declining a lunch or breakfast meeting without being rude, disorganized recruiters, and more

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

1. I feel guilty job searching when my manager is sick

I’ve been at my current job for a number of years now. I joined the company right after college. The company has been growing, and there is a big push for marketing, which I am not comfortable with. Additionally, I have been working primarily on the company’s largest client. While it can be rewarding work, I have been stressed out so much due to the workload and their demands. I have had a few panic attacks, ulcers, and now high blood pressure. I would really like to leave my job and pursue other opportunities in order to lessen my stress and feel better about my skills. I know I have the ability to do good work, but working on this client has killed my confidence and self-esteem.

I have a few interviews coming up, but I just found out that my boss is sick. Is it terrible of me to think about leaving at such a time? There are other partners of the company that will step up, but I have a lot of specific knowledge on the client. I feel guilty for wanting to leave, but I have been miserable for the past couple of years. I had finally decided that I wanted to leave prior to finding out the news of my boss’ sickness. Can you offer any advice?

No, it’s not terrible of you to be thinking about leaving. You need to make the right decisions for yourself — and that would be true even without your deep unhappiness there and the stress-induced health issues, but it’s 100 times more so in light of those things. If your manager is a good manager, she wouldn’t want you basing career decisions on her health; she’d want you to do what’s best for you.

Job search without guilt, and just do what you can to ensure a smooth transition when you leave.

2. Declining a lunch or breakfast meeting without being rude

I am a membership director for a chamber of commerce. It is a sales position, obviously; I meet with members and prospects on a continous basis, at my office or their place of business. Recently, a new male employee of one of our members has asked to meet either for a 7 a.m. breakfast or a lunch meeting, even suggesting a restaurant close by their office. I can easily say that before 8 a.m. I am not available due to child care. I have a personal policy that I do not meet with those of the opposite sex outside of a professional environment, alone (mainly as advice from other coworkers or colleagues). How do I say this to him without it coming across in a “I think you’re creepy” kind of way and not to offend him?

Well, you definitely shouldn’t tell him that you don’t meet with men alone outside the office; that’s going to make him feel uncomfortable and awkward (because it implies you think he’s in some way unsafe to either your person or your reputation) and will cause tension where it doesn’t need to exist. Instead, why not just say that you have trouble getting away for lunch but you’d be happy to meet with him at his office or yours, and suggest a few times that would work?

That said, if your stance on this is really mainly due to advice from coworkers (as opposed to personal preference), it might be worth rethinking. Breakfast and lunch meetings are pretty common, they generally take place in public, and it seems like a shame to to have a blanket rule about half the population. Again, if this is your personal preference, then fine — but you mentioned others advising it, and I’m pretty surprised that you’re finding that widely recommended.

3. Are these recruiters too disorganized to work with?

I applied for a manager position at a mid-sized company (6,000 employees). I passed the initial phone screen with “Internal Recruiter A” and was invited to interview in person with the hiring manager. A few weeks after my interview, I was contacted by “Internal Recruiter B.” I thought it was a follow-up call, but realized she was recruiting for the same position and was attempting to put me through an initial phone screen. When I shared that I had already interviewed in person, she became flustered, put me on hold, and then stated that there were two recruiters working on this position and they just had overlapped their efforts. Not a big deal, but I didn’t think this was a good sign. Despite several attempts for feedback or a decision on my interview, I never heard back from either recruiter.

Months later, they posted a new opening which required a similar background, but was clearly a different position. I decided to apply, but was not contacted. Today, I received an email from “Internal Recruiter B” saying she had come across my LinkedIn profile, liked my background, and would like to talk to me. My LI profile very closely matches my resume so I don’t understand the confusion. I anticipate your advice will be “RUN AWAY” since they sound like a very disorganized company. However, how would you suggest I respond to her email (if at all)?

Eh, I don’t think it has to be such a big deal. Recruiters talk to thousands of people; it’s not a deal-breaker that they overlapped efforts or forgot you’d applied a few months ago, or that they’re responding to your LinkedIn profile now when they ignored your resume earlier. I’d just say, “I’d love to talk with you. To refresh your memory, we actually spoke a few months ago about the X position.”

4. Everyone who worked on a project was thanked, except me

I was recently asked to help out on a project outside of my normal duties because no one on that team had the skills to do it. It took almost a week of my time where I started to fall behind on my normal and I let manager know. After the project was complete, the entire team was thanked, invited to a launch party, and taken to a separate dinner. Except for me. It has made working with this team a chore and dampened my normal enthusiasm for work. How can I raise the fact that I feel my work has been undervalued because I don’t complain, without sounding like I am whining about being left out?

I wrote out a response to this and then read your letter again and realized this project was another team’s, which changed my thinking a bit. Here was my original answer: Wow, that sucks. I can see why you’re feeling stung. I’d approach this from the assumption that there was a miscommunication somewhere rather than that you were deliberately snubbed — both because that really is the most likely explanation and because it’ll make it easier to bring up. Say something like this to your boss: “I don’t so much mind that I wasn’t asked to the launch party or dinner to celebrate the X project, but it makes me worry that you and (head of the other team) don’t know the role that I played on it.”

But realizing now that it was a different team that brought you in for one piece of it, I think I’d try to just let this go. Yes, ideally they should have recognized the work you did, but they’re probably thinking of it as “team X’s project” and just didn’t stop to realize they should include you too. That sucks, but that kind of thing happens. If they were appreciative of your work at the time and you otherwise feel well treated at work, I’d try not to be too bothered by this.

5. Linking to a work project from my personal website

I have worked as a programmer analyst at a university for a little over a year now, and I just finished creating a new web application that potential students will use to apply for admission to the university. It was an important project to my boss and to the president of the university, so I would like to add a screenshot and explanation of the application to my “Projects” section of my personal website. I thought it might be okay because it is a public-facing website. Would that be inappropriate?

Sure, I don’t see any problem with that.

{ 201 comments… read them below }

  1. Reader*

    Alison – #3
    “Months later, they posted a new opening which required a similar background, but was clearly a different position. I decided to apply, but was not contacted. Today, I received an email from “Internal Recruiter B” saying she had come across my LinkedIn profile, liked my background, and would like to talk to me.”
    Your answer is fine as far as it goes. But I think the question is about having applied to the second position and then being contacted because of her LinkedIn profile and not her new application.

      1. majigail*

        I think it comes across good now.
        I’m wondering if some resume scanner kicked it out because it didn’t rank high enough, but the human recruiter saw parallels in the LinkedIn profile the computer didn’t. Maybe the job was buffing the chocolate teapots and the OP has experience drying mocha wine decanters. Something like that.

  2. Artemesia*

    Throughout my career, I often met with men ‘alone’ (in crowded restaurants) sometimes at breakfast, at conferences etc. It seems entirely unprofessional to me to behave like such a delicate flower that one’s gender drives such ordinary business interactions.

    Of course, if a particular man sets off one’s spidey sense then avoiding this adroitly without making an issue of one’s gender is appropriate.
    I would also not mention child care and such as reasons for not taking breakfast meetings (although I did have several male colleagues over the years who used that excuse as well, so maybe it is less of an issue now) It is fine to not be available then without making an issue of one’s personal and family life in the workplace.

    I think professional women should behave like professionals and not maidens in need of a duena calling attention to their gender as a handicap. Lots of two person lunches with a particular co-worker may ignite gossip, but professional meetings with clients never have in my experience.

    1. Jen RO*

      I totally agree and I like your wording. I’d be curious to hear what the reasoning behind these people’s advice is… avoiding gossip, religion (‘women should not be alone with men who are not their fathers/husbands’), unwanted come-ons?

      1. PEBCAK*

        Probably the last one. It’s hard to know what the situation is here, but if he’s weirdly persistent about meeting over a meal instead of in the office, it can be hard to tell the difference between a guy who is pushing for a lunch meeting because that’s what his schedule best allows/he wants an excuse to expense a lunch and a guy who is pushing for a lunch meeting because he’s going to make an unwelcome advance.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I mean, it’s possible, but we’re all adults. Avoiding professional lunches because a very tiny percentage of people might make an unwanted advance over lunch seems like it’s letting that concern control your choices far more than is warranted by either the likelihood or the degree of difficulty in handling it if they do.

          1. Ruffingit*

            Completely agreed. I find a blanket policy of not having business meetings out of the office to be stifling and out of step with general business etiquette. Out of office meetings over a meal have been a norm in every business environment I’ve ever been in. It’s also concerning that the reasoning given here is because the person OP is meeting with is a man. “He might sexually harass me, come on to me, behave inappropriately” is an unfair sweeping generalization about half the population and insulting to them. It’s like saying you wouldn’t hire a female secretary because she might sleep with the boss. It’s just grossly unfair and discriminatory to boot.

            TL:DR – Don’t make business decisions based on gender. It’s insulting, unfair, and may hurt your professional reputation.

          2. PEBCAK*

            Right, blanket policies are usually an excuse not to think. If someone was weirdly persistent about meeting outside the office, though, I might stop and ask myself why.

            1. Leah*

              I can think of two reasons. He wants his company to cover the bill for a nice meal or his office generally doesn’t have meetings so the space is not conducive for one.

          3. Joey*

            I thought you wanted us to stick to the question that was asked by the op and avoid analyzing their actions/views?

            Maybe I just need to wait for your comment expectations.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Avoid analyzing their actions/views? No, that’s not what I’ve said! The commenting guidelines are up; there’s a link to them above the commenting box. (Let’s avoid discussing them here, but the open thread today would be a good place to do it.)

          4. Artemesia*

            Professors including one I had fall of my freshman year in college, numerous professional contacts, the occasional client have all made unwanted advances. Grownups know how to gracefully deflect unwanted advances and shut that down. Most men do take a fairly subtle ‘no’ for an answer. Most of these advances did not occur during business meetings over lunch or breakfast. When men want to make a move they don’t require food to do it.

            But whatever one feels about dining with individual men for business at least don’t project the idea that it is because you are the property of some other man or your Daddy wouldn’t approve.

        1. Celeste*

          I have too. Several faiths have a more orthodox group. It could also be local culture–whether this is the deep South and evangelical Christianity is common, or a western area where there is a large Mormon community. The idea is to avoid even the appearance of impropriety for the community’s sake.

          Without bashing anybody’s religion, I will say that in my experience, human nature is such that if two people want to start something up, religious tenets won’t be a deterrent.

          There are ways to manage this. You could invite somebody else from your office along. You could arrive early and excuse yourself to the restroom after saying goodbye, so as not to have to be together on the sidewalk.

          I guess I don’t really understand how you would be meeting with him alone if you meet him at the restaurant and you two go your separate ways afterwards. With all of the staff and other patrons moving around, you would have more chaperones than you ever could if you meeting in either of your offices.

          1. Lar*

            Celeste, I think you are right on. It could have nothing to do with religion and simply be the norm in the area the OP lives in. In a smaller sized city/town, I can see this being widely accepted as professional behavior for both sexes.

          2. Vanilla Bean*

            If I had to guess, it’s a religious thing. It happens a lot where I live (in a Southern state with a lot of evangelical churches).

            I’ve posted this before, but a close friend of mine worked for a religious institution in town that wouldn’t allow members of the oppositive sex to go to lunch together (i.e. one man and one woman) because of the problems it could create. Basically, two married staff members had an affair and would frequently take their lunch breaks together, which is supposedly how it all started. Personally, it seemed like a silly policy to me – after all, why penalize all of the staff because of the mistakes of others?

            We all have personal boundaries and this sounds like it’s one for the OP. When we set personal boundaries for ourselves, we have to think about possible consequences. I’m sure she has outweighed the positives and negatives of these personal boundaries and is okay with it.

          3. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

            I live in Utah and have never heard of this, but I haven’t been in any industries that generally have these client-type meetings, so I might be out of step. I’m pretty sure there are a lot fewer “let’s get coffee” kind of meetings around here no matter what the industry, though, because such a large percentage of the population doesn’t drink it.

            1. Woodward*

              I live in Utah too. I’ve had a few “let’s go get Jamba Juice!”, but no coffee invites.

        2. MT*

          What I don’t get, is that she will have a one on one meeting with a man in his office, but will not have a meeting one on one with a man in a restuarant.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Not as publicly visible and the environment screams “work!”

            Which if you think about it, if someone is going to say something out of line, they probably don’t care where they are standing when they say it.

            1. LBK*

              What’s ironic about this for me is that what’s happening in a closed office without a window could be much more inappropriate than out in the open at a table at a restaurant. You’d think being in a public place would actual lower the suspicion of something lewd occurring, not raise it.

          2. AVP*

            I guess it could be less about the actual possibility of impropriety and more about the appearance of it. Ie, other people seeing you out and about and gossiping about something totally innocuous.

            (Not supporting the idea, but I think it could explain the discrepancy.)

          3. cuppa*

            Honestly, as a woman, I would be much more comfortable having a one-on-one business meeting at a coffee shop or lunch place than in an office, especially in a C of C where it is my experience that there are not many people in the office during the day.

        3. Turtle Candle*

          That was my first thought too. I grew up in a very religious area (conservative Christian in my case), and it was generally known that you wouldn’t/shouldn’t do one-on-one meetings with a member of the opposite sex off business premises (and, in fact, on premises, it was a good idea to keep your door cracked open for those meetings). I’m fairly sure that a number of people found it silly, but did it anyway because the reputation repercussions of not following that particular standard were very real. (Sometimes it did, in fact, get awkward if they were meeting with someone from another area where this was not the norm.)

          Of course that might not be the case at all here, but what the OP can and should do about this will depend in part on whether this is just her own personal rule or something larger in the culture (ie, whether the colleagues who gave her the advice are representative or not).

      2. MaryMary*

        I know people who will not have breakfast, lunch or dinner one on one with someone of the opposite sex to avoid gossip. I think it’s being overcautious, particularly for breakfast and lunch meetings. However, the founder of my company had rumors surface after he had dinner with a beautiful young woman….his daughter.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          See, that just proves what I kept thinking while reading this thread, which is that you can’t control what other people will do. If you spend time around a gossip, expect them to gossip around you, and just limit your time and familiarity with them accordingly.

          IMO, if you lead your life as if you have something to hide, people like that will actually look harder. If you live your life as if you have nothing worth hiding, people like that will usually find an easier target. But to me it’s more about living on your own terms than letting someone else define your personal choices, if that makes sense.

          1. NylaW*


            If people know she doesn’t ever have business breakfast or lunch meetings with men, then the one time she does break that rule or change her mind, everyone will think there is something to it and the whole thing ends up viewed in a totally different light.

        2. TK*

          That reminds me of the adjunct professor who wrote in here asking about dealing with constant rumors that he was dating a student at the college he taught at.. who was in fact his sister. He had to regularly re-clarify their relationship to new administrators, etc.

      3. neverjaunty*

        When I’ve heard people say this, it’s usually “people will think you’re having an affair with him/trying to sleep your way to the top”. That said, I find the OP’s policy a little puzzling in that it’s not clear what ‘professional environment’ means. A breakfast meeting at a restaurant or the office for business purposes, I would think, counts as a professional environment.

        1. Celeste*

          I think she means only an office is a professional environment, because that is where her circle can accept that work is being done. She had stated that her personal policy is one she was given from people she works with, presumably in her area. It may be that they won’t allow any other venues to be a professional environment, and she is toeing their line.

          1. Celeste*

            I totally thought I did the bold right and of course it was wrong. Sorry, only meant to bold *they*.

          2. Anonsie*

            That was my impression as well– if the people I work with say this is a no-no according to our workplace culture, then fine. I’ll follow it if that’s what they expect, even though I think it’s extremely silly.

    2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      I’m going to +1 Artemesia, back out of this conversation and flip over to my work server because I don’t think I can contribute without going off the rails at some point.

      After a 30 year career where I broke into an previously all male field to work my ass off to get where I am…. I negotiated a lot of gender based limiting crap to do this. Cannot fathom people limiting themselves and others on the base of gender.

      The opposite sex is nothing other than a bunch of individuals. It is not a monolith.

      And fwiw, the only outright pass made at me during a one on one business dinner was from another woman.

      Okay. See. I can’t do it. Bye! :)

      1. Foxtrot*

        No, I’m with you. As a female intern in a male dominated field, I would be really upset if the tides were turned. What if the male interns got to have mentoring lunches and other things out of the office and I was being treated differently specifically because I was female? You can’t judge people specifically on their gender.

      2. Lora*

        +1 from a STEM career lady.

        Could you invite him to your office for lunch and get take-out? Order pizza?

        I have this fantasy that someday when I have a legit office (instead of being forever sent around to client sites) with a pink Victorian couch, stained glass decorations and potted roses in the window, a zillion computer monitors and a rotary-dial phone (shh don’t laugh, it’s gonna be awesome), I shall have business meetings over high tea, with real china, lemon slices, little sandwiches and cake. People will sit around my coffee table on the pink couch and matching green-and-pink comfy chairs and there will be no PowerPoint, only a chalkboard and colored chalk. I’ll be, like, the witty old auntie who makes wry, clever comments at holidays.

        1. VintageLydia USA*

          You’ll be like the Good Professor Umbridge! I hated that woman but damn if she didn’t have style. Can I be your assistant?

      3. ChE*

        +1. I’m a married woman in STEM (temporary long distance relationship at the moment, actually) and I regularly have one on one meals with my coworkers, who are largely men, some of them even single men.

        If one of them were treating me like a potential date or gave off a bad vibe with the specific time or place they were suggesting, sure, I would avoid that individual. But, by and large, I have had no problems with coworkers and have many strong professional relationships in my organization that wouldn’t have developed without those lunches and dinners.

        If it is the norm in your field, the location is extremely public, and you’re not interested in your coworkers as potential dates, then why would you assume that all of them are interested in you and cut off professional avenues?

        ***It is also possible the OP is married and has a husband who gets jealous easily/is encouraging that personal policy. (which is another thing I have trouble understanding from my own experiences but not the place to discuss that)

    3. LBK*

      I’m going to try really hard to keep my comment on-topic here, but I agree 100%. Where is the line drawn on these kinds of things? Is a female manager also not supposed to have one-on-ones in her office with a male employee? Not supposed to deliver a performance review alone? Anything could be happening behind the closed doors of an office or conference room.

      I remember one letter where a woman and her husband were completely appalled that her new male boss had invited her to lunch – what could it possibly mean!? I dunno, that your new boss wants to do something nice and get to know you? One-on-one time in a slightly casual setting is great for professional development. It’s absurd that only same-sex pairings would get this benefit, and strikes me as sexist, regardless of which gender is setting the boundary.

      1. QualityControlFreak*

        I had one department head of the opposite gender who insisted I leave the door ajar during one-on-one meetings with me, even in situations that really called for a closed-door meeting. I had been working for the organization for 14 years, with an excellent track record.

        Honestly I just thought he was intimidated by me.

      2. Anonymous*

        Yeah, in the normal world, this should not be an issue. But if you have a husband whose previous marriage was one long string of infidelities, you learn to minimize these kinds of meetings (and especially in a non-professional setting) for your own sanity. I completely understand why doctors require a nurse in the room for certain things!

        1. LBK*

          I don’t want to get off on a tangent, but a woman’s lack of trust in her husband is a relationship problem, not a work problem. It’s not appropriate for that to impact his professional life.

    4. E.R*

      If a man ever refused a business meal with me because of my gender, I’d be pretty put off by it, and if I had a choice I would choose not to do business with him.

      He is probably pushing for the breakfast or lunch because she is the “salesperson” and will pay for it..Clients do this all.the.time.

      1. Laura2*

        Same. I’d also be wary of having a business relationship with a woman who refused to having business meetings with men in public or had other personal policies like that, not just because it’s unfair, discriminatory and silly and I don’t like to associate with people like that, but because I wouldn’t want other people to think I shared those values.

    5. Eden*

      This might have less to do with the potential of something untoward happening and more with the possibilities of office gossip, suspicious spouse, etc.

  3. Anon 387*

    “If your manager is a good manager, she wouldn’t want you basing career decisions on her health; she’d want you to do what’s best for you.”

    Scratch that last word and replace with “her company.” Unless hell has frozen over. Or you’re referring to only the most supportive of managers, a rare species.

      1. GrumpyBoss*

        Very true. Nothing hurts team productivity more than an employee who doesn’t want to be there. They are like cancer. If you want to leave, you are doing your boss a favor by doing so!

        1. a.n.o.n.*

          I really needed to hear this. I’m in this situation right now. New job, took the wrong one, hate being here. I was honest with my manager and she was very professional about it. Even though I dropped a bomb on her, I still got a stellar 3-month review. Even though it’s best for her and me if I leave (working on it), I still feel a bit of guilt.

    1. Julie*

      I have had a few managers who wanted me to do what was best for me, even when it conflicted with what was best for the company. And they weren’t disrespectful of the company while being supportive of me. I have a huge amount of respect for them because of this.

  4. OOF*

    OP #2, I too want to encourage you to rethink your rules about meeting with men outside the office. It is this very type of thinking that creates real barriers to women in the workforce – making it more difficult for men to mentor younger women, for example.

    I totally get that you are not personally responsible for these larger societal issues, but you could unknowingly bring them into your own career by furthering this dynamic.

    I’ve held countless coffee or lunch meetings 1:1 with male colleagues and donors, and it has never raised an eyebrow. I believe this is due in part to the fact that I always dress appropriately, never have alcoholic drinks and otherwise comport myself professionally. In today’s world, this is expected and appropriate professional behavior. To not engage in it could hold you back.

    That said, if you DO stick to this rule, I second Allison’s advice that you not share the reason why.

    1. PEBCAK*

      This is one of those things that’s so tricky, because it sucks that we even have to be talking about this…i.e. most men conduct themselves professionally, but there’s a non-trivial number that don’t, and thus it becomes an issue.

      I think the best advice I could give would be this: go on lunch meetings with men, in general, but if it happens that someone squicks you out in advance, give yourself permission to acknowledge that feeling and say no.

      1. Amanda*

        I think that advice in your last paragraph applies to everyone though, not just men. Obviously there are societal issues with this, but it doesn’t change the basic advice if the person squinting you out is female, surely?

      2. Artemesia*

        In my fairly vast experience in this area, men who are going to make a pass don’t reserve it for lunch meetings. And I wholeheartedly agree with the idea that if ANYONE squicks you out, you do what you must to avoid any situation that might be awkward including one on one meetings in the office.

    2. UK Anon*

      I’m sorry – I have a very quick and personal gripe – if we’re going to talk about wider societal issues then “I believe this is due in part to the fact that I always dress appropriately” is a whole big issue! I do understand what you are trying to say, but believe me, it’s so undermining when there’s a whole heap of nonsense which basically amounts to blaming women for choosing to wear fabric cut in one way rather than another I would definitely put it under the same heading as your objection.

      Dress professionally? Sure. But try and find someone with the ultimate definition of appropriate.

      Otherwise, I do agree with your point, although I’d also just like to say OP that I can understand completely feeling that you can’t go out with any man. There could be a whole host of reasons, not least company culture (if they treat any meeting of opposite sexes as suspicious, regardless of the gender of their co-worker, then it would make sense not to go, if not of the feeling in the office!).

      1. Jen RO*

        I think OOF has a good point and we should not debate semantics here. By “appropriate” s/he meant “appropriate for a work lunch” and (as seen in previous threads) most commenters agree on what “appropriate” means in that case.

        1. UK Anon*

          My point wasn’t to debate semantics. It was that OOF says that the OP will be contributing to social issues facing women by not going to lunch with men. I feel that saying she’ll be ok if she dresses in a way that other people approve of implies that conversely, if she dresses in a way other people don’t approve of, it’s ok for them to assume she is only going for sexual and not professional purposes.

          That is NOT what OOF said at all, and I agree with her general point; but making it in such a way that a woman’s professional reputation is linked to her style of clothing is exactly what gives credence to people who take that vile attitude to the extremes. Which is a huge social issue facing women.

          That was my point.

          1. Betsy*

            I am normally right on board with this argument, but I am actually on the other side today because what we are talking about is a professional in a professional context. I think the point is more of a “when I wear my businessperson costume, I am treated as a businessperson.” I think there’s a legitimate point there, which is to say, “Treat these breakfasts or lunches as though they were business meetings which just happens to be taking place in a different location, instead of treating them as if they were a social event which is happening with people you work for.”

          2. Ann Furthermore*

            I think there’s always an assumption when the discussion turns to women dressing “appropriately” that what’s being referred to is skirts that are too short, tops that are too tight, shoes that are too high, etc.

            But it goes both ways. If I show up at a lunch/breakfast meeting (or at work for that matter) wearing a mini-skirt, tube top, and platform shoes, or jeans, a ratty t-shirt, and flip flops, I’m sending the same message: I don’t take myself seriously as a professional, so why should you?

      2. OOF*

        Oh, let me clarify the “dress appropriately” thing. I mean that I am clearly dressed for work, because it’s a work meeting. If someone sees me having a work lunch, it will be obvious that it’s a work lunch because I’m in office clothes. It’s not a comment on whether a skirt is too short, etc. My work style has a lot of flair and certainly wouldn’t fit into a conservative bank or law firm, so I really don’t mean it in that way. Just, work clothes, not a summer dress or jeans. I could have been more thoughtful about clarifying that, my apologies.

        1. UK Anon*

          Please don’t apologise! =) I wasn’t aiming that at you at all, and as I say, I broadly agree with your main point. It’s just a “thing” for me at the moment; there’ve been a few incidents and I’ve been trying to make more of a point at combating some of the attitudes in that area than I would have before.

          I dithered for ages, but I couldn’t not post, if that makes sense.

          1. OOF*

            I’m apologizing because I agree with you that we shouldn’t be judging a woman’s professionalism by whether we think she looks to “sexy” or whatever. I think my comment DID unintentionally signal that, and I didn’t mean it to – so thank you for pointing that out!

    3. Chinook*

      I like that you pointed out that not having mixed gender one on one lunches limits things like men mentoring women, but the opposite is also a problem. If our male summer student never was invited for lunch with my female boss like last year’s female student was, he would not only miss out on a chance to pick her brain, but also may not see her as a mentor, which is part of the reason he is there.

    4. Vanilla Bean*

      For what it’s worth, I know plenty of men in my city who will not be alone with a woman (even in a professional setting) because they don’t want rumors to get started/various other reasons. Granted, most of these men do this because of religious reasons but I’ve straight up had professional men say to me that they don’t have lunch alone with another woman who is not their wife. All this to respectfully say – it’s not just women that have these types of personal boundaries.

    5. OOF*

      I agree that these boundaries can by either gender, and can be hurtful either way. I guess that’s my point – these types of boundaries assume the worst in others, limit people’s opportunities for growth and contribute to a culture that perpetuates these limitations.

      And, if a man refused to have a lunch with me because I’m a woman, I would be disappointed…and furious if he were in a position to further my career as a mentor, client, etc. Because if he took that same lunch with a male colleague of mine, that colleague would be in a better position to receive these benefits purely because of gender.

  5. Dan*

    #2 neither one of those can legitamely be construed as a social invitation. Dinner or “coffee”/” drinks” I can understand, but TBH, if a guy would accept that invite, so should you.

    1. GrumpyBoss*

      if you are in a sales position, such a rigid personal policy really limits your ability to be effective at your job.

        1. Juli G.*

          Especially Chamber of Commerce. Aren’t some of the prospects restraunters? I would think they may want to show their business.

          1. cuppa*

            Not to mention, it is my understanding that C of C people should be seen out and about patronizing and supporting the establishments that are a part of the organization.

  6. nep*

    ‘I have a personal policy that I do not meet with those of the opposite sex outside of a professional environment, alone (mainly as advice from other coworkers or colleagues)’
    I’d be really interested to know the reasoning behind this, if OP would care to elaborate on why this is her personal policy, and what is the nature of the advice by co-workers/colleagues? (religious thing? ‘people will talk’? wanting to avoid unwanted advances? other?)

    1. the gold digger*

      But a business lunch is, by definition, a professional environment. It’s not a romantic picnic for two on a beach with nobody else around and a tent pitched conveniently 50 feet away for when things get really good and you don’t want sand in your clothes.

      1. NylaW*

        A+, sand gets everywhere, it’s just not worth it.

        But to your point, I think on a weekday, during normal business hours, two people, especially if they are in suits or obvious “business professional” clothing, are going to be viewed as professionals having a business meeting over a meal. The leap from that to thinking something untoward or salacious is going on is really quite a contortion.

      2. nep*

        Of course — the venue for a business breakfast or lunch would be a professional environment. I was asking OP why / where this stems from.

      3. Anonsie*

        Man, have you ever done that? The sand goes right in the tent.

        And it never comes out. Ten years later you’re on a mountain somewhere with your kids and they’re going “where did this stuff come from?”

  7. Stuck in Qld*

    #4: this happens to me and my team All. The. Time. And it sucks (though it makes the rare occasion where you are thanked really special!)

    Depending on what your manager’s like and how often this happens could you subtley raise it with her (just to share the good news and your role in it)? In our team we usually forward these kind of emails to our manager and organise a round at the pub to celebrate just as a team.

    1. College Career Counselor*

      #4, I would make sure that you note your work on this particular project as an example of “going above and beyond” for your next performance evaluation. You may not get recognized with the team, but perhaps your manager/the company will value your contribution during that process.

    2. Rat Racer*

      +1 here. Good managers should always be on top of their employees accomplishments regardless of whether the contributions occur within the home team or in a matrixed team, but sometimes you have to toot your own horn (subtly).

    3. Annie O*

      It’s hard when you’re loaned out to another team who doesn’t thank you and celebrate your hard work when the project is over. But it’s salt in the wounds when your own manager doesn’t recognize it or even complains about how your time has been taken away from your normal responsibilities.

      1. Steve G*

        This is annoying! I had to explain to my MGR a few times that it really isn’t hurting “us” if I work for another dept because it helps the overall company make $$$$

    4. CAA*

      The most surprising thing I learned when I started managing is how hard it is to thank and recognize people in a way that makes everyone happy. It’s astonishing how often this kind of thing goes awry and ends up hurting someone’s feelings.

      #4, you mentioned working on this project for one week. I haven’t seen a company that would have such a big celebration for such a small project, so I’m guessing that maybe this was a really big project that went on for months and you came in to help out for a little while near the end. Typically, the person who supports a team for a week gets a “thanks very much, appreciated your help” and the people who put in 6 months and worked the entire weekend of the launch are the ones who get the dinner and party. There might be a bigger picture here that you need to look for.

      You should definitely bring up your participation in this project in your annual review though.

      1. Steve G*

        I had wanted to add that a week isn’t enough to warrant an invite, a week is actually pretty quick…but when I wrote it it looked rude and wouldn’t help the OP feel better. Of course, it is a question of whether that is the immediate issue though..

        It absolutely is no fun being left out, but I wouldn’t expect accolades from a week’s of work unless it was something really unpleasant.

  8. Kiwi*

    #2: The OP may have been advised to take such seemingly extreme risk avoidance measures due to previous experience(s) and/or due to working within a culture that has different expectations/norms.

    OP, I understand the aversion to meeting over meals. That awkward moment when the server asks you and your business associate whether you want that dessert “with two spoons”!

    If you prefer to avoid meals, how about arranging to meet at a cafe around 11am or 3pm for coffee? If you can find a cafe around the CBD that is frequented by corporates then the vibe will be all business.

    1. Betsy*

      This is a really good point, and one that I didn’t think of the first time through. We’re mostly taking the viewpoint that the OP’s concern is overblown, but I suspect in some cultures (or possibly industries) this may be sensible caution. In that case, I’d fall back on the “can’t make the schedule work” idea, or possibly think of a reason why having the office resources at hand would help you and use that as a reason.

    2. Elysian*

      Did a server really do that at a business lunch to you? I would say that’s poor tact on the server’s part – I’ve never had that happen at business lunch (even ones that involved dessert). I would think that is an anomaly.

      Maybe its because I live in a large city with a lot of business-folk, but I think breakfast/lunch/coffee types of meetings are pretty standard. If I see some people out at at food place during business hours, I just assume they’re having a business meal, regardless of sex.

      1. GrumpyBoss*

        I was thinking the same thing. In 20+ years as one of a few females in a male dominated industry, I cannot think of a single time where a waiter/waitress assumed that a business meal was a date. And I don’t think it’s a big city/small town thing, since I’ve lived in and worked in both.

        I did, however, check into a hotel on a business trip right after my boss did and the receptionist, having seen us walk into the lobby together and then saw me go into the restroom while he checked in, assumed we were together. She greeted me as Mrs. Boss. I was all, “WTF is wrong with you?” – I got a ton of free loyalty points from that stay. And my boss had an amusing story to tease me with (we had a good relationship so I didn’t mind. His actual wife, however, was not amused).

        1. Bend & Snap*

          I used to travel with my male boss and WITHOUT FAIL every front desk clerk would assume we were married when we checked in, before we gave our individual names/reservation numbers (all travel went on my boss’s corporate card so I couldn’t check in separately). Surprisingly, we never became immune to the awkwardness.

          1. ChE*

            This happened with one of my male coworkers a lot, but we just shrugged it off. The unspoken assumption that we only wanted one check was always correct, anyway (since we bill to the same codes whenever we are working together).

            1. ChE*

              Just to clarify he also happens to be the only one I work with frequently who is around my age, so it isn’t because I talk to him differently than any of my other coworkers.

      2. Traveler*

        While this has never happened to me at a business lunch or dinner (never been 1 on 1 to see) this happens almost every time I am out with male friends 1 on 1. The dessert with two spoons, the waiter/waitress never asking how we want the bill and automatically handing it to the male, etc.

        That said – I still wouldn’t avoid meeting one on one with a male coworker. If the waiter/waitress did something like that, I’d probably just make a comment about crazy assumptions and move on.

        1. cuppa*

          I went out with a friendly male colleague for dinner on a business trip once. We shared a bottle of wine and each had separate desserts. I guess we really didn’t look together because we were automatically handed separate checks. We were actually going to pay together because it is easier on our finance end to process the one business expense instead of two individual ones. I said to him, “clearly they thought we weren’t together” and had a big laugh about it.
          Poor servers. You guys just can’t win. :)

      3. Lora*

        Happened to me once. Colleague sitting next to me smiled in that butt-kissing way that is a prelude to him asking me for something, and I told him, get your own! He laughed, because we have that kind of business relationship, but I would say it jokingly, with a light-hearted tone, to just about anybody.

      4. Kiwi*

        Sure did – although it was dinner. Both still in corporate attire, straight from the office, eating at the large capital city hotel we were staying in – a favourite with business travellers – and discussing the business matters at hand. Still, man and woman eating together – must be a date. ;-)

        1. Elysian*

          I can understand it more with dinner – dinner is more of a date meal, and I don’t think most business people have regular dinner meetings unless they’re traveling together (so not unusual, but somewhat less common).

    3. Gilby*

      Umm… I have actually been asked that when dinning with a gal friends.

      Sometimes the desserts are big so apparently they are often shared.

      Not saying the question was right or wrong on the server’s end but did she assume they were ” together” or just a basic question they ask everyone with a dessert that might be commnely shared.

      1. Ellie H.*

        Yeah, I don’t think people are saying that sharing a dessert is inherently a romantic thing but just that it’s not something you do at a business meal.

        1. Gilby*

          Well.. if was a Brownie Hot Fudge sundae…uummm… not so sure I’d wouldn’t cross that business boundry !!!

          1. Vicki*

            Don’t kid!

            We had a place near work at one job that did an amazing 5-layer chocolate cake with ice cream and hot fudge sauce. I had a regular co-worker group I was in that would sometimes head over there at 3pm and share one.

        2. Elysian*

          Indeed. I would never share something at a business meal if it require “double dipping” with a spoon that has been in my mouth. Calamari (or something in pieces, most appetizers) – sure. Ice cream or cake or most desserts? Never.

      2. R.F.*

        Yeah, once I was out for dinner with my parents and sibling, so 4 people. One of us ordered dessert, and the server asked if we wanted 4 forks with the it. We said sure. When she brought it out, we understood why she had asked– It was a HUGE slice of cheesecake, almost a meal for one!

        I definitely would not share dessert at a business meal, though.

      3. Kiwi*

        It was a rather small bowl of icecream – only the newest of couples would have shared it. ;-)

    4. LBK*

      Is it really so horrible to get offerred two spoons? Can’t you just say “no thanks!” and both have a good chuckle about it? I mean jeez…t’s not like the server offered you a condom.

      1. Career Counselorette*

        When I was a research assistant my coworker and I became besties and would frequently play our favorite restaurant game “Colleagues, Couple, or Affair?” The Valentine’s Day Edition was the best.

      2. Kiwi*

        I did say “one’s fine, thanks” I wasn’t too fussed (although the colleague did became distinctly awkward). Don’t worry though, we weren’t waiting for the server in the carpark afterwards.

    5. ThursdaysGeek*

      I’ve had a server bring out a handful of spoons when it was a large gathering of co-workers for a birthday lunch and dessert. I don’t think the sharing is expected to be romantic, it’s just that sharing is somewhat expected by the servers, whether two or twelve.

  9. First time commentor*

    #2- not sure how long you have been working with this policy in place, but I find it difficult to believe that this won’t cause some serious obstacles in your career progression, especially if sales is where your future is at. Recognizing that there are quite possibly legitimate cultural and personal reasons for you to feel this way, the chances of something troubling happening to you in a businesses meeting in a crowded social place is not the norm, and I’d also like to point out, quite insulting to the majorly professional and decent businessmen out there. I am a female and can understand keeping your wits about you for safety sake, but I’m hoping your business contacts are traceable to a company and accountable to them; it’s not quite the same as going on a blind date with a man you met on a website. Again, I get where you are coming from, but don’t think that it is a reasonable policy to put in place for a career where such meetings are completely common.

    1. kac*

      <especially if sales is where your future is at.

      This is huge. So many meetings happen over coffee, lunch, dinner, etc. for sales, that to routinely turn these down will severely hamper your success. Sales is all about strong relationships, and some element of socializing is an invaluable part of building those relationships.

      Also, this seems so patently unfair to men. Sure, there are some jerks out there (as there are women) but the majority of men are kind an considerate and would never make a pass at a woman during a professional meeting! It would be unfair to pass up meeting with all women on the off chance that they, say, have bad pms–this is very similar and, ultimately, sexist.

      I do know some industries are worse than others in this regard–my mother left the sports medical sales world, in part, because of creepy men who would not leave her alone and made her feel uncomfortable. If that is what is going on here, you might want to consider sales in a different industry.

  10. Pushy penguin*

    #2 – I have actually experienced this from the other side. My first boss out of college would never shut the door to his office if a younger female was inside. I would definitely second Alison’s advice about not pointing out your reasoning for avoiding the lunches. Knowing that he felt closing the door compromised him in some way made me think that he viewed me as less than a professional and actually ended up creeping me out a little (why do we need to keep the door open if I am not going to do anything?). Plus it would limit the content of conversations we could have since we never had true privacy. Even though he was a great boss in so many ways, my perspective on him will always be tainted by that one quirk.

    1. the gold digger*

      That situation is a little different. That is avoiding the appearance of impropriety in a climate where even an accusation of sexual harassment can devastate someone’s career. Lunch in a restaurant is not risky (to one’s reputation) like being alone behind closed doors.

      I had a prof in grad school who wouldn’t close the door. I asked him why and he said something about appearances. I blurted out, “But you’re as old as my DAD!”

      1. Traveler*

        Which is fine – if both sexes are treated that way. If you’re closing the door with males, and not with females you’re treating people differently based on their gender which can lead to unfair advantages.

        If I couldn’t have talked to one of the male professors in grad school behind closed doors, that would have been a problem since there were sometimes things – entirely professional/school related – that I wanted to speak about in private. This is why it’s nice to have windows in the office – you can have privacy and be assured that nothing “untoward” is going on.

      2. neverjaunty*

        Accusations of sexual harassment do not only come from women. A boss who only closes the door when younger female colleagues are there is being foolish, as well as sending a very nasty message to those young female colleagues.

    2. Diet Coke Addict*

      This is very common, if not outright policy, in many, many universities/colleges/schools in general–that a teacher or admin person not be behind closed doors alone with a younger person–regardless of the sexes involved. When I was teaching we were always instructed to keep doors open in a 1-on-1, or to be in a room with windows or clear walls.

      1. Rat Racer*

        I can see why Academia would have that policy, but it still strikes me as awkward regardless of the industry, if someone has something confidential to discuss – e.g. asking for a raise, receiving a bad performance review, letting boss know that you have a medical condition that might require some leave. You have to have all those conversations with the door open? Eeesh.

      2. Pushy penguin*

        I just want to clarify that this was a professional position not an academic one. I can understand the cautiousness in a position in academia and I would not debate that. But in a professional environment, being this cautious can reflect poorly on you.

    3. Bea W*

      I’ve experienced similar. It made me feel like I had done something wrong or I waa the one who could not be trusted. Not a good feeling.

    4. Jennie*

      I’ve had this problem as well! My manager conducts our periodic reviews in local cafes/coffee shops, and there was always another manager present at our meetings. At first, I just figured it was some company policy until I was listening to someone else talk about their review and realized that he had just met with our manager alone. Later when I was chatting with the manager he mentioned in passing that one of the ways he “honors” his wife is by never eating meals alone with a woman he’s not related to. While I realize that he’s probably had that policy long before he started managing me, it still made me feel like I had done something inappropriate which made him not want to be seen alone with me or that he distrusted me specifically.

      Don’t get me started on when I was staying late (alone in the office) trying to fix a problem and another coworker said that he couldn’t stop by and help me because he wasn’t allowed to be alone in the office with me…

      1. hildi*

        “…he mentioned in passing that one of the ways he “honors” his wife is by never eating meals alone with a woman he’s not related to. While I realize that he’s probably had that policy long before he started managing me, it still made me feel like I had done something inappropriate…”

        I am about as conservative as they come and I understand why people want to hold onto some traditional/old-fashioned/religious values of men’s and women’s roles. I’m not going to argue with people over that. But what I find very interesting/ironic, as your experience indicats, Jennie, is that by going to such extreme steps to show respect for his wife, he’s really showing a lot of disrespect to you (or at least those are the feelings you’re left with). Is it like the phrase, “cutting off your nose to spite your face?” Maybe I’m mixing that one up, but it just seems like such a drastic step to take when he could probably show honor and respect to his wife in a million other ways without damaging an important professional relationship with his employee. It’s too bad.

        1. Jennie*

          Yeah, I don’t have a problem with the respect for his wife and all that. And I also think there could be a line where I wouldn’t necessary feel it’s appropriate, like a fancy one on one business dinner (though at this point I’m not sure if it’s because of his reaction or I’d feel uncomfortable one on one with a male superior in general).

          It probably doesn’t help that I am the only woman working for him at the moment, so there’s an extra layer of awkwardness because even if the policy isn’t in place for me specifically, I am the only one singled out right now

          1. Artemesia*

            You couldn’t say it of course, but doesn’t the thought go through your head ‘Oh I didn’t realize that you had a history of screwing around on your wife.’ It is a sad commentary on him.

            1. LBK*

              I love this because it gets right to the heart of the actual issue – ie, your inability to keep it in your pants/your wife’s inability to trust you to do so is not my problem.

        2. ThursdaysGeek*

          Yeah, I’ll go out and eat lunch with co-worker friends or a friend, of either gender, for business or just because we’re friends. Because I honor my husband by being trustworthy, so it’s not something he ever has to worry about.

      2. StarHopper*

        Yikes. Do you feel that this is impacting your professional opportunities? How can he manage you effectively if he needs a chaperone every time you have a private conversation?

      3. Turanga Leela*

        It would make me so uncomfortable to be in an office with a formal policy like this. Deciding that you won’t go to drinks with a colleague one-on-one makes sense to me; not being in the office alone together is just weird.

        I had a colleague who for religious reasons wouldn’t touch women in any context. This is not terribly unusual, and I’ve seen people handle this sort of thing well, but this guy didn’t. Whenever he met a woman, he used to launch into a loooong explanation about how he couldn’t shake her hand, because he doesn’t touch women except for his wife, and she’s not his wife, and he has to keep his commitment to his wife. He acted like all women were temptresses out to seduce him.

        After the first few times I saw him do this, I really wanted to say, “You know, we respect your religious commitment, but none of us have any interest in tempting you.”

        1. TK*

          I remember reading about a British Orthodox Jewish religious leader who wouldn’t touch women other than his wife for religious reasons. He was set to personally receive an award from the Queen, and was concerned because after she gave him the medal or whatever, the normal procedure was to shake her hand. However, he had been the Queen would be wearing gloves so it wouldn’t be a problem. But he got there and she was ungloved, and he wasn’t sure of what to do… but the Queen herself had been advised beforehand and simply didn’t offer her hand to him and moved on to the next recipient.

      4. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Ick. And it’s crazy that he’s so committed to having these meetings over lunch that he’s BRINGING ANOTHER MANAGER ALONG rather than just having them in his office. I mean, if he won’t have a meal alone with you, just stop talking staff people to meals and then he won’t call attention to it.

      5. Poofeybug*

        Jennie — If you would only cloak yourself head to foot in a burqa they might not be tempted by your Jezebel eyes.

      6. LeighTX*

        My boss is the same way–he told me from the very beginning that he doesn’t have meals alone with other women, for the same reason your boss gave. It’sa little irritating, because he goes to lunch with my male colleagues all the time, but he has shown himself willing to meet with me one on one and he’s very good at listening to what I have to say so I haven’t made an issue of it. If I thought I was being held back in any way because of it, I’d talk to him about it.

        Here’s the thing, though: if I found out that my own husband was refusing to go to lunch with a female colleague because he was trying to “honor” me and our marriage, I would read him the riot act. The best way to honor me is to treat me as his wife, and treat everyone else as regular people who are not his wife–not having different rules for different genders because he might otherwise accidentally fall in bed with one of them.

    5. hildi*

      Ooh! That makes me think of a commander I had one time when I was in the miltary. I was his human resources officer for the unit and I needed to talk to him in his office. It was something sensitive, if I remember, and I wanted the door shut. He sat down as I was coming into the office and didn’t make a move to shut the door (which I suppose I thought was probably proper etiquette – he’d shut his own door since he was the ranking officer?). Anyway, I hesitated and asked if I could shut the door. I’ll never forget he said, “if it’s you shutting the door, that’s fine.” or something like that. Meaninng, if I, the junior female, was the one that shut the door then that was cool with him, but no way was he going to instigate it. I did and all was fine and I didn’t dwell on it. But as I mused about that through the years I would have LOVED to have asked him his reasoning for that approach: was it something he was taught to do in command school? was it his personal preference? Did he have a bad experience in the past and he’s extra cautious this time? (actually – that could be part of OP #1’s concerns – we can’t be too sure she hasn’t experienced something go wrong in the past and just wants to avoid any possibility it happens again).

      1. Lia S*

        When I was in high school, I was worried about hugging my teachers, and was told something similar–if I initiate the hug, it’s fine, but they were not allowed.

        1. NotAnExpert*

          Ugh. This with teachers. A friend of mine when she was in high school went to hug her (female) music teacher who had been a role model and a mentor to her the entire time and the teacher pushed her away and said something along the lines of ‘that’s inappropriate, you don’t want people to talk’.

          My friend is gay, but hadn’t figured it out that time and it was actually pretty traumatizing.

          1. Mints*

            Turning a full body hug into an appropriate hug is a skill. I have this skill, I’m happy, to say, from years of child care. But it takes some tact to kind of hug shoulders only by leaning or turning sideways without kids noticing.
            (Obviously that teacher was rude and sorry your friend experienced that)

  11. MaryMary*

    #3 Do you know for sure that the recruiters were internal? OldJob outsourced all of its recruiting functions sometime in the mid-2000s. I’ve posted here before about some of the challenges that created. The contractor recruiters had company email addresses, I’m not sure candidates would have been able to tell the recruiters weren’t actual employees.

    1. HM in Atlanta*

      This! I have this same issue where I work (and I had it when I was interviewing to come here). I had horrible experiences in my first interviewing round with the recruiter and withdrew from consideration. Imagine my surprise 4 months later when I got a call from another recruiter. It ended up being for the same position. My boss was not amused when we realized what had happened.

    2. Jen RO*

      When I was job search this year I had two experiences similar to the OP’s (contacted by different recruiters for a job I had already interviewed for/I had already declined). In both cases, the recruiters were either external or new. My guess was that they were not given a list of people who had already been contacted, so they just started the search from square 1 again.

      (Except for one recruiter. She wrote me twice, in consecutive weeks, with the same message, after I told her I was interviewing with the company already!)

  12. Allison*

    #3: Unfortunately, being contacted by a recruiter doesn’t always mean you’re qualified for the job. It could be they didn’t like #3’s resume, and then they went out sourcing and contacted everyone with certain keywords or titles without really reading their LI profiles.

    I agree with AAM that recruiters look at the resumes of so many people each day that they don’t always remember the names of everyone they talk to. But with #3, you’d think if they really looked at OP’s LinkedIn, it would’ve been familiar enough that they would’ve pasted her name into their applicant tracking system (ATS) to find out if they’ve talked to her before.

    Using an ATS is supposed to help avoid these errors. However, they have two flaws: 1) they typically only detect a duplicate candidate if their e-mail matches someone in the system, and 2) recruiters don’t always try to put people in the system until after the conversation has started.

    Mistakes happen, but it’s not unreasonable to perceive this company as being seriously disorganized. It’s the recruiters’ job to make sure these things don’t happen.

    1. GrumpyBoss*

      This… When I am hiring, my recruiter probably sends me 9 misses for every 1 hit. They cast a very wide net and cannot possibly remember every interaction they have. I certainly would not hold any of this against the company.

    2. blu*

      I’m not clear on why this is being considered a major error. Some recruiters may have a preference for actively searching for candidates rather than sticking to just the applicants. We have some positions we know from experience yield better results when we go actively looking for a candidate on job boards rather than sticking to just the applicants. I doesn’t mean that applicants won’t get reviewed at some point, but that may not be the first pool we look in. Certainly keep any eye out for other signs, but this alone doesn’t make me think there are BIG ISSUES with this company.

  13. MT*

    For OP #2 I would be curious if their supervisor knows about her personal policy. As other posters have said, her discrimating against certain clients based on their gender is wrong. For female clients she is available 8-5. But for male clients she is only available 8-12 and 1-5. Being that its the chamber of commerce, there are a lot of business owners that schedule a lot of indirect business meetings during lunch or early in the morning.

    1. MT*

      I have business lunches about 3 days a week. If I have to meet with an outside vendor/client, lunch is the best excuse to meet with someone outside of the office.

    2. Meg Murry*

      Yes, this! I was coming to say the same thing – it would be odd if the OP took business lunches only with female business owners, and always declined with men. I think it would be noticed in the community if its a small town, and the male business owners would feel insulted. I would if I tried to arrange a lunch meeting with someone who always had excuses for me, then saw them out at a lunch meeting with others.
      In our small town, pretty much ALL the local chamber of commerce business is done over breakfast and lunch meetings. Why? Because that’s when small business owners have time to meet with someone. My husband runs a small business – he runs it out of our house and the back of the truck. Where else is he going to have a meeting with the local chamber of commerce employee besides a restaurant? Our living room? The cab of his truck? Same with most local small business – they don’t have conference rooms, and they can’t just stroll out of their storefront to have a meeting at 2 pm when they need to be manning the cash register. Also, by meeting with you at lunch, that makes it a business lunch and therefore a business expense for the business owner.
      If OP #3 is the membership director, it is her job to find new members, or to meet with the current members when it is convenient for the members – which is mostly going to be breakfast or lunch. Also, by going to lunch, you can also make a point to frequent one of your member’s establishment, which is also good for that restaurant’s business.

      OP#3, before you make hard and fast rules about how you do business, you should think about how your clients do business. Your attitude right now does not sound like you understand how small businesses work, and no one is going to pay to join a chamber of commerce that doesn’t appear to understand how they do business.

  14. Ruffingit*

    #1 – If you stay under these conditions, the boss will not be the only one sick. Sounds like you’re on the verge of killing your own health with this job. Move on without guilt. Also, realize that the company and the client will go forward without you and they will be just fine. This is something that many people cannot see when they are caught up in a job – “But, I’m the ONLY ONE who can do XYZ…” Yeah, you’re not. At all. Someone else will step up and they will deal with it. So go forward guilt free and good luck in quickly finding a new position!

    1. hildi*

      “This is something that many people cannot see when they are caught up in a job – “But, I’m the ONLY ONE who can do XYZ…” Yeah, you’re not. At all. Someone else will step up and they will deal with it.”

      I apparantly am channeling my military days today in my thoughts, but if anything showed me that concept of you are totally replaceable – the military did. It was a guarantee that you woudn’t bee in place for very long (officers anyway; enlisted were often in their positions much longer). We knew that we’d be there for about 3 years and then we’d get shucked off to something else. It was humbling in a way that you’re important here while you’re doing it, but as soon as you’re gone someone else will step in and life goes on. I do agree with you that many people think things will fall apart when they leave and I don’t begrudge them that. I think people who feel that way have a lot of pride in their work, a strong work ethic, and are in tune with the people around them, but to the point where they sacrifice their own happiness/health because they are more concerned about “shirking obligations” than just doing what’s best for them. Some, not all people, though.

    2. Jamie*

      This is something that many people cannot see when they are caught up in a job – “But, I’m the ONLY ONE who can do XYZ…” Yeah, you’re not. At all.

      Of course, everyone needs to understand that we’re all replaceable.

      A lot of times when people say this though it’s with the unspoken caveat of “currently in the organization as it stands today I’m the only one qualified to handle XYZ without additional training.”

      I say this a lot when explaining to my family why I’m going in on a Saturday or whatever…I never mean that no one else is could do it (or even better) or that people currently at work couldn’t learn it and end up doing a better job than me – just that right now I’m the one who does it and there is no one else on deck.

      I’m sure if I walked today business would carry on just fine. Some inconvenient bumps while someone else skates the learning curve, sure, but they’d manage. Probably better than I’d like.

      Which is something I hope the OP keeps in mind. I’ve been loyal to a task and co-workers long after I had grown to hate a former job and employer as a whole – and stayed longer than I should have out of some weird obligation to do my duty and not leave people inconvenienced. Maybe I’m wiser now, or just more jaded, but as long as you observe professional standards for giving notice and leaving the position in as clean a transition is possible you owe nothing outside of that.

      And keep in mind, employers know some people will be more of a PITA to replace than others and the transition more chaotic. Sometimes that’s a legitimate business choice to know they will go through that at some point is better than hiring redundancy which may be unneeded most of the time. But they know this – and it’s part of doing business. If they don’t know this it’s on them and you certainly don’t need to feel guilty because of their ignorance of a pretty common scenario.

      1. Ruffingit*

        A lot of times when people say this though it’s with the unspoken caveat of “currently in the organization as it stands today I’m the only one qualified to handle XYZ without additional training.”

        I totally get that, all I’m saying is don’t let that be a reason you stay in a job you don’t like or that is stressing you out to the point of illness. I just wanted to reinforce the “you’re replaceable” point to this particular OP because people often start thinking that they are responsible for carrying more weight with the business then they really are and it’s important to realize that unless you literally own some part of or all the business, you’re responsible only to yourself. And for the people who may not realize it, it’s important to remember that a company only having one person who can do XYZ is on the company to cope with should XYZ person walk away.

        I’ve seen several letters/comments here where people feel guilt about leaving the company because they are the only ones who have this skill/know that project. I’m on a mission to destroy this kind of thinking and put the concern for the company back where it belongs, which is on the company and not the employee. If the company doesn’t cross-train or deal with this kind of thing, that is their problem.

        And Jamie, I know you know all this so I’m not saying this directly to you of course. Just to those readers who feel guilt. Don’t. Move on guilt free and manage YOUR life to the best of your ability. The company will survive. Or not. But it’s not your problem.

  15. Poohbear McGriddles*

    #2 – The reasoning behind such a restriction is usually that either (a) one of you won’t be able to control your urges, or (b) people will get the wrong idea.
    If (a) happens, you will most certainly get kicked out of the Applebee’s. In a public place, it should never be an issue.
    If you’re worried about (b), remember that this is a business meeting. To the casual observer, those just look different. If I see a woman and a man in Starbucks going over TPS reports, it would never enter my mind that they are having an affair. However, if they are gazing into each other’s eyes. holding hands or other lovey-dovey stuff… well, it’s none of my business anyway.

  16. HAnon*

    #5 – You may also want to make a screen recording of a walk-through of the website, in the event that it is ever updated or taken down for any reason, so you still have a “live” demonstration of your work. I’d also take screen grabs of any relevant pages that you really want to show off, as you never know when the site might be down or unavailable at the moment you want to show someone.

    1. hayling*

      Definitely! Most people I know who do anything web-based take screenshots and just display that on their portfolio, because you never know what the client is going to do to change or mess up your work.

    2. Grant*

      I am the person who asked that question and I like that idea! I was definitely planning on taking some screenshots of what it looks like now. I would hate for me to leave and my successor end up changing it for the worse. With a simple link to the site that new work would reflect on me!

      1. Becca*

        I have a friend who has done UX for a long time and had examples on his website (before he launched an agency). One thing to note: He informed the company of each screenshot he intended to present; since he was contracted by them, he wanted to make sure he didn’t run afoul of any intellectual property claims or NDAs, or any messiness from the companies later if they had an issue with the images.

        He does not post live links, only bits of graphics and design work, and occasionally full pages. Nothing that gives away company secrets, and each shot is nicely labeled.

        Displaying your work on your personal site is very very common for UX, just make sure you get your i’s dotted and t’s crossed.

        Good luck, Grant!

  17. Bea W*

    #4 That sucks and you should have at least been thanked, but it’s common that a project might get some outside help on one task for a relatively short period and i agree with Alison’s take on the lack of invite to either the launch party or the dinner. If time to launch is as long and hard as it is in my field, you have to understand the main team has been working for months or even more than a year on it. So put it in that perspective regarding not getting invites to the events. These are often reserved for the core team. Some managers will invite outside contributors, but it’s not usual. When i’ve been lent out for special pieces like this i’ve not thought twice about launch parties and team events because i am not part of the team, and not contributing on the same level. I’d let the not being invited part go. It was likely not a deliberate snub and doesn’t mean you weren’t valued.

    Were you thanked and acknowledged privately at all? Did the other team express their appreciation for your work to you? Not being acknowledged at all and not being recognized publically/to a broader audience. The first is really not cool. The second is really relative. I couldn’t tell from the OP’s letter if the issue was not being thanked at all or not bring included in the general announcement.

    1. LBK*

      Great point – unless the entire project only ran a week or two, OP’s contribution was probably only a small part of it in the grand scheme of things. Yes, it was an imposition on you for the week you spent on it, but if everyone else spent the last year on it, look at it from their perspective: “We all spent a year working on this project and Jane only spent a week, and yet she gets to come to the lunch and the dinner celebrating its completion as if she’d done just as much work as us.”

      1. MgrMandy*

        I can understand where the OP#4 is coming from. I stepped in to help out on a months-long project during the critical last six weeks before launch. I finished outstanding tasks, debugged and corrected business rules, performed gap analysis and ran numerous tests. My manager and CTO knew I was performing this work and my work allowed this project go live on-time.

        I wasn’t thanked, recognized or included in a drink or meal after work with the rest of the project team by my bosses (my fellow programmer was appreciative and had told my bosses so). It does suck. I feel you. Know that your peers probably appreciate you even if management didn’t recognize your contributions.

        Make sure you note your involvement in the project (in a positive way) if your company does self-evaluations for performance reviews.

        1. LBK*

          But again – yes, you’re doing a lot of work, but presumably so is everyone else involved in the project. They aren’t just sitting around twiddling their thumbs while you make their project a success, and they’re doing that work for a much longer period than you are.

          That’s not to say that you shouldn’t receive some kind of recognition and appreciation for your work, but I can see why it doesn’t make sense to include you in any kind of team wrap-up event celebrating the release. That’s a celebration of many months of work, most of which you weren’t involved in.

  18. Tiff*

    I’m feeling a little different about OP#2. Whatever her reasons for not wanting to meet alone over food with someone of the opposite gender, it’s her right to feel that way. Her thinking may fit in with the culture of her org or with the area.

    But I would be coy if I didn’t admit that at times, having folks who self select out of certain working situations has worked to my advantage. I don’t have a problem treating people like people, no matter what they look like, how they sound or what’s between their legs. Seems straightforward on the surface, but I’ve seen a few people over the years who just had a problem interacting and working with people who were not familiar or in some sort of “safe” mental category. Individually they tended to self-select to long-held junior positions, in groups they tended to be the hardest to work with and were generally not held in good standing with the high performers in the company. Personally, I’ve been able to take advantage of opportunities for professional advancement simply because the more senior or well-regarded co-worker wasn’t “comfortable” enough to treat humans like humans. Turned into a score for me.

    1. LBK*

      I think Alison’s response makes it clear that it’s certainly the OP’s prerogative if that’s how she chooses to conduct business, but maybe she should step back and consider all the aspects. It sounds like this was something OP was advised to do by other people, not necessarily something she decided to on her own.

      1. MT*

        I am wondering if one of the people who advised her to do this was her boss or just some other co-worker?

      2. Tiff*

        It’s fairly clear as well in my response that the reasoning (to me) makes no difference. Jobs and promotions are usually competitive and her story reminded me of past experiences where a person took themselves out of the running for advancement (whether a conscious decision or not) because of issues that person had dealing with people who were not like themselves.

        That said, I’m really not a “why” person, I’m more of a “what” person. As in, I don’t care why OP feels that way but I’m happy to share my thoughts on what I think could happen if she continues this practice.

  19. Mel_*

    I have a situation similar to #1. I’m also at my first job out of college, something I enjoy but isn’t really what I want for my career. I’d been thinking about sticking around ~ another 6 months, because my boss will be out on maternity leave shortly and we have a HUGE multiple-department project coming due around that time. like, it is the biggest project I’ve ever been part of. There’s only one other person in my department. If i leave and my boss is on maternity leave, my coworker is left alone in the department, potentially. I was just going to stick around until that’s all over.

    HOWEVER, i recently suffered a super bad back injury that put me out for a month. i’m still in intense pain every single day, but i needed to come back, because i was being threatened with termination. I got hurt in May, and my 1 year anniversary/protected FMLA status wasn’t in effect until this week! Despite making accommodations for others to work at home, they won’t do it for me. I’m in a lot of pain every day, and I’m receiving very little help from HR. My boss is great, she wants me to work from home and get well, etc. but we can’t get past HR. So, do I stay here (I fear I may be fired if I need surgery, which is a real possibility) until after this project, or do i look for something that will better suit my needs/career?

    1. Woodward*

      I suggest listing your life priorities. That could be 1. Personal care (safety, food, and shelter), 2. Family (taking care of your responsibilities), 3. Soccer (having a life that allows you a lot of time and resources to play/watch soccer), 4. Work, 5. etc.

      Everyone has different life priorities. What is most important to you? List is all out and then decide. Does work come before or after health? Does having $$ come before or after soccer (or whatever it is that is on YOUR list)? It’s YOUR life and only you can decide what to do.

  20. BadPlanning*

    On OP #2 — I feel your reluctance. I have been burned before having lunch with a male coworker. I went to lunch, they apparently thought we having a pre-date and I was interested in them. Now I am a little paranoid about eating lunch (much less other meals) with male coworkers alone. But I don’t refuse to do so and certainly don’t think my current coworkers are gunning for lunch “dates.”

    1. MT*

      Execpt these lunches would have a specific purpose, either she is triyng to sell her companies services or he is already a member and has a specific issue that needs to be addressed.

    2. Natalie*

      For whatever it’s worth, I don’t think you should feel bad about that at all. Assuming you were both mature about it, it was just an awkward misunderstanding that’s been cleared up now. The fact that their was a misunderstanding doesn’t reflect badly on him or you.

  21. MT*

    “Again, if this is your personal preference, then fine — but you mentioned others advising it, and I’m pretty surprised that you’re finding that widely recommended.”

    I think the response was way off. If this is a personal choice, then it needs to stop. How does this choice reflect on the employer. If it got out publically, that this employe has different restrictions for male clients and female clients, this will look extremely bad.

      1. MT*

        If its religious, maybe i can undestand, but the op doesnt have any issue with meeting the person in private at an office setting. If its not religious then its tottaly in the wrong as a personal preference and reflects poorly on the employer.

      2. MT*

        If the excuse was valid and acceptable, then there is no reason for the OP to keep the reason secret.

      3. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        I’m not sure it’s ok (with me) if it’s based on religious belief.

        If a job conflicts with your religious belief in a fundamental way, then that’s not the right job for you. For example, a few years ago there was an issue with (mainly Somali, mainly Muslim) taxi drivers at the MSP airport refusing to transport people who were carrying alcohol (in cases; purchased in bulk at a winery in Sonoma or something). That doesn’t seem reasonable to me (or the airport commission, which suspends the airport licenses of cabbies who do this). Driving people, carrying stuff, is the job of a cab driver. Likewise, building relationships with chamber members is the job of a Chamber of Commerce membership director.

        The discrimination is a whole other issue. Super interesting to me (how should an ethical person feel about religious strictures that discriminate against a gender?) but not especially germane here.

        1. Steve G*

          I can think of one example, Hasidic Jews. Being from NY, I see the divide between men and women in that community and especially between Hasidic women and non-Hasidic men. For example, don’t try to shake their hands because they are not going to extend theirs. I am not sure if other communities like this exist though……….

          1. Leah*

            Among Hasidim, there would still be the issue of meeting with the man alone, regardless of where they meet.

        2. Omne*

          Some drivers were refusing to take fares with guide/service dogs too. That didn’t win them any PR points in the press.

      4. Bagworm*

        I think there could be other legitimate reasons for the preference, as well. Sometimes our personal experience result in very real apprehension/anxiety in certain situations. For example, after being in a car accident, I spent about a year and a half where I couldn’t make a left turn across multiple lanes of traffic. We just don’t know why she has that policy (of course, if it is, as it seems from the letter, based on advice from co-workers, it likely is outdated). Either way, if this is something she just is not willing/able to do, the position may just not be the right fit.

        1. Woodward*

          Thank you for sharing that – it actually makes me feel better. I was in a car accident last year where someone merged into my lane and hit me. Now when I’m driving, I get anxiety if I have to merge lanes in traffic and will sometimes drive in the right lane the whole way, regardless of speed, because of this fear. My off topic point being – I appreciate knowing that I’m not the only person who took what feels like a long time to recover from the emotional/mental aspects of a car accident.

  22. Bagworm*

    #1 – Job hunting with sick boss

    I just wanted to share my experience with a similar situation. About three years ago, I was working at a very toxic organization and looking for a way out. I received a job offer the same week that our ED announced she had a very aggressive, terminal cancer. I decided to decline the job because I thought the organization needed me. Well, the situation got even worse. With an executive leader’s capacity reduced, a lot of jobs had to be re-distributed and some of that fell on my plate, increasing an already overbearing workload and having some absence at the helm (they did bring in an interim director and the ED continued to work as she was able) made it more chaotic and unhealthy.

    I was searching again within three months but it took me about a year to get another offer. I took a 20% pay cut to leave and while that’s been more difficult than I anticipated but I feel sooooo much better. And, even though I was right about how much they needed me. I still work as a consultant for them, three years later they still haven’t figured out how to do my job, despite every effort I’ve made at training and providing documentation. The consulting’s not nearly as bad because I have control over my time and the projects I take and a little extra income is good (see pay cut above) (although I did significantly underprice myself, having never done freelance work before).

    Anyway, the point of my rambling is that to this day, I regret passing on that job opportunity. The organization would not have gone under and I would have a lot more time to be happy and healthy (not to mention how I contributed to the company’s awful culture with my bad attitude, too (despite my best efforts to keep it in check).

    Good luck to you and I hope you can let go of the guilt. You’re not doing anything wrong.

  23. Us, Too*

    re: OP #2 not meeting with men for breakfast/lunch. I find myself wondering it if is OK to meet with a gay man for lunch. What about a lesbian? In any event this all sounds very complicated and like it may be an obstacle to getting legitimate work done.

    1. LBK*

      I was wondering about that, too. If it’s supposed to be about not being tempted/hit on, shouldn’t it be based more on sexuality than gender?

    2. Steve G*

      This is a valid point….it may look like a hypothetical to some people but living in NYC where so many people are gay… would come up alot!

    3. Bagworm*

      Having spent most of my career at/with organizations where at least half of the staff were LGBT (and most were a much higher percentage than that), I always think it’s a little odd to presume avoiding the opposite sex somehow insulates you from unwanted advances (not that this was a problem in my experience because, well, I was working with professional adults). I also have to think of it whenever the topic of sharing rooms on business travel comes up since dividing along gender/sex seemed no less arbitrary than dividing along toe nail length.

  24. Employment Lawyer*

    Re #2:
    Declining a lunch or breakfast meeting without being rude

    I rarely say this, but you’re dead wrong. So is the OP.

    The reason is in the first line of the OP’s post, which reads “I am a membership director for a chamber of commerce.”

    I serve on a chamber of commerce board. Doing things like “having lunch with members” is what a membership director is FOR. Discriminating against male commerce members (she’d presumably be more than happy to have lunch with the women, based on her post) is a bad thing for her job. More to the point it is antithetical to the basis for her position.

    In other words, when she says
    “I have a personal policy that I do not meet with those of the opposite sex outside of a professional environment, alone”
    she is failing to recognize that lunch with a businessman, for a membership director, IS a “professional environment.” Chambers of commerce are usually seeking to keep their members happy and becoming distant is a good way to get the reverse to be true.

    It doesn’t mean she needs to see him if he’s creepy. She can certainly bring a friend. She can focus on meeting his boss, or have a gender-free policy that she only interacts with people who make chamber-related decisions. She can ask to come to lunch with his whole office, and bring doughnuts. But if she is generally uncomfortable meeting men in social settings, then she should not work at a position that is founded on social interaction.

    1. Meg Murry*

      Yes, this is what I was trying to say above, only better put. You don’t need to go to the local date-night restaurant at 7 pm – yes, that would be boundary crossing. But business lunches are business, period, and a restaurant is just about the safest public place you can meet with someone. This is part of your job, and if you don’t want to do it, you are not a good fit for this job.

    2. Lar*

      I live in the deep south in a non metro area and I don’t see anyone batting an eye over the OP’s personal policy if she lived here. I served on the chamber board and although we were never faced with this particular situation I don’t see any of my fellow board members making too big of a fuss over it.

  25. Julia*

    To #1:
    I used to be a retail buyer and would meet salesmen in hotel rooms to see their lines…common practice in the industry at the time, not sure about now. The door was kept open and no one thought anything about it. And I also had many, many work lunches and breakfasts with salesmen. No big deal at all.

  26. NavyLT*

    #2 – It’s not like the guy’s asking for a “business meeeting” at 8pm Saturday at that new French place that just opened downtown, right? The whole idea of limiting interactions with people of the opposite sex strikes me as a bit paranoid–I’m pretty sure no one trips on the way out of a business lunch and accidentally falls into bed with the client.

  27. anon-2*

    #4 – had it happen to me many times in my career. When it really hurts – is when you are/were “the point person” on a project and you don’t get recognized. At all.

    There was one occasion at a former employer where this happened – and when the recognition for the “team” was given out, I wasn’t named, although I had done 80 percent of the work. I stormed out of the office. At first my manager screamed at me for an over-reaction, then recanted his actions and ordered the project leader – you better the hell DO something, and do it quickly.

    On other occasions – when I’ve been asked to “go the extra mile” – and don’t even get a “thanks” — I’m careful to note who didn’t say “thanks” and steer clear of them going forward. Not worth the frustration, let alone the lost time and lost attention on one’s primary tasks.

    1. Cassie*

      I had a situation like this – I was asked to step in 3 weeks before a major event because the point person quit out of the blue. It wasn’t as smooth as I would have liked, but no major problems and everyone seemed happy with the event. When the thank you email went out, the manager (who had done very minimal work) got first billing, I got second billing and the other people who helped (that I recruited) weren’t even mentioned. I was livid, but I didn’t want to create a firestorm so I just replied to the person sending the email saying “actually, we should be thanking these people (Annie, Betty, Chuck)” so the person ended up sending those people an email to thank them. What I really wanted to say was “why are we thanking the manager when she didn’t even do anything? *I* was the one who stepped in last minute; and Annie, Betty, and Chuck are the ones who were involved. The manager didn’t do squat”.

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