as I work at how I am showing outwardly.

  3. Chris*

    #3 I had a similar delay with a yearly performance review, upon completion of which I would get my global cost of living increase (which is then supplemented by more depending on the review). Because of medical issues, my boss couldn’t complete my review on time. Since our reviews are on a solid schedule based on your hire month, after my review my employer gave me a prorated lump sum from the date I should have had my review.

  4. AdAgencyChick*

    #3 — I don’t see any mention of just how late the review is. In your shoes, if the review was, say, a month or two late, I wouldn’t complain, but if it were six months late, I would. The longer the time that has elapsed since you should have had the review, the less likely it is that your boss will see you as a problem child for bringing it up, IMO.

    1. Aunt Vixen*

      I came in to say the same thing. If the raise is (say) $1500/year, that shakes out to a little less than $60 per paycheck. I’m not for a moment going to suggest that that isn’t real money – but I think it’s likely to feel different to your boss and other boss types if they see you as “quibbling” about hundreds of dollars rather than tens.

        1. LBK*

          I think it’s different because the request has already been denied once (at least assuming I’m reading the OP correctly, though it’s a bit confusing to me). If HR already said no, then the OP has to weigh whether the amount of money is worth the effort to try to push it through and the potential impact to the OP’s image. If it’s an extra $500 or even $150, the manager is probably not likely to flinch when OP presses the matter and neither is HR – that’s a pretty sizable amount that anyone would miss. If we’re talking about $20, it should be taken into consideration whether fighting on principle is worth the reward (and being seen as someone who fights for things to be done fairly no matter the amount of money involved could be positive, too, but I think it’s more likely to be negative).

  5. Not an IT Guy*

    #3 – This is why it’s important to get agreements regarding pay in writing. When I switched departments at my current job I was told that there would be a review after 90 days and once completed, I would receive a raise and clarification on my position (including job title). Three years went by and nothing, and my manager caused me to be afraid to bring it up for fear of losing my job. Needless to say I was later removed from that department and the manager no longer works at the company, but to this day I wish I had gotten that agreement in writing.

  6. BCW*

    #1 It sucks that you feel that way, but I kind of understand it. Whenever I work with people who will never engage in any kind of basic pleasantries (How was your weekend? Is that a picture of your dog? etc) it doesn’t take very long for me to write them off personally/socially. Now, in no way does that mean that I refuse to work with them, or even that we can work well together. However I do believe that the more likable you are, the better that will serve you with your co-workers and your boss. I’m kind of an outgoing person, so I don’t really know how to advise you to be friendlier. But I’d start with just some basic questions to get to know your co-workers a bit better, then bring those things up at times.

    1. Bluefish*

      BCW: some people are more private than others. I really don’t think it’s fair for you to write someone off because they don’t want to go into detail about their weekend. Or explain a picture of their dog. While I understand it, and go along with the pleasantries, I do find it invasive when people are always asking about my weekend, plans, vacations etc. Now I know this is just me, so I have adjusted to this in the workplace, but it took me awhile to get myself to a point where I didn’t feel like I was being interrogated when coworkers were trying to engage me in basic pleasantries. Some people are outgoing and open and some people are more private and reserved. The private and reserved people don’t have a defect. I know you weren’t trying to be offensive or anything in your comment, so I don’t mean for this to come across as offensive either. Cheers

      1. Cat*

        I think this is where the advice above to come up with a “safe” component of your weekend comes in handy. You don’t have to tell anyone at your office about any particular thing, but if there’s absolutely nothing whatsoever about your life ever that you feel okay telling them, that does kind of suggest something to people – that you don’t trust them; that you don’t think they’re worthy of any effort; that you don’t really see them as a person instead of a worker. It may actually be all about your preferences, but people are inclined to be socially insecure and are not always going to intuit that.

        1. some1*

          Right. And “how was your weekend?” doesn’t require mentioning what you did anyway. “Good.” or “Not long enough!” are perfectly acceptable answers.

          1. JMegan*

            “Fine, thanks. I tackled Laundry Mountain again – seems like I can never get on top of the laundry!”

            Even if it’s not true, most people will be able to sympathise, and there’s your small talk for the day. :)

          2. Mints*

            The way my two managers approached this question made a pretty big difference in the way I viewed them. I realized after a couple weeks. One would consistently ask “Did you do anything fun this weekend?” And I could answer anything (went to lunch with friends, saw a movie, went for a hike) and he was always like “wow sounds fun!” with follow up questions.
            The other manager would ask weirdly specific questions that tied to what he was doing, even if I never expressed interest. Like “Have you been to any trendy new restaurants lately?” Or “Are you going skiing this weekend?” And there were times I had done something fun I would have shared, but the question “Have you gone wine tasting?” made me not want to really answer, because it wasn’t the “right” answer.

            Anyway, all of that to say, asking broad, open-ended questions is definitely the better way to engage

      2. Jen RO*

        Well, and some people are *less* private than others. After reading AAM for a while I’ve also adjusted to the idea that some people just don’t want to share anything personal with coworkers, and that some people’s idea of personal is not my idea of personal. (To me, personal = illness, sexual, politics, and that’s pretty much it.)

      3. Cat*

        Also, it’s a good rule of thumb to never put a picture up at your desk that you’re not willing to be asked about; and conversely, you can use this by putting up pictures of things you are willing to be asked about and thus directing attention away from things you’d rather keep private.

      4. some1*

        Well, if you don’t want to discuss your dog with coworkers, an easy option is not to have a pic of your dog in your workspace where your coworker will see it.

      5. LBK*

        While I get that some people are very protective of anything they might consider a private detail of their life, I can’t imagine your coworkers are really digging that much in. If they ask you how your weekend is, all you need to say is “Not bad. Yours?” No one is expecting a minute-by-minute breakdown.

        I’m not particularly fond of or good at small talk myself, but it’s really not difficult to engage people for a couple second for the sake of being friendly. Even if you’re someone that comes to work just to work and has no intention of getting to know or bond with anyone there (which honestly I find a little weird, but to each their own), part of working in an environment with other people is making people comfortable talking to you. If I feel like someone is blocking me from even saying hello and having a 5 second conversation when I pass them by in the morning, I’m probably not going to be looking forward to asking that person a work-related question if I need to. The impression people have of you as a coworker and and employee is based on the whole picture, not just how you interact with them on work-related items.

        1. Anonymous*

          So I am one of those that just keeps it generic and brief. “How was your weekend”? “Fine, thank you, yours?” But no matter what you always get the nosey people who just have to know what you did. My current boss is the worst. I get comments like, ” well I hope you at least made it out of the city”. “I hope you at least made it out of the house”. “Well did you do anything ? See anyone?”. Ugh!

          1. MissDisplaced*

            He’s really not being nosey, this is normal for many people.
            Next time he asks how your weekend was, just say something like:
            “My weekend was great thanks; I got together with a few friends which was nice.”
            Simple and end of story.

          2. BCW*

            I don’t think I’d call it nosey, just more inquisitive. Some people just ask more probing questions than others.

            1. Anonymous*

              Well, more often than not I am struggling to just get out of my bed on the weekends. His “I hope you at least go out of the house” come off as nosey for me, rightly or wrongly. Not everyone has enjoyable weekends. When I say “fine thanks” it should be obvious I don’t have more to say about it. But that’s ok. I know he’s not trying to be insensitive.

              1. the gold digger*

                For me, it’s just a social nicety. I kept asking my boss how his weekend was until he got really cranky about it and told me some long story that I don’t remember about why weekends=bad. (Not like taking his wife for chemo bad, just regular cranky stuff bad.)

                I wanted to say, “I don’t really care how your weekend was. I was asking merely to be nice, to exhibit an interest in you as a person, to make these hours that we spend together a little more pleasant – maybe interact with you on a slightly personal basis that doesn’t involve any intimacy because I do not want intimacy with you. But I truly don’t care. All you have to do is say, ‘It was nice. What about you?'”

              2. Anonymous*

                “I hope you at least left the house” is the sort of rude, passive aggressive thing my mother would say.

                Leaving the house is overrated! The winter is outside, and the books are inside = easy choice.

                1. LBK*

                  There are two different phrases being used here, though – “I hope you got out/made it out of the house” isn’t the same as “I hope you at least left the house”. The first one to me implies “I hope you weren’t so busy that you got to do something fun/relaxing,” while I agree that the second one sounds like something my mother said to me all the time growing up. For a lot of people, fun activities involve getting out of the house, but I don’t think people who use the first phrase intend to demean people whose favorite activities can be done at home.

              3. Boo*

                Heh. One of my former bosses used to interrogate me about my weekend every Monday morning during what was supposed to be our catch-up meeting. Seeing how many ways I could fob him off turned into a bit of a game.

                By the way, the reason I never wanted to tell him anything was because he was an absolutely enormous gossip, and would pass on any personal information to anyone in earshot, even if they weren’t interested. If someone really digs their heels in about sharing the most innocuous personal information, perhaps consider what they may have had repeated to them.

                1. Jen RO*

                  But how could it hurt you if other people learned that you went to see a movie or read a book or went biking?

                2. Not So NewReader*

                  @ Jen RO.
                  I am chuckling.
                  Reading a book all weekend leads to remarks of “No wonder you are so fat. You should exercise.”
                  Going to a movie can bring you “On your salary? Must be nice to have discretionary funds like that.”
                  And finally going out biking leads to “what are you some granola eating health nut?”

                  There. is. no. air. left. to even breathe normally.

                  It’s not the remark itself. It’s knowing that everything you say will be held in a negative light. At all times.
                  I can handle a couple remarks like that. But if I hear it in response to everything I say – it’s too much.

            2. Colette*

              It’s judging Anonymous’s weekend by what he’d like to do on the weekend.

              There’s nothing wrong with staying home on the weekend if that’s what you want to do – and if it’s not what you want to do but you ended up doing it anyway, having someone point it out is not helpful or kind.

              1. LBK*

                I think that’s reading too much into the phrasing of the question. Like I said above, for people whose fun activities take them out of the house, that may be how they choose to phrase it, but I don’t think they actually intend to demean people who don’t have to leave the house to have fun.

                1. Colette*

                  “How was your weekend? I hope you actually stayed home for once.”

                  It’s judgmental, either way. I find it hard to believe that that’s not the intent, either. Anytime you’re telling someone how they should spend their time/money, it’s a judgement.

                2. LBK*

                  That’s not what’s being said, though. Adding that “actually” and “for once” completely changes the meaning and adds a much more negative, judgmental tone than just “Hope you made it out of the house!”

                  I suppose it depends how it’s being delivered, but I can see someone easily using the above phrase without intending to bestow judgment.

            3. mesmerizing crow*

              There’s a fine line between nosy and inquisitive. Plus the boss was clearly being the former with those passive aggressive comments.

          3. LBK*

            You could say something like “Not really, it was a pretty long week here in the office so I just took some time at home to relax and rest up. It was really nice.” Unless he’s truly just bad at interacting with other humans, I can’t imagine he would keep prying. And I also think you have to consider that he may not be trying to be nosy, he just wants to feel like he knows his employees. On the flipside, I don’t like having managers that don’t know a single thing about me. It makes me feel like I’m just a robot they’re commanding around and not a person working for them.

      6. BCW*

        I guess here is my point. When you try to engage people and they routinely give you one word answers or say “I’m too busy to talk”, why should I keep trying to engage them? If you are super private or whatever, ok. But don’t expect me to keep trying to get to know you either, or get upset that I don’t speak to you. I remember on here not too long ago people were mad that people kept trying to get them to go to lunch, and people said if you refused a couple of times, its rude for them to keep asking. But this applies in other situations too. For example, my friend John. For a while I’d always text him asking if he wanted to hang out after work on Friday’s. The response was always either, “I’m hanging with co-workers”, “I’m hanging with my wife”, or “I’m not going out tonight”. Which is fine, but after multiple attempts, I just stopped asking on Fridays. One day he asked me why I never invited him out, and I explained it to him. If you do these things often, you can’t be mad that no one wants to keep trying to get you to react differently.

        1. Bluefish*

          BCW: Ahhh! Now I see your point. I totally agree. There’s no reason for you to keep trying. You should make an effort, but the other person ABSOLUTELY should make an effort back. Thanks for clarifying your point for me

        2. MissDisplaced*

          Yes. I pointed out earlier that the OP needs to be the one to initiate once and awhile. Even if the social activity is just to walk down to the lobby with 2-3 other coworkers for coffee, or “make the morning rounds” of chitchat before going off to dive into work.

          I understand how draining it can be for introverts to be social, but a little interaction can go a long way!

          1. Jen RO*

            In my own experience (so a sample of just one), interacting with people got much, much less draining once I got to know them better and I was more relaxed around them. It took an effort at start, but it paid off.

        3. Del*

          I agree with this.

          The general rule of thumb I’ve heard for declining invitations: if you can’t go but want to be invited to other get-togethers in the future, you decline but express interest in a different time/place/etc. “Sorry, I can’t make it to drinks on Friday, but how about we do Happy Hour next Thursday?” “Sorry, I’m booked that week, but some other time, okay?”

          If you want future invitations, it’s on you to express that you’re open to them. The inviter has done their part in reaching out.

          1. some1*

            Yup, this. In BCW’s example, I would assume John just doesn’t want to hang out with me if he never suggests alternate plans.

            And no one wants to be the annoying friend who can’t take the hint.

          2. Dan*

            “Some other time” is a blow off, and is usually said unconvincingly. If I’m really booked for that particular date, my response is “Can you let me know the next time you guys get together?” And I make it sound sincere. Cause it is.

        4. Not So NewReader*

          Oh my. This is so true. My aunt, shortly after she was widowed commented to me, “People will invite you some where 2-3 times at the most. After that they stop if you keep saying no. It’s an act of courtesy on their part- they don’t want to be rude. On the other hand, she said she could not keep turning people down and then wonder why they stopped calling. Drrrr. You can’t cut it both ways.”

          I had a person in my life invite me SIX times after I said no FIVE times. I started getting a little creeped out by the insistence.

  7. B*

    OP #2 – You should reject them outright. A) They didn’t follow the instructions you outlined. B) You are asking them to go through extra hoops when there is absolutely no need. C) You are unintentionally getting their hopes up. i.e. Oh they responded to me personally to fill out the application, that must mean they really like and want me. Of course this is not your intention but many applicants will see it that way.

    1. Gilby*

      I just applied to a job via , mail. Snail Mail. I was suppose to apply on their site.

      I was not able to get on their site to apply as requested. I must have gotten on their application site to apply to whatever job way back when but I didn’t remember my email address and therefore couldn’t get my password. There was no other way provided to gain access to the site.

      The site would not let me sign up again, already having me name etc in the system.

      So, I sent a cover and resume through the regualr mail. I put an apology at the very top of the cover that I was unable to access the application through the site and that was why I sent it this way.

      We’ll see what happens !

      1. JustKatie*

        You really need to have an e-mail address that you use and check when job hunting now. There’s a good chance (especially if it was a large employer) that an assistant saw your resume, mayyyybe forwarded it to the appropriate party, and it sat on a desk while the other applications that came in through their online system were looked at. Letting them know you weren’t able to use their website would be a red flag for many employers, unfortunately.

        1. JustKatie*

          Ahh, now I see I misread and that you weren’t able to log in to their system, sorry! You can always create a burner extra e-mail address to create an account just for that job.

          1. Laura*

            I think Gilby’s issue was actually that they’d already made an account, a long time ago, and couldn’t remember the email they used at the time, so couldn’t make another account. That has happened to me. I applied to a job at company A, and then one year later, applied to another job at company A, but couldn’t remember any of the details of the account I already had.

            1. Dan*

              I started my current job two months ago. I apparently applied here back in 2006 and forgot about it, because when I tried to create a new account, it said I already had one. And when I logged in, there were a bunch of materials I submitted back in 2006.

    2. OP #2*

      Thank you – that’s very helpful! I found myself nodding along with all of your points, and especially the last one. The last thing I want to do is to get someone’s hopes up for no reason.

      Obviously I was just overthinking it! :)

  8. Joie de Vivre*

    OP#4 – I would also recommend going in with a suggested plan for what part time could look like for your role. This will help your manager see how it could be a successful change if it’s something she hasn’t considered before. Your plan should include what schedule you propose (i.e. being there every day, just shorter days vs. working only Mon-Wed-Fri) and what projects you would be able to continue working on vs. what you may need help with.

    As for your concern about looking like a slacker – there are PLENTY of slackers working full time. You can still be a high level performer as a part time worker, if you are responsible, diligent and truly demonstrate that you care about the success of your company.

    1. businesslady*

      also, note Alison’s warning about letting your hours creep up–I recently underwent a similar transition & it’s VERY hard to limit myself to a part-time schedule, particularly when my standards for doing the job well are informed by my years of working full-time.

      it’s fine if you’re happy with the balance, but you do need to be diligent about it (especially at first, when it feels like you’re constantly coming back from vacation or otherwise missing out on hours you “should’ve” worked).

    1. LBK*

      Both spellings are used in all English-speaking countries but yes, generally likable is the US spelling and likeable is non-US.

  9. Cath@VWXYNot?*

    #4: I agree, this is a really tough thing to ask for in a department where everyone is very type A and “live to work”, not “work to live”.

    In my last job, a few of us were informed that due to budget cuts we might get laid off. I went back and forth a million times about whether saying “I could go to 60%” would make it easier to keep me, or easier to say “let’s keep someone who’s fully committed to the job instead”. I never did find out (I transferred to a full time job in another department instead).

    I didn’t have the burn-out factor that you do, though – if I’d gone to 60% I’d have tried to pick up some freelance work on the other days. If burnout had been a factor for me, I think it would have made me more likely to mention the part-time option (with a solid plan for how that would work, as Joie de Vivre said above). As Allison says, though, in that kind of department I could see 60% actually creeping up to 80 or 90% pretty fast, but the pay staying at 60%…

    Is it possible that the restructuring and new manager will help solve some of the burnout problems? If the changes will take place soon, it might be worth giving it a few months to see how things work out. Best of luck – I have my fingers crossed for you!

  10. Anonymous*

    For OP#4: while I totally agree with Alison’s opinion:

    “I don’t think you need to have any reason beyond that you’d like to and could accommodate the pay cut it would entail”;

    the fact is you will be asked for one. I’ve cut down my hours to 60% in a previous job and 80% in my current one, a few weeks ago. The first question every co-worker I’ve told asks, whether I work with them directly or not, “Why?” I always think it’s amazing how the 9-5 Monday-Friday routine has become as unquestionable to people as the rising and setting of the sun :)

    At OldJob my reasons were somewhat similar to the OP’s and luckily my very empathetic boss would rather have had me part-time than not at all. At CurrentJob the reason I’ve given is that I am making a career change into a field I’ve recently studied and I want to pursue some opportunities in that area on my own time. This is not untrue, but I’d describe it as the “official” reason. The completely honest answer would be “I make enough money and life is short”, but I’m not sure how that would go down. The next time someone asks I’m thinking of just answering “Why not?”.

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