my coworker has an inappropriate LinkedIn photo, responding to a candidate’s rejection of our offer, and more

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

1. How can I tactfully tell my coworker to get to the point?

I have a peer who will often call me or drop by my office to ask me a question about something. Rather than getting right to the point, the coworker will ramble on, interjecting unnecessary commentary, which turns what should be a quick question into a long, annoying, never ending sentence. For example, her question might be, “Do I still need to update the tracker?” What she will say is: “Heeeeeeey, I have a question, I know you covered this, but then John mentioned it might change, and OMG, these managers are driving me nuts, so I’m in the tracker and I’m looking at my stuff, and wow there is a lot in here,and I know your super busy cause we have sooooo much going on and I’m trying to keep up with my updates, but I wasn’t sure if I needed to do that. Soooooooooooo I thought I’ll give you a call, cause your like the expert….”

She will say it without pausing. Her emails tend to be in this format as well. It’s starting to drive me nuts. Is there any way to tactfully tell her to get to the point?

If it’s really just a few extra sentences, you’ve got to just bite the bullet and deal with the few extra sentences.

But if it’s significantly more, you can try interrupting her when she first starts to ramble and saying something like, “Oh, I’m sorry, I just have a minute right now. If it will take longer, it might be better to email or set up a time to talk.” Or, since it sounds like much of her rambling is sort of apologetic about the interruption, you might try saying something like, “Hey, please don’t feel like you need to apologize or explain why you need my help. It’s okay to just jump straight to your question — in fact, it’s actually easier for me if you do!”

But with someone whose style is like this, these tactics might not work. And in that case, you’re pretty much stuck just dealing with this as an annoying habit that’s part of the package with this coworker.

Note: If you were her manager, you could handle this differently, by giving her direct feedback and clearly explaining what you’d like her to do differently. But since she’s a peer, the above is really all you can do.

2. Should I tell my coworker her LinkedIn photo is inappropriate?

A coworker of mine has recently changed her profile photo (for email and other public work-related networking sites) to one that I think might be a bit inappropriate for workplace, but I could be wrong (i.e., too conservative). The reason I even care at all is because she, though not in direct contact with clients, is in HR and specifically responsible for recruiting. I would not want any of our perspective candidates to think of us as unprofessional.

Attached is the photo, which I tried to resize it so that it is too small to recognize the person in the photo, but still enough to see the general pose. Do you think this is indeed inappropriate for work? Should I suggest to her that she should choose a different photo?

In terms of hierarchy, she doesn’t report directly to me, as I manage an engineering team, not HR. We are in two parallel trees, so to speak. Personally, we do hang out casually as a group during lunch. But again, we don’t know each other too well to the point I could just tell her directly.

Whoa. For readers: In the photo, the coworker is in a little black dress with thin straps similar to a tank top, and it’s a full body shot (she’s sitting, and her body is visible down to her calves) and she’s in a kind of seductive pose. It’s an inappropriate photo to be using professionally.

But … you don’t really have the standing to tell her. You’re not her manager or otherwise in a position of authority over her, and you’re not personally close to her. You’re a bystander, basically. I hear you on not being thrilled about how this will come across to job candidates, but this one just isn’t yours to handle. Not everything that should be acted on by someone can be acted on by everyone.

3. Manager has asked us to stop calling each other “Miss ____”

I work in an office of associates ranging in ages 22 to 60. Some of the younger associates address others as Miss Donna, etc. We have had some open conversations as to why they address associates this way; some have said it’s out of respect, others “I was raised this way,” and some even because that’s how the person was introduced to them. No one really thought anything about it; this was normal for our office. Eight months ago a new manager was hired. He’s in his mid 30’s. After a few months, he told one of the girls she could not longer address others as “Miss ___” because it was unprofessional. He asked another girl why she addressed Donna as Miss Donna but didn’t address Mark as Mr or Master. This has confused some of the younger workers as they felt they were being respectful. My question is, is it unprofessional to address others as “Miss ___” in an office setting?

This is 100% a cultural thing. It’s somewhat common in the south and pretty uncommon anywhere else. Your manager might be being a little culturally tone-deaf by asking for it to stop, but it’s ultimately his call to make … and he’s right that using a different form of address for women than men isn’t a great thing in an office.

4. Responding to a candidate who turned down our offer

I am a hiring manager. One of the candidates emailed me the turn down my offer. I would like to answer in a professional way. What would be a professional response to someone who turned down your offer by email?

“Thanks so much for letting me know. We’re disappointed, of course, and if there’s anything we could have done to change your mind, I’d love to know — but either way, we think you’re great and wish you the best of luck in whatever you do next!”

If it’s a candidate who you invested significant amounts of time in and who you really thought highly of, you might want to call instead — but either way, the tone should be disappointed but not guilt-throwing and should be genuinely wishing them well.

5. How can I combat bad morale as a non-manager?

My department has crushingly low morale, partly due to a bad manager, and partly due to us feeding off each other’s negativity. There’s not a great deal I can do about the management, but do you have any suggestions on what I, as a very small cog in the machine, can do to break the cycle of negativity?

Yes! You’re right that you can’t solve the big issues of bad management, but you do have (some) control over the feeding-off-each-other’s-negativity piece of this. In a situation like this, resolving to stop complaining can actually be huge. There’s something about regular complaining that magnifies whatever you’re complaining about and makes most people even more unhappy (and can eventually cause you to display other problematic behavior on the job too). This doesn’t mean that you have to turn a blind eye to serious management problems; you can and should continue to calmly process what you’re seeing so that you can make good decisions for yourself — but if you resolve to stop complaining or otherwise feeding the negativity, there’s a good chance it’ll improve your quality of life there (and other people’s too).

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 344 comments… read them below }

  1. Felicia*

    I’m thinking for #3 the manager may not be from the south, and new to the area? For anyone not from the south, addressing people as Miss Firstname would seem weird and he may not know it’s the norm in the south? I actually learned about this cultural aspect while reading this blog I think. I’d never heard it in real life. (I’m Canadian).

    Even though I try to respect what’s culturally the norm where i am, I think it’s good to have gender equality in forms of address.

    1. Esra*

      I think it’s pretty popular with a variety of cultures. I’ve encountered it more than once living in Toronto.

      1. Felicia*

        I’ve never encountered it and never lived anywhere other than Toronto…other than what toddlers call their preschool teacher. So it’s totally possible someone has never encountered it before wherever they’re from.

      2. Prickly Pear*

        I’m not in the South- I’m Midwestern. Every job that I’ve had I end up being called Miss Prickly Pear, through no preference/fault of my own. (I actually try to steer people away from calling me that- I do feel like I’m perpetually in childcare, over a decade since I stopped working in that field!) One of my managers calls me that now, maybe because I’m older than him. It makes me feel like I’m ‘demanding’ respect, even though I could live my whole life long without being called Miss or ma’am.

    2. Artemesia*

      I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, but I lived in the south for nearly 40 years and raised my family there. This Miss Donna thing is VERY odd for peers in a workplace. People generally use this as a mark of subordination e.g. children are taught to call people that like their pre-school teachers and other adults at a pre-school or grade school might call other teachers that as a way of modeling it for kids. Same in Sunday school. But it is not the norm for equals in the workplace. Used like that it has the mark of highlighting one’s inferiority. Grownups don’t generally refer to each other that way and then to distinguish men and women — even worse.

      I don’t think the new manager is culturally tone deaf, I think he wants a professional workplace where grownups treat each other as fellow adults and don’t address women as if they were pre-schoolers.

      1. EngineerGirl*

        I was going to write the exact same thing. The manager wants people to view each other as peers, not older/younger. Peers call each other “Jane”, not “Miss Jane”.

        1. Anonylicious*

          If there’s a significant age difference, it doesn’t strike me too weird. And I agree that calling an older gentleman “Mr. Firstname” sounds a little weird in the workplace, mainly because you have to work so much harder as a women to be regarded as an equal to your male peers, and the “Mr. Firstname” construction undermines that, but addressing a peer who was much older than me as “Firstname” also feels weird. I usually just evade the issue and try to never call them by name.

      2. FiveNine*

        He’s culturally tone deaf. It’s “Driving Miss Daisy” — not “Driving Daisy.” Of course the professional workplace could require a dropping of the “Miss” — but then the manager should be adamant that no one call any male in the office or any male client “sir,” either — and in most pockets of the United States that would be the case. But if the cultural norm is the former, then the sudden switch from “Miss Daisy” to “Daisy” is not just jarring but does convey disrespect.

        1. A Dispatcher*

          Imo, sir is not an equivalent to miss first-name, it’s moreso an equivalent to ma’am.

          1. FiveNine*

            This is why IMO the manager mishandled this: He’d probably agree with you, and I do too to in terms of most precise equivalents. But he’s totally ignoring the relatively widespread cultural practice at his own peril. I’m pretty sure he was trying to make a progressive and modern argument by equating the use of “Miss X” to “Mister X” or “Master” — but by ignoring the way “sir” is used widespread in the South as a term of respect and friendliness (and not in the North in the same way) he’s creating false parallels, with “Master” in particular being truly archaic and all sorts of offensive. It’s coming from a place of ignorance about the culture and practices even within his office (and I’m sure he probably believes he’s the farthest thing from sexist or racist, but isn’t ignorance often the breeding ground for that?). The whole thing has created a kerfuffle within the office, and I don’t know if he can ever really recover. I doubt that he knows it, but it went beyond making just a professional case; he doesn’t really know or care about or respect what was going on there.

            1. Cat*

              I agree with A Dispatcher that “sir” is equivalent to “ma’am,” not “miss first name.”

            2. A Teacher*

              I’m from the Midwest and I view it as equivalent, but then I typically don’t say “sir” or “ma’am.” We tend to say “Yes, firstname” or “I got you” in my geographic region to acknowledge something. My students will say “Yes, Miss Lastname” but even they don’t say “ma’am” or “sir”

            3. AVP*

              Are you the OP? If so, can I suggest that you might be responding to more than just this request or using it as a signifier for other, deeper issues? Otherwise, it seems a little out-of-place to suggest that he could be a sexist or racist person based on the fact that he asked you not to use terms that other people think have a sexist vibe. Which Is why I think we might not have all of the information here…

        2. College Career Counselor*

          “Miss Brahms, are you free?”
          [looks around to empty store]
          “Not at the moment, Captain Peacock.”

        3. BCW*

          Is Driving Miss Daisy really the best example? That movie is about a racist white woman and her employee. So yes, it does show a form of subordination. Yes they become “friends” but its after he works for her for years.

          1. Someone Else*

            This is exactly what I was thinking… It’s not used as a sign of ‘respect’ in this movie, it’s more like an entitlement she has over him as her employee. People in the south can call their family members and older friends whatever they like, but I am not caller people 10 or more years older than I am ‘Miss’ anything. I am in my early 30’s, and just as much an adult as my older peers. (I am Northern by birth, raised in the South for the last 20 yrs)

          2. Peachtree Girl*

            I don’t think calling the character Miss Daisy was symbolic of racism, because everyone, black or white, younger than she would have called her Miss Daisy. (Family members would have used her relationship name like Aunt Daisy or Cousin Daisy.) It’s a fairly fine point of southern calling customs, but it goes like something like this: an older person that you known well for a number of years is addressed by Miss or Mister and their first name. Mister or Miss Last Name is too formal, denying by implication a long standing relationship. In this case, dropping the honorific will be perceived as rude and disrespectful, and mark the manager as ignorant of the culture.

            1. Melissa*

              Well that’s true, but Hoke wasn’t significantly younger than Miss Daisy. So yes, it was definitely a subordinate/superior relationship in this case.

              Also, most Southerners use Miss and Mister Firstname for family friends, not coworkers. I call my parents’ friends Miss and Mister Firstname, but nobody at work gets that. They’re just Firstname. (The exception being the elderly secretary in our administrative office…I just couldn’t bring myself to *not* call her Miss Firstname.)

        4. NavyLT*

          Right, but you don’t call your peers “sir.” The issue isn’t about addressing clients, it’s about talking to peers in the office. I mean, I call my boss “sir” and would probably hear about it if I didn’t, but I call my peers by their first names. I think the manager in this case wants the younger women to think of themselves as adults who are on an equal professional footing with the rest of the office.

          1. Kelly O*

            Some people do.

            Please understand that while I don’t like the “Miss Kelly” business (because I equate that with Sunday School teachers and the widowed friends of my grandmothers) I say “sir” and “ma’am” to everyone. Absolutely everyone. From the babies of my friends to people my grandparents’ ages.

            For me it’s about respect, and those words signify that I respect who you are as an individual. I call my peers by their names, but I will often say “yes sir” or “no ma’am” in the course of conversation. It’s not meant with anything other than respect.

            Although again, to be clear, from my personal perspective, I cringe a little whenever someone comes in and calls me “Miss Kelly” but that’s just me. I will say “please, just call me Kelly” but I don’t lose it if they keep on. I’ve heard it my whole life.

        5. Artemesia*

          Miss Daisy was called that by her black driver; it was a sign of his inferior status not of ‘respect’ except as respect in the south is defined as kowtowing to those of superior status. You can be sure the black maid was not called Miss Sophie, but Sophie and the driver was called James not Mr. James or maybe just ‘boy.’

          Using this locution to signal age differences is equally creepy. A grownup in the workplace should not be treating older workers as ‘superior’ by using the same phrase a 4 year olds uses for her Sunday school teacher.

          1. Portia de Belmont*

            I work in a law office, and the senior partners are brothers. We call them Mr. First Name, both as a mark of respect and because it distinguishes them from one another.

        6. Pennalynn Lott*

          But “Miss Daisy” was the employer, the white older woman who held all the cultural and monetary cards. That’s not the case with peers, nor – really – even with professional employer/employee relationships. I’m from the South. My family is from the South. We can trace our lineage back to the early 1800’s in the South. And “Miss Anything” was a term used first by slaves and, later, by black people for any white woman, to denote her superiority over them. My mother played with the children of the black family who maintained what is now the “Dallas” ranch (from the TV show), and those kids – who were her same age – called her “Miss Maggie”, while she called them “Johnny”, “Sarah”, etc. Even the parents of the kids called her “Miss Maggie”. This was back in the early 50’s.

          I have worked in office environments (and witnessed it when waiting in line at, say, the DMV) where the black women in the office will refer to each other as “Miss Firstname”, but they don’t use that with the white women. It’s kind of like black people co-opting the N word for use exclusively amongst themselves, to negate the offensive power of it. I think it also comes from the southern (mostly Baptist) church custom of calling fellow members Brother Firstname and Sister Firstname.

          Either way, I don’t think it has a place in a professional setting, not unless it’s switched to “Ms. Lastname” and “Mr. Lastname”, if the office is extremely formal (or just quirky :-) ).

      3. Ruffingit*

        THIS. Currently living in the south and the “Miss” moniker is not appropriate among peers. My students call me Miss and children do as well, but I’ve never encountered peers who do this. It’s weird and not part of the culture here.

        1. Anonylicious*

          I would only do it if someone was much older than me. Like, older than my parents. (So, past retirement age, but in this economy, probably still working.)

          1. Pennalynn Lott*

            Hunh. I wouldn’t even use it then, because in the business world we are still peers. It would seem odd to be in a meeting and say to a 20-something, “Shawn, do you have those figures we talked about?” but then turn around and say to a 60-something, “Mrs. Smith, would you please take the lead on the XYZ project?” It seems like, at the very least, it would be demeaning to Shawn, and would be calling out a difference between the two of them. . . which would be age. And then you get into discriminatory behavior. It’s so much safer and more respectful to just address everyone the same.

        2. Liz*

          It’s partly a generational thing too. I’m in the South, and the first place I worked was primarily older, black women. They referred to each other as Miz [whoever] when in conversation but when speaking directly to someone just used the name. So it might be: “Hi, Andrea! Can you ask Miz Candice if the documents are here yet?”

          The second office included more younger people, and they used Miz [name] as a sign of respect for the older generation, for whom it is polite.

          The place where I am now is mostly people in their 30s and 40s, and it doesn’t come up much any more.

      4. Mouse*

        Thank you! You nailed exactly why it kinda bothers me that my boss calls me “Miss Firstname.” I couldn’t articulate why it bugged me before, other than it felt patronizing.

      5. Callie*

        Yeah, it’s absolutely a Southern form of address for children to unrelated adults, kind of inbetween the formalness of “Mrs Lastname” (to someone they don’t know) but the too-casual use of just the first name. It is in no way appropriate for adults to address each other like this in the workplace.

    3. Geegee*

      I agree that it’s a cultural thing but i think it’s weird for the manager to come in and tell people to stop addressing other as miss if they’ve been addressing each other this way before he came along. It might make more sense to the rest of the staff if he sat down with every one and had kind of a dialogue about how folks in the office needn’t be addressed differently an also talk about gender equality in the office if that comes up. Simply telling people to stop doing it is weird. Especially when you are the new manager and these people have been referring to each other this way all along… it kinda seems insensitive to this culture.

    4. Amber*

      As someone who lives in California, no one does this and if someone did, it would come across as immature and bordering on insulting.

      1. LBK*

        Likeswise – I’m in Massachusetts and I would find it very odd and somewhat demeaning if you referred to an office peer (ie not some superior to whom you should be deferring) as Miss or Mister anything. Why can’t you just call me by my name?

    5. FiveNine*

      I can understand why the women in the office are profoundly confused — “master” was one of his parallels? That’s contempt, for the women in his office, perhaps for the culture, it’s hostility. That’s not trying to point out sexism to them, it is sexism and maybe more. (And by the way, “Miss Amy” is usually a woman-on-woman salutation; the same women will probably generally refer to any man as “sir” out of respect but not as “Sir John.”) It’s not just that he’s tone deaf.

      1. Elysian*

        I don’t understand why it would be contempt (though it is confusing and not often used) – From Wikipedia on Master (form of address): “After its replacement in common speech by Mister, Master was retained as a form of address only for boys who have not yet entered society. By the late 19th century, etiquette dictated that men be addressed as Mister, and boys as Master.” Master is an infrequently used quasi-equivalent of Miss.

        And there is a lot of sexism in forms of address. We choose our form of address for women based on their marital status, but not for men. That’s pretty sexist. If the women in the office are addressed different from the men generally (Miss Donna v. Mike) that’s an unnecessary distinction based on sex or gender.

        1. Del*

          “Miss Firstname” where it’s commonly used between peers, isn’t reliant on marital status.

          Also because this is very commonly a Southern thing, “Master” has very different connotations that reach back to slavery, and you don’t want to touch that with a building-sized pole. So no. It’s not really equivalent at all.

          1. Artemesia*

            Master is a form of address for boys; it is weird to use it for anyone older than about 8.

            1. Elsie*

              This. I was taught to use “Master” as the equivalent of “Miss” when addressing letters and still do for young boys. Over a certain age, I switch to “Mr” and “Ms.” I would imagine the manager was thinking of Master in this context.

              1. Jessa*

                In our Jewish household we went to Mister from Master at Bar Mitzvah. Most etiquette books I’ve found show it to be inappropriate over that age anyway (back in the day it was common, 12,13,14 was about when boys were apprenticed, and so were considered quasi-men until their majority. There really wasn’t an appropriate form for them between Master as a little and Mister as an adult. I suppose the intervening title was ‘Prentice first name.

        2. Aunt Vixen*

          We choose our form of address for women based on their marital status, but not for men.

          What do you mean “we”, kemosabe? We have “Ms.” for that very reason.

          And in fact where I live (DC area, that is, quasi-upper south), “Miss Firstname” is usually pronounced “Miz Firstname”, at least in part because the question of whether the woman is married couldn’t be less relevant to the young child who is being taught to call her by this form of address. And children are often taught to call their parents’ male friends and other unrelated male adults “Mister Firstname” as well. Not “Master”, though. Dear god.

          And if co-workers call one another Miz Firstname or Mister Firstname, they are in my experience usually doing so a) occasionally and b) slightly ironically or hipsterwise. I worked in an office where from time to time we’d call or refer to people with PhDs as Dr. Whomever (last name). But we did treat everyone the same. There was no un-collegial imbalance.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            And if co-workers call one another Miz Firstname or Mister Firstname, they are in my experience usually doing so a) occasionally and b) slightly ironically or hipsterwise.

            I had a coworker at Exjob I used to call Mister [Nickname for First Name]. I have no idea why–it was just out of affection. If we were mad at each other (which happened sometimes, because he could be an ass), I called him [First Name].

            Nobody ever called me Miss Elizabeth, although a couple I’m friends with has instructed their children to call adults Miss or Mister First Name instead of just First Name. We’re not far enough south for it to be a common thing, however.

          2. Relosa*

            I was taught (in a business writing class?) that Miss addresses women that are assumed to be single or anytime you’re unaware of their marital status, or generally women 35 and under. Ms would be used for a divorced woman of any age, or an middle-aged-or-older single woman.

            Ugh. Dumb.

            1. Liz*

              That’s somewhat old-fashioned, but used to be correct in the 70s. “Ms” would have been quite insulting to single women of a certain age at that point.

        3. Phyllis*

          Thank you!!! That’s what I was coming on to say (about the use of “Master”.) but was going to check my etiquette book first. I live in Mississippi, and it is a sign of respect to address your elders as “Miss Donna” or “Mr. Don.” ‘Course my age I don’t have many elders in the workplace. :-)

          I work with a lot of younger people who (sometimes) address me as “Miss Phyllis”. I don’t require or expect it, but I don’t get bent out of shape if they do. I have told some of them it’s not necessary, that we are all co-workers, ect. Some of them comply, but others say, “If my mother (or grand-mother) heard that, they would slap me winding.” (A southern expression.) So I let it go.

          I think this manager is wrong in the way he’s approaching this. I also think someone in his office should try to explain to him why this is upsetting and confusing people.

          1. Simonthegrey*

            I am from the North, but my mother was from Alabama and I have spent a lot of time in the south. I lived in Savannah, GA for a while. When I was there (and in no other job before or since), as a younger worker I was expected culturally to call the older women “Miss Firstname.” There was a manager who was also from the north; I called her by her first name, and the store manager was a man who we all just called by his first name, but the four older women employees (one shift manager and the rest just regular employees) expected to be called Miss. I went along with it, because they were downright snooty if I didn’t, but it still struck me as the weirdest thing to do to my PEERS in a retail business. But it seemed very much to be a Savannah thing.

            1. Peachtree Girl*

              That depends on how you define peer. In the structure of the organization, yes, you were peers, but they were still older that you, and in that culture, being older rates an extra measure of respect.

          2. MaggietheCat*

            From someone in the South…Unless you have a British accent – calling someone “Master” Name is not a good look on you!

      2. BCW*

        Master is technically the equivalent of Miss. Maybe you don’t like the connotation behind it, but technically it is correct.

        1. Zillah*

          But IMO, the connotations behind ‘Master’ (which do not exist with ‘Miss’) make it not really equivalent, especially in the South. I might agree if the OP was from England, where as far as I know both were pretty common, but she’s not. In that context, I’d see ‘Mistress’ as being more equivalent to ‘Master’ in some ways, which is clearly hugely problematic.

        2. Traveler*

          I’m guessing this guy stumbled into this, having never had the experience before and had to google the equivalent options for men besides Mister and found it that way. He also might have used it to exaggerate the fact that calling someone (Title) (First Name) is inappropriate. I doubt if he has an issue with this, that he legitimately thinks “Master” is okay for office use.

        3. fposte*

          It isn’t entirely–it’s the equivalent for kids, but adult males aren’t generally addressed as “Master” but become “Mister,” whereas young Miss BCW can grow to become old Miss BCW.

          1. Kelly L.*

            And historically, IIRC, Miss was actually the same–Miss was only for little girls and Mistress/Mrs. was for all adult women, married or not. But that shifted over the years.

            1. fposte*

              Though “Miss” was also used for some categories of adult women, but it was class-based rather than maritally based.

              It’s a really fascinating history, isn’t it? We keep reinventing the wheel on it.

        4. Jamie*

          Master is technically the equivalent of Miss. Maybe you don’t like the connotation behind it, but technically it is correct.

          That is incorrect. Miss applies to unmarried women who choose to use it as well as girls.

          Master hasn’t applied to men since the Elizabethan period – it’s use has been exclusive for little boys since. In practice people drop the master way before adulthood, with my boys their birthday cards from family went from being addressed Master to Mr. around 10-11 or so.

          I have never in my entire life known anyone to be addressed as master in adulthood.

      3. Sean*

        This was my first thought. I know that a lot of people haven’t heard women who are peers address each other as “Miss Firstname”, but when my family moved to south Florida, that was something my mom had to get used t0. Everyone called each other “Miss Amy”, “Miss Alice”, etc, in her peer group. Nearly 30 years later when I started working in north Florida, my female co-workers often addressed each other this way. It seemed like an old fashioned, slightly odd way of showing affection for one’s peers in the office.

        While the new manager asking why people don’t say “Mr. John” is understandable, asking why they don’t say “Master John” is a whole different ball of wax, and unless he’s from some place other than the US, it comes off quite badly.

    6. Xay*

      I live and work in GA. In my workplace, Miss____ isn’t used very often but generally it is used as a sign of respect for some of the older employees. Maybe I’m just used to this, but I am surprised at the shock and derision in the comments. It is a holdover from a time when people were called Miss FirstName and Mr. FirstName as a norm but not with an infantile or immature intent.

      1. Chinook*

        “It is a holdover from a time when people were called Miss FirstName and Mr. FirstName as a norm but not with an infantile or immature intent”

        I agree that using Miss isn’t showing deference to authority on this case but if they adress women that way but to refuse/omit a similar form for the only man (which would be Mr.) is sexist and could easily imply that he doesn’t deserve the same level respect as a woman would. Add to that mix the fact that he is the manager, and they look like they are undermining his authority.

      2. GigglyPuff*

        I was born and raised in GA, so I’m a little shocked to by how harsh people seem to be about it. But I also agree, for one I’ve rarely heard Miss “firstname” past early educational years, or else from people in rural places. But I do agree, it seems a little inappropriate, but I think both sides probably handled it incorrectly. The manager should have asked why, and maybe individually talked to each person doing it, in a respectful manner. And the individuals doing it, shouldn’t be confused by the request, they should respectfully accept what he is asking of them, and try to change their behavior, because going by the comments here alone, obviously most people find it strange in the workplace.

        That said, I definitely never did the Miss “firstname”, it was always Miss/Mrs. “lastname”. The only people I ever called by their first name growing up, were friends of my parents they’d known for years, and were always referred to in our house by their first name, so it would have been awkward to call them anything else (like calling a relative by their last name).

        But I also grew up in Seattle, and let me say, culture shock to a kid ingrained with Southern politeness. Most of the adults, parents of kids I knew at school, had no problem with me calling them by their first name, and the woman I babysat for, kept insisting until I explained I just wasn’t comfortable with it, and that’s how I was raised. (Seriously I was like ten at the time, definitely had never called adults by their first name.) And honestly a couple times my mom got offended when a kid would, if she hadn’t given them permission, because they would almost do it in an condescending manner.

        But I can see both sides, especially since it says these people were introduced as “Miss___”, and if they weren’t ever corrected, by the person, I would probably follow the pattern of calling them that. But I can see how it is awkward, one of my first professional jobs, my boss was much older than me, and I was just unsure of what to call her (so I usually avoided saying her name), until I was around my other coworkers enough who just used her first name, and I eventually got comfortable with it.

        1. Melissa*

          I grew up in the South and I used to work at a summer camp, so in college I had little kids calling me Miss Melissa. It was strange to me to be a Miss Firstname to anyone after having called other people Miss Firstname through my childhood.

          Now I am a grad student in the North and I TA/teach classes up here. Every now and then I get a student from the South who insists on calling me Miss Melissa (and calls me “ma’am,” another nicety from the South, although I wasn’t raised with that one – my parents are Northerners). It’s amusing to me.

      3. Eden*

        I worked for many years where this was totally the norm for the younger employees (we even had a Donna, and she was indeed Miss Donna), and was always respectful, rather than the opposite. I can understand where this would be a culture shock for anyone not raised in the south (and apparently even in specific areas of the south), but this is so not a big deal. I guess outside of this cultural norm, or to new transplants, I can see how this might sound weird, but I never gave it a moment’s thought until now!

      1. Traveler*

        I wouldn’t say in any work context. In front of children, particularly when you have a complicated last name, I don’t see any problem with Miss (First Name) or Mister (First Name) between coworkers. Especially when you have no idea what the child’s parents consider appropriate.

    7. Zed*

      Huh. I’m from a Big Northeastern City, and I hear Miss Firstname all the time. I’ve had many patrons who call me Miss Zed (when others just call me Zed), and one older coworker who is called Miss Coworker consistently enough that sometimes I do it too.

      It’s funny because Miss/Ms. Lastname drives me up the wall and I wouldn’t tolerate it as a form of address from anyone who doesn’t work in my doctor’s office. But Miss Firstname both respectful and friendly, and I take it in the spirit it was intended.

    8. Maddy*

      I used to work in the south and we sometimes used Miss FirstName when we were talking to or about a much older, and highly respected, colleague. There were several women who were in their 70s and 80s who had worked with our museum for decades in a part-time capacity and were very highly-regarded by all of the staff for their commitment and institutional knowledge.

      Sometimes they were Miss FirstName, other times they were just FirstName. I think the miss was used in instances where we were being a bit more casual and wanted to show our appreciation for them. It never seemed weird to me at the time, but that’s a unique environment, they weren’t really professional colleagues as they were front line visitor-facing staff. It was a way for those in administration, or even the high schoolers who worked with them to show respect.

    9. saf*

      It can also be a racial difference. Around here (DC), African American folks are the ones who use that construction most often. And yes, using just first names can be regarded as offensive and overly familiar.

  2. ZSD*

    #3 using Miss First Name
    I’m a native Northerner who has lived in the South, and the Miss First Name thing still sounds odd to me. Out of curiosity, for people who do use the Miss Jane format, is there a time when you would use Miss Smith instead? Do Miss Jane and Miss Smith signify different things?
    And if someone is married, do you call her Mrs. Jane?
    And does anyone do the same thing with men? (“Mr. Joe”?) If not, why not?

    1. Geegee*

      I believe Ms would be used the equivalent to Mr.
      Miss would probably be used for a young unmarried woman if you were getting traditional. Mrs would be used for a married woman. I think most modern women prefer to be referred to as Ms.

    2. Fucshia*

      Miss First Name is less formal and more friendly. Think of Jane Austen characters for past usage. The eldest daughter, Jane, was Miss Bennett. Elizabeth was Miss Elizabeth as her sister held the Miss Bennett title until she married.

      1. Joline*

        Note: If Jane wasn’t around then Lizzy was Miss Bennett. Always the eldest “Miss” present, wasn’t it?.

        (not at all related to the general post – just to your comment)

        1. fposte*

          No, it’s family rank that matters regardless. What I’m having a hard time finding confirmed is the difference between direct address and style–my recollection is that we’re talking the style and direct address is “Miss Bennett” for both, but I can’t find a statement either way.

          It’s all pretty recent anyway, since before the 18th century or so “Miss” was about childhood and/or class, not marital status.

          1. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

            No, Joline is right. When Jane is present, she is Miss Bennet, but in the absence of Jane, Lizzy becomes the oldest ranking Bennet and is addressed as Miss Bennet. See: Lady Catherine addressing her as Miss Bennet while at Rosings Park, when she visits Longbourn to confront Elizabeth, etc. When Jane is present, however, she becomes Miss Elizabeth (see: when Jane and Lizzy are staying at Netherfield).

      2. fposte*

        But that’s not formality, that’s etiquette–oldest daughters are “Miss Lastname,” and younger daughters are “Miss Firstname Lastname.”

        In-house/local informality might make them both “Miss Firstname” (think Upstairs, Downstairs’ Rose and her beloved “Miss Elizabeth,” who was an older daughter and thus properly Miss Bellamy); that’s the place where it becomes closer to the Southern “Miss Firstname.”

    3. Seal*

      I’m also a Northerner living in the South. As a supervisor with a number of college student employees, I’ve reconciled myself to the fact that I’m going to be called Miss or Mrs. Seal (not married) as a matter of course. I also get lots of “yes, ma’am” and “no, ma’am”. I’ve never heard a male supervisor called Mr. Firstname, but all of them are called “sir” (“yes, sir”, “no, sir”). Never, ever heard that up North – truly a cultural thing.

      1. FiveNine*

        Yep, I’m in the North now and every once in a while a “sir” slips out when I’m comfortable and not monitoring myself and it almost always prompts a double-take (and instead of being perceived as friendly and casual it seems like the person on the receiving end thinks I’ve suddenly switched gears into the more formal and distant somehow). Definitely cultural all around — the practice, even the intended meaning and perceived meaning.

    4. Xay*

      There is one person in my office that I refer to as Miss FirstName. She is an older, Southern black woman and I use the term out of respect and friendliness. Not everyone calls her Miss FirstName and it is by no means expected that anyone do so.

      In general, no one goes my Miss or Mr FirstName or LastName – anyone who is called by their last name is either a doctor or holds a military rank but even that is rare.

      When I was younger, I was expected to call someone Mr/Miss/Mrs FirstName if they were an adult who was familiar to the family but not a close enough family friend to be called Aunt or Uncle FirstName. For example, fellow church members, some of my mother’s work friends, or some of my friends parents would use that title. That also is much less common – I expect my son to call adults by Mr/Mrs/Ms LastName unless they prefer something else. He is on a first name basis with all of his teachers and most of his friends’ parents.

    5. S*

      No, the “Miss FirstName” thing is totally unrelated to marital status, and it’s entirely separate from Miss/Mrs/Ms LastName. The entire point of calling her Miss Jane is that it’s more formal than just a first name and less formal than Miss/Mrs/Ms LastName. Miss Smith is simply a more formal address for an unmarried woman the same as Mrs Smith is a more formal address for a married woman; Mrs Jane doesn’t really make any sense.

      In my experience, the Miss FirstName thing would be weird in a professional setting; it’s most common among children to refer to close family friends or caretakers. For example, I was in a day care as a child where the counselors were mostly college kids, so we called them Miss Jane and, yes, Mr. Joe to be respectful while still acknowledging that they were not “adults,” so we could be a bit more casual than Ms. Smith and Mr. Doe.

      I think the underlying cultural norm here is the idea of “respect your elders” and “respect women.” Now, whether or not “respecting women” by treating them as more delicate or whatever is a positive thing is a different argument, but that’s the underlying concept – you’re showing a little extra respect for an older woman. And that’s why it has nothing to do with undermining authority – it’s about respecting your elders in a broader sense, and it’s separate from work-specific respect. (For that reason I think it’s preferable not to do it in the office, but I don’t think it’s really a huge deal either way.)

    6. Aunt Vixen*

      If I had a co-worker whom I called Miss Jane, I would refer to her as Miss Smith if I were talking about her with people outside the company. (Vendors, interview candidates, etc.)

    7. Phyllis*

      Yes, sometimes Mrs. _ is used. A number of the children in my church call me “Mrs. Phyllis” and some say “Miss Phyllis.” A few even say Mrs. Last Name. I don’t say anything because I realize that’s what their parents taught them. A few just say Phyllis. I don’t care as long as they are respectful.And yes, they call my husband “Mr. Richard”.

      1. Phyllis*

        BTW; it’s not always age-related. There is a six-year-old girl in our church everyone calls “Miss Dixie”. I don’t know why, but I think it’s kinda cute.

    8. Kay*

      I was born and have lived in Texas my entire life, and the “Miss Jane” thing really seems mostly for children to address adults in a respectful way. For example, instead of calling my girl scout leader “Mary’s mom”, I would call her “Miss Jane”. When my parents introduced me to other adults, they would call them “Miss Donna” or “Mr. Fred”.

      The tough part of this is when do you stop it? I’ve found that even though I’m now in my late 20’s, I struggle with calling people I have known since childhood by just their first name. Miss X or Mr. Y is just the name I know them by. The author mentions that some people have been introduced to others that way and I think that may be some of the issue.

      I’ve also found that people I meet as an adult, I tend to be fine calling just “Jane” or “Bill”, but many times if I’ve known them since I was a little kid, I revert back to “Miss Jane”. I also say “yes, sir” and “yes, ma’am” to almost anyone, even people younger than I am. I think that’s just ingrained in my speech pattern.

      1. Meg Murry*

        Yes, I’m on friendly terms now with my 2nd grade teacher and her husband, but I just can’t bring myself to call her by her first name – she was Mrs. Soandso for so many years in my life that I just can’t bring myself to say “Hi Jane” instead of “Hi Mrs. Soandso”. Which gets even more ridiculous when I see her with her husband, because then its “Hi Mrs. Soandso, Hi Richard”. But in my mind, she is “Mrs. Soandso” and I just can’t break myself of it.

        1. Kay*

          Yes! I have a teacher from high school that I’m still in touch with and he has tried to insist that I call him by his first name now, but I just can’t seem to bring myself to do it!

          I also have a cousin a few years older than me that went by a nickname all of his childhood and now goes by his actual first name. That one trips me up too. I associate the name with the person and breaking that association is really hard.

        2. Stephanie*

          Yeah, I’m still friendly with my childhood cello teacher and I struggle to call her “Jenni.” In my mind, she’s still Ms. Cello Teacher and is about to yell at me for not practicing my etudes.

      2. Melissa*

        I have found that many (most?) Southern adults expect it to never stop. That’s one of the reasons I switched to calling my MIL “Mom,” because the alternative was “Miss Jane” and I felt really weird calling my MIL Miss Jane.

        My own mother – a Northerner herself, but raised by Southern parents – still calls her in-laws Brother/Sister Lastname. It is suuuuuper weird, and I never wanted to be like that, so my in-laws are just Mom and Dad.

    9. Anonylicious*

      Socially, I would use “Mr. Joe,” but professionally I would not, simply because there’s still a lot of inequality between men and women in the workforce and I would feel like I was undermining my own status if I addressed a male peer as “Mr. Firstname.” Unless he was old enough to be my grandfather. (And my grandfathers would both be approaching ninety if they were still around, so that’s not likely.)

      But calling him “Joe” if he was old enough that I’d call him “Miss Jo” if he were a woman would still *feel* weird.

    10. LD*

      Responding to ZSD’s question as a native Southerner: Yes, there are differences and they are complicated by social relationships plus whatever is common practice in a community.
      In my experience, Miss Jane and Miss Smith are two different things. Mr. John and Mr. Smith are also two different things.
      Miss Jane and Mr. John can be married to each other and a close friend’s child would still call them Miss Jane and Mr. John. As close friends of the parents, and based on an expectation that children treat adults with respect, and since the parents are only calling their friend(s) by a first name, the children might not even know the last names. So regardless of marital status, the children use Miss in front of the woman’s first name and Mr. in front of the man’s first name. Marital status made no difference, only age and closeness of relationship. Mr., Miss, and Mrs. Last Name were for older people who were not as close to your family and for people that your parents also called Mr., Miss, or Mrs. Last Name. However, if there are older people in the community who were commonly referred to as Mr., Miss, or Mizz (not Ms.), then everyone called them that, regardless of the relationship. For example, Miss Liz who played the organ at church; Mr. Jim who ran the hardware store. (Yes. It’s true. The owner or proprietor of a business was often known by everyone in town as “Mr.” (or Mizz) “First Name.” It’s not universal, but it was and is still pretty common.) Your mileage may vary…

    11. Melissa*

      Miss Jane would be for a friend of my parents’, or a much older woman met in a social context.

      Miss Smith is a teacher. I can’t think of any other non-professional context in which I’d use this.

      And yes, the same thing is done with men – Mr. Anthony, Mr. John, etc.

      If they are really close friends of the parents, they become Aunt/Uncle. But never first names. My dad’s best friend will be Uncle Roland until the day I die, even if I live to be 90, lol.

  3. PEBCAK*

    Both #1 and #2 are things you *could* address if you have the rapport with the peers in question…it’s like someone having spinach in their teeth. Can you do it in a way that they would genuinely see it as a favor, and it wouldn’t cause embarrassment or long-lasting ill-will?

    My reading of the first one is that this type of apologizing is something that women commonly do because we are socialized not to impose on other people. If the OP is also a woman, and they have a decent relationship, it might be worth bringing up.

    1. OP#2*

      I’m a man, and I’m younger than her. So it’s sort of hard for me to say anything without appear inappropriate myself.

      1. mdc*

        The only way I can see this being handled well is a company wide email being sent out that all social media accounts linked to your job reflect on the company and anything associating you with the company needs to be professional and appropriate. Then list some things to be careful of and include photos in the list, maybe with some examples of professional type photos that would be okay to use.
        I have seen this myself where people choose their own photo for the company phone directory and some are obviously their sexy selfie of the day.

        1. MK*

          But that’s not something the OP could do, it would be inappropriate for them to give unsolicited advise on how their co-workers’ photos should be. A company-wide email would have to be sent by management; if they didn’t want to single-out this worker, they could make it a general notification instead.

        2. Graciosa*

          I kind of have an instinctive reaction against this because I hate it when problems with one individual are handled by some sort of new policy or admonishment to a group (most of whom have no idea what the problem might be and worry unnecessarily about the whole thing) rather than by a manager speaking directly to the individual who needs to be coached.

      2. JulieSunny*

        Like many other people who’ve replied so far, I’m a TERRIBLE rambler and I drive everyone including myself totally nuts. I’m also in recovery.

        About a year ago, I noticed that one of my colleagues at my (now former) office was starting to snap at me often and without provocation and then it started happening around our patients. I’m higher up than her but was not her boss so after she said something that I found to be unprofessional and rude in front of a patient, I realized I needed to speak up. I decided to approach her alone in hopes that we could resolve any issues together without involving managers. I spent some time thinking through my approach and practicing getting to the point and staying calm. When I approached her, she responded with … fury. I was not prepared for her to lose it and I was completely stunned. She proceeded to tell me just how annoying my talking is and how disruptive it is to her and yada yada/other complaints (“I know you were sleeping in your car during lunch last week!” … um, what????) and she was so mad that she was just vomiting out words and out of breath. I just sat there and focused on deep breathing so I wouldn’t lose it but eventually I had to stop her and ask her how I impact her ability to do her job and what I can do to ensure we can work together in a professional and cooperative way – other than shutting up, which, after this experience was never going to be a problem for me again. (and by the way, being a daily consumer of this blog was the main reason I stayed calm and focused on the professional aspects rather than getting caught up in my feelings being hurt — thanks, Alison!) I’ve thought about this a billion times and there are many, many things I should have done differently in that situation but I still think the parts I handled well are ALL due to your advice and the commenters!

        There’s still hope for us recovering ramblers …

        1. Julie*

          So how did she respond when you asked her “how I impact her ability to do her job and what I can do to ensure we can work together in a professional and cooperative way”?

          1. JulieSunny*

            That’s actually a really good question. I had to stop and think for a while because I have no memory of her answering that question. (I also went home that day and wrote out for myself what had happened and my gut reactions and then honest reactions — and I just looked at it and I didn’t note anything there either.) Truthfully, she kinda just kept going venting her frustrations without allowing it to be a professional discussion, so I just think I kept repeating (this is from my notes!) “In the future, if I say or do something that impacts your work and your ability to do your job, it’s appropriate to be frustrated and bring your concerns to me….and if for some reason things still don’t improve after that, then we should discuss it with our manager.”

            1. JulieSunny*

              And I kept interjecting when she brought up pretty odd complaints like my choice to close my eyes in my own car during my scheduled lunch break when we are all free to do whatever we’d like. (I had a headache from her snarky comments in front of a patient and I was still recuperating from a nasty virus that sent me home the day before!) Oy vey.

      3. KrisL*

        OP2, I can tell you want to help, but the risks of her taking this wrong seem too great unless you have a really good rapport.

    2. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      I think it’s different than spinach in the teeth, though, because no one puts spinach in their teeth on purpose because they thought it would be a good idea. The coworker in #2 presumably didn’t accidentally set that photo as her profile picture – she probably picked it out because she thought it was the best photo of her she had!

      As for the rambly coworker, I think that’s really unlikely to change. I’ve never seen someone get less rambly in response to that kind of feedback, including both of my dear-but-circuitous parents. I’ve had to just learn to smile at them inwardly instead of getting frustrated.

        1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

          Actually, I can be, too – I think we *can* change, but it has to come from wanting to. And I feel hurt enough when my fiancé, whom I know loves me, tells me kindly that I’m rambling and that it’s annoying… I’d feel absolutely mortified if one of my coworkers said something I like that, and I’d probably avoid that coworker entirely for a while.

          1. Mimmy*

            *fist bump* Hear hear!! Whenever my husband asks me something and I start rambling, he’ll say “Just answer the question!!” Even my posts get rambling sometimes.

            1. the gold digger*

              My husband is a writing rambler. I say, “Please send an email to Pete asking if he will pick us up at the airport.”

              He writes a long email that starts with a general salutation, an inquiry into the health of Pete, his wife, and their kids. Then a comment on how the Steelers or the Pirates are doing, depending on the season. A discussion of a good wine Primo had recently. A statement that we are really looking forward to our visit. Then finally, the question.

              I think he will be upstairs for two minutes with this email, but he does not return for half an hour.

              1. Julie*

                And I’ll bet sometimes Pete doesn’t even see the question in that long email. I’ve done this, and it’s been a real pain in the neck because sometimes the recipient doesn’t answer the question because they didn’t know it was a “question” type of email, based on how it starts out.

            2. Jean*

              Another recovering rambler here.
              Mrrrmph. (That’s the sound of my spoken verbiage being smothered as I replace the duct tape over my mouth. Not too shabby, this sneaky technique of slipping in more words?;-) )

        2. LBK*

          I am a horrible rambler (as is probably evident if you’ve ever read my comments on this site). I’m in the process of training myself to just get to the point when it comes to work stuff, but it’s so hard – it’s in my nature to try to give people as much background on my thought process as possible before I ask/tell them anything.

          (Seriously, it’s so hard to just end my comment there, I have like 7 other sentences I want to write. RESIST! RESIST!)

          1. Sandy*

            I am the opposite. I never give enough info the first time so my coworker has to prompt me for context (“sorry, what is this about?”) and then I give more information.

            1. Julie*

              I do this, too. I feel like I don’t know what the appropriate amount of information is, so it’s either too much or too little.

          2. Poofeybug*

            For you former English majors out there, I always say to myself: Hemingway, not Conrad; Hemingway, not Conrad.

              1. Anna*

                Ha! That’s funny because I’m a rambler myself, but I HATED reading Heart of Darkness for school. I like Hemingway enough, though.

                Ok, I admit, I may start rambling now but…can we cut the coworker from #1 a little slack? The way I see it, giving too much background is better than no background at all (I started a new job 2 weeks ago, and yesterday someone sent me an email full of unexplained acronyms: “Can you deal with the IPL TTC QRV? It needs to go out (no explanation of to whom) tomorrow.” (acronyms changed to protect the anonymity, not that anyone would recognize them anyway). I’d prefer that someone give me too much information as opposed to too little.

                Likewise, I feel inclined to do a little apologetic explaining when I’m asking for someone’s help or pushing over some unplanned work. I find it’s better for working relationships than being curt. At least, I have been told that I’m good at getting along with everyone and being an “ambassador” with other departments. Maybe it depends on the job.

                OK, I admit I may have been rambling here. But would it really have contributed more to the discussion if just said “I disagree.” and hit submit?

      1. mdc*

        I think a lot of the rambling is their way of apologising in advance for bothering you, for being too “stupid” to not know everything without asking, and for possibly making it appear they are criticising someone by asking a question.
        The last one I think does happen a bit – they feel by asking for clarification or even action they are somehow criticising the person who wrote the job instructions or who did the task initially. So all the preamble is the kind of softening you up for possibly making you feel bad.
        I would tend to say “Hey, no problem, it’s no big deal if you need X changed or want to know how to do Y. Just ask me directly, I am happy to help.”

        1. PEBCAK*

          Yeah. I feel like I see younger women make a lot of mistakes that I made as a young professional, and I had some good coaches/mentors, so I try to look for ways to help. I have definitely talked to younger women about attire, gum chewing, and stuff like that, and passed around “Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office” more than once.

        2. Elysian*

          I agree – based on the example, it sounds like she’s uncomfortable being direct and she’s trying to couch her question. I know a lot of people with this trait, and its always mentioned in the books I read about women in the workforce as a common female trait. Making her feel more comfortable asking the direct question could help. Ultimately though I hope someone points this out to her – it can be really self-defeating. I don’t know if that person should be the OP (depends on your relationship) but I hope someone eventually does.

          1. danr*

            Plenty of men do this too, but it’s hidden in a recap of the previous night’s big game and ends as “Oh, by the way,…”

          2. Heather*

            My (male) boss does this. In his case, if I had to guess I’d say it’s because he’s at a high level that few people get to without looking out only for #1 and stepping on some people along the way, and he doesn’t want to be perceived as one of them (he’s not – he’s one of the nicest people I know & is wonderful to work for).

            I doubt he does this around his superiors, though. Since most of them are the step-on-others-to-get-ahead type, I can’t imagine he’d have gotten as far as he has if he took that approach.

        3. fposte*

          The classroom equivalent of this is called “prefacing behavior”: “I don’t know, I’m not sure about this and maybe it’s a stupid idea, and maybe I didn’t read the book carefully enough, but is it possible that…?” It’s a habit I try to break people of, because it doesn’t protect them the way it feels like it’s doing, and it’s frustrating to listen to.

          1. OP #1*

            I agree with all of this. I think she does feel bad interrupting me or asking something she feels like she should already know. I also think some of it is being excited to finally have a reason to talk to our team/have someone in the building to chat with. She sites at our site and is a part of our division, but not on our team and is on the other side of the building. Recently she started helping our team directly which gives her a reason to talk us in more than a hi/bye capacity. I think some of her excitement to finally have others to talk to in the office is ramping up some of this.

          2. Julie*

            …it doesn’t protect them the way it feels like it’s doing…

            This! I don’t do this much at all anymore because I have finally learned this lesson, but I think this sentiment could be framed and hung up in therapy offices everywhere!

        4. Rat Racer*

          THIS. This is so true. And I think this is something that women tend to grapple with more than men, _and_ I think it is because many women are focused on building relationships within the workplace and leveraging those relationships to get the job done. (These are sweeping generalizations, I know, and the fact that I have to add in this caveat only proves that I am n=1)

          My husband is a software engineer who works in an office that is predominantly men. We have an ongoing argument about the fact that I think it’s inappropriate to write things like “RTFM” in response to questions people should know the answer to, or say “Your e-mail does not make sense. Please re-read and clarify.”

          In his office, that’s totally fine. In mine? Hoo boy…

        5. Abradee*

          Someone in my department is a rambler like this. However, I think a lot of it stems from her being an extrovert, and being able to get through every detail of what eventually leads to her point is energizing for her (conversely, as an introvert I find it exhausting!). She and my other report (a fellow introvert) have to share a work space, and so I promote a quiet working environment. While overall I think it’s the right thing to do to be productive (because we have work to do and otherwise the extrovert would try to pull the introvert into conversation all day long), sometimes I think this is challenging for the extrovert. So while I will cut the rambling extrovert off when necessary (politely, of course), there are times when I will let her go on one of her long-winded deviations in order to give her a chance to expel some of that energy. Just a little give and take here and there. This might not work for everyone, but I’ve found it to be a reasonable solution in my office.

      2. Graciosa*

        Oddly, I’m not a rambler in person, but I tend to write very long posts.

        In person, I can say something and view the reaction. If the other person understands me, we can move on.

        When posting, I’m more likely to be worried about causing a misunderstanding by not providing enough information – or sufficient nuance – to be clear.

        For any verbal ramblers who read this [nice long post], I recommend a little mental rehearsal and editing – practice getting to the point. It becomes increasingly important as you move up in your career. I actually rehearse my team for certain presentations, and spend a lot of time with them asking what we can cut (from both slides and commentary) to make it more concise. It’s a skill that can be learned with practice.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Yeah. It can be learned. When I first started working, a couple coworkers would routinely tell me, “get to the point!”
            At first I felt disregarded, then I realized their communication pattern was very different. I felt I was leaving out important details. They didn’t. Shocker.

            Working in fast paced environments helps to curb this, too. There is no time.

            I think the easiest thing to do is match the person who is speaking with you, or try to match them. If I am talking to a person who cuts to the point each time, then I try to do the same.
            However, there are times where I am hurrying and I encounter Chatty Cathy. ugh.

            I think if people can speed up when the circumstances call for speeding up it is easier to over look chatty moments.

        1. Heather*

          Are you me? The only reason I don’t post here more is because it takes me so damn long to get all my thoughts out in what I think is sufficient nuance and then edit them down to a sane length :)

    3. kd*

      This may not fly in the current workplace culture, but maybe you can retro-fit. Many years ago when I started out in my 20’s, I worked for a controller and a wonderful boss. This is one of the wisest things he ever taught me. When I started in on a ‘ramble’ question, he’d say “Stop. Go back to your desk and think about what you want to ask. Bring it down to 1-3 sentences and come back.” And it worked. I still use this advice.
      He also taught me, “You don’t have to like them, you just have to work with them.” ;)

  4. Coco*

    It’s interesting that if men were calling all the women in the office “Miss Name” but not calling the men “Mister Name,” I would be cringing, and yet I don’t feel that way if the people doing it are women.
    It is kind of bothersome to have a new manager come in and try to change the culture (especially if the manager is a man in an office of mostly women; it was unclear in the letter if that’s the case), but as a Portland OR-born young woman I might appreciate someone discouraging this kind of thing because it can seem like antiquated sexism when men do it.

  5. Wehaf*

    Also, #3 says “he told one of the girls…” At 22 or older, everyone in the office is well into adulthood. I realize this may be part and parcel of the culture that includes addressing women as “Miss Firstname”, but I would be even more bothered by being referred to as a “girl” than I would by being called “Miss Wehaf”.

    1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      This could be part of the office culture, too – when my father (a doctor) ran a medical practice, the women who worked in the office as secretaries, etc. all referred to themselves as “the girls”. I agree with you that I wouldn’t want to be called a “girl” professionally myself, but I do think it has a different tenor if the OP is female and peers with the people she’s referring to as “girls” (or if she is, say, an office manager and the “girls” are 22-year-old file clerks) compared to if the speaker was male and the boss. To my father’s coworkers, they used the term to indicate camaraderie and a cozy office atmosphere.

    2. Jen RO*

      Alison, could we put this in the list of ‘discussed to death’ topics? Some of us don’t mind being called girls (or even prefer it), some of us do, and I don’t see the value in discussing it every single time. (Wehaf, if you’re a new commenter, sorry, but this comes up so often…)

      1. De (Germany)*

        I don’t get this. What’s the harm in making the OP of that question aware that there’s people out there who are bothered by this? This might be good information for the OP to have. So far, there hasn’t been a “discussion”, there#s been one person pointing this out to the OP.

        1. LBK*

          It gets brought up on every post where the LW uses basically any term for a woman other than woman (girl, gal, female, etc.). It’s almost never relevant to the topic at hand and pointing it out serves no purpose to the LW in addressing the actual issue they wrote in about. I can see it MAYBE be relevant here since there’s undercurrents of sexism, but they would be on part of the manager, not the LW, so it’s still not helpful.

      2. hamster*

        yes, and perhaps the op boss may see it as a pervasive . I hate when one of my peers refers to some junior employees as “my kids” or “the kids” or “one of the kids” . It’s not demeaning per se and she means it in the good way but i see it limits they re potentian if after 3 years they’re still “kid”.

        1. Adjunction*

          I teach first year college students and one of the things my superiors mentioned to us all was to be cautious about not referring to them as kids. They are not kids, they are students. And I have to watch myself with this sometimes because many are 18, which is more than half my age so I have sometimes referred to them as kids, but never to their faces just in talking about my class to others. It is something to be aware of certainly because they are not kids, they’re students and referring to them as kids is demeaning.

          1. Anonicorn*

            It is something to be aware of certainly because they are not kids, they’re students and referring to them as kids is demeaning.

            And because first-year college students can be any age.

        2. LBK*

          I’m totally guilty of this. I do it because I view my employees as a sort of family, or at least as a group of people I’m proud of and protective of. I think I usually build a good enough relationship with my employees that it’s clear it’s meant to be endearing and not demeaning, but maybe not.

      3. A.*

        Especially since the conversation plays out the same way almost every time (most people agree with commenter who says using any term for woman other than woman is sexist, one or two people disagree, they get piled on with people calling them sexist, the back and forth takes up a huge part of the comment thread, very few minds are changed, etc, etc, etc). I get that certain topics should be revisited for new commenters or readers, but usually those are things that are relevant to the goal of the blog (e.g., how to write a good resume).

        And I’m saying this as someone who feels quite strongly that people shouldn’t use the term “girl” in the office. But at some point, you kind of have to realize that this isn’t a social justice blog and while the conversations are interesting (very, very interesting), sometimes that horse you are flogging is dead.

        1. Stephanie*

          Alison’s mentioned it several times. Short of moderating or deleting comments, I’m not sure how you’d stop the digressions. I think the digressions are some of the most interesting parts of the comments, but I agree the “girl” debate is overplayed and won’t be resolved.

  6. OP#2*

    Would I come across as obnoxious (or even inappropriate) if I told her supervisor, or maybe asking her supervisor to tell her to change it, arguing that she is hiring for *my* team, hence I have some “right” to be concerned?

    Thanks, again!

    1. Esra*

      Yikes, I think talking to her supervisor without trying to broach the subject with her would not end well. Honestly, I’m not sure how you could even bring this up with her and have it end well. I think Alison is right that this is something you just don’t have the standing to change.

    2. MK*

      By this rationale all departments would have a “right” to meddle in how HR is run. It’s pretty far-fetched to claim that your interference is appropriate because people who you might want to hire might come into contact with this woman and might look up her profile in LinkedIn and might be put off accepting the offer you might make them. Five “mights” does not a strong arguement make.

    3. Brittany*

      I feel you OP #2. One of my friends is a respectable nurse and both her Facebook and Linkedin profile pictures are a shot from her boudoir shoot -_-

      She’s insanely narcissistic and I would love to tell her but decided it was not worth the trouble.

      1. Ruffingit*

        If she’s insanely narcissistic, it probably wouldn’t make any difference if you did tell her.

        1. LittleT*

          I was coming here to comment on my coworker’s LI photo. She has her hand running through her hair, lips pursed and looking coyly at the camera. She is also wearing an off-the-shoulder sweater, a la Flashdance.

          I thought this was really inappropriate, but a boudoir shot takes the cake!

        2. Brittany*

          Oh yeah. The best part is that she cropped it right above where the suspenders covering her naked breasts are. But it still definitely looks like she is naked/totally full of herself.

          1. Kay*

            After reading yesterday’s article about LinkedIn not being a dating site and hearing that some “professional escorts” use it, I would wonder if she was getting “requests” with a picture like that on a professional networking site….

      2. Stephanie*

        Or she’d take it as a giant affront and proof that the world is against her. I have an acquiatance who is narcissistic and it can be exhausting dealing with her.

        1. Mallory*

          Or she’d take it as proof that the picture must be really good if it’s making you so jealous. Not that you’re jealous — but narcissistic people usually think that comments about their inappropriate dress must be prompted by jealousy.

      3. Heather*


        Those exclamation points should really be in neon colors and blinking to get my reaction across :)

    4. Ruffingit*

      I don’t think this is a good argument for reasons stated below by others. If you really want her supervisor to know, you could go with an anonymous note, but that has a ton of pitfalls too in this case. I think you’re better off either biting the bullet and broaching it with her yourself (again, tons of pitfalls with that) or letting it go.

      1. Sunflower*

        Yea, I wouldn’t worry too much. If I was looking for a job and saw that picture, it might throw me off a little as strange but I wouldn’t disqualify the company or the job because of it

      2. LBK*

        Yeah, unless the person in question was going to be my manager, I probably wouldn’t think twice about it, assuming I even bothered to look up the HR rep on LinkedIn – and why would I? Presumably I’d be more concerned about looking up my hiring manager, since they’re the one making any relevant decisions.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          Sometimes the HR reps reach out to potential candidates directly on LI.

          As a female in engineering, getting contacted from a recruiter like this might give me pause, mostly because I think a woman who thinks this is appropriate is not a woman I will click with. I’d already be thinking pursuing her opportunity is going to be a waste of time because I won’t be her favorite candidate. Now, if I had applied directly & she just happens to be the one to call me for a phone screen or whatever, I might not look her up on LI, or care about what her picture looked like.

          OTOH, I’ve seen some women in my LI network have racier pictures, and they get many compliments from the men, so it probably won’t affect the male candidates’ opinions as much. I have a 6′ tall blonde German former coworker, and she looks hot no matter what she’s wearing in her picture. : )

          1. LBK*

            An HR recruiter isn’t the person who decides who their favorite candidate is, though. Their job is usually to do very basic screening, and then any real decisions are made by the hiring manager. Who cares if you get along with your HR recruiter? You know the last time I spoke to the one who recruited me? 2 years ago, when I got hired. She isn’t the one who ultimately decided if I got hired, and she has no impact on my job now. I just don’t think “how well will I get along with this recruiter?” is a question worth weighing when it comes to job hunting, or at least it would be at the very bottom of my priorities.

    5. Sunflower*

      The only way I see the picture getting changed is to present an entire social media campaign kind of. Maybe if you present something about the company being more active on LinkedIn, it might alert her bosses of the picture and they can go from there- maybe see if HR will bring in a photographer for the employees to get professional pictures done and everyone can update their profiles? Even then, who knows if she’ll change the picture but I think this is the only idea where you’ll have a legit shot

    6. BB*

      Are you sure the supervisors haven’t already seen it? If you’ve seen it, and she’ a recruiter, good chance her supervisors are also connected to her and have seen it already?

  7. HR "Gumtion"*

    #2- I see no issue asking her to quickly get to the point of the question. I’ve even asked my boss to do this when he was rambling through an uncomfortable (for him) request.

    #3- I believe it best to post this picture for us to make a fair assessment.

    1. Sarahnova*

      Is your last comment intended to be joking?

      Alison has judged that it’s not a very professional picture, and described why. Our role here is really to advise LW#3 what, if anything, he/she is in a position to do. This woman also does not deserve to be deliberately embarrassed by having her picture posted to be judged by an anonymous group of posters.

      And if you were implying you wanted to see the picture because it’s seductive, I don’t find that funny.

      1. Joey*

        Oh come on, it’s obviously much easier to give an independent opinion on the picture by actually seeing it rather than relying on Alison’s description.

    2. Algae*

      Wow. Especially after yesterday’s article on not using LinkedIn for dating, your last comment is really inappropriate.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          So did I, frankly. Obviously I’m not going to post someone’s photo without their permission, and I’m sure HR Gumption knows that, so I took it as a joke.

          1. Sarahnova*

            Fair enough. But especially after yesterday’s discussion, I’m a little tired of jokes of that nature, and while the woman in question’s judgement is evidently not great on this issue, I feel like we strive on this site to be above mocking someone, or getting into sexualised joking about a woman.

            1. Tomato Frog*

              Yes. I get the joke, it didn’t make me mad. But I would rather have not seen it here. It’s nice to come someplace and not encounter any “Need pics. For science!”-type jokes.

      1. Jen RO*

        I found it funny, and knowing HR [Random]’s usual posts, it was obviously a joke. People need to relax.

        1. HR “Gumption”*

          It was a joke and I understand how some may not thought funny, I respect that.

          For those that expressed shock and indignation, C’mon! The comment was mild at worst and certainly not “pearl clutching” worthy.

  8. Nina*

    #1: If I ever got long-winded in discussing something to a coworker at oldjob, she would chuckle and say “Just give me the Reader’s Digest version.” We were friends, so I could laugh about it. I think something like this could work if you and your coworker have a friendly rapport with each other. But if you are more civil than friendly (like acquaintances) then I would go with Allison’s advice.

    1. Purple Dragon*

      # 1 – I really wish some people came with a fast-forward button. We used to have an HR woman who did this and it drove me up the wall. After a 3rd 16 hour shift in a row she caught me in the lift going home and started rambling – I said to her “What do you need, in 25 or less words”… did not go down well. I don’t suggest that ! I usually just focus on my breath if I can’t escape them, or have them email me their question. That way I can skim to find the point. They never seem to mind getting a half dozen word reply, if only they’d take the hint !

    2. OP #1*

      I love this idea! I’m not sure if she will get the Reader’s Digest reference, but I’m sure I can think of something comparable.

      1. danr*

        “Please cut to the chase”… I had a coworker who would ramble. If I didn’t have time to listen, I would break in and be direct. I would also take time during a break to stop by and ask “What’s up?” and have a rambling conversation.

      2. Tasha*

        I’m young and I get the reference. (You’re talking about Reader’s Digest abridged novels, right?)

        1. OP #1*

          Cliff Notes is perfect!

          @Tasha, I’m young too, but I don’t think Reader’s Digest has the level of instant recognition/understanding needed to get the point across quickly and effectively.

    3. Tara B.*

      My go-to phrase for situations like that is “land the plane” as in “Stop talking in circles and get to the point.” I don’t use it in a work setting, though.

      I like the “Readers Digest” one.

      1. Trillian*

        Mine is, “Quit cackling and lay the egg.” Never to be uttered aloud, of course.

        My style tends to be in-and-out, minimizing the length of the interruption rather than maximizing the apologies, which works well with some people but I have to watch it with others.

        1. Chocolate Teapot*

          I don’t know if anyone remembers the UK sitcom “Spaced”, but there was the “Skip to the end”, which cut out a lot of blathering.

    4. Rose*

      Or, since it sounds like much of her rambling is sort of apologetic about the interruption, you might try saying something like, “Hey, please don’t feel like you need to apologize or explain why you need my help.”

      THIS. When i was new to work I felt embarrassed and apologetic every time I had to ask a question, so I would go on and on explaining why I didn’t know.

      1. Anna*

        +1 to this. Sounds like she’s just trying not to be rude to OP 1, so he shouldn’t be rude back.

        1. OP #1*

          I’m a she :) and yep my goal is to encourage her not to continue to ramble without being rude/brusque about it. I know I could just cut her off and say get to the point, but I don’t think that would be the right approach here.

          1. Anna*

            Apologies! OP#2 is a he and I got confused. It sounds like you (OP#1) are trying to do right by your coworker and I appreciate that. Kudos to you!

  9. Stephanie*

    #1: I’m a rambler. I’m a chronic over-apologizer and hedge requests based on the remote chance that I am imposing upon the person. I also talk very quickly. For me, it is a lack of self-confidence and a worry that I’m bothering the person. Your coworker might be the same way. All the suggestions Alison gave are good ones.

    #2: I interviewed at the corporate headquarters of a pet retailer. I looked up my interviewer on LinkedIn and her photo was her with her dog. I guess it was relevant to her line of work, it just seemed odd (and gave a bit of a nutty pet owner vibe).

    #3: Just ick. Using Miss ____ just sounds like you’re referring to domestic help.

    1. Dan*

      When I went to school in DC, the black cleaning staff would refer to each other as “Ms Jane”. I never understood it, and well #3 was crossing my mind.

      1. GigglyPuff*

        I’ve seen that a lot to in the South. The one explanation I might have for it, is in situations where you want to designate respect for an individual in that position, but you have no idea what their last name is, and it’s not usually used in introductions. I *believe*, this is how everyone referred to the female janitor our first in college, “Miss Janet”, and she had no issue with it…although I do believe her colleagues just used her firstname in this instance.

      2. Stephanie*

        Yeah, I always heard it used with the workers in the cafeterias in high school and college (in Dallas and Houston, respectively). The workers were mostly older black women, so “Miss” was a sign of respect.

        But like A Dispatcher said below, I also think of “Miss Scarlet” or “Miss Daisy” where “Miss” is used as a sign of subordination.

        “Miss” is just so loaded, I can understand why OP’s boss wanted them to cut it out.

    2. A Dispatcher*

      It actually makes me think of the help referring to their employer… “Miss Scarlet, Miss Scarlet!!!” I do understand it is a cultural thing, but gosh does it sound weird to those who aren’t used to it

    3. Sawrs*

      Spot-on assessment of the rambling, speed-talker’s condition. You’re so anxious not to put people out, desperate not to take up too much of their time, hoping you don’t sound as boring and scatter-brained as you feel, and end up shooting yourself in the foot by being imprecise (not to mention feeling and looking increasingly foolish) when precision and brevity are exactly what you want to convey.

      It’s such a difficult habit to break, especially for shy people. Shyness and insecurity often manifests in loud ways; it’s a coping tactic, I think, trying to beat back the anxiety by feigning blustery overconfidence.

      1. Ruffingit*

        It can definitely be a difficult habit to break. Takes a lot of practice. One thing I would suggest is practicing your script before you ask the question so that instead of “So um, I was just um thinking about that um thing we talked about at the meeting today and um. I was wondering if maybe instead of Idea 1, we could like you know go with um this other thing because…” you could practice a script that is more like this “Do you have a moment? Rather than Idea 1 that was presented at the meeting, I’d like your thoughts on Ideas 2.” Much more precise. Figure out what you want to ask and practice asking THAT taking out all the fillers and apologies.

        This is not easy at all. But with practice, you get better.

        1. Stephanie*

          Yes, this. I am slowly breaking myself of this habit, but it is very hard. It took a couple of really honest friends to tell me to stop apologizing and that I was sounding weird and insecure for apologizing for things like the cheesecake having cracks. (Ok, that sounds ridiculous when I write it out now, but that did stem from the insecurity of “Crap! I screwed up the recipe and they’ll all notice the cracks” when really people were just excited I brought homemade cheesecake.)

    4. Dang*

      I’ve been working for a recruiter so on LinkedIn often.. and you would not BELIEVE how many people put up odd pictures. As in, seductive poses between two cars, pictures of messily eating cake with (presumably) their children, etc etc.

      1. Ruffingit*

        We had a discussion sometime back about the LinkedIn photos. It’s shocking what people think is appropriate for that forum – photos with kids, photos with family in general, photos with cars, fun family pics at the waterpark, etc. It’s not Facebook and I think people confuse the two quite often.

    5. JulieSunny*

      Your comment about OP #1 is pretty on point. Are you me? Haha. It’s ironic that in our attempts (or just mine) to not bother other people, we/I end up actually being more bothersome and irritating than if we/I had not tried to compensate for it in the first place.

  10. Chris*

    I’ve noticed that at my library, in the midwest, many children refer to the librarians as “miss {firstname}” (sometimes “mr _____” but not as often). It seems to be, generally, African-American children, though plenty of others do it as well.

    That said, adults? It would be utterly bizarre to me. I think using that title implies a difference in respect or authority, which is not appropriate for coworkers, IMHO. I totally get that in some cultures/regions/contexts it’s appropriate, I’m just saying how it sounds to my ear

    1. Youth Services Librarian*

      I’m in a midwest library too and yep, kids (and often their parents) refer to me as “miss firstname”. Teachers seem to go by “miss firstname” for younger kids and “miss/mrs lastname” for older kids. I actually hate miss but parents would be horrified if I told kids to just call me by my first name. One of my colleagues who works exclusively with young children, 5 and under, is ALWAYS “miss firstname”. So many people call her that, even adults, that I think a lot of little kids think it’s her whole name! I can’t imagine it in an office setting though – and I grew up in Austin TX too (although that’s not really “south”)

    2. Kacie*

      As a public librarian, we all end up calling each other Miss XXX, even when the kids aren’t around. It just gets in your head. We didn’t have men working as librarians at my branch, so I couldn’t say how that would have worked out.

      1. Youth Services Librarian*

        We have one guy – Mr. firstname. I do try to introduce other staff as Mrs. Lastname, b/c that’s what most parents and teachers seem to prefer, but sometimes on school tours I’m just too flustered to pull all the last names of staff out of my head…

  11. Apollo Warbucks*

    #2 maybe the photo is a side effect of what we were talking about yesterday and she has joined the LinkedIn dating site? Either way you might want to talk to her about the photo casually, maybe say you look at her profile for a work related reason and say you thought the photo detracted from an otherwise very credible profile, and it might give the wrong impression to people she connects with

  12. A Dispatcher*

    #3 – ugh, we have a calltaker who does the Miss First-name thing with our callers and it drives me insane. We’re in the Northeast and it’s just very odd to hear it anyway; I’d imagine it’s worse, perhaps when disconcerting, to someone who is calling 911 in distress.

    1. Ruffingit*

      OH NO. NO. I would think it very odd when calling 911 to hear “Now Miss Ruffingit, I need you to calm down…” UGH, NO.

    1. Gene*

      Inside every “Bless his/her/your heart” is a tiny FU.

      Something my southern grandmother used to say, except she didn’t clean it up.

  13. FD*

    #3: Minnesotan here.

    Some of the women in my office will use Miss FirstName as an affectionate title for each other, though not as a regular form of address. I’ve mostly seen it used with fairly close peers, though, and not as a regular mode of speech.

    1. MaryMary*

      I’m a term of endearment person, if you’re my friend I will call you honey and sweetie. I try not to do that at work, for obvious reasons, but it’s my personality to want to soften how I address people in less formal situations. I will occasionally call a woman Miss or Lady, especially if I’m asking for a favor. The gentlemen are sometimes referred to as Dude. Sometimes I’ll say “thank you, ma’am/sir,” again, especially if someone has gone out of their way for me. Not everyone in the office, not all the time, and certainly not when talking to my boss. I’m from Ohio, if that matters.

    2. Persephone Mulberry*

      Also Minnesotan, and I was going to post the exact same observation.

  14. Arjay*

    I’ve lived in the south only since I was a teenager, so I was too late to be raised to use the “miss first name” title. I get called Miss Arjay at work pretty frequently though, and I have a tendency to respond to those people the same way by calling them Miss too. In my head I always thought it was just friendly and affectionate, like a nickname. I only realized fairly recently that they’re probably using it as a sign of respect since I’m 20 years older than a lot of them. That makes me wonder what they think when I turn around and “Miss” them right back.

    1. Elsajeni*

      I think you’re doing it exactly right, actually! My experience is that “Miss Firstname,” between adult women, is usually used across some kind of status boundary — whether it’s an age gap, an office hierarchy thing, or whatever — but that it does generally go both ways across that boundary. If the admin in my office calls me Miss Elsajeni, I call her Miss Susan right back — to just say “Susan” would be like saying, “You’re right, I am of higher status than you and deserve a special degree of respect.”

  15. Lora*

    5. Oooh, been there.
    -Make it clear to your people that while you cannot change many things to make it better, you CAN do X, Y and Z, and then do that as much as you can to show them you mean it.
    -Convey to them in any way possible that you give a single crap about them. Can be little things. My folks two jobs ago liked to make advent calendars, murals, art projects type of things, so I ordered a bunch of construction paper, markers, etc. for them to do that stuff (yes on company time).
    -If you can, give them a little time to work on their own ideas. Even if all you do is say, listen, I can’t give you 10 hours/week to do whatever you like, but we have a discretionary budget of $x, so if there’s something you want to work on, let me know and we’ll make it happen.
    -No lunch meetings without lunch. You are a manager, you can put your foot down about the little annoying things. Do so.
    -Listen to them vent. Really, really listen. Just sit your rear end in the chair, and pretend you’re a doctor listening to a patient talk about his aches and pains. Give them your full attention. Then say, basically, “I’m sorry, that’s a real bummer, I wish it was different too.”

    Yes this will suck up time. Totally worth it though.

    1. OP #5*

      Sadly, I’m not a manager, or even a team leader. Just another engineer.

      Although perhaps I’ll pass this on to my (terrible) manager… *g*

      1. Lora*

        OK, I misread that, sorry.

        Can you organize some team things? How hands-on is your manager? Is s/he all up in your business all the time, or do you have leeway to build go-karts or something in your spare time which you have so much of? I used to let the crew make liquid nitrogen ice cream, draw faces on the reactors in Sharpie marker, give their prototypes goofy names…They made lists of Organizational Values on the common white boards, had their own little side projects. We had Journal Club, too, in which we would review articles and comment on them, which were not always work related–sometimes just nerdy things we were interested in (e.g. polyketide biosynthesis). Stuff like that. I was technically their manager, but even if I hadn’t been, nobody would have cared very much. Until EH&S found out about the liquid nitrogen ice cream thing, which they felt was a wee bit dangerous, anyways.

  16. Del*

    1. Rambler

    Ugh, my boss’s boss does this, and it drives me bananas! I can’t exactly tell the Big Guy to get to the point, but when he makes a simple quick “FYI here’s an update on Thing” take five minutes to spit out, it’s like nails on a blackboard.

    3. Miss Firstname

    I started my working life in the South, and got very accustomed to this method of address. It was affectionate and a tiny bit playful, and definitely connoted a warm relationship between peers. Having moved away from that, I actually miss it, despite my roots being firmly in the far cooler Northeast.

    That said, having the boss suggest “Master” as an alternative pretty clearly shows that he has no idea how or why it’s used, and that he’s probably hearing it in a very different way than anyone else involved. What it (should) convey is “I feel comfortable and friendly with you, and also regard you with respect.”

    That said, I’ve also heard Mr. Firstname used for men, not quite as often but also not enough to be rare or surprising. It’s more to do with gendered expectations for friendly intimacy than anything else — remember, this is a Southernism! So there’s culturally a little more distance between men and women than there is between women and women.

    5. Combating low morale

    There’s a fine art to being positive without being irritating when you’re in a genuinely poisonous environment. When things are really awful, the last thing you want to do is come off as blind or tone-deaf to people’s legitimate gripes. But cutting the complaining, being sympathetic without feeding the spiral when someone else is complaining at you, and looking for ways to find the bright side really can make a difference in the atmosphere.

    For example, if someone is complaining at you, you can say, “Yeah, that’s awful!” and then stop there without adding your own complaints into the mix. Acknowledge what your coworker is upset about, rather than blithely assuring them everything’s okay or telling them to look on the bright side. You can also add a, “but at least we get Goodthing!” When you’re saying it with the “at least” you’re not making it a counterargument so much as a counterbalance, while acknowledging that the cloud is much bigger than the silver lining.

    1. Annie O*

      “There’s a fine art to being positive without being irritating when you’re in a genuinely poisonous environment.”

      Couldn’t agree more! My previous co-worker once told me that my positivity was like salt in an open wound, and that I’d be more sensitive if I just listened to her complain without trying to fix things or look on the bright side. In the end, I had to get out. Even thinking about that place makes me feel a bit gloomy.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        In extreme cases, the group could turn on OP.
        The only thing I can suggest is see if you can use the manager’s blow ups to pick out recurring situations and offer a solution.

        I have also talked to the manager about keeping things on an even keel, making the work place less stressful. It really did not help that much some people thrive on upset/upheaval. But it did open the subject that I could refer back to now and again. “Oh remember how I was talking about minimize the upset around here? Well I see that X seems to be causing a problem. I have an idea….”

        I don’t recommend this. It’s easier to leave.

  17. BCW*

    #3, I’m a northerner (or Midwesterner I guess, its Chicago) and while I get that the Miss thing is cultural, I don’t think the manager is being tone deaf. His logic actually makes a lot of sense. That level of respect seems more like a subordination thing than a peer thing. If a 25 year old and a 60 year old are true peers, then to me, they should address each other as such. And if men aren’t getting that same “respect” than it is a problem. If the question was “In my office, we are supposed to address all men as Mr. but women are addressed by their first name” these comments would be up in arms about how sexist it is. I don’t see this as much different.

    1. A Teacher*

      I agree with your point, I also grew up on the outskirts of the Chicago suburbs. I made a different point above, I will say as a coach there have been a few times when I’ve taken my students for a tournament and the bus drive actually refers to herself with me and not just my students as Mr. Tom or Miss Molly. Its kind of weird, I usually just say their first name (and ignore) without the Mr. or Miss because they refer to me by my first name without the Miss First name.

    2. LBK*

      And I could even see referring to women as Miss but men by their names as some kind of overprotection against sexism – it implies a certain amount of emotional distance to me, like they’re concerned that if they don’t make all efforts to show how much they respect women as colleagues then they’ll be considered sexist. “We must be extremely sure that every single thing we do around the delicate women-folk is polite and respectiful, lest we be accused of sexism!!!” Which would ironically be sexist anyway.

      So no matter what the reasoning, doing this for one gender and not the other is a problem.

    3. bearing*

      Since the OP says that it’s the younger associates who use the “Miss ____” formulation, I wonder if it’s a case of new-t0-the-workforce young adults not really having internalized yet that they are peers to their older coworkers. (It reminds me of how when I was first in college at age eighteen, it took me a while to learn not to refer to my fellow students as “the other kids in my class.”) After being raised in an environment where children always use an honorific to older people, they may not have internalized that they themselves are one of the adults now. It’s one of the casualties of our highly-age-segregated educational system, I guess.

      Maybe the best approach is to individually reach out to the young workers who are doing this and remind them that they’re peers, not subordinates, and they’ve earned the right to drop the honorific.

      1. LBK*

        Oh wow, that’s an interesting point – when you’re younger, the peer/superior divide is pretty much always along age lines, and some people may not realize when they get older than if someone is your coworker, they’re basically always your peer, so no need to treat them like a superior regardless of their age.

      2. Mints*

        Agreed. I think this is more about peers than about gender. If all the Associates, for example, are supposed to be peers, why would you call the 25 year old Associate “Jane” but the 50 year old Associate “Miss Janet”? In the workplace, they should be called the same.

        And the argument that “everyone says that in the South” I find unconvincing because strangers don’t call me the same thing coworkers do. I mean, waiters call me “Honey” or “Sweetheart” and I don’t say anything, but I wouldn’t work somewhere where coworkers called me that. Or people I meet through my mom sometimes call me the Spanish diminutive of my name (“Minita” if I pretend my name is Mints) but again, it’s different at work

  18. MR*

    As someone who was born and raised in the North, and married a girl who was born and raised in the South (and living here now), what the manager did is Not Cool, presuming the office is somewhere here in the South.

    It took me about 2.3 seconds to figure out the first time that I came down here the first time to address everyone as Miss X or Mr. Y. It’s possible that may be due to the particular location in the South, but I’ve come to understand that it is just widely done down here.

    This is something that the manager will not win. Bless his Heart, but he needs to get over this. Someone with some standing needs to pull him aside and tell him how things are in the South.

    1. BCW*

      But isn’t it just as easy for his employees to adopt that mentality while at work? When I was a teacher, it wasn’t hard for me to call other teachers Mr. or Miss whatever when the students around. Socially or in meetings, I would use their first name. Its not that hard of a thing to do. If you could start using those formalities in your daily life, why is it so hard for them to stop using it while at work? Its like cursing. With my friends, I curse like a sailor. At work, or if kids are present, its easy for me to not do it. I don’t think its that difficult of a concept.

    2. A Teacher*

      Agree with BCW, I also teach and I will call my assistant principal, principal, janitorial staff, secretaries, etc… by last name in front of students, in meetings or when students aren’t present we all revert to the adult form of our first names, its not that hard. Our superintendent insists on going by Dr. LastName even in private, which is her decision, but then gets flustered when we address ourselves to her as Miss LastName. We are equal or we’re not and the Mr. Miss thing makes for an unequal playing field among peers.

    3. Graciosa*

      Would your answer change if you knew that someone in the office had complained about the differing standards of treatment by sex?

      I have no reason to believe that’s true, of course – although it would be if I was in the office and he was my manager – but I think that “this is the way we’ve always done it and don’t expect us to change” has both its place and its limits as a justification for behavior.

  19. H. Rawr*

    A person at my office does this kind of pause-for-effect, giant sigh, eye roll, and “sooooooooo” thing and then proceeds to complain, and look for someone to be incredulous with him, with MAYBE a request for some help thrown in at the end. I don’t know why it is so irritating to me, I’m usually super patient, but I just can’t stand it. I’ve started to look him right in the eye when he comes by my desk and “interrupt” the eye roll part of the process with a really direct “what can I help you with?”. It doesn’t cut down on everything, but it does kind of get across a sense of “get to the damn point” without being pointedly rude.

  20. Bea W*

    Our group had a high level team member like this. There was no changing it. That was just how her brain worked so we learned to live with an expect it, and if time was short to redirect the conversation back to the original topic. Letting her know time was short helped to refocus her enough or speed her up.

  21. Sunflower*

    #3- The other thing to consider is the business and how they speak with clients. I can’t imagine being a client somewhere and having someone tell me ‘Miss Donna will be helping you with that’. I’d feel like I was back in pre-school.

  22. bearing*

    “Not everything that should be acted on by someone can be acted on by everyone.”

    Sometimes I think AAM’s advice could very easily be exported to general advice about all of life.

  23. Lily in NYC*

    #1: I think you would find DISC training very helpful. It really makes it clear about how different personality types work and made me so much more patient with certain coworkers. I used to get somewhat offended by my former boss’ no nonsense style and taking the DISC class (it was free through my office) really opened my eyes that he probably found my “hi how are you” spiel in the morning to be annoying. I started acting in a manner I considered cold and abrupt, and lo and behold our relationship got a lot better even thought in my mind it felt like I was being unfriendly.
    During the training, we all took personality tests and then were placed in groups with the others who had the same results (for breakout work). There were 50 of us, and I was the ONLY one in my little personality group. It showed me that it was up to me to adapt my personality to everyone else’s, because I was the outlier.(Not that I think that’s the case here – I get the feeling your coworker would benefit from it more. But I really got a lot out of it and everyone in my office did as well).

    1. Graciosa*

      I think DiSC is a great tool, although I tend to find Myers-Briggs a little easier to work with.

      I loved your comment about acting “cold and abrupt” and having the relationship improve – it really illustrates the gaps between the messages we intend to send and the messages that are received. “I care about you as a person and not just for what you can do for me at the moment” gets received as “Your time is of so little value that I’m free to waste it on trivialities.”

      The key is figuring out how to make communicate so that the recipient hears the message you wanted to send, and DiSC and other similar tools can really help with that.

      1. Graciosa*

        Apologies for the extra word in the last sentence (apparently I didn’t m̶a̶k̶e̶ communicate effectively).

    2. Annie O*

      I totally agree with this. I like taking the personality classes with my work group, not so much to learn about my own traits but to learn about the best ways to communicate with other personality types.

    3. periwinkle*

      Our team took the DISC assessment and I found the discussion very helpful for improving communication. I’m partnered with someone who is my exact opposite; we had already developed a good working rhythm but the assessment and resulting discussion made it even better.

      I don’t know how much empirical research there is to validate tools like DISC, but the important thing is that it got us all talking about communication styles.

  24. Cleetus*

    #4. I may be way off here, but I read the OP’s question as being slightly offended that the offer was turned down via email instead of by phone. Is rejecting an offer by email something that’s generally frowned upon?

    I’ve twice rejected offers by email. In both instances I could not reach the HM by phone, left a message, and then sent an email. In one case I never heard anything again. In the other, the HM called me back to sweeten the offer.

    While email wasn’t my first choice either time, I wanted to let the HM know that I was declining as soon as I had made up my mind so that they could move on to their next candidate quickly. Is it better to wait until you can speak to the HM, or is email generally OK?

    1. Graciosa*

      I wouldn’t have a problem with email, and I would appreciate having a decision as soon as possible. Actually, I think email conveys a certain finality that may not be quite as clear from a phone conversation.

      A phone conversation might be helpful on other fronts if the candidate who declined the offer is ready, willing, and able to provide feedback on the hiring process. That was one element I thought could be added to Alison’s answer – the phrasing about anything “we” could have done to change the candidate’s mind may not get to some of the issues that impact the hiring process.

      If there is an opportunity to ask for more general feedback, doing so might uncover some issues unknown to the HM (Taleo system, mishandled interview scheduling, less than professional communications from screeners, etc.). The phrasing used seems to me to be asking more about things within the HM’s scope (offer terms, office culture, etc.) and may not elicit feedback on things perceived to be outside the HM’s control (like the insane Taleo system).

      As an HM, I want all the feedback on any issues in the whole process. I may not be able to change everything, but I would certainly make my opinion known internally to the right people if these types of problems were impacting my ability to recruit top talent.

      1. AVP*

        I would agree about the finality – and if there’s feedback, I like having it in writing so I can refer back to it later if there’s an opportunity to act on it.

    2. Colette*

      That’s a good point – it could be that the email aspect of it was part of the question.

      I don’t think there is anything wrong with responding by email, especially if you’ve made an effort to get in touch with the hiring manager by phone. If they’ve done most of their communication by phone and you respond via email without trying to call them, that would be odd, but if you’ve tried to call, I think it’s fine to email a response.

      I also think it would be fine to email a response if that’s how you got the offer (i.e. if there was no phone call with an email to follow up, just an email with the offer).

  25. Grey*

    #3: The worst are the ones that will get their answer, then give you the backstory a second time, rephrasing it just to make sure you understood why they asked.

      1. Sharon*

        OMG, I’ve had coworkers like that! One in particular who would rephrase three or four times before finally accepting my answer as an answer. And it wasn’t a “no” scenario, either, but agreeing to do what she was asking. I kind of wondered if she felt I was just saying yes without understanding, you know how people sometimes say yes to a question just to be polite when there is a language barrier? Except there wasn’t a language problem here, we were both speaking English.

    1. LBK*

      *raises hand*

      Guilty. Totally guilty. Although I broke myself of that habit much more easily than I’ve been able to break my rambling habit.

    2. Big Tom*

      I have a coworker who does this, gives you the long explanation coming AND going. It’s almost insufferable sometimes. We’ve tried various methods of heading them off, especially when they’re giving us an incredibly unnecessary amount of context that we already have. It’s like they assume that they’re asking every question in a vacuum, or that we all forgot everything about our jobs as soon as they started talking.
      Any attempt to derail them, however (“are you talking about X? I’m familiar with that,” etc.), results in them pausing for a second, giving a little bit of a glare, and launching right back in, “well what I was saying was…”

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I once witnessed a conversation like that. The other person told the rambler, “Please do not talk to me like I am stupid. I am fully aware of our work environment and I do not need explanations of basic information that is well-known.”

        I thought it was a little harsh but it was either that or a bucket of cold water to shock the rambler into reality. Maybe this person asked the rambler several times to get it under control, I had no way of knowing. I did walk away vowing never, ever to be THAT person.

  26. Katie the Fed*

    #1 – definitely hard with a coworker unless you’re friends and she’s not too sensitive.

    I did this with one of my employees, but it was easier because she works for me. But I told her that her message gets lost when she overexplains things, and if she wants/needs help with people in general it’s better to get to the bottom line first

  27. Joey*

    #3. I think the biggest problem with the Miss thing is it makes lots of people think you’re holding onto the old cultural norms that are associated with discrimination and slavery. Even if you aren’t just the appearance that you may be is what’s problematic in my opinion. So for that reason it may be a cultural thing associated with southerners, but that doesn’t make it okay.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Yes, additionally, I think that people who are not familiar with the culture think it is disrespectful. Just as “bless your heart” and other phrases are not what they seem on the surface, “Miss” falls into that same category in some people’s minds because of lack of familiarity.

      While I understand the comments that pointed out this manager made a huge mistake. He is between a rock and a hard place because he has to watch out for any type of bias in the work place. Because the men are not addressed as “Mr.” that could work into a issue later on.

  28. Fabulously Anonymous*

    The LI pic reminds me of the trend to want to be “approachable” – or fun or full of personality or who knows what in the case of the OP. It seems that some people just don’t want to be seen as professional, and I have no idea why.

    1. KimmieSue*

      I am one of those people that like to have fun with my profile pictures. Its even worse during NFL season as I’m a huge football fan and change my picture about every week. I’ve posted pictures with boas, tiaras, NFL jerseys, me with semi-famous people, etc. I don’t think it is based on wanting to be “approachable” but just who I am as a person (generally fun spirited). That said, I don’t post pictures that are racy, sexy, show too much cleavage, or are suggestive. I think we can be fun and still be seen as professional. I don’t think the same applies to being seen as sexy AND professional.

  29. Jess*

    #5- I second Alison’s advice regarding the complaining. I’m in a similar situation myself and the constant complaining really feeds my own anger and frustration. In my situation, it started as occasional venting and it was originally comforting to know that what I wasn’t alone in what I was seeing and experiencing (being relatively new to this workplace). The commiseration quickly became counter-productive though. It’s like picking at an open wound- it inflames the situation. I find myself having a harder time separating myself from and ignoring all of the constant, little irritants and manifestations of a bad management/environment that I can’t change.

    1. GrayThan*

      Picking at an open wound works great as a metaphor. Keeps it open longer, hurts more, leaves a scar when it finally does heal. Instead you should clean it up, apply antibiotics or other appropriate treatment and bandage it (aka fix the issues as best you can), and leave it alone most of the time, with occasional checks to make sure things aren’t getting worse.

  30. Anon.*

    To #1: We have a co-worker like this and we just tell him to get to the point. He knows he goes on and on and just needs to be told when he’s doing it. This might not work for everyone, though!

  31. Poofeybug*

    It is a Southern thang. I have been called Miss Poofeybug by some very polite young Southerners, of all races. It’s respect and, from what I understand, based mostly on age, not a place of subordination. I did ask one of them to stop because it made me feel like my grandmother — which I probably look like to her eyes! On another note, when my 40 year old partner called his new 60 year old coworker Jackie, she definitely corrected him that she was “Miss Jackie.” He never made that mistake again.

    1. Joey*

      You’re kind of contradicting yourself. Its a sign of respect for elders but not a sign subordination? Do older people deserve more respect because of their age?

      1. BCW*

        Ha, if my peer tried to “correct” me by telling her to call her Miss something, we’d have a lot of issues at that point.

        1. Poofeybug*

          I think in this case, Jackie felt it was a sign of respect for Mr. Zack to call her Miss Jackie. (And no, she doesn’t call him Mr. Zack.)

          1. BCW*

            Thats my point. If she isn’t calling me MR. BCW, why should I call her Miss Jackie? It seems that she assumes she deserves more respect than I do, and as a peer, there are many issues there.

            1. Poofeybug*

              Well, in his first week on the job he was not going to have a throwdown with a woman old enough to be his mother. If she’d wanted to be called Princess Jackie ho would have gone along with it. It seems such a small thing. There are battles to choose in this world and picking a fight with this woman 20+ years his senior wasn’t anywhere near one of his.

        2. Poofeybug*

          They are peers, yes, but you did read the part that she was old enough to be his mother, right? Might that shine a slightly different light on things?

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Within a workplace context, no, it doesn’t change anything. They are peers and should relate as peers.

            In a social context, it might be different.

      2. bearing*

        “Subordination” could imply professional subordination, as in “this person is one of my subordinates.”

        “Respect” is something everyone deserves. And whether older people deserve particular respect due to their age is a cultural variable; in some parts of the country and in some groups, young people are absolutely taught this.

        1. Joey*

          I’m not disagreeing that it happens, I’m just saying that in the workplace it’s not particularly effective to expect people to give one particular group more or less respect than everyone else. Doesn’t everyone deserve the same level of respect regardless of their age or title? I’m not talking about treatment as it relates to employment actions that depends on ones worth to the company. I’m talking about basic respect as it relates to how we treat each other as humans.

          1. bearing*

            “Doesn’t everyone deserve the same level of respect regardless of their age or title?”

            Maybe where you come from. What I am pointing out is that some people were raised to give particular *signs* of respect, for example, the use of an honorific, to older people. This varies across cultures, and like anything that varies across cultures, it can be off-putting to someone who doesn’t recognize it for what it is and misconstrues it.

  32. Magnolia*

    I could be OP #5. I feel like comparing notes with my coworkers is what’s keeping me sane right now – that I really need a second opinion to confirm “yep, the boss’s behavior is wrong and crazymaking.” I’ve been in jobs with horrible managers where no-one complained, and feeling isolated was a large part of what drove me out. But AAM’s advice is usually good, so there’s probably something I’m not seeing here. Can anyone elaborate?

    (The management that has been protecting my bad boss is changing in two months, so I’m gritting my teeth and waiting it out. Otherwise I’d be job searching already. Other than the boss, it’s a really great job for me and I want to stay if I can.)

    1. An omnom mouse*

      Are you me? This was a big issue at one of my old jobs, it wasn’t just that I was having issues with my manager but that it felt like I was the only person who had a problem with his management style. Especially when our team lead left, I felt like I had no one in my corner, and the isolation really fueled my misery at that job.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I guess I’d ask what you’re getting out of comparing notes at this point. You know your boss is horrible — dwelling on it and poring over the details doesn’t usually help.

      1. Pennalynn Lott*

        I think the benefit of comparing notes is that, in toxic situations, you start to second-guess yourself. “Is it me? What have I done to cause this bad behavior from my manager?” Having someone validate that, no, you are not crazy, this is really happening, can help you ground yourself to deal with the reality not the “What ifs”.

        The best analogy I can come up with is having a therapist meet your spouse/partner and confirm that, No, you are not crazy, this person really IS gaslighting you. It anchors you and gives you a set-point from which to base your decisions about where to go from here.

        Because sometimes you’re not really sure if your boss is horrible, or if you’re the problem.

      2. Magnolia*

        What I’m getting is reassurance that no, I’m not being over sensitive or reading too far into things – this is the boss being a jerk. Otherwise I end up in circles of “well, maybe it’s all just in my head.” This person is particularly talented at being great one moment and WTF the next. They’ve been in trouble with HR often enough to know what they can get away with and what they can’t, and they walk that line with mastery.

        C Average is probably right, I need to go for a beer with friends who are willing to listen to me rant yet again.

    3. C Average*

      My general policy is to only complain to someone who can somehow help address the problem.

      If I don’t like the way my manager is managing and want to see it change, I can take it up with her or HR or someone in the chain of command who’s been identified as an appropriate go-to for this kind of feedback.

      If I’m looking for insights into working WITH my manager more effectively (as opposed to changing how she manages), I might take it up with a peer who seems to work really well with my manager.

      If I’m looking purely to vent, I go for a beer with a friend who works somewhere else, or I post to the open thread on AAM!

  33. JM*

    #2 – When a recruiter calls me I usually pull them up in linkedin just to see their profile. In my opinion, how you dress up shows who you are and, to me, the profile pic in linkedin shows the company culture.

    I work for an employer who recently had a free photo shoot for each one of us in business/business casual attire just to have us use those pics in linkedin and company profile (not mandatory though).

    1. Joey*

      2. This makes no sense. I’ve seen plenty of sharp dressed recruiters that suck. Ironically, the head hunter that facilitated my wife’s hiring in two of her best jobs was a woman with a pretty gaudy appearance.

      1. Sharon*

        I think it’s a nuanced issue. You’re right that plenty of professional-looking people aren’t professional in their behavior. But inappropriate photos just tell me that the person is probably tone deaf. It might not be right, but we do judge people by appearances. If the OP’s recruiter reached out to me for a job opening, I would delete her message without responding because I’d think she was another one of those trolls looking for either dates or predators online. (I get those on Facebook on occasion.)

        It also reminds me of the one (and only) time I tried to use Lending Tree to get some loan quotes. One of the lenders who sent me an offer included a photo of her standing in her home kitchen wearing a sloppy t-shirt and jeans. She has money to lend, really? From the cookie jar, or what? LOL

        1. Joey*

          I’m not saying we don’t. I’m just saying its not a very smart way to make decisions. I can tell you in my wife’s case she probably wouldn’t have taken the gaudy headhunter very seriously if she had looked at her picture before pursuing opportunities with her.

        2. LBK*

          Mark Zuckerberg wears jeans and a hoodie in pretty much every photo that’s ever been taken of him. Just sayin’.

      2. JM*

        Could be true but as the saying goes the first impression is the best impression. At least for one, especially when it comes to something like this.

    2. LBK*

      I think this is a huge mistake, honestly. Not only will an HR recruiter have exactly zero impact on your day-to-day job, but their appearance in one photo may have absolutely nothing to do with the company culture. Actually getting in the door and speaking to the hiring manager (aka the person who will actually control how your job works) will give you a way more accurate perception.

      Think of it the reverse way – that nice, professional photo the recruiter has could’ve been taken at an old job 10 years ago, and the company he works for now has a horrible toxic culture. In that case are you ready to comfortable state that you’d definitely work for that company, just based on the recruiter’s picture?

  34. LizNYC*

    #5 Oh, I’ve so been there! At OldJob, the morale was so low (the three of us underlings had survived two rounds of downsizing) and we despised our manager, who did nothing expect delegate every bit of work to us (seriously, she did nothing all day). What we did (YMMV):
    –complained about something work-related every day. Yes, that could lead to bringing us down, but it also helped to know that you weren’t crazy for thinking a certain situation was messed up.
    –made time for a coffee run each day just to get out of the office.
    –Sent around a funny email / photo / something to the group just to get our minds off the monotony.
    –We were all looking for new jobs, so we helped each other in the job search — while looking for new positions for ourselves, we’d forward stuff to each other (on personal emails, obviously), read over resumes, fake interview each other, covered for each other when we were out of the office for the real interviews, etc.

    In the end, nothing really worked 100%. We all ended up leaving for much better jobs — ones that had positive cultures. If management is not on board with improving morale, it’s an uphill battle.

  35. Stephanie*

    #5: A close friend and I had this awful jobs. We would meet up and then just b*tch about how terrible our jobs were. Friday would be “Yay! We made it through a week of TerribleJob!” Sunday would be “OMG, we have to go back to TerribleJob tomorrow.” Wednesday would be “Why is is only Wednesday? Still two more days of TerribleJob.” It was fun and cathartic initially, but after a while, we were just fueling each other’s misery. It would have been more productive if we spent that time working out ways to get out our situations. (We did have other things in common, I promise!)

    Similar thing happened with a work friend at this same job. We vowed to be more positive about the job and then realized the only things we had in common were the job and complaining about the job.

  36. Malissa*

    #1. “Don’t lose me in the details, what’s the point?” I use this a lot because my mind over works if I get flooded with details. Always say this in a kind and concerned manner. Either that or have a KISS talk with her. KISS=Keep It Simple Stupid. Which basically means you sound smarter and more assertive if you keep the crap out of the conversation. Which usually leads to better results.

    #2. Bite your tongue and walk away. Not your circus, not your Monkey.

    #4. Bless you for even considering this! Keep it open and friendly!

    #5. Be the change you want. Don’t engage in the negativity. Hopefully others will follow your example.

    1. OP #1*

      I like this too. I think I could work with “Your losing me, can you give me the short version?”

    2. Arjay*

      +1 to “Not your circus, not your Monkey” – I have this thought ALL day long at work, but I”ve never heard it expressed so vividly and succinctly before.

  37. Gene*

    Re: #1

    I get it from two sides, I have a peer who must think he’s paid by the word. Every mode of communication from him is long, too much mostly extraneous detail, opinions, TLAs with no reference to what they mean, etc. A short email from him will be a full page, a normal one at least two. And the letters he writes! What I can say in one short paragraph takes him at least a page. I can deal with him in conversation by just telling him to get to the point.

    The other one is my supervisor, who processes by talking. And talking. And talking. Not a lot to be done there other than switching off my brain until he reaches the conclusion point.

    1. Programmer 01*

      Oh my goodness, you need to get your supervisor a duck. I have no words for how effective it is, nor how many hours of my time it has saved, by installing a duck on my office entrance. 90% of the time people walk in, talk to the duck, realize the answer, and walk back out again without ever needing to actually get my attention.

  38. MarketingBelle*

    Yikes! I’d have a hard time with the Miss decision! I grew up in Washington, DC and it’s quite definitely cultural. It’s really hard for me to part my lips and call a woman who is my grandmother’s age solely by her first name. It’s just the way I was raised. I’m a manager and I call several of the older assistants “Miss ___”, even though I’m senior to them in status. It’s a form of respect.

    My mother is a pretty high ranking government official (who is only in her early 50’s) and she says that when she hires interns or younger assistants, they have the tendency to call her Miss Jackie, although she’s never asked them to, so it’s definitely “a thing” here.

    To take it a step further. I’ve worked in Africa where every young woman, who looks to be unmarried (say mid-20’s) is addressed as “Aunty” and middle aged women are addressed as “Madame” and all elderly women are addressed as “Grandma”. These general greetings are exclusively for women. It shows that they are respected in society.

    1. Editor*

      I think one of the things people are struggling to convey in their comments about honorifics is that the “respect” an honorific conveys may be an empty honor, which instead labels the recipient first as having a particular sex, age or social class. In the case of your example in Africa, I would say that while social deference may be conveyed by “Aunty” and “Madame” and “Grandma,” do these women have fully equal rights under the law and equal economic opportunity and are men called “Uncle,” “Mister” and “Grandpa”? If not, then the “respect” conveyed by the honorific is a fig leaf for discrimination. Note, too, that the women are being defined by their position in a family or tribe, not by their degree of education, leadership skills, profession or other marker.

      However tone deaf to local culture the new manager is, the various explanations here about subordination, respect, hierarchy by age and more show that calling a woman “Miss Donna” sends a mixed message. Dropping the “Miss” seems the best way out of the confusion, even if the manager’s examples are lame.

  39. Mints*

    About ramblers:

    I’ll preface this by saying that I remember the “interrupter” thread from awhile ago, and I know this won’t always work. But when I used to work with these types of apologetic ramblers, I’d interrupt them early on, and say something like “No problem. What do you need?” or “No worries. What’s up?” in a friendly way, and smile, and give them all my attention. And if they were still rambling, once I could guess what they needed I’d interrupt again with “Okay, so you want me to see if [you can switch shifts with one of my staff?] [you can be paired with this person on the field trip?] [I can explain the bathroom procedures again?]” etc

    It worked a lot of times because people weren’t sure about the request, but once I phrased it for them, we could see what I could do.

  40. Programmer 01*

    I wind up in this situation a lot, especially with new hires or people new to my team.

    It sounds like a confidence thing. My script is usually, “You don’t need to apologize to me. You’re doing your job and you need something. Let me do mine and help you with what you need.” As soon as you get someone broken out of the habit (even if it’s just for you), you will find that they get right to the point once they realize you’re not going to set them on fire for taking up your time and you recognize and respect them as a professional.

    This is not the same script for someone who is just coming by to chat, and if it’s really an issue I lay out our office expectations (yours may vary): If you need an answer now, in-person. If you need it in 20 minutes, Lync. If you need it sometime today, or need a paper trail, email.

    Now if I could just get people on Lync to stop prefacing a conversation with “Hi…” and wait for a response from me before they even start to type their 10-paragraph question I would be so happy.

    1. KrisL*

      I also hate it when people start the Lync with “Hi”, and then I say “Hi”, and then it takes them a minute or two to actually ask whatever it is. I’m working; I’m busy. Just ask me what you want already. It’s distracting to be waiting for the follow up to “Hi” and trying to work at the same time.

  41. soitgoes*

    This is a personality tic that sometimes develops when you anticipate having to answer a lot of follow-up questions about your motivations for needing a simple piece of information or if you’re used to being blamed for stuff you didn’t do. Basically, there’s a chance that this person has had either a lousy former boss or some lousy parents. Say something like, “Hey, no need to explain yourself to me. I understand why you’re asking.”

  42. Cassie*

    #3: Back in the ballet studio, the kids would address the teachers as Miss Firstname. And if the teachers were referencing a fellow teacher, they would also say Miss Abby, Miss Betty, etc. We live in California, so they wouldn’t normally call each other that, but only did it if talking to the students.

    I don’t think there were any male teachers for the younger kids (by the time the students got to middle-school aged, they tended to just call the teachers by their first name) but we did have one teen who grew up in the south and called the male teacher “Mr. Firstname”. She was the only one who did that, and he didn’t seem to mind. We had a guest teacher (also male) who insisted on being called “Mr. Lastname” by the students. It was kind of odd because we all called him by his first name for ~ 3 years and then one day, he told us to call him Mr. Lastname.

  43. NYC Southerner*

    I once called a coworker “Mr” only to realize it was a woman. I haven’t used “Mr” or “Miss” since.

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