my boss didn’t talk to me directly about a new project, I feel like I’m enabling a bad boss, and more

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

1. I’m upset that my boss didn’t talk to me directly about a new project

I was hoping you could tell me if it would be reasonable to “confront” my boss regarding this situation (maybe “confront” is too strong a word). Yesterday, I received an email from him, which was not evenly directly addressing me. Clearly, he has been communicating with teams from others offices regarding a new project. And at some point, he just added me to the long thread of emails which has been going on for about 3 weeks, obviously expecting me to backtrack the stuff and figure out with it was all about myself. Today, some people from these teams came to our office to kick off the project and naturally expected me to be in it. They even sent me emails with information regarding how to work with their stuff, etc. So it looks like my boss did tell them I was going to be involved, but never said a word to me, not even via email, except for the one time today when he sent me a direct email saying the teams were going to a hockey game, asking if I would be interested to join them!

I loved hockey, but I said “no thanks” because I was feeling extremely upset at him. It was not because they dropped a “surprise bomb” on me, as it didn’t take much to figure out what was going to happen reading the forwarded emails.

But don’t you think I at least deserve some in-person briefing? Something like “Hey, we are doing this new project, and you could be in it” is all that is needed, right? Can I say something to my boss? Or is this overreacting and I should just shut up and move on? Why do you think he did this? It really made me feel like he wasn’t exactly taking me seriously or treating me with any respect. (I am a new grad, which made me feel very bad!)

Whoa. No, you should not say something to your boss about this, and you should not have hurt feelings over it! Hurt feelings have no place here.

Your boss is busy, he cc’d you when he realized that he needed to get you into the loop, and he expects that you’ll take the time to read the context provided in the email chain and figure it out (and ask him if you read through it and still have questions). He’s assuming you’re self-sufficient; it’s pretty normal. What you’re asking for is more coddling than is reasonable to expect in a professional job. Your boss isn’t there to hand-hold you; you’re there to make his job easier, so if you can do something for yourself, he expects you to. (And he gave you your heads up that you’d be pulled into new projects when he hired you; from your start date onward, it’s assumed this will be something that happens.)

2. I feel like I’m enabling a bad boss by not speaking up

I have a terrible boss. I am a mid-career executive assistant to the Big Boss of my organization. I’ve made a career out of being a capable and conscientious assistant, and really like the variety of projects that working for a big boss offers. That said, this guy is really bad. He is a relentless gossip about underlings many layers below him, he is moody, he takes things personally, and plays both favorites and not-favorites, the not-favorites often made to feel entrapped and anxious until they leave. It’s gotten to where there is actually speculation (to the point of behavior being modified) that he’s bugged the office.

Okay, so I know from experience, and from reading your blog, that one should basically keep a happy face about the boss/organization one is leaving to said boss, AND to any potential future employers. At what point does one’s personal integrity come into play enabling a really toxic employer; particularly one that is at the tippy-top of the organization? I’m struggling with this a lot as I look at potential opportunities. Really, this guy is bad. Do I leave and tell him how swell he’s been? Do I tell interviewers how swell he’s been? My sense is yes, I do both, but that leaves me feeling like I’m enabling an abuser!

You don’t tell interviewers, because doing so will reflect badly on you, by making you look indiscreet. But if you have the sort of relationship with your boss that allows you to speak some degree of truth to him — and if you’re willing to risk the relationship — you could certainly let him know when you’re leaving. You’d need to do this in a civil way (“I care about our work, and I think you’d want to understand how some of this is being experienced”), not in an F-you way.

You’re under no obligation to do this, of course, but if you’re highly competent and therefore credible with him, sometimes this kind of message does make a difference. Just know that it does come with risk to your future references, etc.

3. Laughing or gasping to myself in an open office plan

I have something that’s between an endearing quirk and an involuntary tic — when I read something amusing, in an email or in another work-related document, I react out loud, usually a quick giggle or a gasp between me and my monitor. I have about two of these outbursts a day, at conversation level of noise or below in an open plan office. I otherwise try to be realistic about space and noise recognizing that I want to respect others.

These reactions are borderline involuntary, if not genetic (my dad, great-grandma and even my six-year-old cousin do the same thing.) But I think they might be a little weird and give the wrong professional impression. What do you think I should do about it?

I wouldn’t worry about the occasional laugh; I think that’s pretty normal, and I doubt anyone around you notices or cares. Gasps are potentially a little more disruptive, in that people recognize it as a “something’s wrong” signal, so if there’s any voluntariness about that, I’d try to rein it in if you can. But if you can’t, I wouldn’t worry about it.

4. What should I say when I answer the phone?

I’m a college student who recently started applying for internships/jobs. I have one small issue that I’m definitely overthinking, but I’d love your input. I haven’t received a phone call from an unknown caller since I left home. My mom trained me to answer the phone with “Stark residence, this is Sansa speaking” and my workplaces have tended to use something like “Thanks for calling Winterfell, this is Sansa”, but I can’t figure out any way to adjust those templates for my personal cell. I’ve tried out various things — “Hello, this is Sansa”, “Sansa Stark speaking”, etc, and they all just feel really awkward. As I said, I know I’m way overthinking it, but I hate starting off a phone interview already feeling off-kilter. Any advice?

When I’m expecting a work-related call, I answer the phone with “This is Alison.” I don’t love it, but I like it better than any of the alternatives.

5. Passing along a helpful resource to an interviewer

I recently interviewed for a job that I think I’m perfect for. I have not yet heard back from them, so my status is still pending. During the job interview, my interviewer (and would-be supervisor) spoke to me about how they’re looking to revamp their website and newsletters and wish to increase donor support. After the interview, I attended a webinar that covered precisely this topic. I now have a PDF of the slides from the webinar that contain statistics on the type of information donors seek on websites, how to get donors to actually read your newsletters, and what sorts of stories in newsletters tend to inspire donors to give.

I had thoughts of sharing this PDF with my interviewer, but I don’t know if it’s appropriate. Whether he chooses me for the job or someone else, I think it would be really helpful to them and help guide them on their endeavors. I don’t intend to be a kiss-ass, but I’m worried that’s how I’ll come off. What do you think?

Sure, that’s totally fine to do. Just make sure that the slides are really good and not the kind of stuff that’s easily available all over the internet with a quick search. You’ll be framing it as meeting enough of a high bar that you thought it worth passing along, and so you want to make sure that it is truly high quality stuff.

{ 388 comments… read them below }

  1. Graciosa*

    Re #1, the OP is creating way too much drama (even if it is still internal, mental drama) over something very normal.

    OP, Alison is correct that you need to get over this and expect more of it in the future, but I would also caution you about your reaction to the invitation to the hockey game. You were invited to a team building event you expected to enjoy with people you will be working with – and you turned it down to what? Sulk? Punish your boss for not telling you about a new assignment in person instead of email? Professionals don’t think or behave this way. The person you are hurting is yourself.

    The other odd thing is your interpretation that your boss is demonstrating a lack of respect by treating you as a self-sufficient professional. What would be insulting is if your boss treated you as if you were too emotionally fragile to handle normal workplace communication, and might be unexpectedly traumatized by some little thing that exists as an issue only in your mind.

    Now that I think about it, that’s the way you’re reacting. Stop that.

    The good news is that your boss does not yet know this. If you’re smart, you will learn this lesson immediately and make sure your boss never finds out what you were thinking.

    Good luck.

    1. Amber*

      #1 Your own words explain why your boss didn’t need to catch you up in-person “It was not because they dropped a “surprise bomb” on me, as it didn’t take much to figure out what was going to happen reading the forwarded emails.”

      He probably realized that you could just read the emails and jump right in (like you did), they even invited you to a hockey game. You should really try to let it go and learn from this.

    2. rando*

      Agreed. If you can understand the project and your role by reading the email chain, then it would be inefficient for your boss to have a conversation with you about it.

      Your boss didn’t do anything wrong – boss just didn’t fulfill your preferences. Stop being overly emotional about it. Stop turning down work building events (or anything at work) because your preferences aren’t being met.

      Read the April 21, 2014 letter about the romantic phone calls
      You are a lesser version of that LW and you need to stop.

      1. nyxalinth*

        Agreed on all points. Being a nerd, I have to ask: Are you the Amazing Rando, who did battle with Eastman? It’s a reference to a movie I’ve seen way, way too many times :D

    3. iseeshiny*

      Yeah, skipping the hockey game kind of gave me the head-tilt. Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face.

      1. UK Anon*

        Actually, this may have been a wise move. OP just says that she was feeling extremely upset at him – right or wrong as those feelings were, in that situation a team bonding event could be something that it’s better to avoid. When you’re extremely upset, it’s much easier to say something about a grievance in a way that you will regret when you calm down, and a team bonding event is likely to exacerbate that further. So avoiding an event where she could have said something regrettable might have been the best thing for the OP to do in the circumstances as they were.

        1. iseeshiny*

          You could be right, but it seems extremely silly to me to turn down a presumably enjoyable sportsball type thing because she’s so upset that she can’t bring herself to be civil for a couple of hours. The boss wouldn’t be the only one there, after all. I suppose some people tend to stew/don’t compartmentalize that well, but it just doesn’t make sense to me.

        1. anon o*

          LOL, I had the same thought, “But it’s the playoffs! Are you kidding me? And in the first round 90% of the games are awesome.”

          1. Bea W*

            i’m not even a hockey fan and I am silently weeping that someone would turn this invitation down over her boss not saying “I’m assigning you to this project.”

            1. Canuck*

              With the exception of Habs fans, everyone in Canada was sobbing BEFORE the playoffs started :( :(

              What a horrible season for most of us. At least here in Vancouver they finally fired the GM!

          1. Bagworm*

            Well I guess my potentially inciting a sports-rivalry-based exchange has been clearly demonstrated to be wrong by the forces that the rule the universe and has been appropriately punished. :-)

            Good luck to your team!

    4. LBK*

      The other odd thing is your interpretation that your boss is demonstrating a lack of respect by treating you as a self-sufficient professional.

      Exactly what I was going to say. I think this is *exactly* a show of respect and that he takes you seriously – wouldn’t you be more offended if he thought you weren’t even capable of catching yourself up on the situation, which you even said in your letter wasn’t hard to do?

      Your reaction makes it sound like the project is due tomorrow and the boss had just handed it to you. But it hasn’t even started yet, just some preliminary discussion. This is usually how projects get handed off in the working world – it’s not like college where a professor presents the assignment to everyone in class and then gives you a time frame to work on it. You get looped in once your input is necessary.

      1. Scott M*

        I disagree that this is how projects “usually” get handed off in the working world. “Sometimes” is more like it, but there is usually an acknowledgement that there was some snafu or aggressive schedule that prevented a more timely onboarding process. I certainly haven’t ever been assigned a project like this.

        One thing I think people are missing is that the manager didn’t even address the email to her. She just started including her in the email chain. No explanations about the project. No acknowledgement that this was abrupt. No offer to come discuss it with her.

        The first time anyone ever actually talked directly to her was when the team members started contacting her to let her know what she needed to do!

        Whose the manager here? It doesn’t look like she’s doing any managing. *I* could be a manager if all I had to do was add people to email chains.

        1. LBK*

          But it wasn’t abrupt. The project hadn’t even started. And she did provide an explanation about the project – the email chain discussing it. It’s not really the manager’s responsibility to put together a nice little summary of the project and requirements unless it’s going to be a very complex project where such clarity is necessary beforehand.

          1. Scott M*

            I feel the OP at least deserved a single sentence, addressed to her, of “Hey, I need you to be part of this project team, sorry about the late notice”

            Actually I feel the OP deserved more, but that single sentence would have changed the issues from “My boss didn’t speak directly to me about a new project” to “My boss didn’t give me enough heads-up on a nerw project”

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I just don’t think “deserved” is a concept that belongs here. People are busy. This stuff isn’t that uncommon. It’s assumed you can figure it out or will ask if you can’t.

            2. LBK*

              I don’t even agree that this was “late notice”. The manager may not even have determined that the OP would need to be part of the project until the discussion had begun and it was clear whose skills would need to be utilized.

              As long as there wasn’t anything expected of the OP prior to being informed, I don’t understand why it was necessary for the OP to be notified so far in advance. It would make literally no difference to how things played out. She still has to work on the project, whether she’s told now or 3 weeks ago.

              1. AB Normal*

                “I don’t even agree that this was “late notice”. The manager may not even have determined that the OP would need to be part of the project until the discussion had begun and it was clear whose skills would need to be utilized.”

                Right! I get projects like that all.the.time, and in many cases, long after kick off. Not sure what the problem is (and I’d be flattered that my boss just forwarded a thread as opposed to feeling like I needed more hand-holding and scheduled time to present the project to me).

            3. Victoria Please*

              My team would expect this for sure. They hate surprises like people hate spiders and headlice. Maybe they are coddled ;-) but I would definitely take the ten seconds to write “Hey, bringing you on board here, holler if you have questions.”

              1. Cajun2Core*

                I agree with Victoria Please here. Suppose the employee didn’t catch that she had an action item in that email.

                I don’t know exactly what the email looked like but a previous boss would sometimes *cc* me on an email. The first two paragraphs had nothing to do with me. In the middle of the 3rd paragraph was one sentence that said “Maybe Cajun2core could do this.” I quickly learned that I had to read every word of every email that he sent me which is more than he did for the emails that I sent him. I realize that this situation isn’t the same but to me, it is only a matter of degrees.

          2. Vicki*

            No. Finding yourself suddenly Cc:d in the middle of an email chain isn’t sufficient. And it’s not clear that the OP is “on the team” and not just getting a headsup.

            Nothing abut this is clear. The implication I see is “Oops, we forgot to include Melanie. Oh, we’ll just let her catch up.”

        2. Koko*

          I think maybe this might be one of those things that varies a lot by office culture and maybe also position grade. At my job, people use CC to mean “you should be aware of this, and use your judgment to figure out what to do with the information.” Because I work in online marketing, I’m CC’d on pretty much every conversation related to online marketing. Often it’s very technical back-and-forth between a vendor and one of our coders, with myself and the department head CC’d on everything and neither of us replying, but we’re CC’d so we can be aware. Often when our department head adds me to the CC list, he doesn’t directly address me in the email except in the minority of cases where he already knows what he wants me to do in relation to it. The majority of the time, he adds me because he wants me to be aware this project is happening and jump in where appropriate.

          I keep up with the emails and if something is mentioned that I have an opinion about, I chime in. If something is mentioned that would fall under my area of responsibility, I reply saying I’ll take care of it (or not, and why) and add it to my to-do list. If neither of those things happen, I just keep filing the emails without replying.

          All that said, I’m in manager role with several years experience in my field and 18+ months with my current company. When I read an email thread it will immediately jump out at me if something in it needs my attention–because someone is making wrong assumptions and needs to be corrected, because someone is asking questions and I’m the person who has the answers, because someone is trying to get something done and I’m the person who traditionally does that type of thing, etc. I’m not so sure I would have been as adept at handling that when I was a recent grad in a new job.

        3. Bluefish*

          All of my jobs have operated this way. My boss wants to loop me in, add me to the cc, assume I get it. If I don’t I can ask questions. To cc someone, then have a secondary, unnecessary discussion about would be a bit inefficient in my world.

          1. Scott M*

            but this wasn’t just a FYI email. It was an assignment to be part of a project team on a new project.

            1. Cajun2Core*

              I see it the same way Scott does. A “CC” means FYI, a “To” means you may have an action item in it.

              1. Scott M*

                And… there needed to be a sentence at the top of the email, addressed to the OP, saying what the manager expected.

                1. Rev*

                  We’ll agree to disagree.

                  To me, “cc” means. “Do your job, stay in your lane unless asked, be helpful without being intrusive, and I trust you to do all of that without me having to go into what all of that entails, because if I do, that means I’ll have to do it every time, and I aint got time for that, got it?”

                  BossSpeak is syllable-impaired by nature.


      2. Anna*

        Yup, working in a very busy environment where everyone is juggling multiple projects at a time, I’ve often been added to projects by abruptly being added to the middle of an email chain where I need to catch up. And sometimes it’s not so obvious what the situation is (especially if there are several email chains about the project and they forgot to add me to all of them); in such cases I just reach out to the PM for clarification. Managers soon learn who can handle such an environment and who can’t, and at least in the company that I work at, are quick to let go those who can’t.

        1. Scott M*

          I completely understand that too. I’ve been added to email chains by other project managers in the middle of projects. And I’ve had to get up to speed and ask for clarification from them too. And I definitely know about juggling multiple projects and responsibilities.

          But it looks like the OP was taking about her actual boss, not a project manager who didn’t directly manage her. I feel that changes things. Project managers can copy you on emails asking for your help. But the Boss actually ‘assigns’ you to the project. And I feel that the boss needs to specifically address their employee directly when doing that, if only to make everything clear.

          1. Koko*

            That may not be the nature of the hierarchy in that workplace. At my job, I routinely get task requests or looped into emails from both peers and superiors. It’s just a slight matter of urgency: when Boss’s Boss’s Boss sends a question or task, I do it Right Away! and when Coworker sends a question or task, I make a point to get to it by the end of the day.

            But I’m at a high enough competency level, and my org is non-hierarchical enough, that I very rarely get “assignments” from my boss. I have a list of my own objectives based on my job description and annual goals that I’m trying to achieve, and sometimes I’m tapped to help a coworker achieve one of their own objectives. Maybe once every 2-3 months my boss asks me to do something in particular as a favor, but the rest of the time we operate under the assumption that unless I ask for guidance/help I’m 1) doing what I need to do to accomplish my goals and 2) making myself helpful to other folks who need my assistance to accomplish their goals. Once a week I spend 15 minutes running through my to-do list with my boss so she’s aware of what I’m up to, and we have an annual performance review against our goals, so she’s not in the dark or anything, but she’s not driving my work–I am, based on the company’s needs.

            This is the first place I’ve worked that is so non-hierarchical – everyone is treated as the expert in their narrow area and expected to work independently and collaborate as needed, and it’s not uncommon for me to be in meetings where I’m 3 “grades” junior to everyone else in the room and my own boss and her boss aren’t present, because I’m the person who knows the day-to-day/hands-on of my area and the higher-ups want to give substantial weight to my opinion and experience, even though they have all the decision-making power. It took a bit of getting used to not dealing with and being held accountable primarily to one person. Although I now love this sort of culture and can’t imagine going back to formal hierarchy, I can see how someone going through that adjustment might be expecting things to be assigned more formally while the bosses just don’t dole out assignments that way in that particular workplace.

            1. Ornery PR*

              Koko, my position operates this exact same way, and I love the autonomy and flat structure. I also can’t imagine working in a more formal hierarchy.

              And OP#1, at least at my work, being assigned a new project has rarely been accompanied with any kind of formal discussion or roll-out. My boss will often forward me an email or someone will cc me at some point in the conversation, as they did for you, and I’m expected to jump in, catch up and contact the boss if I have any questions. If I don’t ask any questions, about a week later, he’ll ask me where I’m at on the project or if I got the email, and I better have already started taking action steps toward completion (or completed it, depending on the timeline). I know my boss has a great amount of trust in me, and when this happens, I feel respected because he knows I can handle it.

              If this is suddenly out-of-character behavior from your boss, I would suggest having a brief talk with him about how you can expect to be notified of new assignments in the future. But I would more likely take it as a token of respect that he can trust you to get on board with minimal guidance.

    5. Allison Mary*

      I have to jump in here, with the response to #1. As someone who tries very hard to adhere to the tenets of NVC (NonViolent Communication – a book by Marshall Rosenberg that I can’t recommend highly enough), I have a very difficult time with the idea that “hurt feelings have no place here” and saying that the OP is “creating way too much drama” seems awfully judgmental to me.

      To OP #1, I would say this: You are always allowed to have your feelings. You are a human being with needs, just as your boss is a human being with needs. You are certainly allowed to ask to have your needs for communication met, but I do think it would be wise to try to empathize with your boss’s needs in this situation before doing so. For instance – if I woke up in your shoes, and I was feeling hurt/frustrated, I would probably start by trying to imagine what my boss was thinking/feeling/needing when she Cc’d me on that email. I might find that I’m able to work through my own feelings just by empathizing with my boss – but if not, I might try asking a couple brief questions of my boss, to try to find something over which to empathize with her. If it came out in that conversation that there was no heads-up just because she was busy, I might say something like, “I was confused at first because I didn’t immediately understand that you were asking for my involvement.” I would probably try to find a way to ask for a quick and direct/clear method of communication that works for both of you – something that communicates her request for your involvement, but that is also brief and doesn’t unreasonably interfere with the flow of her tasks. I would emphasize your desire for communication that meets her needs as well as yours.

      I can totally understand your feelings on this one, OP, because indirect or unclear communication is one of my highest pet peeves. I feel annoyed when other people simply hint at their request of me, rather than asking me outright, because I value clear, direct communication, and I like to know what is expected/needed of me. If I were in your shoes, I probably wouldn’t mind reading through the email chain to catch myself up on the details, but I would certainly desire a brief, one-sentence request for my involvement.

  2. Artemesia*

    It is nice when the boss says ‘oh a heads up we have Project X coming up and I am going to put you on that team.’ But he didn’t and instead started looping you in. Your turn to prove you are professional and competent. You are very junior; it isn’t as if you were going to run this project and so while a heads up is good, it isn’t a hill to die on. And sulking and not going to the hockey game — don’t pull that again and if anyone asks ‘hey we missed you Friday night’ say ‘Oh I had a thing that had been on my calendar for a long time and I just couldn’t make it; hope to join in next time.’

    I think it is always great to send a resource to an interview that was discussed in the interview — so long as Alison noted you have confidence it is a strong piece. I have had people we were interviewing do this and it feels like a continuing of a genuine professional conversation and can be only good.

  3. Lizzy*

    #1 – I find this to be a common situation and while it can be a little annoying (like being invited late to a party), I try to speak to my supervisor for clarification. I usually would just ask more about it, my role, expectations, etc. Sometimes, supervisors are too swamped that they cannot take the time to explain every little detail. The employee does need to take the initiative — granted, that can backfire if you have an unreasonable supervisor. Just curious: does your boss usually speak to you in a more direct manner that you found this off putting?

    #3 – I tend to play with my hands when nervous or use them animately when speaking. Some people have pointed out to me that they have noticed and it use to make me self-conscious; however, I have learned to not let it consume me. Unless I am doing something that can be construed as outright offensive, it really is no big deal. We all have our little quirks.

    #4 – Ugh, Sansa. This got me thinking, though, that I might come across as too casual and blasé when answering my cell.

  4. AdminAnon*

    #4- My boss often gets work calls on her cell phone and she always answers with “This is Sansa; may I help you?”

    To me, that feels slightly more normal than just “This is Sansa” and it leaves an opening for the caller to speak. I’ve started to sometimes do that for unknown callers/potential work calls as well.

    If I do know who it is, though, I typically start off with “Hi Arya, how are you?” Of course, that can sometimes catch people off-guard, but in this age of caller ID I don’t think it’s too much of a problem.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      “May I help you” sounds junior/customer-servicey to me — I rarely hear that unless I’ve reached a main line, a department assistant, or something like that. I’d say that some version of just the name (“This is Sansa” or “Sansa speaking” or “Sansa Stark”) is more typical outside of that context.

      1. AdminAnon*

        I thought that too, but my boss is the CEO of a national non-profit and it seems to work for her. It may just be the nature of our field, though (most of my co-workers have social work degrees and the people I come in contact with on a regular basis are unusually friendly/helpful).

      2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        I always say “Hi, This is FirstName” and I kind of hate it but I’ve never come up with anything better.

        Except to avoid answering phones. Which, is a goal.

        Email me!

        1. Elysian*

          I do “Hello, Draco Malfoy speaking” and I agree that I don’t like it, but it gets the job done.

          I don’t think it matters as long as you identify yourself. Ugh, I had a horrible mess with an office where all they said was “Hello” and I was all messed up. I called the main line:
          “… is this is the law office of Ginny Weasley?”
          ” Yes…”
          “May I please speak with Ms. Weasley?”
          “Just a moment.”

          It was awkward. Then made more awkward because the next person I was transferred to was NOT Ms. Weasley, but her assistant or something?

          “Hello! ”
          “Is this Ms. Weasley?”
          “No. Let me see if she’s available.”

          “Hello… is this Ms. Weasley?”
          “Yes, who else would it be?”

          head on desk. In short, any awkward version of your name is better than just “Hello.”

          1. Dan*

            I totally blanked on that… Lawyers are the worst. The ones I’ve called answered with “law offices” and nothing more. Duh, I know that. Give me a bit more to work with.

            1. rando*

              The lawyers you’re calling may be sharing office space. Sometimes a few small firms or solo practitioners will share a receptionist. The receptionist just says a general greeting because she doesn’t work for a specific firm.

              1. University admin*

                It can also be because some of these firm names are just SO long. It’s cumbersome to answer saying “Law Offices of Wakeen, Jane, Apollo and Zeus” – as long as the person knows they’ve reached a law office, it’s pretty likely they’ve reached the right one. What would be the chances of dialing one digit off and still reaching another law office?

                1. Lyssa*

                  I’ve actually done that (I’m a lawyer and I call other lawyers a lot). But yes, it’s unusual.

                2. Kelly L.*

                  My previous department had a a ridiculously long name. What I finally ended up dropping was my own name–it started out as “Our Institution Department of Really Really Really Really Long Name, this is Kelly, how can I help you?” Finally just dropped my own name because they really weren’t calling for me anyway (I was the admin). Usually they wanted one of the higher-ups and didn’t really care what the admin’s name was. :D

                3. Josh S*

                  Back in high school, I had a summer job at a firm called Betzold, Berg, Nussbaum, and Heitman, and had to answer the phones on occasion with “Good morning/afternoon, this isBetzold, Berg, Nussbaum, and Heisman, how may I direct your call?”

                  When the phones got busy (often) it was a PAIN getting that whole spiel out quickly. And we were also one digit off from a local pizza joint, so often got some very confused people wanting to get a pepperoni delivered.

                4. Cat*

                  We’re a law firm and our main number is one digit off from the local court. Our poor receptionist has to field a lot of calls from people who have been arrested and are calling the court to find a lawyer; sometimes they try to hire us and she has to explain that we’re not that kind of lawyer. Though getting a telephone call one digit off from the courts would apparently be a decent client-getting strategy were we that kind of lawyer.

                5. Algae*

                  I once worked somewhere and had to answer the phone “The Chamber. This is Algae. How can I help you today?” Every time. I hated it. It took forever.

            2. Contessa*

              That drives me up the wall. I’m a lawyer, so I’m constantly calling other lawyers. Half the time, the first person to answer says, “law offices,” and the other half, they say the name of the firm (if I’m not calling a direct line). It’s a crapshoot if you’ll be transferred directly to the attorney or to a secretary/law clerk/paralegal, though–and of course, they don’t identify themselves as that, so you have to assume you’re talking to the attorney until they cut you off. Madness.

              Personally, I answer my own phone if I’m in my office and not on the other line, and I use, “Good morning/afternoon, this is Hermione.” If my secretary answers, it’s, “Hermione Granger’s office.” I see no point in intentionally confusing people.

              1. Heather*

                I used to work in a 3-person law office where the other paralegal & I both answered the phone. We had all left my boss’s old firm after they screwed him over.

                At the old firm, we answered the phone with what was on the letterhead – “Lestrange, Avery & Black.” My boss had never worked anywhere else, so at the new place he wanted us to do the same thing. Problem was that his letterhead just said “Sirius Black, Esq.” Between the pretentiousness of “Esquire” and people being confused about why Sirius Black was suddenly female, it…did not work well. I finally got him to let us answer with “Sirius Black’s office, Heather speaking, can I help you?”

                1. Kelly L.*

                  They were probably even more confused when they went to their lawyer’s office and found a big friendly dog trying to get them to throw a tennis ball.

                2. Heather*

                  Oh yeah. What would really freak out the new clients is when he’d just hide behind some potted plants and keep an eye on them without introducing himself.

                3. Kelly L.*

                  On the other hand, a dog lawyer is about the only time I would find it reasonable for someone to pee or poop in the potted plant. ;)

              2. NutellaNutterson*

                At an old job I used to call a law firm daily. I felt for their receptionist, because they had not yet shortened their name, and the poor soul had to say “liner yankelevitz sunshine & regenstreif ” EVERY time. A quick google shows that they added even more names! “Liner Grode Stein Yankelevitz Sunshine Regenstreif & Taylor LLP”

                I just answer my work or cell phone “This is Nutella.”

          2. Stryker*

            If you’re making a professional business call, you can say, “Hi, this is so and so, may I speak to such and such?” instead of just…pausing and waiting for the other guy, and you erase all of this confusion. At least, that’s the way it seems to me.

            As for answering, I’m glad someone asked this question, because I’ve always wondered! :)

            1. Prickly Pear*

              I give thanks every day for the person that taught me to start a business call with “Hello, this is My Company calling for Jon Deaux?” I remember being resistant (hey, I was young) but the one thing I get consistent compliments on at work is my phone ability. (Hey, I’m easy.)

          3. EvilQueenRegina*

            If I was calling a work number and someone answered with “Hello?” I’d seriously think I had the wrong number and had called someone’s personal line by mistake.

      3. Jill-be-Nimble*

        My great-great-uncle used to be a homicide cop. He would answer the phone, “Hello, this is So-and-So Homicide department. Smile! God loves you!”

        Imagine calling in to report a murder and hearing that. Then again, he always was kind of an ass.

    2. Jamie*

      I do the “may I help you?” If the receptionist is out and were all answering the main line. My cell or direct dial – “hi, this is Jamie.”

      I sometimes forget the “hi.” I hate the phone.

      1. AdminAnon*

        Oddly enough, when we answer the main line (I sometimes cover for the receptionist when she is away/at lunch), we are told to say “[name of organization]; how may I direct your call?” So the “may I help you?” line is almost exclusively for personal lines (at least in our office).

        I hate the phone with a passion, but having standard greetings makes it much less uncomfortable for me.

        1. Jamie*

          I absolutely think standard greetings help a lot – at least for me.

          I am so waiting for the day phones become completely obsolete.

          1. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

            Standard greetings can totally get you in trouble sometimes, though. Whenever I change jobs I have to take a few seconds to make sure I’m saying my new job’s name instead of the old one. And I have to be doubly sure I don’t answer my home phone with my work phone’s greeting!

            Or worse. When I was in college I had a summer job as a directory assistance agent, which meant a strict script. We always answered the phone “Hello, what city and state,” and when we gave the number to the caller, it was “Thank you for calling.” One day in the middle of the job I stopped to buy a bagel. After I paid, the cashier said “there you go, and thank you.” I replied “thank you for calling!” Then I got really red and left as quickly as I could. Ugh. . .

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              The other day, I called someone for a phone interview and started to say “Hi, this is Alison Green with the (name of my last employer from four years ago).” I felt it coming out, so I just trailed off after “the” somewhat awkwardly and was silent for a second. Then I said the name of the right organization. The person I was calling seemed mildly confused/amused.

              1. LBK*

                At least that was only to one person! I had a standard greeting when I was a phone operator for a retail store, and once I picked up the phone to page a department over the PA system. I reflexively launched into “Thank you for calling StoreName in Town, this is LBK speaking, how can I help you?” It was about halfway through that I realized I was projecting my greeting to the entire store.

                So that was pretty awkward. I just hung up and pretended it didn’t happen.

              2. Cube Ninja*

                I did this same thing a couple years ago. Picked up my phone and out of nowhere rattled off my greeting from a company I hadn’t worked for in five years.

                I barely recovered in time to keep the person on the phone from thinking they had the wrong number. :)

              3. AnotherAlison*

                Lol. I’ve blanked out on my office phone number & have only been to come up with my previous one. I’ve been here 9 years.

                1. Prickly Pear*

                  Because I’ve worked at multiple locations for the same company (across the country, even!) I find myself giving message by rote and only stopping once I realize that I started the wrong phone number. Not as bad as the time I went to order emergency inventory and had input over $10,000 that would’ve went to my old location (I reflexively logged in, and our computer system is universal). I’m so glad I glanced at the account number at the last minute and realized it had my old address!

              4. AVP*

                I do this all the time when I’m leaving my phone number for people on a voice mail. I have an office line and a cell phone and both have different area codes – so I start out with one and then realize I wanted to leave the other and then I have a hodgepodge of two different numbers…what a mess.

            2. CC*

              When I started my second job I noticed myself almost answering the phone with my first job’s company name by mistake, so I put a sticky note on my desk phone with the company’s name, phone number, and my extension, right where I would see it when I picked up the phone. (I hadn’t received my new business cards yet.)

              It worked well, and I’m keeping that strategy.

            3. Bagworm*

              The worst for me was when I was working at McD’s and checking groceries at a local store. I once asked a customer if they wanted any ketchup (instead of “paper or plastic”).

              Also, once ended a phone call with my boss with “I love you”. (My whole family always ends our calls that way.)

              I am forever trying to make sure I’m not mixing myself up.

              1. Rev.*

                Oh, Gawd!
                (not you, /God, I’m just using a slang expression…but you knew that, didn’t you? Being God and all…)

                Don’t you just HATE it when ppl say, “Love you!” as a departing line when they are NOT on your “I love you too!” list?

                I KNOW I’m supposed to love EVERYBODY with agape love, but that don’t make me love you with “Love ya too!” kind of love.

                I just mumble an, “uh-huh,” and try to hang up.

                It’s even worse in person. I let my wife and daughter say, “Love you, too!” and I just lip-sync it, kinda like Milli Vanilli. But, they’re sopranos, so when I lip-sync, the bass line is missing, and my wife and daughter look @ me, as if to say, “Where is your love?”

                I just roll my eyes. My love is being held hostage…

              2. Ifeelya*

                This is not about call greeting.

                One time when I just got to work, my co-worker said “Hey”. Out of no where, it slipped out “Yes baby bear?” as if I am still talking to my husband.

                I blushed, and just walked away like I said NOTHING!

            4. EvilQueenRegina*

              I had that same summer job once, but in the UK we actually pre-recorded greetings along the lines of “BT, EvilQueenRegina speaking, which name please?”

              People quite often addressed me as Vicky, which is not my name, nor does it sound anything like it. I never knew why. I did get to the point where I’d start keeping count of the number of times it happened on each shift.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          That’s what I do–“Company name, how may I direct your call” is for front desk; “Shortened company name, Liz speaking, may I help you” is for when I answer my own phone. (We’re supposed to say all three parts when we answer our phones.)

          I never say my last name–it isn’t West, and it’s too long and convoluted for people. They just mess it up if they try to repeat it or say “Huh?”

    3. ExceptionToTheRule*

      For both my personal & work lines, if I know who is calling by the caller ID, I answer with a familiar “HEY!” or “Hey Caller’s Name” – if I don’t know the number, I answer with “This is ExceptionToTheRule”.

    4. Steve*

      I answer my personal phone with “hello?” It’s MY phone, and as long as I say it politely and (hopefully) cheerfully, I don’t see it as a problem. I don’t think anyone will hold anything against you for the way you answer your personal line and/or whether you announce who you are – as long as you make the greeting a comfortable way for them to ask to speak to someone. Even with most people having a cell phone and no longer sharing a personal phone line, I still believe that a caller who doesn’t recognize your voice feels completely comfortable saying “may I speak to Steve?” if you have simply said “hello?”

      1. KayDay*

        Agreed. If people are calling my personal phone (and there is no rational reason I can think of in which someone would not realize they were calling my personal phone instead of an office phone, in my situation), and I don’t know who is calling I answer with “Hello?” and I don’t think it causes any awkwardness. If they ask for Ms. Kay Day, I just say “this is she” or “yes, this is Kay.” If I know I am getting a call from a potential employer (or doctors office, etc), I might say “Hello. This is Kay.” I really don’t think there is a big difference; but I do always say “hi” or “hello” or some sort of greeting when answering my personal phone, since it sounds more…um… personable. Whereas, when I answer my office phone I usually say, “Thank you for calling Chocolate Teapots, this is Kay speaking.”

        1. EvaR*

          I always answer my phone with “Hello?” unless I know who’s calling. Part of this is that I’ve had some debt issues in the past and also because I’ve done performing work as a hobby and have a lot of friends who know me under a pseudonym. So I know that when someone calls me and says “Am I speaking with Selina Kyle?” and they won’t tell me what they’re calling in reference to unless I tell them my name, it’s probably not someone I want to speak with. And I don’t have a name on my voicemail box, either, since it would confuse my friends if I went with my legal name and my potential employers and work contacts if I went with the other. So my voicemail just says “Hi, you’ve reached the voicemail box of 555-555-5555, leave me a voicemail and I’ll get back to you. If it’s a business day, it probably won’t be until after 6pm. Please speak clearly and slowly. Thanks.”

          It’s not a business line. Although I’m fairly fanatical about making sure I put my boss, my company, and all my coworkers into my phone and give them a group ringtone so I know someone is calling in reference to a job and with which company, though. If I have the information, I’ll even do it with interviewers.

          I was sort of worried from the comments that this isn’t normal, but it’s my personal phone number, so I’m not sure why I would assume people don’t know who they just called.

      2. Jamie*

        I don’t think so either – if you’re talking about a cell hello is totally fine by itself. I just answer with my name because I like skipping the step where they ask for me and I confirm I am indeed me.

        Also, I so rarely answer unless I know the number I only do the “this is Jamie” when it’s work stuff for people who don’t call me often. For close co-workers and family I just answer “hey (insert callers name here).

        1. AnotherAlison*

          Have you noticed that even if you answer this way, you rarely get to skip the “Is Jamie there. . .this is Jamie” step?

          People (not friends/family) seem genuinely confused that someone actually answered the phone. (I’m looking at you, DirecTV.) I answer because otherwise I will have to ignore your call daily for the next two weeks.

          1. EvaR*

            If someone is calling you from work, the company policy might be to confirm both your first and last name to make sure they have the right person before speaking to them. When I worked in a tax office, we had to confirm that we were speaking to the taxpayer or their spouse before sharing any details other than that we were calling from Xcompany and they could call us back at Xcallback number. We were told that even saying something like that we were calling to confirm an appointment was a potential liability issue because it admitted that someone was at some point a client of ours.

      3. Liz*

        I do that, but only for potential telemarketers. People I know get, “Hi, [your name from Caller ID]!” or “Hi, this is Liz” depending on how well I know them. Real telemarketers get silence (if I’ve picked up by mistake) because sometimes that confuses their system and they think the number’s no longer valid.

    5. Lanya*

      Alexander Graham Bell originally suggested that “Ahoy” be used when answering the telephone.

      Just sayin’.

      1. College Career Counselor*

        My friends and I found that out back in college and used to do it all the time! A bunch of them were in Navy ROTC, so it was actually kind of appropriate.

        1. KerryOwl*

          Yes! “Ahoy-hoy!”

          My grandpa says “Yyyyy’ello” which is what I do too. (On my personal phone, that is.)

          1. Heather*

            Now I want to do that…but in a Despicable Me minion voice. “Ahoy? Ahoy! Ba-na-na? BA-NA-NA!”

            If the way you wrote it is the same as how I’m saying it in my head, my grandma answers the same way as you & your grandpa do. :)

          2. Kai*

            Yeah, I think “yyyello” is totally fine and even funny when you know who the caller is, but I have a coworker who says it no matter who is calling, and it seems so awkward!

    6. LQ*

      I honestly just don’t answer, I let people leave a voicemail and call them back. (Unless I’m expecting a phone call at that moment in which case, “This is Sansa.” in the smilingest tone I can.)

    7. Susan*

      This long list of comments, and no one answers the phone – ” Bert’s Taco Palace?”. Hmmm…is this what is holding me back?

      (BTW – no, I do not work for a taco palace)

      1. Pennalynn Lott*

        Back in the olden days, before cell phones and caller ID, I used to answer my home phone with, “Bambi’s Adult Books and Video, how can I help you?” It stopped telemarketers in their tracks, and my friends thought it was funny.

      2. OhNo*

        Every once in a while my uncle will answer his work/cell phone with the classic “Bert’s Mortuary, you stab ’em, we slab ’em!”

        I hope he only does this when he sees it’s family on the caller ID, but knowing him… that might not be a safe bet.

        1. Bea W*

          Way before caller ID I knew a couple people who would occasionally answer the phone like that. I believe there was also a greeting that was similar but ended with “you chill ’em, we grill ’em”

    8. BeenThere*

      I always answer with just firstname last name at work. It’s a tip from “Nice Girls Don’t get the Corner Office” and ever since I started doing that I feel like I’m treated more professionally.

  5. Graciosa*

    To OP#2, please remember that you are not responsible for the behavior of Big Boss. Everyone has someone above them (even CEO’s have boards and often other shareholders) and in this case, it isn’t you. Big Boss’ management allows him to behave this way, but you don’t need to take on that guilt.

    If you are really going to have to say something to him when you leave (and if you don’t feel you can have a conversation of the kind Alison suggests which might have an impact on his future behavior), you also have the option of being honest without being explicit or starting a war.

    For example:

    Do not say: “I think you’re a brilliant manager and I’m proud to say I worked with you.” There is no reason to lie.

    You can say: “I learned a lot while I was here, and I appreciate the skills and experience I have gained.”

    Big Boss can presume you mean because of his brilliant leadership, even if what you learned was how NOT to manage people and one of the skills you gained was learning how to work for a terrible manager. However, you would not be lying.

    Other options which may be true (but open to interpretation) include:

    “This has been a life-changing experience.”
    “I don’t expect I’ll ever have another job quite like this one.”
    “No matter where I go in my career, I will never forget the time I spent here.”

    The key is delivery. If you say any of these with a smile and a handshake, you can walk out the door with a clear conscience and without burning any bridges. My experience is that people like Big Boss lack the awareness to pick up on subtleties, and aren’t likely to think that anything they are doing could be causing a problem.

    That said, I am certainly of the opinion that he needs serious corrective action or a trip to the unemployment office – but that’s not something within your scope, OP, so don’t take responsibility for failing to take action beyond your power. Sometimes leaving is the best you can do.

    Good luck.

  6. Stephanie*

    First, am I the only person who hasn’t seen Game of Thrones?

    #1: Take this as a good sign that your boss thinks you’re competent enough to catch up. The alternative (micromanaging) is worse.

    #3: I have an involuntary gasp myself. Nothing major, but it does throw people off on occasion. All my coworkers got used to it. Everyone has their little tics.

    #4: You’re definitely overthinking it. As long as you don’t answer the phone like Jesse Pinkman, you’re probably fine.

    1. SherryD*

      “First, am I the only person who hasn’t seen Game of Thrones?”

      Haha! I’m almost annoyed that I knew that was a Games of Thrones reference, without ever seeing the show or reading the books. Oh, pop culture! :)

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        No, I haven’t seen it either. Although I gather you can play an extended game of “Guess who is going to get bumped off by the end of the programme”.

        1. Jessa*

          Pretty much. I saw the first season. I liked it but I didn’t seem to get into it past that. But to pick another fanbase, I think “This is Tasha Lem,” is fine. You don’t have to be fancy, just say something that shows that they’ve got the right person.

          Even if 99% of the time they won’t listen to that and be all on about “Martha? Is that you Martha Jones?” For some reason callers do NOT hear the part about “You’re through to Torchwood,” when what they want is UNIT.

          1. Al Lo*

            +2 hearts

            (It’s comic expo here this weekend, and Matt Smith is one of the guests, and I may or may not have bought a photo op for tomorrow. Ten is more my jam, but I’ll take what I can get!)

                1. Al Lo*

                  Indeed. And Comic Expo is the place to be in Calgary. I can’t go all weekend, just today, so I’m going to make the best of my short time and, as my friend put it, “shop with my eyes until they fall out” and stretch my limited Artist Alley budget as far as it’ll go.

            1. Diane*

              My sister gave me a giant cardboard #10 for my birthday. I kept it up for a long time, until my four-year-old niece told me that when she slept over, she couldn’t sleep because he came alive at night. I should have told her to send him upstairs.

      2. Lily in NYC*

        That’s how I felt about Jersey Shore! I was ashamed that I knew all of their names even though I never watched an episode of the show.

      3. A Cita*

        I haven’t seen it, nor read it and I didn’t pick up on the reference (though I knew it was a reference to something–but my mind when to manga or some such).

    2. short'n'stout*

      Nope, I’ve never seen it, and, given what I’ve read about the content of the show, I’m never going to.

        1. Windchime*

          I read the book, but only saw the first season of the show and I’m not sure I would watch more. The violence was easier to take in the book because there was tons of story between bad things; in the show, it seem like the violence is one thing right after the other and is too much for me. But I loved the books.

    3. Mike*

      Never seen GoT. Tried to read the books but didn’t even make it past the first chapter of the first book :(

      1. LBK*

        The show moves much faster and is easier to understand, IMO. I marathoned the first 3 seasons and was excited to read the books and I just found the writing style so dry and clunky that I couldn’t even make it through the first one.

        1. De Minimis*

          I’ve read all but the most recent book…I had that one but just can’t get through it.

          Tried to watch the show but can’t get into it. I don’t have HBO right now so I probably won’t ever catch up with it.

      2. Jen RO*

        I struggled my way through the first book… and then I started loving the series. The beginning was extremely confusing! (I did give up on trying to remember all the minor characters; if I know what the important people are doing, it’s enough for me.)

      3. Omne*

        I got part way into the second book, set it aside and never got back to it. One of the very few series I’ve read where that has happened.

        1. De Minimis*

          I thought the second book was the most difficult. If I remember right he introduced way too many new characters and it got really cumbersome. Once I got past that one the next ones were a lot more fun, but I hit a wall with the newest one.

    4. AdminAnon*

      Nope! I’ve never seen it, though I have read the first 3 books. After a while, though, all my favorite characters had died, so I just gave up and moved on.

      1. Monodon monoceros*

        That’s what happened to me when I watched the first 2 seasons of GoT- after that, everyone I liked was dead so I stopped watching.

    5. Del*

      Haven’t seen it, but I have been reading the books, so I probably don’t count anyhow :)

      #4: A year or so ago we got a new hire who I gathered came from a very regulated and scripted environment — for the first couple months he would come to me wanting scripts for everything, from what should be on his voicemail to how he should answer the phone! Our department doesn’t have much in the way of regular standards for minutia like that, and we very rarely receive outside calls, so it was such a minor issue, but he was so stressed out over it. Poor guy. A simple, “Wakeen speaking,” is usually fine for us.

    6. Mimmy*

      Only the bits and pieces my husband insists on showing me from time to time. Red Wedding anyone??!

    7. Heather*

      Nope, I don’t have HBO. Besides, I’m saving myself for when Outlander starts this summer on Starz. I only have so much time for obsessive TV watching and that should use up just about all of it :)

  7. Dani S*

    #4 — I’m so glad I’m not the only one who had to say “Stark residence, this is Sansa speaking.” My parents were big on that, but as a teen I was always mortified because I never heard anyone else answer that way.

    My parents would also make me call their friends and ask if they were available to talk, like I was personal assistant or something. That’s weird, right?

    1. Al Lo*

      I had to answer as, “Hello, this is Al,” or “Hello, Al speaking,” but I didn’t necessarily have to identify the household by last name.

      But yeah, acting as your parents’ assistant is a little weird. ;)

    2. Career Counselorette*

      My mom would do something similar, but it’d be while she was in the middle of some task, and she’d tell me, “Call Grandma for me” or “Call your aunt.” So I’d call, assuming I was just dialing for her, and I’d shoot the shit with my Grandma or whatever for a few minutes, who would inevitably say, “Put your mother on,” and then my mom would take the phone and be like, “OMG I’M IN THE MIDDLE OF SOMETHING I’M SO BUSY.” I have no idea what she was trying to pull by doing that, but I always thought, “Why can’t you just wait until you’re done, or, you know, just not call?”

      1. Kay*

        Probably because your grandma and your aunt talk for far too long and she wanted to get credit for being a good daughter/sister without staying on the phone forever. I’ve had to learn how to navigate these in my own family. Grandma gets huffy and offended if you’re busy and have to get off the phone even after 30 minute calls, but she doesn’t feel so bad about handing the phone over to my Grandpa so he can talk to us. So I always talk to her first for a few minutes, then ask to talk to him and he doesn’t have the same “hang-ups” about hanging up (if you’ll pardon my pun).

    3. KayDay*

      A few of my friends answered like that, but I think I was first answering the phone around the same time that a lot of the “stranger danger” paranoia was catching on, and people starting discouraging kids (especially) from providing their names when a unknown person called. Although I honestly didn’t and still don’t understand how someone knowing my name made me significantly less safe in my locked home. But I do remember being told not to tell mystery callers/wrong numbers my name.

      One of my friend’s parents were private practice lawyers and she got so used to hearing them answer the phone she had the absolute most professional phone voice at the age of six. My parents thought it was adorable.

    4. Artemesia*

      My first (briefly) husband was the son of a telephone company executive in a mid-western state and he had been taught to say:
      Snerk Residence, Billy speaking. I just hated it, because I thought it made him sound 8 years old and that is was stupid. But when I said I thought he should just say ‘hello’ on the home phone (this was long before cell phones or maybe they were then the size of a shoebox), he insisted that this was the correct way to answer a residential phone. UNTIL the day a female friend of his called and he did this and she said ‘J#$@ C#$% Billy you sound like you are 6 years old’ He stopped doing it then.

      Not the main reason I left him but it helped.

    5. the_scientist*

      My parents were really big into the “stranger danger” thing on the phone and very strictly drilled into me that I was only to answer the phone in a certain manner, never reveal my name, and never say “they’re not home right now” if someone was looking to speak to my parents. Also, because my dad had worked as a private investigator for a number of years and is paranoid, I was never to give out my name, even when asked directly.

      Really all of this did was make me so worried about answering the phone in the “wrong” way that I just wouldn’t answer at all, and still have serious phone anxiety.

      1. Us, Too*

        I answer work calls and calls from unknown numbers with “This is FirstName”. I’m not worried about criminals using this information to their advantage because my first name is easily found through public records. It’s pretty worthless in and of itself. Plus, I’m not an 8 year old at home alone anymore.

        1. danr*

          At home we have caller id and don’t answer calls that come in as “unknown caller”. Most of them hang up when the answering machine starts and some have been legitimate auto calls from businesses or other legit calls. I always wonder why a business won’t spend the extra money for its name on a phone number.

          1. Stephanie*

            Man. I live in an area with a lot of senior citizens and we get so many telemarketing calls about reverse mortgages and Medicare Part D supplements. We have caller ID, but usually the number will just show up as something vague like “Toledo OH”. At this point, none of us answer the phone unless it’s a number we know or are expecting a call.

      2. Bea W*

        My mother told us never to answer the phone if we were home alone and if she had to call us, we would know it was her because she would let it ring once, hang up, then call right back.

    6. Jamie*

      My daughter did that once when she was little because she saw it on the Cosby show and I immediately stopped her.

      I did not want my kids giving out our name or especially theirs over the phone to God knows who. I follow Miss Manners rule that the onus is on the caller to identify themselves first as they are the one asking for electronic admission (as it were) to your home.

      I did teach my kids to identify themselves when calling others, though. “Hello this is Buffy, may I please speak to Cissy.”

      1. Us, Too*

        It occurs to me that with households moving away from household phone lines in favor of individual cell phones, what I may need to teach my son about phone etiquette and safety is likely to be different from what I learned as a child when we had a rotary phone on the wall in the kitchen without caller ID, etc.

      2. Career Counselorette*

        That makes a lot of sense, for courtesy and safety reasons. My mother got back in touch with (and eventually had to cut off) an old college friend who was a total sadsack and emotional vampire who had no idea how to do basic things like make telephone calls. I was in school at the time, so when I came home for summer break they’d been in touch again for a few weeks. One day he called and I answered and said, “Hello,” and he said, “Uh, hello- who’s this?” and I was like, “Excuse me?” and he said, “I want to speak to [Mom], who’s this?” and I said, “Back up. You called us. Who is THIS?” and he REFUSED to tell me who he freakin’ was. If it weren’t for my mom coming into the room at the same time and realizing it was him, I would seriously have blown a whistle into the phone.

        Amazingly enough, even though my mother told him I was home from school, every time he called and I answered he’d still say, “Hello- who’s this?” and I’d be like, “Someone with manners.”

    7. Mimmy*

      When I’d call a classmate back in 4th grade, her little brother would answer “This is Mike Smith speaking, who’s this?” I think he even started out with “Smith residence”. Then I started to answer our phone that way, but must’ve gotten tired of doing that because it wasn’t for long. Oh the joys of answering the phone!

    8. Arjay*

      “Hello, this is Arjay. To whom am I speaking please?” Seriously! We weren’t mature enough to answer the phone if we couldn’t use the ‘correct’ greeting.

  8. short'n'stout*

    #4 I just say “Hello, this is $myname”. It gives the caller a few familiar words so that they can tune into the sound of my voice before they hear my name, which I think makes it easier for them to catch it.

  9. Sara M*

    Well, now I feel weird. I answer the phone, “Hello?”

    Always have and never thought of anything else. I suppose I haven’t had to take a lot of work calls. But it’s very useful to me to hear how the other person attempts to pronounce my name.

    1. NW Cat Lady*

      I answer my work phone, “This is NW Cat Lady.” I answer my personal phone, “Hello?” unless I know the person calling, in which case I answer it, “Hello!” or “Hey, there!” I suppose if I were expecting a call from an interviewer, I might answer, “Hello, this is NW Cat Lady,” but other than that, no way.

      1. NW Cat Lady*

        I also have to point out that in my normal position, I only get internal calls. When I pick up customer-facing hours, I anwer the phone, “Name of WorkPlace, this is NW Cat Lady, how may I help you?”

      2. Dan*

        I answer calls *from* 800 numbers with “what the f!ck do you want, this better be good.” I’ve never gotten a call from one of those numbers that I’ve liked.

        1. CanadianWriter*

          When I was a kid I’d answer “CanadianWriter’s Crematorium you kill me we grill em” when telemarketers called. (Now that I’m a semi-responsible adult I ignore the calls).

          1. Lily in NYC*

            Oh my god, my sister and I used to answer “Lily in NYC’s morgue, you kill em we chill em” – and this was way before caller ID, so I got in big trouble when my grandmother called and I said it to her. I’ve never heard your version!

            1. JMegan*

              Haha, my father once got in big trouble with his grandmother when he answered the phone “House of Lords, God speaking”

              Phones were Very Serious Business to my great-grandmother, who was never particularly known for her sense of humour anyway… :)

              1. Susan*

                Ah – should have scrolled down before I posted above about answering with “Bert’s Taco Palace!”

            2. Nanc*

              My sibs and I went through a period of ourfamilynamemorgue, you stab ’em, we slab ’em.

              At the office I just answer “company name, this is first name.” We all answer phones, including the boss.

            3. EvilQueenRegina*

              I used to do it the other way to my grandmother – I’d call her, put on an accent and ask for someone random. She usually knew it was me and laughed about it, but one day she thought it was me and it was someone who’d genuinely got a wrong number – she answered the phone, this voice said “Hello, is So and so there please?” My gran had burst out laughing as she said “No, she doesn’t live here!” – she felt like an idiot when the woman said “Oh, thank you,” and hung up.

        2. De Minimis*

          I just don’t answer 800-number calls, period.

          Right now I’m not really on the job market, so there is not really a big pressure to answer the phone unless it’s someone I know. I always hated that when I was still searching, I had to deal with so many annoying callers because any call could be about an interview or job.

          I do the standard “This is De Minimis.” When I was just starting out I learned the hard way [after temping in a law office] that you can’t just answer the phone “Hello” when at work, or at least you couldn’t at most of the places I’ve worked.

          1. De Minimis*

            I forgot, once in a blue moon I will get an external call on my work phone [a landline.] I gather that quite a while ago my extension used to be the one for reception, and I will sometimes get calls from the public trying to reach the patient-facing departments. Then I will answer with my department name but otherwise it’s the same as with other work calls.

            I try to transfer these people to the people they want to reach, but it doesn’t always work out [a lot of the departments here don’t have people dedicated to answering the phone] so sometimes people get irritated.

    2. Artemesia*

      I answered my work phone, Hello, Felicia Baskerville and my personal phone Hello. If it is a personal call, they know it is me and I don’t need to identify, if it is a call that is professional (theirs or mine) they might say ‘I’d like to speak to Felicia BAskerville’ and I just say, speaking. Seems to work. It seems odd to me to identify yourself on a personal phone only you use and is in your right pocket.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Sara, just to clear this up, I think most of who are saying we answer with something like “this is Alison” are referring exclusively to work calls. I think most people still just use “hello” for personal phones.

      1. Jamie*

        It kind of does want me to start answering the kids calls with, “hello this is Jamie Lastname, your mother, how may I help you?”

        1. LBK*

          Ha! This reminds me of Parks & Rec, where Leslie always overexplains who she is one the phone. “Ann! It’s Leslie Knope! From the Parks department!” “Yes, Leslie, I know who you are…”

        2. Elsajeni*

          I have a friend whose dad’s voicemails always open, “Hello, [child’s name], this is your father, ‘Dad.'” As if his kid might not be sure who ‘Dad’ refers to if he doesn’t explain first.

          1. mjm724*

            My dad does a version this to me! Every. Single. voicemail he leaves me starts out, “Hi mjm724’s voicemail, this is mjm724’s father.” It’s simultaneously annoying and endearing.

          2. BOMA*

            My mother does this thing, where she’ll call my phone, and when I inevitably answer it with “Hi Mom!” (because the vast majority of cell phones have caller ID at this point), she always goes “Hi! This is your mother!” Mom, I JUST GREETED YOU BY NAME. It used to irritate the hell out of me, but now I find it kind of funny.

          3. Judy*

            My late father in law would leave messages on the answering machine “Wakeen, this is your father, Bob”, you know, because my husband has so many other fathers.

      2. Sara M*

        Yes, I’m seeing that now! But thanks for clarifying. I suppose if I were taking lots of work calls, I’d also do “This is Sansa”. Like my husband does. Except he isn’t named Sansa. That would be weird. :)

  10. Amber*

    #4 Agreed. If I’m expecting a call like a job interview then I’ll answer with “Hello, this is Amber.” (I even write it down so I don’t freak out from the phone interview nerves) However if I’m not expecting a call and I get a call from an unknown number then I let it go to voice mail and if it ended up being a job opportunity then they will leave a message.

  11. Chocolate Teapot*

    I answer the phone with “Hello” and then if somebody says “Can I speak to Chocolate Teapot” then I reply with “Speaking”. Sometimes I get random calls and I prefer to not give out more information than necessary.

  12. Adam*

    #3 I chuckle at my desk all the time. I try to rein it in but my cube neighbors could definitely hear it. But they actually didn’t seem to mind it. They always wanted to know what was so funny, hoping to break up the office monotony.

    For the record it’s usually this radio show I listen to regularly, but I’m always vague about describing it since it’s often NSFW and I listen through my phone and headphones just to be safe.

    1. jmkenrick*

      Savage love?

      I don’t laugh at my desk that much, but if I’m composing an e-mail that requires a lot of thought/delicacy (not too often) apparently I sort of whisper aloud to myself as I think through the phrasing. A coworker who brought it to my attention, and I’ve since caught myself doing a few times…luckily no one seems to mind too much. Virtually all of us have one or two things that are potentially disruptive…it’s one of the perils of an open-seating plan, alas.

      1. Adam*

        Not that explicit. But I be careful because the motto of the show is “If we haven’t offended you yet, we will.”

  13. kj*

    For my personal cell, I just answer “This is K.” At work, the whole spiel is, “Branch library name, this is K, how can I help you?” My pet peeve is coworkers who call from other departments/branches without identifying themselves or who answer the public line at work with just “Branch name.” No greeting, no friendliness, and invariably terrible service.

  14. justforthis*

    #5 — Don’t send the interviewer the PDF template that you have. They may not have time to explore it further. Instead, take it one step further & send a follow up email with a proposed solution or constructive theory for one of the problems they mentioned, offered free. Maybe something like, “I was just reading about what can lead to donors making the commitment and thought of this …”

    You will stand out! Read this:

  15. Andrew*

    I’m actually going to slightly disagree with Allison regarding OP#1, depending on how your manager brought you into the project. If he mentioned in the e-mail that he wanted you to work on the project, then I don’t see a problem. But if he just was like “here’s all these e-mails”, I think he has slight communication issues. You’re still over-reacting, but you should say something to your boss or try to get some clarification on what he expects from you regarding the project.

    1. Jen RO*

      I came here to say this. When you were CC’ed, was there any message to you personally, OP? Even an “OP, please get involved in this”? If there was *nothing* I would be very miffed as well – does the boss want me involved? does the boss wants me to be aware, but not involved? did the boss add me by mistake? I think it’s very weird if you were just CC’ed without any context.

      1. Elysian*

        I agree with this – if the boss said “Here’s some emails, please get up to date because we need another person on this project.” – that’s one thing, and the OP is over reacting. But my boss will sometimes just add me to things with no context, and I have to email him back and ask “I saw that you cc:’d me on this chain; would you like me to attend the X meeting next week that Jane mentioned, or was this more just for my information?” Sometimes he just messed up and tells me to ignore.

        Either way though, its nothing to get bent out of shape about, just kind of annoying that I have to take the extra step to seek clarification when he should have just told me in the first place.

        1. Sunflower*

          Yea I wanted to say this too. Esp if you work in an org where people CC everyone or forward every email sometimes it can be confusing whether it’s a ‘heads up/FYI’ message or a ‘do this’ message

      2. Artemesia*

        I agree. But the response is not to get miffed and sulk and refuse to go watch hockey, the response is ‘Boss, I see you are looping me on the X project, What do you see my role with the project. Is there anything in particular I should be focusing on here?’

        Yeah boss was inept. Maybe he ‘thought’ he had mentioned it. Or maybe he is just inept, but the response is clarification. Managing upward 101.

    2. Career Counselorette*

      I absolutely agree. I’m hardly the kind of person who needs to be handheld, but considering how many ongoing responsibilities I already have, it would kind of stress me out to be looped into a weeks-old e-mail thread at the last minute and expected to participate as fully as the other members with no explanation or prep from my boss.

      Also, Alison says that the OP was told at the outset they’d be pulled into new projects, but I don’t see that anywhere in the letter, and frankly, I think it’s a little disingenuous as a justification for why the OP shouldn’t wonder about this. Being told clearly, “We’re going to try vanilla teapots instead of chocolate, so from now on we’re going to replace the cacao infusion with this vanilla bean one” is one thing. Looking for the cacao infusion and finding a vanilla bean one with no explanation and then being treated like you’re helpless for asking about it is totally different, and not normal.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Also, Alison says that the OP was told at the outset they’d be pulled into new projects, but I don’t see that anywhere in the letter,

        I meant that by being hired, it’s understood that you will be pulled into projects (not that the boss would say that explicitly). It’s generally part of the assumed expectations when you have a job.

        1. Career Counselorette*

          I did not say it is unreasonable to expect to be pulled into projects. I said that if someone was carelessly looped into something without any prior notice, and didn’t necessarily have the kind of relationship with their boss where they knew they could just ask for clarification, to wonder about it does not make you less of a self-sufficient adult.

          Although I think this letter writer personalized it a great deal more than is necessary, I also don’t think that the scorn and comparisons to the person who resented his boss’s phone calls is justified, nor is the implication that this is someone who needs to be hand-held and coddled and taken care of.

        2. Judy*

          But all of the jobs I’ve had you are very explicitly put on to projects. (The first job I had, we were government contractors, and had assignment forms, each time you were given an assignment, they wrote it out.)

          Even now, I do have some luxury of a MOB (maintenance of business) project I can charge to, but I can’t charge to a project I’m not authorized on. And if my actual time charges vary too much from the plan that my manager puts into the system, we start getting attention.

    3. Op*

      Hi, OP’s here!
      To your question, no, he said no such things.

      They were just talking about something, and out of the blue, when was responding to the thread, he just decided to add me to the recepients list.
      “Slight” communication issue is probably an understatement.
      But then he’s a technical boss, who’s known for being a nerd who doesn’t know how to say diplomatic things. (And I’m not using “nerd” in a negative way. I actually consider myself one, too, so do most of my coworkers. But we do make efforts not to say undiplomatic remarks toward others!)

      1. Monodon monoceros*

        Yeah, it’s probably not worth getting too upset about, but I think it would have been better if the boss at least given you a few lines in the email indicating you were supposed to get up to speed and then get involved. I would be annoyed too, especially if I was in your position I would feel stupid when people started asking me about the project, and I had not had time to get up to speed.

        I had a former boss who used to do this to me, too. I learned to just tell other people “Boss just looped me in, give me a few minutes (or this afternoon, whatever amount of time) to read through this string of emails and I’ll get back to you.” I also asked (diplomatically) if the boss would give me a heads up whenever possible so that I could be more prepared when other people started asking me about projects. That seemed to help for a while, but it is definitely important to watch your tone when you ask- make sure you aren’t demanding it from your boss, and then also frame it as you will be more effective if the boss can give you that heads up.

      2. Jamie*

        Did he say anything undiplomatic, or is that just your characterization of no comments when adding you?

        And speaking as a technical person who works with a lot of technical people I don’t see people get offended when asked for clarifying information.

        Granted, in your case you got no information, which is weird – but sometimes it’s hard to know how deep to get into something because you aren’t sure what their knowledge base is or you think someone else already filled them in on the details. Or conversely, getting over expositiony (it’s a word – or so I choose to believe) or too technical.

        I’m a fairly good communicator, but I am glad I work with people who like me enough and are comfortable enough with me to respond to an email (privately) with “Huh?? You might want to resend that…try English this time.”

        Or my favorite from an old job. “Hey Queen Vocabula, try again. No one knows what the hell Kafkaesque means.”

        (I was new and hadn’t yet learned to tailor communication styles to an audience yet. I’m much better now (tm Buddy Ryan).

        Anyway, most communication issues are just oversights or different styles and there is no harm in asking people to clarify. If people use emails with no context and cryptic communication as a passive aggressive way to send a message then they deserve to have their messages ignored…because for most of us that will whoosh right over our heads.

        1. OP#*

          Right, he didn’t say anything undiplomatic. In fact, he didn’t say anything at all. That’s what I had a problem with.

          My first reaction was “WTF? do I have something to do with this?”

          1. danr*

            So, *you* take the initiative with a quick call or email. As, “I got the email. Looks like an interesting project”. And see where it goes.

      3. Another Sara*

        At the risk of psychologizing about a person I don’t know, it’s worth considering that some very technical people assume that the connections they make in their own mind are also made by others. I suffer from this myself, having a tendency to get annoyed when people don’t immediately see the logical chain of thought that links cause A to effect B. If your boss is like this, he may have had a whole train of thought in his head leading to “I should CC OP #1 on this so he can take over,” and he assumed that you would follow the same train of thought when you read the emails. In his mind, it’s obvious what he wants you to do, so it just doesn’t occur to him that it wouldn’t be obvious to you. If that’s the case, it’s not something you should be offended by, but it could be worth sitting down with him for a larger conversation about personality differences, communication styles, etc.

      4. Bluefish*

        Hi OP#1. Someone stated it perfectly above. Your boss kind of sounds like the opposite of a micro manager. Really hands off, and expects you to be self sufficient. S/He is not trying to be rude or undiplomatic. Just efficient. If cc’ing you on the email alone leaves you with questions, you need to ask. Otherwise, just go with it. At some point you might appreciate working in an environment that doesn’t waste time on unnecessary formalities.

    4. Calla*

      I agree. No, OP #1 shouldn’t expect something like a meeting with the boss every time he wants her to get involved in a project, and of course sometimes you’re going to need to jump in on projects that you need to be looped in on. But just throwing something that has been going on for weeks at her at the last minute without a single comment is… not the best method and not something I would like to be expected to expect.

    5. Jillociraptor*

      I agree, too. It’s equally frustrating to dive into a project only to find out your boss was just keeping you in the loop, as it is to suddenly find out a few days later that you’re on the hook for something you had no idea was on your plate. I have no problem taking in context and understanding the projects happening on my team, or just jumping in to figure something out, but please don’t expect me to read your mind! It’s just not efficient for me to assume that everything that comes into my inbox in need of action from SOMEONE is in need of action from ME.

    6. A Cita*

      Eh, I don’t really see it as a big deal. It happens all the time. I can tell by reading the stream and knowing my own work roles what’s expected of me if it’s not mentioned somewhere in the body of the email stream (i.e., “….and we’ve got a teapot glazer who can help with that, after the chocolate molds are delivered…”).

      If I’m unsure, I’ll ask for clarification. But I always get added to a stream (or a stream forwarded to me) with no additional comment from my boss. It’s normal. It happens in a lot of places.

      1. Liz*

        I get this a lot too. Often my only hint is a throwaway line like “… and someone in $dept can get that data for you” and the fact that I’ve just been CC’d. I just run with it, and email my boss if I need clarification on the requirements/deadline (or if I’ve already got a full workload and need to know how flexible they are).

    7. Another Sara*

      I came here to say something similar. I get looped into a lot of things indirectly, but somewhere in the email chain will be a comment like “Another Sara can help with that” or “I’m looping in Another Sara since she is the expert on white chocolate teapots.” So not a direct message to me, but an obvious indication that I’m supposed to be helping in some way. In the cases where there are no such comments, I assume that the cc is just a courtesy/FYI thing, and I don’t have any action items (though I may still jump in anyway if I think the situation warrants it). This is pretty normal.

      However, the OP got cc’d on a chain with no indication that he was supposed to do anything, and found out through other channels that there were expectation of action on his part. That’s unusual. I wouldn’t sulk about it, but I can see how the OP might be confused. OP, I would chalk this up to suboptimal communication on your manager’s part, but I wouldn’t assume it is malicious. He may have been intending to follow up but didn’t have time, forgot, etc. Like Andrew suggests, I would just follow up with your boss to clarify his expectations of your role in the project, etc.

  16. Christine*

    I don’t have a customer-facing position, but I answer my desk phone with “ACME Company, this is Christine” because I am slightly more likely to take an external call on the desk phone. My cell is only published internally, so I answer it “This is Christine.” Customer service positions I’ve had have had more formal phone greetings that were either dictated by the company or could be picked up from a coworker. “Thanks for calling ACME company, this is Christine, how can I help you?”

    I answer my home phone with “Hello?”, but if I happen to answer the phone at someone else’s house (usually my parents or in-laws), I answer “Smith residence, Christine speaking” because if I answer with “Hello?” their callers are likely to assume I either my mother or mother and law and dive right into conversation that they’ll only have to repeat when I hand the phone over.

    1. LBK*

      Yeah, I do “CompanyName, this is MyName speaking” when I answer my desk phone because they’re mostly external calls. If I can see on the caller ID that it’s internal I either answer “This is MyName” or “Hi CallerName” if I can see who it is.

    2. Artemesia*

      years ago I was invited to a river camp weekend at the Baskerville fishing camp. My name is also Baskerville but am not a relation of this family. The patriarch called and so I picked it up, being the only one in the cabin when the phone rang, and said Baskerville Camp. The guy said ‘who is this’ and I said Felicia Baskerville. I could practically hear the wheels of confusion grinding in his brain as he tried to place me in his family. His daughter later told me that he was trying to imagine who had just gotten married without him knowing.

  17. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

    1. I’m upset that my boss didn’t talk to me directly about a new project

    Do you work for me? It sounds like you do.

    Look, I try. I try to have all of the right people informed about all of the right things at the time that is the most convenient and even the most emotionally comfortable for all of those people, but I have a million balls in the air. Sometimes I forget to put somebody on an email. Sometimes they aren’t thought to be initially needed but are then added on later. Sometimes I over CC and you’re looped into information you didn’t really need.

    My staff just rolls with me. (Have I mentioned lately how awesome the people I work with are?) Such a blessing.

    True story. Some years back, a woman worked on my direct report staff for a few years and she couldn’t roll with it. She would get emotional and puffy if she didn’t have information exactly when she thought she should have it. (Not a new grad. A woman with years of professional experience.) If she was particularly hurt she’d say, “I wasn’t allowed to know.” Grown woman. I never dealt with it awesomely, but laid her off in the crash of 2008 when we had to do some RIF, with relief. I’ve got enough pressure from all sides, I do not want or expect pressure from my team. (I also wouldn’t tolerate it now, being more awesome than I used to be.)

    Roll with it! If being late to the project is putting you behind in contributing properly, it’s okay to say “being late to the project means I need an extra day to do XYZ” as long as you are sure you can say “being late to the project” without turning it into an accusation. If you are consistently and over a period of time, looped in too late or incorrectly and it is impacting the work you are doing (not your emotions), bring that up with suggested solutions.

    Don’t be the “I wasn’t allowed to know” woman.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*


        I had a p.s. and then thought I was being way too long winded and nuked it.

        The P.S. is that information is part of making your sure your staff has the tools that they need to do their jobs properly. If a boss fails to provide the proper information or instructions consistently, without a pathway for the employee to obtain that information independently, that’s a bad boss.

        That’s different from having hurt feelings that you weren’t looped in at the time or in the manner that would have made you feel better.

        1. Jillociraptor*

          Yes! It’s the manager’s responsibility to ensure the comprehensive flow of information, but it’s also the direct report’s responsibility to proactively understand what’s expected of them and do their part to get the information they need.

    1. Jen RO*

      I still think there is a way to go between the “I wasn’t allowed to know” woman and a person being CC’ed by the boss with no context whatsoever. If my boss wants me to take on a new project, he can at least *tell* me! I can handle it from there, but really, how busy can someone be that s/he can’t add a simple “please read this email thread and work on this task”?

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        Annoyed, sure. Hurt, no.

        The OP is loaded with emotional language, “didn’t I deserve…” which does you no favors in the working world unless you are talking about really important things like, didn’t I deserve heads up that the plant was closing after my 20 years of service.

        Lookit, this stuff happens to everybody. My CFO pulls stupid pet tricks on me. The principals of the company decided to fold an entire division of the company into mine before they even asked me if I thought it was a good idea or I wanted it. Whole meetings were held and I wasn’t there.

        No crying baseball. Stick to the business facts of what happens and save how you feel about things for the really important stuff.

        1. Jen RO*

          Yeah, we’re in agreement about that, the OP did overreact. I was just arguing that the OP is not entirely in the wrong here and most people who have *a* reaction – I’d be annoyed as hell, but not to this extent.

      2. Elle D*

        I completely agree that it is so much easier when my boss provides some context to email threads, but given his position he is often out of the office in meetings. He’ll often forward or CC me without context because he is physically sitting with a client or executive in a meeting. The emails with no directions can be annoying, but rather than stewing I email him back directly, call him, or stop into his office when he returns to ask for clarification.

        Being looped in on an email thread with not much fanfare/context is only a major issue if there is absolutely no way to get in touch with the boss for clarification after he forwards the email. If he expects you to read his mind with no further direction and the email provides no clue, then that is something that needs to be addressed.

    2. Us, Too*

      This is what I’d say as well. In LastJob I managed a PMO – in any given month I’d literally distribute hundreds of projects and assignments of various sizes. Smaller items would be a simple email being forwarded or even just a link to the contract being forwarded. This is NORMAL. My job is to provide enough information for someone to do their job and get the project started and if that can be done with a simple email, fine. If I could I’d try to give the person a quick heads’ up it was coming, but that wasn’t always possible and my team typically understood that and would reply with “Got it, will let you know if I have questions” or “I’ve read over the contract, but have some questions. I’ll set up an invite for us to talk further and include the salesperson/AM on it.”


    3. KimmieSue*

      I’m so glad you posted this…the OP could work for me as well. Don’t take it personally, learn to go with the flow.

    4. Cassie*

      I think the lady in your office move to my office! She gripes when she’s included last minute, she gripes if she’s not included at all. She even gripes when they do include her at the onset.

      I always think back to Hanlon’s razor – the quote about not attributing to malice what can be attributed to stupidity. If I’m left off an email trail of something I am working on, I figure it was an accident. If I’m looped into a project last minute, I figure they realized later they needed my skills to do ABC. I mean, obviously I’d be amazing :) at every single project and they should include me, but I have plenty of work to do – I can’t possibly work on everything anyway.

  18. Bananananana*

    #1 – This happens a lot in my workplace.

    If I’m suddenly looped in on messages for a project I’m not involved in, I simply go to the sender (or someone else I know is on the team, if the email was from the CEO) and say something like, “Hey, I see I was copied on the email about the Monsters Inc. branded caramel teapots. Am I going to be working on that project? Great.”

    Generally I’ll get some brief info from them on the spot; otherwise I arrange a time to discuss it and find out what my role will be and any actions I need to get started on. In the meantime I read through the email chain and the project files to get some background.

    The main point being that it’s up to me to be proactive, seek information, and make sure I know what is needed from me. That is an integral part of my job.

    Yes, it would be great if I was told directly, “You’ll be working on X; Mikey has the lead and will get you up to speed.” But you have to adjust to the way your own workplace functions in real life, and sometimes (often?) that means getting up from your desk and asking someone.

    It’s also good practice to be enthused about the opportunity, rather than annoyed by the way it was communicated. As a new grad especially, it’s all valuable for learning your job.

    Colleagues may not realise what you do/don’t know, so ask and clarify if you need to. After a long and complex discussion or briefing I’ll sometimes send the team lead an email bullet list of what I think is needed from me, just to double-check I’ve understood correctly and noted everything down.

    1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*


      And acquiring a reputation for operating this way then empowers you to say things like, “Hey Charlie, I got looped in really late on the Strawberry Teapot Expansion. If I’d had an extra week, I could have done a better job. Do you think you could CC me earlier next time?”

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Perfect response. And satisfies the concern of not being looped in for the person asking.

    2. Elle D*

      Spot on advice.

      The best thing a recent grad can do for their professional reputation is exhibit a positive attitude. Given the general lack of experience that comes with being new to the workforce, mistakes are bound to be made. These are more easily overlooked when you’ve built a reputation of being proactive, generally self-sufficient and a team player. Those qualities also just make you pleasant to work with.

    3. Jamie*

      This is what I would do as well – if added to an email without context. Just a friendly check to see what they want my role to be, or if it was a mistake. I’ve gotten cc’ed on things meant for a co-worker named James because people just typoed when sending.

      I personally wouldn’t just loop someone in with a cced email without a short note explaining why and what I wanted from their participation – but if I forgot I would certainly hope someone would ask rather than think I was passive aggressively sending messages.

      It also depends on the role. If I am suddenly cced on something mid-thread, most of the time it’s because someone in the project is having trouble getting X from Bob and including me sends a message. I’ve done the same in my time – so sometimes it’s as an fyi of “look at this crapstorm.”

  19. De (Germany)*

    Interesting cultural difference observation: I would never dream of answering the phone with only my first name. It’s always last name where I am (or with cell phones, just “Hello”). Children often answer with their full name, but most adults I know just say their last name. Interesting.

    1. Jen RO*

      That is *so* weird to me! One of my best friends has been living in Austria for almost 15 years now, and I still find it odd when she gets a work call and just says “LastName sprecht”, no “hi”, no nothing. She says “hallo” to friends, though. (And she doesn’t have a landline, so this all happens on a cell phone).

      Here, most people answer personal calls with just “Alo” (which is… well, I don’t think it has a translation, it’s just a greeting used only on the phone), no name, no anything else. If anyone answered with “This is so-and-so residence” the caller would die of laughter. Work calls, on the other hand, seem to be the same as in the US – maybe because we imported most good customer service practices from there.

    2. LBK*

      Really? How interesting! In the US referring to someone by their last name is usually considered a nickname or a pet name. I would only do it to someone I was friends with and who was usually referred to by it instead of their first name.

      1. Jamie*

        I have always found this to be a uniquely masculine thing. I have never heard of a woman being called by her last name, but guys do it all the time in an affectionate buddy kind of way.

        People call my husband by his last name all the time, but I would be very taken aback if it were done to me. It would be like calling me Sir.

        Although, this could just be my experience – maybe it’s more common for women outside of my social group.

        1. Kelly L.*

          I had some teachers as a kid who called me by my last name (I’m a woman) and it felt exactly like that. It felt like masculinizing me and also kind of drill sergeant-ish, though I couldn’t have put that into words at the time. (All the teachers who did this were men, FWIW.) Haaaated it. It maybe didn’t help that I grew up disliking my last name, since I had to spend so much time spelling it for people again and again and again. I only started to like it better many years later after finding out some fun history behind it.

          1. Jamie*

            Come to think of it, even in school the gym teachers would always call the boys by last names and girls always first names.

            And yes, it is always men who aren’t just the recipients, but who use last names. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a woman call someone by their last name with the exception of my husbands co-workers…but that’s training. He’s in law enforcement and they don’t use first names around any inmates or accused. Just Officer Lastname or just Lastname.

            Outside of that though – nothing.

            1. Kelly L.*

              And my first name is really common in my age cohort, so it even made some sense! But I still didn’t like it.

            2. Pennalynn Lott*

              In junior high and high school, my girl friends and I all went by our last names or a nickname. To this very day (some 30-odd years later), I have to go through severe mental gymnastics to refer to, say, Lisa Smith, as “Lisa” and not “Smith”, even though she is married and has a completely different last name now. Ditto them with me. My last name in junior high was an ex-step-dad’s, and it has changed twice since then, but my school friends still call me by that old name.

        2. Windchime*

          My experience is the same as yours. I had only sons growing up (no daughters), and from about Jr High on, the boys all referred to each other by last name almost exclusively.

        3. Sunflower*

          Yes I would say about half of my male friends are often called by their last names- some of them it would be weird to address them by their first name. I’ve had a few guy friends jokingly call me by my last name but would never address me as that. In turn, I think I have 3 girlfriends who are called by their last name and even then, we often interchange their last and first name more than guys.

        4. LBK*

          Good point – I do have a female friend who gets referred to by her last name but for the most part it’s only men.

          Either way, I would find it very odd for someone to answer the phone by their last name if that wasn’t how the person on the other end typically addressed them.

        5. Marcy*

          I’m a woman and I get called by my last name all of the time. My first name and my last name both look like first names and our email addresses and phone list at work use last name first so I get lots of emails/phone calls starting “Hi last name”. One of my employees is a man with a last name that sounds like a woman’s first name so he gets the same thing. My other two employees have similar first names and people confuse them all of the time. My whole department has just learned to answer to anything.

      2. De (Germany)*

        Well, German can be very formal and strangers usually use the formal version of “you” and Ms/Mr LastName, so it makes sense to not use first names when answering phones.. The default is that the first name is too personal to use unless invited to do so. I just tried to imagine someone I know answering the phone with a variant of “this is Sarah speaking” and it sounds completely weird. I will someone use “Hello XYZ” as a greeting when I know who’s calling, but even if I see my mom calling it doesn’t feel weird to just state my last name when picking up. As long as it’s the landline phone.

        1. LBK*

          But do they say the equivalent of “This is Mr. Smith” or is it just “This is Smith”?

          I think I just find it odd because in terms of formality in English, it goes Mr./Mrs. LastName > FirstName LastName > FirstName > LastName. Using just the last name with no title is the least formal option.

          Obviously not saying either way is good or bad, I just find it interesting how these traditions come about, especially since English is largely derived from German.

          1. De (Germany)*

            Just the last name. No “this is”, no titles. It’s not about saying how to address you at all, only about who’s answering the phone.

    3. JMegan*

      My (Croatian) friend calls her (German) husband by his last name, which always sounds a bit odd to my (Canadian) ears. It seems very formal for a family relationship to me.

      Other than that, IME it’s usually only men calling other men by their last names – a woman would never do it, and nor would anyone call a woman by just her last name.

    4. Schmitt*

      I’m in Germany as well.

      For internal calls our company standard is: “Ja?”

      And for external, “Chocolate Teapots extraordnaire Last name good day” – which I am just realizing I rattle off all in one word practically. Good thing I don’t get many calls.

      When we make external calls we’re supposed to do “First name last name from Chocolate Teapots extraordnaire here,” and all my customer contacts try to cut me off because it’s so long ;)

  20. Contessa*

    OP1, based on the time of the year–did you turn down playoff hockey tickets because you were mad at your boss? That makes me sad. Depending on the cost and where you live, you may not have tons of opportunities to go to a playoff game. Your boss looping you into a project late isn’t worth missing a playoff game. It happens all the time.

    (I live somewhere with expensive hockey tickets, which I normally can’t afford. I went to two hockey games last year through work while I was in the middle of a work-related nervous breakdown, because FREE HOCKEY TICKETS. Priorities.)

  21. The Real Ash*

    #4: I’ve found that it’s easiest to skip the name part entirely, at least for me, because in my experience people get weird when they know your name right off the bat. I usually answer, “[Department name], [division name]” and that’s it. At my previous position, I used to answer with “[Division name], this is Ash” and people would ask “WHO IS THIS?!” in a really angry voice, or talk at length about someone they know with my name, or start using my name repeatedly as a way to make me do what they wanted (I guess?). I feel that just saying my department/division’s name gets the conversation started faster, and I am always willing to share my name if asked. Of course if your boss mandates you must introduce yourself, definitely do so, but otherwise I would skip your name.

    I will also mention that if I am getting a call to my direct line from another co-worker, I will answer, “Good morning/afternoon, this is Ash”.

      1. Contessa*

        When a call is transferred within the office, our system displays the name of the person doing the transferring. So, my phone will display my boss’ name, and I would answer, “Hi, so and so,” and the person on the other end will be like . . . o.O . . . because it was an outside caller being transferred to me, not actually my boss. I started answering, “Hi, this is Contessa” for so-called internal calls, just in case.

        1. De Minimis*

          That’s a good point, I have never had to deal with that yet but I’m sure our system is the same way.

          Of course, I tend to get the same 2-3 people calling me most of the time so it’s pretty safe to assume it’s them.

        2. EvilQueenRegina*

          Our system displays the name of the caller as well and I still give the formal greeting instead of “Hi, Hermione” even if it’s someone I know well enough to do so, for that reason.

          The old phone system we had used to display the extension someone was calling from, but not the actual name, and one time I was convinced a caller was my mother because the call was coming from what had been her old extension before she changed jobs – luckily I remembered in time and didn’t answer with “Hello, Mother” as this voice I didn’t recognise said “Sorry, I’ve got the wrong number.”

  22. Not So NewReader*

    For OP 1.
    I have seen a lot of that type of response from people. I tend to think it tells me a lot about the family dynamic they saw growing up and/or dynamics they have seen in previous work places.

    I do get that some employers routinely say “Oh I forgot. Here is the 500 pages of material you need to cover in order to get in the loop. You can get through that by noon, right?”

    So going to the extreme example and agreeing with you that you are correct will still not serve you well. You can be right on this one and still end up getting bit. So let’s say you are working in one of these places where routinely being blindsided is the norm. In order to survive- stay employed and be successful the job requires you to roll with things.

    Some people are not good “rollers” they prefer structure. I have those tendencies myself. When I found myself in a work environment that changed every five minutes I really struggled.
    The suggestion above is right on target: Show the boss how he can make you a better employee. Frame it to show how it is to his advantage. I have done other little things like checking in with the boss once in awhile (no set pattern and not often enough to be annoying), “Boss, we are still on track with this order of priorities, right? You want me to do A then B then C.”

    Sometimes special projects got dicey because of the steady flow of changes. Before entering the next phase of my work I would check into make sure the current phase had been completed correctly. This looked like “I have gotten through X and Y. I am ready to start Z and I wanted to be sure that no changes had gotten by me. Because it is easier to fix it before I do Z than after I do Z.”

    Most of the time, the response I get from bosses is that I have good control over the flow of the work I am doing. Once in a while a boss will say “Okay, you do not need to check in with me for situations such as D or E because I trust your judgement. You know how we like things handled on these points.” When I hear this I make sure not to ask again.

    I am also agreeing with the others about the hockey game. This is an opportunity, OP. Don’t let it go past you. They realized they should have included you and now they are. Take it as an olive branch. Go back, say you are sorry and you actually enjoy a good hockey game.

    One of the things I read early on about careers is to figure out if I am a person who needs structure or if I am a person who enjoys change. This maybe what you need to think about. I like structure when I am starting to learn a job. But once I have gotten a handle on things I really enjoy implementing changes and I do not mind a “sudden project”. Worth thinking about.

  23. Katie the Fed*

    OP #1 — have you ever heard the expression “Don’t assume malice when stupidity will suffice?”

    I’d urge you to not assume the worst about your boss’s intentions – you’re assuming a lot in what you wrote. The most likely explanation is she either thought 1) you didn’t need further guidance or notification or 2) that she had already told you.

    I get so stupidly busy sometimes, mainly because my own boss is a spazz who hits me with short notice tasks all the time, and I forget things. I do my best, but I’m human. So occasionally I might assume I’ve giving one of my employees a heads up on an incoming task but then realize I didn’t. Ooops.

    If you feel you must say something, then stick to why you need to be notified before you get looped in. Because unless there’s a good reason, you’re going to be hard pressed to explain it to her. If it’s matter of wanting to plan your schedule to make time for it, say so. But just say it as unemotionally as possible, like “Hey boss, if you can give me more notice if you know you’re going to be looping me into a project, I’d really appreciate it so I can make sure I’ve scheduled plenty of time to devote to it” or something. Keep emotion out of it.

    You seem to be more upset than the situation warrants, so I’d caution you to get that under control before you talk to your boss. The hockey game was an inappropriate reaction. I have an employee who handles things like that – it’s petulant and immature and it’s severely hurting her professionally. I’m dealing with it, but this isn’t something a boss wants to deal with.

    1. Jen RO*

      It might seem sad or depressing, but the “never assume malice” saying is what keeps me calm at work.

  24. Anonalicious*

    I’m 50/50 on AAM’s response to OP #1. While I agree that the emotional language the OP used is an overreaction and a sign that they are taking this too personally, I have a boss that communicates projects like this frequently. It really depends on what the email chain looked like and whether it’s clear what the boss wants the OP to do. It sounds like it might be from this letter, but we can’t be sure.

    For me it also depends on the scale of the project. If it’s something smaller that will take a couple of days, I don’t mind. But my boss frequently does this for larger projects that really should have more discussion before just plopping an email in my inbox and expecting me to deal with it all while he wonders why other things are falling behind or why I’m asking him all these questions about the project when his communications are unclear or lacking in necessary details.

  25. anon*

    Re #4, having grown up in the 90s with all the stranger danger, I was told to never answer the (home) phone with your first or last name and never to leave your name on your answering machine, just the number they called.

  26. Henry Gondorf*

    Re: phone calls. In my line of work, I have access to a lot of confidential, privileged, or limited distribution information. I have to know that I’ve got the right person on the phone, regardless of how they answer it. It doesn’t matter if someone says “Hello?” “Office of Chocolate Teapots,” or “This is Harry,” I go with “Hi, this is Minerva McGonagall. I’m calling for Harry Potter, please.” I answer my own phone with either “Office of Chocolate Teapots, this is Henry Gondorf” or “This is Henry Gondorf.”

    My favorite is calling military personnel (also common for me) and getting “123 Infantry Division, this is Sergeant Workhard, this line is not secure, how may I help you, sir or ma’am?” all in one rapid sentence with no pauses.

    1. Elysian*

      I love “This line is not secure.” I am not in the type of position where I am ever calling a line I assume is secure, and it always makes me think about what kind of job a person has where they regularly assume they’re on a secure line unless specifically told otherwise. I imagine international spies freaking out: “You never told me that line was not secure!!”

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        I am answering phone calls from my husband like this for the rest of my natural life.

        Not kidding.

        “Hi Honey, this line is not secure. What’s up?”

        I love you, thank you.

          1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

            I DID this! Twice today.

            New levels of awesome. At the the end of the call, my husband also said “Goodbye Mr. Obama”.

            The things AAM gives me.

      2. Katie the Fed*

        Actually, it can be really helpful to remind people. You’d be surprised but if you work in a secure facility all day where you can openly discuss/store classified information sometimes you need that reminder. They’re just warning people to remember this is a regular phone line and to not discuss anything sensitive. There are other phones for that.

        1. Elysian*

          I know that’s the intent, and I’m sure that some people have very mundane jobs that require them to make calls involved sensitive information on secure lines, but every time someone says it my mind jumps to “OMG international spies might be calling here!!!! They need a reminder!” and it makes me smile :)

    2. Lily in NYC*

      I would really love to start answering my phone like that! I guess it would be weird in a normal office.

      1. Beti*

        Lily, I think you made a typo. It’s spelled “awesome”:

        I guess it would be _awesome_ in a normal workplace. :-)

    3. Lora*

      HAHAHA I love this.

      If I’m rushed or not feeling clever, I just say “good morning, how may I help you?” (regardless of time of day) or “yeeeesss?” or “what can I do for you, Mr. Stark?” if I know the person on Caller ID.

      If I’ve had enough coffee and am feeling sufficiently perky, it’s “thank you for calling Lora’s Mobile Phone, this is Lora speaking, how may I help you?”. And yes, I am way too old for these shenanigans, but I enjoy them, and part of being the boss is that I don’t really care how anyone answers their phone as long as they get their work done.

      I like “Ahoy” and “is this line secure?/this is not a secure line” though. Those are pretty good, and now that I think about it, “is this line secure?” is really a valid question in a cube farm–meaning, don’t be on speakerphone and make sure you’re in a room where your cube-neighbors can’t hear you.

  27. OP 2*

    OP 2 here…regarding my Bad Boss, I fully anticipate his taking my leaving personally. From overhearing other reference check commentary he’s provided, it seems like he feels personally obligated to provide negative feedback to potential new hirers.

    While I don’t believe he knows I’m looking, I have talked to another manager for whom I do a lot of project support, as well as one of our board members that is a personal friend, and asked them be references. (It may be relevant to say that the reference request of said board member is the first time I’ve ever spoken to her offline about work.)

    Is there any other way to mitigate the risk of my wild card boss providing negative commentary during a reference call?

    1. J.B.*

      For looking right now, hopefully most employers won’t go to checking with your supervisor!!! Since you have other potential references with your current spot what about something about making clear that you’d prefer them not contact the current guy, here are some options at this workplace if they want something current. For looking in the future I think it will be easier to explain that you didn’t see eye to eye with that boss once you have some more time and another workplace in between.

    2. Lily in NYC*

      Easy: don’t use him as a reference. I know this is upsetting for you, but I think you are overthinking this. Bad bosses are a dime a dozen; we’ve all had at least one. Advice: don’t badmouth him to your coworkers, don’t do a negative exit interview, don’t tell him he sucks to his face, and don’t use him as a reference. In interviews, just say it’s time for a new opportunity. It will only make you look bad if you mention his crappiness to interviewers.

    3. Sunflower*

      Yes don’t use him as a reference. It’s totally normal to tell an employer your boss doesn’t know you’re job searching and you can’t have him contacted at all. As long as you have other people who can speak to your work, it wont be a red flag in the least

    4. 2cents*

      First – never utter anything negative about any past employer. ?Ever. Always have a script about your positive experiences, what you learned, etc. Always word your negative experiences as opportunities to learn a new skill. In exit interviews, it is best to be candid about things that truly need to change, but personality conflicts aren’t really an issue unless it’s across the board. And companies that usually embody that style of management aren’t seeking that kind of feedback because they have no intention of changing – their reason for obtaining that type of information is salcious and usually orginates out of narcicistic paranoia. As a general rule though, if you are leaving on your own accord, the only thing you should say as you are walking out the door is a genuine “Thank you for the opportunity. I wish you and the company all the best.” The only way you could enable the culture as you have described it is to actively promote and participate in it and defend the acts of craziness. Otherwise, it is a job that you are expected to do in a cheerful manner until the day you leave – even if it hurts. As far as a reference, use other managers that you have supported at the same company or ask employers that you are interviewing with to respectfully not contact your current boss and explain that it could jeopardize your employment. Most employers will ask you for a manager that they can call.

      1. OP 2*

        I’ve always understood and expected that one’s current supervisor would always be contacted, whether I’ve personally provided the contact info or not?

        Current company does”back door references” not directly provided, as a matter of course. Not usual?

        1. MJH*

          Never happened to me. I have left four jobs and none of my bosses were contacted prior to my departure. They were all surprised when I handed in my resignation.

  28. Mela*

    #4: I learned in a listening class in college that people need to hear two syllables before any information can even start to be decoded at the beginning of a voice-only conversation.

    So the use of “hello” is actually a conversation smoother — the caller can use those syllables as a key to accent and timbre, and get to work on the rest of your greeting.

    So while you could probably say “Ahoy, this is Sansa”, “good morning, (or good afternoon) this is Sansa” would probably come across as more professional.

    (This may be the first time I have used actual information I learned when getting my degree since I graduated from college. The student loan payments seem totally worth it now.)

  29. Jubilance*

    I have to disagree with Alison on #1. The boss handled it badly-he knew this project was coming up and then at the last minute looped in the OP & expected that to be enough to get that person caught up. For most people, it’s not. OP, do you have a regular status meeting with your boss? That would have been a perfect time for your boss to give you background on this since it’s been in the works. I’m guessing you probably don’t, so I’d just quick address it with my boss, “Hey boss, I saw the email chain about Project X and met with the team, but I’m really fuzzy on the background and my role. Can I schedule 30 minutes with you to go over it?”

    Your boss handled it badly but I wouldn’t “confront” them about it. Just let them know that you do need more background info in order to be successful.

    1. J.B.*

      A boss with a new grad should probably expect to provide more background. Going back and asking for clarification would be a good idea. Getting all emotional would not.

      1. Jen RO*

        I agree that getting emotional is a bad idea, but I am not a new grad and I would still expect my manager to tell me *something* if I’m supposed to work on a new project.

        1. J.B.*

          Too many negatives here, but I don’t mean that a boss of someone with more experience shouldn’t be providing more insight, but more that a boss of someone with little experience should expect to be fielding questions on how stuff works and shouldn’t be put out by a request for more info.

    2. LBK*

      But it wasn’t really “last minute” from the sounds of it – the project isn’t ending and OP is expected to make a sizable contribution with limited time. It’s just starting. It might be nice to get a heads up that it would be starting a few weeks ago, but if the OP’s contributions haven’t been necessary up to this point, what impact does not knowing about it have on her?

      1. LBK*

        One other thing I just thought of – if OP had known about the project 3 weeks ago, what changes would it have caused to what she’s been doing for the last 3 weeks?

        If there are actual impacts to not being in the loop – for example, she would have made sure to finish up her other ongoing projects during those 3 weeks so she had more time to dedicate to the new project – then it’s understandable. But it doesn’t sound like that’s the case, and the only impact to the OP is feeling left out of the loop, which isn’t really a business reason that her manager should have to work around.

        1. Nonamous*

          No. In addition to considering the impact the project might have on his own work, the OP might have had important input into the design of the project and work that will be done by other offices (isn’t that what experienced, competent professionals do). Now those offices are 3+ weeks down the road… are they going to go back and rework the project plan based on OP’s inputs?

          1. LBK*

            The OP’s manager should be experienced and competent enough to decide when the OP’s input was necessary. If the manager were completely excluding the OP from discussions she should’ve been part of, that would be a completely separate issue.

            When you get right down to it, OP is acting surprised that her boss is giving her work when she’s at work. It should never catch you off guard that you’re working on a project. That’s kind of part of the reason you get hired.

    3. Us, Too*

      I’d agree if this really was last minute, but it doesn’t sound that way. OP says that he was able to catch up just by reading an email thread. That means that it was either very early on or a pretty small project. In any event, OP admits that the email was sufficient. Getting upset that the boss didn’t meet personally with OP to talk over something that an email thread could cover is pretty out there.

    4. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      Just let them know that you do need more background info in order to be successful.

      The thing is though, it’s not clear that she did need more information to be successful.

      There’s nothing in the OP anywhere about her job or performance being impacted. There’s nothing in the OP about her boss having unreasonable expectations of her even though she was looped in to late. The OP is a couple paragraphs of hurt feelings, without any practical impact being cited.

    5. NonProfiter*

      I agree. I cannot stand it when my boss does this (which she does frequently) without context, often not including important attachments relevant for me to understand what’s going on in the long email thread. Like I’ll get two emails between her and a third party forwarded to me saying “Grant Opportunity” in the subject line with just a few sentences of “I think we should apply for this together. I’m passing it on NonProfiter and she’ll follow up with you.” On what????!

      Also I seem to have some kind of dyslexia with email chain reading–it’s not known in the wider world, but programmers don’t, in my experience “top-post,” meaning your response to an email should come BELOW the original email. Makes reading chains much easier up -> down and jives with temporality before -> after.

      1. Kelly L.*

        I have a boss who does this and I always have to ask her what she wants–half the time she’s asking me to do something, the other half it’s just an FYI, and it’s impossible to tell just by looking.

  30. Better Not*

    #2 is an interesting case study in “personal integrity.”

    The OP states that it is in her best interest not to say anything negative about her boss to interviewers or during an exit interview. I think we all agree that is true.

    However, she feels that by not telling her interviewers or mentioning it to her employer that she is simply enabling the boss’s toxic behavior. This statement requires a little analysis, so let’s break it into two sides, talking to interviewers and talking to her current employer.

    If she talks to the interviewers about the manager’s faults, what has she gained? Has she prevented somebody from unknowingly working for a jerk? Has she reformed the jerk, and prevented bad behavior? No. Since nothing positive was achieved in those two categories, it doesn’t follow that anybody’s “personal integrity” would require them to discuss it.

    However, when it comes to discussing it with the current employer, it is a whole different situation. By bringing up the bad behavior there is a chance (even if it is extremely small) that the OP will be able to either convince the boss to straighten up, or convince others not to go into this bad situation. I can definitely see somebody’s “personal integrity” requiring them to take the risk for a small chance to help the situation.

    In fact, I was in the same situation at my first job with a manager parallel with my manager and that manager’s manager. They made everybody absolutely miserable. I never mentioned it in interviews, but I certainly talked to my manager about it several times before leaving, and I also went to the top manager on our site. It didn’t help according to folks still working there, but at least I can sleep at night knowing that I did everything in my power to help.

    That all being said, I had an extremely supportive manager, so my risk was much smaller than OP#2’s.

    1. OP 2*

      What a thoughtful reply. Thank you! I suppose there is some small part of me that wants to flip him the bird, but, you know, I can’t.

      1. Better Not*

        I know how hard it is to love your job and be driven out by a couple lunatics, so I feel for you.

      2. Pennalynn Lott*

        If your Evil Boss is anything like my old Evil Boss, a very *large* part of you wants to flip him the bird. But, again, assuming they’re anything alike (and it sure sounds like it), it will have absolutely no effect on him, and likely just cause him to escalate his insanity. Mine actually *did* have the phone and intercom system set up so that he could listen in on and record conversations. Not just phone conversations, but anything being said in the vicinity of a desk phone or an intercom speaker in the ceiling. His wife had found out about his numerous affairs, and he thought someone in the office had ratted him out. And – by god – he was going to find out who and rip them to shreds. He also did cocaine at his desk, said disgusting sexual things to the admins and receptionist, kept everyone’s frequent flyer miles for his own personal vacations, and expensed strip clubs and prostitutes. How do I know all this? I was his executive admin. I knew I’d never get a good reference from him, so I didn’t even bother with giving a two week notice. As soon as I got the offer letter from my next job, I left a note on my desk saying I no longer worked there and walked out.

        The good news is Evil Boss eventually got his comeuppance. The company was bought out, the heads of all the departments told the new company that if Evil Boss was allowed to stay on, then they – and everyone who worked for them – would walk, and the new company fired his ass. I heard later that his marriage fell apart, too, and he lost a good chunk of his wealth and property in the divorce. Sometimes schadenfreude is very sweet, indeed.

    2. wanderlust*

      OP #2, I think you work for my old boss. Or his [equally] evil twin. And if he is anything like my boss, as it would appear they have a lot in common, I doubt that saying anything in your exit interview will help.

      Of course, I don’t know your specific situation, but when I worked for a boss like this, we had a) high turnover and b) a lot of pent-up resentment going on. There were a lot of people, including his revolving door of admins and personal assistants, who tried to express in a diplomatic and polite way that he was a giant a**hole, but all to no avail. He knew exactly what kind of a person he was, but because he had advanced so far and made so much money acting this way, he had decided that he knew better than everyone else. In addition, comments like this usually led him to ramp it up on everyone else because he was paranoid about losing control.

      If he likes you now, I would say spare the reference to the extent that you can and move on with your life. Think of it as great insurance that you will now be able to work with people who no one else can stand, having already been through the Crazy.

  31. Lily in NYC*

    #1 – Please try to be careful not to be seen as “oversensitive” at work, because it can harm your career. One of my friends had a somewhat similar situation to you (but she handled it badly; I’m so glad you kept quiet) – her boss sent an email about a new project to her and a few coworkers. She got upset because her name was last in the list of people he emailed. She took this to mean that he really didn’t want her to work on the project (even though she was the supervisor of the other people) and that he was giving her a hint that he was unhappy with her. She pouted and when he asked what was up she told him her theory and he ripped her a new one. Told her she was acting immature, etc. I am sure it caused him to look at her differently.
    It can be difficult, but just keep telling yourself that most stuff that happens at work isn’t personal. And don’t go to your boss with hurt feelings unless he truly does something undermining. It rarely has the outcome we hope for and usually backfires.

    1. Jen RO*

      I agree that being oversensitive at work will not help a career… but I do think there is a difference between your friend’s situation (last one in CC, really, who even checks that?!) and OP’s.

      1. Jamie*

        OMG this! Seriously at a former job I needed to make sure everyone was added to the email alphabetically because some people were so touchy about where they were on the list.

        What kind of person notices that stuff? Honestly, drove me crazy.

        1. Cat*

          At law firms, the protocol is to add people in order of seniority (with some exceptions made when the senior person is monitoring the case rather than actively participating it). Alphabetical is tolerated, but really, it should be seniority.

          Nobody ever explicitly says this, it’s just done and somehow everybody just knows to do it.

          1. C average*

            Ugh, we have weird cc unwritten etiquette rules here, too. Been here seven years and I STILL don’t fully grasp some of the nuances. It’s crazy.

          2. Contessa*

            I’ve never done that in my entire career. I add people to the first email to a group based on the order the party they represent appear in my notes (i.e. the insurance adjuster/attorney who called me back first goes in first, along with her expert, and then the next adjuster/attorney who called me and his expert, etc.). Anyone at my firm who needs to be included goes in the CC line in the order I think of them. For all group emails afterward, everyone just hits Reply All. Have you ever had someone actually check that?

            1. Cat*

              I don’t know if they check it or not, but I have noticed it’s done consistently in firms in my geographic region/practice area (though the Reply All does muddy it in later emails in a thread). May be specific to one or both of those things though!

          3. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

            Seriously? People *seriously* pay attention to the order people are added to emails?

            I’ve never thought of that in my life.

            Why would……….. [sputter]

            1. Cat*

              I don’t think it’s a conscious thing; I think the seniority thing is just so ingrained in some legal environments that it’s just done. It’s like how Elizabeth Bennett didn’t have to think about how to address Lady Catherine vs. Sir William Lucas vs. Mr. Darcy; she just knew.

            2. HM in Atlanta*

              I have actually had my boss stand over my shoulder while I was addressing an email, and when I put a name out of order say, “delete that you need to add EVP’s name first, then VP, then copy me”. To me it communicates that positional hierarchy is in the top 3 things in defining culture.

  32. Bill*

    #4 – NEVER. GIVE OUT. YOUR NAME. when answering your personal phone. For example:
    “Stark residence, this is Sansa…” “Yes, hi, this is Jon from fraud department calling to verify some charges that were reported as fraudulent on a card owned by a Sansa Stark, I take it that is you? Can I just get your date of birth to confirm I am speaking with the actual cardholder…”

    1. KerryOwl*

      Eh . . . one should know enough to not give out personal information to an incoming call though, right? I think *that’s* where to be vigilant.

      That being said, I never answer my cell if I don’t recognize the number.

    2. Elysian*

      I understand where you’re coming from, but they could get the same info out of the phone book. So its really just a matter of whether I’m falling for a savvy trap or an unprepared trap.

    3. De Minimis*

      Yes, but just because you give your name doesn’t mean you have to give them any other info.

    4. Pennalynn Lott*

      Someone knowing my name doesn’t mean I’ll automatically give them sensitive personal information. My name is out there in the public sphere — I introduce myself to strangers when we’ve struck up a conversation — but I’d be an idiot to give everyone who knows me my birth date, social security number, bank account number, etc.

      I remember pushing back on my mom when she tried to tell my 8 year old self not to give my name to anyone over the phone. Wha? It’s not like I could be duped into thinking a stranger was a friend or family member. Either I know you or I don’t. You saying my name doesn’t change that.

  33. drives me crazy*

    OP#1: Don’t feel bad about not being told about a project from the start. My boss didn’t tell me that he changed my transfer date from his department to another department. I found out through a coworker who showed me an email she got which discussed my new start date. Luckily I saw the email and was able to get clarification about my start date so I can now show up at the right place on the right date. Ugh….

    1. EvilQueenRegina*

      Are you me? I found my transfer date out when a coworker asked me whether the rumour I was moving as early as January. It turned out to have been discussed in a corridor and someone overheard it and told half my co-workers before I’d been told.

  34. Mimmy*

    #3 – Gasping/laughing out loud

    Hi, are you me?? lol. I do this too, and my husband hates it. I remember once in a computer lab I was expressing frustration out loud if I made a mistake, and it really annoyed the woman who usually sat next to me. It definitely takes self-discipline to reign it in.

  35. Koko*

    #5 –
    Unless you paid for the webinar or the person you interviewed with is still learning the basics, I’d be pretty hesitant to pass along slides. I’m on a lot of lists that send tips and training and offer webinars–I probably get invites to two dozen a week in my box. Most of them I can tell will be junk or sales pitches right away. Out of the 2-4 a month that look like they have deeper information to offer, I’m wrong about 1 in 3 times.

    The truth is, free webinars are more of a conversion tactic to sell you something than an altruistic attempt to share free information with a community of professionals.

    1. OP*

      Thanks. To clarify – it was a paid webinar I took as a professional development training, hosted by a fundraising researcher who’s well-known in the development world.

  36. A Cita*

    Just want to reiterate for OP 1 (not getting a direct email about being looped into the project):

    This is very normal and how work is done. You’re expected to be adaptable, flexible, and self sufficient. If you require clarity, you follow up. This is your job.

    1. Scott M*

      And I’ll throw my two cents in that it is NOT normal at my office. Not from the boss for a formal assigment. I does happen for informal requests from other project managers who ask “can you help us on this please? “. Then if its a big project I go to my boss and ask if I should be working on it

      1. Bluefish*

        So interesting to see the opposing point of view. For me, if I can figure it out on my own from being cc’d, I’m good to go. If I have questions, I’ll ask for clarification. I can’t figure out why some people are offended by this. Please explain! I mean if you have all the information you need, why do you need the formalities or a direct, explicit request? If you need more info, just ask. OP’s letter clearly states he just had to read the email to get caught up. It’s not like he was missing crucial info that caused him to not do his job properly.

        1. Scott M*

          It’s difficult to put all this in words. I know I’m not gonna explain this right.

          First, its a little rude (that’s too strong a word, but I can’t think of a better one). Sort of like a gruff “Here, do this and figure it out yourself!” Sort of like tossing a kid into the deep end to figure out how to swim. Yeah they made it to the other side without drowning, but it doesn’t mean it was the best way to do it. And I’m not talking about a long involved detailed meeting. Just a paragraph (heck, a SENTENCE) at the beginning of the email clarifying the OP’s role in the project.

          Second, it’s inefficient. Without any kind of guidance, how can the manager be sure that the employee does what he intended? What if the employee thinks he guessed right and doesn’t ask questions? What if he doesn’t ask the RIGHT questions? What if he’s SURE his role is A but turns out to be B?

          Third, the timing compounds the issue. On top of not offering any guidance (or even acknowledgement about being part of the project) the manager does this the DAY BEFORE other team members start emailing him on project stuff.

          It just seems weird all around. Sure the OP was probably a bit too insulted, but certainly I can understand how he could be annoyed.

        2. Judy*

          For me, I’d also say that our work is planned. I have a schedule that lists the deliverables for the next two months, and a rough idea of what is needed after that. If I received an email chain that didn’t have any assignment to me on it, I’d be asking my manager which of the other items would be slipping. I can pull up a file right now and show someone that I have to give X to Wakeen next Friday, and Y to Jane on Wednesday after that. When someone comes to me with an unplanned request, I have to ask someone to prioritized my deliverables.

  37. C average*

    #1, I have some sympathy for you. This happens A LOT in my office, and I’ve struggled to learn to deal with it well. I’ll get a 12-mile email thread mostly between people I haven’t worked with before forwarded to me with an “FYI” at the top and a meeting scheduled about it later in the week, and I’m faced with the prospect of making sense of it all.

    In my case, I actually discovered I have a learning disability that affects the speed at which I can process and assimilate information, which was an interesting thing to learn given that I’ve always struggled with tasks like this. It made me realize that the ability to “roll with it” in such scenarios IS an ability, and that some people have more of it than others. You have to be pretty far over on the continuum to have an actual disability. On the other end of the continuum are those who can effortlessly find signal in the noise and process what they need to know. You’re likely somewhere in the middle.

    For me, just realizing that this wasn’t a strength of mine and that I needed to develop some ways to compensate was HUGE. I gave myself permission to slow down and read the thread carefully, jotting questions as I read and then jotting the answers if those appeared later in the thread. If I didn’t know the key players, I pulled them up in the company directory. If there were unfamiliar terms, I jotted them down, too, to look up after reading the thread.

    After reviewing the information I have, I generally write a short email to my manager summarizing what I think the project is about and what I interpret my role to be, framing it as a confirmation that I’ve read and understood.

    A typical one would say something like this:

    “Hi [MANAGER],

    Thanks for passing along some context about the Ides of March Chocolate Teapot project. This looks great.

    There’s a lot of info here, so I’d appreciate you confirming that I’ve got the correct takeaway. Based on this thread, it looks like I’ll be our team’s point of contact for the Ides of March Chocolate Teapot Extravaganza and will be the onsite subject matter expert on the melting point of chocolate. Is that your expectation?

    It also looks like I don’t have any specific deliverables here, but I’ll be attending weekly meetings and I’ll be onsite for the event.

    Please let me know if I’m missing anything key here. I’m looking forward to working on this.

    C Average.”

    I know this would probably strike a lot of people as overcommunicating, but it helps me frame what’s expected of me, it ensures that my manager knows that I know what’s expected of me, and it enables us to nip any misunderstandings about the project or my role in the bud. So, for us, it works.

    By the way, my boss does not know I have a learning disability, nor do I feel she needs to know. She knows my work style is deliberate and sometimes tends toward overcommunication, and she accommodates that to the best of her ability, which I appreciate. When I sense that she may want me to be more self-sufficient, I sometimes draft the summary emails like the one above without actually sending it. Sometimes just writing it is all I need to gain the understanding I need to move forward.

    If this kind of thing is hard for you, too, you may have to develop some strategies of your own for coping, because yeah, it’s a pretty common thing in most workplaces.

    1. Us, Too*

      Exactly. This is how you address ambiguity. And any boss who gets annoyed by this is going to have his/her own issues IMO because it’s the JOB of the boss to clarify someone’s role and make sure they have what is needed to do the work.

      Personally, I welcome things like this so I can reply back with “Yes, but one more thing. I also expect you to bring a box of Godiva chocolates to the event for us to snack on while we work. Expense it to the corporate charge card and submit with your monthly expenses. Spend somewhere between $75-$100 and make sure it includes a cherry cordial for me. :)”

    2. Jamie*

      By the way, my boss does not know I have a learning disability, nor do I feel she needs to know.

      I totally get this, because I’ve learned through my son that some people are misguided and giving them this information could hurt you. But I am curious (and I’m aware this is personal so feel free to ignore the question) is the non-disclosure an absolute for you? Or if your boss had personal knowledge of this type of disability would you tell them?

      The reason I ask is that one of my kids has fairly severe processing lds (CAPD and dyslexia – so he has both auditory and visual processing issues) and I know better than anyone that neither of those things (even together) preclude someone from being able to do an excellent job – but there are things I would do differently if someone told me they had a processing ld, which I do out of habit with my son.

      I’d be more careful to:
      -Bullet point and not send rambling walls of text
      -Put the important stuff in email for a reference and not tossed off verbally
      -Not expect immediate extemporaneous answers to complex questions (i.e. not getting impatient during a pause giving time to think)
      -Respecting the organizational style which works for that person (people know how to accommodate their own challenge areas better than I will)
      – Being more in tune with their learning style for training and implementing new projects. Do they learn better verbally, with written material, a combination? I retain information best by reading, my son learns best if the concepts are introduced verbally and then he has written material to read.

      (Reading the list I do most of these things anyway, out of habit, except for the last. I train a certain way and adjust if people are struggling – but I do depend on them to tell me if another way of learning would be easier.)

      I know as sure as I’m sitting here that having an ld is no more indicative of intellect or potential success than eye color or favorite food. I would hate for someone reporting to me to struggle if they could just tell me what I could do differently to make it easier for them.

      Success in a job is so dependent on it being a good fit for someone’s talents and a job where weaknesses (and we all have them) are more easily mitigated.

      tldr- too long to summarize – sorry for the ramble.

      1. Jamie*

        And because I wasn’t long winded enough – I need to add one more thing.

        CAPD for those who don’t know is Central Auditory Processing Disorder and the super short version of it is it takes a little longer for the brain to process auditory information as well as issues with not being able to filter out background noise.

        My son’s is so severe that he is “deaf for content” in acoustically bad environments. Because he isn’t filtering out the conversation people are having 10 feet away, the garbage truck backing up, the radio on in the background, the clicking of someone typing. For most of us our brains automatically filter that as irrelevant and give precedence to the voice of the person speaking to us, or the tv, or whatever we’re focusing on. For people with this particular processing issue the brain is giving equal importance to all of those sounds, so the person has to make a deliberate and conscious effort to hone in on the important sound – which can be done and most people you don’t even know they are doing it, but it takes a lot of mental energy.

        If you have to assess and filter out background sounds which other people do without thinking it’s less focus on the nuances and specifics of what is being said to you. For new information or complex ideas where you want to devote full attention to the subject then you make sure you’re in quieter environment where you can.

        It was scary when he was small, because he’s not hard of hearing, but in an acoustically bad or noisy/chaotic environment (school bus, recess, sporting events, etc.) he might as well be – so for his safety I’d tell all his teachers when he was little the same thing. “If he didn’t see you say it, he didn’t hear you.”

        IOW if he’s walking down a noisy hall shouting at him that he forgot his bookbag may as well have been whispered in another language for all the good it would do.

        Okay, I’m done with my PSAs for the day.

        1. A Non*

          Ooh, do you have any good sources of info on CAPD handy? I suspect I have a touch of it, but as I’m an adult and not disabled by it, I’m having a hard time finding relevant info about how to compensate or work on improving it.

        2. Prickly Pear*

          Jamie, I think you just described me. I gotten mail from Miracle Ear since I was 20 because I went to get my hearing checked from missing so many conversations. I aced it and went home and told my mom “I can hear very well, apparently I just don’t pay attention!” with which she agreed wholeheartedly. I used to try to hide the fact that club convos were impossible for me, but now all my friends are used to my ‘deaf’ self.

      2. C average*

        No worries–I’m totally cool with talking about it. (“It” is nonverbal learning disability, which may or may not ring a bell.)

        I would also be fine with my manager knowing. It’s not something I feel the need to keep hidden, and I’ve spoken freely about it with friends and with a couple of co-workers in the course of conversation.

        Because it’s a relatively recent diagnosis (less than two years ago), I’m still figuring out where and how it affects my work and my life, and what accommodations I can create for myself. I’m also still doing a lot of reading about it. When I do need to ask others for help, I want to come into that conversation having thought through what I need and why I need it.

        In other words, if I’m going to ask, I want it to be a very clear ask.

        I also want to learn what my actual limitations are before trying to address them. I’m finding that my limitations feel very different when I view them through a “this is hard for me and I’m going to have to try a little harder and make some accommodations for myself” than a “wow, I’m awful at this” lens (which is how I used to feel before this diagnosis came along).

        Perhaps, once I’ve fully wrapped my head around how this disability affects my work habits, I’ll have something actionable or otherwise worth mentioning to my manager, but until then I don’t see a good reason to talk about it with her.

        I hope this makes sense.

        It sounds like you’re doing great things to help your son. I would love for others to do those things for me! I hope he can find a work and life niche that works with his needs rather than against them. It can be hard to exist in a world where most people’s brains work differently than yours and you have to just figure out how to cope.

    3. Nonamous*

      Very thorough, very complete, and nicely thought out. Well done!

      Let me add though that this kind of response takes a LOT OF TIME. All good if your manager recognizes that this is part of the work you are doing (actually you are doing work your manager should have done) and doesn’t say later “Why was Project A delayed?” or “Your backlog of B seems a little bigger than normal.”

    4. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      I so love this.

      A person on my direct report team has a similar style and I just love working with him.

    5. Jillociraptor*

      Smart, this is a very proactive way to address this issue. I typically consolidate all the questions I have into one email or into our next check in/phone conversation (multiple per week) and on each one, just restate my assumption or ask for clarification, e.g.:

      – On the Teapot Handles project, I’m assuming I will follow up with Wakeen to collect that information
      – On the Teapot Lids project, did you want me to take the lead here or were you just filling me in?


    6. Lora*

      This is a great thing to do regardless of your learning style.
      -It deals with the “I never said THAT!” guy trying to throw you under the bus.
      -It leaves a paper trail for regulators and auditors to follow.
      -It tells Legal who to subpoena in case of emergency.
      -It means that I, as your boss, can be confident you understand what you’re doing and maybe we can forego the weekly 1-on-1 in favor of an informal hallway chat. I am not a meetings kind of person.

      You lose points on the “deliverables” though. I hate that word. Points also lost for any use of “going forward,” “KPI” or “get alignment”. The proper terms are “from now on,” “goal” and “agree”. Hey, all the non-techies hate it when I pepper my communications with “orthogonal,” “instantiation” and “plasticity,” turnabout is fair play.

      1. C average*

        You can pry my deliverables and my workplace jargon out of my cold, dead hands!

        I confess I’ve always loved specialized vocabulary, whether it’s been rock-climbing slang or the names of calligraphy implements or weird old-fashioned words I picked up from Victorian novels or crossword puzzles. I work in a jargon-heavy workplace and I don’t mind it a bit! I find it fascinating the way the workplace appropriates and repurposes existing vocabulary to express something that needs to be expressed.

        I like “deliverables” because it concisely expresses the concept of “tasks you need me to perform and physical things you need me to provide” as opposed to the hazier “basic understanding and engagement with the content of this thread.” There’s no potential, when you’re talking about deliverables, for your meaning to be lost or for an action item expected of you to go unmentioned.

        (And yeah, I know “action item” is considered jargon-y, too.)

        We do have a sense of humor about the jargon here, for which I’m grateful. There’s plenty of self-mockery.

        1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

          Meh, words become jargon for a reason. Jargon is useful when it means something and the expression “deliverables” means something. I’m with you on that.

          Even if there is a squiggly red line under “deliverables” when I type it.

  38. Tiff*

    Never knew answering the phone was so involved. I use one phone for personal and professional. Unknown numbers get “Hello this is Sansa.” Known callers get something less formal.

    OP#1 – you actually handled the situation really well, you just had a funky attitude while you did it. This is a perfect example of Pre-Professional Work vs. The Real Work World. Usually, school and internships are invested in your success and they tend to be more hands on in terms of making sure you have all the information and resources you need to get something done. Real Work World is just not that organized, and a good way to distinguish yourself early in your career is to do just what you did: realize you need something, then go get it yourself and blend seamlessly with the project.

    You did the right thing. Just try not to get mad about it next time.

  39. MJ*

    OP#5 If that was a paid webinar, you will quite possibly be in violation of copyright by giving away those resources to someone else. As a perspective employer, it would concern me if you shared resources that were not yours to share.

    1. OP*

      Thanks. It was a paid webinar, however, the PDF with the slides became available publicly online after the webinar. Do you think I should I send him the link with the PDF rather than a PDF itself as an attachment?

      1. MJ*

        Personally, I would prefer to receive the link. By linking, you are directly crediting the source (I can see where it came from), I don’t have to give up file storage to receive it, and I can easily forward the link to the person in my organization who is most likely to benefit from it.

  40. Scott M*

    #1: I have to say I disagree with most of the comments here. Although I do think the OP overreacted somewhat, I think she has every right to be annoyed. At the very least her boss owes her an acknowledgement along the lines of “Hey, I know this is late notice but here’s this project I just realized you need to be a part of.” If he couldn’t bring her up to speed himself, he also needs to acknowledge that this is a less-than-ideal situation but things are moving fast and he appreciates her getting up to speed quickly.

    Fer cryin out loud, he didn’t even address her in the email or add any comments like “FYI, come see me after you read this”. He just started including her in a email chain.

    I don’t think she is expecting handholding. I think she is expecting her manager to actually manage her. Managing isn’t about dumping things on your employees via email. It’s about communication, getting them up to speed, filling them in on details.

    1. JM*

      I hate to ask Scott M: How long have you been working? I would surprised if busy bosses had the time to do all that. I see #1 as quite common and normal.

      1. Scott M*

        20+ years. I’ve been brought into meetings on aggressive projects and had to get up to speed fast. I’ve been sent emails saying “Hey, we’ve been working on this for a few weeks and now we need you, sorry”.

        But never just included in a email chain, with no additional direction from my manager (and I’ve had some not-so-great ones), with team members starting to email me the next day.

        My reaction (privately) would definitely be “WTF?” Publicly I would need to call my boss and get clarification right away. And maybe later I would gently ask that I be included earlier so I could have a heads up (along with some practical reasons why that would be better for future projects).

        1. JM*

          aha. Now I get your point. With that level of experience you are someone very important at work, but someone who is a beginner or 5-6 years of experience might not be treated the same way. That is what I have noticed.

          There might be a quick apology occasionally, but I get pulled into stuff frequently without any prior information about the project. And more than often I educate myself on my own by reading forwarded emails or listening in meetings. It is very rare that someone (higher ups) took the time to explain or give me a detailed background on stuff.

    2. Overkill*

      If I had a meeting every time the boss had such a lapse, we’d be in meetings everyday, all day. I exaggerate of course, but the point remains. People have been hired, fired, retired without my knowledge even though I contract and terminate everyone. Many times I’ve had to scramble to catch to events simply because I was left out the loop.

      My first response was to take it personally until I good a good view of the boss’ daily activities and then I understood completely, preparing myself to handle such lapses in the future. I did send friendly (super friendly) requests/reminders asking to be included on email trails, pointing out the business reasons why I need to know, and they were acknowledged with apologies. However, you cannot make it personal.

      1. Scott M*

        I don’t think the OP’s issue is so much with not being in the loop. It’s that the boss didn’t speak to her directly about the project. She was just included in the email chain. Not even a note of “Hey I’m really busy – sorry about this, see if you can get up to speed on this”. It’s lazy management, at least.

        I could understand if it was a reoccurring type of project. Then the assumption is that “Oh, here’s another one of these projects – you know what to do”. But it didn’t sound like that.

        1. Us, Too*

          I do agree that a brief note or quick conversation would have left a warmer, fuzzier feeling. But I don’t think that’s a big deal unless it is part of an overall communication problem and OP didn’t say that. He wrote about one specific situation, not that his boss refuses to communicate effectively with him.

        2. OP#1*

          It’s the kind of project that the first time you get the email, you’d ask yourself “WTF is this all about? Do I actually have any thing to do with it? What’s the concrete deliverable?”

          1. Scott M*

            I agree with you. I think his style on this particular communication was ineffective at best.

            I’ve learned to mostly ignore emails where I’ve been cc’d, unless my name is specifically mentioned in the email chain. But these were only from other coworkers, never from my boss. Getting a email like you did would result in a immediate phone call, or email reply, asking (gently and professionally) “So I assume I’m needed to do XYZ, correct?” I would hope that, after awhile, a manager realize that they need to provide at least a little clarification or acknowledgement when doing this. I would hope that they would see it as me being thorough, not needy. But, that’s just my opinion.

            Sounds like you will just need to deal with it. I agree that it’s probably not the best communication for a manager.

            1. Overkill*

              That wouldn’t work here. If you’re cc’d, it’s being addressed to you. It’s often up to a cc: to figure out what their role may or may not be and to clarify or commemorate it in response to the email. Ignoring even the vaguest or emails on which you’re cc’d could be lethal.

              1. Scott M*

                In my office, being cc’d usually means they don’t know who should be involved so they cc a bunch of people hoping they will hit the right person responsible.

    3. Us, Too*

      I agree with you philosophically, but given that OP indicated that the content of the email was sufficient to bring him up to speed, your point is kind of deflated in regards to this specific situation.

      OP admits that he needed no additional info from his boss to be productive.

      So I don’t think that there was any gap in terms of the manager providing enough information, details, helping OP get up to speed, etc. It just wasn’t done in the way that OP wanted.

    4. Marcy*

      I agree that she can be annoyed if she chooses to. It would be unwise to let her annoyance show. This is normal where I work. If the boss thinks the email chain gives you the information you need, then that is what you get and if you have questions after reading it all, you

      1. MJ*

        Annoyed I can see. Angry to the point of missing an event with the team… counterproductive!

        How often in life we choose to take offense at things when none was intended! As a manager, I try to teach people who come to me with similar complaints about others that they should assume best intentions on the part of the other and see if that doesn’t reduce their annoyance. In this case, assume that:

        —the manager thought he had already told you about the project OR
        —the manager thought you knew that you could be looped in to projects with little notice OR
        —the manager thought he was treating you more like an equal than a subordinate by looping you in the way he does others on the team OR
        —the manager thought you had been on the job long enough to no longer need an invitation for project OR
        —the manager is so impressed with your ability to jump in easily to projects and catch up with where things are at that he took what he thought was a professional approach by just looping you in.

        Unhappiness is what happens when expectations don’t meet reality. Sometimes it’s easier to change your expectations than to change reality.

  41. JM*

    #1 – is very common. I am so used to being pulled into projects one fine day that I don’t even realize it now. In this case, you got looped in the emails such that you could get a context.

    What usually happens at my work is that I get a meeting invite one day with my name in the mandatory field. That was when they probably realized that I have not been involved until then (or rather that is when they needed me). Usually it takes me a couple of meetings to understand what is going on.

    If there is someone in the team whom I can reach out to get more information I do that. Or if it is an entirely new group, I wait for sometime (mostly because I am shy, not because that is the right thing to do).

  42. Scott M*

    #1 – to the OP, I agree with you. Apparently though, most bosses are like this. I guess I’ve been fortunate to work in a company most of my career where managers don’t do this. If my boss assigns me something, he doesn’t just include me in a email chain. At the very least he says at least 6 words “Scott, take a look at this”.

    I think you are going to just have to deal with your boss being this way. Apparently this is how he assigns projects. To me, it’s bad management. But apparently, I’m spoiled.

      1. Scott M*

        Well, I didn’t say that 6 words was perfect, but it does means something. To me, the “take a look at this” implies he expects a response or expects me to act on something. In which case I would read it, try to guess what he want’s and then get back with him to clarify.

        The lack of any comment directed at me means I read it and file it away in the back of my mind until someone asks me directly to do something. This is not what the OP’s boss intended.

      2. Gilby*

        More than half the Emails I have gotten that I was CC’d on didn’t mean didley squat as to me having to do anything with it.

        If someone wants to me to something I was on the top SEND TO line OR…. the forwarded CC stated to me …. ” please read below…”. That was my indication I most likely needed to act on something.

        My bosses didn’t hire me to be a mind reader and nor did they expect it. I have never gotten an email thread without any communication from my boss regarding it if something needs to be done. Never.

        This is especially true if I was not involved with any intial conversations/meetings/emails to start with, which is what the OP is indicating.

        This is not about holding my hand to do my job. If I am in charge of making name tags then I don’t help with dechiphiering that in an email. But if I am sent 5 email threads with no direction and only 1 needs the name tags, what sense does it make for the boss to not indicate to me which emails needs my attention?

        What a waste of time. Going through 4 emails that are just an FYI while I can be making the dang name tags just by one little sentance…. ” Matilda.. read this now.. you need to do somthing…”

  43. Scott M*

    #4: I always answer with “Hello, this is Scott”, just the same as I do at work. To other people it sounds too formal. But since something like %99.999999 of my phone conversations are for work, it just sounds normal to me.

  44. Glorified Plumber*

    OP #3 – We have a very senior very respected individual who does something very similar to what you describe, only louder and more often. We work in an open/open floor plan (i.e. NO walls, not even short ones, except to corral the 20 of us from everyone else), so his “Ohh my goshes…” and “What the hell…” and the “Grrrs…” out of his mouth, that as far as we can all tell are 100% involuntary, are something we all deal with 5-6 times a day.

    It is not an issue because this said individual laughs at himself for it and encourages us to do the same when we hear it. 100% defusing any annoyance/concern/problems, and we all move on and get great work done.

    It goes like this:
    SeniorRespectedPerson says loudly and randomly in an otherwise quiet zone, “Aww not again… these guys, I swear!”
    Us jokingly, “Keep it down you crazy person! Hey do you even work here? Don’t make us call security!”
    SeniorRespectPerson playing along, “I already called them, they’ll be here shortly.”

    I find people will play off your cues. If you joke about it and apologize and are otherwise not uptight/upset/nervous/make it an issue, then they will not either.

    1. Bystander*

      I have some anxiety issues and do involuntary gasps/twitches sometimes. I also work in an open office layout.

      There’s a politeness norm about not asking people about weird twitches. I personally don’t even joke about it, I just proceed as if it hadn’t happened. People follow that as a cue.

      It sounds like the OP’s sounds are super-minor. I think it won’t be a problem at all.

  45. Sarah*

    For #4: I always answer calls from unknown numbers with a, “Hi! This is Sarah,” which feels natural to me now and far more normal than saying “Hello, this is Sarah,” which for whatever reason feels like too many syllables.

  46. LA*

    THE PERSON WITH THE BAD BOSS. Um, are you working for a mid size construction company in Virginia because I could have written your post five years ago. Quit before he terminates you in his latest round of budget overspent firing sprees. Seriously, your boss sounds like a combination of the two worst bosses I’ve had but I learned two things from them: 1. Never accept a job that doesn’t bring you closer to your long term career goals , no matter how much you need a job or they promise you in benefits (increases your chances of bad bosses every time) 2. Once you leave never look back. Find someone in a managerial role who you can trust to be your reference and highlight specific unarguable accomplishments you made so you have no chance of your references telling reference checkers any different. As tempting as it is, I completely agree that you should not bring up the bad boss in interviews. Bad mouthing others bites us in the butt every time. Good luck!

  47. Penny*

    #4, I call a lot of people to schedule and conduct interviews and you are defintely overthinking it :) Hello is just fine, but my preference is “Hi (optional), this is Sansa”. That way I know I’ve reached the correct number and the correct person at that number.

    And if I’m calling for a pre-scheduled phone interview, have everything around you on silent and don’t sound like you just woke up and are still laying down in bed please.

  48. EvilQueenRegina*

    I’ve sometimes wondered how often people even pay attention to the greeting they get anyway. Where I work (in a UK local government office) it happens quite frequently that if someone leaves and isn’t replaced, their number ends up getting reallocated to a different department altogether and people still ring the old numbers expecting the first department. I got used to greeting people saying I was from You at Home team (a handyperson service) only to get earfuls about the state of the roads and people not believing I wasn’t from Highways because they had my number on an old letter from seven or eight years earlier.

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