can I ask an interviewer if I would have my own office, my coworker is avoiding me, and more

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

1. Can I ask an interviewer if I would have my own office?

I am in the process of interviewing for a new job and am wondering if there is an appropriate way to ask if I will have my own office to work in. I have found having an office with a door (to me) is worth quite a bit as it greatly improves the quality of my work life. Will this sound crazy to say directly to a hiring manager? Is there an appropriate or tactful way to bring this up?

If there’s a natural opening for it at the end of the interview, you could ask to see the space you’d be working in. Otherwise, once you have an offer, it’s fine to say, “Can you tell me about where I’d be working? Would I be in a private office or a shared space?” If it’s a shared space, you might be able to try to negotiate something different, but that’s going to be subject to factors like whether space is even available and whether they can do it for people at your level without causing issues with others at your level who would then also want it (or people higher up than you who don’t have their own space).

2. My coworker is suddenly avoiding me

My coworker, who I used to always have lunch with, has seemingly been avoiding me out of the blue, and no longer takes his lunch break at the same time as me. He seems to be avoiding me the rest of the time, too. His behavior has definitely changed. I wouldn’t say he’s unfriendly or anything, just suddenly not there. We work in a very small office (about 10 people), so I know it’s not a matter of workload or scheduling. We all choose our lunch breaks, and nobody else’s routine has changed except his.

I know this question may sound a little immature, but what’s a graceful/professional (and non-desperate) way to ask him why he’s suddenly shifted his lunch break? If there was something I said or did, I’d like a chance to fix the situation, and if it wasn’t my fault, then (selfish as it may sound) I’d at least hope for an explanation. We’ve been good friends since I started working here, so I’m really confused by his change in behavior. Suddenly not having anyone around has left me feeling pretty lonely.

“Hey, Bob, we hardly talk anymore! Is everything okay?”

Or simply: “Hey, Bob, I’d love to have lunch and catch up. Are you free tomorrow or Thursday?”

3. Manager tagged me on Facebook to handle a customer complaint

I work in a management position for a multi-national company (department head, not director level) and yesterday the venue that I run was slated by a customer on a social media site for poor service. The customer tagged the venue that I run in their comments, and their thoughts were viewable by anyone who could see. Another member of management (from another department) saw the post and tagged both me and the customer (linking to the original complaint), asking me to deal with the situation.

Although I have concerns about the complaint and am more then happy to deal with it, I don’t feel comfortable with someone who works for the company letting customers know who I am by tagging me next to complaints/comments made by strangers (especially since I wasn’t working that day and the customer has never seen me before). Am I right in believing that this is an incorrect practice?

Assuming this was your personal Facebook account, yeah, that’s weird. I assume she did it the same way you’d use the cc field in an email, because she wanted to draw your attention to something she was asking you to handle. But given that Facebook is a personal social networking site, not a business one, it was an action that I’d think would make most people uncomfortable — not so much because the customer now knows who you are, but because it could have ended up on your personal Facebook page (depending on what your settings are), and that’s inappropriate.

That said, assuming this is a one-time occurrence and not a pattern, it’s not worth raising a stink over.

4. Responding to feedback after doing terribly in an interview

I did pretty terribly in an interview for an internship. The interviewer gave me negative, but true feedback. Perhaps this is a stupid question, but can I acknowledge how I awful I was in the follow-up email? She was completely right with the feedback she gave me. How do I go about this? Thanks for your time and help.

Don’t feel like you need to browbeat yourself in the reply. A gracious response, and one that won’t sound defensive, would be something like: “Thank you so much for taking the time to share this with me and for being candid. I’m taking this to heart, and I’m going to work on the issues you identified. I really appreciate this.”

5. Checking “don’t contact my employer” on a job application

I’m applying to other jobs while still working at my current job. My boss doesn’t know that I’m looking for other jobs, so on job applications I’ve been marking “not okay to contact” next to his name in the current employment section. Does this make hiring managers suspicious, or is it normal/understandable? I sometimes worry that hiring managers might think I’m trying to hide something or keep my boss from saying negative things about me, when really I just don’t want my boss finding out I’m trying to leave.

It’s very, very normal to ask that your current employer not be contacted. Employers understand that it’s because you don’t want to jeopardize your job by having it known that you’re searching. If, however, you check that option for a previous job, that can raise questions — since at that point it’s generally assumed that it’s because you don’t like what they’d say.

{ 125 comments… read them below }

  1. Jessica*

    I’ve always wondered about #5 when it’s framed as “Can we contact this past supervisor?” In several cases the person I listed as being my supervisor in that job is no longer working at the company. Am I expected to provide up-to-date contact information for them (if I have it) where they’re now working, or general contact information for the company? In other words, are they likely to be seeking a reference or employment verification in this case? Similarly, when I don’t have updated contact information for a past supervisor but am asked to list their specific phone number, e-mail address, title, etc. in addition to the company’s general contact information, I’m never sure what I should put.

    1. Adam*

      Well the former employer at the very least can confirm your previous employment with them. I’m not sure how in depth a reference they would be willing to give after that, maybe referring to past evaluations and records if they still have them, although that’s probably more work than HR is willing to do in most cases I’m guessing.

    2. Ollie*

      I don’t really see applications asking for supervisor information, just the general company number and then asking if they can call the employer. I have a problem where a non-profit I worked at no longer employs any of the same people that were there when I worked there and they have horrible/no records*, so I feel like if a potential employer called them to ask about me, whoever answered would be like, “I have no idea who Ollie is.” If there was space to leave a comment somewhere, would it be weird to note that none of my supervisors/coworkers are still there, but they can be reached at [telephone #]?

      (*No one works there anymore because it was a very dysfunctional place.)

      1. Ethyl*

        A lot of the online application systems I’ve seen ask for the name of your former manager. In my case I also have several former managers who are no longer with the company (one of whom IS a reference though), so I just put down their name and the general contact number. I figure if they’re going to require ridiculously detailed online application systems then it’s not really my problem if that’s all I can give them.

        1. A Dispatcher*

          I’ve done the same. I also keep a list handy in my resume folder of all of the contact information for my past employers and the names of supervisors. Thank god for that, because for a couple of the applications that want information all the way back to my high school grocery store job, I would be lost without it.

          1. Kelly L.*

            Oh yeah, I’ve definitely run into this, especially on all those accursed Taleo applications. What’s the phone number for the manager of the deli I worked at in 2001, which is now closed and I think the guy moved out of town and we lost touch ages ago? Welp, I don’t know.

        2. Allison*

          I wonder how many of the stores that use those systems actually care about all that information. They use the systems because it makes their job easier, I wonder if they even know that applicants are required to provide that information.

          There needs to be a massive overhaul of those application systems, IMO. the companies that make them need to re-think what information should actually be required, those awful personality tests need to go, and they should allow candidates to create a profile with all their info and send it out to multiple companies, rather than have to type the same stuff in over and over again.

          1. CanadianWriter*

            I’ve given up on those personality tests. My personality is apparently lacking, since I’ve never gotten a job if they tested me first.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              aYeah, really. I had one personality test that I was not allowed to know if I passed or failed. So I asked the HR woman how I should figure out if I should check back or even apply for other positions.
              She had no answer for me.

              Another place implemented personality tests after I became employed there. No one passed. I mean no one. Turned out they were using the wrong answer key.

        3. Elizabeth West*

          There were a lot that asked for former managers when I was applying too. I usually just put their name and *no longer there* if I knew they were gone.

          1. Chinook*

            I “loved” when they asked for former manager’s contact information because, for a while, my most recent ones included my manager in Japan who spoke no English (she technically wasn’t my manager but I really didn’t have a supervisor) or the head of teachers for my district who could be working any where in the world after she left that job. The closest I could do for contact information was a copy of my letter of recommendation and the English translation. Strangely – nobody ever bothered to call them to confirm my employment.

    3. Brittany*

      Yes to this. I’ve been with the same company for the last four years and my job before that was a retail position right out of college and I don’t remember the store manager’s name, nor do I think that four years later, he would remember me.

      1. Anon Accountant*

        Exactly- especially in retail or the service industry where there’s a lot of turnover in employees.

    4. Eden*

      I actually wrote in and asked Alison this question when I found this site. Her answer was, regardless of whether the hiring manager can actually reach the former manager, answer ‘yes’ to the question. I had been answering ‘no’ but saying why (no longer with company, company no longer in business, whatever), but I doubt anyone was reading the reason, and the ‘no’ answer to anything other than a current supervisor is a red flag to hiring managers.

      When asked for contact info I don’t have, I usually just list the main company number. I don’t track down folks I haven’t kept up with for this, and I can’t imagine that anybody really cares to talk to my manager from 10-15 years ago anyway. If the company is even still around, they can let the hiring manager know that person is no longer at the company. I have a bunch where the actual company is defunct; I still just list the old number if it’s a required field.

      It bears mentioning that I am now employed as a result of following this (and other) AAM advice.

      1. GH*

        I feel like this is one of those semantic jokes from 3 rd Grade. “MAY we contact this person?” Sure. “CAN we contact this person?” Probably not.

        1. Kelly L.*

          Ha, yeah. “Yes, you have my utmost permission to call this empty building all you want.”

        2. Elsajeni*

          Yeah, I worked for a small retail store that has since closed — I think of my “Yes” checkmark as meaning, “Well, you can sure try!”

    5. C Average*

      Right after college, I had three fairly short-term awful throwaway jobs, and my direct supervisors at all three of these jobs happened to die not long after I’d left these employers. I remember feeling incredibly paranoid that potential employers would notice a pattern and opt not to hire me! I liked but wasn’t particularly close to all three of these people.

      1. bkanon*

        Hah, I feel similar. Four of my former employers went out of business, another burnt down, and my manager for a different place got deported. All within six months of my leaving. I half-fear I’m going to be looked at as a curse!

        1. Jack*

          I have a similar resume at this point – a small retail store that’s gone bankrupt, a national retail chain that’s gone bankrupt, a call center that’s gone bankrupt, and the comparatively mild department that was completely eliminated a month after I left…

    6. Prickly Pear*

      My issue is kind of sideways to yours- my previous job was over a decade ago, and since then, has exited our market totally (my old location went from a gym to an office, but kept our old running track!) and declared bankruptcy. I know none of the over eight managers I had there are still employed with the company because we had consta-churn. I suppose that none of this matters now because I’m in a different industry (and trying to move into yet another one!) but it makes me feel almost like I’m giving false info since it’s not verifiable anymore.

  2. CanadianWriter*

    #3 is weird. Maybe tell the boss you don’t use Facebook a lot and it’s a bad way to reach you? It’d take me weeks to even notice the boss’s comment!

    1. Fish Microwaver*

      Or if a message really must be sent via FB, use the private message function.

    2. Tara B.*

      If it happens repeatedly, you can simply block the person (assuming they’re not currently your FB friend).

    3. Vicki*

      If the boss is able to tag the OP, telling him “I don’t use FB much” won;t fly (especially because the OP has obviously seen this in order to say that to the boss. Immediate contradiction.)

      But you can (and probably should) lock down various options regarding tagging in your FB privacy settings.

      1. EvilQueenRegina*

        Even if OP doesn’t use Facebook much, they could still get a notification saying that Boss had tagged them in a post, so could have still found out that way.

  3. Befuddled Squirrel*

    #1 – You could bring it up by asking about the company culture and the workspace in general. “Does the office have an open floor plan or do people have cubes or offices?” Or to be less direct, “What does the company do to foster collaboration and how is this balanced with the need for personal space to focus on one’s work?”

    I think it’s completely fair to bring this up during an interview as long as you’re polite about it.

    1. majigail*

      You can also ask for a tour in the later stages of interviewing. I wouldn’t recommend it in a first interview, but second stage is fine. I was once told in an interview that I would be in an office, but once on the tour, I found out that it was the server room (it was a fundraising, not IT job) so the door would have to remain shut at all times. In addition, the room was no bigger than my 9×10 home office and it would be shared by another employee.

      1. Vicki*

        That doesn’t always work. When I interviewed at one company, everyone worked in shared offices with doors, 2 or 3 people to an office. When I got there, they’d run out of space in that building and put me in a different building in a shared cubicle.

  4. Carolum*

    #2 – I’d make sure to ask them in person. That way, they’ll either say yes; make up an excuse, to which you can later follow up; or give a mealy-mouthed response, meaning they really don’t want to be with you.

    4 – What Alison said. How you respond to her can make you look much more favorably in her eyes – so even if you don’t land this job, you won’t be out of the running for another opening.

  5. Brett*

    #3 It also sounds like the other manager used their personal facebook account (?) which is also inappropriate. This is what facebook pages are for. Or even better, this is what hootsuite is for, which allows tagging someone to respond via the company page without every reveal who the person is who is actually responding.

  6. Bend & Snap*

    #3 people you’re not friends with can’t tag you right? Just unfriend your boss. That would be over the line for me.

    1. Ethyl*

      My policy is that I NEVER accept friend requests from people I am currently working with/for/around. If people needle me for an explanation that usually suffices.

    2. Brett*

      Anyone can tag you, whether or not they are your friend. If they are not your friend, then the tag does not show up on your timeline, but it still shows up on their timeline and the timeline of anyone else tagged. So, in this case, the customer would see the tag on their timline (and there is no way you, as a user, can prevent that).

      1. Leah*

        Last I checked (with FB this can change at any time) I had to approve any tags involving me, including friends. These wouldn’t show up as me being tagged until I approved them, at least in photos. I never had an opportunity to check this in a message since I changed this setting.

        1. kristinyc*

          You can change your settings so people either aren’t able to tag you, or that you have to approve any tags before they show up on your profile. (Or, if Facebook’s becoming too much and not enough all at the same time, you can just deactivate. I stopped using it 2 months ago after being on it since the VERY beginning, and I honestly don’t miss it at all!).

  7. Ollie*

    OP #2: I actually started a new job a few months ago and started sitting with my coworkers from day 1 to try to be friendly. I’m an introvert and regret it now. I would totally stop sitting with them at lunch so I could just relax by myself, except then they’d be like you and wonder why I was suddenly avoiding them. Maybe your guy is an introvert too and is just too awkward to come out and say he wanted to stop sitting with you.

    1. Fucshia*

      That was my thought about what happened. It’s probably nothing personal and the person just wants to relax at lunch.

      1. fposte*

        Yes, we’ve seen this question from the other side several times–“I’ve gotten into a habit with a co-worker but I don’t actually want all my lunches to be with him. What do I do?”

    2. OP #2*

      No, this guy is not an introvert. He’s actually quite the opposite – a very outgoing, friendly extrovert (we’ve had many discussions about it lol). He wasn’t acting differently with anyone else, and would actually go out to lunch with a couple of his buddies from time to time, so I don’t think he wants to be “alone.”

      I actually wrote that question to Alison a few weeks ago, and I’ve since discovered the reason (I think) for his change of behavior. He just found out that his ex-girlfriend, that he dumped at the end of last year, is pregnant with his baby, and he’s back together with her.

      That being said, I’m still confused as to why he would avoid me *in particular* because of that. I’ll keep this as brief as possible – he asked me out a couple months after breaking up with his GF, and I said no because I don’t date coworkers (and I don’t wanna be his rebound, though I kept that part to myself). We still remained close and his avoidance didn’t come until months later.

      Does he think I would care that his GF is pregnant? If I wanted him, I would’ve agreed to go out with him. I know this isn’t a dating advice site, but I just don’t see how one thing relates to the other. I wish there was a way to tell him that I don’t care… without seeming like I care. LOL

      1. C Average*

        Ahh, this makes a bit more sense. He asked you out, which presumably means he finds you an attractive prospect. He’s now with someone else and trying to be committed to that relationship, which means he’s perhaps limiting his contact with attractive prospects.

        Some of my flirty opposite-sex friendships changed tone and went through a cool-off period when I began dating my now-husband. When you have a friendship that has a “spark” component to it and you’re single, that’s kind of fun. When you’re committed to a relationship, it starts to feel inappropriate. At least this has been my experience.

        1. Waiting Girl*

          I had a feeling this was the case – work relationships don’t tend to go that cold so fast.

          If you want to be the bigger person, you can do one last reach out to show you don’t care and support his new relationship (and in theory actually want to be friends) by using the phrasing Allison suggested. And if he blows you off again, you have your answer.

          But just remain civil and pleasant when you see him – and that will remind the guy that you are a classy dame and perhaps he’ll cool down over the “what ifs” of dating and life and go back to being a normal, friendly co-worker versus someone who used to be interested in you.

        2. Traveler*

          +1 This exactly. And.. to answer you question, once I made that change, someone telling me they didn’t care wouldn’t have mattered.

      2. fposte*

        I don’t think it’s whether or not you care, it’s whether he and his girlfriend care. I’d say let this one go.

        1. some1*

          Yup. Sometimes when couples reunite, they have the State of the Union conversation about whether and who they were dating while they were apart. If he told her he asked you out, she might have asked him to stop socializing with you.

      3. Anon for this one*

        Maybe he’s just afraid of you not approving of/judging his relationship? I was close friends with a coworker of mine; we went out twice a month if not more outside of work even. Then one day all of the sudden she got really chilly toward me and I had no idea why. It turns out she started dating someone that she had in the past said many negative things about to me. She felt awkward about how to bring up her change of heart and just decided avoidance was the best policy I guess. Our friendship still isn’t the same, but there are a lot of outside factors to that as well (promotions, different shifts, etc), but perhaps yours will heal better depending on the the issue.

        Or maybe he was still harboring feelings for you and thinks it’s best (or she/they both think it’s best) to not be around you as much.

        1. Cath in Canada*

          Ugh, my sister broke up with her boyfriend in her early 20s and I told her how happy I was about it because I’d never liked him and thought he was a loser. They got back together a few months later, and the whole of the year after that (before she finally dumped him for good) was super awkward.

      4. Lizzy Mac*

        Any time someone asks for “how to get over” someone advice on the internet, or really anywhere, the answer is distance. He liked/likes you and needs to get over it so that he can fully commit to hs gf. He’s creating some distance. Reading the initial question, I suspected something like this. Just let him have his space even if it sucks for you. This is a good time to reach out to some of your other coworkers and create those work bonds.

        1. OP #2*

          Yes, that makes sense. I think all of the responses make sense, so thanks to everyone who replied! It’s an awkward situation, but I’ll try to go with the flow and see what happens. It stinks that our friendship has to change because of this, but if that’s what he feels is best from his end, then I just have to accept it and move on :/

      5. BadPlanning*

        Perhaps his GF is jealous and has told him he can’t have lunch, etc, with you. Cordial coworkers, yes. Casual friends that have lunch together, no. Or GF expressed jealousy after Coworker mentioned you a couple times. Like, “OP#3 saw Gravity last weekend and said it was really good — we should go, Honey” “How much do you hang out with OP#3? Don’t you work? Wait, just the two of your go to lunch together? No one else?” To avoid strife, Coworker cut you off as a work friend.

      6. Celeste*

        I think he’s weirded out that he was making a move on somebody else when he had a baby on the way. I think he NEEDS to move on from you socially in every way, and you should let him. Things change, and when they do, there is no going back.

        There is nothing for you to address, because nobody did anything wrong. In time he might get more comfortable, or one of you will leave. If the office goes in on a card or baby gift, I would of course participate so as to wish him well. But that’s all.

        Deep down I would be grateful to have dodged a bullet of getting involved with somebody who didn’t know he had a baby on the way. I really don’t see how that could have had a happy ending for you.

        1. the gold digger*

          dodged a bullet of getting involved with somebody who didn’t know he had a baby on the way.

          I once lusted after a guy who told me a month or two in that he had a 12-year-old child he had never even met.

          You would think that would have been enough for me to lose interest. I am ashamed to say that it was not.

      7. Katie the Fed*

        “I actually wrote that question to Alison a few weeks ago, and I’ve since discovered the reason (I think) for his change of behavior. He just found out that his ex-girlfriend, that he dumped at the end of last year, is pregnant with his baby, and he’s back together with her. ”

        She probably doesn’t want him hanging out with a coworker he used to be sweet on.

    3. Vdubs*

      Ollie- Why don’t you gradually introduce a new habit of doing something else on your lunch? That way it won’t be as sudden. One day a week you could do something else, and then gradually increase that…

  8. jenniferm*

    My old boss had a personal policy of never friending coworkers. If anyone ever mentioned it,she just said that they could be friends when the didn’t work together anymore. Sure enough, I got a friend request from her around my last day. I’ve adopted the rule as well but wish I had been more strict about keeping to it. Speaking of this, I have an invite from my current boss on LinkedIn. I feel hesitant to link with her.

    1. KerryOwl*

      Yeah, I don’t have any of my co-workers as FB friends, even the ones I sort of consider real friends.

      I think that LinkedIn is completely different, though. It’s not a social site, it’s a professional one.

    2. jennie*

      I avoid linking with bosses on LinkedIn because I don’t want them to see my activity.

      1. Esra*

        You can always turn off email notifications. If they’re checking out your profile on the regular that’s one thing, but if you shut off notifications, they’ll probably forget about it and never check.

    3. The Other Dawn*

      I wouldn’t have an issue with linking on Linked In with my boss. I guess it depends on what you’re doing on Linked In. I hardly do anything so it’s not a big deal. I definitely would NOT link with her on Facebook, though. No way.

    4. Elizabeth West*

      LinkedIn is a bit different. It’s for networking and work purposes.

      I do the same with Facebook–some people from Exjob are in my friends list, but that didn’t happen until after I (and in some cases, they) left.

  9. Rebecca*

    #5 is so apropos for me right now. I’m just ready to submit my online application for another job, and I’m terrified my manager will find out (like she did last time) and scream at me for being disloyal and not being a member of the family. It makes me sick to my stomach to think about it.

    I hope to be able to use outside references, and just have HR verify my employment, but even that has risks as the HR person will most certainly call my manager.

    The problem is, my previous job, and only job before this one, ended in 2002 when I gave notice and went to my current job. I hope that’s not too big of a time span.

    1. Ruffingit*

      Oh man, I’m sorry you’re dealing with a manager like that. Amazing how they say you’re “family,” but then treat you like shit when you try to leave. I often want to call these people Jim Jones (as in the cult leader whose followers were not allowed to leave basically).

      UGH. Hope you’re out of there soon!

  10. fiat lux*

    OP #3 might consider locking down her Facebook privacy settings. There’s an option to review tags – even if your boss types in your name, it won’t link to your profile without your approval.

    1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      Yeah, I set that eons ago, for photos and posts, when a HS classmate tagged me in a nostalgic photo of me at 14.

      I didn’t really want my entire FB friend list knowing I was THAT big of a dork. :p (Especially because I am dumb enough to have business contacts on my FB #thingsiregretdoing )

      All tags go into cue for me to approve, which I forget to ever do so nobody can tag me for anything.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        *queue! dammit that is a pet peeve and I just did it! bring me more coffee…

    2. Brett*

      Tag review only prevents the tag from showing up on your timeline. It will still link to your profile (but you can take the additional step of removing the tag).
      In this case, the damage would be done, as the customer would still see the tag and their timeline (because both OP and customer were tagged at the same time) even if the OP had reviewed the tag and chosen not to allow it and removed the tag.
      Even with the tag removed, the name would still stay too in the original post.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I struggle with why people want this. I look at my FB account one a year and that is only if someone “makes” me.

      1. fiat lux*

        Dang, you’re right. How obnoxious of Facebook!

        To be honest, I’m wondering why OP#3 was even friends with the manager on Facebook in the first place. Is this expected in some industries? I can’t fathom why you would be friends with your manager on a social network, unless the manager told you it was required (which would be a red flag for me).

  11. Graciosa*

    Regarding #2, while I hate to sound harsh, if you have had a routine where you regularly spent a lot of time together, Bob may have needed a break. This may or may not have anything to do with you, so I would give Bob an opening (one) to share anything that’s bothering him and then drop it without taking it personally. I once noticed a certain distance in a colleague and it turned out he was dealing with a health issue and was spending most of the work day fighting through the pain. He literally did not have the energy for unnecessary conversation. We don’t always know what’s going on with other people (and generally shouldn’t demand to be told).

    You mentioned feeling lonely without Bob – this may be a good opportunity for you to make some other work-friends in your office. It’s better to have multiple relationships so that you’re not too dependent upon Bob, which could feel to him like a lot of pressure regardless of your intentions.

    This too shall pass.

    1. Ruffingit*

      Excellent points all here! I particularly agree with making other work friends. It’s hard when you only have one work buddy because it can be a lot of pressure for both people to deal with. Could also be that Bob is using his lunch hour to nap in his office or something because he’s dealing with a health issue. Could be he just needs a break. Yeah, there are tons of possibilities here. Good post Graciosa!

      1. De Minimis*

        That would be my guess too, that Bob just decided he needed some alone time during lunch.

    2. OP #2*

      See my response and clarification above. It might shed some more light on the matter :) Turns out he was hiding something after all… Though it’s still got me feeling confused!

      1. fposte*

        It doesn’t sound like he’s hiding it, though–it just sounds like he didn’t tell you, which isn’t the same thing. It may mean you weren’t as close as you thought, but that happens at work sometimes (as well as elsewhere, of course).

      2. Not So NewReader*

        It is kind of awkward to explain. He may not like hearing himself say what happened. Sometimes our lives play out in ways that we ourselves are surprised by and do not know what to make of it.
        He may have no idea of what to say to you, worse yet, he doesn’t even know what to tell himself.
        My younger self has done tamer versions of this. I would avoid a person because I had no words. Eventually, things would work out though. And this could be the case here.
        I think the gracious thing to do is just cut him some space so he can sort things out. Sometimes that gesture alone can get situations turned around. But don’t plan on it or expect it. (A wise person suggested to me once that in some situations stepping back might be the best gesture of friendship a person can give another person.)

        1. Ruffingit*

          (A wise person suggested to me once that in some situations stepping back might be the best gesture of friendship a person can give another person.)

          That is so true. Giving people the space they need to work something out in their own mind or heart is a valuable gift. A lot of people feel they must solve the problem/talk the issue to death RIGHT NOW. The value of time, silence, room to breath is lost on a lot of people unfortunately.

  12. Tiff*

    #3 – It’s weird that the other manager tagged your personal page, but many companies/agencies, orgs have FB pages that customers can use to reach the right person. We are just getting into the habit of managing our customer relations and we create the workflows based on how the facility or program operates (some have tons of staff to handle customer relations/service and some are much more dependent on our centralized customer service team). So if a customer tweets that one of our facilities is trashed or something is broken it notifies our customer service team as well as the facility manager.

    If your company is getting feedback through social media you may just want to suggest a better communication and resolution loop.

  13. Persephone Mulberry*

    #3 – Do we know for sure this was Facebook? I’m curious whether Alison clarified this with the OP or if she assumed. The original letter only says “a social media site” which could be Twitter, Instagram, etc. which are equally likely channels for a customer service comment/complaint.

    If it IS Facebook, I would simply untag myself from the post once the issue was resolved.

    That said, this is also a good opportunity to approach your manager about “how to effectively manage customer feedback via social media” and come up with a strategy that hopefully does NOT involve tagging individual employees.

    1. Waiting Girl*

      Yes – good plan. I would also agree that you should talk to your manager, obviously in a calm and polite manner about social media work/life boundaries. Just give the examples we’ve cited here about concerns a customer having your personal info and perhaps add anything like “I also try to keep my facebook account for friends and family only. Happy to follow up with this customer from my work email or work facebook account so they feel they are getting our professional attention.” You may throw in a line that responding from your personal account my seem not as professional-serious by the customer as again you coming directly your work email, etc. Also as the customer I would also feel squicked out by being connected in such a personal matter.

    2. anonness*

      When I used to do social media work and needed to work on FB, the companies often times had generic users that would be shared instead of using our own FB accounts. Including employees would be a big no-no.

  14. Ruffingit*

    I might change the wording of #2 so that it’s not a yes/no question because Bob could easily say “Yup, everything’s fine” and keep walking. I think I might change it from “Hey, Bob, we hardly talk anymore! Is everything okay?” to Hey, Bob, we hardly talk anymore. What’s going on?

    It’s a subtle shift, but one that usually requires more than a yes/no answer. Could be he says “Nothing, everything’s OK,” but it requires more than yes/no, which sometimes causes people to open up more.

    1. Persephone Mulberry*

      That comes across as a little pushy to me – “is everything OK” is an invitation to open up if they are comfortable doing so, “what’s going on” is a demand for information, no matter how friendly the tone.

    2. Colette*

      “What’s going on” puts pressure on Bob and could result in a harsher response than you’d get otherwise. (“I can’t stand watching you chew with your mouth open one more time!”) While “Is everything OK?” indicates concern about Bob, asking what’s going on is more about concern for yourself, without knowing what Bob is dealing with.

    3. fposte*

      I don’t know–you’re right about the answer, but I think that’s why the y/n question is actually good, because it makes the OP open to a response without suggesting that Bob owes anybody an explanation. The goal isn’t really to find out why Bob isn’t eating with the OP anymore, even if the OP wants to know, because that’s a drama landmine; the goal is to inquire after Bob’s well-being, and indicate that the friendship isn’t predicated on the routine.

      1. Ruffingit*

        I get that. Tone makes a big difference here. For me when I ask what’s going on it’s in a friendly concerned tone. I’ve found that some take it as a sign that someone really cares and they feel like they can open up. It’s not a demand for info. Tone makes a difference. Depends on the person too. YMMV

    4. Bea W*

      Or “Hey Bob, we haven’t talked lately. How are things going with you?” That sounds to me as less…not sure accusatory is the right word…than “we never talk anymore.” I like the udea of casually suggesting lunch.

      OP, the change might not have anything to do with you or work. He might be having issues in his personal life that are making him feel less social. Some people pull back into themselves under stress.

      1. Ruffingit*

        I do like this a lot better! How are things going with you is innocuous enough, but still shows you care. Good idea!

  15. C Average*

    #2, maybe your colleague has just discovered AAM and is binging on the archives during his lunch break and resents any distraction. (OK, probably not, but this totally happened to me. Since discovering this site, I nearly always eat at my desk so I can read and comment.)

    Also, at times, I’ve been working on projects with a high level of secrecy around them and avoided colleagues who weren’t on the project because it was easier than censoring myself.

    And yeah, like another poster said, sometimes people withdraw because they’re sick or sad or stressed or just trying to adjust the amount of space they’re getting at work. Lots of potential valid reasons that are no personal knock on you.

  16. ITPuffNStuff*

    #3 is much worse than “weird”. Engaging someone’s personal Facebook account for business purposes may seem like “not a big deal,” but in a customer service management role, it’s a huge deal. The reason is that depending on the size of the customer base, this could easily turn into the manager being hit up directly by customers at all hours of the day and night, 24x7x365, nights, weekends, and holidays, literally hundreds of times per day. Customers do this, and the reality is that most of them don’t care that customer service managers are allowed to do things like sleep, eat, or spend time with their families. I could see this easily blowing up to the point that the Facebook account would have to be closed.

    The company has official contact points for customers to use, and those are the only acceptable methods of contact.

    If the scenario above didn’t blow up, then thank goodness, but the other manager involved needs to be told in no uncertain terms that this is Not O.K. and that it will Not Happen Again.


    1. LBK*

      Agreed completely, and companies that do use social media to address customer issues usually do it through a company-approved process with designated customer service reps who are specifically trained on how to handle these issues online (since it’s a different skillset than in-person customer service). Randomly tagging a person by name without even running it by them first is a recipe for disaster.

    2. My Scintillating Pseudonym*

      Exactly. We had a phone list at the retail job I worked years ago so that the service desk could call someone who was late, or call if their shift changed, etc, without running up to the office. We had a new employee once who was talking to a complaining customer, and it came up that Jane was the one to talk to about a certain issue. (Jane wasn’t even a manager, it was more like “Oh, Jane would know the most about that because she’s always in Electronics.”) So the customer asked for Jane’s number. It was a combination of an inappropriate question (it’s a retail store, why would they think everyone has an office with a separate number from the store?) and the employee being new and flustered and…not bright. She pulled out the phone list and gave the customer Jane’s home number.

      This did not end well. Jane had to threaten to get a restraining order against the customer to stop the repeated calls and insane rambling messages on her answering machine.

      1. fiat lux*

        Thank goodness for google voice! Frankly, I don’t trust my coworkers to keep my cell phone number secure, so I only use my google voice number at work.

  17. Bea W*

    I think Facebook has settings for tagging. You may also want to go through the security and privacy settings and tighten your vidibility up. This is another good reason not to friend co-workers on a personal social networking site.

  18. C Average*

    #1, if you do decide to pose the question and/or ask for a tour, make sure you think through what your next steps will be if the answer is no, full stop. Is that a deal-breaker? Would you remove yourself from contention at that point? Maybe work out a script for that scenario just in case it happens.

    If you do opt to take a job where you won’t have an office, please don’t be one of those people who complains about it nonstop! We have a couple of managers (not in my immediate group, but in adjacent groups) who took jobs here knowing they’d be working in an open plan, but they will not shut up about how they could do this, that, or the other thing if they ONLY had an office! The complaining won’t get them an office, and they knew they weren’t going to have offices when they took the job, and at this point the rest of us just kind of silently roll our eyes at the complaining.

    1. Gilby*

      I have the same question. Will the OP not take the job if there is no private office.

      I can tell you that many offices are open plans. I worked in a place that even some directors and most managers were in cubbie land with the rest of us. ( HR and AP directors type people had their own offices) but most didn’t.

      I hope you are not going to decide if you want a job soley based on that. Jobs are too hard to come by and maybe the office culture and company and job will be so awesome that the lack of office will not matter.

      1. OP #1*

        I have an office at my current company and it seems to be about 50/50 if people in my position have offices where I have been interviewing. I am obviously not deciding on work space alone but do have a personal dollar value that an office is worth to me as well as how it compares to other potential benefits. For example, I value an office more than I value a 9/80 flex schedule.

      2. Cat*

        I do think it’s a legitimate factor though. If you have two jobs that you’re weighing and one has an open plan while one has a private office, that’s a completely reasonable thing to factor in, especially if you know you’re someone who doesn’t work well in an open plan. I know it would be an issue for me and I’d definitely consider it as part of the decisionmaking process. (And know someone recently who had two job offers and for whom that was a decisional criteria- albeit by no means the only one).

        1. Anonathon*

          I agree. You’re spending so much time there that it’s worth considering whether you’ll be comfortable and productive. While my current job is great, our offices are a bit depressing (windowless basement). So personally, I would not accept a different job in a similar office environment unless there were other super compelling factors.

    2. Ann Furthermore*

      OMG yes to this. There was one manager in the group I used to work in that did this. Went on and on and ON about how he just couldn’t believe he didn’t have an office. That the nature of his job required one. That he dealt with sensitive information and needed privacy. The rest of us did just fine by ducking into a conference room or empty office when we needed to, but not him.

      He whined about it a few times to the Facilities manager, who was completely unsympathetic. He asked her what he’d have to do to get an office, and she said, “Well, first you need to be a Director. And then, you need to wait your turn,” since there were already plenty of Directors sitting in cubicles with the rest of the riff-raff because there were no offices available for them.

  19. Mark*

    Hah Alison, “…because it could have ended up on your personal Facebook book.” :)

  20. JW*

    Oh gosh, I’m realizing I might have made a mistake on an online job application. I indicated “not okay to contact” for a previous employer, because this previous employer is a current client! I wish I had indicated that.

  21. Ann Furthermore*

    #1 It wouldn’t even occur to me to ask if I’d get my own office, because it’s been about 15 years since I had a job where I got one. By and large private offices seem to be a thing of the past, at least in my experience.

    I would LOVE a private office, but chances are it’s never going to happen. Maybe I’ve been conditioned to accept that the standard issue cube farm is just the way it is (at least in the US), but after all these years of doing just fine in a cubicle, if someone interviewing for an individual contributor role asked if they’d get their own office, I might get a “delicate flower” vibe from them. But it would be a legitimate question for someone interviewing for a management position.

    Although I do fine in a cubicle (and I’ve had big and small ones and have had no problems), I would ask if there was an “open office” concept at work, because that for me might be a dealbreaker. Companies spew all kinds of BS about how it fosters collaboration and other inanities, but really, I think it’s just a way to save money on office furniture. How anyone can be expected to work and be productive sitting in an open space with a zillion other people — who are talking, on the phone, etc — is beyond me.

    1. Cat*

      I think it depends on your profession as well as your seniority level. If you’re a lawyer, it’s still standard (and for good reason given that you may be discussing sensitive client information on a regular basis).

    2. OP #1*

      I work in a rather traditional field where, thank goodness, open concept offices are not as prevalent as they seem in other industries. It would not be unheard of for people lower in the org structure than myself to also have their own offices as well.

    3. Bea W*

      This is the case in my field too. Indivdual contributers live at the cube farm. Only managers have offices. If I heard that request from someone interviewing for my position, I’d definitely get the “delicate flower / entitled” vibe. At best you might get a nice cube, but it will still be a cube, just like everyone else.

      Ugh open office plans. No. Some people have personal habits that can barely be contained by cubicle walls as it is!

    4. LeighTX*

      The chairman of our board sent out a picture this morning of an office he recently visited where all six employees sat at one conference table. And he LIKES this idea. I have always had my own office with a door, and working at a big table with five other people (or even one other person!) would make me stabby, so now I’m a little worried about what his plans may hold.

      1. Sharm*

        I bet he only ever had private offices too. It always seems to work out that way…

    5. anonness*

      It probably varies by office on the furniture part … we went from old cubicles and random chairs to smaller cubes with standing desks. Yes please.

  22. Vera*

    #1 – I don’t think this is a crazy thing to ask, particularly if you have not yet toured the office facilities. I’ve only ever worked in an open office environment, these are cube farms with low walls, or some walls are “missing” or made of glass. The big difference is that one office had a white noise system installed and the other office did not. I never had a problem in the first office until one day the white noise system cut out for about 30 minutes- it was SO LOUD. The second office without the white noise system, it is very difficult to work. You always expect to hear the people directly around you, but hearing stuff happening several cube rows away or phones ringing completely on the other side of the building is a little crazy. So I bought some noise cancelling headphones, which completely defeats the purpose of an open floorplan (collaboration) but it’s the only way I can concentrate without the white noise system.

    With all that being said – I think it makes sense to ask these types of questions! If you are in an open plan, is there a white noise system? Is it acceptable for employees to wear headphones? These days I would also ask upfront if any employees have standing desks or use exercise balls as chairs. I say good for you for considering your working environment during the interview process… this is one thing that most people forget about but is so important to the day-to-day.

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