employee reported her coworker for a Facebook photo that showed some skin, time-traveling interviewers, and more

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

1. Employee reported her coworker for a Facebook photo that showed some skin

My coworker, “Kara,” reported our coworker “Sally” to the manager of our organization for having a Facebook profile photo that Kara felt was inappropriate and reflected poorly on the organization. The photo showed a strip of Sally’s bare skin, but there was no reference to our organization visible in the photo or in the caption. (Her back faced the camera, and she had a fur over her shoulders. You could see a portion of her back and part of an armpit, but not as far down as her waist. According to Sally, she was wearing a halter top that wasn’t visible in the photo. According to the Kara who reported it, it was a topless photo. She claimed to know this because she overheard the other employee discussing the photo shoot in their shared residence.)

Our manager directed Sally’s supervisor to speak to her about the photo. The supervisor did so, although she felt that the photo had no bearing on our organization and was not inappropriate.

I will soon become the supervisor of both Kara and Sally. Sally expressed concern about being able to work productively in close proximity to Kara and stated that the reporting of the Facebook photo to our manager had been very upsetting. Due to the nature of our work, these employees not only work together but also live in close proximity to each other, and it is difficult to establish solid boundaries between work and personal lives. I want to ensure that Kara does not continue to pass information about the personal lives of her coworkers on to the manager of our organization when that information has no impact on work performance. Unfortunately, this behavior seems to be condoned by the manager. What is the best way to manage this situation?

This is none of Kara’s business. Who cares if she had a halter top on or not? The photo was of a piece of her back. It’s hardly scandalous.

Your real issue here is your manager, who thought this was an appropriate thing for the organization to involve itself in. I want you to tell Kara that you want her to focus on doing her work and that it’s not appropriate to make this sort of complaint, but before you can do that, you need to get aligned with your own boss about that — because you don’t her to undermine that message, and it sounds like she might. I’d say this to your boss: “I feel strongly that Sally’s photo didn’t cross any lines, and that it was none of our business. I want to discourage Kara from interfering in her coworkers’ private lives in the future, and I want to make sure that we’re on the same page about that.”

2. Admin is monitoring our hours

I am a salaried employee and have been so with my company for over 7 years. I just got a new position and had my boss come to me and tell me that there is an admin monitoring the time I’m clocked into the office and that she noticed I’m sometimes short of 40 hours every week.

This has never come up in any other position I have had. I even had an experience at a previous location where one of my coworkers, who consequently left the company, did recieve a formal notice from HR for missing time, but my boss at the time was rather a gossip and also told me that it required executive level permission to even be able to pull his time.

Is it legal for this admin to be pulling and checking time specifically for this department when it is not done for every other salaried employee? I feel like I’m being treated differently than I was before.

Yes, that’s legal. It would be illegal if you were being singled out for different treatment because of your race, religion, sex, disability, or other protected class. But it’s perfectly legal to do it for other reasons. And it’s pretty common for one department to managed differently than another. Your new boss has a different management style than your previous boss.

As for how to handle this, if you regularly work more than 40 hours in other weeks, I’d point that out to your boss and note that it balances out over time. I’d also ask if he’s concerned about your output. But otherwise, what you’re hearing is that your boss wants you working 40 hours a week.

3. Can I ask for my old job back?

I recently left a position I enjoyed for one offering more money. I left on good terms, with excellent performance reviews during my time with the company. The new employer has turned out to be a very poor fit, leaving me sick from the stress of facing work day after day. My former employer has not yet filled my former spot. Is it reasonable to request my position back if I provide an assurance that I would return for the long-term. If so, what is the best way to approach this?

Some back information: it has been 3 months since my departure. I was replaced by a temporary employee for the remainder of the fiscal year. I helped the department locate this employee because I knew her to be a good match for the work and culture. She is not interested in the position beyond the original temporary period. The department has approval to refill the position for the new fiscal year.

Sure, you can reach out to them. Say that you’ve given it a great deal of thought and you’re regretting your decision to leave and wondering if they’d be interested in talking about you coming back. As the boss in this situation, I’d be wondering about the issues that drove you to leave in the first place and how I’d be able to be confident that those won’t have you thinking about leaving again in a year or two — because if they will, it might be more in my interest to just keep things as they are now that we’ve made the transition. So you’ll need to be prepared to talk about why you left and why you don’t think those issues will continue to be issues, and to be convincing about it.

And make sure that whatever you say is really true. There were presumably reasons you went searching for a new job in the first place, and those will likely still be there. Do you want to go back because it’s the easiest way out of your current position? Or do you truly want to go back and stay for a good long time? If it’s the former, you might be better off searching for something new.

4. Changing my resignation date

Once I have submitted a resignation, can I change the date? I gave 2 months notice to help facilitate the transition, but work is making it unbearable to be there and my health is taking a big hit for it. High blood pressure and migraines to name a couple.

I would like to decrease to one month notice as per policy.

Absolutely you can. I’d say this: “Unfortunately my circumstances have changed, and I’m not longer able to give you the two month notice period I’d hoped to give. Instead, I’ll need my last day to be X, which is still one month of notice from today.”

And really, if it’s truly awful and/or impacting your health, there’s no reason that you have to stay a full month, unless you’re contractually obligated (and a statement in a personnel handbook that they want one month’s notice does not in itself create a contractual obligation on your side). More on that here.

5. Using technical terms in an interview

I frequently see postings for social media marketing positions or employees who are tech-savvy in general. However, many times the interviewer (who is often older and not proficient in computer skills) seems lost when I attempt to communicate my capacities in these areas. For example, during an interview, I might use terms like: “blog,” “newsfeed,” “tweet,” “upload,” “cloud,” posted on.”

Are the above terms too “technical?” But if that’s the case, how do I explain my skills?

Nooooooo. Those terms are barely technical at all. If your interviewer doesn’t understand them, the problem is on their end, not yours. I realize that doesn’t help you if you want the job, but this is so bizarre that I don’t really know how to advise on it. I could imagine encountering this once as a weird fluke, but if you’re encountering it regularly … well, I’m at a loss and baffled that it’s even happening. Are you perhaps interviewing with … time travelers?

Seriously, it’s weird.

{ 436 comments… read them below }

  1. Artemesia*

    I worked in a setting where on many occasions people wanted to return after resigning and moving on. What I saw was the unless the person was unusually spectacular e.g. a major rainmaker, the organization usually didn’t want to go there again. Often the person was ‘fine’ i.e. wouldn’t have been fired — but was not highly prized and once leaving left the org anxious to try someone new whom they wouldn’t expect to be anxious to leave.

    So if you want to return, make sure you were someone they really were sorry to see go (most of us are pretty replaceable) and that you have a way of approaching the boss that will not leave her assuming you will be a short termer until something better comes along.

    1. Days of white robes have come and gone*

      I’ve seen someone leave and come back twice at my company. Not recently, though – this was back in the “Internet Boom” days.

      One of them was, as Artemesia mentioned, quite highly prized. The other was more of an average joe. I didn’t push for the details of how they negotiated coming back. But to the credit of my company’s management, once these people were back – I never heard mention of it again. I’ve lost track of the one person, but the other is still on the job and still considered a ‘star’ – I take this to indicate that at least the one person didn’t wreck his career by leaving and then coming back.

      It kinda goes without saying, though, that if you go this route – you’ve made a commitment on the level of, say, marriage. And it occurs to me that “cheating husband with a forgiving wife” is a fairly good analogy for the situation. You get one ‘mess-up’. God help you if you do it again.

      1. MK*

        I think that’s a bit dramatic, but the OP should definitely stay at least a couple of years, if they don’t want to burn that bridge. So it’s wise to think care fully before going back.

      2. Jen RO*

        Lots of people have come back to my company in the past year, me included. Some only stayed for 8-9 months – in one guy’s case, I am sure he came back simply because he hated his other job, not because he wanted to be back *here*. I am committed to staying at least 2 years (I’m on 10 months now), but I really hope things start looking up soon, because I am exhausted…

      3. BritCred*

        I’d also be aware of how your co-workers react. A young lady left one place I worked at and management gave her a supervisory position when she came back that she did not really work well for. Left a lot of the department feeling very undervalued since she could do no wrong in their eyes so those issues were ignored.

        Hopefully this won’t happen at other places (that place was very weird) – I hope so anyway.

    2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      We’ve been having just this conversation at work this week.

      There’s been more voluntary turnover than normal the last 18 months. Sign of the improving economy and more options for folks I think so good on that.

      The thing is, we haven’t lost anybody that we really wanted to retain, and….most of them have asked for their job back within 6 months. It’s to the point of us in management having a figurative pool on the person’s last day. “I give this one two months.” Literally yesterday we took call from one (8 months for her).

      What we are talking about is this: almost all of them have screwed themselves over from coming back for how they conducted themselves in the their last two weeks. I get that people mentally check out when they are thinking about the new job and a shiny pay increase to go with, but when you leave messes your co-workers clean up for months, you’ve shut the door here.

      Here’s what I think: you get a reference based on your entire work history. You get to come back based a lot on how you conduct yourself in your notice period.

      So far we’ve not rehired anybody who asked. The nice woman who called yesterday, she was always solid if not spectacular, and she was solid during her notice period also, and she’ll be welcome back.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        My favorite notice period story is this one, although I have another handful nearly as good:

        Guy worked for us in an hourly position for about 8 months. Gave one week notice to take a job for a lot more per hour. Was previously quiet and stable if not spectacular. Went off the rails during the week, including telling us he was essentially hiring his wife for the job he was leaving.

        He, true story, had his wife come in, and true story, brought her into our HR director’s office and told the HR director his wife was here for the job and he was going to start training her right now. My HR director has been HRing for 35 years and she said nothing like that had ever happened to her before. She told him and his wife no, that’s not happening, you can email your resume if you like.

        And then a month later he called for his old job back and said “I’ll be in on Monday”.

        True Story.

          1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

            I messed up the punch line. :)

            He didn’t call for his old job back. He called to *say* that the new job didn’t work out and he’d be in on Monday.

            1. Retail Lifer*

              That’s even worse than when George Costanza quit, changed his mind, and came back on Monday like that hadn’t happened at all. At least only one weekend had elapsed.

              1. Juli G.*

                Which is what Larry David actually did at SNL – that’s where he got the story idea.

                Truth is always stranger than fiction.

        1. StarHopper*

          I have to know what happened when he came in. Was security involved? Did he bring his wife?

          1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

            Ha, no, our HR director is tough. She told him firmly that there was no job available for him and to not come in.

            I had probably 25 or 30 “missed calls” from him on my work phone after that, but eventually he stopped.

              1. Not So NewReader*

                You know how you buy a pair of jeans and return them because you don’t like them as much as you thought? He decided he actually liked the jeans and went back to buy the jeans again. One small problem, jobs are not like a pair of jeans at all. He failed to factor that in.

                1. fposte*

                  Right! Or you switch lanes when driving because the left lane looks clear and then you find out it’s not and want to move back over. I can hear him thinking “Why is this a big deal??”

                1. Ann Furthermore*

                  Yep, sometimes when something jaw-dropping like that happens, you appreciate having a good story to add to your repertoire. This one is a doozy!

                2. Dynamic Beige*

                  A similar thing happened to one of my clients… a key person was known as being a huge Drama Queen. But, they were an award-winning “star” kind of key player that was pretty integral to the operation of the organisation. This person did not handle stress very well and would frequently lash out and throw temper tantrums. One day, DQ screamed that they quit and were never coming back and walked out. Now, to the best of my knowledge, we are not “at will” on either side here, so DQ was in the wrong. But Boss had finally had enough and when DQ came back in on Monday morning like nothing had happened, they were given a box with their possessions and shown the door. Aside from the “no, they didn’t! Really?” much cheering was done at the thought of never having to deal with this person again.

        2. BethRA*

          Sounds like someone took Grandpa’s stories about getting jobs with “Gumption!” a wee bit too seriously.

      2. neverjaunty*

        Yes, exactly this. And not only for getting the old job back, but for future jobs. “Wakeen took two-hour lunches and stuck me with a mess that took weeks to fix” is something that tends to stick in the minds of former co-workers, who may someday be references or potential hirers.

      3. "Outside of a teapot life is but thousands of dusty affairs"*

        The way I see it is that the last impression you give your employer is as important as the first.

    3. Delyssia*

      I’ve left and come back. I knew at the time of a couple of other people who had done so and heard even more stories of people who left the company and came back when I did so. There were definitely a few things in my favor. I left on good terms. I worked hard throughout my notice period. “My” old position was still open (for a variety of reasons). My boss and a couple of key internal clients had really, really tried to convince me to stay (I am certainly replaceable, but I am well regarded).

      I still had to convince a few key people that I really wanted to come back (not just get away from the new place) and that I would be bringing new perspective and new enthusiasm with me. I think that was absolutely true, and I’ve been back for almost two years now. A few months back, I was given the opportunity to switch internal client focus in a way that gives me some new opportunities/challenges/responsibilities.

      1. Artemesia*

        I think the point about how you work the last two week is very important. I remember one time being in the notice period and continuing to work hard as usual and having some comment about how I was slacking off. I just wasn’t AT ALL — but the fact that I was leaving put that guy in that frame. So one probably needs to make a particular point of cleaning up messes, meeting with c0-workers and boss to hand things off and leave documentation i.e. ostentatiously be conscientious for the notice period if there is any chance of wanting to return.

        Also know your organization. Some places have a policy (which may be unstated but acted on) of not hiring people back once they leave. In that kind of organization think carefully before leaping.

      2. Connie-Lynne*

        I quit and came back once.

        I was working as a contractor doing analysis, for over a year with the same company. I was a pretty good employee but I was frustrated that, although I had interviewed for the permanent position, they had given the job to two other people _whose work I was still having to correct three months later_. It is likely those people received the position instead of me because they had degrees (legit) and professed Christianity (not legit, and in the case of the one with the most egregious mistakes, a clear lie). Anyway, I moved on because I felt I wasn’t going to get a permanent position with the company, and that’s what I was looking for.

        The new company pressured me to start working for them as soon as they hired me, and immediately began giving me tasks I wasn’t qualified to do (design, when I was hired as a back-end programmer). To cap it off, after I pulled an all-nighter, complete with stress-crying at home since it was so hard, because my boss said he needed a design mock-up by 6am the next day, when I delivered it, he said “Oh, I was just testing to see if you could meet a deadline. We don’t really need that for another few weeks.”

        I called my former boss and asked if I could go back to contracting for them while I looked for new work, explained the situation, and noted that in the future I would definitely be sure to give them full notice and not work for anyone who pressured me to leave faster. She was glad to have me back, and when I did move on, we kept in touch.

        I think I got lucky in that I was, in fact, better at the role than the folks who had been hired as perms, that my boss liked me and my work ethic, that I was honest about why I wanted to come back, and that it all happened very quickly — less than a week! There was also probably the mitigating factor that I was young (early 20s), and my boss I think was willing to do a bit of mentoring. She was an incredibly decent person.

    4. AntherHRPro*

      The OP really needs to think back as to what made her first start thinking of looking for a new job. Was it really just money? You need to understand what motivated you to look and then leave before you will be able to convince your previous employer that you are “over” whatever drew you away.

      My company has very low turnover. We typically do not rehire folks who elected to leave because the reality is we will be the same company, the same environment that the employee was not satisfied with. Every once in a while we have rehired someone. Generally these are very, very strong performers and we believed it sent a good message to the rest of the workforce to have them return (i.e., the grass isn’t always greener).

      If the OP is very sure that they want to come back to their old company and stay and that they fully understand why they left and why they want to return it is worth a try. But be prepared to repeatedly answer the question of why you want to return and what has changed.

      1. Ama*

        This is a good point. I doubt whatever issues initially prompted the OP to leave, whether it’s low pay, lack of challenging tasks, etc. have just gone away in the last three months.

        I was told when I left my last job that I would be eligible for rehire. There’s no way I’d ever work for that employer again because the reasons why I left are too deeply entrenched into the way they operate and they won’t get fixed whether I wait two years or ten.

        1. Sospeso*

          Yes, these comments from AntherHRPro and Ama. OP, have things changed so much since leaving that you wouldn’t feel the itch to move on as soon as you were back in the role? Two months down the line? 6 months down the line?

      2. Anna Banana*

        I left a position I’d been in for 4 years due to lack of progression. My boss and HR manager both really wanted me to stay and tried to offer more money but they couldn’t give me a route for progression as there wasn’t one so I left. However, I was made redundant at the role I left to go to after 18 months and when my old employer heard this they re-structured my previous department and added 7 other departments to my old one and asked me to come back to head up 8 departments and be responsible for the cross training of everyone and a number of other projects.

        They hadn’t planned on doing this for another 2 years but when they heard I was available they pushed the changes up on their agenda so that they could encourage me to return. I did return due to the greater responsibility and challenges that I would face and I was very appreciative to them for having the faith in me to do this. I stayed for 3 years and only left as my family and I moved from the UK to Canada.

    5. jag*

      In our 50-person organization, we currently have at least three people on staff that left and came back. Of those, two worked as part-time consultants for us while away, the third was not involved. One is in the running to be our next CEO.

      Oh, and we have another very senior job opening up where someone who left 8 or 10 years ago has expressed interest in applying.

      All of these people were replaceable, but all are also very good.

    6. The Cosmic Avenger*

      We’ve actually had quite a few “boomerang” employees. The way I figure it people leave for a little more money or what they think is promotion potential, then once they’ve worked somewhere else for a little while they realize how good they had it here. (As I’ve said before, my employer is pretty awesome.) We obviously can’t take everyone back, but I can think of half a dozen who we’ve hired back. They come back with a new appreciation for our company’s benefits, both tangible and intangible. Mostly a lack of crazypants coworkers and clients, which are pretty common in our industry.

      1. Leslie Knope's Waffle*

        Lots of boomerangs at my former company as well. I left because I was making very little (this was during the recession) and there weren’t many opportunities to move up at the time.

        Now the place is doing gangbusters and I’ve considered going back should an opportunity present itself. The money would have to be there though.

        1. Stranger than fiction*

          Here too. Mostly salespeople so that’s understandable. But we have someone in training right now that came back after 10 years (used to be in sales but now is in support) this guy is acting like nothing’s changed and he’s just gonna skate through training…except a lot has changed- primarily that our main product and bread and butter is now our SAAS (software as a service) and this guy will need to know it like the back of his hand, but he’s not even taking notes!! Apparently he cold applied by emailing the owners saying something like “hey I’m back in town if you need anyone…” Sorry kind of venting here but goes to show if you can talk the talk you can get hired back here… Now whether he lasts will be interesting

    7. Noelle*

      I’ve left a job and came back after only a month. There were extenuating circumstances though. I was being massively underpaid and everyone knew it, I’d asked for a raise and they’d been blowing me off for months. I got an offer for more pay, asked them to counter, and they wouldn’t. So I left. The new job was absolutely terrible and I made it four weeks before asking to come back. Fortunately for me, they had eight people trying to handle my job so they were excited to have me come back – with the raise and title I’d originally asked for.

      1. Sospeso*

        Oooh, this story has a happy ending! I’ve read that you’re probably more likely to get higher increases by changing jobs every couple of years than staying in the same role long-term (of course, I don’t know if that takes the entire compensation and benefits package into account, or just pay… wish I could remember where I read this recently). It’s too bad that you had to leave and come back in order for them to understand the value you added, but I am glad they saw that in the end!

        1. Noelle*

          Yes, it worked out and when I came back they appreciated me a lot more! I worked there for another two years, and when I left it was on good terms. And I know employers value loyalty, but in my experience it’s rare to get many raises or bonuses when you stay in the same job. I’ve increased my salary by about 30% in the last year and a half by switching jobs.

          1. Sospeso*

            30%!! Wow, if that’s not a case for switching jobs if you’re feeling undervalued and your employer is blowing off your requests for a raise… I don’t know what is. Congrats! It sounds like you deserved it.

    8. Dynamic Beige*

      When I found myself getting bored at my job, I went and got a new one at a bigger company. As with all things, at first it was amazing then… not so much. Almost a year after I left, I went back to FirstJob just for a visit because I had promised I would and they… were doing amazing, they had more staff, better equipment, things were happening in a way they were not when I was there and I was bummed. I mentally kicked myself for leaving, if only I’d just hung on a little longer but I had made the decision to switch and I would have to deal with the consequences. A year later FirstJob laid everyone off when they lost their biggest (and pretty much only) client, downsized their offices. A similar sequence happened with all three full-time jobs I was at. I would leave, within a year, I would be regretting the decision because the company was doing OMG so much better than when I was there and then a year later, something big, nasty and unexpected happened that pretty much destroyed them. With OldCompany, they were just beginning to dig out from the Dot Bomb when 9/11 happened.

      At OldCompany, at one point there was a similar company that got a bunch of investment and decided to go to war with OldCompany. Hiring wars ensued with each company crowing and cackling when they managed to steal people from the other. One person I knew doubled their salary within a year by going to SimilarCompany for a brief period of time, then going back to OldCompany during the Poaching Wars. Granted, they were underpaid to begin with and I don’t know if they were a “stellar” performer or it was just a “we got one over on you!” but it was amazing to watch.

    9. themmases*

      I think that really depends on the industry or company. My partner and I have both worked for places that are known for having people leave and come back (him, software; me, non-profit heathcare). For different reasons, they are both known as sectors where you can make a big move in terms of pay or position by being willing to leave. At the same time, his company has a great culture and my former company has a great mission. They are both big enough organizations that you could join a new team and avoid any lingering problems from your old department.

      At my partner’s company, some people have left and come back several times with no hard feelings. At mine, we loved to have people return but would have loved it even more if they didn’t leave in the first place– pay and other HR issues just wouldn’t move fast enough for that to happen.

    10. Newbie*

      At former job, our Owner/CEO was pretty well known for firing people when he would get in a mood and they were not doing something to his liking. Then, by the next Monday, he was looking for that person, or persons and asking why they were not there. When asked about the ‘firing’ which always happened in the pit in the middle of the office – he would just laugh and respond that that was riduculous – they were not REALLY fired…He was a real piece of work. There was a running joke in the office that he would get twisted when the moon was full, and so I started watching it and him – there actually was some truth to that – but I am not sure if it was accidental, or if he would use it as an excuse, perhaps? At any rate, I was never one targeted, thank goodness – but the other folks that were screamed at to leave always came back. It always amazed me. One time, we had to scurry one of our department heads out of the office through the back door towards the end of the day – she was not one of the regulars he would sound off on – but word traveled that she was about to get it if he could find her. We got her out of the door, our CFO (my boss) who was well aware of how these things happened (and he was usually playing clean up, or calling the employees back in) intercepted Owner/CEO and distracted him long enough for his anger to die out that particular day. What a mess!! Did I mention I have never missed that job? Was there for about 8 years (through 3 different ownership changes, and I may one day write a book about it all). The strangest (and most alarming!!) thing that ever happened was when we were raided by the feds – again under this same person’s ownership timeframe. Truth is definitely stranger than fiction!!

  2. Snoskred*

    #5 is a really tough one. I wonder if it might be appropriate to confirm with the interviewer whether they are on the same page technically before trying to talk about the skills.

    One of the things I was involved with in a workplace once was creating a piece of software. I could talk about it from a laymans perspective, or from a more technical perspective. I would always start with the first one and if I sensed they were understanding what I was talking about, I might then touch more on the technical aspect of it. Sometimes the interviewer might ask questions which showed me I could go more technical.

    Quite a few people today still do not understand things like newsfeeds or the fact that they can use a feed reader to read blogs. It has been my experience in general that many bloggers don’t know of these things or how using them can enrich their blog reading experiences. So in general that term – newsfeed – I would tend to steer clear of and I would never use the term RSS in an interview in a million years.

    So I would wonder if the newsfeed term is really the one that is causing the issues. Heck even my computer illiterate parents know about blogs, tweets, uploads and clouds. :)

    1. Days of white robes have come and gone*

      #5: I agree with Alison that those terms are barely technical. BUT … speaking as an old guy who sometimes interviews younger people, I have been known to ask them to define the terms they are using. For instance: “So what is ‘the cloud’?” Or “What’s the difference between ‘upload’ and ‘download’?” Or “What is a ‘blog’? Why is it called a ‘blog’?”

      I’m pretty easy-going as an interviewer, but if you like to sling the jargon, you’d best understand the meaning of the words you’re saying. ‘Cause as an old guy who really doesn’t understand all this modern technology stuff that the kids are messing with, I might, you know, need to rely upon you to explain to me what it is you do *grin*

      1. super anon*

        i just realized i have no idea why a blog is called a blog, and i’ve been blogging since the early days of livejournal. knowing the entomology of the word isn’t really indicative of one’s ability to use the service. :p

        1. Ruth (UK)*

          Sorry for the tangent, super anon:

          Entomology is the study of insects (entomos = insect).
          You mean etymology which is the study of how words form / meanings change, history of words etc.

          Apologies if you didn’t want the correction, I only did so for this as it causes such a drastic change in meaning.

              1. Ruth (UK)*

                ok, I’m sorry, I wasn’t intending to start an argument. I avoided using the word ‘typo’ or ‘error’ as it could have been either. It doesn’t terribly matter which it was.

                My intention was to point it out while they were anonymous on the internet so that they’d be aware of it, and therefore avoid making the same typo/error in a situation where it might be embarrassing to get it wrong or to have it pointed out (ie. non-anonymously).

                There are some words which are commonly mixed. I recently said ‘exercise’ when I meant ‘excise’ and a friend pointed out my error privately. I’m glad as it would be cringey for me to have continued making it.

                1. Ops Analyst*

                  There’s a way to do that though. Like when people comment to make Alison aware of a typo. They just say “I think you meant X”. They don’t respond with a lesson on word meanings.

                2. Ruth (UK)*

                  Again, I’m sorry. I didn’t realise there was an etiquette surrounding how to correct typos. I felt that including the additional info (the meaning of the word entomology) was an interesting thing.

                  It wasn’t supposed to make me come across harshly. It’s a shame I can’t convey tone when I type as I think that would change the way I came across. My tone was supposed to be “hey, ps. isn’t this interesting? [that entomos = insect]”, it was not meant to be a snub and I didn’t realise it would come across that way.

                3. Ella*

                  I think your correction was fine. I read it as basically informative and nonthreatening. I got told yesterday that, “That wasn’t what I said. I’ll leave you to figure out your mistake.” THAT was obnoxious.

                4. Jim*

                  I honestly don’t see any issue with what you said. No idea why other people are getting out of shape about it.

                5. Ruth (UK)*

                  I think it’s just because it’s hard to convey tone online, so it depends on how people are reading it in their head, and I could have been less ambiguous about how I came across if I’d thought about it.

                  I once received a text that said “hey Ruth!!! Where are you?!?! I’m at the Red Lion Pub!!!” and I thought the person texting me was angry, wondering where I was, and that I must be running very late (despite not remembering planning to meet her).

                  After I rushed to showed up and apologised, it turned out she had intended the tone of her text to convey excitement and a general query as to whether I was nearby in case I wanted to meet her.

                6. jag*

                  “They don’t respond with a lesson on word meanings.”

                  But typos are different than misuse of words by meanings. For all we know, a typo here is random, so piling on is pointless.

                  Correcting someone on meaning is actually useful – they presumably did not know the meaning of the word they are using or the difference between to words, so the correct helps them in the future. I don’t think Ruth has much or anything to apologize for.

                  Oh, I see Ella said something very helpful about this.

                7. jag*

                  Haha – note my typo messing up “to” and “two.” If I made that mistake repeatedly, I hope someone would correct me since it would appear I don’t know the difference. If you see I make it once or rarely, I hope yall will ignore it – it’s just a typo.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Sally, this is your second day of leaving overly harsh comments here. I’m switching you to moderation. Please be kinder when posting here.

              1. Pennalynn Lott*

                Thank you, Alison! I have given up reading the comments on any web page, except for this one. Thanks for creating (and enforcing) a positive environment. Wish there were more spaces in cyberland like this one.

          1. super anon*

            aaaand this is why i shouldn’t post from my phone at 1 am. my keyboard’s autocorrect is terrible and 99% of the time i don’t catch the weird switch-a-roos that it pulls, like this one.

            1. Ruth (UK)*

              This is kind of hilarious actually. I was wondering if you’d turn up again and be like ‘wow, this escalated fast!’ At least it didn’t auto-correct something rude.

          2. Beebs the Elder*

            I remember because the second letter of “entomology” is “n,” just like “insect.”
            That’s because my mind is simple that way.

        2. Days of white robes have come and gone*

          Well … you see, there you are more-or-less proving my point. For one thing, “the early days of livejournal” is like 1999 or 2000. Your mis-use of the word “entomology” tells me that your vocabulary may have some gaps in it.

          I would argue that knowing the meanings and histories of these words reveals to me that the candidate has a stronger background in and understanding of the topic as a whole.

          1. blu*

            I’m not getting how your getting from, hey you used the wrong word once to you have vocabulary gaps that will impact your job competency?

          2. fposte*

            Sorry, this was out of place. I don’t get why the start date of LiveJournal proves a point–can you explain?

            1. Liz*

              It’s been around quite a while. The commenter was saying, “I’ve been blogging for over a decade and I don’t know why it’s called a blog”.

              1. fposte*

                I guess that seemed to me to be obvious from super anon’s use of “over a decade,” but maybe you’re right.

            2. Days of white robes have come and gone*

              Oh – because blogging has been around since the early ’90s. And there were things happening the ’80s that were similar to blogging, except without the web. Taken as a whole, the person would seem to think that blogging began with LifeJournal. But it didn’t.

              1. LBK*

                Well you just referred to it as LifeJournal, not LiveJournal, so obviously you are an old person who doesn’t know what you’re talking about and an unsuitable candidate for any job related to social media.

                I hope I’m illustrating how ridiculous it is to ask people about the origin of words as a method of gauging their understanding of the technology.

              2. LBK*

                Not to mention what blogging was used for back in the early 90s has more or less no resemblance to what you would need to do with now as a social media professional, so once again, I’m at a loss for why the history of a form of technology is relevant in judging if you can use it now.

              3. fposte*

                And I think that’s a misreading. She stated that that was her personal experience; she didn’t make any origin claims. Presumably if she’d been posting diaries on GEnie she’d have mentioned that instead.

              4. super anon*

                Actually, Livejournal was one of the first majorly popular blogging sites, and was started in 1999. It, along with Blogger, were the first two platforms that brought blogging into the mainstream and allowed other people to easily access blogging platforms. Prior to this, it was a major hassle to have a blog because there simply wasn’t a service for the average person to use to make them with.

                If I wanted to be really pedantic, I could say that blogging really began, in a way, with Livejournal, because it made it easily accessible and popular. Before that, it was simply a niche form that was difficult to do, as blogs had to be manually added to a homepage, so unless you were a programmer who could make your own blogging platform, it wasn’t really an option.

                1. super anon*

                  I want to quickly add this, because I missed it my other comment:

                  Prior to LJ and Blogger, there was Usenet and BBS, and I guess the Compuserve email lists, but I don’t really count them as blogging, they were more like online communities were people talked, rather than the traditional blogging format we see today.

                  (I wasn’t alive to use BBS and Usenet groups, so I can’t comment on how similarly they ran to today’s blogs, but I get the feeling from what I’ve seen on BBS archives that they are distinctly different in use and scope.)

                2. AcademiaNut*

                  I would say that Usenet is the predecessor of modern discussion forums, but with a less sophisticated interface that could be read on VT100 terminal.

                  And yes, that was my introduction to the internet, back in 1991, along with my first email address.

          3. Koko*

            While it’s true that knowing the history of a field is a stronger background than not knowing the history of the field, it’s less clear that the ability to be successful in the field turns on knowing its anthropological history.

            To draw a parallel, for every successful musician that went to art school and studied music theory, there’s a Nirvana or Bassnectar who just taught themselves how to make music. I’m sure knowing music theory helps musicians, but it doesn’t guarantee that they’ll become a great musician, and not knowing it doesn’t preclude greatness.

          4. super anon*

            “Your mis-use of the word “entomology” tells me that your vocabulary may have some gaps in it.”

            that was kind of mean. i made an autocorrect typo that i didn’t catch because it was late and i have real problems with spelling if i’m not giving it 100% of my attention. i don’t think a single typo in anon internet comment is indicative of my overall vocabulary, that’s a bit presumptuous.

            regardless, you seemed to have missed my main point, which was you can do something for years and year, and not know the origin of the name of the thing. i’m sure there’s lots of people younger than me who have no idea why the save icon is a floppy disk – that doesn’t make them any less competent at saving files.

            1. Days of white robes have come and gone*

              > that was kind of mean.

              I’m sorry that you feel that way. You realize that there was no way that I could have known that you would later allege that it was an autocorrect artifact, right?

              > you can do something for years and year, and not know the
              > origin of the name of the thing

              Yes, I understand this. But in my experience, people who know things like (for instance) the origin of a name tend to be people with a deeper knowledge of the matter. And these tend to be the kind of people I want to hire.

      2. Cheesecake*

        ….but what OP had described is not “jargon”. Like “I will e-mail you my portfolio”. “Wait a sec, what does e-mail stand for and why is it called this way? Please elaborate”

        1. Days of white robes have come and gone*

          I don’t see OP using “I will email you my portfolio” as an example. But whether or not anyone considers the word ’email’ to be jargon, a simple question like “how does email work?” can be quite illuminating.

          Physicist / Astronomer / Author Clifford Stoll tells the story of his PhD Dissertation Defense, where he was asked “Why is the sky blue?” – which led from a simple “obvious” answer to a more complex answer to several chalkboards covered with equations.

          If I get a candidate who can tell me how email works, at any level from ‘simple’ down to the TCP/IP Physical Layer, I know I’ve got someone who knows their stuff.

          1. fposte*

            For running your social media platform, though? This reminds me of a colleague who believes that everybody should be able to code in UNIX in order to put their hands on a computer for anything.

            I work with a lot of talented writers, and most of them couldn’t tell you a thing about parallel structures or the predicate nominative. I also know people who do know about parallel structures and the predicate nominative, and that knowledge is not reliably associated with saleable writing. Since most skills we’re trying to get at in hiring are pretty easy to test or explore with reasonably thoughtful questions, I don’t see the utility of a gatekeeping test that isn’t actually a necessary skill for the job. Obviously if it’s working for you, that’s not something I’d interfere with, but I’d rather just find out directly.

          2. Forrest*

            But others have a point that you risk making yourself seem unknowable and scaring off what are great candidates by asking simple questions such as “how does email work?”

            I’m also not sure why people think twitter or blog is jargon – that’s like saying the word book is jargon. That’s its proper name.

          3. LBK*

            Unless the job is running an email server, I can’t imagine why that level of knowledge is even remotely necessary.

            1. JDD*

              It answers two questions:

              1. Are they curious about the “useless” parts of their job?
              2. Are they used to teaching themselves?

              These are good skills to have in fields where the paint hasn’t dried yet.

          4. jag*

            ” TCP/IP Physical Layer”

            What does this have to do with running a social media effort or even email marketing?

            There are technical questions about social media that might be useful -about analytics and behavior tracking. But it doesn’t take a particularly deep understanding of the how the internet works to do social media well. Deeper than average, perhaps, but not details on communications protocols.

            My wife is an engineer who can talk with great detail about cell phone technology – she’s helped build them and also build cell stations. That doesn’t mean she has any particular expertise about phone usage in business/marketing.

          5. Jamie*

            Personally if I want to vet someone’s technical knowledge in an area I’ll ask direct questions. (And I know the how does email work was hypothetical – just carrying the example forward.)

            We all know people who when you ask them what time it is will tell you how to build a clock. These people can be exhausting.

            If the skill isn’t necessary for the job it’s not any more helpful than knowing the history of KISS.

            (and yes, I’d be far more likely to hire someone based on their KISS knowledge than someone who went on about technical issues irrelevant to the position. Because the former makes you awesome and the latter just means you’ll be a pendant annoying the IT department with theorhetical knowledge when they are busy.)

            1. LBK*

              Jamie! You’re here! I was just reading the comments on some older posts and lamenting your recent absence. Not to get all creepy and overly attached towards an internet stranger, but welcome back :)

                1. Rana*

                  Yay! (I’m sadly infrequent here myself these days, so I’m extra excited that we’re both in the same thread.)

            2. JDD*

              Great for established fields where, as you pointed out, the curiosity of others is merely exhausting — nobody is going to come along and build a better buggy whip.

              Very different in emerging fields, though.

        2. Zhena*

          On a similar note, my former employer reprimanded me repeatedly for not retaining hard copies of some documents that could easily be obtained off the internet. (And I’m not talking about a one of a kind document—like a receipt—where ONLY the original would do.)

          Further, I had saved these materials via Dropbox. I unsuccessfully tried explaining Dropbox and cloud storage to him. He dug his heels in and resisted until he witness how it facilitated his office’s operations….Then he PRAISED me.

          My boss’s methods were a bit antiquated in my opinion (dude still used carbon paper)…

          But my issue is his aggressive resistance to the modern method because its “strange and foreign” and he can’t understand it. But once he does get it he loves it. 😐

      3. Lamb*

        Re: Days of white robes
        I’m trying to understand what you are doing in these interviews.
        Are you asking questions you know the answers to as a test? If so, a test of what? Are you checking if they are good at explaining things? (That’s what I’m hoping. As someone else said, defining terms doesn’t ensure that one is good at anything related to that term. I can tell you what a stent is, that doesn’t mean I can put one in a blood vessel for you.)
        Also, are you interviewing for jobs centering on “all this modern technology stuff”? If you are and you are as tech un-savy as you claim in your post (couldn’t tell for sure if you were trying to make a joke or not), is there any way to get someone with more tech know how to help you out with at least that aspect of the interviews? Maybe they could come up with questions more relevant to if the applicant can do the position than “what is the root of that tech related term?” and even perhaps better spot when an applicant is BSing you to get a tech job they don’t have the hard skills for?
        If you are joking and are playing off the “old fuddyduddy” stereotype to see how they react, consider if you are scaring off potential employees with strong tech skills who here “what’s the difference between uploading and downloading?” and saying to themselves “I was looking for a job where I’ll be challenged, and I found one where I’d have to help the boss everytime he forgot the default password he still uses for his e-mail. This is not the job for me.”

        1. ExceptionToTheRule*

          I don’t want to speak for Days of the White Robe, but depending on what you’re hiring for, it really is a good idea to make sure your applicant has a working understanding of the terms they’re using, because (don’t be shocked here) some people try to BS their way through interviews by relying heavily on jargon they know but don’t understand.

          We ended up with a completely unqualified technical director because our chief engineer was impressed the guy claimed he knew what a switcher macro was. Great, but chief engineer didn’t know enough to properly probe that claim and it turns out the guy WAY oversold his skills.

          1. Ops Analyst*

            Yikes. I know this happens and I can see why people do it…to get a better job, better pay, etc. I’m the opposite and struggled with underselling my skills for a long time because I was afraid to oversell myself and end up in a job that I’d be drowning in. That’s pretty bad for your career. You’re better off taking a job you’re more capable of and moving up at a slower pace, even if it means you don’t get that “director” title for several years.

            Is the technical director still there? What happened to him?

          2. fposte*

            I think you can find that kind of thing out pretty easily in an interview without getting into semantic queries, though. Your problem isn’t that nobody asked him to define “switcher macro,” it’s that the interview didn’t probe the claim, as you say. I mean, if an interviewee doesn’t really know what a blog is, I would think a simple “Tell me what platform and commenting system you’d use and why” would expose that fact, and it would get useful information from the applicants with actual qualifications.

            1. ExceptionToTheRule*

              This is one of those situations where a practical portion of the interview would have been helpful, or bringing in someone who knew which questions to follow up with.

              1. fposte*

                Yup, absolutely. And also having a manager and a system that would allow you to get rid of him if he’s still there and still terrible.

          3. Dynamic Beige*

            I also think that if your applicant may work directly with clients, having a way to explain things so that a Normal can understand it without being patronised or made to feel like an idiot is something you would want to assess in an interview.

          4. Zhena*

            Is it possible that the interviewer might BS too? Perhaps pretend to know more than s/he actually does for recruitment purposes?

            I eventually realized my former boss (who I had originally interviewed with) did not know as much as he purported to know during the interview. As an example he claimed familiarity with a particular website. Truth revealed itself when he later demanded I use the website in a way that could not accommodate his requests? How many times I wanted to confront him with, “I can’t execute that action because the site is not built for that…you would know this if you used it the way you claimed to!”

            I eventually left since I wasn’t picking up new skills and his willful ignorance (stubborn nature about adapting the newer more easier method) was mentally exhausting. He was also super sensitive no matter how gentle I tried to suggest a newer method that would make his life more easy.

          5. Days of white robes have come and gone*

            ExceptionToTheRule pretty much nailed it on the head: some people will start slinging the bullshit. If I think I detect that, I’ll tend to ask basic questions to determine if the candidate is “for real” or not.

            And: nobody has to agree with me, but in my experience, people who can tell me why it’s called a “blog” or answer other, similar questions about background or history tend to be people who possess deep knowledge of the topic. And those are the people I want to hire.

        2. Vicki*

          There is a big difference between “Whats the difference between A and B?” and “Can you explain the difference between A and B in a few sentences?”

      4. Snarky-the-Dolphin*

        I just want to say that I’m 48 and, although I have heard of “the cloud”, I really don’t know what it is. Just sayin’

        1. Not So NewReader*

          It’s space on a remote computer. Kind of like someone is leasing/giving you space to store your excess furniture and other belongings. There’s more to it than this, but that is the basic idea.
          They call it a cloud because it’s part of an old joke. Q “Where is this information?” A “Oh it’s off on a cloud out there somewhere.”

          I was surprised to learn that clouds are not that big. The one I saw looked to be about the size of the CPU I have here for my desk top.

            1. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

              Somewhere like Amazon, it probably is a room full of huge servers– but those huge servers are made up of the little servers Not so NewReader refers to. Depends on the company, and how much stuff they’re storing for other people.

              1. fposte*

                I also think that “the cloud” suggests a centralization that doesn’t exist. It’s more like a bunch of individual clouds.

                1. Rana*

                  Yeah, my mental picture of it is sort of like a huge floaty version of Dropbox, which I know intellectually is sort of silly, but I can’t quite shake it.

              2. Connie-Lynne*

                Amazon Web Services (probably the most well known cloud services provider) is actually many warehouse-sized rooms full of racks full of huge servers, all over the world.

          1. NacSacJack*

            CPU? the processor? 4-6-8MB? Not the harddrive? Regarding clouds, be careful what you put out in a cloud drive of your own. I’ve been reading that anything you put out in a cloud drive such as Google+ or Dropbox becomes the property of the cloud drive provider and, also, is searchable by them. So all this stuff out on Google+ is technically the property of Google.

          2. jag*

            To be nit-picky – the cloud is often space on many remote computers, in which space/load is managed across those computers. That sharing of load/space across machines is what differentiates it from just a single server somewhere – it is claimed to allow for interesting advantages in terms of cost, speed, access, reliability, security.

            Though in practice, your data might be just on one machine.

          3. Zhena*

            Ok so I would lose my former boss at “remote.” This is where his eyes would glaze over and he would stare over my left shoulder until he eventually interrupted me. 😐

            1. Connie-Lynne*

              I’ve had good luck with this as an explanation to the non-tech literate:

              “‘The cloud’ is just another way of describing storage (like for files you save) on a computer that isn’t your [laptop|desktop], but that you can still reach via the internet. It’s sort of like having a warehouse or library that you keep files in, that you can call someone and have brought up.”

              If they remember the days of “company shared drives” I’ll use that as an example of something that these days would be described as “in the cloud,” or if they ever use Google Documents, it’s like that, because the documents themselves are “out on some set of computers somewhere” (and then I wave my hands around making cloudy gestures) “off in a cloud, get it?”

              If they seem to be getting it I’ll start talking about redundancy in simple terms and how most cloud storage is a little more reliable, like belt-and-suspenders. But usually they’re happy with the warehouse/phone analogy.

        2. Days of white robes have come and gone*

          And you’ll notice what has happened here: a number of people have attempted to answer the question “what is the cloud?” – but every answer is different (and not because of something trivial like someone’s choice of words).

          I think of it as “impedance mismatch”, and it’s an ongoing problem in the tech biz: some new technology comes along and there’s lots of buzz – but if you look closely, it’s like the old story about 11 blind men describing an elephant. “DevOps” is another recent example. It’s another good reason to begin asking people basic questions like “What do you mean by ____?”

        3. JDD*

          You remember terminal connections? Waiting for CPU time? Having space on a mainframe? It’s basically that all over again, except instead of 1 mainframe it’s a collection of computers that pool together their resources to pretend to be a computer of whatever specs you’re paying for. It’s a cloud because each individual computer is invisible and replaceable like bathroom tiles are to a bathroom floor.

          1. JDD*

            Or rather, it’s a cloud because each individual computer is invisible and replaceable like the water droplets that make up a real cloud, or at least like bathroom tiles are to a bathroom floor.

            This is useful because it allows a company to pay for computing as needed, instead of buying expensive hardware that spends most of its time idling just in case of an emergency.

      5. jag*

        If an interviewer for a social media marketing position does not know what a blog is, or the difference between upload and download, there is a problem in the organization’s recruiting and/or management processes.

        That stuff is not jargon (jargon is terminology used within a particular trade, for which there are frequently other terms used by outsiders) – they are the most basic and common terms for what they describe.

    2. Michele*

      I work in a very technical skills, and to catch people who simply put buzzwords on their resumes, I will ask them basic questions about the terms. They are things that anyone with even a month’s experience would know, but if you have never used the equipment, they don’t make any sense. The technique has eliminated a few people from the candidate pool.

    3. LabTech*

      I took a similar approach on how technical to get while looking for chemistry positions. I once got burned with this approach by insulting a recruiter at a career fair, who turned out to be a chemistry PhD, by giving the non-technical explanation of projects I’ve worked on. It’s a fine line to walk, for sure.

      1. ArtsNerd*

        I don’t understand why he would be insulted? Being able to explain your work in plain language is a great skill. Couldn’t he have followed up with more technical questions, which you could then answer using the jargon and shorthand he’d know?

        1. Connie-Lynne*

          I can see being insulted if the recruiter was a woman. There’s a lot of supposition that female recruiters are not technical and it can get a little annoying to constantly get the dumbed-down version.

          Or, like our network engineer, who is constantly asked at conferences whether she is in sales or recruiting, or simply immediately given the simplified version because nobody expects a woman to be one of the pioneers in computer networking. *sigh*

      2. Michele*

        That seems a bit odd. I have a Ph.D. in chemistry and hire others Ph.D.s. I like it when someone can explain their work in simple terms because it means that they will be able to communicate with the non-scientific people that they will be working with. If I want to test someone’s scientific knowledge, I ask specific, technical questions.

    4. Gwen*

      If they’re interviewing for a social media position, I would actually assume they’re probably referring to the Facebook newsfeed, which would be pretty weird not to talk about in a discussion about their FB experience/capabilities?

    5. LQ*

      I’m going to say that these terms are potentially more technical than we give them credit for. This week I had a coworker (who is in her early 30s – just so no one gets all oh old people here, young people are just as potentially out of touch!) ask me what the cloud was. Then when explaining to her I had to cover a half dozen other terms that seemed super basic.

      I also think that they can be used in different ways to mean different things. “What is cloud computing?” can mean a lot of things depending on who you are talking to and under what circumstances.

      For the OP here make sure to explain things (and in an I want to make sure we are on the same page kind of way), and I’d do some practice explaining if it is something you’ve had trouble with in the past. Find someone in your life who has no clue what you do and try doing a practice interview with them. Don’t do it with someone who knows the ways of the web. It is really easy to slip into a trap of being surrounded by people who have a short hand and you can easily communicate with and forget that not everyone else speaks that language, even if all the words you are using are seemingly simple.

  3. SherryD*

    Not so weird to be interviewing with someone who’s not overly familiar with terms like “newsfeed” and “cloud.” Sometimes companies are hiring a social media or new media manager because they know the company currently lacks that skill set.

    It’s frustrating as the interviewee, though… How do they even know they’re hiring the right person?

    1. Ops Analyst*

      It just seems strange to go into one of those interviews as a hiring manager and not do basic research in order to ensure that you’re hiring someone that knows what they are talking about.

      1. QAT Contractor*

        Quite true, usually you would want someone who knows at least something about the area they are hiring for. But sometimes something comes up like a last second notice of a critical meeting and the interview originally scheduled can’t do the interview any more. Instead of sending the candidate away and making a bad impression, they grab whoever is available and have them give the interview.

        Granted this still gives a bad impression, but typically it’s a bit less harsh due to the fact the candidate at least got to interview rather than being turned away at the door and told they will need reschedule due to a conflict.

        Thinking about that I guess I wouldn’t be happy in either situation if I had traveled a long distance (over 2 hours one way). But if I was more local and it didn’t impact my current job/PTO too badly I might be more forgiving. Still, having the interview and being told it was a last minute change would be more acceptable to me I guess.

    2. Michele*

      I was just talking to HR yesterday about filling a position. The HR rep wants to do the intitial phone screens, but I really don’t trust that process. For one, the position requires a lot of technical knowledge that someone in HR would not have. For another thing, he wants a lists of questions that I would want him to ask, but often the initial answers are vague and misleading and don’t have any value without followup questions. He wouldn’t know how to ask the followup questions. For example, one of my deal-breaker questions is, “If I give you something to do, and you think it doesn’t make any sense or will waste your time, what do you do?” This question completely throws most people, and they give a vague, meaningless answer. I typically have to probe a bit.

      1. Sospeso*

        Hm, my guess is that the HR rep – if they have significant experience interviewing – would probably deftly handle the specific question you mention and other questions that are about work behaviors in general. At the very least, most of us have sat in the interviewee’s chair before, so we know what good, probing questions and dialogue sounds like. I can certainly understand your reticence about the HR rep getting into too much detail as far as the hyper-technical aspects of the position, but do you have concerns about them going over work behaviors, too?

        Also, in my experience, phone screens are often used to see how the employer’s need matches up with the applicant’s goals and experiences. This can be as basic as, “Are you available to work full time?” to something more complex like, “What challenges do you enjoy about your current role and what challenges would you like to have in your next role?” And, in my experience, applicants are only eliminated from the initial phone screen if these things are majorly mis-matching. Your company may have a different process, but that’s been my experience conducting early phone screens and interviews at two companies for various roles.

        1. QAT Contractor*

          I’m in the same camp as Michele. The phone interviewers at my company are actually from an external recruiting company that we keep in-house most of the time. They get paid a bonus for every employee they bring in that we hire (and lasts for 6 months). So really, they ask questions that are sort of aligned with what we are looking for, but more often than not they just bring in dozens of applicants that are middle of the road and hope we just pick some.

          There have been times where the candidate brought in was so far off the scale that the interviewers have said they are just wasting their time.

          I know it’s not the same in every company or even industry though. For Michele’s HR to ask for specific questions to ask, I think that just shows that they don’t know what it is to look for in general for that company. Sitting down and talking about what you are looking for without specific questions and making sure the HR understands your direction could help a lot.

          1. Sospeso*

            That stinks. I’ve also noticed there’s a different dynamic with an in-house HR/recruiting team compared to an external HR/recruiting team.

        2. Michele*

          I don’t trust the deftness of HR. I remember a situation a few years ago when I had a difficult employee. I knew he was job searching, and I had no objection. He listed me as a reference. HR at a prospective job called and asked a few questions. They weren’t very insightful questions, and I answered exactly the questions that were answered. I didn’t lie, but I didn’t volunteer information, either. They completely missed the fact that I wasn’t enthusiastic, and they didn’t ask for any elaboration. Problem employee is now someone else’s problem.

          1. Sospeso*

            Well, that was HR at another company, wasn’t it? It seems strange to generalize from one HR person at one company to all of HR everywhere… especially when you have an opportunity to observe your in-house HR team day-to-day to see how you feel about them specifically.

            I guess I just don’t get why you think that the HR rep at your company “wouldn’t know how to ask the followup questions” for your interview questions. It sounds like he might be trying to get a better idea of the candidate you’re looking for (by asking for your interview questions and maybe other things you didn’t mention). Instead of simply not trusting the process, why not sit down with him and go over the minimum technical requirements of the position as well as the information you’re looking for with your dealbreaker questions?

        1. Michele*

          They would discuss the matter with me, but if we can’t reach an agreement, they follow my decision.
          I want people to be able to think for themselves and question why things are done, but they need to understand that I have a lot more experience than they do and that there is a hierarchy. I have had people convince me that their approach was better, but if someone just decides they aren’t going to do what they were assigned, that is unacceptable.

    3. Mimmy*

      Exactly. Employers should do the research before ahead of time. They could even hire a consultant if the budget allows, even if just to help the company to understand good social media strategies and perhaps help to build some basic social media pages (fb, twitter, etc). Once you have the framework, THEN you could hire someone on a permanent basis to maintain everything and perhaps even help improve social media presence.

      FTR: I’m no social media expert by any means :)

    4. Stranger than fiction*

      Precisely why we went through 3 people year before last that were hired to do social media but for the owners and to some extent the marketing manager it was a relatively new concept so no surprise when those they hired didn’t live up to expectations

  4. Ann Furthermore*

    It must be National Busybody Week or something!

    #1: OP, you have my sympathies for having to supervise someone who has appointed herself the all-knowing arbiter of what is and is not appropriate. Ugh. Alison is right though…you need to make sure you and your boss are on the same page about this. If he/she says that Kara’s actions are acceptable — or even should be encouraged — I would just come right out and ask why. The key is to make it a genuine question, instead of being challenging and confrontational. Something like, “I’ve given it some thought, and I didn’t think there was anything wrong with the picture on Sally’s Facebook page. Could you give me your perspective on the situation and help me understand what I’ve missed, or what I need to consider if a similar situation occurs in the future?” My first reaction is that Kara is just a nosy busybody, but who knows…there might be a legitimate reason behind what she did. Like if you work with kids, people might need to be extra careful about what they put on social media, so as not to be perceived as a “bad influence.” Full disclosure: I personally don’t think it should matter at all, unless you’re bad-mouthing your employer by name or something like that, but sadly, it can have a negative impact.

    I’m curious what kind of work you do/supervise, since you said that your employees not only work together but live in close proximity to each other as well. That will definitely change the dynamic of any situation.

    #2: OP, you also have my sympathies for being monitored by a clock watcher. Ugh. If it was me I’d be tempted to monitor the admin right back, and work any schedule deficiencies into conversations with her. Like, “Oh! I’m so glad you’re back! I was worried about you! I came by to ask you a question at 3:00, but you had just left for your break. I came back by at 3:17, and you weren’t back yet. Is everything OK?”

    I’m so, so lucky that my boss (and whole company actually) isn’t like this. As salaried employees, we’re trusted to get our work done. The work I do ebbs and flows, so there are times (like right now, as I’m about 6 weeks out from a project launch) that I’m putting in way more than 40 hours a week. In another couple months, after we go live, there will be a bit of a lull for a few weeks, and then it will be onto the next project. During those slow periods, my boss doesn’t care if I duck out an hour or 2 early here and there, because she knows I more than made up for it in the weeks leading up to the project launch date. As long as everyone is meeting their deadlines, responding to emails, and so on, she’s happy.

    1. Jeanne*

      #1 is a total busybody. Kara is out to get Sally in trouble. Now that this complaint has been acted on, look for the complaints to increase.

      #2 I found a little confusing. Alison seemed to think it meant the boss asked the admin to pull records. If it was that, why would the boss mention the admin said something? I see it more as the admin has been watching her every day to see when she comes in and when she leaves. Neither is illegal but I view them differently. It’s ok to talk to the OP about getting her time in. But I would also talk to the admin and ask her to get back to work.

      Why do managers reward busybodies? So many seem to.

      1. Ann Furthermore*

        I read it that way too…that the admin took it upon herself to pull the OP’s timesheets and then notified the manager. But if it was done at the manager’s behest, I’d end up eventually looking for another job. I can’t stand being micromanaged or hovered over. Treat me like an adult until I give you a reason to do otherwise.

        1. Monodon monoceros*

          I was thinking the same. If the boss does actually have a problem with OPs hours, then she should just talk to the OP about that and not even mention the admin. If admin was just being a busybody then the OP should never have heard about it. The busybody admin is annoying, but I think the boss is more of the problem here.

        2. Katie the Fed*

          I have to disagree. If you’re required to work 40 hours and you’re not but telling your company you are, you’re committing fraud. I’m not talking about a half hour here or there that evens out over time, but if there’s a regular pattern then it’s a problem. Especially if there are timesheets or something involved – the fact that this letter mentions “pulling time” makes me think there are either badge swipes or timesheets or both. So there’s some way to verify.

          1. Natalie*

            I don’t think that’s the case here. There’s no reason to think the LW is being dishonest at all – apparently their time sheet shows them punched in less than 40 hours. They’re salaried so their pay wouldn’t drop.

            1. Katie the Fed*

              Salaried positions might still have timekeeping requirements. I’m salaried and exempt but if I work less that 40 I have to take leave (paid or unpaid); if I work more than that I’m compensated.

              1. OhNo*

                The interesting point here is that it sounds like the requirement to work at least 40 hours each week wasn’t made entirely clear to the OP. If their position does have a timekeeping requirement, then the boss was apparently remiss in pointing out how important it was to the position.

                If that’s the case, it’s fine for the boss to point it out to the OP – but it’s really weird that they did so by pointing out that the admin has been clockwatching.

                1. Jamie*

                  Agreed on your last point. I have known many people who task the admins with clock watching and reporting back to them. I’m not a fan, but if it’s being done at their (the boss’s) behest they should own it and leave the admin out of it.

                  Just like when some people take it upon themselves to monitor co-workers hours and the boss doesn’t care – the boss should just tell the clock watchers to knock it off and not make a problem where there is none.

                  And I’ve never worked in a place where there wasn’t a strong sense of what the expected hours were for salaried people – whether that was on the low side or 55+. The exempt thing just addresses minimal requirements provided by law – but the expectations and culture are very real and will vary from place to place. And even vary from position to position within the same company.

                  IMO companies should be as flexible as possible without compromising the work. And the more responsibility/expectations the company puts on someone’s personal time the more flexible they should be with ass in seat time.

              2. Natalie*

                That still doesn’t mean the OP is committing fraud. They’re not lying about their time, clearly, and they don’t appear to have been informed that working at least 4o hours was a requirement.

                1. Katie the Fed*

                  I said “If you’re required to work 40 hours and you’re not but telling your company you are, you’re committing fraud.”

                  Obviously if the OP didn’t know that she was supposed to be working 40 hours, that’s a different situation.

                2. Natalie*

                  @ Katie, that would be relevant if we had any reason to think the LW was doing that. Considering the entire issue came up because someone pulled their time card and it showed less than 40 hours some weeks (i.e. NOT LYING), I’m not sure why you keep suggesting the LW must be lying.

            2. Oryx*

              Their salary can’t be docked but if they are working less than 40 hours a week their employer can absolutely ask that the use PTO or vacation time or whatever to make up those hours.

              1. Natalie*

                Sure, but there’s zero indication that this is the issue. Given that the timecard system showed the LW sometimes worked less than 40 hours, they’re not lying about their time to bump it up to 40. It sounds like this was a miscommunication about the hours expectation that the manager didn’t handle super well, not some nefarious person trying to cheat their employer out of a few hours of PTO.

                1. fposte*

                  That’s a good point on the managerial communication. If everybody’s hours are observed, just say so. If the expectation is that people will be in the office at least forty hours, just say so. If the OP isn’t productive enough, just say so.

              2. Ann Furthermore*

                Depending on the what the circumstances are, I would disagree. There’s no indication that the OP is working less than 40 hours a week on a regular basis. The OP says that the admin noticed that “I’m sometimes short of 40 hours a week.” And how “short” are we talking? 5 minutes short or 5 hours short?

                I’m coming at this from the angle that most (or at least many) salaried people do. There are weeks where I work way, way more than 40 hours a week. I’ll be close to 50 hours this week, and over the next few weeks as my project approaches the launch date there will probably be a couple of 60 or 70 hour weeks.

                So, given that situation, if down the road I were to get flack from my boss for leaving a couple hours early here and there (and let’s say one week it added up to 3 hours), I would be really pissed off. If I work 60 or 70 hour weeks for a month or 2, even with the 3 “short” hours my employer is still coming out way, way ahead. Even if there’s no formal comp time policy, this should not be a big deal. If I’m expected to dip into leave time to bring my hours up t0 40 each week, then I should also be allowed to bank those extra hours and use them when I need them. It should go both ways.

                Now, is this a legal requirement or anything like that? No, but a reasonable manager should be looking at the big picture and not be so uptight about it, and they shouldn’t they implement any draconian policies where employees are watched every moment and treated like children.

                Of course this is all assuming that my work is in good shape. If I leave an hour early here and there and I’ve got unanswered emails, or people are waiting on me for something, or if my ducking out early causes me to miss a deadline, then I am absolutely in the wrong and my boss would be totally justified in calling me out.

                1. Ann Furthermore*

                  The manager would also be justified in bringing this to an employee’s attention if everyone else in the group was swamped, but the OP was in a lull. My work is like that sometimes. I might be working on a project with a looming deadline, so putting in lots of hours, but a co-worker (who focuses on an area different than mine) maybe just rolled off a project so isn’t as busy.

                  In this case the OP says this is a new position. So maybe he/she is still in a training period or whatever, and everything that’s been assigned is getting done. But the other people in the group are still holding on to other things that they’d like the OP to take on. In that case, I think the manager would be justified in bringing this to the OP’s attention, but even then the gist of the discussion should be “I need you to let me know when you have down time so I can transition some more work to you,” and not, “Betty informed me that you only worked 39 hours and 17 minutes last week.”

                2. Jamie*

                  I’m coming at this from the angle that most (or at least many) salaried people do. There are weeks where I work way, way more than 40 hours a week. I’ll be close to 50 hours this week, and over the next few weeks as my project approaches the launch date there will probably be a couple of 60 or 70 hour weeks.

                  Yep. My deal is similar – I average about 55-60 but sometimes 70-80 for a stretch and absolutely will do some shorter weeks on either side of those. Higher than that due to emergencies than I take some days off once the dust settles and I would be very not happy if my vacation bank was hit for those.

                  So for people where it’s pretty steep peaks and valleys it almost invariably shakes out in the employer’s favor.

                  I’ve also seen some people who do a straight 40, or sometimes 40.5 on a long week, in a culture where that’s the bare minimum cut weeks short sometimes because they see other people doing it not aware that the other people doing it with impunity work more hours.

                  It’s just a matter of expectations.

      2. some1*

        “Alison seemed to think it meant the boss asked the admin to pull records. If it was that, why would the boss mention the admin said something?”

        Because the boss is a poor communicator or he doesn’t think the LW needs to know that he asked the admin to pull timesheets and report anyone recording less than 40 hours.

        Even if we assume the admin took it upon herself to do this, the manager thought working less than 40 hours was a problem.

        1. AntherHRPro*

          Yes, that fact that the manager raised it to the OP means that the manager thinks regularly working less than 40 hours per week is a problem. Which is good information for the OP to have. The OP should adjust their schedule and start working 40 hours as their manager expects.

    2. Miss Betty*

      I didn’t get the impression the OP was being monitored by a clock watcher. I got the impression that the admin was doing this a part of her job, as requested by the boss, otherwise the boss wouldn’t have brought it up.

    3. OP #1*

      We work with kids occasionally, but usually in family groups. As for what we do, we work in beautiful, iconic places and wear uniforms to work.

      I had partly dealt with this situation before receiving a response from AAM. I asked Kara why she told our manager about the photo and she said she had been asked by the manager to let her know if she saw anything the manager should know about. She said she was concerned people would see this photo on Facebook if they “liked” our organization.

      1. Retail Lifer*

        Someone please explain to Kara how Facebook works. If the photo is public and Sally lists her place of employment publicly on her profile, then people who “liked” the employer on Facebook would have a roundabout way of seeing that photo. There’s no direct way, though, and I would hope Sally’s privacy settings are better than that to begin with.

        Kara just sounds like she’s trying to stir things up.

        1. Laurel Gray*

          Beyond privacy settings….if Kara wasn’t a busy body, gossipy annoying co-worker and had genuine concerns, she would go to her coworker first and NOT the micromanager. She’s creating the crappy work environment and the micromanager is hanging the drapes.

        2. fposte*

          Whereas I’m going back to the manager here, who apparently put Kara on this mission (presuming Kara is being truthful, and given what the OP says about the manager elsewhere, it seems likely). She may have picked Kara for her natural inclinations, but the real problem is the authorization of the sleuthing.

        3. Rana*

          I agree.

          One could make a weak case that if Sally’s settings were tighter, or she was more restrictive about her friends list, Kara (and the rest of the world) would presumably have no clue what Sally was up to, and use this as an opportunity to maybe remind Sally about unintended audiences having access and gently suggest tightening up her settings.

          But privacy settings management is a far different concern than OH NOES BARE SHOULDERS!

      2. Jamie*

        I asked Kara why she told our manager about the photo and she said she had been asked by the manager to let her know if she saw anything the manager should know about. She said she was concerned people would see this photo on Facebook if they “liked” our organization.

        That’s totally reasonable and Sally is lucky she wasn’t fired.

        I categorically refuse to do business with any company where their employees dare to imply that they have shoulders or an upper back.

    4. Steve G*

      I’m not seeing the Admin as a busybody, especially if the OP isn’t doing 40 hours per week. If they are, then they need to solve the reporting/clock error. I think this can come across as busy-bodying in environments where everyone does 40 hours, no more, and an admin is quibbling over 15-minute differences. But at past past job, some people worked 50ish hours/week, sometimes a bit more, or some people worked 40 hours but came in really early for various reasons, so when someone came in late and did anything less than 40 hours, it definitely had a WTF-are-they-doing demoralizing effect on the rest of us, especially when the rest of us knew that that person had a very short commute.

  5. John Vinall*

    #5 – speaking as an extremely technical manager (IT infrastructure rather than social media but the principle is still the same), you need to watch for those blank looks in the interview.

    They signify that the person you’re talking to isn’t technical – and if that’s the case they’re usually looking for someone to intercede between themselves and the technical side of things – and if *that’s* the case then you need to figure out how to get through to them what you’re talking about.

    OK, in some bad interviews (and I’ve been in some) you get an HR person (no offence Alison) or senior manager who is entirely non-technical who is “blinded by science” – but far more often they’re looking for someone to handle the techie stuff so they don’t have to.

    Case in point: my current role – when I interviewed for an upper management position (one step below board level) here the interview panel consisted of a technical person, my boss, the CEO and another member of the board – my boss, the CEO and the other board member had no technical skills whatsoever and so I needed to couch a lot of my answers in significantly less technical terms than I would otherwise.

    (then the technical person asked a very detailed and specific technical question so I answered it in the same way – cue blank looks from three of the panel as their brains shut down).

    I ended by asking the question “what would the ideal candidate be able to do for you” to my boss – and he replied “well, he’d make sure I never had to answer any IT questions” – which I thought somewhat amusing.

    1. fposte*

      I think in a lot of fields, though, higher level people are specialized enough that it’s unlikely all their interviewers will be familiar with the technicalities. #5 is just an early version of that, and it’s good to be prepared for it.

      Or you could just tell them it’s sorcery.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Right on. Someone who is hiring a person for HVAC does not necessarily do that work herself. Hopefully, at some point other people would be brought into the interview process to help compensate for the interviewer’s lack of familiarity. But that is not always an available option.

      Sometimes I think that is part of the interview questions. The interviewer wants to know if I can deal with people who are not on the same level of understanding as I am. (This is humorous, because I am not a technical person.) But the sense I get out of the conversation is “Can you explain it to me when things go wrong? Can you figure out what is wrong? Or at least figure out when to call for help?”
      The interviewer does need to have some idea of what are the goals for the position they are hiring for. What do they need this person to do? I agree, that is where it all lands. If the interviewer cannot give an idea of what is needed, then it’s going to be a very difficult road for the interviewer.

    3. Elkay*

      Alison’s not an HR person. I believe she’s a management consultant, although her preferred title “Senior Blogger Green” ;-)

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yep, not an HR person. Management consultant now, and previously a chief of staff who ran the day to day of an org (so hiring manager in that context).

    4. OhNo*

      I think the important part here is that you are able to tone down your language to the level of your interviewers, which might be where the OP is running in to trouble. If the interviewers are getting glazed looks in their eyes, then either a.) you’re BSing your way through and they know it, or b.) your language it too technical, and they have no idea what you’re talking about.

      OP, do you have a friend or two that know very little about social media? Can you run your answers by them to make sure everything you’re saying makes sense? Any non-technical friends you have might be able to tell you where in the description you’re losing people, so you know what to avoid next time you’re in an interview.

    5. Zhena*

      @John Vinall
      “you need to figure out how to get through to them what you’re talking about”

      I STRIVE to do this but it seems I either under- or over-explain?
      My other approach is “show don’t tell”… but in this instance the supervisor can’t be sensitive about learning from the subordinate.

      I agree about being more vigilant about “blank looks” during interviews. Maybe throwing out a few “test phrases” and observing reactions? In any case, my next supervisor’s gotta possess be more tech fluent than the former one.

  6. Cheesecake*

    OP #5. I think the problem here is also how social media is perceived. When you are interviewed for real technical job, the tech.terms will make unfamiliar people think “yeah, he know what he is talking about”. Social media is perceived as “i had a sandwich” statuses on fb – free time fun, people still don’t get the whole potential of it. So when you start to use terms they don’t understand, they think “why does he make something easy so complicated”.

    I agree with Alison, it is not too technical. Heck, how do you say tweet differently? “A short 140 characters message you put on social platform called “twitter”?” So maybe focus more on what these tweets can bring in terms of new customers/sales vs just saying “my fav. platform for blogging is wordpress”

    1. little Cindy Lou who*

      I disagree a bit. Sure, if you throw around API and RAF, I’ll know you’ll understand some of the techier parts of my world. But if you can talk about it in English, I’ll know that you really understand it and that you’ll be able to talk to your non-tech user base and management. Which person would you rather continue the discussion with?

      Jargon is a handy way to discuss specifics with others you work on the specifics with. It’s not an indicator of real depth of knowledge.

      1. Cheesecake*

        Well, yes: if you can’t explain it simple, you don’t know the stuff. That’s why if i do interviews i throw “explain process x to a 10 year old” question. But you would be amazed how many people are intimidated by tech jargon and abbreviations and thus think “oh wow”. Why do you think we still have management jargon and all those “synergies” around?

        1. little Cindy Lou who*

          Lol good ppint regarding the synergies-type talk. That’s exactly why talking that way gets dangerous. It can be used to cover “because it’s the way we’ve always done it” logic.

    2. JDD*

      You could call them “texts”, as working with the SMS character limit so people could use their phones to post online in the era of dumbphones was why the limit is there in the first place. :)

    1. OP #1*

      So, the funny thing is, Kara is currently working temporarily in an administrative position that deals with some HR stuff and is being considered for a permanent position.

      1. Merry and Bright*

        When I was at school we were always being asked when we were going to grow up and behave like adults.

        When I did grow up I went to work in offices!

    2. The Toxic Avenger*

      Ha! There’s a commenter on your site, Suzanne – his name is Daniel, and he cracks me up when he brings up the Business Sisters…Nunsya and Mindsya. The Business Sisters definitely needed to be in the house on this one. What a cluster.

  7. Oryx*

    #2 says they are salaried but not if they are exempt or non-exempt — if the OP is non-exempt and the employer is paying them for a 40 hour work week I can understand wanting to make sure their employees are working the full 40 hours. (If exempt and sometimes working over 40 hours a week, I’d point that out to them like Alison said)

    That being said, it’s not clear if the manager asked the OP to be monitored or if the admin decided to do it on their own. If it’s the latter that seems to be a bigger issue on the part of the admin feeling that’s part of their job.

  8. "Outside of a teapot life is but thousands of dusty affairs"*

    I have been interviewed by people not familiar with the job being recruited for. Often they sit behind a desk reading off a list of printed questions. You can’t tell properly if they “get” your answers and it makes the whole thing feel very stilted. The interviews I have been successful at have usually been ones where the interviewer has asked her questions but done it so that the conversation just flows. At the end I almost think “Hey, that was a quick hour or half hour”.

    1. Allison*

      Definitely, when someone just reads a list of questions and jots notes it makes me very nervous, but interviews that feel like real conversations are the best.

    2. Steve G*

      Yesterday I had an interview with an HR person who knew exactly which computer programs I’d be using, what I’d be doing in them, what the problems are with their CRM, how they make their money, how their channel partner relationships work, what issues their are in the sales side of the organization, where the weaknesses/strengths in their products lie, what reports they don’t have automated yet…………

      it was such a breath of fresh air because when you interview somewhere and the HR rep doesn’t know much about the job, it’s very hard to be excited and say “sounds great” and want to be pushed forward through the process, because you still don’t know much about the job!

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        Right! Truly that IS a breath of fresh air and why , recently, when my SO was interviewing he always asked the recruiter or HR person for a detailed job description because the fact soamu of them had no clue what some of the tech requirements and acronyms meant and would try to get into salary talks, so he’d be like “I need more details of the role please” because there’s a vast difference what a product manager does comoared to say a senior product manager or even what a PM does from company to company…

  9. SJP*

    OP 1 – It does definitely seem that Kara is a bleddin’ busybody so now you’re about to start managing these two people, please keep a keen watch over Kara and also for Sally as she is going to start, if she isn’t already, to keep threatened by Kara. Threatened because she knows she’s always going to be watched.
    As Alison says, speak to you boss and see where they’re coming from, but also try and go to bat for Sally and stand up for her as you mentioned you really don’t see anything wrong with the photo. If your boss is swayed by your arguement then perhaps after this encourage Sally to block Kara on social media or lock down her privacy setting so kara cannot see a dicky bird of what Sally is up to.
    And obviously if Kara is ‘friends’ with Sally on facebook then obviously tell her to delete her and she doesn’t need people like that in her life.
    I hope you can sort this because I am totally siding with Sally as there’s always 1 in an office and Kara seems to be that one snoop

    1. MashaKasha*

      In one of my old jobs, we had an employee fired over a Facebook post, that was only visible to her FB friends. You better believe me that everyone in the office spent the following week going over their friend lists, deleting, blocking, and locking their pages down. Since Kara seems to be unable to handle seeing her coworkers’ social media posts without launching into random acts of weirdness, she needs to be deleted and blocked, for her own good – definitely by Sally, and others should consider doing it as well. This will go a long way towards improving morale in the office.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Wait wait wait wait. Someone got fired over–what was this post? I’m very curious now.

        Also, this is a huge boost for my argument against never ever friending current coworkers on FB.

        1. Sospeso*

          That’s my current policy, too! My only exception is were are really, truly friends outside of work. And I can count those people on one hand.

          1. SJP*

            I did have this until I started the job I am at now. I never had friends from work on Facebook. But at the company I work now I work with truly great people, who I share a lot in common, who are all completely normal and down to earth and we actually hang out outside of work so that’s really refreshing!

            Ps – MashaKasha I am also really curious what it was in that FB post.

        2. MashaKasha*

          She’d been on probation and kind of knew she might not make it, so on that day at around eight AM, she made this post: “Someone I know with experience in … is looking for a job in …, PM me if you know of any openings”. Possibly not the brightest thing to do, but a harmless post in my opinion. I saw it myself. At three PM, she was called into HR, and greeted by the HR rep, her department manager, and her immediate supervisor, who was holding the printout of the post. They gave her a box, helped her pack, and escorted her out. Needless to say, this left the rest of us pretty scared! It was quite a while ago, and our office was then going through an “everybody adds everyone else in the office on Facebook and we all play Mafia Wars together like a big happy family” stage. That stage ended on that day.

          1. fposte*

            So they fired her because they thought she meant herself and that she had one foot out the door? I can’t figure out why else it would be a problem. If so, was it pretty clear that she meant herself?

            1. hayling*

              Wait she made a vague post about someone looking for openings in her field, and made that post during off-hours, and she was fired for it? Sounds like they were just looking for a reason to can her. Yikes.

  10. AshleyH*

    Re: 5- I recently phone screened a candidate for a slightly technical, entry-level position (essentially someone to monitor our web traffic and generate reports based on clicks), so I had a meeting with the hiring manager song could better understand what they were looking for, which I would argue is fairly standard.

    The candidate actually told me, in a very condescending voice “since you can’t possibly understand all the technical things I’m talking about, I’d love to continue this conversation with someone higher up in the company”. Which is hilarious because up until that point the candidate was a front runner. I told the hiring manager everything- that otherwise the candidate was strong but he really rubbed me the wrong way- and the hiring manager decided that if he rubs me (“one of the nicest people” he’s ever met”) then there’s no way he’d be a good culture fit.

    Don’t ever assume your interviewer doesn’t know what you’re talking about. And certainly don’t be an ass about it.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      Assuming you’re a woman, there’s probably a lot of subtext there as well. I was on an interview panel once and the candidate was noticeably disrespectful and condescending to me, but not any of the men on the panel. He actually interrupted me when I was asking questions a couple of times. Buddy, no. I’m the most senior person in this room, even though you seem to think I’m the secretary.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          They probably think it’s confidence. They may actually be trying to project confidence, but when it’s not natural it comes across as condescending.

      1. Connie-Lynne*

        Oh yeah. So, I was the senior hiring manager for a technical role, and there was a dude who impressed every person on the interview loop — except me and the recruiter, another woman. To the recruiter, he was brusque, abrupt, and kind of demanding.

        To me, he answered a career path question essentially with “I’d be doing your job, by the way, here’s how you’re doing it all wrong and how I would do it better.” P. S. He had zero management experience and thought that “scale” meant “a couple hundred machines” (we operate at the tens of thousands level). His technical answers to me, despite his knowing I outranked every interviewer he’d spoken with, were condescending and simplistic, and he often repeated himself rather than give additional technical depth when asked.

        Can’t decide whether he, or the guy who couldn’t stop speaking to my rack instead of my eyes, was the worst interviewee ever.

    2. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Right, and if you can spot those blank stares AND the position is one where you report to or support non-technical people, that’s a great opportunity to show off that you not only are good at the technical side, but that you have the communication skills to help even the most non-technical of users understand what they need to know. If you work in social media, it’s often important to be able to report to non-technical managers about your outreach efforts, or to get input from a product line manager to create a campaign.

      Your candidate apparently decided to do exactly the opposite. Oh well, at least they made your decision easier for you. :)

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        Right, when I see the eyes glazing, I apologize! “Oh, I’m sorry, I bet I’m speaking geek. Let me see if I can do this in English instead.” It’s actually harder to translate to a language the non-technical understand, so it’s a sign (if I succeed) that I’m a cut above the others who are interviewing. If you can’t communicate with others, how is that superior?

  11. little Cindy Lou who*

    #5 – Know thy audience. Describe instead how the work you do drives specific benefit. If they ask about specific platforms or technologies then ease into it but look for those clues like blank stares to assess whether you need to retreat back to the higher level discussions. You shouldn’t have to rely on jargon to describe what you can do.

    I say this having worked at a 3-letter company where we definitely had our own language — and having to learn how to translate all that jargon back into English when I moved on from them.

  12. Katie the Fed*

    #2 – You need to be VERY careful, and you need to accurately record your time. I had someone essentially fired for timecard fraud (the person quit before being fired, but essentially the same thing).

    At the point that you know they’re watching you, that’s a big deal. That means someone noticed and decided to investigate further and didn’t like what they found.

    In the case with my employee, I noticed some flagrant discrepancies, so I gave the person a verbal warning to make sure the person was being careful in accurately recording time (I try not to assume malice), then started paying close attention to see if the issue was resolved, then I pulled timesheets and badge records, noticed HUGE discrepancies, and then it went to the inspector general for investigation.

    I’m concerned about your letter because you don’t seem to realize there’s probably a reason you’re being watched. Nobody has time for that unless they think there’s a problem. If you work your 40 hours and accurately record it, then you have nothing to worry about. I’d worry a lot more about whether YOUR behavior is legal rather than the boss’s.

    1. BRR*

      This is something I didn’t even think about. I threw the admin in the category of somebody who needs to mind their own business. I’m not sure fraudulent reporting time is an issue here but rereading the letter and the LW saying that the boss is having the admin monitor time is a big hint that something needs to change to keep your boss happy.

      1. Special Snowflake*

        BRR, last summer I was that Admin, and was monitoring a staff member’s hours. The reason? Because I had been instructed to do it by three higher-ups, including the VP. Admins are busy people, and unless the OP had noticed this particular one being a busy-body in other areas, I would bet they had been asked to do this. I would never, ever have done this of my own volition, and the staff member I was monitoring never knew I was doing it. Eventually she was fired, as she had been previously warned about timesheet discrepancies, and apparently didn’t learn anything from the warning. I still feel bad that I was instrumental in someone getting fired, but to refuse to do it would have been direct insubordination. If I was the OP, I would be extremely concerned that the Admin was monitoring my hours. There is very likely much more behind this that just an Admin who won’t mind their own business.

        1. BRR*

          You weren’t instrumental in someone getting fired, they were instrumental in getting fired.

          1. Special Snowflake*

            Thank you for that BRR. I know you’re absolutely right, but I still feel bad. During the time of monitoring her hours, I took a vacation week, and had to instruct my intern to record this person’s timekeeping in my absence. I could tell by the look on the face that she wasn’t happy doing it,and I felt terrible explaining to her that this was a direct order, and if I couldn’t fulfill it, then it was part of her job to do so on my behalf. I also told her that this was not my choice, and I didn’t feel good about it, but nevertheless, it had to be done. I am aware that this silly woman basically fired herself, but in my everyday working life I tend to mind my own business, and let the chips fall where they may. This definitely went against the grain for me, and while I understand the reasoning, I hope I am never put in that position again.

    2. Not Today Satan*

      Yeah. This sentence confuses me: “she noticed I’m sometimes short of 40 hours every week.” If she really means that she is short of 40 hours every week, I don’t understand why she’s upset. Maybe I’m just jealous because I’ve never worked a job where I was able to work less than 40 hours, but… she should just start working forty hours and move on.

      Also, I’ve had jobs where the salaried employees rolled in an hour and a half after everyone else (and didn’t stay an hour and a half later). It was demoralizing.

      1. Lia*

        But sometimes those salaried employees are working at home in the evenings or on the weekends. It is not unusual for those of us on my office to do that.

        There is an events office just down my hall. Those folks are rarely here in the earlier morning hours, but that is because they work events at night frequently, so they come in late to balance it.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          That’s what my team does. If they aren’t working from home or traveling, and they come in, they leave hours before I do. But they come in at damn o’clock in the morning.

      2. Ellie H.*

        I think it meant that she is sometimes short of “40 hours every week” (like most weeks at least 40, a few weeks under 40), not “every week, short of 40 hours.”

      3. Just me*

        I’m the one that wrote the question. Here is some more detail. I’m a new mom that came back to a new position after my leave, I left one organization for another. I do think that this admin is making it her job to look at time swipes although we do not record time. I am in no way arguing that on this specific week I worked less than 40 hours, but most of the time that isn’t going to be the case and believe me I did my fair share of 60 hour work weeks and not to mention traveling I did last year that took up about 6 weeks in total. I feel like I’m a good employee that produces good results so if I need to take an hour or so to myself every few weeks than I will and I shouldn’t have some busy body admin with nothing better to do pointing it out to try to make me look bad. I just find it really crappy that this specific group decides to clock watch. I’ve been in many other groups and as I said it’s never been a thing and more so when it was a thing it must be company policy to get executive level approval to look at it but since the information is easily available to this lady because she does hourly payroll she feels like she should look at everyone.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          So is everyone getting this level of scrutiny or just you?

          From the way your original letter was worded, it really sounds like the boss has either asked the admin to do this or at least is encouraging it – so I think you should assume that this has the boss’s blessing and not focus on whether or not the admin has the authority to do it.

          Unfortunately, I think you and your boss have different expectations about your time, and you need to get on the same page ASAP. You think “if I need to take an hour or so to myself every few weeks than I will” but your boss thinks you need to be there 40 hours a week. Those are two very different perspectives and I think you should reconcile them before you find out just how serious the boss is.

    3. Graciosa*

      I am completely on board with not lying about your hours or committing fraud, but I’m not seeing anything in the original letter to indicate that there is either a reporting requirement or a discrepancy between what is reported and what the records would show.

      I may be sensitive to this one because I work in an area where there is a lot of overtime among the exempt members of our function when needed – which is not infrequently! In my mind (and fortunately, my boss’ mind) there is a clear understanding that our professional, exempt positions require you to manage certain responsibilities.

      Sometimes that means working a lot of “extra” hours, but it should also mean that you don’t have to hang around the office when you aren’t needed – even if you’re nowhere close to forty hours. I have been known to leave to attend a two o’clock movie showing on a work day. No one tracks this or pays any attention to it, and I get paid the same amount each week whether it’s a thirty hour week or sixty hour week.

      Not all positions are the same, of course, and I think that Alison’s comment about having a discussion with the boss is the key one for me. It sounds like the OP is moving from an environment where putting in at least forty hours every week no matter what was not a requirement to one where it may be.

      If it were me, though, having a boss who insisted that I had to clock forty hours no matter what would produce an employee who limited her work week to forty hours no matter what. Possibly an extreme reaction – but I got out of private practice where we had to track and bill our hours for a reason.

      1. Windchime*

        Yes, this. You want 40 hours every week? OK. But don’t be mad when I all the sudden stop working in the evenings and on Saturday to get that special project done. You don’t get weeks of unpaid extra hours without giving me some flexibility in return. If my hours will be watched that closely, then I will give you 40 hours and not a minute more.

        The whole thing seems silly. I’ve learned from years of reading AAM that plenty of salaried people have to keep time sheets. It seems strange to me.

        1. Mike C.*

          Yeah, that’s what keeps eating at me.

          Exempt status means you are paid for the job, not the time you put into it. Thus, it should be measured by results, not hours worked.

          There are lots of other reasons to keep time sheets for the exempt, but ensuring a minimum number of hours sitting at your desk shouldn’t be one of them.

        2. Katie the Fed*

          Ultimately, that is what happens a lot of the time.

          I do understand in government why it’s such a big deal. The taxpayers would be apoplectic if they found out we were working 37 hours instead of 40.

        3. AnonAnalyst*

          Yup. This is a huge irritation of mine at my current workplace. Guess who’s out the door at 6 on the dot every day?

          Flexibility goes both ways.

        4. Steve H*

          While that’s definitely true of most exempt jobs, some are different. For example, I’m salaried and exempt, but due to my industry (defense), my time card is essentially how my company bills the government. If I put down that I spent 40 hours this week working on project X, but I actually only spent 20, that’s fraud.

          Again, probably not the case with most salaried people.

        5. Jamie*

          I totally get this – and I find the concept of nickle and diming employees on this stuff to be so shortsighted because most of us would be a lot less generous with our off hours if the time bleeding only flowed in one direction.

          But if a place structures a full time position so it’s 40 a week and someone can consistently do it in well under 40 it’s not unreasonable for a company to reevaluate whether or not it should be a full time position. Maybe it should be part time, or have other duties assigned if others are overloaded – either way it’s unlikely that someone would be able to consistently work under expectations indefinitely in most offices.

    4. NacSacJack*

      Hi Katie – Aren’t govt workers mostly hourly up until manager or commissioner level? Isnt that why most govt workers are not allowed to work more than 40 hours a week? If not, what is expected of salaried exempt govt workers? Are they required to work exactly 40 hours a week? How can they be considered exempt then? What if they work more than 40 hours a week? Do they get compensated in some way? Thanks!

      1. Katie the Fed*

        I don’t know about all government, but I’m a manager and I’m exempt. I have a minimum of 40 hours a week required, and if I work more, I need to have approval and I can log credit hours, comp time, or overtime.

        1. fposte*

          I’m state, and I don’t have to do anything like that, thank heavens. And I know leaving that behind was one thing that made my brother happy when he moved off of federal money to state (in a different state).

          1. Katie the Fed*

            I kind of like it because I tend to work longer hours so I usually bank plenty of comp and credit hours which came in really handy for my recent hospitalization.

            1. fposte*

              No comp hours allowed here. However, we can roll over vacation days to some extent and sick days to some greater extent, so I could be out for a good while before the pay stopped.

  13. Penguin*

    #1- If this is in the US, the manager’s reaction would be hard to justify, but from the limited info we have, I immediately thought of ex-pats, working as teachers or engineers or something in an extremely conservative country like Saudi or Afghanistan. In such an environment, a “seemingly topless” pic , even of the back of a female’s body, may not be appropriate.

    1. Alter_ego*

      My guess was disney cast members. I think they live in a dorm type situation, and the company has an investment in them being seen as very wholesome and family friendly

      1. illini02*

        Well, I worked as a castmember. While it was before the time of Facebook, if they tried to monitor and dictate your behavior outside of work, they would be very short staffed.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          Me too! College Program, a loooong time ago. Pre-Facebook. Our apartment complex was rated the #1 or #2 party spot in the US by Playboy or something. The first time I ever got drunk was in one of those apartments.

        1. Chinook*

          My thought for #1 was a teacher in a boarding school situation or a small town. I could totally see being called on the carpet (if I was teaching at the time) if someone saw my wedding portrait – strapless gown shot at the right angle so looks like I am wearing nothing.

          Unfortunately, there are some jobs out there where you truly have to monitor your social media life to not look like a bad role model (regardless of the reality), but it should be obvious when you take the job what the expectations are. But, Kara still feels like a busybody.

          1. maggiethecat*

            I was thinking military (base housing) or like a missionary. What imaginations we all have! Now I want to know.

          1. Partly Cloudy*

            For the record, my guess is park ranger, based on your earlier comment about a beautiful setting and uniforms. :)

      2. TotesMaGoats*

        Some residential treatment programs or assisted living facilities for individuals with certain disabilities require staff to live on site.

      3. Elkay*

        I thought Disney and then thought “That’d be an awesome interview for Alison to do”, although I suspect that Disney don’t like their staff being interviewed.

        1. Liblady*

          My sister works for the Mouse in CA and I can tell you it’s not all sunshine and roses. She works for the photography department. Very low paid job.

      4. Not Here or There*

        I was thinking teacher or camp counselor or something involving kids in a small town. I live in a state where teachers have been fired for what’s on their Facebook page, even if the picture isn’t in the least bit illegal or immoral or even slightly out and is not accessible to the kids. Case in point, a teacher was fired for a picture of her holding a beer. The teacher was of legal age, the beer was legal, the teacher was not drunk or lewd (she was literally just holding a beer and smiling) and the page was not accessible to any of her students.

        1. Mike C.*

          The crap angers me so much.

          Of all people who need a beer after work, I think teachers rank among the top.

      5. Connie-Lynne*

        I don’t know any Disney cast members who live in dorms, except those on cruise ships who of course live on board. I know both cruise ship folks and tons of Dland folks, although I suppose it could be happening at other Disney parks.

        I’d guess a National Park or a camp, because they often provide housing on-site, and from what I know of friends who’ve done it, OH THE DRAMA.

  14. sally*

    What evidence do you have that your interviewer doesn’t understand such terms?? Simply because he’s not your age? You understand that technology has been around a LONG time? Even “social media” (pre Facebook) started before you could probably even write your name.

    I’ve actually heard a conversation between two women in their their early 20’s about a guy in his 40’s … “People of that generation just aren’t technical… Most of them don’t even own a tablet”.

    Lol, I almost spit out my coffee I was laughing so hard. What arrogance!

      1. Not Today Satan*

        If anything they’re particular popular with people who aren’t very comfortable with computers (older people and children) since they’re so intuitive.

        1. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

          We bought my 68-year-old aunt an inexpensive laptop (HP Stream 14″ Signature Edition) and a tablet (Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 Nook) for Christmas this year. She’s hardly touched the laptop, but adores the tablet and takes it everywhere she goes. We got her the Nook mostly because I could register it to my own B&N account, so she can share my 270+ ebook collection.

        2. Jamie*

          And technical people who can’t play WWF or Angry Birds on their phones without glasses. Also a super important use of tablets.

      2. Call Me Maybe*

        Yeah, my eighty-something grandma was the first person I knew with a mobile phone, and the first to buy a tablet. Always the early adopter. I got loads of tech from her as she upgraded her devices and passed the old ones down to her grandkids.

        Thanks, grandma!

        1. Rana*

          No kidding. My dad’s in his 70s and he’s been on the early edge of tech nearly his whole adult life, and shows no sign of slowing down.

      3. Jamie*

        I think I met your dad. :)

        When the iPad Air first came out I had to go to the Apple store day one to pick up the seven I pre-ordered. I am in my 40’s and with very few exceptions everyone else in the very long line was easily old enough to be my parent. Not only using tablets, but lined up on launch day to get the latest.

    1. LBK*

      There’s nothing like responding to condescension with more condescension!

      Just like someone who’s 20 now probably wouldn’t be familiar with how to work an 8-track, it’s a fair assumption that someone older may not be as familiar with current popular technology, because tech is generational. Someone in their 50s is not the target demographic for Twitter and probably hasn’t had it integrated into their life in the same way that many more teens and 20-somethings would. Most people in their 20s have probably been using Facebook for over half of their life.

      It’s not to say that no one over the age of 30 could ever possibly grasp or have an interest in social media. That is absolutely not true. But they’re the minority among their age range. And I’d also think we can trust the LW to gauge the reaction of the interviewers herself, since she is the one in the interviews, not you – she says she gets blank stares, it’s not just “Wow these old people must not know about the intarwebz, ha ha ha, isn’t ageism cool?”

      1. Just Another Techie*

        The difference is, eight tracks aren’t being sold now. Anyone of any age can walk into an apple store and buy whatever widgets their heart desires.

        1. Stranger than fiction*

          Tapes are coming back actually. Maybe not 8 track but cassette and reels are def making a comeback

      2. NotMyRealName*

        “It’s not to say that no one over the age of 30 could ever possibly grasp or have an interest in social media. That is absolutely not true. But they’re the minority among their age range.”

        I find this attitude ridiculous. And ageist.

        1. LBK*

          I don’t really see how a statistical fact is ageist? I don’t think it’s right to assume anything about a person’s technical proficiency based on their age, not at all. But the generalization that the younger someone is, the more likely it is that they’re familiar with social media is accurate in terms of probability.

          1. NotMyRealName*

            Only a minority of people over 30 grasp or have an interest in social media. This is what is objectionable. I’m damn near 50 and everyone I know participates in social media in some way, including my 81 year old mother.

          2. Jamie*

            I don’t read what you said as ageist, I think the issue is painting social media with one broad brush for the purposes of this discussion.

            Also, grasp and interest are two wildly different things. I am in my 40’s and have an excellent grasp of what twitter, instagram, and snapchat, etc. are…I just couldn’t be less interested. And while this is just totally anecdotal I don’t have anyone in my circle who is a peer (age wise) who participates in those.

            Just like I know hardly anyone in my circle around my age (and considerably older) who doesn’t have a Facebook and LinkedIn account. I manage a company youtube channel (grasp) but in a million years wouldn’t make my own videos about me (interest.)

            This just looks like some people pointing out that younger people generally have a more avid interest and savvy with social media as a whole (which seems true based on my personal experience) and others taking umbrage because most people well over thirty are well versed in Linkedin and Facebook (which also seems true based on my personal experience.)

            And coupling grasp and lack of interest clouds the matter. I grasp a lot of things about which I couldn’t care less. And when I get pissed that one of my kids (young adults) installed snapchat on my iPad again I will nag like I’m telling them to get off my lawn.

      3. Judy*

        Most people in their 20s have probably been using Facebook for over half of their life.

        Facebook has only been online since 2004 for college students, and only allowed open access to everyone since 2006. There’s no way that anyone in their 20’s could have been using Facebook for over half of their lives.

        The statistics on Facebook show that less than 25% of 18-35 year olds in the US are subscribers. The largest subscriber group is 35-54 with 31.1% in 2014.

        I think you may need to rethink your assumptions.

        1. Judy*

          I’d also like to note, the percentage numbers are significantly higher (in the 70% range) for the younger ages when you look at the “internet users in the US” rather than the “population of the US”. It speaks of privilege to me to assume that everyone even has email.

        2. fposte*

          Though 31.1% is still a minority, as LBK suggests–it’s just not a minority that supports LBK’s argument that younger people Facebook more. (My impression is that Facebook is pretty much the mom jeans of social media.)

          1. LBK*

            Facebook may be a bad example. It’s probably more accurate with Twitter and waaay more accurate with Instagram. I know plenty of middle aged people with Facebook; I don’t know any with Instagram.

            1. fposte*

              Right, Instagram skews younger–over 90% under 35. And then when they get older somebody will need to create a new one, if only for market capture reasons.

              My take is that you’re actually right that older people are statistically not as involved with various social media incarnations, but you’ve overstated it as a bigger contrast than it really is across the board, and that’s why you’re getting pushback. The other reason is that this behavior isn’t necessarily borne out of lack of technological skills, any more than the reason 40-year-olds don’t go to teen movies is because they can’t figure out how to get tickets. One of the joys of growing older is that you can go “Eh, this isn’t my thing, and I can sit it out.” It’s not like everybody would have joined 4chan if only they could have mastered the technology, either.

              1. LBK*

                Ha – oh lord, I can only imagine a swarm of unsuspecting 70-somethings descending on 4chan. That would be interesting to say the least.

                You’re right – I phrased it poorly. I absolutely didn’t mean to imply that this is a matter of technological inability, or general inability to learn a new technology. My mother is in her 60s and is a pretty savvy Twitter user, so I know from firsthand experience that age is not a determining factor in your ability to use social media.

                I agree that the inequality in familiarity with certain technologies is about interest, not ability. The teen movie analogy is great. Particularly with social media, what you get out of it tends to be based on who else you know that’s using it. Unless your age range is part of a big swarm of early adopters, you’re unlikely to find a compelling reason to join because you’re less likely to know people on it or have people to follow. Although as evidenced by Facebook, there can be a second wave of adopters in a different age group (ie parents joining to add their kids/reconnect with old friends).

                1. LBK*

                  I have enjoyed the videos popping up recently of grandparents playing Grand Theft Auto. They’re astonishingly gung-ho about it (although perhaps too polite for GTA’s intended play style).

              2. Colette*

                And as you get older, your life often allows you less free time due to things like kids, home ownership, and caring for elderly relatives.

      4. jag*

        “Just like someone who’s 20 now probably wouldn’t be familiar with how to work an 8-track, it’s a fair assumption that someone older may not be as familiar with current popular technology,”

        Your reasoning is flawed. The person who is 20 was not alive when 8-tracks were in us. The older person is alive now, when the current technology is in use.

        1. puddin*

          In fact, the tech was invented and developed by ‘older people’. Not only that, but knowing FB or cloud computing ala teh Google docs* and Dropbox, does make you tech savvy. It makes you a user. Huge difference!

          *Running Joke?

        2. catsAreCool*

          “The person who is 20 was not alive when 8-tracks were in us. The older person is alive now, when the current technology is in use.” This!!!

      5. Koko*

        The differences are really not that dramatic. Tech is generational, but social media has been around for nigh 10 years, long enough to have penetrated. Economic indicators & access to internet are bigger dividers than age.

        From this study:

        88% of Millenials, 81% of Gen X, and 70% of Boomers are on Facebook, the most popular site with older folks. But even on Twitter, 51% of Gen X (35-50 year olds) and 1 in 3 Boomers (50-70 year olds) use the service. And I would imagine that among successful businesspeople whose job involves supervising social media, those figures are a bit higher. The proportion of Boomers on Twitter is comparable to the proportion of Millennials on Instagran.

        1. LBK*

          Interesting. That isn’t as dramatic as I’d imagined, although I do note from that study that while account ownership is more or less comparable, frequent account usage has bigger gaps, especially from Gen X to Boomers.

          1. LBK*

            Ooh, I missed that distinction. I wonder if the divide gets greater when you factor in people who don’t even consider themselves internet users.

      6. LBK*

        Sorry, in reflection this comment is too harsh and admittedly not well-founded. I react very poorly to the “You young whippersnappers don’t think us old fogeys can do anything, huh?” sentiment (almost as badly as older people who react poorly to the assumption that they can’t use technology).

        1. Cheesecake*

          I am with you and i rolled my eyes on a couple of such comments here; i just don’t get what they have to do with OPs question. But i consider myself a young whippersnapper and have “other priorities in life” so i probably missed the whole point

      7. "Outside of a teapot life is but thousands of dusty affairs"*

        I am somewhat over the age of 30 and I use Twitter regularly. I don’t use Facebook but that is a kind of laziness on my part; maybe I am showing age here but it feels like yet another thing in my life to keep updating. I keep my LinkedIn account updated and I have work stuff to keep updated but it is nice to have a bit of a change away from work. Day to day, I have to be prised away from my tablet, smartphone, notebook etc.

        Still, on the subject of technology-generational stereotypes, probably few people under a certain age would appreciate the magic that was Commodore 64.

      8. esra*

        Over 30? Yikes. This 32 year old suddenly feels very old. Like, people in their late twenties and thirties are the social media industry in a lot of ways.

        1. Rana*

          Agh, barf. I’m 45, and have been using computers since I was a kid, got into blogging in the early 2000s, and have profiles on a ridiculous number of blogging platforms and social media sites at the moment, though not all of them are active. Let me run out a few, just for shits and giggles: LiveJournal, MySpace, Blogger, Typepad, flickr, Tumblr, Twitter (3 accounts, no less), Pinterest, Ello, Diaspora, RedBubble, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+… and that’s not even counting all the various boards and list-servs and commenting communities and other things I participate in or have participated in. (I’m an online community junkie, what can I say?)

          FWIW, I have friends on all those sites whose ages run from teenagers to people in their 70s. Anyone who thinks that “social media” (a damn vague term, really) is only the purview of the young isn’t spending very much time on it themselves.

      9. catsAreCool*

        The LW said “often older and not proficient in computer skills” as if those 2 things always go together. Maybe it was unintentional, but it sounds like LW is connecting those.

      10. catsAreCool*

        I know a lot of people who are in their 60’s who use Facebook, and many of them do a better job with it than the younger people.

    2. Cheesecake*

      No need to be condescending. Millennials are blamed enough. If OP5 was as arrogant as you think, he(she?) wouldn’t seek an advice. It was just a statement: the interviewers are usually older. Managers are usually older than analysts – makes sense. I guess OP received enough blank stares and weird questions to get an idea interview is going in a wrong direction.

      1. fposte*

        Right, this seemed to be based on her experience, not invented out of kneejerk prejudice. And even if people do understand what a blog is, there’s likely to be a whole lot of other stuff a social media candidate would need to frame for her interviewers for some jobs. I have a friend who works as freelance social media/communications for small businesses, and it sounds like a lot of the people who are interested in her work know that they want to be involved in social media but don’t really have much sense of the details.

        1. Cheesecake*

          From my experience of a social media enthusiast, because it is “kill time scrolling fb” thing, social media gets people utterly confused when talking about hands on experience. I have friends with “so how do i start a blog” question and when i ask “did you think about platform already?” or “do you want to invest in your own domain name – id advise to” i get a blank stare. And age does not matter here slightest.

          1. fposte*

            I have students who’ve really struggled to understand the whole uploading a website thing. I think it’s conceptual, like 3d chess or something–they just have a tough time grasping the difference between what you see on your computer and what is housed on your computer.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        I wondered if part of the question was “how do I say this to someone who is clearly 25- 30 years older than me and has life experience under their belt?”

        I think middle-age people who are wise, realize that age is not a factor when it comes to knowledge about things. I had an aunt that kept a group of friends of all different ages. She herself was 70. It would take too long to explain here, but the punchline is all these people at different stages of life really enriched my aunt’s life. Likewise, in business. If business people chose to surround themselves with a variety of people it will serve them well and they know that.

        1. fposte*

          Oh, that’s a good point–that the OP may be talking to senior people with considerable achievements and she doesn’t want to act like she’s schooling these people. Another thing, now that I think about it, is that there are quite possibly other people in the room who know perfectly well what a blog is, and that can make explanations feel awkward.

        2. Chinook*

          “I wondered if part of the question was “how do I say this to someone who is clearly 25- 30 years older than me and has life experience under their belt?””

          I had to ask this of a partner in a firm who was over 60 but asked me to copy some of hios personal documents when I had time. Because of how he asked, I wondered about it and tactfully asked, after pointing out that I have no problem doing the job, if he knew how to use copier/scanner (I was more tactfull but I can’t remeber how). Turned out he hadn’t used it since they last changed machines because no one bothered to show him and he didn’t want to tie it up by taking too long to figure it out. 1 minute of turotial is all it took because he understood the basics, just not the layout of the new screens. He was tickled pink because it meant he could do some of his work after hours instead of waiting for an Admin to come in.

          In other words, you can school someone with life experience as long as you acknowledge the life experience (i.e. don’t start at the beginning) and just cover how the details have changed.

      3. Zhena*

        I frequently encountered “blank stares and weird questions” with my former boss.

        My boss might request I obtain some specific fact from a super long PDF document. He would be AMAZED that I could find it in a short amount of time.

        I tried to explain I had used “COMMAND+F.” I was met with a blank stare. (sigh)

        My goal is to avoid awkward situations where I appear smarter than my supervisor.

    3. _ism*

      I didn’t read any arrogance into the question, which was #5, not #1. I am, however, reading tons of arrogance into your comments around here.

    4. Kelly L.*

      I don’t think #5 is making a generational assumption; she’s getting into interviews and the interviewers are confused when she talks about social media.

      1. puddin*

        Are they confused because they do not understand social media or are they confused because they asked for examples of her IT tech proficiency and were expecting answers like ‘pivot tables,’ ‘relational database queries,’ or ‘mail merge’ not social media topics?

        1. fposte*

          Given that the OP seems to be focusing on social media positions, I’d vote we take her at her word here.

          1. puddin*

            Yeah, I think I agree, I might be trying to make lines where there are no dots to connect

    5. Just Another Techie*

      The best story I have is when some nineteen year old kid decided he needed to very patiently, using very tiny words, explain to me how a particular device worked. Unbeknownst to him, I had designed and produced that device, and was just taking a coffee break at the expo while my colleague ran our booth.

      1. the gold digger*

        I used to attend an exercise class run by a man who had been a drill sergeant in the marines. He was in his early 50s and in amazing shape.

        He was at some event where there was a booth offering a pullup challenge. There were a couple of teenage boys in front of him in line discussing the best strategy for pullups – hands facing in or going out. Tony offered his opinion and they made some snarky comment about how they didn’t need advice from Grampa.

        The boys were each able to do about 13 pullups each.

        Then the drill sergeant started his pullups while the boys watched. He slowed down at ten and really strained at 11, 12, ands 13. The boys smiled smugly.

        Then he sped up and did another ten.


      2. Cath in Canada*


        I have a friend who used to work at a vet school, specialising in horses. She was once working with a vet who was describing a horse’s heart condition to the owner in very simple terms (“imagine the heart as a big balloon full of blood”). Apparently the owner kept trying to interject, but the vet kept repeatedly talking over him. Eventually the owner managed to speak and said “I’m actually a cardiac surgeon at [local hospital], so please tell me what’s really wrong with my horse”.

        Cool follow-up story: there was a surgical fix for the human version of the condition, but no-one had ever done it on a horse before. They managed to arrange official permission for the horse’s owner to bring some colleagues in from the hospital to try the surgery on the horse, with the vet school providing the OT, instruments, drugs, anesthetist, and other equine specialists to help. The horse was cured and they got to publish the results!

        1. Cordelia Longfellow*

          Very cool! Barbara Natterson-Horowitz Gave an interesting TED talk last year about the (frequent lack of) overlap between veterinarians and physicians.

    6. MashaKasha*

      Ugh! I don’t own a tablet because my money goes towards my kids’ college bills and other expenses. Not because I’m not technical or whatever. I’d love to own one, and hopefully will some day (or whatever its new reincarnation is by then). I also don’t own a BMW, but that’s not because I cannot drive. We “people of that generation” just have different priorities, that these 20-somethings will also have someday.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Excellent point. I think someone else mentioned economic considerations–when you consider the high cost of these items and of internet access as well, it’s just not something everyone can have (or wants to spend their money on).

      2. Cheesecake*

        You would be surprised that 20-something already got their priorities, so they read your comment and frowned big time

        1. "Outside of a teapot life is but thousands of dusty affairs"*

          I think it is just that people’s priorities vary at different times. It’s not really an age thing so much as a budget thing. Unfortunately most of us just have to prioritize our money.

      1. Jamie*

        Mine too! He started programming in 1959 and would tell me about how no one outside of work knew what he did for a living. Even once he explained it most still couldn’t wrap their heads around the fact that he wrote code that was punched onto cards which were fed into a machine which read the language in the hole sequences for data storage and application.

        He worked for one of the largest insurance companies in the world (still is) and so it was a joke that there were people who never figured out he didn’t sell policies.

        He’d be 93 if he were alive today. He may have died before the advent of tablets, but I’m pretty sure his technical expertise would carry him. :)

        1. I'm a Little Teapot*

          A punchcard programmer in 1959? That’s amazingly cool.

          I wish your dad were still around.

        2. So Very Anonymous*

          My dad did programming early on, too, punch cards and everything. In his early years as a business professor–think late 1960s–he taught business classes and computer science classes both, which ended up being hard on him careerwise because he wasn’t publishing enough (no time! all these exciting new courses to teach!) He’s long since lost that ability, since at an early point he had to choose one or the other and he went with business (though he specialized in using computers to teach business– he was teaching distance-ed courses when he retired :) ). He now volunteers at a senior center (he’s 78 himself) helping people learn how to use email to communicate with family and friends etc.

    7. catsAreCool*

      “What evidence do you have that your interviewer doesn’t understand such terms?? Simply because he’s not your age?” This!

      When I went to get a smartphone, the woman who worked there seemed to expect that I didn’t know much about tech stuff. I work with software programming all day. Then again, I’m not a smartphone expert. Yet.

  15. Snarky-the-Dolphin*

    OP #3, I think you should definitely give it a try and ask for your old job back. Although every situation is, of course, different, I had a very positive experience when that happened to me. I left my job for something that seemed more in my field but after I’d spent a month there I was absolutely miserable and was a spectacularly bad fit in the position. I remember calling my old boss from my car during lunch one Friday asking her if I could come back and she said yes, see you Monday!

    Of course, I think it also matters how you ended your association with your previous employer. I wrote a polite resignation letter to my boss and gave four weeks notice because I knew my boss was going on vacation for two weeks and I didn’t want her to worry about having enough people while she was supposed to be relaxing.

    Bottom line, though, is that you’ll never know unless you ask. Good luck! :)

    1. Elizabeth West*

      This is true–I had left a job and then found myself unemployed, so I went back and they put me to work temping for someone who was on maternity leave for six weeks. I just walked in and asked right when they needed someone–the timing was perfect. They didn’t even have to train me!

  16. Going Anon*

    #3 — One of my colleagues did just that…new job wasn’t all it was cracked up to be and she’d left on great terms.

    She was welcomed back with open arms. Her boss realized that, rather than the incident proving she was an ongoing flight risk, it can shown her how good she had it here.

    Years later she continues to thrive in her role. A success story.

    1. Not Today Satan*

      My brother and his wife both left and came back to their jobs (at the same company–they were managers of a restaurant chain). It might be different in that industry though, since they were high performers at a difficult job that required lots of training. However, for benefits like time off, their start date is recorded as when they came back. So my brother gets about half as much vacation as he would if he didn’t leave. (His wife ended up leaving again for good a few years after leaving the first time.)

      1. Going Anon*

        You raise a good point. By taking the employee back the manager avoids having to training someone new.

    2. RO*

      I left my old job on good terms and the plan is to go back. Because the organization likes to hire “new shiny” person from fancy place, my boss and his boss both agreed that I leave and get more experience externally and then bring it back. This is what our director had done to move up professionally, left for 3 years and returned.

    3. MashaKasha*

      Second your story. I’ve never been able to return, myself, (asked for that once or twice), but I’ve seen people do that. Sometimes they let people return on worse terms though (e.g, have them return as contractors when their original jobs had been full-time).

  17. illini02*

    I know there was recently a discussion of “tattling” at work, and many said it didn’t exist. If #1 isn’t a clear cut case of the fact that it does exist, I don’t know what is. I can’t think of ANY reason brining this up would be acceptable, unless they were completly naked with their business cards covering their private parts or something. Kara, as well as the manager, are ridiculous.

    #2 I suppose if you are actually filling out time sheets and lying, then its a problem. However if you are jusk swiping in and out (which is often for security reasons more so than payroll) and this busybody admin took it upon herself to pull your records, she is ridiculous. Unfortunately, since management seems to be backing her to a point, there isn’t much you can do except watch the clock yourself. But I’d probably at that point walk in at exactly my start time and leave at exactly my end time to work 40 hours. If your output is fine, and its just a matter of being there, then do that and be done.

  18. The Office Admin*

    You say you left a job you enjoyed for another that paid more.
    That’s an important distinction!
    I left a company I really disliked for a job that paid more, but ended up being terrified of going to work everyday(emergency dispatcher, not my cup o’ tea) and then left that job.
    My old boss heard I was job hunting(small town problems) and called me up, offered me a better, higher paying position to come back.
    And that is where I am today!
    This part held true for me though: I still really really dislike this company and a large part of me regrets not looking around more before I accepted and came back.
    BUT, for you OP3, if you enjoyed your job, the company and the pay then it’s worth asking to come back, but if you disliked your manager or something else, just know: it won’t be any different the second round.

  19. Ali*

    #1 reminds me why I don’t agree with the whole thing about Facebook, which is usually your personal life, creeping into your work life. Everything can be taken so out of context. Not that I’ve been in trouble for mine at work ever, but it’s so annoying to see people get worked up over the littlest things. I’m on Twitter too, and someone I know from a writing gig (luckily, it was an unpaid gig and neither of us write for that site anymore) had a fight with me when I used a term she didn’t like because she’s a feminist and she considered the term “girl-on-girl crime” and blew up. It was not a derogatory or curse term; I could type it here without putting anyone off. But oh she did not like it and screamed about how horrible I was.

    #3 Are you sure it’s not just stress and worry from adjusting to a new job? I know when I started my new position, it took me about six months before I felt fully comfortable, and during that time, I wished I hadn’t taken the new job. Right now, I am job searching anyway but could not imagine running back to my current company in the future unless they had a position open in a different department that I’d prefer to be in. I agree there were probably reasons you left in the first place, and you can’t guarantee that things have changed enough for you to start looking as soon as you’re back in the old job.

    1. K.*

      Twitter is a particular damned-if-you-do / damned-if-you-don’t for writers. It’s an absolutely 100% vital networking and news-gathering (and link-spreading) tool, especially when you’re starting out and don’t have a large portfolio and haven’t worked with a lot of editors. And it straddles personal/professional in a really awkward way.

      I’m in a position now where I’ve been full-time for a couple years, though I still do the occasional freelance piece on a different topic, and my Twitter is mixed up of about 2000 followers, of whom some are friends, some are from my old freelance career, and some are from my current FT career. And it is such a potential 3rd rail situation that I’m basically down to cat photos and bland observations about transit.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        It’s good for connecting with other writers, however. I always feel like I don’t tweet enough. Of course, I can’t at work, unless I use my phone and I hate reading stuff on that tiny screen.

      2. I'm a Little Teapot*

        My Twitter is under my pen name and only used for my writing life. I can’t even imagine what would happen if my writer acquaintances, my offline friends, my family, and my various jobs collided, but it would be something horrible.

  20. Caroline | weighing in on #5*

    Responding to comment #5 – I’m about to leave a position that involved a lot of social media responsibilities and was the sole marketing position for a medium-sized company. It was very self-directed, and I was just talking to my manager about what they will seek out in a replacement. As we went through all of my duties, she confessed that she had never felt so clueless…she had trusted me to handle so many things, and to explain them to her in layman’s terms, that she didn’t even know all of what I did or the terms she would use to ask an interviewee. While that’s not ideal, I think it’s often true in social media jobs at small or medium-sized organizations that have very small teams, and that lack of understanding the technical terms may be reflected in an interview with someone from a different part of the organization.

    FWIW, the terms you are using do not strike me as uncommon or highly technical, but that said, it’s a powerful skill to be able to translate technical speak to common language–and to illustrate your value even to someone who doesn’t know much about the ins and outs of technology or social media.

  21. Xarcady*

    #5. I’d like to know how the OP knows the interviewers are not proficient in technical skills. It’s a bit odd that they have met so many interviewers who appear not to know some pretty basic things.

    I was born in 1960, so I’m 55. I’m female. I probably fit the demographic of the interviewers the OP is talking about.

    I read this blog on a feed reader. I can’t tell you what the letters in RSS stand for, but I have a general understanding of what RSS means and that when you subscribe to an RSS feed, you get updates from those websites. Blogs, readers, Twitter, Facebook–I may not tweet, but I know what Twitter is; I don’t Facebook, but I have a Facebook page I signed up for just to find out what all the hoopla was about. I might not use all the technology available to me, but I do keep up with the trends.

    I’ve been using computers since college. Granted, back then it was a huge mainframe that the college owned. I bought my first Mac back in 1988. Just because I’m over 40 and female does not mean that I have no technology skills. (It also doesn’t hurt that I know a lot of tech-type people who are more than happy to explain new things to me, or drag me to their labs at MIT to show stuff off.)

    Frankly, I’m wondering if there is something the OP is doing that is causing the reactions they’re getting–like maybe being a tad too condescending to their interviewers when it comes to the tech talk?

    1. LBK*

      She’s says they’re older AND not technically proficient, not older and therefore not technically proficient.

        1. Kelly L.*

          Because they’re sitting right in front of her being confused by the terms. We don’t know exactly what the interviewers are doing to indicate this, but shouldn’t we start by believing the OP?

        2. LBK*

          Presumably the same way you could make it with a young person? It’s not that hard to gauge someone’s technical prowess if you throw out a term and get a blank stare, regardless of how old the person is.

      1. fposte*

        Yeah, speaking as another 50+, I didn’t read this as the OP worrying about how to communicate with the likes of me because I must be clueless; she’s encountered a problem with interviewers who don’t seem to understand social media and some relevant terms, that’s all.

  22. Nora*

    #1 is why I have a strict policy about not adding coworkers on Facebook. No, I’m not doing/saying/posting anything inappropriate there, but you never know what someone is going to take offense at and cause unnecessary drama over.

    1. Lia*

      This + 1 million. Nope, sorry, I do not friend anyone I work with, and with only one exception, that extends to former co-workers as well (and the one exception is a longtime friend who is hardly on social media anyway).

    2. NickelandDime*

      Word! I know someone that was excused from work and posted on Facebook. She made the mistake of having some coworkers on there, and one of them made a point to talk to their manager about her not being at work and posting on Facebook. The manager knew the deal and didn’t take the bait, of course, and once the person figured out what happened, deleted everyone she knew from work from her page. It’s just safer that way.

    3. Natalie*

      A good policy but in this case it wouldn’t have mattered – the LW says it was a profile picture and anyone can see those.

      1. Sospeso*

        Isn’t there a way to make profile photos (and all photos) visible only to friends? I could be wrong, since I don’t spend much time on the ‘book these days…

        1. Natalie*

          Nope, not your profile photo. Facebook considers certain things your public profile and they are visible to anyone, whether or not they even have a FB account. The only way to keep them from being visible is to not fill out the field. (Link to follow)

  23. Dutch Thunder*

    Ahhh, OP #1 takes me back to the receptionist at a previous job, whose aspirations included becoming a UK Page Three girl (page three of some newspapers in the UK used to feature topless women). I wasn’t friends with her on Facebook, but did do a double-take when I spotted her profile picture was her in lingerie and stripper heels, seductively draped over a bed. It probably wasn’t meant to be funny, but how I laughed.

    1. "Outside of a teapot life is but thousands of dusty affairs"*

      Like it. Somehow that reminds me of the Speaker’s wife photographed in UK newspapers draped in just a bed sheet!

    2. fposte*

      The Sun is still doing so–they had a brief, probably made-for-publicity suggestion that it was being discontinued, but you can still see Mandy’s boobs next to news about George Osborne.

  24. Alli525*


    Something similar happened to me – I made the mistake of friending all my coworkers on FB at my first job out of college, and one of them used a post of mine (“Ugh what a rotten day” and a kind coworker’s response “Want to come over and vent?”) to tattle on me for being unproductive and gossipy — which… what?? — Luckily, my supervisor did not give a shit, and told me to unfriend/block her immediately and not to worry about a Mean Girl trying to make someone else’s life more miserable than hers.

    I have friended coworkers since, but at my current job I have a strict policy of “we are NOT FB friends until one of us leaves this place.” Instagram is different, but FB is my more free-for-all space, where IG is just cute pics I post from time to time, knowing who my audience is.

  25. Allison*

    I vaguely recall the subject of “tattling” coming up here recently, and to me, #1 looks like tattling. Kara “told on” Sally for doing something that didn’t break any rules, and had no impact on the company or the quality of her work. I would definitely talk to the manager and get on the same page about what’s appropriate to report.

    Out of curiosity, since OP mentioned the employees live in close proximity, are these employees subject to any rules governing their lifestyles? Do they have “lights out” or a rule about no men in the room? Is there anything an employee could be reported for doing on their own time?

    1. OP #1*

      We don’t have any rules governing our personal lives as long as we ensure we aren’t breaking any laws in housing (using illegal drugs, for example).

      1. fposte*

        Makes me wonder even more why the manager thought a supervisor would need to talk to Sally, then. Maybe it was just the weak manager’s “If I’m asked to act, I must always act”?

        1. OP #1*

          I could do a whole month of AAM questions about the manager’s behavior and management style. She is a micromanager who attempts to manage every aspect of our lives.

            1. OP #1*

              Thanks. I think my question really should have been about how to survive in this kind of an environment.

        2. Allison*

          I’m wondering that too, if the manager figured “well someone complained, so it must be a problem we need to address.”

  26. TeapotCounsel*

    #1 – I need to see the picture before I can make an informed response. Please post.
    Seriously, though, AAM’s advice is spot-on. The real problem is the manager. Get manager on board and then shut down the busy body.
    Also, starting out as a strict manager, then later relaxing, is an easier path then starting off all nice and later having to crack down. Shut down the busy body asap.

  27. AdAgencyChick*

    I get the feeling from OP #2 that she’s been used to a certain standard of “it’s fine to come in whenever you want as long as you get your work done” and has assumed that this is true of the entire company — but it’s really more an attitude that was held by her old boss, or her old department. Whereas the boss in the new department (or even a different boss in the same department) has a different idea of success that involves more butt-in-seat time.

    Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s much you can do about this, although I sympathize. In my industry the day usually starts on the later side (between 9:30 and 10), because clients often have late-afternoon requests and the day NEVER ends at 5 PM. Every so often we will get an eager beaver in charge who wants to start HER day at 8:30 and expects everyone to show up more or less when she does. I don’t know how you bring up the idea of “I want to come in later” or, in OP’s case, “I want to be in the office fewer hours as long as I still get all my work done*” without seeming lazy. :(

    *OP, *are* you getting all your work done? It’s a new position — just because you were able to accomplish everything you needed to in less than 40 hours a week, doesn’t mean you can now. I’d find out from the boss what additional tasks, if anything, she’d like you to be getting done in those hours.

    1. fposte*

      Or just straight up talk to your boss about expectations when it comes to office presence and your performance.

      1. Just Me*

        I did tell him that I came from a really lax department. I’m a new mom and kind of still getting used to things, so when something goes wrong that put’s me 30 minutes behind or a lunch goes over or anything that happens in a week really puts me off my schedule, but the bottom line is that I need to pick baby up from daycare by a certain time. I do get all my work done, and am actually producing more results than the prior person who had this position. I’ve never had any reason in the past to think about my hours and have always been highly rated in my career path reviews, so I know my prior managers have thought of me as model employee, or at least high performing. It really made me feel awful that my new boss would say something because I do now feel like maybe I am doing something wrong, but the hours I promise will balance by the end of the year and I’ll end up working more than 40 hours, it’s just slow time right now.

        1. fposte*

          I can’t tell from the way you’re describing the conversation, but does this mean you guys are on the same page now? It does sound like the optics haven’t been great–that you’re a new report who’s leaving on the dot whether you come in late or not–so I can understand her concern. Did you get it hashed out?

        2. Jamie*

          The problem is that even if you end up averaging over 40 over the course of the year it’s the first few months of working with people that reputations are established and personal opinions are formed.

          It’s not necessarily fair, but once people form an opinion of you it’s really hard to change. Be it workhorse, slacker, genius, or absentminded people tend to label others if only in their heads and they can stick.

          This definitely falls into the know what matters to your boss category. Some bosses don’t care about face time as much and expect people to manage their time taking slow and heavy loads into account. Some expect 40 as the baseline regardless and more as needed. It’s not about what’s fair or logical – it’s about knowing what the expectations are and addressing them if you’re not meeting them.

  28. Ella*

    Sally needs to unfriend or block Kara from her Facebook feed. If Kara notices, Sally can just say, “I’ve decided that Facebook is for my personal life and is no longer linked to any part of my professional life.”

    Here’s what I don’t get. If the photo is a) within Facebook’s T&C; b) the company Kara and Sally work for doesn’t have a social media policy; and c) the supervisor didn’t think there was a problem with it, why was Sally talked to at all?? I know the OP says the manager told the supervisor to talk to Kara, but doesn’t say if the manager had a problem with the photo, or if the manager felt like the fastest way to get it off his radar was to assume the complaint is legitimate whether it is or not (I have a manager who does this, and it irks me forever. There’s a completely valid reason why Procedure X exists, when someone complains why can’t you explain the reason? Why do you immediately change Procedure X to placate the person who doesn’t know why it’s there to begin with?). If the company doesn’t have a social media policy, they need one (apparently).

    1. OP #1*

      We work in a very hierarchical organization, so if the manager says to do something we pretty much have to do it. Although my supervisor did tell our manager she didn’t see the problem with the photo, she did speak to Sally because our manager told the manager of another organization about the photo and it had the potential to jeopardize a job Sally was applying for. Because we all work and live in very close proximity, our manager is very aware of people’s personal lives and often gets involved in situations that do not relate to work.

  29. hermit crab*

    Ever since we had that post about “travel time” that many of us misread as “time travel,” I’ve been waiting for an actual post about time travel, and here it is!

  30. PeculiarHR*

    I work at a very large company with many corporate offices and many warehouses. We have people leave and come back ALL THE TIME. We call them boomerangs. The biggest number of boomerangs I’ve seen for one corporate person is 3. For the warehouses, it’s probably 10 for one person.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      People did that at Exjob. One became a vendor for us for a while, then that ended too. When I dropped in several months ago to ask about something, there he was, sitting at a desk in the front office. People would switch departments, too.

  31. Slippy*

    #3 – It sort of depends on the industry. Some industries like consulting are very forgiving of having people return (consulting companies much prefer someone else train you and give you experience). Another case is if you left a start-up or small company and it expanded.

  32. CrazyCatLady*

    #3 – I did that about 5 months after leaving. I didn’t really think it through enough and now am biding my time until I no longer feel obligated to them for hiring me back. I’m assuming I should stay at least 2 years, if possible but am interested in how others feel about that!

    1. CrazyHumanKitty*

      I’m wondering about this myself. I’m very happy at my current job and haven’t been job-searching, but I was recently contacted by a competitor inviting me to apply for a position on their team. It’s definitely a reach position for me – although I’m reasonably confident I can do the work described, it’s work that I’ve always been involved in as a team member rather than directing the work. The increase in pay and responsibilities is so significant that I’d be a fool not to at least throw my hat in the ring, and if I got the job I sense that my company would see what an advancement it is for me and immediately understand why I left.

      My hesitation is – what if I do get the job and it turns out to be too much of a reach? It’d be great if I could come back here, because as I said – I like my job and haven’t been looking for another one, this opportunity found me instead. “Ambition” is the reason I’d be leaving. I have great relationships with all the managers above me and they have shown in various ways how highly they value me on the team, so I’m not worried about that. But would they be hesitant to rehire me, thinking if I’ve been poached once it could happen again, simply because I’m skilled, ambitious, and quickly becoming rather visible in my field due to speaking engagements and publications that I’m getting more and more frequently? If I took this reach position and it proved to be a mistake to reach so far so soon, and I went back down to my mid-level current position, it could be that in fewer than 2 years the position is no longer such a reach…but then would I burn my bridges by leaving again if another opportunity came along in less than 2 years? (I’ve already been here for 3 years.)

      1. CrazyCatLady*

        That was exactly my situation! I was contacted by the other company and it was more of a reach position for me. The position itself was a great fit, but it was the most toxic place I’ve ever worked. I think the fact that I was poached is actually what made them more willing to take me back – i.e. I wasn’t actively looking for other positions. Also, I made sure to give as much notice as possible and help wherever I could during the transition (including coming back after they’d hired someone to help train them on some aspects of the position).

        But overall, in situations like this, my mentality is “there’s no right or wrong decision – you just deal with the decisions you make in the best way possible.” There are arguments for staying and leaving and both have their pros and cons. It’s just how you’re able to mentally handle it after the fact … if that makes sense.

  33. the gold digger*

    I might use terms like: “blog,” “newsfeed,” “tweet,” “upload,” “cloud,” posted on.”

    My boss, at the last minute, demanded a communications plan for the new office we were opening. He didn’t have anything specific he wanted communicated – he just wanted a plan. And he wanted it in 24 hours.

    The communications director threw something together. He and I presented it to my boss. The plan went into great detail about what we were going to do with LinkedIn, twitter, facebook, and the website.

    After we were done presenting the plan, my boss asked, “But what about that social media stuff. Shouldn’t we be using social media?”

    Yes, he made five times as much money as I did.

    1. fposte*

      But this is why I’m objecting to the overfocus on terminology. There’s no reason why he shouldn’t be paid more than you despite not knowing that those things are social media, unless you’re working for an organization specializing in social media.

      1. the gold digger*

        The organization did not specialize in social media, but I consider knowing about facebook and linkedin to be the modern equivalent of knowing about a telephone. You don’t have to know how they work and you don’t even have to have one, but you have to know they exist.

        1. fposte*

          But there’s no need for it to impair your salary if you don’t–that’s all I’m saying.

          1. the gold digger*

            Yeah, I see your point. I guess I just look at that example as one more data point of things my former boss really didn’t understand that I thought that he, as a general manager, should (for example, he also did not understand basic financial reporting principles, even though he was the person in charge of the financial results).

  34. BethRA*

    # 1 – two other suggestions to add to Alison’s. First, whether or not you can come to an agreement with your manager about the appropriateness of Sally’s photo and Kara’s snoop-n-snitch, it sounds like your organization needs a social media policy, and it needs to spend some energy communicating to staff about what the expectations are. If they really do want to police postings that might be considered risque or political, or give advice about alternate tea-brewing options, they need to be clear about that.

    The other thing I’d do is check my own privacy settings.

  35. Retail Lifer*

    #5 Not everyone who conducts an interview will have in-depth knowledge about the technical aspects of a position. I was the operations manager at an office supply store, meaning I did everything but sell electronics (unless they made me because we were understaffed). Part of my job involved hiring people for the electronics department, but I had no comprehension of the technical stuff.* I would bring a candidate in for a first interview and discuss their job history, work ethic, sales abilities, etc. If they did well, I’d pass them off for a second interview with the department manager, who could then dig deeper and grill them about their technical knowledge.

    *but even I understand all of these terms!

  36. OP #1*

    I stripped some details out of my original question to try to make the situation more readily understandable. One detail I should have added is that the reporting of the Facebook post took place a few months ago, when I did not supervise Kara or Sally. I was on vacation at the time, but heard about the situation from my current supervisor who was asked to speak to Sally. It came to my attention again because Kara and Sally work in temporary positions and I had offered them summer positions working together. Sally came to me to share her concerns and I realized I would have to address the situation. Although I knew I should try to get on the same page as the manager, I didn’t think it was possible because she had asked my supervisor to address the situation when it originally came up. I did speak to Kara to ask why she reported the photo and she said she had been asked to alert the manager when she saw “anything.” We discussed how reporting such things could affect teamwork, which is very important in our positions, and also how it was a violation of trust to friend someone on Facebook and then report what one saw there. Kara did appear to feel remorse but when I asked if she had ever apologized to Sara she said no, she had just ignored the situation and hoped it would go away.

    Our manager had also mentioned the Facebook photo to the manager of another organization where Sally was trying to get another job, so clearly saw the photo as something that was pertinent to work even though no one else in our organization agrees. We all live and work in a very remote area and it is extremely difficult to keep even the smallest details of one’s personal life private.

  37. Nerdling*

    #1 – I would recommend that Sally unfriend and block Kara on social media ASAP. If *I* were friends with her, I, too, would unfriend and block. I would recommend removing any links between yourselves and the business on social media, down to un-liking the organization’s Facebook page. Then I would get with my manager to talk about the need to set up a social media policy for the organization.

    This may result in ridiculous pronouncements from on-high about how everyone needs to friend everyone else and like the company’s page and police each other; to that I would respond with some information on how at-risk they’re putting their employees to being targeted for scams and other crimes — you all apparently live together, and I’m guessing it’s on-property from your previous posts. Well, if the organization lists its address on its Facebook page, then requiring everyone who works there to like the page just provided their addresses to anyone who cares to look. That’s a potential personal security risk that the company is forcing its employees to take on.

    If, after I pointed all that out to my manager and s/he carried that up the chain, the policy remained the same, well, I would know that I worked for idiots and it’s time to move on. ;)

  38. Amber Rose*

    The reason I’m in charge of our social media is because my supervisor doesn’t know what blog means and I do.

    “You know about that? How to do the blogs?”

    It’s a little baffling to me. Even if I’m disdainful of Twitter, I still know what it IS.

    1. LBK*

      Ha! Kinda makes it sound like a drug. “Oh man, I had the craziest hallucination when did the blogs last weekend.”

  39. Cupcake*

    #1 You said you will “soon become” the supervisor of Kara and Sally. If that is the case, then all of this will be past history, and not relevant to your supervision. You need to be aware of the past history, but you do not need to act on it upon taking the role of supervisor. Fair or unfair, right or wrong, it was done and over before you arrived on the scene, as it were.
    If Sally has concerns regarding working with Kara based upon this incident, she needs to deal with it with her current supervisor. Once you are supervisor, if Kara brings up this or another related subject, you deal with it as you see fit at that time. Do not allow yourself to get involved in a disagreement between employees before you even begin your new role. Spatting employees will try to get you “on their side” early in the game… don’t fall for that.

    #5 The age of the interviewer is a bit of a red herring in the context of the question, and could be seen as a bit condescending. I can’t imagine there are many people who do not understand even the concept of the terms expressed: “cloud,” “tweet,” and (for heaven’s sake) “posted on”? If anyone I was interviewing ever implied that I may not know what Twitter is because of my age, you can bet they would not be invited back for a second interview (although, I guess I could send a footman to their home with a hand-written note letting them know that they are no longer being considered.)

    1. Zhena*

      I’m mostly referring to my former boss who was behind in the times and well, refused to maintain pace.

      He would have his secretary complete his webinar Continuing Education courses. Note that he was required to complete these in order to keep his license.

      Regarding the purported ageism…I should mention that I seek out and lean towards older employers because I figure if s/he has been practicing in the industry as long as they claim to have been…surely I can learn lots from him/her.

  40. Michelle*

    Here’s my story of leaving a company, but with a little twist- they called me multiple times over multiple years, asking me to come back ( I didn’t). It’s a little long- bear with me.

    I starting working at a Head Start program in 1999. The pay was not great, I think it was minimum wage at the time, but I had always wanted to work with children*. I was a family advocate, basically another name for administrative staff with social worker responsibilities thrown in. I worked the trenches for years, got a decent pay raise, a new building and a fantastic boss. That lasted about 2 years.

    I can’t remember all the particulars, but for some reason we started having satellite Head Start classes in local daycares. So once or twice a week, we had to drive out to the centers and check on our kids & teachers. At my center, we enrolled a family who had 2 kids in the class. During the enrollment, the parent was very rude and asked me about my last name. I told her it was my married name. She asked if I was related to “John & Jane Doe”. I said yes, that’s my father in law and stepmother in law. Her rudeness got worse, but I pushed through and got her kids enrolled.

    The next week was mandatory training week. We met at the center and carpooled to the meeting location. Long days, long drives and we didn’t answer any emails or phones calls because we were in training 8 hours, plus the drive, so working about 10 hours a day. The next week when we returned to the office, I got called over to the head office and questioned about rude parent. She called and told them she had been calling me all week the previous week because she need help with food or rent or something (that’s where the social worker responsibilities came in) and I hadn’t returned her calls. I pointed out that we had been in *mandatory* training the previous week and not in the office so I hadn’t been ignoring her, I simply wasn’t in the office. I also pointed out that she had the number for the main office and had been instructed both verbally and in writing to call that office if she needed something and her family advocate wasn’t available. Instead of helping her when she called, they just took it down as a complaint and hadn’t bothered to try to help her because she was rude and they didn’t want to deal with her.

    Turned out that she wasn’t in need as much as she had pretended. She lived across from my in-law’s and her older children had vandalized their cars and a county school bus (SMIL was a bus driver). My in-law’s and the county were prosecuting the children and the parents were going to have to pay for damages. She decided to try to get me “in trouble” to try to get the in-law’s to back off their part of the lawsuit. Didn’t work but it did make my life difficult and I eventually left because the Head Start Director was such a bitty to me after that (not my direct supervisor/boss-as mentioned she was fantastic- this was the “big boss” over all the centers). She would try to get me in trouble for the stupidest things like wearing athletic shoes on field day. I was helping the kids and working on the grass- dress shoes would have been difficult and dangerous.

    Eventually, I put in my notice and quit in 2002. Big boss had “do not rehire” written on my separation notice. When she eventually retired 2 years later, my former boss got the new big boss to agree that what had happened with my was not really my fault or a big deal when the truth about what the parent was doing came out and had the “do not rehire” part of that notice changed. They called me and asked me if I wanted to come back. I didn’t have to think about it- I said no. They have called every year since and asked me to come back and I always decline. I am making more money and enjoying my current position so much I plan on staying here until retirement.

    * I thought I wanted to work with kids but it is not as rewarding as I thought, especially when I had to do my social worker responsibilities. Also, being thrown up on, drooled on, changing wet/#2 training pants for 3 year old’s who were not potty-trained, administering psychotic drugs to disturbed children, breathing treatments to kids who have asthma and dealing with parents was not at all like I had imagined. I was really naive back then!

  41. OP #1*

    At the time the photo was reported, Kara and I were coworkers who were working for a remote supervisor who resigned right around the same time period the picture was reported. For a few weeks we were sort of in limbo where we did not have an immediate supervisor. Sally was in a temporary position and moved to another organization approximately 2 weeks after the photo was reported. These events were several months ago. I recently offered both employees temporary positions working for me this summer, having forgotten about the Facebook incident since I was not directly involved. Both employees accepted positions, but then Sally came to me to express her concerns. Although I have not yet started supervising either of them, I chose to address the situation with Kara because it could have real impacts on my summer operation and I wanted to make it clear that similar behavior would not be tolerated. When I spoke to Kara, I offered her a choice between the position working for me (which had already been offered to her previously) or another position that would be in a different location where she would not be working so closely with other employees. She chose the other location, so as it turns out she will be working in the same organization as Sally this summer but not in the same location. I appreciate you sharing your comments and normally I would not have addressed the situation but felt it was necessary to set up expectations for this summer.

    1. fposte*

      That sounds to me like a good way of handling the situation, and I think it was good to get this hashed out before people were stuck together at a remote location.

    2. Cath in Canada*

      It seems to me that the photo might be just the tip of the iceberg here and that these two might have much deeper problems with each other. Which is somewhat understandable – if I had to live with some of my colleagues as well as work with them, we’d probably be fighting over stupid stuff too. Is there any way to give them a bit of space from each other, at work and/or in their living arrangements?

      1. Cath in Canada*

        oops, sorry, replied to wrong comment. And then read the comment I actually replied to. And then realised that my comment was no longer relevant. Carry on, nothing to see here…

  42. Miss Betty*

    I’ve seen people leave and return in more than one law firm. Typically, they return with no loss of seniority or benefits, even if it’s been years since they worked there last. (I’m talking about support staff; don’t know about attorneys.)

  43. Lisa*

    #4 – Some places require a certain notice period for re-hires. So if you want to go back, give that much notice. If a future hiring manager asks HR ‘is he/she eligible for rehire’ even if it had nothing to do with performance, they might say no because you didn’t give the proper notice. Something to consider.

  44. Kadee*


    I would make sure the problem is indeed that they’re confused by the technical terms you’re using rather than something else (such as an inability to clearly convey the work you’ve done previously) otherwise you run the risk of not addressing the real issue.

    If that is indeed the issue, I would not advise you to drop talking about those terms. I have passed on many candidates because they were unable to delve into talking about it on a level that matched what their resume indicated. There are ways to use technical terms even with non-technical people. It involves some assessment questions along the way:

    “Are you familiar with feed readers? No, well, here is what it does and here is why it’s important and here is how I could use it to help you.”

    “Are you familiar with blogs? OK, great, I just wanted to make sure we were on the same page before I delve into how I can help this organization using my blogging background.”

    You need to be sure, though, that you’re matching your abilities with the needs of that particular job opening. That isn’t necessarily a technical vs non-technical issue.

  45. KH*

    #5. Those are not technical terms. Anyone who uses social media will recognize them. Technical terms would be things like border gateway protocol, virtual private network, hardware abstraction layer, dynamic link library, etc.

    Or even worse, stuff like OSPF, VRRP, CDP, DHCP, IPv6, etc.
    If it’s not an acronym, it’s not technical !

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