interviewer wants me to commit to the job before getting an offer, wearing shorts to work, and more

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

1. Interviewer wants me to commit to the job before they make an offer

I had an interview with a company that is a direct competitor with my current employer. The two companies have similar contracts with the same agencies. There have been a few employees that have switched from one of the companies over to the other one. The prospective employer even knows all of the key people who I currently work with and their work experience.

The interview went really well and I got a good feeling of what the job duties and my possible career path were going to be. The interviewer told me that he likes everything that I had to offer. He then explained that the company policy is to ask for the person to commit to the job before getting an actual offer. He explained that in past history that interviewees would go back with offers to their current employers to see if they would match the offer and most of the times that they would. He said that he wanted to make sure I am committed to working for their company and not be able to go back to my current employer to negotiate salary. He eventually discussed salary and he stated that it didn’t matter (within reason) what my salary was going to be as long as it wasn’t negotiable with my current employer. Through the discussion, I found out they would be willing to pay me much more than I currently make. I am currently paid around industry average. Have you ever heard of a company approaching offers in this manner? Is this a red flag?

It’s absurd, because obviously you can’t commit to an offer without knowing the specifics of the salary and benefits — and it’s unreasonable for them to ask you to commit before they’ve even decided if they want to hire you. That said, I’d interpret the request as meaning “we want to know that you’re genuinely interested in this role and not simply hoping to use it as a way to get more money out of your current employer.” That’s not really something they have a right to demand either, but it’s a little more reasonable than the way he’s framing it.

I don’t think it’s necessarily a sign that they’re crazy in general; they might just handle this one thing weirdly, although I’d take it as a sign to be extra alert for other weirdness. You should never take a job without having a really good sense of the culture, management style, and how they operate generally, but it’s especially true when weirdness like this pops up.

As for what to say, I’d go with, “I obviously can’t commit to accepting an offer without seeing the details of it, but I’m very interested, and I don’t plan to use an offer to try to get a counteroffer from my employer. If I just wanted a raise from my employer, I would have already asked them for one. I’m interested in this job because ___.”

2. Contacting the person who had my job before me

Is it ok to contact the previous person who was in the position you are currently in? I never worked with or met the previous employee of my current position, but I am new to the role and wanted to reach out to them just to get a “quick and dirty” of some of the company’s special procedures to be sure I am not missing any details or steps. I am really just trying to be as efficient as possible so I can be successful in the role. I am currently finding things as they come, which creates re-work, etc.

Well, they don’t work there anymore. It’s one thing if you have one or two quick, specific questions, but most people are going to be annoyed if you contact them with something this open-ended and want them to give you a broad overview when they’re no longer being paid for their time.

3. How do I motivate a coworker?

How do I motivate a coworker? We work on projects that can be weeks or months long. We are all on the same level of pay and are expected to be capable of doing the projects from start to finish. We do have a manager but are pretty much self-managed and are expected to be motivated. Our manager is rarely needed.

How do I motivate a coworker so I am not left doing 90% of the projects? I will ask this coworker to do x,y,z (although he should know as he has been doing this job for longer than me). I shouldn’t have to ask him to do anything as he should know. The problem is if he doesn’t do his share, I am left doing most of the work because the work has to get done. It’s stressful and I find myself angry a lot of the time. The manager does know about this person and has spoken to him about doing his share of the work. It works for a few days than he is back to his regular non-productive self.

You can’t motivate a coworker. He either is or isn’t motivated. If he’s not, then you talk to your manager about how that’s affecting your work and ask how she’s like you to handle it. If your manager won’t deal with it, then the problem is more your manager than your coworker.

However, you could also start being more direct with this coworker and say something like, “You are leaving me to do the majority of work on our shared projects. How can we split this evenly and ensure that it doesn’t fall to me to assign you pieces?”

4. Wearing shorts to work

I’ve been working at a startup for the past 6 months, and now that the weather is warm, many of my colleagues are wearing shorts to work. We are all young, in our early to mid 20s, and there is no dress code. I feel kind of weird about wearing shorts to work, as I want to maintain a professional appearance. Do you think it’s okay to wear or shorts like some of my colleagues do on hot days or should I dress a cut above everyone and maintain a more professional appearance? I usually wear jeans and a button down or polo shirt.

It really depends on your workplace culture. In many offices, shorts would be wildly out-of-place. That doesn’t seem to be the case in your office, so therefore there’s nothing wrong with wearing them there if you want to. The only addendum I’d make to that is whether you notice any pattern to who does and doesn’t wear shorts. If everyone wearing them is lower-level and no one in management wears them, then you might take that as an indication that if you want to be promoted at some point, it might be useful to present yourself the way people in the roles you want to move into present themselves.

5. Coworker punched my significant other outside of work

My significant other was physically assaulted by a coworker last night following a work event. He was at work-sponsored function and after the designated hours of the event, many employees stayed at the venue at which point employee very drunkenly punched my SO multiple times (SO did not instigate nor retaliate and is fine). Is it reasonable for the employee to be disciplined for actions that occurred outside business hours? My SO thinks he cannot report this as it occurred after the event formally concluded. To me it seems like a no-brainer and I think the employee should be fired.

It’s absolutely reasonable for him to report this! The fact that it wasn’t during the work event itself or during work hours is irrelevant. His coworker punched him, multiple times. Most managers would want to know that one of their employees is punching other employees. If your significant other needs convincing, point out to him that harassment policies (and harassment laws) cover behavior outside of work as well as inside — and after all, if your boss aggressively sexually harassed you outside of work hours, he’d still probably think you should report it, right? No difference here.

{ 211 comments… read them below }

  1. Kate

    I think shorts are fine as long as they are of a decent length and not cutoffs. I think you can dress shorts up a bit and I would rather deal with someone comfortable in shorts than gross and sweaty in pants.

    1. Loose Seal

      After all, UPS drivers wear shorts and they look fine; I’ve never seen one that I didn’t think looked professional. I think a lot of it has to do with having the shirt tucked in, a belt on, and everything pressed.

      My personal preference: the more skin you show on your bottom half, the less you should show on your top and vice versa. So if you wear shorts, your shirt should have some sort of sleeve (even a cap sleeve) and a higher neckline. If you wore pants, you could wear a modest sleeveless top for work (and a lower cut sleeveless top for play!). I don’t know if my preference is Stacy and Clinton approved but I think it keeps me from looking too beach-y casual.

      1. Jazzy Red

        Good guidelines, Loose! I’m sure Stacy & Clinton would agree with you (and by “you”, I mean “us”).

    2. StarHopper

      Also, if you are a woman, you can avoid the whole shorts/pants issue by wearing skirts and dresses! So easy to look professional and stay cool.

      1. Liane

        I wear either capris or skirts, the latter with split half-slips (like culottes). Both are pretty comfortable even though our building gets very warm during 90+ – 100+ summer weather. (building has AC, but it’s controlled by corporate not at store level. Grrr)
        Come to think of it, I think the skirts may be slightly cooler than the capris.

      2. Mike C.

        There were days back in the lab when the AC would break down, and I was seriously jealous of the women!

        1. LBK

          I am frequently jealous of the women in my office who can get away with skirts and sleeveless tops while the men are restricted to long-sleeved shirts, ties and pants.

          1. Tina

            I am SO sympathetic to men with long-sleeves. Do they not sell short-sleeved, button shirts for men? I always wonder that when I see men wearing those in 90+ degree weather!

            1. Persephone Mulberry

              They do, but for some reason pop culture has declared that only nerds wear short-sleeve button downs, particularly with a tie.

              1. esra

                Or hot hipster beardos, rrao.

                But yea, in a more corporate or formal workplace, men seem to have limited options.

            2. LBK

              They do, but they aren’t considered as professional as long-sleeved for whatever reason. As Persephone notes below, they’re considered geeky/nerdy.

              1. The Cosmic Avenger

                I always thought they made me look like a manager at a fast food establishment. I’m not denigrating the short sleeves or working fast food, it just felt less professional than my khakis and polo shirts.

                1. LBK

                  True – or a grocery store manager. That always seems to be what they’re wearing in the photos on the wall.

            3. Homme

              The difference between long sleeves and short sleeves is not that great on a 90 degree day. I’m a woman, but I wear 3/4 length or long sleeves all summer in the office, and no one will catch me showing my armpit. IMO they never make women’s short sleeve shirts with long enough sleeves. I want at or near elbow length. It irritates.

            1. LBK

              They are, but only on Fridays when it’s business casual. Although the new head of our company is encouraging managers to let the dress code be more lax in the summer, so that’s good.

        2. Tina

          Ugh, I can’t stand dresses and skirts. I’d sooner wear pants, even when it’s hot (luckily my work slacks are fairly light weight) . I have a handful of dresses and can’t remember the last time I wore any of them.

          1. ClaudiaS

            Me too. I wore a skirt the other day for the first time in about five years. Didn’t take me long to remember why I don’t like skirts.

          2. BeenThere

            Mee too!

            I’m of the though that if short skirts (i.e. anything not full length) are allowed then shorts should be. The same for the top half, if us ladies are allowed to wear sleeveless then so should the gents. Having said that I have never worked in an office in the states that didn’t require me to wear a secret thermal layer under my suit so I didn’t freeze.

            1. Nanc

              BeenThere–do you work in my office?! I walk to work but in the summer I keep a sweater and a pair of pants stashed in my desk for those days when the AC is set to arctic freeze.

          3. M. in Austin!

            I hate skirts and dresses too! I don’t know why, but I feel very self-conscious in them. Luckily, my employer allows shorts :)

          4. Anonathon

            Same here! I only own one dress (the one in which I got married), and it’s not quite office appropriate :)

            Luckily, I work in a super-casual office. I’m wearing jeans and a t-shirt as a I type this.

        3. Cat

          Heh, the flip side is that I’m pretty sure my office is perpetually air conditioned to be comfortable to men in suits. All the women keep shawls and space heaters in their offices.

          1. Jennifer M.

            Exactly. For years I would wear a wool cardigan in the office all summer long because the AC was so ridiculously cold!

          2. The IT Manager

            I HATE that. I would like I cool enought ot be comfortable in long pants, but I hate having to put a sweater on every single day especially in the summer. It’s also far too cold to wear any kind of open toed shoes in the office. Not that I mind that so much, but it does impact my wardrobe decisions.

            Right now I am working from home in shorts and bare feet. A/C is set at 79 degrees; although, its a tiny it chilly so I may raise it.

            I’d much prefer the A/C set around 73 degrees in a work enviroment.

          3. CanadianWriter

            My current job has no air conditioning, and it’s amazing. Shivering all summer is the worst.

          4. Elizabeth West

            I keep a cardigan at work for just this reason. My end of the room is colder than the other end. You can feel it change when you walk down the aisle. We do get to wear shorts in the summer (you pay for it and the money goes to charity), but I would absolutely freeze, so I don’t do it.

          5. Anonypants

            That’s my life right there. I love wearing dresses, and most of my dresses are sleeveless (I know it’s hotly debated whether that’s acceptable, but none of my employers have ever had a problem with this), but even in the summer I often find myself wearing tights and a blazer or cardigan, because otherwise I’d be cold all day.

            I once brought this up with my mom, more as an observation than anything else, and in response she said I was being sexist and making “everything” a gender issue.

            1. Tina

              As someone who overheats very easily, which sometimes leads to headache and nausea (even indoors, it’s not just an outside/direct sun thing), this is my thought on office temp: people who are cold can at least add layers. People who are warm usually can’t take much off – without being fired and/or arrested! :)

              Which is not to say I don’t have sympathy for people who are cold, I do. I know how uncomfortable extreme temperatures can be in either direction.

              1. Andrea

                I overheat very easily and quickly, too. And I turn red and get headaches! I don’t know why. I’m not overweight, and I’m in good physical shape. So yeah, I feel badly for the ones who are cold, but I’m almost always overheated, even inside (in winter, I’m usually too hot when I’m inside; in summer, I’m too hot almost everywhere), when others think it’s nice and comfy.

              2. Vancouver Reader

                I am usually freezing in an office and while I dress for it (cardigan, long pants) it is hard to type with gloves on.

          6. Case of the Mondays

            The women in my office all use space heaters in the summer. Mine is running right now. Ridiculous. I am also wearing pants and a blazer and still freezing.

          7. Tris Prior

            I was going to say – people work in offices where they can wear shorts without freezing to death due to excessive AC?

            Don’t get me started. It’s still pretty cool outside here and it’s like everyone looks at the calendar, sees it’s June, and cranks the AC to arctic levels. :(

            1. Natalie

              I was in a bar last night that had the AC on even though it was only in the low 70s. Seriously? That’s not hot!

          1. Cath in Canada

            Every lab I’ve worked in, the health and safety officers put up a strong fight against shorts, but admit defeat by mid-August most years.

            Shorts (or a short enough skirt) under a lab coat looks hilarious – almost as if the person’s naked underneath!

            1. Trillian

              Particularly since nobody ever budgets for the sheer number of -20 C freezers, -70 C freezers, refrigerated centrifuges, computers, etc, all pumping heat into the average biolab. One building I worked in had signs saying the air-conditioning was running at maximum. It may have been so; but it was 85 F.

      3. Sidney

        Because of this, I kind of assumed the letter writer is a man. He never mentioned skirts, and mentioned jeans and polo as everyday attire.

    3. Anonicorn

      While shorts are inappropriate in my office and I wouldn’t wear them there, I agree that some shorts can be dressed up enough, like a nice Bermuda short.

      Banana Republic has a lot of cute shorts I wish I could wear (to work).
      http://goo.gl/ww98j1

    4. Ask a Manager Post author

      Just to make sure my answer was clear, I don’t think shorts — any kind of shorts — are usually acceptable in most offices. The OP’s office appears to have its own dress code situation going, but no one should extrapolate from that to it being okay in most offices.

      The way you know shorts are okay in your office is if you see lots of people wearing them. Otherwise, assume they definitely are not.

    5. Vicki

      I worry about two statements, one in the letter and one in the response:

      OP says “Or should I dress a cut above everyone and maintain a more professional appearance?”

      OP — it;’s a Startup. Be Very Cautious about thinking you’re dressing “a cut above everyone”. At Facebook, the CEO and Founder wears a hoodie. If people realize you think that wearing “jeans and a button down” is “a cut above” everyone else, you may find yourself looking for another job.

      AAM: “if you want to be promoted at some point, it might be useful to present yourself the way people in the roles you want to move into present themselves.”

      Again, this is a startup. At least in tech startups, the usual rules of “dress for the job you want” do not apply. It’s more likely that the dress lines are split on engineering/dev vs marketing/sales than on individual contributors / managers (and it’s extremely unusual in tech for someone to be promoted to manager on the basis of their clothing choices).

  2. PEBCAK

    #1) You can even point to AAM’s advice on counteroffers as evidence that you know better :-)

  3. Ann Furthermore

    #2 – I agree with Alison that reaching out to your predecessor is probably not a good idea. It is frustrating when you’re learning a new role, but honestly I think it’s better to make mistakes as you go along, and then learn how to fix them. I think you learn more that way, and you’re more likely to remember what not to do in the future. That’s how it is for me, anyway. If someone just tells me something, even if I take notes, I won’t remember right away. But if I hose something up, then I’ll definitely learn from it and be able to apply that knowledge down the road.

    If you’re worried about your manager being frustrated, unless he or she is totally unreasonable, you’re probably OK. A learning curve is expected. If you’re making the same mistakes over and over again, that’s a different story.

    1. Sidney

      I can verify that it’s frustrating to be asked questions when you no longer work somewhere. For about a month after my replacement started (several weeks after I left), I would receive weekly emails with questions whose answers were all pretty much, “I don’t remember the exact file path, but that information is in your drive on the server under OBVIOUS FILE NAME.doc”

  4. Mike

    Re #4: There are days where if I wasn’t wearing shorts I’d have to leave at 2pm. Stupid old industrial buildings in the SF Bay Area + no AC + lots of bodies and computers = HOT

  5. Gene

    Instead of shorts, try a kilt. You get the benefits of shorts without looking like a kid. The Utilikilts Mocker is a bit dressier than jeans, think Dockers.
    http://www.utilikilts.com/shop/mocker.html

    If it weren’t for safety regulations that require long pants, I’d be wearing mine at work every day.

    1. Elysian

      I’m not sure that, in many parts of the US, a kilt would be considered any more work appropriate than shorts. I think in many places it would be less culturally acceptable.

      1. Nichole

        I think you’re right, but I wish you weren’t. I think modern kilts are a perfectly utilitarian clothing item for men, with the added benefit of normalizing skirt-type clothing items for men who prefer to dress in a more traditionally feminine way. Everyone has the opportunity to be more comfortable. Maybe some people see that as a negative (“ew, if men wear kilts, it will make them think it’s ok to wear dresses!”), but I personally would see it as a step forward in how we think about dress in the US.

        1. Nichole

          Just to be clear, I don’t consider kilts feminine. I’m insinuating that if people were used to seeing men in kilts, the segue into men having the freedom to wear actual skirts if they choose would be less stigmatized.

        2. Cat

          My personal rule is that if a piece of clothing is acceptable for someone of one gender, it’s acceptable for someone of another gender. I feel like that’s really the only way to be non-discriminatory on this one.

        3. LBK

          Are you talking about people being more comfortable expressing gender identity through clothing, or just changing what types of clothing is typically considered acceptable for men?

          1. Nichole

            I’m pro-both. Men who have no interest in feminine gender presentation may be more comfortable in a kilt. I think a woman in a polo or a tie is going to have a much easier time being accepted as a professional than a man in an otherwise appropriate floral print top or a kilt, even a professional style one like the one at the link, so this is one of the areas where men are more constricted by gender norms than women. Not all self expression via clothing is appropriate in a work setting, but I do think there’s some room to grow in this area, especially for men.

        4. Sidney

          I’m loving this discussion of gender norms and workplace apparel.

          That said, to me kilts will never look “modern”. I see a kilt and I think of costumes.

      2. S

        No kidding. It’s just considered weird. Like a woman wearing a tutu over her slacks or something. It’s not that it shows too much skin, it’s just that it’s considered weird – and “weird” usually translates to inappropriate for a workplace because it could be distracting. (Definitely not trying to say that kilts *should* be considered weird or that there’s anything inherently wrong with them – but from a practical, this-is-how-things-are POV, they’re just inappropriate for work.)

      3. CEMgr

        And kilts are traditionally made of wool tartan (broadcloth or flannel). You think your cotton/poly khaki pants are uncomfortable in the summer? Try wool and learn what hot, sweaty and scratchy really mean.

    2. Andrea

      I personally think these are cool, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with men wearing them. But. A former friend of ours had a new co-worker (IT business, but not specialized, it was basically help desk) who wore a kilt every day. (Don’t know his name, so I’ll call him Kilt-Wearer.) This old friend wasn’t conservative, and we’re not in the south or in a small town or something. But he bitched about it constantly. He hated Kilt-Wearer, and most of his other co-workers did, too. I could never figure out why he cared one way or the other, but he would not shut up about it. Eventually, Kilt-Wearer left, perhaps because many of his co-workers didn’t like him. Maybe this is an extreme example; I don’t know. But I wouldn’t be surprised if, in many businesses, kilts were not welcomed and would be A Big Thing.

      1. Elizabeth West

        Seriously? Wow. Sounds like the friend had a problem, not the kilt guy. I would leave too if I were being bitched at like that about something so unimportant.

        At Exjob, we had a woman start working in sales one time (she was the only one in that department–in fact, there were only four women in the company). Some of the guys did this exact same thing–they just took a huge dislike to her and treated her horribly. I have no idea why, because she was really nice, but they made fun of her constantly. I tried to get them to stop, but there was nothing I could do. She quit because she said she had back problems, but I know it was because of the way they treated her. There was no rhyme or reason to it.

        I think more people would have liked her if they’d given her a shot, but the vocal ones colored everyone else’s thinking. Unless Kilt-Wearer was a jerk, it sounds like the friend did the same thing.

        1. Andrea

          Oh, I agree–that former friend of ours had many, many issues and problems. We knew him for a long, long time, but he just kept getting worse, and he wasn’t interested in changing or getting help. The kilt-wearing co-worker issue was just the last straw. It became all he would talk about.

      2. Gene

        That’s interesting. If it’s above 40 F, and I’m not at work, I’m in a kilt. I have gotten negative comments only a few times, even while visiting family in the deepest Ozarks. Women seem to almost universally like it.

        Yeah, Utilikilts aren’t inexpensive, but they also aren’t cheaply made. Before I lost 70 pounds and hd to sell my old ones I had owned them for almost 10 years with no evident wear. And they sold on ebay for about 75% of new price.

        Regarding the weird factor, I’m fully in control of my Inner Mammoth http://waitbutwhy.com/2014/06/taming-mammoth-let-peoples-opinions-run-life.html and really don’t care if people like it or not, I’m comfortable. As far as what’s underneath, if asked I’ll look down and say, “Um, shoes and socks?”

        1. LBK

          Can I ask what kind of industry/position you’re in and what the office culture is like in general around dress code?

          I can’t possibly imagine getting away with a kilt in my office – it’s just way too far outside the culture of our industry and our business.

          1. Gene

            I work for a municipal government as a Pretreatment Inspector. That means I regularly visit industrial sites, work in traffic and sewers; so long pants are a requirement for safety, men and women alike. Since I am pretty much on call whenever in the office (and in my off time if something happens), I have to be ready to go.

            The office culture is pretty relaxed as far as clothing goes, suits and ties are only seen on a few of the guys for whom that is the norm, or if one is going before Council. For most who don’t have to work in the right of way it’s business casual, for those of us who do it’s jeans/uniform pants and uniform shirts or logo t-shirts.

            Back to cost, there are other companies than Utilikilts; I especially like them because they are local and have fridge of free good beer in the store for customers. :)

            The OP did say it was a startup, I really can’t imagine a kilt standing out in that environment. Heck, pair the black pinstripe Docker with a nice shirt, tie, blazer, and black socks and dress shoes and you’ve got my take on Stndard Business Attire. And they even have a tuxedo kilt, if I ever need one, I’ll buy one.

        2. Brad

          Oh, I like that answer. I wear my utilikilt to work from time to time. It is perfectly acceptable in my office, but we’re also a casual institution. However, I do occasionally get a question or implied statement about the status of my underwear. I’m never quite sure how to respond, so I think I’ll steal that one.

          1. Gene

            I usually use that one, sometimes I’ll say, “A blue silk ribbon”, or “Depends.”

            If my wife is with me, she smiles evilly and says, “Lipstick.”

        3. Chinook

          “…and I’m not at work, I’m in a kilt. I have gotten negative comments only a few times, even while visiting family in the deepest Ozarks. Women seem to almost universally like it”

          Diana Gabaldon was once asked what it is about a man in a kilt and she said it was something about a man’s readiness that is not appropriate for work. The stills from the Outlander set also seem to be showing that a kilt looks good on any man, of any age and of any size.

    3. Tinker

      I keep on meaning to give kilts a try, but I have essentially zero skirt decency skill and I’m a utility cyclist. This seems like a dangerous combination.

      1. Andrea

        I also have no skirt decency skill. I like that term. I think it comes from wearing jeans and only jeans for years (as a grad student and later as an adjunct instructor at a university). But as a woman, that’s why the only skirts I wear are the extra-long maxi skirts that come down to the ankles.

        1. VintageLydia USA

          I got cheap bike shorts to wear under mine. I have a toddler, though, so even when I’m being mindful, I need to be able to move without worrying about decency. Also prevents chaffing which is why I originally stopped wearing skirts.

    4. Cath in Canada

      Oh, how I wish more men would wear kilts… my husband wore a rented kilt for our wedding and really liked it, but he won’t consider buying one because his friends would give him too much hassle for it :(

  6. Chris

    4.
    I think the key to casual offices is that you are comfortable. I don’t view jeans as more or less casual than shorts. I wear shorts at my job because I like to wear shorts, and it’s perfectly acceptable, for people at my job level at least (and I have no interest in moving up). Even the highest on-site managers wear Jeans on a regular basis (and one of them does wear shorts occasionally). I live in the midwest, and during summer things can get crazy hot and humid. Generally I wear shorts and a polo/button down.

    If you’re wearing super formal business clothes, then that might seem aloof or something. But jeans? You’re fine, don’t worry about it.

    1. Tanja

      I agree. Well pressed khaki shorts or similar can look a lot more professional than jeans, too!

      1. The IT Manager

        I don’t know. This is at least somewhat personal preference/bias, but I view any shorts as non-professional/business attire, and I do not think that I am alone in this.

        OTOH it is allowed in the LW’s office, but for that to be true to me it says that the allowable dress code is by no means business anything. Not that there’s anything wrong with this, but the standard the LW is trying to discern in her office is cultural norms and not limits of business casual.

        1. LBK

          I think a large part of it depends on your role. If you’re not seeing clients or going to meetings with C-levels, IMO it doesn’t really matter what you wear as long as it’s clean, put together and appropriate (ie not a ratty old hoodie with a snarky slogan on it).

          1. Jen RO

            In my company (software), shorts, flip-flops, snarky t-shirts and spaghetti straps are accepted. The managers do dress more professionally. So it’s up to OP – do you want to become a manager some day? Then you might want to dress up. I don’t have management aspirations, so I wear sandals and sundresses all summer.

            1. Neeta

              I’ve had a manager who dressed in shorts as well, granted the knee-length khaki shorts, as well as managers from the client company who came dressed in shorts and flip-flops.

              No one said anything, especially since it was mid-August and we had “insanely” high temperatures.

          2. Llywelyn

            I worked at a company where the CTO and CEO would regularly dress in a t-shirt with a snarky slogan on it, shorts, and flip-flops so long as he wasn’t seeing clients. I felt overdressed wearing jeans and a button-down shirt with no label.

            When clients were in town we dressed up, but it depended on the client whether that meant “Mountain West business casual” or “suits.”

            It all depends on the specifics of your office.

        2. Bwmn

          The only flip side to this is if you happen to be working with an office culture that has such an aggressive casual vibe that dressing more formally would serve to distance you from coworkers.

          I used to work outside the US and in a specific office where the culture was what I’d describe as aggressively casual. This was to such an extent that I know of one person who interviewed and was given feedback that the way she dressed for the interview (i.e. standard US interview attire) made her appear like she felt she was better than everyone else.

          I do think that there is a ‘standard’ business casual model that if I was showing up to an organization I knew nothing about, I’d stay within those bounds. But I think in practice, workplace dress codes really can vary wildly and the mantra of “know your office, know your industry” is key.

          1. C Average

            +1.

            My workplace could definitely be described as “aggressively casual. I tend to wear dresses a lot (mainly because I am inept at matching separates and am short-waisted and busty, so dresses work best for me), and even after nearly 8 years of working here and dressing this way, I get the occasional raised eyebrow and whispered “got an interview, eh?”

            If you want to fit here and show it through your dress, your best bet is to be aggressively casual. Jeans, shorts, sneakers, T-shirts, flip-flops . . . anything goes, as long as it’s not something you’d wear to an interview.

          1. Chris

            +1 Yes!! I cannot stand shorts. I’d definitely just wear a casual skirt and be both comfortable and casual. Well, I guess that is exactly what I wear at my job.

        3. AnotherAlison

          I’m also anti-shorts-for-work. A friend worked at an engineering company across the street from mine, and they started a shorts-allowed policy. It was right before we moved to a new office and my friend moved out of state, so I don’t know if that worked out long-term, but I thought it was tacky. . .for one, it leads to more flip-flop wearing, which drives me crazy. : ) A start-up is a different ballgame, so maybe in the OP’s situation it’s fine, but in general, unless we’re talking about the HVAC service guy or the Twin Peaks waitress, I don’t expect people I’m doing business with to be in shorts.

          1. AnotherAlison

            I also feel like a dork or like I’m wearing “mom” clothes in long shorts, so I probably would not be comfortable in shorts that I thought were work-appropriate.

      2. Kelly L.

        I agree with you, Tanja–the material the shorts are made of, and their cut, is crucial.

    2. Clever Name

      I work in a casual office environment, and one of the few things specifically banned in our very sparse dress code are shorts (along with tube tops and halter tops). Pretty much everything else goes.

      Even if we could wear shorts, I still wouldn’t, but I have a few personal views of professional dress that I know not everyone shares. Like I feel that sandals, even dressy ones on women, are inherently unprofessional, and unlike Alison, I feel sleeveless tops are okay, provided one has a cardigan or jacket to cover up if needed.

      1. Chloe Silverado

        I agree with you on the sandals, and I live in Florida where most people live in sandals all year round. I’m ok with a dress shoe with a peep toe, but I find something about a full on sandal in the workplace to be unprofessional.

        I also agree with sleeveless tops being ok, but that might be a Florida business casual norm that doesn’t translate to other less warm geographic areas. I work in a downtown area and see many women wearing professional looking sleeveless tops or dresses that I think are perfectly appropriate.

      2. Jen RO

        On the other have, I find it so odd that people have a problem with sandals and spaghetti straps! I would have never thought it’s a thing without reading this blog.

      3. Deedee

        Armpits! I would not mind sleeveless tops if women would not keep raising up their arms and displaying their armpits. I don’t see anyone doing this all winter when we are all wearing long sleeves and sweaters, but once these women put on a sleeveless top they are constantly leaning back in their chairs raising their arms over their heads or putting their hands behind their necks and I am really (weirdly?) grossed out by armpits. But I think sandals are just fine if they are a little dressy.

  7. V

    #2 – if you have specific questions, I’d go to your current manager. They’ll probably have a reasonable sense of how open your predecessor is to questions or contact.

    When the predecessor is still with the company, even in a completely different group, you can usually get a half hour meeting for a general background, and then maybe one question a week, so save it up for important things that you can’t discover on your own, like “Customer Z has always paid before we ship; were there issues in the past which prompted that? Should we let them move to 30 days post shipment like all the other customers?” Or “Has Ghiradelli been considered as a supplier before? We’re having quality control problems with the current chocolate supplier”.

    If they’re not working for the company, especially if you don’t know how or why, then I wouldn’t contact them without manager approval. It’s possible that they were fired for a good reason, management doesn’t want to get into the ugly details, but they shouldn’t be trusted with any company information.

  8. Seal

    My first job out of college was in a large academic library with no air conditioning. Shorts were the norm in the summer, as were skirts and loose dresses if you didn’t work in the stacks. BUT…this was in the late 80s, when walking shorts and longer hems were the norm. Anyone showing too much skin was asked to cover up, but that rarely happened. These days, I would NEVER wear shorts to work. Aside from the whole professional thing, sadly I no longer have the legs for it (particularly for the shorts kids wear today!). Occasionally I’ll wear capris, but only if I’m doing something that requires getting sweaty.

    1. Anon

      Good point. Longer shorts, like bermudas, are OK at work. But women’s shorts with a 3-inch inseam probably aren’t.

      (Someone correct me if I’m wrong, by the way! It’s really hot here and I would be thrilled to switch to shorts!)

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Just to be really clear, I don’t think shorts — any kind of shorts — are usually acceptable in most offices. The OP’s office appears to have its own dress code situation going, but I would absolutely not extrapolate from that to it being okay in most offices.

  9. GrumpyBoss

    #1: I don’t think this is so weird. Maybe the way they phrased it was. But there are a couple of key details here. Potential employer seems intimately familiar with current employer’s culture and knows that counteroffers are standard operating procedure. Potential employer also is looking to pay you above industry average, which depending on the company, may require a significant amount of red tape, approvals, political goodwill, etc. Potential employer had been burned before and wants to make sure you are interested in his company, and not just looking to leave your current company because of compensation. Asking you to commit? Yeah, stupid. Trying to flush out if you are genuinely interested? I chalk that up to once bitten, twice shy.

    I’ve been at a company where our offers were routinely used to get raises from current employers. The company was struggling publicly, so I understand that not everyone wanted to take a chance coming there. Heck, in retrospect, I wish I hadn’t :). But in any case, someone coming in, interviewing with me and my team, then also with my boss, took up a lot of time. But not nearly the amount of time it would take when I’d have to get an offer approved (lots of red tape, beyond my control). You call in favors to accelerate this, because you want to make a good impression on your candidate. And then… The candidate decides to stay where he is at. Very frustrating, and as a manager, I always felt like it reflected poorly on me. I put a great deal of weight on enthusiasm during interviews after this happened a couple of times. If I had doubts, I may have asked, “if we were to make an offer, what would you need to see to be excited about working here?”

    1. Mountain_Climber

      I am the person who asked the question. The industry standard, from what I noticed, is for people to shop around to get a better offer. I can guarantee based on how the interview went that he has been outbid by current employers multiple time before and lost good candidates in the process and as you have stated a huge waste of his valuable time. I know current coworkers that have threatened to leave and the current manager made sure that didn’t happen. It is a poor way to do business. If they offered the position in the traditional manner, I probably would have accepted right away. I think the way it was delivered to me in the interview was poorly done and there are better ways to gauge whether someone is just price shopping.

      1. GrumpyBoss

        Hope it works out for you, regardless of the path you choose. If existing employees are threatening to quit if they don’t get a raise, that would certainly scare me off a bit!

        With all the emphasis on pay in the interview process, I’d be concerned that I was working with a bunch of mercenaries who are always chasing the highest payday. Maybe this is standard in some industries.

          1. GrumpyBoss

            In itself, no. But if you are always willing to jump to the next highest bidder, it doesn’t create a very stable environment.

            Obviously pay is the #1 motivator for most of us. But there are other factors too, like challenge of the work, strategic direction of the company, cultural fit in the office, life/work balance, etc. If you join an organization that has many people making ultimatums to their boss of “pay me more or else”, they either don’t care about these other things or these things are a weakness at this company. It isn’t a red flag that I’d ignore.

            1. Mike C.

              Usually people only make those ultimatums when they aren’t being paid very well in the first place.

              1. Lisa

                I agree with this. I was underpaid by 30k, but only thought it was like 15k and was ok with it since others had more experience or degrees that I didn’t have. When I learned that my level was being offered to others with 20k more than me coming in with recruiters, I was mad and immediately started job searching. I was suddenly worth 75k after making 52k for 4 years. I wish employers would realize that they need to stop cutting corners and taking advantage of employees and pay industry level when it increases. If that means a current employee is now worth more than when they started, pay them as if you are hiring externally and they won’t even look at other companies.

                1. Mike C.

                  Agreed, this isn’t that difficult. Especially if they’re already hiring external applicants at the higher rate.

        1. Mike C.

          Do you not work for a paycheck? It’s not the only thing, but it’s certainly necessary to do things like eat or have a roof over your head.

          1. GrumpyBoss

            I never said that. I said it sounds like people are chasing the next big payday. Big difference.

            1. Mike C.

              What is the difference then? Why do you expect employees to stick around if someone else is offering them more money?

              Why do you categorize such efforts as “chasing the next big payday”?

              1. Graciosa

                Pay is a part of the evaluation of a job by smart employees, but only a part. Culture, opportunities (learning, growth, and promotional), the nature of the work, the quality of the manager, benefits, commute, employer’s financial stability, quality of life considerations, and a host of other factors can and should be part of the calculation.

                Yes, people work to get paid – we all understand that. But someone who looks only at the money and cares nothing for any other factor in the equation is not someone whose judgment I admire.

                I was trying to think of a good analogy, and the only thing that comes to mind is someone who jumps from partner to partner in search of sex rather than a relationship. Yes, sex can and should be part of intimate adult relationships – but there’s a lot more to it than just that. There are people who focus only on that one aspect – we’ve all met a few – but it’s not something I admire.

                Actually, I view both types with a bit of pity. They don’t know what they’re missing.

              2. LBK

                I think (or at least hope) I’ll reach a point where I’m satisfied with the standard of living my salary allows for and no longer consider pay the main driver of my career choices. Obviously I’m working for money, not just for my own amusement, but I think there are plenty of other things to consider beyond how much more someone will pay you.

                For example, if someone offered me $20k more for a job where I’d have to work 60 hours a week and be much more heavily accountable for my time, I probably wouldn’t take it. I like being able to go about my day how I choose and work/life balance is critical for my overall happiness – it’s why I took a pay cut in exchange for a job with a set schedule vs shift work.

                1. Lisa

                  I prefer finding a place that isn’t about motivating through fear. I don’t want to fear losing my job just cause I have gotten to the point, where my salary may be too expensive for my boss. Being constantly told how expensive overhead is, is draining. I shouldn’t have to worry about producing more simply because I am at industry level salary for my experience. Other companies are fine with paying this and not expecting 3x more work with every raise. Its the quality of work they get and the knowledge that comes with experience and working with the same accounts for 5+ years that they are paying for. But my old company wanted quantity over quality and replaced me with 4 juniors for my salary who need constant supervision.

                2. Mike C.

                  Yes, but if someone offered you 20k more for similar conditions, why would it be “mercenary” or “chasing the next big payday” to take it?

                3. LBK

                  If it’s truly the same/better in all other aspects then sure, I can’t see any reasonable argument for why the employee shouldn’t take the job that’s offering more money. That’s not the same as using another company to get an offer that you can make your current employer counter with.

                  I can’t put my finger on it but something about the situation is described makes me agree with GB – it does sound like people in that industry are more heavily motivated by salary than other industries and will take whatever job is going to pay them the most, end of sentence.

      2. LBK

        I think their motivation was fine but it was just worded badly. In my view, they get points for being upfront about the situation and asking you directly rather than trying to passively feel it out, although those points are kind of cancelled out by how awkwardly it was phrased.

    2. neverjaunty

      It is weird because they’re asking OP to “commit” to a position when they haven’t even disclosed the pay, and if OP were lying about wanting the job, why couldn’t OP just as easily lie about being “committed” to it?

      1. Mountain_Climber

        There was an understanding of the pay range and a short overview of the benefits. The pay is quite an increase with more respnsibility. I just don’t want to find out down the road that the offer letter has something that I do not like and they question my commitment to the job.

  10. Jennifer M.

    #4 – Following the office culture is fine, I would just recommend that if you have a meeting with anyone from the outside that you not wear shorts.

    At one former job we had the typical (DC-style) business casual Mon-Thurs and jeans were okay on Friday. At an all staff meeting, the CEO said that he was going to wear a suit every day because that’s how he rolled (paraphrase), but if it truly made staff more productive to wear shorts, he didn’t actually care as long as we weren’t meeting with anyone from outside the company.

    A few years later, on a Friday during a hot DC summer, we were have an event to celebrate the installation of a new CEO. His mom was there. And she commented to her son about some of the men looking sloppy in their jeans and T-shirts (enh, maybe) and the women wearing outfits that were too revealing (my recollection is that there were a lot of spaghetti straps but not necessarily a lot of cleavage or legs). Next thing you know there was a plan to ban jeans. The rest of the executive mgt team talked the new CEO out of this because we were about to move buildings and the new space would mean that 75% of the people who had offices would be moved to shared cubicles (we were a culture of mostly offices with cubicles primarily for the entry-level folks) so also getting rid of casual Fridays might not be the best move at that point in time. . .

    1. Purple Dragon

      I’m sorry – the new CEO brought his Mom to a work event ? I’d have a hard time taking him seriously after that ! But it’s given me a good laugh, so thanks for sharing.

      1. GrumpyBoss

        I did LOL at that, then shook my head that Mommy Dearest managed to influence a company policy. If she can convince her son to change something like dress code, I shudder to think what other cultural and business issues she has influence on.

        I’d be running for the hills.

        1. Jennifer M.

          As the rumor mill goes, technically she didn’t ask him to change the policy; she just made some comments on what she saw and he felt embarrassed and made a knee jerk decision that the rest of the exec mgt team talked him down from. And my recollection of the ops manual is that casual Friday was not a written policy but something that just kinda happened. The one funky written policy was absolutely no microwave popcorn. To the point that it was always brought up in new hire orientation.

          1. Mike C.

            I always feel like organizations should always have a few, really odd but really specific rules.

            In college, there was an explicit ban on trebuchets. Catapults were just fine, but no trebuchets.

            1. Laura2

              I worked at a company where the dress code specified that we could not wear “grunge style” (this was in 2013), and that culottes and walking shorts with tights under them were okay.

              1. AnotherAlison

                Culottes. . .lol. I had a couple awesome one-piece dressy culotte outfits that I wore tights with in junior high. God forbid you had to pee that day.

              2. Mints

                Wait no “grunge style” period? Lol I thought there would be another word at the end like “no grunge style over sized shirts” or something. Ugh I have a sudden need to put together “cozy grunge” or “business casual grunge” outfits
                My rebellious punk side is showing

            2. iseeshiny

              I’ve heard that one before! Trebuchets are a lot more powerful than catapults because they use a counterweight rather than a spring action – a five pound projectile will cause a lot more damage if thrown by a similarly sized trebuchet because it’s thrown with more force.

              Also I am sort of a pedant.

              1. Omne

                Actually a trebuchet is a type of catapult. You might be thinking of an onager, also a type of catapult, which uses torsion instead of a counterweight.

                I’m even more pedantic…..

                1. iseeshiny

                  We should start a club, with wine and cheese parties where we all try to out-factoid each other :)

                2. MentalEngineer

                  I thought the reason trebuchets were more dangerous was because they launch their projectiles on high parabolic rather than spherical trajectories, thus giving them a major boost in velocity/force from gravity on the way down. Also, because there are practical limits on how much rope you can bundle together, the maximum size (and hence throw weight) of a trebuchet is much greater than that of an onager. Trebuchets are also much easier to operate because you don’t have to recreate all that torsion for every launch – just pull the boom back down.

                  None of this is at all pedantic, as one never knows when it may be necessary to lay siege to your neighbor’s holdings over a point of familial honor.

        2. The Cosmic Avenger

          It’s not even so much that he brought his mom, but that he made a decision that significantly affects the employees, and therefore the business, on the basis of one observation/opinion instead of doing a bit of analysis or even just spitballing with the rest of management first. To me that indicates that he has no frigging idea how to manage a company.

          I guess the saving grace was that he listened to the rest of his management team when they told him what a stupid idea that was (in a diplomatic way, I’m sure).

      2. Jazzy Red

        Having your family at your installation is not unusual. Presidents, kings, most politicians and high level people do it. Even lower level people do it.

        Wouldn’t your mom/wife/SO want to stand with you if you achieved something important?

        1. LBK

          I don’t think becoming a CEO of a company is quite the same as a coronation or inauguration…I think it’s weird enough to have a party celebrating getting a new CEO, but presumably it would be a group affair, not an event specifically honoring him. I guess it depends on the tone but if no one else was encouraged to bring family it would be pretty weird.

          1. Jennifer M.

            It didn’t seem that unusual to us for his family to be there, but that is probably just an internal cultural aspect of that company.

      3. Rat Racer

        Second that – and how did the announcement go out to the company that jeans were banned? “Hi folks, my mom says that you all look sloppy in your shorts and spaghetti straps. So, that’s the end of our casual dress policy. Over and Out.”

        1. Jennifer M.

          There was no actual change to the dress code implemented, just rumors that it would be changed. There was an email about “concerns” about the way people were dressing and reminding us that we were a professional organization, the way that sometimes there would be emails about “concerns” that people were leaving the public spaces messy and reminding that we had to pick up after ourselves.

          I should point out that though I often wear jeans on Friday, I actually find them the least comfortable of all my clothes. I find my dress pants to be of much softer material than my jeans (which are often crunchy from line drying) and I almost always find skirts and dresses more comfortable than pants. All this to say, that I wouldn’t have cared for myself if the policy had changed. But it didn’t.

      4. LD

        It wasn’t just a “work event”, it was him being celebrated as the new CEO. Lots of organizations include family when there is a big event for an employee and perhaps more so if it’s someone at the executive ranks. My mom and my siblings and I went to such an event when I was a kid and my dad had moved to take a promotion to an executive position. It was pretty common at this organization to include family for such events.

    2. Hlyssande

      When my department moved to a new office park from the old industrial building that another division was booting us out of, they took away our casual Fridays, citing the fancy office park as the reason.

      Funny, right after we moved in and started exploring, we saw people every day of the week in jeans and tshirts and super casual dress.

      We remain the only part of the company without casual Fridays. Boo!

    3. Mike C.

      Wait, you can’t be comfortable because someone else’s Mommy said no? Are you f***ing kidding me?!

  11. Fish Microwaver

    #5 – Quite apart from informing your management about the co-worker who got so bent that he assaulted somebody, your SO should be reporting it to the police and pressing charges. That behaviour is totally unacceptable.

    1. Jen

      Yeah, legally it’s assault. I mean, OP’s significant other may not want to go that far, but he’s definitely within his rights to do so.

  12. Rebecca

    #4 Shorts in the Office – I opt for capri pants and nice tops in the summer, and our office is very casual since we interact via phone/computer and get very few visitors. I save shorts for extremely hot days, like mid to upper 90’s, as it gets pretty warm in the office on those days, even with air conditioning.

    I really wish spaghetti strap camis (worn alone) were just banned outright. I think they’re fine when used as a layer under another top, but by themselves they have no place in an office, casual or not. I don’t need to know what color bra you’ve chosen to coordinate with your cami top.

    1. GrumpyBoss

      I think I’m getting old because visible bra straps bother me so much. I wore a cami to a coffee shop yesterday and was self conscious the entire time because my bra straps were showing – and no, it wasn’t coordinated. If it isn’t something that I feel comfortable in at a Starbucks of all places, I cannot imagine wearing something like that to work.

      1. Dan

        As a dude, I do find visible bra straps in a professional environment to be a bit weird. To me, it’s no different than wearing low riders and showing my underwear band off to everybody.

      2. Kelly L.

        I was a young adult during the big trend of wearing spaghetti strap tops with a coordinating bra in the mid to late 90s, and I really liked that look; it was way cooler and more comfortable than trying to wear a strapless, which are miserable devices in the summer, especially if you’re generously endowed. That said, it’s a casual look and definitely not for work.

        1. C Average

          It is an article of faith for me that no fun whatsoever can be had in a strapless bra. No matter how cute I might look, I feel fidgety and precarious in these contraptions. I’ve banned them from my wardrobe. I have several fun casual dresses from companies like Prana and Athleta that have built-in shelf bras. I LOVE them. They are my absolute favorite. I wear them to work with cardigans.

          1. VintageLydia USA

            Honestly if you’re afraid the bra will move around or slip down, it’s probably too big in the band (and too small in the cup.) It’s a pretty common problem, especially since the vast majority of women don’t actually fit the sizes in most stores (but that’s a rant for another day.)

        2. Mallory

          I’m pretty envious that the younger generation of women can just wear a spaghetti strap top and not worry about bra straps. When I was young, we would be mortified to have a bra strap showing. It just was not done, unless you wanted to be judged as slovenly for it. I still don’t like the look (except for teenage girls running around in the summer having casual fun — not for grown women in an office), but it would be nice to have the option.

      3. NoPantsFridays

        I agree with this — and especially so in a professional environment. As Dan says, I would not wear low-riding pants and display my underwear to my coworkers, and the same applies here!

    2. Clever Name

      I agree. Call me an old fuddy-duddy (I’m 34) but I find this really inappropriate and unprofessional. I wear a lot of shells that are slightly sheer, and I wear cotton tank tops underneath with shoulder straps that are wide enough and placed so that you cannot see my bra straps, even through a shirt.

  13. Fish Microwaver

    #3 – I’d be keeping detailed records about the contribution of your co-worker to shared projects. Then I’d go to the boss with a request for a raise as I’m doing the work of almost 2 people.

    1. GrumpyBoss

      Wow, I really disagree with this. The manager should be engaged to address motivation, or to inform her that you are doing more work than you feel 1 person can handle. It doesn’t sound like the manager is aware that there is a problem because she is so hands off. She needs to be brought in. But to first go to the boss, present a problem, and propose a solution of more pay?

      I can tell you that this boss would not be very receptive.

      1. Colette

        More pay doesn’t actually address the problem, either. It might address the OP’s problem, if she’s willing to do more work if she’s paid more. but it doesn’t address the fact that one employee is not contributing.

        1. LBK

          I agree. If this were a case of the coworker quitting and the manager not hiring a replacement, that might make more sense, but when there’s already someone there who’s supposed to be carrying the workload then the answer should be firing the slacker rather than leaving their dead weight on the team to continue to drag down the OP’s morale.

  14. Ella

    I used to work as a server at a golf course and our uniform was a golf shirt and black bottoms. All of the female servers were “encouraged” to wear as short of shorts as possible. Yuck.

    1. Elizabeth West

      I used to work at Golden Corral, when it was a sit-down restaurant and not a buffet. We had to wear these absurdly short skirts, a brown plaid camp shirt, and a matching kerchief. I learned to squat if I had to pick something up–you didn’t dare bend over. I did get pulled onto a customer’s lap once. It was so gross. >_< I'm convinced it would not have happened if I had been wearing trousers.

  15. the gold digger

    Re LW 2: I moved to a different division of the same company. Before I moved to the new position, I put together a one-inch thick document with all the reports I did, contact information about every account, file locations for everything, etc.

    I also made sure all the paper files (which had not existed before I started) were clean and up to date and I cleaned out the social emails in my outlook account.

    Then I spent two hours with the new guy, reviewing everything.

    For months – months! – he would call me with questions. I started asking if he had gone into my old outlook account (he had the pw), telling him that was where the history of the accounts was. I also asked if he had looked in the paper files.

    He had done neither. That was when I told his boss, who is a friend of mine, that he did not seem to have a lot of initiative. His calls have stopped.

    I would not bother the person who worked there before you. Just figure things out and document the processes so your successor doesn’t have to go through the same thing.

    1. Kay

      Wow, yeah, that’s really excessive. Honestly, the only reason I’ve called my predecessor in the past is because I took over my mother’s job, and being my mother, she was always willing to help me out.

      Outside of a strange situation like mine, the only reason I can think of to call a predecessor is if you’ve truly exhausted ALL other resources on a specific question. And I do mean ALL other resources. You’ve looked in all the files, you’ve contacted IT, you’ve asked your boss and there are a considerable number of people involved and no one has the answer. And even then I wouldn’t be upset or put out or cause it to burn a bridge if they did not have the answer. But this is a pretty unlikely scenario that no one would know these things.

  16. Poohbear McGriddles

    I had an interview at a software company shortly after graduation. I followed the campus career office recommendation and wore a conservative suit. Imagine my surprise when half the people interviewing me were wearing shorts and sandals! It was definitely a different corporate culture. I guess it worked out for them, though, as they are still having success.

    1. Persephone Mulberry

      At one of my first office jobs, the boss would purposely underdress on interview days – like, typically he was jeans and t-shirts and for client meetings he was dress shirt and tie, but for potential hires it was gym shorts and flip flops (sweatpants and sneakers in the winter). I never did quite figure out what his logic was with that.

      1. Tinker

        The last guy we hired has a shaved head, beard, and forearm tattoos — he wore short sleeves to the interview. My coworker and I, when we interviewed him, were both wearing extremely loud Hawaiian shirts (we’re trying to get Loud Hawaiian Shirt Day to stick at the office) and hair buzzed at various lengths (though at the time I’d been growing mine out for about four months).

        We made some comment to the effect of “So… do you have a Hawaiian shirt?” It’s kind of a joke, but there is a bit of… we really do want to get an impression across of what the company is like, particularly in areas that people are going to find relevant to their everyday comfort. In this case, that the QA folks have no hair or fashion sense — for some people, that’s a pro… others, maybe a con.

    2. Elysian

      My husband is a software dude, and the companies he interviewed at mercifully told him not to wear a suit to the interview. I think he wore khakis and a nice sweater or something. When I read in #4 that it was a startup, my first thought was “Well, all bets are off on the dress code.”

      Husband and I had a conversation once about ‘[dress for the job you want, not the job you have’ and his response was “I don’t own enough ripped things and dirty baseball caps to really dress like our CEO.” So yeah, shorts at work is really a culture thing, and most software startup cultures its probably going to be ok.

      I also think that in really casual work cultures, you have to be careful about overdressing, too. You don’t want to be “suit guy” when everyone else is wearing ripped jean shorts.

      1. teclatwig

        Seconding your point about being careful not to overdress if all it’s going to do is make you stand our as divorced from office culture. I would argue that this is something to be aware of even if the C-level employees wear suits. If your clothing is severely out of step with your peers, some places may look down on you for trying to circumvent the “egalitarian” aspect of the shirts-and-tees culture. If you are the only analyst in a suit, they may question whether you belong among the analysts without thinking “Hey, this employee belongs in the upper echelons.” Or, they may just assume you are job interviewing!

      2. Laura

        Yep! I always wear nice slacks and a shirt, sometimes a t-shirt and sometimes something a bit dressier, but I’m also careful to occasionally comment that this is because I don’t find jeans comfortable to wear. (Which, in fact, I don’t.) I’m perceived as being pretty ‘dressy’ for the office but not unduly so.

      3. Jen RO

        My office mate in my previous job (software) came to the interview in a suit. Five years later, they were still telling the story. The HR manager was actually worried during the interview, thinking he wouldn’t fit in with the extremely casual work culture; he admitted it was his weddings-suit, got hired and spent 5 years there (in jeans and t-shirts).

        Have I mentioned lately how happy I am that I chose this field?

      4. De (Germany)

        I’m a software developer, always went to my interviews in a suit and I was never overdressed – my counterparts always wore suits, too.

    3. JoAnna

      When my husband interviewed with a very large computer company (rhymes with Mapple) several years ago, he wore a suit and tie despite knowing that the company favored more casual wear. He figured it was better to err on the side of being overdressed. The first thing the interviewer did was ask him to take off his suit coat because it “made him nervous.” He did end up getting the job, though. :)

      1. De Minimis

        My firm audited a lot of tech companies, and they were always complaining that the auditors were overdressed, even wearing business casual [dress shirt/pants/shoes, but no tie.]

        1. LD

          For so many groups who dress casually to complain about dress is pretty funny to me. I understand about “herding” and all, but it seems sometimes that they are doing a form of “reverse discrimination.” The culture dresses to give the impression…”we don’t care about appearances”, but comments or shuns people who dress “differently” or more conservatively. It seems that in all cultures, it’s conform or be shunned!

          1. Colette

            I’ve spent my career in high tech, and although the specific norms vary from company to company, no one cares about minor variations (sweats vs. jeans vs. dressy pants vs. a skirt). Having said that, if someone insisted on dressing much more formally than the norm (i.e. a suit every day, even though everyone else wears jeans regularly), it would be a sign that they don’t fit into the culture and don’t particularly care to try.

          2. Tinker

            This is a common point of confusion — it seems to come from viewing different standards of dress as lower standards, rather than different ones.

            You pretty much said it right there — “the culture dresses to give the impression ‘we don’t care about appearances'”. If you’re looking at it in that way (which isn’t necessarily accurate), isn’t dressing much more formally than the standard giving the impression “I care very much about appearances” — sending a message that is discordant with the surrounding culture? And regardless of the message, wearing a suit among shorts-wearers is essentially the same as wearing shorts among suit-wearers.

            There’s kind of a difficulty in understanding that yes, you do send signals with your clothing, but that doesn’t mean that the suit is on the top of the pyramid and everything else is inferior — it’s a matter of being appropriate for one’s environment.

            For instance, in one of my early jobs I got rode by my parents for not wearing dress shirts to work — because dress shirts are an important signal that you’re not just a lowly peon, that you’re a potential manager. Well, that’s as may be, but it’s also true that as a person seen as a young female engineer, wearing clothes that aren’t suitable for field work when your job requires field work also is an important signal — a record-scratching sort of moment that says “I’m completely out of place here in a way that makes me not qualified for my current position, the hell with any upside potential”.

            Just as in some places the messages you want to send include “I don’t typically do physical work, have to walk significant distances, or otherwise travel in a way that involves exertion or exposure to weather”, “I value traditional corporate values”, and such like, in other places you want to send different messages like “I am an active person who may be engaged in outdoor pursuits at any moment” and “I am actively unconcerned with corporate-style ladder climbing”.

            I’d also add — and I’ve run into a number of folks who really, really don’t get this — that “quality of appearance” and “formality of appearance” are two different axes. Just because a person isn’t dressed to a formal standard, doesn’t mean that they are indifferent to their appearance.

            Particularly folks who work exclusively in formal environments seem to equate casual dress to “the things that I wear while mowing the lawn”, but for people who routinely dress casually there’s a lot of variation. I’ve never seen the CEO of my company not wearing jeans and plaid long-sleeve shirts — but you’d better bet that those jeans and shirts are curated within an inch of their lives.

            1. Jen RO

              I love this comment. I had actually never considered that my carefully chosen jeans and t-shirts might be considered ‘just what I threw on in the morning’!

          3. CEMgr

            +100. The “aggressively casual” enforce their standard with more fervor than the “conventionally dressed” ever have in my view.

            Tiresome.

        2. AnonAnalyst

          That sounds similar to the comments I used to hear when I was in business school and was participating in school-arranged networking events at some large tech companies. The people who actually worked there would comment that they could always tell who the MBAs were when they came in because we were dressed way more formally than anyone else there.

  17. TotesMaGoats

    I’m assuming #4 is a guy and thus the recommendation for capris might be out of line. Hey, if you are comfy in them go for it but not exactly cultural norm in the US.

    I would say that if every is going casual for the summer and you do shirt/tie/pants, you’ll probably stick out in the wrong way. Polo and slightly more casual pants, might help you feel more casual without wearing shorts. There are some really dressy shorts for men, like what you’d wear golfing. (No pleats please). That might be an option. With appropriate footwear, I’d think you’d look pretty put together.

    An unrelated to anything else, I just needed to share with the AAM community…I have a phone interview today! First response of ANY KIND after searching for over a year. First interview in six years, so wish me luck.

      1. LBK

        Fortunately I do see the super long short trend fading in my area, although I think there’s always been more of an above-the-knee trend for men’s shorts in New England. Very Cape Cod style.

          1. TotesMaGoats

            I did a whole rant last summer on the high waisted short shorts trend. And then you add the crop top and acid wash denim too it and it was like every bad fashion from the 80’s had come back.

            1. AnotherAlison

              Exactly. I have a boyish figure and short waist, so high waisted shorts and crop tops are the opposite of what looks good on me (adds 10 lbs). I suffered through this trend once. Don’t bring back high waists. . .wait, unless we can also have spiral perms and big bangs. (j/k)

            2. C Average

              Have you noticed the only people nostalgic for the ’80s are the ones who are too young to actually remember the ’80s?

              1. Mints

                I wouldn’t call it nostalgia, but I really really like the high waisted shorts (and jeans). They’re a million times more flattering than “regular” waisted bottoms. It’s probably due to my body shape, but “regular” waisted bottoms never seem to fit my hips. Now I’m forever pining after American Apparel jeans

                1. Tzippy

                  According to my fashion forward 16 year old sisters, high waisted shorts are in now, at least among cool kids these days :) It makes sense things from the 80s are coming back in fashion…usually something coming back in fashion takes 30ish years – just long enough for the current generation of young people to not be able to remember the original time.

    1. LD

      Wishing you luck and the success that comes from being well-prepared! Hope it’s what you wish for!

  18. Brett

    #4 I started working part-time for a startup in October. As we move into summer, I am finding that, in general, this is how startup culture works. Hours tend to be “when you show up until very late at night”, and as a result, casual dress goes with that. Business casual is still very welcome in the office though and not seen as out of line at all. Since I am the oldest employee by several years, it is particular easy for me to dress business casual but also not at all eyebrow raising for me to wear shorts and a t-shirt.

    Rather than by level, dress tends to track by area. Execs managing software R&D tend to be shorts and t-shirts. Business development, who meet with investors a lot, were business casual to business formal. Founders, who are day to day managers of the whole company, wear anything in that range, but often wear company polo and jeans. Staff (HR, exec assistant, etc) wear casual to business casual depending on whether or not outside appointments are scheduled that day.

    1. Brett

      One point to emphasize here… since most startups have a person whose job is to go out and find investors, most startups already have a “suit guy” who they are used to having around. As a result, you won’t necessarily be “the suit guy” if you decide to dress more formally than others.

  19. Graciosa

    Regarding #4, even if you don’t see any important cues when observing people in higher level positions of interest, I would still be a bit conservative in this area. There is a world of difference between nicely pressed walking shorts and a golf shirt and “Daisy Dukes” with a bandeau.

    If an important visitor (say a head of state) came by your office unexpectedly, would you be comfortable showing that person around, or would you be thinking “Ohmigod, I can’t believe I’m wearing THIS” the whole time? There are shorts outfits that would be perfectly appropriate for this (assuming wearing shorts is appropriate for that environment) so if you do decide to wear shorts, pick one of the ones that will leave you comfortable for unexpected presentations.

    1. Tinker

      This is a good point — I’d say, you need to consider that dressing “less formally” does not necessarily mean “less well”. It’s entirely possible to pick casual clothes that make you look sharp or “business casual” clothes that make you look wretched.

      (I got the “dress like the boss, not like the peons” thing from my mother. I responded that my polo shirts were not sufficiently worn out, and jeans were technically against the dress code.)

      Appropriateness for the environment cuts both ways, too — for instance, most places I’ve worked (barring the no-jeans place) had shorts as an occasional option, but if someone came in wearing pressed shorts and a golf shirt, and they didn’t already have an established persona as The Formal Guy that supported that… yeah. No.

  20. Fabulously Anonymous

    #4 wrote: “I feel kind of weird about wearing shorts to work, as I want to maintain a professional appearance.”

    I feel that way, too. Shorts are allowed at my workplace (HR sent out an e-mail allowing it) but it’s not something I’m comfortable doing, so I don’t. IMO, it’s more important to feel good about what you’re wearing then to conform precisely with others*. It’s part of the fun: we can decide what works for us. For some of us that’s jeans, for others it’s shorts, for others it’s skirts.

    *Within reason: no mixing ball gowns with cut-offs.

  21. Lamington

    #2 I was on the receiving end of never ending questions from the person that took over my old job. I had to be firm and tell the new person that I had left documentation and could attemd a vendor training. My old manager was trying to be cheap and have me train her while I started my new role and it became a job on itself. Go with your manager and pretend the other person won the lottery.

  22. Anonsie

    #3 Does your coworker know you feel like you have to do everything? Not knowing the circumstances, this may be a dumb question. But I’ve definitely been I situations where someone “had” to do something for me when I had plenty of time and every intent to do it myself because they felt it needed to be done sooner for some reason, so I always wonder if that’s what’s going on.

    For examples: Recently Mr. Anonsie was very, very concerned that I had not yet renewed the dog’s license three months out from the deadline even though it processes the day you submit it (so you don’t need a long lead time). He kept saying I needed to do it immediately or I would run out of time.

  23. V

    #3 – I could see a couple possible things going on here. The big thing which jumps out at me is that you’re acting like you’re in charge of the project, telling the coworker what he needs to do and then jumping in and doing his work if he doesn’t get to it.

    If the coworker is responsible for x, y, and z tasks on every project, then when the project starts send him an email along the lines of “I’m so excited to start working on our new line of candy coated teapots! I’ll have tasks a, b, and c done by xxx, 2 weeks in advance of the big kickoff party. When will you have x, y, and z done by?”

    If there isn’t a natural division based on experience / certifications / job description, then you need to take a step back, and work with the coworker to divide up tasks a, b, c, x, y, and z, with a schedule for when each piece needs to be done.

    Once you have that schedule, you can set up regular project checkpoints; at those times let the coworker know how your pieces are going, and make sure theirs are still on schedule. If you expect problems, involve your manager in this process early, and then bounce it back to the manager when there are problems: “Coworker hasn’t completed task x on schedule; who do you want to have cover that?”

  24. SallyForth

    I learned a great trick when we lived in the South. Buy clothes in lightweight fabrics but in darker colours. They look more professional than pastels and the season for them can stretch out, especially if office climate control is uncertain.

  25. HDL

    Regarding #5 – My SO had a similar situation! A co-worker of my SO slapped him in the face more than once while at an after-hours gathering (he and some office-mates were taking a colleague visiting from another location out to dinner and to a local bar). SO neither instigated nor retaliated. Unfortunately, he also didn’t confront the slapper and tell him to stop. This happened on a Friday night and SO didn’t feel well all weekend – headache, dizzy feeling, etc. On Monday SO reported the slapper to HR and claimed that the assault may have given him a concussion because of the symptoms he experienced the day after. A few days later, HR came back to him saying that his story was completely unsubstantiated and that he was probably just drunk. Apparently, there were no witnesses (?!) and the bar didn’t have security cameras (again, WTF?). The moral of this story is to be careful about reporting things like this to HR. If possible, find someone who saw the incident/s and ask them to corroborate.

  26. Glorified Plumber

    OP#1 this is pretty common in the engineering world when you have two competing firms in the same industry with the same clients in the same local area. There’s a set quantity of work (more or less), and the overall work force ebbs and flows between them. It’s VERY easy to play these firms off against each other and snake a raise.

    As such, I’ve had coworkers who were firm swapping be presented with the SAME question of “Will you accept this offer before I make it?” Three times. And three times they told me they refused to commit, and three times, they got offers.

    Were I presented with the same line, I would simply say that my decision to leave my current firm was a tough one, but I remain committed to finding work elsewhere. I would reiterate that I am not interviewing with them for the purpose of strong-arming my current firm into a higher offer. I am interviewing with them because I desire change to my employment, and I want to see if I would be a good fit for their company. Then I would remind them why they want to interview me.

    If that did not work and they insist on the commitment before the interview proceeds, then, assuming I am not in a dire work situation (i.e. I NEED this job, now, then I would just lie), then the interview would be over and I would end it. I would simply say that it is very unfortunate and I was very disappointed, but committing to an offer upfront without the interview or salary process is not wise.

    c. 8 years ago, I had a PhD at a small company I worked with go through an interview at some place in the midwest. HR sat him down in the first minute and asked him to sign this document indicating that he would accept any offer that was extended to him.

    He could not BELIEVE this was happening, and pushed back… only to be presented with an incredulous HR saying, “No one has ever pushed back on this! It is standard!” BULL HONKY!! He ended up not signing, they interviewed him, and gave him an offer. It was NO detriment.

    Any HR person who tells you that this is standard and is ANYTHING other than an attempt to limit negotiation after offers are made, is completely full of it.

    If a company has issues with prospective new hires using their offers to strong arm larger counter offers at their firm then they need a better HR department and more training to phone screeners and interviewers to figure out if the people are doing this. Forcing people to commit to an offer that has YET to be extended is a crappy HR symptom. DO NOT PLAY BALL.

    Good luck!

    1. Mountain_Climber

      I am the OP. I do work in the engineering field. I understsnd exactly what you are saying and have noticed what you are saying. Maybe the typical rules do not apply in this field. I know of several people that have used other offers as leverage. There is no loyalty anymore and people move fluidly between the top competitors. That being said my original intentions were for more career growth and not just more money.

      1. Glorified Plumber

        God I wouldn’t be surprised if I know the exact area and exact two companies you are talking about.

        This sounds like a CLASSIC case of “Employees at firm A are tired of 2.0% raises yearly and realized that people were getting 15% higher offers to work for Firm B. However, they didn’t want to work for Firm B for whatever reason so they feigned interest to strong arm Firm A into a 10-20% raise. Firm B’s HR and hiring managers sucked at interviewing really bad and couldn’t pick these people out of a line up and eventually Firm B got tired of being an interview mill for Firm A. Thus they decided to flex some ‘muscle’ and see if they couldn’t make people bad about doing it and in the process capture some talent.”

        In my humble experience, staying strong and committed throughout with regards to WHY and HOW you want to grow your career is the answer. They won’t shut you down for it.

        If they ABSOLUTELY insist that the interview will end if you do not commit to unknowns then and there, then I don’t see how you have any other choice (unless of course you are in NEED of a job) of shutting it down on your own tactfully.

        Good luck… curious to see how it pans out.

  27. Sidney

    To OP #1: If you follow Alison’s template, “I can’t commit, but I’m interested in this job because ___” you could fill in some of the things you shared with us. “I got a good feeling for what the job entails and the career path, and this is a move I’m ready to make.” Or something along those lines

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