my favorite posts of 2014

I wasn’t going to do a list of favorite posts of 2014 because technically I’m on vacation and being lazy, but then at the last minute, the urge struck. So here they are.

10. my coworkers heard my roommates having sex while I was on a conference call
Because I’m 12.

9. our European clients are sneering at my American colleagues’ table manners
Because this whole topic was fascinating to me.

8. how can I stop being afraid every time my manager wants to talk to me?
Because lots of people are.

7. I had to prepare a meal and entertain 20 people for a job interview — and so did 19 other candidates
Because holy hell, and also it’s the post that got us on Gawker.

6. my boss doesn’t want student workers eating lunch with other employees, because they might hear “adult subjects”
Because that’s crazy.

5. the two interviews of 2014: the lab worker at the Arctic Circle and the former receptionist at a legal brothel
Because they’re fascinating.

4. is it legal for publications not to pay their writers?
Because the ethics and practicalities of this are really interesting (and personal) to me.

3. can your employer do that? probably — but you can still discuss it
Because I want to launch into this explanation in half of what I write.

2. how to make your boss adore you
Because these are my secrets.

1. update from the reader who didn’t want her coworkers to know she was living off cupcakes from the employee kitchen
Because — come on, this needs no explanation.

Want more? Here are my lists from 2013, 2012, and 2011.

{ 34 comments… read them below }

  1. KJR*

    Great year, great posts! Thank you for doing what you do. I’ve really enjoyed visiting this forum every day, and continue to learn from your advice, and the commenters’ as well. I love coming here!

  2. WednesdaysMisfit*

    Not gonna lie – I was hoping the post about the client bringing his mistress to a work event would make the list. ;)

  3. Jake*

    Honestly, my favorite was the post about digging through the garbage to get a note writer in trouble. I found it absolutely fascinating how there was such a clear and significant divide between managers and non-managers on who was “most wrong.”

    1. Ann O'Nemity*

      Yes! Such an interesting debate about who was most-wrong in a situation where all the players were in the wrong.

      1. Jake*

        At least most people acknowledged that the digger, note taker and company were all wrong, but it was still shocking to see people shrug off one offense or the other.

    2. A Teacher*

      Operation smile is still my favorite…and not only did I use it, but our co-op teacher and two of the psych teachers talked about it in class…will be using it again this year!

  4. Ms Enthusiasm*

    Great list! I remember the original post of the person living on cupcakes and remember avidly reading the comments. Only one update I’d like to read that I haven’t seen (maybe I missed it?) would be from the lady who was afraid to fire her employee because she was scared of the employee’s family.

  5. Winter*

    #10 was one of my favorites too. Because it’s funny. And it could happen to anyone (even if you live alone, think about hotel visits for business trips, etc). And what would you do? I’ll have to go back and see what advice you gave, but I’m sure it would be awkward no matter what.

  6. HM in Atlanta*

    #10: After this post, I had a situation where someone on a conference call started having sex with his phone unmuted. The other 30+ people quickly switched to another conference bridge. That was a fun coaching conversation.

    1. Beezus*

      This makes me so glad that our worst conference call offenses are people putting the conference line on hold, and everyone else in the conference having to listen to/try to talk over our office hold recording, which is a combination of energetic music and advertisement recordings for our products.

    2. Winter*

      What happened afterwards? Was the person let go? Did people talk about it or just awkwardly pretend it didn’t happen?

  7. Megan*

    This is probably best for open post, but it just happened so:

    Win for not taking no for an answer! I saw a temp agency list opening in my field on their website (after hearing about said temp agency from my current work haha) and I emailed an application. I hit every one of their marks and I actually do the exact job already in my current role. This morning I got an email reply saying ‘thanks but no thanks’ and I was crushed as I was confident I fit the mark perfectly. I emailed back and nicely asked for feedback to improve for next time and she CALLED me and said I was absolutely qualified and when was I available for an interview?

    Thank god I did that! It must have prompted her to take a closer look at my email.

    I always channel my inner Alison. AAM is my favourite website and I saw you are making Chocolate Teapots Inc t-shirts and I hope you make them available for shipping to Australia as I want one!

    Thank you, Alison, and the AAM community for a brilliant year. I have learnt so much and refer everyone I talk to here.

    Happy New Year’s everyone!

  8. Clerica*

    #9 absolutely killed me. Of all the things to judge someone on (like intelligence, or skills in the business they’re conducting, or just general good/bad nature), quibbling over which hand you hold your fork with is just…sad. It’s not even one of those things where you’re inadvertently making an obscene gesture by sticking out your elbow or whatever. It would take someone slobbering up their oatmeal like the beast in Beauty and the Beast for me to even notice how they were eating.

    1. Ann*

      When I read the headline on the original question, I imagined the OP’s colleagues shoving their faces into their food like Randy in “A Christmas Story.” But the big offense was holding the fork in the opposite hand? What?

  9. justine*

    Any update on the woman whose coworkers were passing around a list of what she did wrong? I think about that woman a lot and hope she’s out of that situation.

    Also, if it was this year, the collection for the boss’s family’s ski trip was my favorite post.

    1. LawBee*

      unrelated, the post I most wanted an update on, but forgot to ask for, was the one where the hiring manager couldn’t keep her position filled, and the comments were pretty close to unanimous that there was something wrong with the process, but she just wasn’t seeing it.

  10. Elizabeth West*

    I went back and re-read the one about the European fork sneering. The comments on that one were really interesting; I had forgotten how many commenters we have who are not in the US. I guess I don’t notice it as much unless we’re talking about something that is definitely different from culture to culture. The post reminded me of an anecdote in Watching the English. Kate Fox said a friend went to eat with her boyfriend’s family, who were upper class, and she really impressed them by mashing her peas on the back of the fork. The mother whispered elatedly, “She’s one of us!”

    As for me, it took some practice, but I was able to eat almost everything “properly” abroad and no one appeared to notice a thing. I’m still working on mastering the peas, however. :)

  11. Artemesia*

    Great choices. I’ll have to say I have rethought the student workers one. I think it isn’t about ‘adult topics’ but more likely about information about other students or similar confidential matters that faculty or staff routinely discuss over lunch. This makes it less nuts. It is the same reason that students in high school don’t get to hang out in the faculty room. Might not be a great policy, but it isn’t as looney as it first appears.

    1. jordanjay29*

      When I worked at an on-campus IT job (I’m in the US), I had to go through a HIPAA and FERPA course to learn how to deal with confidential information like this that I might wind up seeing. I’m assuming most on-campus student roles that deal directly with students, computers and interchanging information between them probably have to follow this as well.

      If everyone is HIPAA/FERPA compliant, what’s the big deal? Obviously, privacy laws vary by country, as do practices at universities, but if everyone is following the rules during their working hours, what’s the big issue with letting them chat during their break?

  12. JMegan*

    My favourite part about Operation Smile is that it happened in January, and less than half an hour after it was posted, it had already been nominated for the most ridiculous post of the year. And it stood up through all the other ridiculousness that followed!

  13. Fish Microwaver*

    I’m surprised #7 was so far down the list. I have laughed a lot reading some of the questions on AAM, but never so much as this one. In a WTF way of course. An absolute classic!

  14. Rebecca*

    AAM has opened a whole new world for me. What’s legal, what’s not legal, and that normal workplaces actually exist in the wild. There are so many resources here! And the commenters are priceless; who better to help than people who have been in your spot or know someone who was, and what they did about it? Thank you Alison. Looking forward to even more letters and awesome advice in 2015.

  15. hayling*

    This post reminds me why I love AAM. And I would like to reiterate that I would totally buy a Chocolate Teapots Inc. mug!

    Also I am sure I’m not alone in my request for more interviews with people who have unusual jobs.

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