my writing partner is a hot mess, coworker hassles me about working from home, and more

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

1. My writing partner is a hot mess

I’ve entered into a tentative writing partnership with a person who shares my interest in a particular historical period. We have a blog and she’s got a terrific idea for a book. What’s the problem, right?

She’s in the very early stages of learning to write, and makes all the common mistakes in terms of point of view, keeping tenses consistent, injecting personal thoughts into narrative, and “telling” not “showing.” She repeatedly dithers over how her version of history is the correct one, whereas I am fact-based, and will die on that hill rather than bend facts to fit narrative. There is absolutely no motivation or seemingly understanding on her part to do the hard-core, no b.s. research that is going to be critical to writing the manuscript. She repeatedly has asked me to bring an event flyer to our meetings when I have already emailed her the details, as well as a link to the organization’s event page; I’ve caught her rifling through my notes and books, and worst of all, she’s begun imitating my writing style and voice in her blog entries and writing samples.

She’s a nice enough person but has issues to which I can’t relate, nor do I want to try. Do I simply plod along, meeting deadlines and submitting my chapters until she drowns under the actual workload that is the reality of writing a manuscript? Or do I just tell her flat out that her lack of writing experience and skills are clearly the work of a ham-handed novice writer (look, I was like that too, but fifteen years and a lot of courses on writing as well as writing several manuscripts and attending workshops etc. has moved me past it) and I’m unwilling to either edit beyond small mistakes or to actually teach her how to write?

Well, neither. But it sounds like you definitely should put the kibosh on any writing agreement with her — if for no reason other than that it’s coming through loud and clear that you don’t want to be in a partnership with her. And there’s no shame in that. Writing a book with someone else is an intense process. You need to trust the other person’s judgment, writing, and general competence. You don’t trust hers, so this is unlikely to be anything other than a miserable and frustrating experience (possibly for both of you, but definitely for you).

But that doesn’t mean that you should call her an amateur and insult her skills when you part ways (even if that assessment has merit). Instead, why not say that as you get deeper into the project, you’re realizing that it’s tough to collaborate when you have such different styles and that you’ve concluded that a joint book isn’t in the cards?

2. Coworker won’t stop badgering me about working from home

I recently relocated to an area in Oklahoma where there is not an office space for me to utilize, so I am working from home. My manager was completely aware prior to my move and is fully supportive. My coworker, who works at the corporate office, has constantly asked me about my work situation and I have told him repeatedly that is between me and my manager. We were discussing this recently and he told me that our situations are not different, and that he and the rest of the team should be allowed to work from home if I do, which I do not agree with. He also told me that I could commute, and that people that have lengthy commutes should just change jobs, implying that if I receive special privileges that he finds unacceptable, it would be better for team morale for me to leave the company.

This situation is beyond frustrating to me because frankly, it is none of his business. If I am performing and my manager and superiors are supportive of the situation, he should worry about his work situation and not concern himself with my unique needs. 

Understanding that we will not come to a middle ground, how should I proceed when he continues to ask me questions? I consider this person a friend and do not understand why he constantly compares our situations.

“If you’d like to work from home, you should talk with (manager).” Followed by, if the badgering continues, “I’d rather not keep this open for discussion, thanks.”

I’d also give your boss a quick heads-up that this is happening: “Just FYI, Constantine seems really interested in why I’m working from home and why he and others aren’t able to. He’s questioned me about it so much that I suggested he talk to you if he wants to discuss it.”

3. Letting candidates know that they’re in our second tier

I am looking for language to use when I send an email thanking a candidate for applying for a job but letting them know that the pool was strong and we would consider them in round 2 if we don’t find someone in round 1. I want to say this as positively as possible.

Well, you could say, “We’re currently focusing in on a small number of especially well-matched candidates, but depending on how that process goes, we may reach back out to you next month.”

But I don’t think I’d be that explicit about it; there’s no reason to make someone feel less qualified than others if you can avoid it (and if they’re someone who you could plausibly end up hiring at the end of the process). I’d say something like this instead: “We’re in the early stages of our hiring process and have many strong candidates. I expect to be back in touch next month.” (And that at that next stage, you’d either reject them or ask them to interview.)

4. Can I ask to negotiate through email?

So, long story short, I’ve made a salary proposal after the recruiter asked about it (final decision is still pending, but it looks pretty good). I made it through email because I’ve never negotiated salary before, and I don’t like the on-the-spot nature of a phone conversation about such an important topic. The recruiter wants to schedule some time to talk about it tomorrow. Is it reasonable to ask that we negotiate through email, and how might I go about that?

I’ve seen your advice about it, but like I said I would feel more comfortable if I had some time to look at the text and formulate a response. A lot of the comments on that post seem to agree that it can be fine to negotiate through email.

I would not ask for it — if it unfolds that way, fine (although even then I think it potentially puts you at a disadvantage), but specifically asking to do it that way, especially after he specifically asked to speak, is likely to make you look like you lack confidence and aren’t comfortable with business norms.

5. Can I purposefully leave a skill off my resume?

My previous job, which I left for my current one about 4 years ago, required me to be able to speak in Spanish at a conversational level as well as doing some written translation and proofreading. The job was primarily customer service in English, and the Spanish-related duties took 10% to 20% of my time. I am not a native speaker, but at the time, I was proficient enough to be able to do the job. However, I haven’t needed to speak Spanish since I left that job, and I would not consider myself proficient now. I definitely don’t want a potential employer to think I am bilingual. Is it weird or unethical to leave the Spanish-related duties from that job off of my resume?

If I do that, a possible complication is that one of the jobs I’m applying for is with my current employer. I’m worried that the change on my resume might look weird to HR, but I could be worried about nothing – I’m sure they know that candidates tailor their resumes for specific jobs. I don’t think the actual hiring committee would care, as the job I’m applying for does not require proficiency in a second language.

It’s not unethical or even weird to leave something off your resume that you don’t want to highlight. Your resume is a marketing document; it’s not required or expected to be a comprehensive listing of everything you’ve ever done. If you don’t want your Spanish work on there, leave it off. (That said, if the only reason you’re leaving it off is because you feel rusty, I’d still include it — it showcases skills that you could likely pick up again if you needed/wanted to.)

{ 221 comments… read them below }

  1. Papa Midnight*

    2 Your co-worker is weird. Sorry, but it’s true. It seems obvious (to me) that he’s jealous that you get to work from home and he doesn’t. But it beats the hell out of me what he expects you to do about it.

    Also: I strongly suspect he has no idea of the realities of working from home. I do it, and I like it, but it is not the free and easy ride that some people think it is. Unfortunately, I don’t foresee that you’ll ever get him to understand this.

    I’m sorry that this is just a reaction and not helpful advice. Reading your letter, my biggest concern is that your “friend” will meddle about and ultimately cause such a fuss that your boss may ask you to start coming in to the office. The very notion of which outrages me to the depths of my soul.

    1. FiveByFive*

      Yep, ugly jealousy, no doubt about it. How rude and immature this person is. And you’re right Papa – I hope the manager here is strong and doesn’t start requiring OP to start commuting. Ugh.

    2. MK*

      Hm. The coworker probably knows the manager would be unlikely to allow everyone to work from home and also that most managers would be unwilling to explain their decisions to their subordinates about the entire team’s schedule or to allow subordinates to dictate how working from home is managed. From my experience with similar situations, he knows that if he raised this with the manager he would probably get shut down and/or told to mind his own bussiness. So, he is trying to make it the OP’s problem, he wants the OP to be the one to raise it with the manager.

      My best advice to the OP is to repeat like a broken record “If you have an issue, go to the boss”.

      1. OhNo*

        That’s my thought, too. It’s highly unlikely that the manager will let anyone who wants to work from home for no real reason other than because they want to. By pestering the OP about it, he’s trying to make them an advocate for him (and everyone else) to work from home. But it’s not OP’s problem!

        The only thing I disagree with in Alison’s response is the wording on the heads up to the manager. I’d focus on how his attitude is causing some problems for you (assuming that’s true, which it seems to be from the letter), and say something more like: “Constantine has been pestering me about my work-from-home arrangement every time we talk, which is making it difficult to talk to him about work matters. I’ve told him repeatedly that he should discuss it with you, but he just can’t seem to let it go. How would you like me to handle this next time it comes up?”

        1. baseballfan*

          “It’s highly unlikely that the manager will let anyone who wants to work from home for no real reason other than because they want to.”

          Isn’t that always the reason people work from home? Clearly the OP is working home because s/he wants to. These arrangements are pretty much always for the convenience of the employee (which, of course, is perfectly fine and a valid reason).

          I completely agree that the co-worker is handling his issues, whatever they are, in a very unprofessional way. If he wants to work from home, he should approach the supervisor about such an arrangement. No reason other team members shouldn’t have the same privilege.

          1. MK*

            The convenience of the employee can vary from the whim of the employee to the desperate needs of the employee. I don’t think a lot of bosses allow work from home, just because the employee prefers working wearing sweatpants instead of formal businnes clothes and wants to sleep their usual commuting time; most managers accede to these requests if the employee can make a case that working from home would offer some considerable advantage.

            1. Rat Racer*

              Hey – I would just like to point out that I work from home and wear PJs and Yoga pants exclusively, (except for the days when I’m meeting in person with colleagues or clients), but I am up at 5:00 am, on my computer by 5:30 and work a 10-12 hour day depending. I’m not sleeping through my commute – I’m working through it.

          2. AW*

            It also benefits the employer to not have to lose a valued employee. It sounds like the OP#2 might have had to change jobs had they not been given the option to telecommute.

          3. OhNo*

            If managers let people work from home just because they wanted to, I’m pretty sure 90% of the people in the world would be working from home already. Like MK said, employers will usually only let people work from home if it offers them an advantage – this could be not having to set aside office space for the employee, or saving on expenses, or (as seems to be the case with the OP) retaining an excellent employee that might otherwise move on to another company. Employers offer benefits (including work-from-home, vacation time, sick time, insurance, and even salary) as a trade off for getting something they want or need from the employee. That’s just how it works.

            If you can’t make a valid case as to why a particular benefit is a good trade-off for the company, you won’t get it. OP clearly made a very good case for their WFH arrangement. So far, the coworker’s only case seems to be “I want to”, maybe with a side order of “but it’s not fair” whining.

          4. Elizabeth West*

            Isn’t that always the reason people work from home?

            Well, the OP said she moved; it’s probably less expensive for her to work from home as well (no long commute). My department is made up of workers from both here and other states. Using remote workers for jobs that can be done that way opens up the applicant pool–and since the OP moved, they’re not losing her skills and contribution.

            But of course, that doesn’t make it any of Nosy Coworker’s business. I agree; he’s being very unprofessional. He sounds like the coworkers who whine, “Briony got to leave early yesterday! Why didn’t I?”

          5. books*

            The OP here is working from home because they want to, but the alternative seems like the OP would no longer be at the company because s/he is too far from the office. It may be for the convenience of the employee (I work from home, it’s nice to commute across the hall and wear slippers instead of heels) but it’s also for the benefit of my employer, who is able to have high quality employees regardless of their location.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          The only thing I disagree with in Alison’s response is the wording on the heads up to the manager. I’d focus on how his attitude is causing some problems for you (assuming that’s true, which it seems to be from the letter), and say something more like: “Constantine has been pestering me about my work-from-home arrangement every time we talk, which is making it difficult to talk to him about work matters. I’ve told him repeatedly that he should discuss it with you, but he just can’t seem to let it go. How would you like me to handle this next time it comes up?”

          I mean, if that’s really true and the OP can’t handle it on her own, sure, but it doesn’t sound like it’s really true. The OP isn’t really asking her manager to handle this for her, or at least that wasn’t my intent in suggesting she talk to her manager. My point was to give the manager a heads-up so that she has context if the coworker does approach her, and to treat the manager like the colleague that she is.

          Honestly, if I were a manager who heard this wording, I’d think the problem was much worse than it actually sounds like it is (“making it difficult to talk about work matters” is a pretty big deal).

          1. Not So NewReader*

            And if these two are friends, she just threw her friend under the bus.

            I’d be more inclined to say “You have asked me that very question 15 times. I have answered you. Stop asking me.”
            If the friend has the nerve to ask the same thing numerous times, I don’t see any reason for tiptoeing around the topic any more. It has to be obvious to the friend that OP has not had an answer yet, therefore probably will never have one.

    3. Confused*

      I find myself wondering if the OP hasn’t already said something like, “if you want to work from home, talk to (manager)” worried that involving the manager will somehow result in her losing her work from home arrangement. The concern being, if the manager isn’t particularly strong/skilled, he may give into the “squeaky wheel” and just have the OP come into the office like everyone else. I just wonder if that has any part in it..?
      I do agree with Alison about ending the conversation by refusing to talk about it. Don’t let the Office Dementors get you!
      (“Office Dementors” is a registered trademark of Confused Inc. 2015. You’re welcome!)

      1. Apple22over7*

        Office Dementors – love it!!

        I also agree with your response here – maybe the OP feels her telecommuting status is vulnerable and doesn’t want to rock the boat, for fear of having it taken away.

      2. OP2*

        Thanks for the comment! I am not concerned about my work from home status, because my manager is fully supportive of that. It’s more that I considered this person such a good friend, but his mentality is jeopardizing that. We are both “millennials” but he is several years younger than me and these comments make him seem immature. He does not realize that i am not sitting home doing laundry and making dinner, I am working, and oftentimes, much later than I would be if I were in the office. The immaturity is reinforced by the fact that I shut the conversation down repeatedly, but because of our friendship, he feels that he can ask about it again and again and again. And his question is always followed up with “and when can I work from home too?”. The last time he asked me and suggested I get another job if I don’t like the 2 hour each way commute, I turned the tables and told him that if he is so interested in working from home, he too could look for a job that allowed him to work from home full time. His response- I like my job, why would I do that. He is proving my own point! If my manager is fine with it, so am I and its none of his business. I will continue to shut down his questions and refer him to our manager. I hate to do that because it will cast him in a poor light, because there are already some concerns about him in other areas.

        1. AW*

          I’m gobsmacked that he actually expects you to quit your job rather than telecommute just because he can’t telecommute. I don’t think we even have a word for how selfish that is.

          Is he like this with other stuff? If you were to win a trip to the Bahamas, would he demand you turn it down just because he can’t also go?

        2. Sunflower*

          Honestly, at this point I would tell him the conversation is not going to take place at all. ‘Rob, we’ve talked about this many times and I’ve told you to talk to the manager many times. This conversation is not going anywhere but circles so I’m not going to ask you not to speak to me about it anymore.’

          1. Koko*

            I agree. I think it’s time to politely but firmly address the inappropriateness of his continued pestering you about this. “Rob, my teleworking arrangement has already been negotiated with Manager. I’m not going to continue explaining or defending it to you. These repeated conversations about my working from home are unproductive and unnecessary. Please stop bringing it up.” And if he protests, “Again, I’m not willing to continue having conversations about this topic. I consider you a friend and hope you’ll honor my request to let it be.”

          2. HumbleOnion*

            If a friend of mine was doing this to me, I might just say “Dude. Get over it.” But I’m pretty blunt.

            1. puddin*

              I tend to agree…especially with the phrasing. This communication must begin with a “Dude!”

              1. Dynamic Beige*

                You could also have some “fun” with it, OP2. Start tracking how many times he brings it up and then “Dude! Do you realise that you have asked me this 78 times since March 11? Seriously, for the last time, if you want to work from home, speak to Manager about it because I am not the Manager so I can’t make it happen — for you or anyone.”

        3. Magda*

          Yikes. I think you need to completely stop engaging with him on the topic. There’s clearly nothing that can satisfy him, so getting into the reasons why your WFH arrangement is justified does nothing but make him think he’s entitled to interrogate you on the matter whenever he feels like it.

          If at all possible, I would stick to the most flat, dull: “I am not discussing this further, please go to [manager] with your concerns.”

          I think your only hope of ending this situation is that he eventually gets bored with your answers and stops.

        4. Mephyle*

          What if you said to him, “Actually, I’m not your manager, and I don’t get to decide what work you do or where you do it”? You mention that he doesn’t seem to realize that you spend your days working, but with him always bugging you about “why can’t I work at home, too?” it also seems that he doesn’t realize that you’re not his manager.

          1. southern commentator*

            Is this a lame way of asking for your help? If he’s really your friend you might say something like “Obviously, I’m not the person who gets to decide if you work from home, but if you wanted to write out a list of reasons why you should be allowed to work from home I’d be glad to look it over to see if I think they make sense. Other than this I’m not really going to be much help.” Then I would go right to the next point “and so on another topic…”

        5. Xarcady*

          You can’t change him. You can change how you react to him.

          If he keeps asking the same question, I’d have a stock answer ready for him and use it *every single time*.

          “When am I going to be able to work from home?”
          “I don’t know, better ask Boss about that.” Said in a slightly bored, somewhat dismissive manner. Then move on to whatever matter you need to talk about.

          Eventually, because you are no longer engaging in any conversation about his working from home, he should get bored and stop asking. And if he doesn’t, by not engaging, his question will cost you mere seconds, instead of minutes of back-and-forth on why he can’t work from home.

        6. Rana*

          This doesn’t sound like a friend to me, at this point. I agree that him asking you “and when can I work from home too” is a silly thing to do. I think the repeated boring response, “I don’t know; ask Boss” is the best response. But if this person is genuinely a friend, maybe saying, in a very serious tone, “You do realize that the more you harp on this, the less likely it is anyone will consider you responsible enough to work from home, right?” could work. (But I think you’re better off with option A.)

          1. Not So NewReader*

            I am also wondering how much of a friend this person is. He sounds like a lot of work.

            1. Mander*

              Yeah, I think “friend” might be stretching it if he constantly asks the same stupid questions and implies that the OP should quit their job or take on a very long commute just because he doesn’t think it’s fair.

    4. BRR*

      I agree that some people have a big misconception about working from home. I function a lot better in an office. Part of this might also be my laptop is teeny tiny (and I’m not) and at work I have two monitors to plug it into while I don’t at home.

      1. blackcat*

        Getting a new TV with a long HDMI cable has changed my life. I have ALL THE MONITOR SPACE. It is awesome.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          I loved my HDMI cable hookup…until I got a Chromecast, and now I don’t even have to get out of my recliner to put my work up on the TV!! It’s an especially huge improvement for webinars and training videos.

      2. Allison*

        Truth, at work I have a second monitor which makes certain tasks much easier, and now when I work from home I find it tough to only work with my laptop’s small screen.

        1. Hlyssande*

          When I get special permission to take a laptop home (for evening training sessions with people in our Asia-Pacific world area), I plug in my extra monitor, wireless mouse, and my ergo keyboard to make it as close to my work setup as possible. Otherwise I wouldn’t be able to do it – the laptops they issue here are TINY AS HECK.

          1. The Cosmic Avenger*

            OSX really helps with that. You can set up as many workspaces or desktops as you like, and switch between them very easily (Command-L/R, F3, or a touchpad gesture). I can’t stand working on a PC laptop now unless it’s hooked to external monitors, but on a Macbook it’s really easy to have different tasks on different desktops and then to switch between them.

            1. Aunt Vixen*

              I am so relieved to hear this I can’t tell you. Right now my 7.5-year-old MacBook is limping along with no battery (so the power cable is taped to the body of the thing), but when we’re done with some work we’re having done on our house I’m planning to upgrade and also look into external display options – and I’m delighted to know how easy it is to make this happen. Yay – something to look forward to!

        2. Elizabeth West*

          That’s how mine is. One thing I dislike about working remotely is the little screen. Also, my laptop doesn’t have a full keyboard–I use the one at my desk.

          And my home internet is slow as balls–there are some things I don’t like doing at home because they take forever compared to using the company network.

          1. Chinook*

            I agree that laptop keyboards are tiny. The admin I often share minute taking duties with on a company issued laptop recommended bring my desktop keyboard with me and it made all the difference. The increase in my typing speed in minutes is so worth the odd stares from colleagues for walking in with a random keyboard.

            1. Mander*

              My computer is technically a laptop but it is huge and heavy, so it’s more of a “luggable desktop”. But the keyboard is nearly full-size, so even if I have to take it somewhere it’s not that uncomfortable to work on.

              However, I have been using a Microsoft Natural keyboard for so long that I can hardly type on a non-split keyboard. If I ever get a regular office job again I’ll probably buy myself another one and take it into the office, and I’d have no qualms about dragging it around with me!

              I have considered buying one of those flexible roll-up keyboards and attempting to hack it into a split keyboard so that I can use it with my tiny netbook when I travel, but I don’t think my electronics skills are up to the task. It would be nice, though. Or the jeans with the built-in keyboard. That would be awesome on the train.

      3. JB*

        Agreed. I love working from home because I’ve always been kind of a hermit, and I love all the alone time, but there are some tasks I just can’t do as well on my teeny laptop. To do that stuff, I’d much rather go into the office with my large dual monitors. Plus, if you work from home all the time, you have to deal with people who think that means the whole day is free time for you.

      4. Ed*

        I already had a decent setup at home with a 27″ monitor and wireless keyboard/mouse so I just share that with my work laptop. I picked up a used docking station on eBay for $40 and a KVM (Keyboard-Video-Mouse) cable to switch back and forth. I plug my work laptop into the docking station, press Print Screen twice to switch active computers and I’m ready to go. Another benefit of this setup is being able to quickly jump back to my personal computer for non-work tasks like paying a bill or checking Gmail. My work laptop is strictly for work and connected by VPN all day.

        Part of the fun of telecommuting is pimping out your home office. It blows my mind when friends telecommute and I find out they sit at the dinning room table using only their 15″ laptop. The exception is if you have Macs at home. None of this stuff is cheap or easy when you add a Mac into the mix.

    5. illini02*

      I’m going to somewhat disagree here. I think sometimes it can be unfair (at least from the outside) when a manager will let others work from home regularly. At my last job, my co-worker had a child and in order to help “ease her way” back into working, she was able to work from home half the week. I get that they didn’t want to lose her, but for everyone else who was also producing good work, that didn’t really seem like a fair reason to get that perk. We were able to work from home here and there as needed, but no one was given that as a regular option. And I’ll be honest, that type of thing CAN make resentment among the others. So while I don’t think the co-worker is handling it well (its not the OPs fault, its managements fault), I don’t think we should necessarily negate their feelings either.

      1. Koko*

        It would only be unfair if everyone’s situations were identical, but they’re not. Every employee’s situation is different. The strength of their work, the degree of hardship that coming into the office poses to them, the likelihood of them leaving if they can’t telework, all vary. Everyone at the company doesn’t make the same salary, either. Just because compensation varies doesn’t mean it’s unfair.

        1. illini02*

          In theory, I get that. Fair isn’t equal and all that crap. However, it doesn’t change perception of unfairness, which I’m saying is real. If I’m the highest performer in my group, well yeah, it can be argued that I should get to come in late, leave early, etc whenever I want, as long as I keep producing at that level. Problem is, to my colleagues who just see me coming and going as I please, I could understand their annoyance by it if they are strictly being told they have to be in at 9 and can’t leave before 5. You are right, everyone’s situation isn’t the same, but that doesn’t mean there should be completely different rules for everyone in the same role.

      2. Denise*

        I agree with this. Most people view working from home as a perk that they would take advantage of if it were an option, if only for one day per week. While the coworker should not be harassing the op about her arrangement, I do think the manager has a responsibility to explain the situation.

    6. OP2*

      Thank you for the comment! Yes, I suspect that our thoughts about working from home are very different. Last week he said he was outraged that others on the team can’t work from home at least two days per week, and to think about the people that have to pay for childcare. Which is interesting- there was just a post on that. I would never expect to care for a child while working from home. His mentality in general is becoming very competitive and, as you said, weird. Unfortunately I am rethinking our long standing friendship because he is showing an ugly side of himself that is unacceptable.

      1. baseballfan*

        Clearly if he expects people who work from home to not need childcare, he has a very wrong perception of what working from home involves. My previous employer had a very liberal view on flexible work arrangements and many people had them – but the number one rule was that telecommuters had to have childcare.

        1. KJR*

          Plus I’d hazard to say that he also has a very wrong perception of what childcare involves! You’re lucky you can make it to the bathroom when you’re caring for a child, much less get any real work done. Dude needs to get a clue.

          1. Rana*

            Absolutely. I work from home (self-employed) and all my work gets done during our toddler’s naps and after she goes to sleep; there is no way at all that I can focus as required while taking care of her. This is only possible because I’m not on a 9-5 schedule, and I’m willing to sacrifice personal time during the “off” hours.

      2. JoAnna*

        I work from home three days per week, and I pay for five days of childcare — just like I did when I was working in the office 5 days per week. There is no way I could get anything done if my kids were here.

      3. Biff*

        I think the phrase you need is “Hey, quit kicking in your stall.” I don’t think he realizes he’s so stuck on this. People get stuck on stuff, and you sometimes need to let them know that they are.

    7. Ed*

      Personally, I would have worded it as “I was moving and asked if there was a possibility of continuing to work here remotely since I liked working here so much. I was able to work out an agreement between myself and the company to telecommute.” I would repeatedly focus on the fact that I moved far enough away to make commuting not a realistic option. Moving away and telecommuting locally are two separate things to me (and to my current company).

      I would just be nervous that this jerk is making such a stink that it could potentially jeopardize OP’s arrangement. Hopefully OP’s manager (and HR) actually has a spine and tells this guy telecommuting is decided on a case-by-case basis.

    8. Vicki*

      He’s jealous and handling it badly, yes, but so is the company. MY guess is that he’s asked to wrk from home in the past and been told no. Now the OP is wprtking from home for “no better reason” than there isn;t a desk available and the co-worker is disgruntled and angry about this.

      I would be if I were the co-worker. Also, the OP may find herself told to be in the office as soon as they find her a desk. Both people need to keep this in mind.

      This happened to me at a previous job where I lived 3 miles from the work site. We were running out of space and adding desks in the hallway so I said “I could work from home and come in for meetings.” They agreed and I did.

      Then we moved to the new building and they said “You must come sit in a cubicle every day.”
      Luckily for me, they laid me off (along with a bunch of people) a few weeks later. Because: No.

  2. Zillah*

    #2 – Alison is right, as usual, but it also occurs to me that if you truly do consider this coworker a friend and have a solid history with him, I might also think about directly saying to him that his need to continually talk about this with you is making you uncomfortable.

    1. OP2*

      Thank you!!inhave done that, but will be more forceful going forward, and direct him to our boss if he is unhappy with his work space.

  3. Papa Midnight*

    1 “… She’s begun imitating my writing style and voice …” I once saw Roger Zelazny give a talk about how he had been plagiarized, and how he eventually found he was unable to hold a grudge against someone for the sin of having good taste.

    But having said that: you two need to break up. Maybe not the blog, but definitely the book project. Did you two have any signed, formal agreements between you? My concern here would be: what if you go on to write your book, and she goes on to write her book … and a disagreement erupts over similarities in the two works? Honestly, I’m not qualified to offer any helpful advice on this, but I know that there are other AAM regulars who work in the publishing industry – perhaps they will weigh in.

      1. Papa Midnight*

        *laughs* It’s sorta funny and odd, because it’s not like it’s ever been a major life goal, but: a Con here, a book-signing there, and over the years I’ve met a fairly large number of published writers. I will refrain from mentioning any names, but some of them were, frankly, disappointing. To be fair to them, it’s not like I met them and we became best buddies and hung out together.

        Having said all that: Roger Zelazny, in real life, was every bit as awesome as you’d imagine he would be.

    1. little Cindy Lou who*

      Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

      I noticed, when I first started writing short stories and poems in middle and high school, that I would end up with something echoing the style/flow/word choices of the author I was most currently reading obsessively. It’s one way to learn, and in my mind isn’t a particularly bad one if the writer can learn to find/gain confidence in her own voice down the road. But you’re not obligated to actively help shorten her learning curve.

      1. Author Author*

        Thank you for pointing out something about which I am being too harsh – the imitation of writing style. I was initially impressed with her informational, logical writing style and thought the contrast with my style would be a great balance. When her writing began sounding like a version of mine, the contrast was still there but it was off.

      2. Cath in Canada*

        It’s so hard not to do this when you’re reading something that’s written in a very distinctive style! I remember this happening to me while reading Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie – there are some very distinctive sentence structures in that book that started migrating into drafts of my work documents and blog posts. Luckily I spotted it before publishing posting broadcasting anything :)

    2. Amtelope*

      Imitating your writing style and voice is a skill she would definitely need if you were collaborating (or you’d need to imitate hers), since co-written books need to sound reasonably consistent in voice. But co-writing is hard — though rewarding — even with people whose work you respect. You clearly don’t think she’s a very good writer, and she’s already getting on your nerves. Get out of this book project now; it will only get harder and more painful to quit the longer you go on.

      I’d assume that meant scrapping the particular manuscript you were working on together. Beyond that, it’s not like an interest in the same historical period is enough to raise questions of plagiarism if you go on to write a different book set in the same time and place.

      1. Author Author*

        You’ve nailed it – she does get on my nerves. Her writing is actually quite good when she uses her own voice.

    3. jag*

      Imitation of style in a blog or book being jointly produced is probably a good thing – it will help readers to have a more consistent voice.

      1. jamlady*


        It throws me off when I can tell there’s multiple voices, especially in historical narrative.

      2. nona*

        I think one problem here is that the voice might be somewhat consistent, but the quality of writing isn’t. That would throw me off as a reader. Anyway, the style imitation’s pretty normal and understandable.

    4. VictoriaHR*

      My thought is that she’s a burgeoning writer and as such, of course she’s going to pick up the writing style of the person she’s working most closely with.

      Perhaps the other writer would be interested in only providing the main idea and source material for the book, and OP#1 can write the whole thing. That’s a valid collaboration and they can still both get credit for the book and idea.

    5. insert pun here*

      Publishing person here. My advice: hire a lawyer. Intellectual property law is complicated, normal humans are not equipped to deal with it, and it can easily turn into a giant mess. Hiring a lawyer now — and getting some understanding/agreement on what IP belongs to each co-author — can save you tons of time, hassle and money down the road.

      I know this sounds like immediately going to the nuclear option, but, having seen this play out a number of times… you need someone with legal training to help you on this.

      1. Author Author*

        Putting together a writing contract was one of my first thoughts when we got serious about doing a manuscript together. Thank you for recognizing that while it does sound like going nuclear, it’s actually a very freeing thing. As a known flake, blown-along-by-the-wind type, I find I can only be that way when I know the ground rules are in place. They provide the springboard for creativity, in my case.

    6. Author Author*

      Hi Papa Midnight – love that name!! – no, there is no written agreement between us. The manuscript idea belongs to her, not through any copyright, but simply because it’s her idea and hers alone. If I go forward with writing my own manuscript, I won’t use her idea. It would be too weird and dishonest. Your comment about Roger Zelazny gave me a good smile!!

      1. Rana*

        I agree with the above that at this point you need a contract, or at least a jointly-agreed-upon statement about how the workload is to be distributed, etc. I have to admit I was struggling, as I read your letter, to understand why the two of you are working together in the first place. The only scenario I could imagine was that she was paying you to co-write with her, but that doesn’t seem to be the case? Regardless, it feels like you would probably work better with a partner who can carry an equal share of the load, rather than one who requires you to do all the heavy lifting.

  4. Lillie Lane*

    #1: Alison is right; get out of this now. It sounds like you’re in bitch-eating-crackers mode and everything your collaborator does is annoying. My spouse partnered with a friend on a historical book, and it is an arduous process. Even if you both see eye to eye on most aspects of the project, it’s still stressful.

    That being said, I don’t know why you are so offended by her mimicking your writing style and phrasing. You’re annoyed by her lack of experience, but it sounded like she may want to learn from you. Are you put off by the fact that you put in the years of work and want her to go through the same? And unless your project involves completely separate portions by the two authors, wouldn’t you want the writing style to be similar so it flows well and needs less editing later on?

    1. Catherine in Canada*

      I agree with what everyone’s said about your writing partner’s imitating your style and voice. On the one hand, it’s an inevitable part of learning to write, some people never progress past this stage, and on the other hand, it’s necessary in a collaborative project. It’s her resistance to academic rigor that gives me pause; it would be a deal-breaker for me.

      The only reason I can see for staying in this relationship is the book idea, which you say is terrific. Obviously, if you end the writing partnership, you can’t use her idea for any book you write on the subject. How committed are you to the idea? Enough to push through all the difficulties of working with her? Can you get her to agree to a change in the writing process, perhaps so that while she contributes content, you write the final version of it all?

      Here’s an example: I’ve written three books on my own, then (godshelpme) I collaborated with my mother on her autobiography. When we started working together, she thought she had “written a book” and I was going to do the layout for her. What she had actually written was bullet points; this happened, then that happened, then this other thing happened. No “how I felt about it”, no descriptions of people, surroundings, current events, nothing. It took two years of monthly weekends to flesh it out; I’d ask her a question, transcribe her answer, go back, fill in a blank, ask more questions, look things up, fill more blanks. It’s her voice, but I wrote it. Drove me crazy but I did it because I thought her concept – she organized her life story around the kitchens in her life, 27 in all – was fantastic. We’re pleased with the results, she’s received good reviews from friends and family, I’m happy to have my name on the cover.

      Would you be happy to have your name on the cover of this book?

      1. Graciosa*

        I don’t agree that the OP can never use the partner’s idea for any book – why not? Copyright does not protect ideas, it protects the expressions of those ideas (in this case, in words). If you could copyright an idea, there would only be one “Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy and girl reconcile” story, and that’s just not the case. If you give a classroom of thirty students the task of writing a story about discovering a sibling is a werewolf, you will get a different story from each student who does the assignment.

        I think there are legitimate areas for discussion about how to handle the situation ethically if the idea is truly, unusually specific and special. This is probably a good topic for discussion in the “break-up” conversation. For example, the OP could agree not to submit the work anywhere for X time period to allow the partner a chance to finish and publish first (assuming her work will be of the requisite quality, which seems doubtful, but that’s why it’s a time frame offer and not a publication one). The OP should certainly credit the partner’s contribution (the idea, the OP can’t use any actual text generated by the partner), perhaps in the dedication or introduction. The moral and ethical thing to do is to have the hard conversation and try to work something out.

        However, I think the difficulties the OP described illustrate perfectly why there is an enormous difference between having an idea and actually writing a book. The first is not entitled to the copyright protection enjoyed by the second, and I don’t see why the OP needs to treat them as equal when they are not.

        1. MK*

          You are right that copyright does not cover ideas, but there is such a thing as intellectual capital, though it has no legal protection. To begin with, the OP thinks this idea was so great they were prepared to collaborate with this person, so it’s probably something fairly original and unique, not just a sort-of fresh take on a generic concept. Secondly, this is not the case of hearing some stranger say a few sentences containing the seed of an idea; the OP and her collaborator have been working together for some time, so it;s likely that the collaborator has gone into fairly great detail about the idea. It would hugely unethical of the OP to just use the idea without the concent of their now coworker. And, last but not least, simply going ahead with this could embroil the OP into a plagiarism case, which would harm their reputation even if they win.

          1. Graciosa*

            This is why I suggested ways to avoid this – including giving credit (addresses plagiarism) and working something out with the partner (head start) so she will not feel she has been mistreated.

            However, the OP has also invested considerable time and effort into the project and has a stake in it as well. There are other (legal, moral, and ethical) options other than abandoning the project entirely.

            1. AnonyAuthor*

              Honestly, I would not do this. For one thing, if the OP2 wants to go the traditional publishing route, publishers are not going to want to publish a book if they see that the idea was credited to someone else. That creates a liability nightmare. Also, readers are going to seriously question why an author would credit someone else for giving them an idea for a book. It’s not going to come across as very professional and it will make them wonder why they would bother reading.

              I am not basing this on legal advice, but on incidents I have seen in the industry. OP2 would be better off abandoning the idea/work entirely and doing something different. Sometimes it is safer to walk away from work and err on the side of caution.

        2. insert pun here*

          You are correct, but: this could easily turn into an extremely expensive lawsuit. Even if the court rules in favor of the OP, these things are a real slog. For example, the cowriter could claim that OP used a character (perhaps a composite of various historical personages) that cowriter created. That’s a long, dragged-out lawsuit right there.

        3. Andrew*

          There may be few legal roadblocks, but stealing someone else’s idea is a lousy thing to do.

    2. nona*

      “You’re annoyed by her lack of experience, but it sounded like she may want to learn from you. Are you put off by the fact that you put in the years of work and want her to go through the same?”

      I’d also wonder if the OP went into this thinking of it as a collaboration, not expecting to teach their writing partner.

      1. Author Author*

        “I’d also wonder if the OP went into this thinking of it as a collaboration, not expecting to teach their writing partner.”


    3. Beancounter in Texas*

      Also, if/when you break up with her, refrain from your judgmental criticisms of her writing, even if you are justified. IMO, criticism should be constructive, not destructive. I find that venting out my emotion somewhere else clears my head enough to behave rationally when it matters and not do something I might regret. This might help you. If you feel like doing her a favor, point her in the direction of where she might learn some skills to help her along.

      As for her imitating your writing style, I’d be annoyed too. Hopefully it’s just a phase. Good luck!

      1. Author Author*

        Her writing has a nice instructional quality, it’s informational without being boring and a good contrast to mine. Venting out the emotions around this does provide lovely clarification; it’s shown me too that I’m sometimes I’m not a very nice person. Shaving off my nasty edges is where I’ll start in thinking about the words to use when I talk with her.

        1. Anonymous Librarian*

          If you think she has potential, gently let her know that she could save time by investing in some classes and workshops. The issue of her lack of writing skills you gained from hard work should be kept separate from the issue of how historical you want your historical fiction to be. People have different views in that regard, all of which are valid. I would chose that hill to die on, as you say, and simply tell her that you can’t agree on that point, so the partnership has to end. Then move to this: instead of finding a co-author, she might do better to do some classes and workshops to release what you know is a good voice with a story to tell. You walk away with basically nothing but some hard-earned self-knowledge. And a great deal of integrity. Thank you for being the kind of person who wouldn’t steal another’s idea. It has happened to me before, and it’s a real kick in the gut.

    4. Author Author*

      Haha – I AM in bitch-eating-crackers mode!!! The root cause of my freaking out is coming out loud and clear as I re-read my OP and the comments that follow – it’s making the story fit the historical fact and not playing fast and loose with inconvenient truths. That’s a deal-breaker for me. The other criticisms are just frosting on my cracker-cake of witchiness, I’m afraid.

  5. Second Tier Candidate*

    #3 – I agree with Alison’s assessment of the situation. I’ve been a second tier candidate before in the #2 slot for a position and nothing is worse than hearing that I don’t QUITE have the qualifications to get the job, but if by some miracle that the #1 in front of me doesn’t get it, I’ll have a job.

    I think going through with saying, “we’re currently reviewing our applicant pool, expect to hear back from us in x# of weeks” is the correct means and does not get anyone off on the wrong foot.

    1. jamlady*

      Agreed. I don’t need details – if they’re interested, I know they’ll get in touch. In fact, too many details keeps the position in the back of my mind more so than is likely appropriate given I didn’t make the first round. I’m totally fine with the mass-produced generic e-mails if I didn’t make the first round (it’s after I’ve interviewed 3 times and have established somewhat of a professional relationship with people at the company when those bug me).

    2. Artemesia*

      When we were hiring we never send rejections to the top pool until we finished the hire just in case we had to cycle back into the pool. It is important I think to let the ‘not gonna happen’ pool know asap but for the possibles, you need need to send notice about the time frame and wait.

    3. Sunflower*

      Yeah I agree. Less is more here. Just let them know you haven’t made a decision yet and will be in touch.

    4. Ezri*

      I agree completely. I interviewed for a job at a very small business before graduating college. During the several-hour interview process, the owner told me he would extend an offer to the top two candidates first. If they didn’t accept, he would contact the next best and so on.

      I actually did get an offer from him, but before that I got an email specifically telling me I didn’t make the top two and I *might* get one if they didn’t accept. It left a bad taste where just getting an offer with no other information wouldn’t have. I ended up turning it down for a place that seemed excited about having me.

    5. Laura2*

      Yep, I had the same experience. I followed up later to see where they were in the hiring process (since I’d interviewed with several people) and was even told basically “you were our #2 choice, the other guy ‘fit in’ better.”

  6. Ben Around*

    OP #2: I think the problem you’re having is greatly compounded by the dissonance in this paragraph:

    “Understanding that we will not come to a middle ground, how should I proceed when he continues to ask me questions? I consider this person a friend and do not understand why he constantly compares our situations.”

    I think you’re telling yourself that your co-worker is a friend despite the evidence to the contrary. An envious, disrespectful person who keeps badgering you after being told to knock it off doesn’t sound like a friend.

    If you drop the pretense of friendship, it will be a lot easier to say “stop bugging me” and make it stick.

    1. Ops Ananlyst*

      Also, OP does not have to share any personal information here or with her coworker but it’s not clear what actually IS different about her situation, other than living farther away. It’s possible that her coworker doesn’t see any difference either and is thinking “well if OP2 was allowed to move away and work remotely, why can’t I?” This kind of thinking could explain why he’s so *confused* and continually saying that their situations are comparable. Maybe he genuinely doesn’t realize that they are not comparable, and how could he if no one is explaining how it is?

      OP2, have you considered just saying something along the lines of “Coworker, I know you think that our situations are comparable but they aren’t. I’ve been given permission to do this for reasons that you are not aware of and that I plan to keep between me and manager. If you want to address your own situation you should do so with manager, as I am not able to approve any changes to your working arrangement with the company.”

      I do think coworker is out of line and it’s none of his business. I get that no one has to explain it to him and he *should* keep it to himself or address his own situation with his manager. But even though OP is under no obligation to share with him it may be helpful to actually explain that things are indeed different, even without elaborating on how, simply because of how people work.

      1. OP2*

        You are completely correct. I think my coworker truly thinks that our situations are the same. He doesn’t think it should make any difference that I would have a 2+ hour commute each way because I chose to move and keep my job. The difference is, my manager knew this was not acceptable to me far in advance of the move and agreed to support my move and my working from home far in advance of the move. I did explain that to him, but he continues to say you chose to move there, I chose to live 10 minutes from the office. He also knows why I moved and that it was not something that I wanted, he just can’t comprehend that just because we are on the same team, we shouldn’t be treated exactly the same.

        1. Artemesia*

          Is your boss likely to end this with you because BEC is so annoying about it? I’d sure want to firm things up with the boss again and then be fairly aggressive about shutting down the whiner. I would fear that his constant fussing would endanger your agreement if you have a weak boss.

        2. some1*

          I get the difference, however, I think you should surrender any kind of responsibility for explaining it to him or making him feel better about it. Even if you agreed he or anyone else was getting the shaft by not getting the chance to work from home, it still wouldn’t be up to you to change that. This is still between him and his manager.

        3. Ops Ananlyst*

          Yeah, he’s clearly one of those people who focuses on perceived unfairness. Some people are like that. To a degree I can understand. In most cases, how far you live away from work doesn’t matter and people commute at different levels without the permission to work remotely all the time. They are often forced to leave a job if they move and don’t want to do the commute or not take a job if they aren’t capable of coming into the office. We hear all the time that getting to work is not the companies problem, it’s your problem. But in this case, that wasn’t an issue for your manager and that’s what it really boils down to.

          Not to mention that what the two of you chose is irrelevant. You chose to move and then asked if it could be accommodated, to which your managers said yes. He hasn’t chosen that and hasn’t asked, which could be exactly why he hasn’t been given the same permission. Plus, if you perform at different levels or have different seniority, that all weighs into managements decision. Regardless, it’s really none of his business, he should worry about his own job and the details of that. The ONLY argument I could see him having would be if you being remote was in some way negatively affecting his job or making it more difficult, but that doesn’t sound like the case. Outside of that most adults get that *life isn’t fair* and he is kind of acting like a baby about it.

          I’m not sure whether I would sit down and have a heart to heart with him or just repeatedly say it’s not up for discussion. If he really is a friend, it might be nice to have a real heart to heart. If he’s just a coworker that your friendly with maybe just keep saying “I get that you feel it isn’t fair, but this is how it is and there is no point in continuing this conversation.”

    2. OP2*

      You’re right. I don’t want to do that but work is work. Friendships have to be secondary of that, and if it continues I will be clear that I will no longer participate if he can’t handle it.

  7. Papa Midnight*

    5 Heh, it was a standing joke when I started work out of college: “noooo, sorry, I don’t know JCL” Because if you knew the language, you’d get pulled off of your real just for “just one fix”.

    More to the point, I recall a discussion on AAM about someone speaking Spanish at a call center. The workload on a Spanish speaking person could be brutal.

    So yeah, Jimmy Valentine left “safecracker” off his resume when he arrived in Elmore in th O. Henry story. So can you.

    1. Dasha*

      OMG this! I started leaving off my various language skills because the process of translating is so tedious and gives me a headache. I decided it is not worth it and I’d rather focus on other things. :)

    2. OriginalEmma*

      I had a coworker whom we did not know spoke fluent Spanish until quite a while after knowing her! She purposefully kept that under wraps because being called to translate would be eternally disruptive.

  8. Dan*


    Yeah, there’s no way to “positively” communicate to someone that they are second best.

    1. AW*

      Not to mention there’s no real benefit to saying so. All LW#3 wants the candidate(s) to know is that they might/will hear something in a month. It doesn’t give the candidate helpful information and it doesn’t help the business. It’s unnecessary at best and at worst you’ve insulted potential hires to the point of refusing an offer. The most likely scenario is that, if you have to go with a 2nd tier candidate, you’ve made things weird and awkward.

  9. fposte*

    I’m not getting the angst on #1. She’s a tentative writing partner and it’s not working out; say you’ve decided to go another way and move on. And in future think about your “hiring process” if another partnership comes up–sounds like even a tentative partnership might have been premature here.

    This means you can’t be in on her terrific idea for a book, but presumably you’ve got your own ideas anyway. See who wants to tackle the blog if it’s not a partnership anymore–or just let it go to Blog Heaven with millions of others. But you can’t work with her and hold her in this kind of contempt. (By the way, it’s pretty common for writers who work with each other to start to echo each other’s voices. It doesn’t mean she’s a copycat.)

    1. jamlady*

      It sounds like an historian trying to write a history book with an archaeologist – no matter how related the discipline, the narrative just isn’t going to be the same.

      I agree with you and Alison – there’s no problem with leaving the partnership with your differences, but there’s no need to be angry with the partner or leave on bad terms. It’s just not working. It is what it is.

    2. Chriama*

      I agree with this — what’s with the attitude, OP1?
      I get that the partnership has been a frustrating experience, but there’s no need to tell your partner that she’s “clearly … a ham-handed novice writer.”
      There’s nothing to be gained from unleashing that kind of contempt on her, and the attitude here makes me sympathize less with OP. You have 15 years of experience over her — tearing her down doesn’t prove you’re better than her.

  10. Erik*

    #5 – I’ve left a lot of skills off of my resume, and the skills I add or exclude depend on the job I’m applying to.

    I work in software engineering, where skills come and go very quickly. Many are irrelevant for some positions, while putting the wrong ones on my resume will piegon-hole me into a role.

    I agree with what Alison says – a resume is a marketing document. Nothing more.

    1. OP#5*

      I wasn’t working in a call center, thank goodness, but it stressed me out to do simple customer service in Spanish far more than dealing with really prickly people in English. I was trying to keep my question succinct, so I didn’t include that, but it’s another reason to leave it off my resume.

      1. Gandalf the Nude*

        I’ve actually done this both ways, it’s a little different because Spanish was my major and interviewers would inevitably ask what I studied. Having them bring it up did provide a good segue, though, for me to explain, “Oh, yeah, I haven’t practiced in years! I’d probably be fine if I was dumped off in Mexico unexpectedly, but definitely don’t count it among usable business skills!” I’d then pay very close attention during the rest of the hiring process to make sure that they weren’t quietly banking on my being a Spanish speaker. When I left it on my resume I had to be more vigilant about it because often they just assumed from my resume that I was fluent and didn’t even ask about it. So then we’d get down to the offer stage and all of a sudden it was, “It’ll be great to have someone who can speak with all our Spanish customers! No, no, it’s not an all the time thing, but…”, and it was back to the job board.

        Either way, I think the real answer is just to be really thorough when you’re interviewing them to make sure you get a really good feel for the position and its duties. And any time the language does come up, be very clear that it’s not where your career interests lie, and if they are looking for someone to use those skills, you’re not that person.

        1. Bwmn*

          I definitely agree about just being wary with what the expectations may be. I used to have a job in a multilingual office – my job was English centric and I was hired with the understanding that did not have professional level skills in the other languages. And yes, my skills in the languages of the office definitely improved – but when I was applying for other jobs I had to be really aware if there was any assumption that I might have working language skills that I didn’t.

          Made no difference that I never mentioned the language skills on my resume, the assumptions were still there. One particularly pointless interview was when I was arrived and found out that they assumed I was fluent in one of the languages of my office (one in which I know particularly next to nothing beyond extremely basic pleasantries) and had simply forgotten to include that half of my resume.

        2. Mander*

          I keep my Spanish skills on my resume because I did my PhD work in Spain, so obviously I had to be able to read academic stuff in Spanish. It seems like it would be weird to mention stuff about Spain without any mention of my language skills. But I have never been anywhere close to fluent, so when I do list it I make sure to clarify that it’s only intermediate level (and I use the official-sounding EU term for that). In a pinch I could talk to someone but I definitely wouldn’t be able to do proper customer service all day.

      2. Afiendishthingy*

        I am a non-native Spanish speaker and I’ve gotten a couple jobs on that basis (call center years ago and my current professional human services role). It definitely can be more stressful to work with the Spanish speaking clients or customers. My Spanish was pretty rusty before I started this job and it’s gotten much better in the past 7 months, which is important to me as a professional and personal accomplishment, but if it causes you more stress than anything else and you really don’t want to be in that situation again I would leave it off your resume.

        1. Dasha*

          I can totally relate to this! I used to do technical translating for operating manuals and I was miserable. It wasn’t something I signed up for but when old boss found out I had other language skills I got roped in. I’d go home every night with a headache and I just didn’t have the technical expertise to properly translate everything. I just leave it off my resume now or say I have basic skills in such and such languages and I’d be glad to help out but I’m not a translator. I get to focus on other things now so it’s much better :)

  11. Ruth (UK)*

    5. You can leave things off your resume with no guilty conscience. That’s not lying or even necessarily withholding truth, that’s just editing out irrelevant things. I once did a bunch of school observation and volunteering stuff for a while as I once considered pursuing teaching as a career. Since I never did, its not relevant and I don’t include it in my cv.

    It might only be an issue of leaving something might end up implying something about you incorrectly in a way that could look like lying.. Which your situation doesn’t. Or if you leave off a long term job or something that ends up leaving a questionably large gap in your resume… Leaving off a second language because you no longer feel fluent definitely doesn’t raise any ethical issues that I can think of.

    I’m trying to come up with a situation where leaving something off a cv could be considered unethical. I’m sure there is one but I can’t think of it.

      1. Papa Midnight*

        I like Randy Cohen a lot! But I took a look at all of this and, yeah – I think his definition of what constitutes a resume is somewhat off. It looks like the topic has already been discussed, but I’d like to offer one thought: email and ubiquitous word processing make it almost trivial to customize a resume to fit to a specific job. But it wasn’t always so easy, and I can see how someone might have this notion of the resume / cv as a single, immutable record of one’s achievements, accomplishments, jobs, and so forth. And that changing it is ‘dirty pool’.

    1. Turanga Leela*

      I’ve been trying to think of something unethical, and here’s the closest I can come up with:

      You’re applying for a job at a think tank that promotes legislation and policy change. The organization is careful to be nonpartisan and apolitical. In the last gubernatorial election, you were a senior campaign manager for the Democratic candidate, who lost and returned to his job as the majority leader of the state senate (a powerful position). You left on bad terms, and he doesn’t like you. The governor, a Republican, knows you and doesn’t like you either. You’re acquainted with other politicians, and they all know your party affiliation. You were finishing a graduate degree while you worked on the campaign, so you can leave the campaign off your resume without any obvious gap in employment.

      The think tank doesn’t directly ask you if you have political experience, and you don’t bring it up. If the think tank hires you and then learns that you come with significant political baggage (both partisan identification and bad personal relationships), they will be angry. I suspect they would also question your integrity. I don’t know where I fall on this—it’s their job to ask you about your background, but this might rise to the level of lying by omission.

      Regardless, this is all hypothetical. I had to stretch really, really hard to come up with a situation that I thought might be unethical; most resume edits (including the OP’s) are totally fine.

      1. JB*

        That’s a good example. I think you are right that as a general rule, you shouldn’t leave something off your resume that is something that could affect your ability to get your job done (like in your excellent example) and that the potential employer would definitely want to know before hiring you and would be blindsided by not knowing. But in most other cases, it’s fine.

      2. Papa Midnight*

        That’s a clever example!

        Still – and I hope I am paraphrasing, not butchering, what Alison said – if you consider a resume to be “a document that describes what you bring to the job”, then I think it’s relatively easy to distinguish what’s okay and what’s not okay to leave off of a resume.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I think that just because a person CAN do something does not automatically mean they have to offer it to an employer. I “can” clean a bathroom. No way in heck am I writing that one my resume. If an employee has a skill that and they are “retiring” that particular skill they should not be forced to use it.
          I have to bring in people to make some repairs on my house. If I ask a person to fix the siding hanging off near the peak, that person can say, “No, I used to do ladders and climb on roofs, but I don’t any more.” If I am really set on getting that piece of siding fixed, I will have to find someone else.

          If I were the OP, I would just have to ask. “Are you expecting me to use what is left of my Spanish speaking skills?” If they said, yes, I would just say that I am no longer comfortable using that skill and I do not feel that I can provide that.” See, my thing here is that I would be worried about this issue and it would be easier to just confront it than worry about it. I would rather know up front, than spend the next years at New Job playing a cat and mouse game over it. To me, this is one of those instances where confronting it is LESS hassle than worrying about it.

    2. CAA*

      I would say it’s unethical not to include any past job that could create a conflict of interest or legal issue for you or your potential employer.

      You shouldn’t leave off a government job if you’re applying for a company that lobbies your former agency. Or a job where you had non-public knowledge that could benefit your new employer, especially if it was recent — something like product plans or financial info when you’re going to work for a competitor.

  12. MK*

    The only think I can think of is if it’s something that could potentially cause problems to your prospective employer.

    1. Turanga Leela*

      That’s a good general statement of what I was trying to say above (at much greater length).

  13. Apollo Warbucks*

    #2 I dont get why your coworker is so bothered by your schedule, it’s not concern of there’s where you work from. I’d just start ignoring the comments and questions that are complaining about you working from home and change the subject.

    You still need to answer the genuine questions to do with your availability / sechdual for work (like if you’re in the office this Wednesday for a meeting) but don’t get involved in justifying or explaining yourself to your coworker.

  14. Editrix*

    For number 1, you are doing neither of you any favours by allowing this tentative partnership to continue. Presumably you knew she was a novice before you started (and if you didn’t, you should have checked) so I wouldn’t focus on this aspect when ending your partnership. Just say your styles don’t mesh and leave it at that. It sounds like the only disadvantage for you is that you will lose the possibility to work on the fantastic idea that she has had and that you will have to leave to her to write.
    After 10 years of editing books written in collaboration, I’ve come to think that it is actually much harder than just writing alone. The relationship between the partners, the co-ordination of the writing, the unified voice — all of these things take time. If none of them happen organically, because the authors have similar outlooks or backgrounds or an instinctive sympathy or whatever, it’s a lot of work to create them.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      After 10 years of editing books written in collaboration, I’ve come to think that it is actually much harder than just writing alone.

      I’m glad you said this. I’ve never done it, but the idea of it just terrifies me.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        It sounds like a ball and chain to me. But apparently some people make it work. I know the little bit I did with other students in school was nerve wracking enough.

    2. Ellie H*

      Yeah, I just co-wrote a conference paper (first time collaborating in this way) and it has its own stresses. Obviously there are many advantages (you stay more excited about an idea when you have an equally excited person to bounce ideas back and forth with; someone else’s perspective; you don’t have to be solely responsible for coming up w/brilliant twists of phrase etc.) but also stuff like having to be equitable in sharing ideas/direction, emailing back and forth, less streamlined revision process etc. It’s just different.

    3. Author Author*

      The idea is hers and that’s the end of it for me. Not my idea, not my option to grab it and write a book about it. She overstated her writing experience when we started talking about doing a book, hardly a deal-breaker but my ‘truth radar’ started pinging a little. Perhaps if we, as other people commenting have said, re-worked who is doing what on the manuscript we can salvage the project.

      1. fposte*

        Maybe, but you need to be honest with yourself about your ability to start afresh with her. Obviously a blog query written in frustration may not represent your overall attitude, but it sounded like she was getting on your last nerve; I’m not sure moving her back to your second-to-last nerve would be enough to make this a successful partnership.

        1. catsAreCool*

          “I’m not sure moving her back to your second-to-last nerve would be enough to make this a successful partnership.” This!

      2. Rana*

        Honestly? I think you need to ask yourself if the project is worth salvaging at this point. I have to admit I’m having trouble thinking of a book concept that is so earth-shatteringly original and valuable that it must be pursued at all costs, but maybe that’s me.

        Would it be worth taking a joint sabbatical from the project? Or find an objective third party who can help mediate? I think at the very least the two of you need some room and distance to evaluate the manuscript, the concept, and your relationship.

        It may well be that the concept is as amazing as you believe, but that neither of you is the one to execute it. (One of the hardest lessons to learn as a writer, I know!) Or it may be that it can work, if the two of you are able to work things out – and in the working out, she needs to be an equal partner. If she can’t, or if you won’t let her be (because of different standards, unwillingness to compromise, etc.), then I don’t think this collaboration has a future.

        Which is hard to hear – I’m sorry.

    4. Cath in Canada*

      I agree 100%. Several years ago, I co-wrote a textbook with three former colleagues; we got through it with relationships intact, but it was a close call and parts of it were harder than anything else I’ve done. I was the designated editor for all the chapters I didn’t write, to try and harmonise the four different voices, and while I think I did a good job at that task, I didn’t particularly enjoy it! Writing my (much longer) PhD thesis solo was waaaaaaay easier.

  15. CAinUK*

    OP2 – I would have absolutely no patience for this passive-aggressive BS: pestering you about your approved schedule, and then intimating that if everyone can’t do it you should go elsewhere because it hurts morale? Utter bull (it could cause jealousy, but it isn’t YOUR problem and this pettiness is far worse for morale than your schedule).

    In those situations, I suggest being calm but more blunt than usual:

    Passive Aggressive co-worker: “People that have lengthy commutes should just change jobs”
    You: “Sorry – was that directed at me?”
    Passive Aggressive co-worker: “Uh, no *stutter* I’m just saying it’s weird to work somewhere you can’t commute to, and the rest of us come into the office.”
    You: “I don’t appreciate your comment that I should find another job if I don’t come into the office. My schedule and reasons for working from home are between me and our boss, and are really none of your business. If you have a problem with your own schedule, take it up with the boss but please leave me out of it.”

    Hell, I might even replace that entire response and instead just tell him: “If I choose to commute, or not commute, or ride a unicorn to work it’s really none of YOUR business so stop pestering me about it.”

    But my advice is not great because this type of crap really gets to me, and I usually respond more bluntly and aggressively than necessary.

    1. Poohbear McGriddles*

      Given the option to ride a unicorn to work, telecommuting seems a lot less appealing. Although a Pegasus is a more sensible option for high traffic areas.

    2. jamlady*

      “People that have lengthy commutes should just change jobs” – I just could NOT with that statement. This is a personal topic for me and I, like you, am more aggressive about it than most people probably would be. I’m less curious as to why this guy is annoying and more curious as to why the OP considers him a friend.

      1. OP2*

        We have had a long friendship and have been very close. He feels shortchanged in many areas of his position, and feels that others receive special treatment, which is not true. We were friends in and outside of work for several years, and I am just discovering this side to him.

        1. jamlady*

          I’m sorry you’ve been friends for so long and this is just now coming to light. I understand that it makes things harder. But yes, this is a really bad personality trait (jealous and petty, yikes!). It would be different if he was annoying at first and then stopped after you two discussed it, but the fact that he just won’t let it go… Ugh. So sorry OP!

        2. AnonyAuthor*

          Then he needs to man up and ask for a “work from home” situation for himself or shut up and leave you alone. It’s not your fault he feels shortchanged.

          1. Rana*

            Especially since I’d lay good odds that if he is in fact being “short-changed” it’s because of this whiny, unprofessional attitude.

        3. Not So NewReader*

          So he is taking it out on you? Hmm. Time to remind him, “I am not the enemy here. Figure out what you actually want out of this situation and go talk to the boss.”

          He sounds like he has mentally checked out of the job but his body keeps showing up for work.

      2. The Cosmic Avenger*

        That part of this “friend”s bizarre ranting is the most troublesome to me. It sounds completely illogical and petty, and feels like a thinly veiled passive-aggressive attack more than anything.

        I’m with CAinUK, I’d be cool (yet civil) in questioning every stupid assumption this person seems to have. “Why on earth should I change jobs when [manager] and I are perfectly happy for me to telecommute?”

    3. OP2*

      Thank you for your comment! And if I had a unicorn, I would absolutely be thrilled to ride it to work every day! You are right- I need to be more forceful and direct him to our boss. I stated in a prior comment I was hesitant to do so because it will make him look petty, but I am tired of dealing with the constant questioning.

      1. Ama*

        You would not be the one making him look petty. He is the one making himself look petty through his behavior, and it’s on him to save face, not on you to do it for him.

      2. Cheesehead*

        #2: I think you need to be forcefully blunt with him and refuse to engage, like parents do when children ask the same question incessantly.
        Coworker: “You get to work from home. I want to work from home. Wah wah wah!!!”
        You: (lengthy pause) “Coworker, you keep bringing up this same topic, and we’ve already discussed it. To death. Frankly, my arrangement is none of your business. I’m not going to talk about our work locations anymore. It interferes with, you know, WORK. Now, do you have something job related to discuss with me (or did you only call me to whine at me again)?” And if he doesn’t have a work related topic, say your goodbyes (“Gotta go…I have to get back to WORK now.”)

        More succinctly, the response is “That question has been asked and answered” and then you refuse to engage anymore. I think that would be the biggest thing….don’t engage AT ALL whenever he gets on that tangent. Act like he’s speaking like the adults in the Peanuts shows and you can’t understand him. Don’t even tell him to go to his manager, because honestly, he already knows that. If he can’t give you something that’s legitimately business related in the conversation, then get off the phone with him. If it’s legitimate but he tries to throw a little zinger about work locations into the middle of the conversation, then try to end it there, even if it’s abrupt. He should get the picture soon enough if you leave the conversation whenever he inappropriately nitpicks at you.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        Unicorn. What I really like with that statement is the use of humor to show how out of whack the whole conversation is. Not everyone can use humor effectively like this. And not everyone can receive the message behind the humor. But if you are good at this and you think it might work, OP, it might be a technique that you can try.

        I have a friend here that I will use a one liner like that once in a while when the conversation on a topic goes into overtime. It works. And later my friend will say, “Thanks for not being a jerk, when I was being a jerk. “

  16. Kate*

    For the OP who wanted to leave off her Spanish skills: what if you indicated the level of Spanish you have? If if you’re not fluent, you still have those valuable skills, plus -as Alison said- it shows that you have potential to brush up on your language skills, if needed.

    1. Kate*

      What I’m saying is, you don’t have to be fluent in every language you list on your resume, just indicate the level you’re at.

    2. Liane*

      I got the impression the OP wasn’t interested in a position where she might need to use her Spanish skills, regardless of her current fluency.

    3. UK Nerd*

      Weird fact: many people involved in hiring are incapable of grasping the concept of language ability between ‘cannot speak it’ and ‘fluent’. Every single recruiter I’ve ever spoken to who mentioned my language skills assumed I was fluent, even though that’s not what it says on my CV.

      1. OriginalEmma*

        Or how you can have basic speaking competency but better reading and writing fluency! But that’s just me – have always judged myself a better written communicator than a verbal one.

        1. Kelly L.*

          Yes! I can read in Spanish pretty well, but I doubt I could follow a real-time Spanish conversation in any meaningful way.

        2. Myrin*

          Absolutely! I was able to understand most written English many years ago but I’ve only for the past two years or so been able to actually follow spoken conversations by native speakers (had to watch many shows and movies to get that far really).

      2. Lauren*

        I definitely find that to be true. In general, people who haven’t been through the process of actively learning a second language have a lot of trouble grasping the process. (Which makes sense, never having sewed, I have no idea what comes between picking up a needle and having your own fashion show.) When I worked at a language school as a receptionist, a tough part of my job was being encouraging of the novices while trying to casually manage expectations – no, three levels will not have you speaking like a native, unless you are exceptionally gifted! If they were my hiring manager in another context, I could imagine them having a very hard time grasping how I could have studied the language for so long and work on a bilingual environment without being capable of doing other tasks in the language at all.

    4. Hlyssande*

      Awhile ago, there was a letter from someone frustrated that they’d taken a different job to get away from Project Tedious. In the new job, once they found that she had Project Tedious skill, she was put back on Project Tedious.

      I don’t think this is different in any way. When I took my current job, I was young and naive and mentioned on my resume that I’d taken Spanish in high school but specifically said that I was in NO WAY fluent. When the boss introduced me in a memo to the department, he mentioned that more than once and I was terrified that he expected me to be the primary contact for our groups in Latin America because I was completely unqualified to do so.

      If the OP doesn’t want to utilize those skills in any new job she takes, I don’t think there’s any reason she should put it on her resume.

      1. Kate (different Kate)*

        The Project Tedious skill is where I am with Spanish. After college I did a gap year in Spain, became fluent, and then moved to Los Angeles. It was nice at first – I didn’t have much trouble finding a good job. But that was almost three years ago, and after about six months speaking Spanish wasn’t fun anymore. It used to be a cool skill I had that I mainly associated with a period of excitement and self-discovery; now it’s a burden. I’m fluent, but I’m not bilingual, so there’s always that 10% understanding gap that doesn’t seriously interfere but demoralizes. I’m also white and not even remotely Latina, and I work for a nonprofit that primarily serves low-income Latinos, so there’s this weird white savior thing that I’ve never quite been comfortable with.

        I turned this into a personal vent session but bottom line: completely understand wanting to distance yourself from a skill in the professional world, and wholeheartedly look forward to leaving Spanish off my resume in the future

    5. Tau (UK)*

      I left my knowledge of French off my CV with the reasoning that if someone wants to hire me for a job based on my French, then I shouldn’t be getting that job anyway because they’re undoubtedly assuming far more knowledge than I actually have. (I can read French reasonably well, but speaking, writing and understanding are basically all gone.)

      1. Cath in Canada*

        I actually left my high school-level French off my Canadian permanent residence application! The route I applied through is points-based, with points awarded for education, work experience, age, language ability, and other factors. If you had more than the threshold number of points, and subsequently passed a medical and a police check, you were in.

        For language ability, you have to either take an (expensive!) official proficiency test, or provide alternative documentation. I claimed maximum points for my English skills (my “alternative documentation” was a letter that said “I’m English, I was born in England, so were my parents and grandparents, and all my education and work experience is in the UK, please refer to the documents attached to other sections of the application”). I had enough points from that plus the other categories to be admitted, so rather than paying $$$$$ to take a test to get an extra couple of points for speaking some French, I put “zero ability” and saved myself some money.

  17. class factotum*

    RE LW 5: I have never put my typing speed on my resume because I do not want a job that is about typing. Leave Spanish off if you think it is not relevant. (I also try to leave off the fact that I have done financial reporting because I hate financial reporting and never want to do it again.)

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I would like to credit the OP with that one. I usually write the headlines, but in this case just used her email subject line, which was excellent.

  18. SF*

    #1 – Agree w/AAM. I once began a writing project with a friend and it was a disaster! I spent most of my time cleaning up her writing and she spent most of her time arguing with me on basic grammar and punctuation. I realized as a writer I was never meant to have a writing partner. It’s a huge a waste of valuable writing time to spend it working together if the partners don’t mesh!

    That said, breaking up is hard to do, but it must be done. It’s best if you can be as diplomatic as possible, put it on yourself, not them, if you can.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      That old dating advice blog that a friend and I wrote together (which I’ve shared an excerpt from here) ended because of differences in writing styles — and tension stemming from it actually had permanent effects on the friendship, which I hadn’t foreseen and really wish hadn’t happened.

  19. NoTurnover*

    #1: Writing a book and getting it published is hard enough without also working with someone you don’t like/having to coach your writing partner. Break it off!

  20. The Other Dawn*

    RE: #2
    I once had a coworker like this. She always complained about why Susan was allowed to work from home once in awhile and she couldn’t (or allowed to come in whenever, or allowed to do X, or whatever the flavor of the day was). I told Coworker many times that it’s between Susan and her boss. If it’s OK with the boss, it should be OK with her. Susan has a job that doesn’t require significant face time. And that it’s also none of her business. I told her if she wanted to work from home, too, or come in later, she should talk to her boss. On days I worked from home, Coworker would make it a point to call me with menial things, not email me, because obviously email can be answered from a smartphone while sitting there in the salon getting a pedicure and eating truffles.

    The point being that some people are just of the mindset that someone else is getting away with something and that it’s so unfair. And it’s jealousy, too. People that have that mindset aren’t likely to “get it” no matter how many times you explain to them.

    1. AnotherHRPro*

      I think it is human nature to compare our own situations with others. I’m not saying it is right, but it is understandable that others may be frustrated if they are not allowed to work from home but the OP in #2 is. The real issue is that this coworker is taking it up with the wrong person. If the coworker wants to work from home, that is a conversation for the boss. No one else can say yes or no to the request. OP, I agree completely with Alison. Tell your coworker-“friend” that if they have concerns with their own work arrangements they should discuss is with the boss. After all, that is what you did and that enabled you to come to a flexible arrangement that allows you to continue to work for the company.

      BTW, OP – I think it is great that your manager was willing to work with you. It is always easy to say no and often very hard to say yes. It speaks to the value your manager places on you and their willingness to cause possible disruption in order to keep you with the company. That said, it is now their responsibility to smooth this over with your coworkers.

      1. OP2*

        Thank you for the comment! I will continue to shut down the questions and direct my coworker to the manager. I agree that I am very fortunate to be valued by my company. My boss has done whatever he can to make this work and it is going very well.

    2. some1*

      Yeah, I remember when I was a receptionist it always bugged that I could be dinged for being a few minutes late when it was a big deal for anyone else – but that’s the nature of that kind of role — you need a behind in the seat from this time to that to be able to answer the phone and greet visitors.

    3. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Oh, I’d be letting her calls go to voicemail, although I’d probably first say on the phone “You know, when you call for minor, routine tasks it sometimes interrupts my focus on more important tasks. Please email me if it’s not a critical, time-sensitive issue.” In fact, I’ve said that once or twice before, but more about calling at the office, although in that case I think the person was trying to not leave documentation of their requests and when they made them.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        I told her all that. Didn’t matter. And her boss didn’t care when I brought it up. (I supervised her on some things, but she didn’t report to me.) But he’s a whole other story.

    4. Dmented Kitty*

      This reminded me of the term “crab mentality” — if you put a bunch of live crabs in a sack, chances are one or a few of them will be able to claw its way up, but chances are the other crabs at the bottom will reach up and drag them back down. “It’s either I escape with you, or we all die the same fate.”

  21. anonima in tejas*

    #5. I think that if you don’t indicate that you did that work in spanish, it’ll likely be assumed that you conducted those job duties in english. I also think that it’s not a critical skill that you are leaving off. If it were more of a critical skill to your job, then I think that you may want to reconsider (i.e. Receptionist– handling multiple inquiries via phone, email and in person at the same time or lawyer– appearing in court or administrative assistant– answering inquiries, routing calls and taking messages).

  22. Artemesia*

    for #1.I wrote a somewhat important book in my field with a writing partner who wouldn’t/ couldn’t write. The one chapter he wrote in the entire book was rejected by the publisher and I had to re-write it. He did make many contributions to the overall project that generated the book so it was not a dead loss, but it did teach me to never work with someone else on a writing project if you are not compatible in both work ethic and style. (we had a second book contract but never completed it because I decided I wasn’t going to write anything until I saw a chapter from him.)

    You can already see that this is not going to work. It is not just that she doesn’t write well, it is that she doesn’t understand the rest of the work that goes into this. If she were doing the heavy research and giving you drafts you could re-work, you might have something. But she is going to be a barnacle. Time to tell her ‘I don’t think the writing partnership is going to work, our styles are just to different.’ And then write your own book.

  23. Not Today Satan*

    Years ago I was writing something with a partner. I didn’t sense any resentment but she ended up quitting the project saying she thought that I was trying to take too much ownership of the project. I regret making her feel like she didn’t have a voice, but I also think that some pairs are just not meant to work together. We’re still very close friends.

  24. LizNYC*

    #4 — I dislike being put on the spot too, but seriously, if it’s going to happen by phone, it’s going to happen by phone.
    Help yourself out and write down talking points for yourself. Then imagine the various ways the conversation can go so it’s kinda like a script. That way, it’ll keep you on track and less flustered. Also, you don’t have to fill every second with talking. If you need a moment to consider, take it. Often, we think silences last much longer than they really do, when they can be immensely helpful in gathering ones thoughts.

  25. Katie the Fed*

    #1 – Why on earth are you entering into a partnership with this person? Save yourselves the pain – end it now.

    #2 – Don’t discuss this anymore with him. You don’t have the authority to grant him what he wants, and he knows it. He’s just trying to make you feel bad. Just refer him to the manager. The reality is this: You get special treatment because you’ve earned it. Your boss knows you and your work well enough to trust you to work from home. Yay you! If he wants special treatment, he can earn it and request it JUST LIKE YOU DID. Starting with knocking off the whining. He sounds like a butthead.

  26. Macedon*

    #3. Agreeing with Alison – I’d find being informed of my ‘second tier’ status a little tactless in the presumption that I’d still be excited to work with someone who clearly feels I’m a lukewarm fit for the job. You have to bear in mind that the recruitment process is a two-way experience, and that you can’t take a candidate’s sustained interest for granted. You wouldn’t be thrilled to hear you’re an applicant’s fourth or fifth ‘safety’ employment choice, either. If anything, you’d instantly disqualify someone with a cover letter of:

    “Dear Sir or Madam,

    As a chocolate teapot taste-tester with over ten years of experience of gnawing the teapot lid first, I am more or less enthusiastic about the teapot flavour specialist role, which I feel doesn’t quite suit my background and skill set, but is nonetheless a decent prospect, while I investigate alternative opportunities with your direct competitors. “

      1. Macedon*

        I do too. I particularly recall when I was starting, and I had to earn my industry stripes by taking on less than exciting roles – interviewers naturally wanted to know why exactly I was keen on their job, and I often honestly wanted to say, “The experience. That’s it. That’s all. Maybe the pay che – ha ha ha , whom am I kidding, you’re barely paying me. Just the experience. Thanks.”

    1. Anonymous Librarian*

      Perhaps my response is influenced by working in higher ed for a long time and being on several hiring committees, but in the academic world, it’s understood that there are many applicants for each job, and even being second tier means there is nothing wrong with how you are presenting yourself in your application materials. You come off like someone who could do the job. That in itself is such a relief that just knowing you almost made the cut these days is hopeful. (Sad, I know.) We also know that by the time we call some of our top tier folks, they will have taken another job or their SO will have decided on another city, etc., and that when we meet or talk to some of our tier 1 people, they could be ‘overrepresented’ on paper or just not acquit themselves well on the phone or the interview. We have had failed searches, where, despite our best efforts, we brought in three people and hired none. I would be THRILLED to be called back as a second tier person in such a scenario. To me it means I was right for them all along, they just didn’t know it yet. (Unless they are a bad place to work and candidates are bailing, or they are choosing the wrong people to interview for the wrong reasons, etc.) But I would word it so the candidate is not left hanging. If he or she is going for other jobs, they can’t wait for you to call back, in other words, and they need to know that.

      I have seen this kind wording: Although your skills and education are a very close match for our requirements and preferences, [when they are saying ‘no’ they say ‘your skills and education are impressive’] we were fortunate to have so many qualified applicants that we cannot consider you for the position at this time. [‘At this time’ is left off when it’s a ‘no,’ as well as the whole next sentence.] We will be in touch with you should that situation change, so please keep your contact information up-to-date with Human Resources.

      Our department sent those letters (the no and the maybe) after we had picked our phone interview candidates (usually six).

  27. CH*

    RE: #2 My workplace has a policy that, since some of our people cannot work from home (I am one of those as I work with materials that cannot leave the building), nobody can. (This is communicated at time of job offer.) Which I guess keeps people like this co-worker from complaining about perceived fairness. But I really don’t believe it would bother me if some of my colleagues did telecommute. My commute is less than 20 minutes and it is good for me to come into the office, as I am not very social and otherwise might not see another person (except my spouse) for days on end. Other people have different situations and I’m ok with that.

  28. AnonyAuthor*

    Re: #1
    I’m a published author. I write solo on some projects and with a partner on others. I know this is a Captain Hindsight statement, but establishing that you’re on the same level skill-wise with another writer is one of the first things you should do before establishing a writing partnership. I don’t blame you for wanting to split with her, because trying to write a book with a COMPETENT partner is a major task. Mentoring someone with minimal basic writing skills through writing a book is a near-impossible task.

    You need to establish RIGHT NOW, who “owns” the idea that you’re working on. You said “she had a pretty good idea” for a book, does that mean the book idea is hers and you’re working on it? Do you have a partnership agreement in place establishing who owns the intellectual property in case of a split? If yes, you need to follow it to the letter. If not, then you need to stop working on it right now and let her know that this project is more work that you realized and you’re going to have to back out. Hand over all notes, unfinished chapters, etc. and walk away. Do not give her any more “free” work.

    And no matter how brilliant your contribution or how interesting the idea is, you can’t use any of that work in your own future projects. It’s not worth the risk that this woman will come forward after you do get published and claim that you stole part of her idea. This is not legal advice, just anecdotal.

    The next project you work on needs to divert completely from this joint project idea in order to 1) cleanse your writing palate and get that “writing frame of mind” out of your system and 2) move you forward in your growth as a writer. Start now. Do not put it off. Sit down today and establish what you will work on next. And then write 1000 words. Tomorrow, write 1000 more. And so on and so on.

    Good luck. I’m rooting for you.

    Re #2
    It sounds like your coworker is jealous and wants the same work situation, but doesn’t have the balls to ask for it. So he’s going to ruin it for you. I definitely agree with Allison, direct this jerk to your boss and then after that, tell him your work situation is none of his business. Then report the hostility to your supervisor because someone like this is dangerous when he feels he’s been thwarted.

    1. So Very Anonymous*

      +1 here too for advice to OP1. It’s also something I needed to hear, as I had a collaborative project that should have been a no-brainer go sour due to lack of communication and a collaborator who just… kind of didn’t understand how collaboration actually works. The advice to do something completely different that is just yours is really good, and well taken.

    2. Purr purr purr*

      Just to point out that from a legal perspective, stealing ideas is actually legal so there’s no risk. A story is only copyrighted once it’s written and it’s copyrighted in its present form, i.e. after it’s written people could steal an entire plot and, providing they’ve re-written that plot, it’s legal.

      1. Purr purr purr*

        Oh, just to add to my above comment, everything that has been done on the book to date would need to be trashed unless you knew for sure which bits you had written and which bits your partner had written. Obviously those written by your partner couldn’t be used by you at all.

  29. AnonEMoose*

    OP #2, have you ever seen the movie “Labyrinth”?

    I ask because one of my favorite movie scenes ever is in that movie – and relevant to your situation. The heroine whines “It’s not fair!” for the umpteenth time, and the Goblin King replies “You say that so often. I wonder what your basis for comparison is.”

    I am not recommending that you use that line on your coworker, necessarily. But you could certainly be thinking it. (I suppose tracking down the clip and emailing it to him wouldn’t be a great idea, but I would be SO TEMPTED if I were in your shoes!)

    I do agree with those saying that, while his perception of unfairness is real, he needs to stop whining at you about it, and either suck it up or deal with it like a grown-up.

  30. Elder Dog*

    #2 You say above your co-worker feels he hasn’t been treated fairly in other aspects of his job, and that others have had special favors he hasn’t.

    Could it be he believes if you were to leave, he’d be more valued in his position, and is concerned the accommodation made to keep you is proof his prospects for advancement, if not his prospects for continued employment, may be limited by your value?

  31. Purr purr purr*

    OP#1, for the sake of both of you I think you need to end this ‘partnership.’ I don’t understand why you joined forces with her anyway since you clearly think her writing is beneath you. Also, telling instead of showing isn’t a crime in a first draft, which I’m assuming you’re working on, and it can be fixed in edits. I’d tell her that you don’t think it’ll work out instead of being mean about it because maybe your writing isn’t as great as you think it is. Trampling on someone’s dream is a horrible thing to do when you can expend less or the same effort being polite.

    1. Author, Author*

      Good lord, I think I must have come off as sounding like a real, intolerant, wretched hot mess myself! I stated that she’d overstated her writing experience; someone who spells “Calais” as “Cali” *may* not have actually gotten that college degree I was told about, and rifling through an acquaintance’s briefcase while they’ve stepped away from the table has so many red flags all over it that I’m not sure why I didn’t walk out that day!

      Having said that, I kept the ‘breakup’ to the fact that the two work styles weren’t meshing enough to go the long haul in writing a manuscript.
      That’s it.

      1. AcidMeFlux*

        I was just about to reply to your post on the update. Red flags and creepy gooseflesh hit me as soon as I read your original post. I will continue this on the 8/8 update.

  32. Denise*

    So, I don’t necessarily disagree with the advice for #3, but I don’t exactly agree either. I think that saying “You’re our Plan B” is unnecessary, but I also think people should be let loose as soon as possible if they are not finalists. So, something along the lines of, “You are highly skilled but we have chosen not to proceed with your candidacy at this time. Thank you for your interest.” Perhaps more finessed, but basically giving them the heads up that they didn’t make the cut. The only reason HR hesitates to do that is to hedge their bets and keep their options open. Meanwhile, the candidate erroneously thinks they are still in the running and is perhaps holding out for that position when HR has really concluded that it is unlikely that they will be hired. While you should always move on after submitting an application or having an interview, if one option is clearly better than the rest, you’re going to try to hold out for that one so long as you think it’s a viable option. It would be kind of employers to help candidates avoid those unnecessary dilemmas. If your top 3 don’t work out, you can still go back to the others and see if they are available. Boon for them. Or repost the position if going back to them seems awkward. But as a job seeker, I would much rather know the odds sooner rather than later.

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