interviewer asked if I’d rather fight or steal, boss ordered me to contribute to a laid-off employee, and more

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

1. Interviewer asked if I’d rather fight or steal

A while ago I had a weird interview for a job in a sports store. The most puzzling of all was this question: If you had to choose, would you rather get into a fight or steal?
No additional information and absolutely no third option. You HAVE TO choose.

I admit, I was surprised by the question, I tried to avoid the choice by explaining that both are against my principles, I don’t steal and try to find a more constructive and mature way to deal with conflict. Besides, I wouldn’t do well in a fight (I am an average sized woman). They were not satisfied and kept insisting that I choose between the options they gave me.

But what is the point of the question? What would be the better answer?

I have absolutely no idea what the point of the question was. It’s like asking whether you’d rather light someone on fire or kick them in the face. I guess I’d rather kick them in the face, but I’m not really enthused about picking that as an option.

Some interviewers are just very, very bad at interviewing. This was one of them. The only right answer is concluding that you were dealing with a dolt.

2. Boss ordered me to contribute to a gift card for a laid off employee

We have an employee who was recently laid off due to contract issues. After the fact, and after said employee had left for the day, my boss and I were discussing (in a general sense) what it’s like to be laid off. I suggested that it would be really helpful to get her a gift card to Staples or Office Depot to benefit her search for a new job. He really caught onto the idea and wanted to do it. I told him up front that I’d be happy to donate X amount of money toward it.

A week later, he sends out an email telling us to provide the money, but toward a gift card larger than what I had previously volunteered to pledge toward. It’s not substantially larger, but I’d be paying nearly double of what I had agreed to pledge. I don’t think it’s right for my boss to think he can open my wallet and take more money from me than what I had agreed to pledge. I was already going to be voluntarily giving him my money, and it was my idea to begin with anyways. Am I right to think that he’s wrong here? I mean, I won’t exactly be missing any important bill payments or anything because of it, so financially it’s just sort of an annoyance. I don’t know if I should bite my lip, or if I should say something. And if I say something, I don’t want to appear like I’m too cheap to help out a former co-worker and get guilt-tripped and singled out. He has a tendency to incorrectly infer stuff about what I say.

For what it’s worth, I think asking staff to fund this at all is a bad idea; generally when an organization lays someone off, they pay severance (or at least they should, if at all possible) and it feels pretty tacky to pass that obligation on to its employees. And if I were laid off and got a Staples gift card from my former coworkers, I’d probably feel a little icky about it; not everyone wants that kind of charity, although certainly that’s not universal. (Also, how is Staples or Office Depot going to help her job search? The days of needing resume paper and printing supplies are long past.)

But as for your actual question: I’d back to your boss and say, “I’d be happy to contribute $X, as I mentioned the other day, but $Y isn’t in my budget. In general, I think we should let people decide on their own how much they’d like to contribute, and even whether they want to contribute, since it might not be in everyone’s budget.”

3. Job posting was pulled after one day

My question relates to how to handle a job posting that was quickly pulled down. On Monday, I saw a job posting for a position with a title that is exactly what I do, at a great firm that I’ve been eyeing for a while, and less than 2 miles from my home – pretty much a dream job. However, aside from the title, there was no other information about the job- the requirements and qualifications fields were blank. Other jobs on their site – including an entry level job posted on the same day – have detailed descriptions, so I’m guessing the listing was posted prematurely, they clicked the wrong button, etc.

I thought applying to a job with no description might come off as odd, so I held off applying just yet. They pulled the listing on Wednesday (presumably catching the error) and haven’t yet reposted. My question is how should I proceed? Do I wait until it gets reposted? Do I be proactive and reach out – to HR or management – and express interest based off of the initial posting? I’m struggling with balancing the “fortune favors the bold”/show initiative approach (but maybe come off too strong) and the follow protocol way (but maybe let a great opportunity slip by).

It sounds like it was probably an error of the sort you describe, although who knows. I think it would be totally fine to send in your resume and a cover letter that opens by saying something like, “I saw that earlier this week you briefly had a job posting for a Teapot Maker posted briefly, although there wasn’t much information included and it was quickly removed. I realize that this might have been a simple clerical error and you’re not actually gearing up to Teapot Maker, but I’d be so delighted to work for Teapots Inc. in this type of role that I thought I’d submit my materials to you just in case.”

My one caution here is that there’s only so much you can tell about a job by the title. Not having the actual job description puts you at a disadvantage. But as long as you’re not terribly bothered by that, I don’t think there’s much to lose here.

4. Telling my boss that I’m leaving after I promised him that I wouldn’t

I work for a small start-up company (less than 5 employees total.) The people I work with are great people and my boss is very accommodating to my needs and requests. However, a month ago, my boss broke the news to me that our financing was being pulled and that I was being laid off. My boss didn’t want to lose me as an asset and so he offered to keep paying me out of pocket until he was able to acquire funds for the company. I am starting out and have little experience and I knew that it would take me some time to secure employment elsewhere and so I foolishly agreed to continue working off the books. At the same time though, I have started the job search to get out of this situation.

Throughout the past month, he has asked me several times if I am planning on seeing the company through this, and in an effort to remain diplomatic, I have said yes. In addition, he has been very accommodating to me during this time and so now, when I’m at the point of securing interviews with other companies, I am getting nervous about having to tell him that I am taking another position. How do I go about breaking the news to him without causing any hard feelings and maintaining him as a part of my network?

“I really appreciate how much you’ve worked to keep me here, but ultimately I felt like I needed a more stable situation and this came together quickly. I hope you understand, and I’ve really enjoyed working with you.”

Alternately, you can always go with the old “This happened to fall in my lap, and I couldn’t turn it down.”

Really, someone paying you under the table because of the company’s finances can’t reasonably be too surprised when you decide to leave.

5. Sexual harassment window decal

May I have your thoughts on a large window decal for the rear of my SUV window that says: “Stop sexual harassment at work. If you witness it, report it.”

What do you think the general public will think? What about my employer (my car will be parked on their lot)?

I think it’ll seem oddly specific and people will wonder why that particular issue, out of all the ones you might choose to take on, and why this particular method. It doesn’t tend to be an issue that inspires that kind of passion, in general, and rarely shows up on a large window decal.

Your employer will wonder if there’s a story there or if you’re trying to make some sort of point to them, and everyone else will just find it odd.

{ 377 comments… read them below }

  1. Stephanie*

    #1: I don’t even get what that would illuminate about a candidate.

    #2: Sentiment is nice, but the newly out-of-work employee wants cash. I don’t know if it’s really right for the employees to chip in for this guy’s severance (it’s a business expense, so the employees pitching in for that is akin to the employees chipping in for toner). If y’all are going to do this, is it too late to change it to cash or a more general gift card (like a Visa gift card or a grocery gift card)?

    #4: Someone else on here said this recently and I’m going to steal it: this job is a business arrangement, not a marriage. You’re under no obligation to stick out the rough patch and probably will be better in the long run if you get out sooner rather than later.

    1. A Dispatcher*

      #1. My only guess would be that as it was a retail store, they might be trying to gauge a candidate’s feelings when it comes to loss prevention in one of the most indirect ways possible? like, instead of asking, “hey would you tackle someone stealing our merchandise or just let them walk out the door?”, they came up with the above ridiculous question?

      1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

        This was my initial thought, but honestly, unless it’s a super local store (not a franchise or corporate), this is just not what they’re going for. I’ve never worked ANY service job that had any other position for rank-and-file staff than “If someone robs the store then you do exactly what they tell you and call 911 once they leave” and “Never stop, detail, or confront someone who you suspect is stealing. Alert your manager/LP instead.”

        So, I super doubt that’s what they’re looking for. I have no idea what they WERE looking for, though.

        1. Helka*

          Yep. It’s because of liability all over the place.

          1) If the employee tries to physically stop someone heading out the door with merchandise, and gets injured in the course of doing so, hello worker’s comp claim.

          2) If the employee tries to physically stop someone heading out the door with merchandise, and injures them in the course of doing so, that person actually does have some claim for a charge of battery (and potentially assault) against the employee, and the company could be considered responsible.

          So no, any manager or company with any sense whatsoever does not want employees getting in fights with thieves. They have insurance to cover theft and security recordings to turn over to police.

          1. Allison*

            I used to work at Borders, and because we were setting up the store before it opened we got a lot of training on all areas of the store, including LP. They told us that we were the first line of defense against theft, and it was our responsibility to make sure things didn’t get stolen, yet they told us all the things we weren’t allowed to do. So basically, we couldn’t do anything that would actually stop someone from stealing, but if someone did steal it was our fault.

            1. simonthegrey*

              I worked at the other big bookstore for a while, and it was similar for us. Plus, if we thought someone was passing us counterfeit money, we couldn’t check it and we couldn’t ask for a different form of payment. We were all instructed for what to look for with checks and money that looked “off,” but we couldn’t ACTUALLY do anything. Of course, if it turned up in your drawer, you got a talking-to and a write up.

              1. Jeff B*

                That’s interesting. I work at the “other big bookstore” right now, and we are allowed to check the currency and ask for a different method of payment. I got kudos from my manager for catching a fake $100 the other week. It’s even in the LP training quizzes that we’re supposed to check them, so I’m not sure why they were telling you otherwise. I kind of wonder if the store manager for your store got some crazy ideas about what constituted good customer service and started making their own policy. Or maybe I just have really good managers.

              2. Soharaz*

                I worked at a big craft store, and we were told if something looked fishy to stall and call a manager. So if I thought the $50 bill looked fake, I was supposed to pop my drawer open, say I didn’t have enough change and call a manager because they got paid more than I did to deal with that sort of nonsense.

      2. BigJohn*

        #1 – I was once given a test full of these kinds of questions for a job I applied for. Note that question doesn’t say “start a fight”, it says “get into a fight”. I’m thinking the question is a poor way of asking, “Given a choice, would you put yourself into a physically harmful situation or steal something?” In other words, does your moral compass prevent you from taking the easy way out of a difficult situation. Admittedly, the question is confusing enough that I have to wonder if they can trust the answers they get.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          I think you’re right about the intent, but from the OP’s description, I wonder if even the interviewers knew that was the intent of that question. It sounds to me like someone in a corporate or regional management position told them they had to ask this question without explaining why, which is why it was so vague and useless. But your theory makes a lot of sense.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          It’s a stupid question, and I wouldn’t answer it. I would say I wouldn’t fight anyone nor would I steal anything. If they weren’t satisfied with that, I supposed I’d be glad if I didn’t get the job.

          1. Jamie*

            No kidding – honestly I’d ask them what plausible real life scenario could I possibly encounter where these would be my only two options. And eagerly await the answer that they wouldn’t be able to give me.

        3. Vicki*

          I don;t see how either putting yourself into a physically harmful situation or stealing is “the easy way out” of any situation.

          Both are, well, stupid and dangerous.

      3. Sadsack*

        That’s what I was thinking. I would hope that no employer would actually expect an employee to get into a physical altercation trying to stop a shop lifter.

        1. Tenn*

          All my Spidey senses are telling me, however, that anyone who replies that they’d rather steal is a non-starter — because what they’re almost certainly looking for is whether the employee would steal from the store. It’s such an awful and inept way to do it, and here’s the thing: There almost certainly were another 3 or 4 questions that also tried to gauge whether the person might steal.

      4. Artemesia*

        Except almost every business has a policy against taking physical action if theft is occurring. There are businesses that will fire people who try to stop a robbery. They are concerned about liability issues that would stem from their employee being seriously injured in the process.

        1. Sospeso*

          Great point. This brings to mind something I witnessed some years ago at a retail store. I noticed a commotion when the store’s loss prevention employee (or at least, his uniform said something to that effect) started yelling at a very visibly pregnant woman to drop her bag. She refused and kind of fast-walked to the exit. He chased her, grabbed the bag, and wouldn’t let go. Well, the problem was the she wouldn’t either. They ended up in a violent tug-of-war match over this tote bag – which had what was clearly store merchandise spilling out of it. It seemed like a strange – and maybe litigious? – way for the store to train its loss prevention team to me at the time, and luckily one of the store managers ended up intervening. I was left wondering if perhaps loss prevention teams had a different set of rules to follow in these scenarios than other employees. Prior to that, my experience with theft policies was totally in accordance with what you say above, Artemesia.

          1. Anna*

            I tell people this, not because I want them to go around stealing and thumbing their noses at the employees trying to stop it, but because I want people to know their rights. Basically I remind people that technically speaking, all a loss prevention person can do is convince you to go with them and then call the cops. They can’t put their hands on you and they cannot arrest you as they are not officers of the law. If you’re stopped heading out the door, whether you’ve done it or not, keep walking.

            1. Alfred*

              It was a dumb question, but as General Manager/HR, I would assume the answer would be “Fight”. They would eventually ask why “Fighting” , and you would say, at least with a fight there are can be many different resolutions to the issue, as to “stealing”, there is no resolution. YOU ARE A THEIF.
              It is frustrating to know someone is asking that kind of question, but I can see how answers can show someone’s character.

      5. Alfred*

        It was a dumb question, but as General Manager/HR, I would assume the answer would be “Fight”. They would eventually ask why “Fighting” , and you would say, at least with a fight there are can be many different resolutions to the issue, as to “stealing”, there is no resolution. YOU ARE A THEIF.
        It is frustrating to know someone is asking that kind of question, but I can see how answers can show someone’s character.

      1. Dynamic Beige*

        “Well, that would depend on the context. If you’re asking that in the event of the Zombie Apocalypse would I choose to fight the zombies or human looters in the store or steal equipment and flee so that I might save myself, the answer is that of course I would take whatever implements I thought would help me survive from the store and run, rather than engage in an ultimately pointless fight against an angry, panicked mob or the undead hordes.

        Unless you had a more pertinent situation in mind, such as if your store was being held up or I suspected another employee was stealing?”

        1. PurpleMonkeyDishwasher*

          I’d hire you based on that answer.

          (Of course, I’d never ask the question in the first place because it’s not a good one, but assuming we’re in an alternate universe where I asked you that question, your answer is clearly the optimal response.)

          1. Beebs the Elder*

            I would fight to defend myself or my family, and I would steal if I had no other way to feed my child.

            Neither applies to an employment situation.

    2. Kristin (Germany)*

      #1: I’m mystified about what the interviewer was going for, too. The only thing I can think of is that they were trying to find out if the candidate would self-identify more as aggressive or as sneaky, but since both are negative traits in the workplace (really, in general), I don’t understand why there wouldn’t be a third option, or why they insisted that the candidate had to choose one of the two. It sounds like a poorly thought through question from an inexperienced interviewer or one too convinced of his own cleverness.

      1. Florida*

        I think most interviewers who ask stupid questions are too convinced of their own cleverness. They imagine that they are gleaming some secret aspect of your unconscious and that they know how to interpret it. It serves only to make them feel important and the interviewer to be confused about the purpose of the question.

        1. Erin*

          Yeah, exactly. To me it smacks of someone who doesn’t know how to interview and has decided to come up with “gotcha” questions because they think it makes them look smart.

          LW1, run far away. Even if you got the job, you don’t want to work for this asshole.

        2. Fabulously Anonymous*

          Agreed. I knew someone who thought asking, “do you know where the unemployment office is located?” was the best question ever, as it showed the the applicant was only interested in working long enough to qualify for unemployment checks.

          I should add that this was said over 25 years ago and I don’t know if he ever actually asked it or just fantasized about asking it, but he certainly thought he was clever for coming up with it.

          1. AnonnyMoose*

            The only job that’s an appropriate question for is social services. Totally different reasoning, of course.

            And it says a remarkable amount about that guy more than anything else!

          2. Evan Þ*

            “Why, yes, I happened to drive by it on the way to this interview and noticed its sign.”

            “Unfortunately, yes – they called me in for a grilling five years ago after I lost my job.”

            “Actually, my spouse works there.”

      2. INTP*

        I think you are right, but since it’s a retail environment, they probably have a definite preference for aggressive employees over sneaky. I’m not sure about Europe but in the US, theft is so common in retail stores that it’s built into the company’s budget and most of that theft is supposedly by employees. I think they’re looking for people that find stealing so morally abhorrent that they’d rather punch someone.

        Of course, even people who would never steal might consider physical violence even worse or realistically know that they wouldn’t fare well in a right. What they’re likely to suss out are people who are sneaky enough to know the right answer to the question without having to think about it.

        1. Artemesia*

          Except almost every business has a policy against taking physical action if theft is occurring. There are businesses that will fire people who try to stop a robbery. They are concerned about liability issues that would stem from their employee being seriously injured in the process.

          1. INTP*

            I’m not saying they want people who would take down a robber without being asked. I just think they want people who think stealing is SO horrible, they’d rather get in a fight than steal, even if they have no inclination to get into a fight either. Everyone has a fault, they aren’t necessarily looking for people in whom those faults are particularly strong, but they prefer the fault be aggressiveness over sneakiness. Most aggressive people aren’t so emotionally invested in their retail jobs that they’d get into a fight with a shoplifter without being asked.

          2. Myrin*

            That’s so interesting to me! My sister works in a grocery store and I just asked her what the policy surrounding theft is and she said no one ever said anything to her about it (we’re not in the US so the “culture” surrounding theft seems to be a bit differen?) but a few weeks ago there was someone in the store the clerks witnessed stealing something and two of the employees went after him and gave him over to the police. There was also some local news only last week about an employee of the supermarket I frequent attemtping to stop a thief and being injured in the process. So I’d conclude the policy you mention isn’t a thing here, but you never know (my sister will ask her coworker about it next week).

        1. Mephyle*

          Yet even this could be forced into a “stupid question” format. Suppose your answer is “Neither, I’m Hufflepuff” or “Neither, I’m Ravenclaw,” and they reply “No, there is no third choice, you have to pick between Gryffindor and Slytherin.”

          1. I live to serve*

            I had an interviewer ask me what character in Alice in Wonderland I would be.
            Same interviewer asked me if I was a piece of candy, what kind would I be.

            1. Anna*

              This interviewer must have thought Barbara Walters’ tree question was the epitome of insightful journalism.

      3. fposte*

        I think the interviewer didn’t think as far as what she’s going for–she had experienced the MMPI or one of those personality tests that asks you stuff like rather you’d beat up your mother or take food from a starving child. My guess is she’d figured if that’s what important psychology tests ask she’d ask stuff like that too, and she never really thought about the fact that it’s a horrible interview question.

      4. Dr. Johnny Fever*

        I agree. Might as well ask the candidate a F/M/K question with three random celebrities and try to divine something from the answer.

    3. INTP*

      My guess is that it’s a very misguided attempt to suss out candidates who would never, ever steal. They know that everyone is going to say they despise stealing, would never steal, etc at a retail job interview if asked in another way and they’re trying to trick you by giving you two options that most people find morally distasteful to choose between. They want to hire people who consider stealing even worse than physical aggression on a moral level.

      1. Tenn*

        +1000. I worked for a Big Box store everyone knows, and the multiple-choice test thing that I did once hired was just absolutely stuffed with question upon question that was trying to suss out whether you’d ever ever ever in any scenario think stealing was okay.

        1. RFM*

          Ugh, that’s disgusting. What about the “if you’re starving, stealing bread is not a sin” thing? Many, many people believe that (though most of them will also never think a thief is doing it because they’re starving).

          There are much worse things in life than stealing. I would rather steal something than hurt someone, or kill someone, or rape someone, or make sure someone would never work again. That doesn’t mean I condone stealing.

    4. Celeste*

      I wondered if the question was a line from a movie, but nope. According to Google, “would you rather fight or steal” takes you right to this column!

    5. #4 op*

      I am the original asker of #4. I am definitely hearing your advice from all angles right now. I am just concerned about maintaining references, especially one that is willing to do what he has to keep me. But after having my first interview yesterday, I am learning that the “being employed but not employed” scenario is also compromising my job searching efforts in the sense that a background check is going to return with me being unemployed.

      1. Kyrielle*

        Another big concern: if your boss is paying you under the table, those are also wages not reported for tax purposes, & etc. Either you cheat on taxes or you have a big headache/mess since nothing is getting withheld from it. The willingness to do this and put you in this position is actually a big red flag; I wouldn’t feel too guilty about getting out. Maintaining the reference may be a little tricky, but Alison’s script should help.

        1. #4 op*

          I consider myself an ethically driven person, I have no problem claiming the wages at tax time from the position of an independent contractor. I am wondering if I approach my interviews in the same manner. The company I interviewed with verifies employment through a background check so I am sure this will come up. And while they are aware that I was laid off by the parent company and am now employed by my boss directly, I’m not sure if they would assume that is an independent contractor scenario.

          1. Kyrielle*

            It’s not just income tax, though – it’s social security/medicare/etc.

            If you are going to honestly claim it at tax time – which I applaud, and think is right – you need to consult a tax professional now. Among other things, I believe there may be penalties if you don’t file some amount quarterly or something? I remember hearing something about that, but as I have never worked as a contractor nor planned to, I didn’t pay much attention.

            1. #4 op*

              I’m not sure if you are able to answer this, but would it be worth my efforts to request that my employer lists me as an independent contractor for the time being? What kind of liabilities does that impose on him and does that serve as a CYOA for myself and him during this time?

              1. TCO*

                You can’t just be listed as an independent contractor if you have the same job and structure as you did when you were an employee. The IRS does not look kindly upon employers who suddenly change their employees’ status, and your employer is at risk for legal trouble. You’re also putting yourself at risk. I understand why you want to stay, but it’s a really, really bad idea to let this situation persist.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  That’s going to be an issue for the employer, though, not for the OP (and probably won’t cause any issues for the employer unless the OP reports them).

                  The big thing, OP, is that you’re going to owe way more in taxes on that money than you’re used to owing, because as an independent contractor, you’re responsible for the portion of your payroll taxes that your employer used to pay. So it’s effectively cutting your paycheck — you get to keep less of it. And you want to keep that in mind so you have money put aside when tax time comes around!

            2. Koko*

              Also, don’t you generally have to provide the tax ID number of your employer when you claim wages on your taxes? It seems like that might raise a flag if the employer doesn’t report having paid those wages.

            3. #4 op*

              As an update, I have spoke with someone about the situation and it is an easy fix from the employers side to label me as an IC. The issue that I am running into now is that the amount I am getting paid is the net pay that I was making as an employee and so I will ultimately be putting my employer in the position to pay me what he was originally paying to maintain me as an asset (my gross income plus employer taxes). Essentially, this may be the answer to my original question because if he is unwilling to put up the money that he was originally paying me, then I can simply explain to him that I cannot afford to work in this situation.

              1. ThursdaysGeek*

                Yeah, by offering you the net you were getting before, he is essentially offering you a huge pay cut, since you’ll now be paying all those taxes and social security. I don’t know if he was thinking that, but it is the situation he has put you in.

              2. Ops Analyst*

                I don’t even think you have to ask him to up the money he’s giving you. If you want out, just say “I’m sorry but I didn’t realize when I agreed to this how big of a tax burden it would be for me and I simply can’t afford this arrangement.”

                That said, are you sure your boss is even intending for you to report the income? The fact that he offered you net out of pocket tells me that he is thinking you are not going to do that. He took taxes out of it because that’s what you usually take home and he’s anticipating you won’t report the income. Either that, or he knowingly set you up to earn a lot less money and that really doesn’t inspire loyalty to me.

                1. Pennalynn Lott*

                  I worked for two years for a startup that was entirely funded out of the owner’s retirement savings account. Taxes were paid as required because he filtered the money through the company first. As in, he made an “owner’s equity” investment of cash into the company, and then the company used that money to pay the employees and contractors. There’s no reason your boss can’t do this with his own money. The company treats it as an investment, and then uses it to pay you and the tax agencies.

          2. Stephanie*

            Yeah, my friend had a sort of similar scenario (also at a startup). The company folded and it was discovered the owners hadn’t paid their taxes for the last half of the year and hadn’t been taking the proper amounts out my friend’s (and everyone else’s) paychecks. It was a nightmare come tax time as she had to hire an accountant to create an accurate W-2 and figure out how much she should have been paying versus what she actually paid.

          3. TCO*

            Regardless of whether or not you and your boss are okay with you being an independent contractor, I’m pretty sure the U.S. government is not okay with it. You’re setting yourself up for a big financial mess here, and you should get out and into a job that will pay you properly as soon as possible.

        2. penny*

          That was my thought on this situation. I’m guessing he’s not taking out taxes so this could really bite you in the butt later on.

          #1 is just a horrible question. Very few scenarios I can imagine that being helpful for. Maybe for a police officer?

      2. Jazzy Red*

        Yes, OP#4, you should be much more concerned that your boss is paying you off the books. I’m sure he made it sound like a good solution, but it’s against the law. It’s dishonest, unscrupulous, and can get YOU in trouble. If at all possible, officially quit that job today and spend your time in your job search. Use someone else as your reference. Don’t feel bad about dumping someone who is dragging you into something illegal.

      3. Stranger than Fiction*

        Yes, but he’d back you up if you add to your resume something like temporary or contract position for Mr. John Doe (whatever your boss’s name is), wouldn’t he? Then you don’t have a gap, since after all, you are still working, just in a different capacity. That is, assuming they don’t contact your “current employer” right now while you’re still working there and he catches you interviewing. Argh, this is tough, I’m sorry. I think it’s time to be honest with him. “I’d like to stay working for you, and will not leave you in a lurch, but I have to consider other opportunities if they come along”.

    6. Kyrielle*

      I think the correct answer to #1 is needing to leave also, but honestly, my tack would be something like, “I wouldn’t want to do either. Assuming one had to happen, though, I assume it would be getting in a fight, because I can’t think of anything that would make me steal, while I might end up in a fight if my attempts to calm down someone who was ready to fight failed.” And then, depending on the job, the previous rapport with the interviewer, and whether I even still wanted to be hired at a place asking crap like this, I might add, “Why? Are fights on the property a common occurrence?”

    7. Kardashian Type II Civilization*

      Wait a minute: fight or steal?

      I can’t do both?

      I would fight no-one.

      I would steal nothing.

      (Stupid answers for a stupid question).

      If my interviewers were men, I would consider making a Lyndon Johnson-esque statement as I departed by urinating on their desk.

      1. Florida*

        It is the ultimate stupid question. Instead of urinating of the desk (although that would be fun!), I would point out that maybe the world isn’t as black and white as fight or steal. I would say that normally I would choose fighting over stealing. However, if a robber came into the store with a gun and demanded that I give him the cash register money or he would shoot the idiot who asked the question, I would give the cash to the robber. In this case, an employee stealing from the store to give it to the robber is better than trying to fight the masked man with a gun.

        One thing I have actually done when I’ve been asked a stupid question (I’ve been asked what type of animal I would be, what a sombrero wearing a penguin says, and some other doozies) is turn it around and ask the interviewer the same question. When it is my turn to ask questions, I ask them the same idiot question they asked me.

          1. Florida*

            The question was if a penguin wearing a sombrero walked into the room right now, what would he say?
            In that situation, I had scheduled the interview, then found out that I knew a former employee. I talked to this person and decided that I had no interest in this position. However, the interview was in two days, so I figured I would go. When they asked me the question, my response was that the penguin would say, “Why are you asking me this question?”

            If I had actually wanted the job, I’m not sure what my answer would have been. Maybe the same thing, but not in such a condescending tone.

        1. Cath in Canada*

          I’d be tempted to get into endless hypotheticals long the lines of “well, I’d rather fight a bunny rabbit than steal state secrets from North Korea. But I’d rather steal a candy bar than fight a grizzly bear. I’d rather fight my annoying colleague than steal decommissioned nuclear warheads from a silo in rural Kyrgyzstan, but if you asked me to either steal some pens from the stationery cupboard or fight an armed security guard, I’m gonna choose the pens”. And so on and so forth until they kick you out.

  2. variety*

    #2 Do agree generally with Alison’s sentiment that a gift card is a bit off. That said if I was laid off I wouldn’t need a gift card to Staples. I’d need one for the grocery store.

    1. Dave*

      With the layoff being entirely out of the company’s control, our small, tight-knit team is seeking to show the leaving co-worker a sign of solidarity, that while we couldn’t o anything to keep her from leaving (it was a contract issue), we could at least help her toward getting back on her feet. We were all on the same page regarding the effort, and I can pretty much guarantee that the leaving co-worker would appreciate where it would be coming from. So the appropriateness of the action, while agree in a general sense, doesn’t apply here. The problem is that my boss took the idea and supercharged it beyond its original scope without first consulting the rest of us, and its now putting me in an awkward position.

      1. Dan*

        Man. This paragraph almost reads like a PR puff piece.

        Stephanie is right on the money. That laid off dude wants you to (quoting Jerry Maguire): “SHOW ME THE MONEY!” Not a staples gift card for paper and toner.

        1. Dave*

          Sorry, I have a way of trying to write eloquently and clearly so as to separate myself from the typical scumbag Internet cretins. I apologize if my/our genuine heart-felt efforts come across as phony, I’d hate to find myself being that cynical. I’m just trying to get honest feedback. Yeesh. Also, we aren’t in some faceless, cut-throat mega corp where such attitudes might be common. We care. There’s your “Puff piece.”

          1. Tara*

            I don’t think you’re coming across as phony at all! You seem to really care about your coworker. Your manager doubling your expected contribution without consulting you was inconsiderate, and you shouldn’t feel bad about pushing back on it.

          2. Junior*

            I don’t think you sounded like a puff piece either. I was laid off about 10 months ago (just started a new job!) and greatly appreciated colleagues that reached out to me to let me know they enjoyed working with me and found my work to be valuable. I personally would have been embarrassed by a gift card but it sounds like you know your colleague and how they would interpret it.

            That said, not once in that entire 10 months did I step in a Staples or equivalent. Is there a particular reason you think that would be a helpful gift card to give? A Visa gift card with a note telling her to do something to treat herself after all the hard work she’s done might be a better bet. Treating yourself while laid off can be really important for the spirits but hard to justify. Of course, if the person wants or needs to spend it on groceries they can do so without it directly seeming like a hand-out.

            1. Chloe Silverado*

              I totally agree with this! Unless there’s some really specific scenario involved here – like the laid off associate mentioned needing a new computer for job hunting and has their eye on a model sold at Staples – I think a Visa/Amex giftcard is likely to be more well received.

              1. Zillah*

                Or even just an amazon gift card – those can be used to buy almost anything.

                I mean, I can think of some things at Staples that I’d buy (maybe? I guess?), but as someone who’s unemployed and job-hunting right now, I’m watching my spending, and none of the things I could conceivably buy at Staples are anything remotely resembling a priority.

          3. Sadsack*

            I believe that you are being sincere. I also realize that this isn’t what you are asking, but I have to tell you that a staples gift card does seem a bit strange. A generic visa or amex gift card would probably be more appropriate, so the former coworker could spend the probably much needed and appreciated money however would best benefit her. I hope you are able to come to terms with your manager regarding the amount.

          4. LBK*

            I’ll go with you that your efforts are genuine but I’m still unclear on how you decided the Staples gift card was the way to go. Can you clarify why you chose that? It seems weirdly specific and, frankly, not useful, even if the sentiment of the gift is nice.

          5. Traveler*

            You probably know the situation best, so I’m going to assume the ex-coworker will appreciate this. As far as what to do on the boss situation, well, it’s inappropriate for him to be telling his employees what they have to contribute to a gift card. If it’s that important to him to do this, he should be asking for donations, and then he should be contributing up to the dollar amount he thinks is appropriate. It’s the thought that counts, it’s not your job to create a severance package, as others have said already.

            That said, if it will not break you financially in any way I would just contribute. I’d be annoyed with it, but ultimately wouldn’t want to look cheap or pull back on something I’d initially suggested (even if it’d been increased). I’d also guess this thing isn’t likely to happen often, or possibly ever again, and if it did I’d push back at that point.

            1. Christy*

              To me, the writing reads as somewhat stilted and therefore unnatural. Dave himself said that he changes the way he “talks” when writing online, and it’s showing. I can understand how Dan thought it sounded unnatural, like he was trying to “sell” something, even if it was just the nature of the company.

          6. John*

            It wasn’t a puff piece. It came across like you care and want to do the right thing for a colleague in need.

        2. amaranth16*

          I don’t think there is anything wrong with Dave’s comment and I think calling his comment “a PR puff piece” is unkind and not in the spirit of the comments sections at AAM.

      2. INTP*

        I don’t doubt that everyone’s intentions are good, the pragmatics are just off here. What does someone without a job need at Staples? All I can think of are electronics, or things like printer ink that could be purchased more cheaply at Wal-Mart or Target.

        1. Traveler*

          You can get plenty of things at staples that are helpful for a job search: notebook, paper, pens (for jotting down notes in interviews), folders (to hold copies of resumes), a briefcase or bag (to carry those things that is interview appropriate), depending on your industry you can get the supplies needed to create a portfolio (either physical or on a thumb drive).

          Sure a generic visa would likely be more helpful in general to someone recently unemployed, but if your point is “we hate that you lost your job and want to help you find a new one” it doesn’t seem crazy to me that you’d try to get something that is office themed rather than generic so your offer to them is specific rather than just a generic hand out.

          1. Sassy Intern*

            I mean… I get that idea, but this isn’t a totally “new to the workfoce” person. The probably already have folders and a briefcase. I guess you can print out your resume on really nice stationary or get business cards without the former company name, but honestly a generic Visa would be better cause what if they don’t need all that stuff?

            The way to network and get a job has changed. You don’t need a fancy business card or a resume printed on bone-white stationary. That’s frippery.

            1. Traveler*

              I never said a business card or stationary though. I agree those things aren’t useful. I’m not new to the work force, but I don’t need folders or a briefcase unless I’m interviewing. I generally give those things away or repurpose them when I’ve been at a new job for awhile. They just clutter up my house otherwise.

            2. Karowen*

              You’d be surprised. In my most recent job search, I made color copies of a lot of my work, got a presentation booklet and extra inserts, all for my portfolio. I bought a fancy leather notepad for use during the interview (at work I just use a notepad, but what’s appropriate when you’re in your natural habitat, so to speak, isn’t always the same as what’s appropriate at an interview. This can be applied to briefcases too: Someone may not use them for work but want one for an interview.). I restocked my favorite pens (I tend to chew on pens at work – horrible habit – and I don’t want to walk into an interview with a pen that looks like I ripped it out of the dog’s mouth). I printed out extra copies of my resume so I could have one to take notes on and copies for each interviewer.

              The portfolio stuff and extra copies of the resume has to be redone every single time. The only thing I’m able to use for multiple interviews is the padfolio and the pens, so every single interview is another $40 out of my pocket.

          2. Zillah*

            Personally, though, I think that nice gestures should always be focused on the recipient, not what makes the giver feel better, and for many people, losing their jobs can have consequences in terms of paying for healthcare, rent, and food. You can’t buy any at Staples.

            And here’s the thing: everything you talk about being able to buy at Staples? Not things that everyone needs. Not by a long shot. Most adults already have paper and pens and a professional-looking briefcase or bag. Many adults already have notebooks or folders – and if they don’t, they can pretty easily pick them up for less than $5.

            I’ve been job-searching for two months. I literally did not need to buy anything that you listed off, and I’m still young and just starting my professional life. Nicer clothes, on the other hand…

            1. LBK*

              Agreed. Sentiment is nice but when a person is jobless, whether it was your company’s fault or not, practicality is more important. It comes off as a little tactless to me.

            2. Traveler*

              The point wasn’t whether or not ex coworker had them, the question was “what can you get at Staples that would be helpful for job searching?” and people were acting like there was nothing at all to be had there. There are things besides fancy stationary and business cards available at Staples that can be useful in a job interview/search situation. I’ve gone there multiple times before an interview to restock or to replace something I’d given away or that was starting to look worn out.

              As far as focusing on the recipient, I agree. I’d find handouts for my rent or groceries insulting, though. I would never hold it against my former coworkers, because I’d appreciate the goodwill, but I’d feel particularly small if I received a gift like that. So I’d never be inclined to give them something of that nature. I’d probably just do a generic visa personally, but I can understand why someone might aim for a neutral office supply card.

              As far as clothes, I think that’s a lovely thought, too. You might need to have a decent idea of their size/taste in clothes though to be sure it was useful.

            3. INTP*

              Thank you. If I lost my job tomorrow, I literally would not need any of those things. I have folders that I could repurpose to hold resumes, notepads, pens, plenty of paper, printer cartridges, thumb drives, and a basic black purse large enough to hold a folder. If I didn’t, I could get all of that minus the purse at Target for under $50 (and I think most people at least have printer ink, pens, paper, and a thumb drive at home). And like you, I’d have trouble on the clothes front because I only need to wear anything besides jeans when I interview and I’m a different size than the last time I bought clothes for that.

              The OP did mention portfolios, so if the supplies for printing portfolios in their industry are very expensive and not things that most people have at home (and digital portfolios aren’t the norm), then it could be a good gift. But otherwise, it just seems more suited to the intentions of the giver than the pragmatic needs of the recipient.

              1. Karowen*

                I don’t think I know a single person that has a printer, nevermind printer ink and paper. I need to use a printer so infrequently that for the short while that I did have a printer, I had to buy new ink each time I wanted to use it. And as I mentioned upthread, printed portfolios can get expensive. (Also, I’m an industry where digital portfolios ARE the norm, but having a (well-presented) printed one on hand that they can look at during the interview has made a really good impression for me.)

                I agree that there are more important things that this person may need for a job search, but I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with a Staples giftcard.

            4. Dynamic Beige*

              “Nicer clothes, on the other hand…”

              Yeah… but would that really make anyone feel better? Someone might take it as “if you looked better, you’d still be employed.” Considering there’s few stores any more that don’t have gift cards (or so it seems), getting one for a grocery chain or the Visa/Amex generic (or hey, just cold hard cash) seems the easier to choose how you spend it option. It’s like a Choose Your Own Adventure story… but with money!

              1. Windchime*

                I’d honestly be embarrassed at receiving any kind of a gift card after being laid off. It would feel like a huge “charity” move to me and it would be kind of humiliating. I know the OP says that he is sure that their former team member won’t feel that way so I believe him; this is just how I would personally feel. It would feel like charity to me.

                1. Dinah*

                  Me too. I would rather have my former team call their professional contacts to see if any position was available for me and write outstanding letters of recommendation than pooling together for a gift card. But I know that not everyone feels that way.

                  When my husband got laid off, my former co-workers found out (not through me–I still don’t know how they knew) and put together a Thanksgiving box for us. Then they (unknowingly) presented it to me on the day before my 40th birthday. It was an incredibly kind gesture, but I felt suicidal for at least half an hour after they gave it to me.

      3. Laurel Gray*

        Dave – you seem like a compassionate coworker but why Staples of all stores? You don’t think someone who suddenly does not have a stream of income would best need free supplies from Staples vs other retailers?

      4. Graciosa*

        I think the idea was well meant, but overall getting a gift card after being laid off seems weird. Severance is a company responsibility, and there are people who would find it humiliating to have former co-workers make it clear that they are now an object of charity.

        What I wanted most after being laid off was help finding another job. I appreciated genuine job searching assistance – networking contacts, job leads, and promises to serve as a reference. I also liked hearing about why I had been valuable to my former boss and colleagues; a layoff can be a bit of a blow to your self esteem, and it doesn’t hurt to be reminded that you have the ability to contribute.

        However well-intentioned, the gift card does not strike me as the best way to offer assistance and demonstrate support. I would definitely have picked a thinking-of-you card (or better yet, a personal note) over another blow to my pride.

        But if you’re absolutely convinced that this is the right thing to do (and equally sure you’re not underestimating the traumatic impact of the layoff, or forcing your former colleague to pretend to appreciate receiving this to avoid hurting your feelings when you meant well), then yes, you do have the right to determine the amount of your contribution.

        I would hope that you are also looking for ways to offer assistance in getting former colleague a job, where he or she can earn a salary again and buy office supplies without assistance.

        1. Traveler*

          “However well-intentioned, the gift card does not strike me as the best way to offer assistance and demonstrate support. I would definitely have picked a thinking-of-you card (or better yet, a personal note) over another blow to my pride.”

          This… LW said that they are positive the person would appreciate it so I’m giving them a pass, but I’m surprised by the number of people suggesting things like grocery cards. The last place I would want help for groceries would be my former coworkers.

    2. Laurel Gray*

      Yes- Major regional grocery store, Target, Walmart, or Visa or Amex gift card. If I ever received a large gift card to Staples I would donate it to my child’s teacher. The job search is mostly digital these days that I can’t imagine why I would need supplies of a substantial amount. Besides, some of us have acquired a small “office supplies” drawer at home from working in professional environments over the years.

      1. E.T.*

        I personally think a Target gift card would be the best choice for the recipient. If you need office supplies, they have them. Need new clothes, they have them. Groceries, they have them. Even gift cards to other stores, they have them. Unlike some Visa or Amex gift cards, there isn’t a charge to purchase, activate or use them. Unlike Amazon, there aren’t any shipping fees for using them in store. If there isn’t a Target store nearby, you can open a Red Card account, which also is their in-store card, and then log into your account to get free shipping on online orders (true story, I once ordered a pair of $0.49 socks online through my Red Card account to see what would happen, and despite the shipping charges being higher than the cost of the actual socks, it really was shipped to me for free). Target also carries a variety of creatively designed gift cards, so you can definitely find one that looks businesslike.

        No, I don’t work for Target, but I do hold their stock, so I guess I could say I am part-owner.

  3. The IT Manager*

    LW#5, I want to know the origin of your passion because you must have a personal story to go with that oddly specific decal. Everyone should want to stop sexual harassment everywhere and not just work. Although, “report it” doesn’t quite apply to situations where there no authority to act on the reports, but calling out work is odd.

    This is weirdly passive-aggressive implying that your work has a huge problem with it but you’re resorting to a sort of public shaming about it.

    1. nona*

      I might be reading too much into this here – I can do that with anything related to sexual harassment, it’s a sensitive subject – but I see that implication too. And the implication that education via car decal will help.

      1. the gold digger*

        education via car decal will help.

        There was an organic food co-op near me that took a bold stand with the poster they put in the window: “Stop rape!”

        It’s probably why they went out of business – people couldn’t stand the controversy.

        1. Chinook*

          “There was an organic food co-op near me that took a bold stand with the poster they put in the window: “Stop rape!””

          Context is everything – if I saw that sign in a food store (especially an organic one), I would honestly wonder what their issue was with that type of natural vegetable oil or if the owners suffered bad allergies. But, then again, I live in an area that grows rapeseed (commonly known as “rape”).

        2. Malissa*

          The local roller rink (Yes they still do exist!) had a sign up that read “Abortion Kills.” I moved extremely fast to block that sign when we took our young nieces roller skating.
          I told the owner while I respect his views I was in no mood to ever explain to my nieces what the word abortion meant. The sign was gone the next time we went skating.

  4. nona*

    #5: While I agree with what would be on the sticker, I would a) assume there’s a story there and b) wonder why you chose to use a car window decal for this. I’m not sure how this would help people who are being or have been harassed.

    1. Colette*

      And, if the issue is at your workplace, your target audience isn’t going to see the message (except people who park near you).

    2. Dasha*

      I think nona said it best right here. #5 I feel like your heart is in the right place, this is an important and sensitive issue that you obviously feel strongly about but maybe the media you’ve chosen isn’t the best way to express your message. Maybe there’s another way to express views?

  5. KarenT*

    #1. Definitely a ridiculous question, but I bet they were trying to suss out whether or not anyone would steal since that’s a common problem in retail. The question is a useless way to figure that out, but I suspect that’s what they were going for.

    1. literateliz*

      Yes, this was my first thought as soon as I read that it was for retail. The correct answer is fight. Ugh.

    2. Dave*

      While its a funny question at face value and can also have some very straightforward ramifications legally speaking, in my opinion “fighting” would have been my choice. I see the question relating to how you might be a leader among colleagues. Would you seek to benefit yourself (perhaps by “stealing” the work/ideas of others to make yourself look better), or would you work to promote the efforts of your team by “fighting” for their work/ideas. Fighting isn’t always about attacking, as the other side to that coin is fighting to defend, fighting for what’s right. I see it as a question about integrity.

      1. Sherm*

        Yeah, if I was really desperate for a job and decided to continue with the interview, I’d probably say “I fight for just causes, and I never steal from cash registers. Hee hee!”

    3. Just Visiting*

      One time at a Kmart interview I was asked if there was ever any reason to steal. Question was specifically “If you were starving, and nobody would ever find out, would you steal?” Being seventeen, I answered truthfully. I did not get the job.

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        Seriously. I hate these false-alternative questions where a) they drop a bunch of alternatives that you would have in real life and b) they drop so much context that the question is meaningless, or else they expect you to ignore the context.

        I have been known to rant about this, so if the hiring manager from OP’s post had been interviewing me, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have gotten the job because I would have spent 20 minutes telling her why that’s a stupid question :P

      2. Anonicorn*

        “If you were starving, and nobody would ever find out, would you steal?”

        “Wait, are you going to pay me enough to buy food?”

      3. Mike C.*

        “No Kmart, I’d rather die the long, slow death of starvation than ever consider stealing a loaf of stale bread from your shelves.”

          1. Dynamic Beige*

            “That would depend on what your definition of ‘steal’ is… and whether or not it applies to garbage dumpsters.”

            “The story of Jean Valjean is a cautionary tale everyone would do well to take heed of.”

    4. neverjaunty*

      It’s not only useless, but stupid. No store manager with a lick of sense wants the liability from employees physically attacking suspected shoplifters.

      1. Xarcady*

        Yes, the store I work at fired a loss prevention person because he ran out into the parking lot and punched a guy who was assaulting a woman.

        The correct procedure would have been to call 911 and mall security, and monitor the situation.

        1. the gold digger*

          The correct procedure would have been to call 911 and mall security, and monitor the situation.

          However, if I am the woman being assaulted, I sure appreciate anyone who stops the assault rather than just watching it happen.

          1. TheLazyB*

            There are other ways than punching the attacker, though. I’ve heard depressingly frequently that in that situation many women then start attacking their ‘rescuer’ :-/ being not great at physical defence I would be likely to start shouting Fire or something to distract the guy long enough to get the women somewhere safe.

            1. Traveler*

              Yes, especially when the attacker turns out to be the woman’s boyfriend. I’ve known people who have gotten broken bones and almost had charges filed from trying to be a good samaritan. Though, I agree, if I was screaming for help, I’d hope someone would do more than stand around and monitor the situation (even if that’s what they’re supposed to do).

          2. Xarcady*

            I should have said, “the correct procedure according to store regulations.” I completely understand why the guy did what he did.

            Much later, we heard from the new loss prevention person that this is sometimes a technique used by shoplifters–stage a fight in the parking lot, draw everyone’s attention, and sneak tons of stuff out the other doors in the store.

          1. Traveler*

            It’s the policy of quite a few corporations and institutions because of risk of liability if your employee reads the situation wrong, or injures someone in the process of trying to help them. So the employee sometimes has to choose between risking their job and helping someone.

            1. MinB*

              I had a student who was fired from his grocery store job for helping a customer stand back up from a fall. Lots of corporations take the no hands on customers rule very seriously to reduce liability.

              1. Anna*

                Yeah, there’s reasonable caution and then there’s bizarre readings of policy that mean if someone falls down and you help them up, you can be fired.

          2. Zillah*

            Yeah, ‘monitor the situation’ works if, like, someone is acting really erratic or shifty. When someone’s getting beaten up? Not so much.

            “Yes, I’m monitoring the situation carefully. Still beating her. Oh, that’ll probably be a black eye. Now he’s grabbing her purse.”

              1. SLG*

                This is tricky, because when you’re observing a violent situation, it can be remarkably difficult to tell who started it. It’s common for good samaritans to mistake the victim for the aggressor or vice versa. So yes, if a random dude started punching me on the street for no reason, I would personally love for someone to “disable that threat” so I could get to a safe place. However, I understand why folks hesitate. Especially since (as I understand it) legally, if you contribute to escalating the violence of a situation, you are considered at least partially responsible for whatever happens afterward.

            1. A Dispatcher*

              99% percent of the calls we get about fights and assaults are indeed just like that. And I can’t say I blame people to be honest…

          3. A Teacher*

            we are literally told to “be a good witness” if a fight breaks out between students. If we break it up and get hurt, we can get in trouble. Most teachers still try to intervene but we do it knowing we can get in trouble.

        2. Florida*

          In South Florida, a beach lifeguard was fired because he rescued someone outside of his coverage area. The swimmer was drowning in the “swim at your own risk” area. The employee manual said he should have called 911 and hope they get there in time. The lifeguard pulled the man from the water (he had already turned blue), performed CPR until the paramedics arrived, and saved the guy’s life. The lifeguard lost his job for going outside of the company’s coverage area. Sadly, I am not joking.

    5. Ruth (UK)*

      Yeah having done a lot of retail work, my instinct on reading this question was that fight was the correct answer because they’re trying to work out if you’re someone who would steal.

      It’s obviously a stupid question but if you needed a job, them in sure that’s the correct answer as far as they’re concerned.

      1. Myrin*

        It’s such a weird question, though, because the way it’s presented, the two things don’t have anything to do with each other. I mean, if they wanted to know if someone would fight a shoplifter or thought stealing was okay, they should have just asked that (and even that makes no sense, because I can think stealing is okay if I do it and still think it’s not okay for others to do and tackle a shoplifter). If you had to choose, would you rather get into a fight or steal? really needs more context because these two things are so different and can be applied to a variety of different situations. I mean, maybe they meant it as a kind of “What do you think is worse, getting into a physical fight with someone or stealing?” but even that would have to be clearly stated. (Can you tell I’m thinking of like twenty iterations of how this thing can play out? I’m wasting way too much brains on this.)

        1. Myrin*

          I’ve thought of a more succinct way of putting my problem with the question (no, I’m not done overthinking this yet): What kind of situation could I be in where the only two options are either stealing or fighting?

          I can think of a situation where it’s stealing or starving; fighting or fleeing; stealing the thing or leaving the thing; fighting or letting myself be hit; but nothing where stealing or fighting apply to the same thing. “Would you rather steal the pearl necklace or fight the pearl necklace?” Well, what do you think?

            1. KarenT*

              I totally agree it’s a stupid question. An incredibly stupid one, actually. But I bet that manager is looking for someone who says, “Fight. I’d rather fight because no matter whatever happens I would never, ever steal.:\”

          1. Big Tom*

            That’s exactly what my answer would have been. “I’m not sure I understand how those things are related – how did I get in this situation?” Maybe someone is forcing me to steal something and my options are to go along with it or fight that person, but that really just leads right back into the “how did I get into THAT situation” question, which would, in that context, seem much more important. Are they holding my family hostage, did we witness a crime together and now we’re on the run but then it turns out they’re working with the criminals and were instructed to kill me but wait! they have a heart after all so we’re running from the police AND their original gang? Am I choosing between fighting the cops or stealing from this crime syndicate that’s holding my family in a warehouse on the edge of town?
            … So do I get the job?

          2. JB (not in Houston)*

            Yeah, I could not have answered this question because it doesn’t make sense, and my brain would not have been able to get past that. It can be an impediment at work, and apparently, in interviewing.

            FWIW, I would probably choose to fight the pearl necklace because pearls are known for flopping, so the fight would end pretty quickly.

          3. LBK*

            Now I want to play a video game with nonsensical action trees for every situation. “Do you want to remove the sword from the stone or punch it?”

            1. Myrin*

              The Arthurian Excalibur story would be so much different!

              (Also, I would play that game in a heartbeat. And, truth be told, I’ve been known to use weapons in video games in nonsensical ways, like throwing grenades into lakes or attacking chairs with swords).

    6. pinky*

      exactly – all a retail store wants to know if you are going to steal. They would rather you fight!

    7. Mallory Janis Ian*

      I think that the correct answer to all retail exams is that one would never, ever, ever steal. So whichever response isn’t about theft is the right response. You (the test-taker) would never entertain any thought of stealing anything ever, and it doesn’t even matter what the alternative is (in retail-world, not in real, actual life).

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        “Would you rather steal a quarter out of the cash register, or drown a bag of puppies and kittens while burning the American flag?”

          1. Zillah*

            And, point of clarification: this isn’t a pet store, right?

            (Also: nooooo not the puppies and kittens! I want to hug them all.)

      2. Ella*

        Which is ridiculous because stealing applies to, well, things. And violence generally applies to people. The store is explicitly putting property over the welfare of people. (I worked retail for 15 years so I’m well aware they do it all the damn time, but it’s still frustrating when they make it so obvious.)

        Guy walks into an office supply store with a gun. Get in a fight, or let him steal whatever he wants?

        1. Dynamic Beige*

          “Guy walks into an office supply store with a gun. Get in a fight, or let him steal whatever he wants?”

          With these crazy new open carry laws in some places, the third choice is “or assist him in finding the items he came to purchase, complete the sale and wish him a good day” With my fourth option being: freak right the hell out because he’s got a freakin’ assault rifle on his back and just walking around!

        2. jag*

          “Guy walks into an office supply store with a gun. Get in a fight, or let him steal whatever he wants?”

          “Is he a black guy or a white guy? Cuz if he’s a white guy, he’s a patriot and I’d let him do what he wants. If he’s a black guy, he’s obviously threatening people and I’d call the police immediately in a panicky voice!”

    8. Pennalynn Lott*

      I see it as them asking, “If the only way to prevent your immediate death was to (a) get into a fist fight with someone or (b) steal something, which would you choose?” Because they want you to say that you would choose to bring harm upon yourself (a physical fight) rather than harm someone else (stealing something). So they’re hoping you’ll say that you’d rather sacrifice your physical well-being than ever steal from them. Which is all kinds of ridiculous, because if I could prevent my immediate death by swiping a candy bar (versus getting pummeled into a bloody pulp), then damn skippy I’m going to grab the candy bar.

  6. Dave*

    Hello, I am the one who asked about the gift card, and I appreciate the response. I just wish to clarify. Our office environment is a small (less than 5 people), tight-knit group. Without divulging specifics for the sake of anonymity, the layoff was actually outside of our company’s control, so our team (even my boss) was kind of taken aback by it. We were all on the same page about giving her a meaningful send off on her last day as a showing of solidarity, and I suggested the gift card as something to help offset her upcoming wedding costs (I certainly wouldn’t want to have to dip into wedding funds to pay for a stack of portfolios!).

    Without the specific context in my situation, I see your point in general about it being an inappropriate suggestion, even coming from the employee level. I can pretty much guarantee that the gesture won’t be taken as some sort of charity pity offering, though, so I don’t really feel bad about making the suggestion. Regardless of if it was appropriate or not, the cat was already out of the bag by the time the “problem” aspect of this started up. The response you provided would be suitable I think, so hey, I got something out it. ;) Thanks for the help!

    1. Snoskred*

      Dave the sentiment is lovely. Me personally I would tend towards a gift card that can be used at supermarkets, but that is just my own personal preference. :)

      1. chrl268*

        He mentioned portfolios – if they are in an industry that requires printing Staples might be a good idea?

    2. thisisit*

      I think it’s a nice gesture, but I could see it being awkward if a) they didn’t need it, and b) it was too low an amount. That latter could by why the boss upped the amount?

      But I still don’t understand why Staples or Office Depot?

    3. K.*

      I was part of a group of layoffs recently; the ax fell two weeks ago. I’d feel weird about a gift card, but I’d fell really weird about an Office Depot one because I don’t really need it. I’d end up trading it in on one of those sites where you can trade cards for cash. A more general card, like a Visa one, would be much more useful. Or one to your local grocery store. With all due respect, unemployed people are concerned about necessities, not office supplies.

    4. variety*

      So you were treating this more of a going away party that some places have for employees who are voluntarily leaving. That changes my opinion as to the appropriateness of a gift card. That said a generic card that could be used any where would probably been better. But to the issue of the boss increasing the amount. He should pay for all the extra as it was his chose to increase it.

    5. Ann without an e*


      That sticker could also stir a hornets nest and trigger a backlash for someone that might be going through something at your company. Most guys that engage in that behavior are also passive aggressive, dishonest, have bully tendencies and flock together. If there is a woman being picked on and you show up with that you could trigger a reaction and make her situation worse than it already is. Bystanders will not be inspired bullies will, just not in the way you want. If you want to be an agent of change pretend to be a bystander use your cell phone collect irrefutable evidence and present it to the appropriate people and get the harassers fired for cause. It will destroy those guys careers, go-go agent of Karma, and it will set a good example.

    6. claire*

      I’m surprised by all the push back about the gift card. I agree with Alison’s advice about how to deal with your boss.

      And I think it’s a lovely idea. When my boss was unexpectedly laid off, everyone in my department chipped in to get her a generous gift card at the Apple store and she was genuinely touched by it.

      I think part of the larger discussion here is that it’s hard to know how to handle layoffs. It’s weird, it’s upsetting, it’s hard to know what to do. And everyone reacts differently, and it is good to tailor your reaction to the person, if necessary. I noticed that at my old job, when we started having layoffs. It had been a very stable, successful company but the last part of the downturn hit it hard and there were several rounds of layoffs. I didn’t reach out to the first person laid off in my dept and I regretted it, so when my boss was laid off, I started the discussion with my coworkers about what to do for her – I think I suggested taking her out, but her closest friend on staff said she didn’t want that and we got her the gift card, which turned out to be perfect for her. And when I was laid off, I told my closest colleague that I really wanted a going away party and asked her to organize it. And it was really great.

      1. peanut butter kisses*

        I think you have a great point – take into account the person the gesture is meant for. For example, if I knew my friend B was going to be laid off, I would get him a Starbucks card. He goes there to recharge so often that people have started calling it his church. So if the person loves Staplers – great and if not, it really is the thought that counts.

    7. Dynamic Beige*

      “Our office environment is a small (less than 5 people)”

      Which is probably why your boss upped your “voluntary” contribution, it probably didn’t look like much when he did the math, assuming everyone chipped in at the same level you said you were comfortable offering.

  7. Snoskred*

    #1 – If I were in that situation, here are two answers which I could have said. Both of them are genuine answers that I would have zero trouble delivering in an interview. The latter answer is probably the right one if what they are looking for is a clear statement that you would never steal from them.

    “In real life, I would do neither. However when you ask a question like this, I can’t help but think of the Zombie Apocalypse, which would likely change my principles in huge and unexpected ways. And in that situation, I think I would actually have to pick both, because you’re going to have to fight the zombies, and you’re going to have to “steal” food. Just quietly, if the zombie apocalypse occurs, I do have a plan in my head and I can tell you more about that if we end up working together. But now, back to real life”.

    “When I was younger, I had an expensive and awesome car stereo in my car, plus a great alarm. Some thieves worked out how to defeat the alarm, and one morning I arrived to find doors ajar with wires sticking out of them. They had not managed to get everything, and I thought they might come back that night, so I sat in a parked car down the street waiting. If they had shown up my sensible brain says I would have called the police, but my angry brain was that angry, I might have gone in fighting. So my answer to your question is “fight” because I know how awful it feels when someone steals things from you and I would never want to make someone else feel that way.” – This actually did happen to me, and yes I did sit in a car all night waiting.

    Alternatively, what they are really looking for is an answer like “fight” because it indicates you are someone who does not give up easily. Either way it is one heck of a sucky question and my inclination is always to take sucky questions out of real life situations if at all possible, or twist them around in some way to make the interviewer laugh if at all possible.

    1. Dynamic Beige*

      Dammit. This is what I get for not reading all the comments before commenting. But, good to know I’m not the only one who would default to Zombie Apocalypse at the words steal/fight.

  8. Ultraviolet*

    #1 – I think the interviewer was a spy hoping to make contact with another spy via an interview. You were supposed to respond “The rooster crows at midnight” and then he’d offer you a secret handshake and if you responded correctly you’d do cool spy stuff together. That spy ship has sailed though.

    #5 – As a member of the general public I wouldn’t really think much of it. I agree with others that your employer might wonder whether there’s something wrong that they haven’t heard about yet. Although if the lot is big enough that it’s not obvious to everyone whose car it is, I doubt they’d actually track it down.

    1. Jean*

      It’s amusing to fantasize about hijacking a job interview into an episode of Spy Versus Spy (e.g., after we exchange nonsequitors, do I stand up to demonstrate my Secret Spy dance steps?) but in real life I’d make a tedious attempt to steer the conversation back to reality. Office life has its craziness but I like to keep my inner comedian under wraps during a job interview.

    2. LBK*

      From now on whenever someone says something utterly ridiculous at work, I’m just going to assume they’re a spy speaking in code to another operative. This is going to make our weekly team meetings much more entertaining.

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        Oh wow, I love you! And soon after that, instead of playing buzzword bingo in meetings, we can play spyword bingo!

  9. Tara*

    5 – My thought would be that you or someone you know had been sexually harassed at work; I would probably nod my head in agreement and send good vibes your way. But that’s as a member of the public, not as your employer.

    (As a side note, I really wish talking to students about sexual harassment in the workplace was more widespread. I’d say half of the teenage girls I know in the workforce have been put in situations that they have no idea how to handle, and a fair few boys too. A friend told me that a customer was showing up at her work every day to ask her out, despite repeated refusals, and had begun puzzling out her schedule and coming just as she was finishing a shift to corner her in the parking lot and demand better “reasons” for her turing him down. Um, besides the fact that you’re 28 and she’s 16?? She just stared at me blankly when I asked if she’d told her manager. She did, after much prodding, and the manager was thankfully horrified and banned him from the premise. I don’t know if car decals are the way to go, but there’s definitely awareness that needs to be raised in that area– especially in retail, food service, etc.)

    1. Puffle*

      Ugh ugh ugh, why would someone do that? This kind of harassment is awful enough anyway, but doing it to a 16 year old is just a whole new level of terrible. So glad the manager responded properly.

    2. Sarahnova*

      LW#5 my current theory about why you’re doing this is that you park in the same lot as the ‘fat girls can’t jump’ sticker guy. Please advise. :)

      1. Jean*

        Is it true that tasteless auto decorations now include options beyond the seated ladies with the exaggerated Barbie-doll silhouettes that used to be all over truck mud flaps? Double yuck. I am now officially going back to bed. (It’s okay; I work part-time. Hiding under the covers actually fits in with my schedule.)

        1. LBK*

          Yes, there was an old AAM letter where someone actually wrote in to Alison to ask if it would be okay to put a decal on the truck he drove to work that said something about lifting your truck so that fat women can’t climb into it. It was almost inspirational it its completely lack of self-awareness.

          1. Ella*

            As I remember it, he had already gone and done it, and management told him he couldn’t park on the property if his truck said that, and then came here all upset because it cost him over $100 and management can’t do this to him and waaaahhhhhhh.

            1. LBK*

              Yeah you’re right, I just reread it and he was asking if management could make it remove it. $150! Yeesh. I kind of wish he’d come back and read the comments and posted an extremely deferential apology, although unfortunately I’d guess the likelihood is that he read Alison’s answer, laughed it off and carried on being sexist.

        2. Dynamic Beige*

          Ah, you’ve never heard of Truck Nutz then. They even have ones that light up or are patterned with the flag/sports team of your choice. No, I am not making this up.

          1. Myrin*

            I was on the other thread someone linked to above (the one with the offensive decal about “fat girls”) and JUST came across someone there talking about Truck Nutz. Not being able to figure out what these might be (I’m not a native speaker and thought something might be lost in translation here) I googled them and…


            1. Dynamic Beige*

              I dunno. I don’t think there’s any segment of the female population anywhere in the world that would think “my car’s nose bra is… kind of flat and that makes me sad :( What my car really needs is Car Boobz! (Nice headlights! — Thanks, Car Boobz!)” and would get giant silicone pillow like attachments for the front of their car. OK, maybe Lady Gaga, a performance artist or some other quasi-celebrity out to shock but not enough people to justify producing them en masse. Those crazy headlight eyelashes aside, I would gape in slack jawed amazement if someone pulled up into the parking lot with Car Boobz. But a Mammogram-mobile… in certain communities, that could work.

              I don’t know anyone personally who has Truck Nutz that I could ask the horrified why to. I’m not sure what is more disturbing, the person who buys them (and why), or the person who thought it up in the first place and had enough people in their life to encourage them that there were enough people working on the cure for cancer or ending illiteracy but Truck Nutz was something that humanity was in dire need of. If the guy with the decal (which was horribly offensive) had also had Truck Nutz, would his employer have asked that be removed, too? Seriously, you want to drive around in a lifted, Truck Nutted, “No Fat Chicks” coal burner truck? Get a normal vehicle for work.

              I’m guessing it might be the same line of thinking as (and this is not a joke, or an SNL skit but a real product):
              Neuticles allows pets to retain their natural look, self esteem and aids the pet’s owner with the trauma associated with altering.
              With Neuticles®- “It’s like nothing ever changed”

              1. ThursdaysGeek*

                I’m so glad I have a quiet laugh, because I’d hate to have to explain to my co-workers why I’m giggling.

      2. Rebecca*

        That was my first thought, too!!!

        I will never understand why people feel the need to put their opinions on their car.

    3. blackcat*

      I was tremendously grateful when my student teaching coordinator responded to my “UGH Creepy teacher won’t leave me along at work! He stays away when I’m teaching, but otherwise, he’s always asking me overly personal questions even though I’ve asked him to stop!” by bringing in the university’s head of equal opportunity to give us young student teachers a lesson in what to do when you are sexually harassed. So useful!

      (I know creepy teacher got a talking to from the department chair about leaving me alone, and then he did. Though I’m still not comfortable that creepy teacher kept teaching. If he (early 40s) would sexually harass a 21 year old student teacher, I thought he could also be inappropriate with his 18 year old students.)

    4. VintageLydia USA*

      So many girls I worked with in retail have similar stories. I had two different guys that would come to the store and follow me around. One worked at a store a couple doors down in his 40’s, I’d guess, and the other was an unemployed student in his late 30’s (I was late teens to early 20’s.) I also had an employee who would randomly tickle me but after yelling at him LOUDLY in the middle of the store he stopped and was the perfect gentleman and another guy who worked in the same store space but for a different company who would awkwardly flirt, but was mostly harmless. He did buy an expensive ($300+) item and checked out at MY register, then offered it to me once the transaction was done (I refused, of course. Even if I were interested I would’ve refused. Shoot, if I were single and he asked me for coffee or something I would’ve said yes, but not an expensive gift.) He came back an hour later when I wasn’t up front to return it. He knew I was married.

      1. Arbynka*

        Man, I am non violent person. But I startle pretty easily and I do not like being touched by anybody besides people that are very close to me and I don’t like being tickled by anybody. If someone would come and randomly tickle me, I am afraid I might punch them. Well, I probably wouldn’t but it would not go ovet well with me.

        1. esra*

          Right? If someone randomly came up behind in me in public and grabbed at me like that, my first instinct would be an elbow back up to their face.

          1. Pennalynn Lott*

            I had to tell Boyfriend just this past weekend not to touch anyone without their permission first. We were at an outdoor festival and Eastern tent caterpillars were all over the place. I tapped one guy on his shoulder and let him know there was one on his back and I was going to brush it off him. He was grateful. About 30 minutes later, we’re in line at a food truck and Boyfriend just all of a sudden reaches down to touch the inner thigh of the woman in front of us. (!!!) He, too, was brushing a caterpillar off, but neglected to ask permission first. She was good-natured about it, but I pulled him aside and told him that invading someone’s personal space like that is a HUGE no-no, *especially* when the part of the body you’re reaching for is the INNER THIGH. Good gravy! (But he’s also the kind of guy that walked up to someone at a dinner party who was having a mild reaction to the beverage she was drinking and declare loudly for the whole room to hear, “Your face is really red!” Socially-inept dolt.)

    5. Artemesia*

      I used to teach a class where my initial classroom ice breaker exercise was for them to recount a ‘disaster in the work place’ — either something they did that worked out badly or something they observed that worked out badly for the business. A huge number of these involved first jobs or internships that involved sexual harassment and in most of them the student didn’t know what to do or felt they had no support to prevent the unwanted behaviors. Lots of them involved supervisors.

    6. nona*

      Agreed with the side note. Gross.

      While I was growing up, it took me a while to realize that the behavior adults allowed between kids and teenagers wasn’t acceptable between adults. I was used to being unable to do anything about harassment. Just something to think about.

  10. Dan*


    Frankly, I’m not a big fan of “awareness” campaigns that use some general high level messaging. Pretty much everybody will agree that the high level big thing needs to be stopped, but few people perpetrating the specific behaviors will admit (or even recognize) that what they are doing is harassment.

    1. Tara*

      Hm, I’d tend to agree about the people perpetrating the behaviour, but I do think awareness campaigns can be helpful in terms of the inertia that a lot of people feel witnessing these situations. “Stop sexual harassment in the workplace” might not dissuade Penny from harassing Johnny, but what about Mary who noticed it and wasn’t sure whether or not to report it? I think those kinds of campaigns can certainly have an influence there. She’s not sure about what she saw, doesn’t know if Johnny reciprocates, doesn’t want to cause tension or have an uncomfortable conversation– but if she’s internalized the idea that she has a strong ethical responsibility in preventing workplace harassment, she’s more likely to say something.

      1. The IT Manager*

        I think awareness campaigns can have an impact, but a decal on your car is not what I would consider a normal part of an awareness campaign for work.

    2. Ella*

      +1. My church once had a discussion about whether to put a banner on the outside wall of our building that said “Torture is wrong.” I was just confused the whole time about who exactly would disagree with such a sentiment, and whether any of them would ever drive past our building.

        1. Armchair Analyst*

          There is a long history of churches and religious institutions being pro-torture, actually…

      1. Dynamic Beige*

        OK, I am operating on not a lot of sleep and that is not good for my filters… please tell me that banner was going to be hung up near the life-size Jesus on the cross sculpture.

        1. Chinook*

          “OK, I am operating on not a lot of sleep and that is not good for my filters… please tell me that banner was going to be hung up near the life-size Jesus on the cross sculpture.”

          Nope I am well caffeinated and I too got the irony of hanging a “torture is wrong” banner anywhere near a statue depicting a very horrific version of torture.

          1. Dynamic Beige*

            Well, Ella did only say “on an exterior wall”, it was me filling in the “next to Jesus on the cross” bit. It is entirely possible that the exterior wall is completely unadorned, save for an “Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrows” sign (joke!) But, I can see people driving by, reading the “Torture is Wrong” sign and saying loudly “This is why I no longer go to church” before stopping their car and taking a photo of it to post on Facebook.

            1. Ella*

              Ha! I personally would find that kind of awesome (because of the irony), but we’re a Quaker Meeting that meets in what is essentially a repurposed house. Other than our sign out front (I mean, the one that says “Quaker Meeting,” not the one that says “Torture is Wrong”), there’s no religious iconography inside or outside the building.

      2. Cat*

        I used to take the bus past a church that had a banner saying, I think, precisely that up. I thought it was nice . Of course, I live in Washington, D.C. and recent history says that there absolutely have to be people who disagree with that sentiment driving by that particular church.

      3. ThursdaysGeek*

        Well, someone did show me a local church bulletin that said “We love hurting children in Jesus’s name.” The poster might be useful for them. Or a writing class.

    3. Ann without an e*

      That sticker could also stir a hornets nest and trigger a backlash for someone that might be going through something at your company. Most guys that engage in that behavior are also passive aggressive, dishonest, have bully tendencies and flock together. If there is a woman being picked on and you show up with that you could trigger a reaction and make her situation worse than it already is. Bystanders will not be inspired bullies will, just not in the way you want. If you want to be an agent of change pretend to be a bystander use your cell phone collect irrefutable evidence and present it to the appropriate people and get the harassers fired for cause. It will destroy those guys careers, go-go agent of Karma, and it will set a good example.

    4. Graciosa*

      Your last line here is really important – people routinely have huge mental blind spots about their own behavior.

      Alcoholics in denial will answer a quiz and say that people who drink the same number of drinks that they do are alcoholics (except for the person taking the quiz!).

      In one really icky example, a male nurse received an award for rescuing a woman being attacked in the hospital parking lot – but the “hero” was later arrested and convicted himself for rape. He just didn’t see what he was doing as the same thing.

      It is rare to encounter someone who is intentionally harassing (meaning that they know it’s harassment). Most offenders are just expressing appreciation / trying to be friendly / showing that they really like Victim / trying to get a date – at least in their own minds. Observers can also have a big mental block about non-violent harassment – yes, Joe always stands really close to Amy, but Amy never says anything so she must not object, right?

      It seems that OP imagines that putting the sticker up will either 1) actually address a specific situation without requiring any direct action or 2) actually change behavior in people who don’t recognize that this has anything to do with them. Neither of these is going to happen.

      It takes a lot more than a sticker to break through these kinds of mental blocks and change someone’s thinking.

      1. fposte*

        If you’re going to put forth the energy, I’d think flyers with contact information for the relevant HR person would be more useful anyway.

  11. Marzipan*

    #5, I think for most of the general public their attention would slide right past it unless they have specific personal experience of sexual harassment in the workplace. Think how many adverts and posters and whatnot you see during the course of a day… and now think how many of them you actually remember and act upon.

    Whereas, I think your employer might reasonably have questions about why you’re bringing a vehicle pointedly calling out sexual harassment in the workplace to their premises. It implies that you think sexual harassment is occurring there, a lot, which doesn’t create a good impression for customers/visitors/applicants. Now, maybe that would be an accurate poor impression, but it’s a bit like, I don’t know, expecting KFC to be OK with an employee displaying ‘Support poultry welfare! Only eat free-range chicken.’ in their car and parking it outside the restaurant.

    If whatever problem is prompting you to want to do this is related to your workplace, can you help instigate some form of official campaign within the company? Most companies want to have this kind of activity happening – it helps to demonstrate that they take the issue seriously. If, on the other hand, it’s just stemming from a burning sense of social injustice, then I honestly don’t know how much impact is likely to have on your-average person, so maybe there’s another way you can get involved in promoting this message?

      1. UK Nerd*

        When I saw the words ‘sexual harrassment’ and ‘window decal’ together I was genuinely surprised when it was a sensible question from a reasonable sounding person and not another one like that guy.

  12. Tara*

    1- “Well, I guess I’d say steal, but to be honest I’m not a very fast runner and I’d probably end up having to fight off the cops anyway.”

    1. Jean*

      How about a dreadful pun such as “Although I strongly believe that issues don’t get settled through physical violence, I would steel myself (italicized) to fight a would-be shoplifter” ?

      Okay, okay, I’m really going back to bed now. Honest!

    2. UKAnon*

      “I know how to throw a fully grown man to the floor.* I don’t fight. I win.”

      *True story.

    3. Michele*

      I am a good runner, but I have not fighting experience, so I would have to go the other way. Or, I could take off with the goods, you stand guard and fight off anyone who comes after me, and we will split the proceeds.

  13. Kardashian Type II Civilization*

    #3: oddly enough, I’ve been dealing with this kind of thing from the inside, recently. My company employs a system that tries to assist people in writing job qualifications. The system is, to be honest, rather baroque, and I can certainly see how some strange stuff could show up.

    With our system, it’s not the job name that matters, but the job number. So if you attempt to apply, make sure you reference

    1. Kardashian Type II Civilization*

      Ack! I waa falling asleep as I wrote that. To continue: if you attempt to apply, if there is a job number associated with the job, make sure you use that, as job names can change as the description is refined.

      But be aware that it could all be for naught: the system allows one to easily “clone” a job listing, which gives it a new number (and I’m unaware of any kind of record being made that links the two instances together). So if you apply for job ABC-81726354 (and that job was an accidental post that has since gone to the great bit-bucket in the sky), it might be that no-one really knows what to do with your application materials.

      Why might this happen? Any number of reasons, I guess. There is a rather elaborate set of criteria involving skills and requirements and experience and education, and I suspect that these criteria get tweaked a lot to either increase or decrease the number of applicants.

  14. TheLazyB*

    The fight vs steal thing – I wondered if they were obliquely trying to ask about premeditation. In which case, yeah I agree with all the people saying that ‘fight’ is the right answer. But what a ridiculous question!

    1. The IT Manager*

      By my logic, though, I’d rather steal. Stealing can be done without violence. In the context of their question I picture a physical (not verbal) fight and I don’t want to hurt myself or someone else by fighting. Stealing is safer for all involved.

      I suspect it is the wrong answer for retail, but it is a stupid question.

      1. Case of the Mondays*

        I viewed the fighting question though as not starting the fight but ending up in the fight – like if someone jumped you. More like “would you rather do something bad or having something bad done to you.”

  15. Int*

    I’d like to think that the interviewer in 1 was planning a heist, and was trying to figure out where OP would best fit in the crew.

  16. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*


    Since I’m from Philly, the answer is obvious with one question: Did they steal my parking space?

    1. Jean*

      Not if I marked it with a dinette-set chair… (not from Philly, but lived there long enough to observe this particular winter custom). Okay, this time I really mean it about signing off the site for now.

  17. V.V.*

    #1. Somehow I pictured Napoleon Dynamite at this interview:

    Interviewer: [perusing the resume] So when confronted by a pack of wolverines last summer you chose fighting over stealing?
    Napoleon Dynamite: [indignantly] Yes…
    Interviewer: Impressive. And how many did you fight off?
    Napoleon: [losing patience] … like 50 of ’em! They kept trying to attack my cousins, what the heck would you do in a situation like that?

  18. OP#1*

    Question #1 was mine.
    There was no further explanation and actually I did ask, but they refused to clarify, so no mention of shoplifters or even just defending anything. No information other than the question itself.
    If they just wanted to see if I’d steal, I don’t understand why they wouldn’t accept “neither” as an answer and my explanation, instead of insisting I pick one without providing any context at all.

    Actually the whole interview was a little weird.
    They knew I had no previous direct sales experience (I got the interview based on testing in the first round), but they kept asking about situations in sales I had been in. They talked at length about details of other parts of the company which had nothing to do with the job (e.g. this was a sports store and a salesperson post, and they talked for 20 minutes about the import-export aspect of the sister-company). I got the impression they really liked the sound of their own voices.

    At the end, when asked if I had any questions, and I asked them how long the average employee stays with the company, which was a concern that came up during the interview, and they avoided the answer and just said that not everyone turns out to be a good fit, but finally admitted that 6 months would be the average. (The whole “good fit” thing was so weird that it got me worried in the first place.)

    Before I left they asked if I had any feedback about the interview itself.
    At that point I knew I really didn’t want that job, I was annoyed and put off by the whole thing. I told them they should keep in mind that an interview is a two-way process and that potential employees evaluate them just as much as they evaluate the employees. I was polite, but they got the message.

    1. Kt*

      It sounds like you really dodged a bullet. I’ve been around sales business’ like this–they think they are so clever, so on-trend, that they just keep egging each other on until outsiders have no clue what the heck is going on (and the business suffers for it!)

      I think you handled it with as much grace as you could, and at least you know this is a company to stay away from!

    2. Snoskred*

      Yeah, the 20 minutes of fascinating but totally irrelevant tales would have inspired me to sarcastically say “Cool story bro” and then get up and walk out. If they had deeply irritated me, I may have added the rolly eyes, and air quotes, too. :) But I am a bit of a beyotch, so there’s that.

    3. INTP*

      I definitely think the question was misguided, but I think their logic for not accepting “neither” is that of course everyone is going to say that they find both things to be wrong and would never do either. They want people who, when forced to pick the most morally wrong thing out of a list, find stealing to be the most abhorrent. Most people do some of the things they find wrong at some point in their lives, they want to find the people absolutely least likely to steal.

      Of course, people who steal are going to immediately know what they’re going for and how to give the right answer. They’re just going to succeed at sussing out people who know the right answer to the question, because they steal, because they read people and say what they need to say to get what they want instead of pondering the question genuinely, or because they’re just physically aggressive and think fighting is okay sometimes.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Honestly, I think I’d much rather have an employee who took a few pens home than one who was capable of random violence. I might prefer people who said they would steal. At least that is easier to monitor, if you care that much about it.

        1. Marzipan*

          Yeah, this. I’m fairly worried about someone who would generally classify stealing as more abhorrent than violence (though I grant there are degrees of context in both; and that neither is great).

          1. Alter_ego*

            this has been getting to me reading this thread. so many people have been saying that the right answer is obviously that you’d rather fight, and maybe for the retailer it is, but that’s a really scary mindset to me.

        2. INTP*

          I totally agree with you for who I would want to work with. I just know retail employers have all sorts of weird tests to predict who might steal. They lose a lot more money to employee theft than employee violence.

    4. yep*

      Yay for your parting words at the end of the interview. I sat in interview like this a few months ago. One interviewer kept throwing the interview to ask random questions about where I work now and how their organization is better than mine, (not necessarily competing– only in one area) yet when I mentioned something we do she jotted that down–only note she took doing the interview. Ugh, she was so full of herself. Yet they are down to 2 staff member out of 3 for that department. The other woman ,the supervisor,seemed more interested in really filling the position not only because she’s hung out to dry in her department but she seemed more vested in the interview and getting a good candidate. I deep down want her to call me for an offer, so I can decline and explain why.

    5. Marzipan*

      I absolutely agree about the two-way process thing. I once went for an interview at an organisation I was really excited about… First, I had to give a presentation about myself; but the manager kept interrupting and asking questions, turning it into, well, not a presentation anymore but an interview. He was then fairly pushy during the actual interview. He then decided to ask me to run an activity session, then and there, with some of the service users – this wasn’t something I’d been asked to prepare in advance, it was an on-the-spot request. He then grumbled about the session I ran being related to my area of expertise(!). He was, basically, intensely annoying and it was entirely apparent that there was no way I’d be able to work for him; I went from really hoping I’d get the job to really hoping I wouldn’t.

      As it turned out, I wasn’t offered that job, but a couple of months later he called me out of the blue (and then called back within about an hour of first leaving me a message, complaining that I hadn’t immediately returned his unscheduled and unexpected call) to ask if I was still interested as a vacancy had opened up. Funnily enough, I said no.

    6. Ask a Manager* Post author

      At that point I knew I really didn’t want that job, I was annoyed and put off by the whole thing. I told them they should keep in mind that an interview is a two-way process and that potential employees evaluate them just as much as they evaluate the employees.

      Good for you! More people need to do this.

  19. Kt*

    I think the sexual harassment decal is just too odd for the workplace. That’s very specific and will certainly make your employer nervous and employees curious/confused.

    I’m not a huge fan of decals, so take my opinion with a grain of salt. I have found so many people slap causes on their car but that’s the extent of their involvement.

    1. Jamie*

      I agree – honestly if I saw that on a co-workers car I’d seek her out to see if there was something going on I should know about.

      And while not relevant I’d rather wait up to find someone had tattooed my face without permission than to see a decal on my car so that’s probably coloring my opinion, but I don’t get the point of using them for awareness. I see stickers as making a statement about the owner of the car, but I can’t imagine that anyone anywhere has re-evaluated their belief system because of a statement slapped on someone’s vehicle.

      Just the thought of a sticker on my car makes me want to re-evaluate my response to the steal or fight question. If someone put one on mine I’d steal something to fight them with – definitely. So good, I have an answer if anyone ever asks me that in an interview.

  20. V.V.*

    So it wasn’t choose one and explain your answer? That makes it worse and really makes me think they were just jerking you around, and not actually interested in hiring you, or, if they asked everyone the same questions, doing their job.

    It reads to me like they were playing a game of: “How many stupid questions can you ask a job candidate before they just get up and leave?”

    Did they even contact you again after the interview?

    1. OP#1*

      They sent me a rejection at the end of their process, I guess the same one for all of us.
      I would have been really shocked with anything else. :D

      1. V.V.*

        Rereading my statement, I see I should clarify. I meant to say if they asked everyone the same question they asked you, I don’t know if they were actually interested in hiring anyone, because that question is just off-putting.

        I had a friend that worked for Hot Topic back in the day. Whenever the staff wasn’t interested in helping customers they would crank up the volume until the store emptied. Somehow I was reminded of this when I read your letter.

        Anyway good luck to and happy hunting. Hopefully your next interview won’t be so bizarre.

  21. Not an IT Guy*

    #2 – “The days of needing resume paper and printing supplies are long past.”

    So I take this to mean you don’t need to bring a copy of your resume to every single interview every single time?

      1. Not an IT Guy*

        I only ask because once I was personally escorted out of the building for not bringing my resume to a 2nd interview.

        1. Michele*

          That seems harsh. I do think that it doesn’t reflect well on the person being interviewed if they don’t bring a couple copies of their resume, but I would never declare an interview to be over because of it.

        2. variety*

          Wonder what bullet you dodged that day. Were they going to go over it line by line? The processes to be followed were probably a nightmare. How many layers to go thru to get something done? Did you use the correct form in the correct color?

        3. Cordelia Naismith*

          What? That’s so weird; if it’s a second interview, surely they already had your resume!

    1. Allison*

      No, you should, but it doesn’t need to be on fancy resume paper in most industries, and you don’t need as many copies anymore. It used to be that job hunting required you to mail out your resume, and “pound the pavement” with a ton of resumes you would hand deliver to prospective employers, so you needed to make a lot of copies. Nowadays, pounding the pavement isn’t really a thing and most applications are electronic now, so you only need hard copies for actual interviews.

      1. Kelly L.*

        This. I bring mine to interviews. It’s partly to “cram” with before the interview while I’m waiting, sort of mentally running through the past jobs I’ve done and reminding myself of anecdotes about how I was awesome at them. The resume makes a decent memory aid. And then it’s also useful in case the interviewer forgot to print it out. But yeah, it’s not on fancy paper, and additionally, the interviewer usually does have it printed out, so the same copy will last me many interviews. I don’t need 100 of them. Maybe 5, and on regular paper I probably have lying around anyway.

      2. Ann O'Nemity*

        Yes, this is the way I understood it as well. You may need a few copies for interviews, but you’re not applying with paper resumes, which means you need significantly fewer.

    2. INTP*

      I do bring one (printed on cheap paper) but I’ve only needed it once. The company turned out to be a disorganized fustercluck in more ways than that. Everywhere else, each interviewer has already had a printed copy with them.

  22. The Other Dawn*

    RE: #1

    I can only assume that if you say you’ll fight, they will see you as someone who will stand up for yourself and what you believe in and that you’d rather face things head-on, even if it’s harder. If you say you would rather steal, then you’re someone who would rather take the easy way out and avoid conflict. I don’t know. Just a guess.

    1. OP#1*

      But on the other hand, in our culture unpaid overtime is the usual thing (not the US, no exempt/non-exempt system), workers’ rights aren’t always a priority, so someone who would fight could also be viewed as a potential troublemaker if they don’t really play by the book.

  23. Alter_ego*

    I got asked once whether it was better to come to work drunk or high. Same situation, “neither” was not a choice I could make. I didn’t get the job

      1. Alter_ego*

        yeah. I think I said high, because I feel like high people are at least somewhat more functional than drunk people, and the ways in which they are non-functional tend to cause less potential damage. But I have never done drugs, and I’ve never even tasted alcohol. This is not a question I’m really qualified to answer, nor is my answer relevant, since I don’t foresee a drastic personality change that would lead to my doing drugs or drinking at all, let alone while working.

    1. MsM*

      I’m assuming this wasn’t with either a liquor distribution company or a marijuana legalization advocacy group?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Obligatory statement that no credible marijuana policy reform group allows people to come to work high, just like any other workplace.

        – former chief of staff of a marijuana policy reform organization

    2. Julie*

      I got that question and I said drunk which was wrong since drugs are illegal. I told them I was 16 and alcohol was illegal for me too. The interviewer had clearly never thought of that but I got the job, though I hear it was mostly for my penmanship and not my attitude.

    3. INTP*

      My interpretation of that is they’re trying to assess how conventional and “rules of society”-based your moral reasoning is. My cynical answer is that an employer who asks such a question and demands an either/or answer wants you to say “drunk” to indicate that you’re a rules follower, not ask analytical questions (my first question was “high on what?”) or base your answer on practical considerations. Who knows though, maybe they’re looking for creative thinkers and think it’s an innovative interview technique.

  24. Ben Eubanks*

    #1 is called forced choice. It’s typically used as a performance management technique but here is used in the interview context. It’s supposed to be a way to get information in a way that people can’t prepare or fudge answers. In their opinion one of those was worse. They were trying to figure out the lesser of two evils, even if it’s a poor way to do it

    1. JB (not in Houston)*

      Yeah, I think the OP figured out that they wanted her to pick whichever they had decided was the lesser of the two evils. But the way they handled it, it didn’t make any sense.

    2. fposte*

      It’d be fun to answer “I’d just set the whole freakin’ place on fire and watch it burn.” I bet they wouldn’t push me to try again.

    3. Us, Too*

      It might also be fun to act super angry and insist you refuse to choose between them. You demand that BOTH are perfectly find and you see no problem in stealing something and beating people up to escape with the goods.

  25. Michele*

    The interviewer for #1 was clearly putting together a team, probably of criminals for a heist, although it could be like the TV show “Leverage”. They already had a hacker and a seductress, but they were looking for the muscle and the thief.

  26. Michele*

    The sexual harrassment sticker on a car doesn’t seem inappropriate to me. We have a large parking lot, so I see a lot of stickers for a variety of causes. That sticker doesn’t go against anything that have regular training on, anyway. I would probably assume that the vehicle belonged to HR or a consultant if I saw it in the parking lot.

    1. fposte*

      I don’t think it’s inappropriate, but I also don’t think it’s likely to have any effect on the problem. Car stickers are psychological wallpaper, and I doubt it would inspire anybody to take action any more than they inspire people to end the war in Iraq or to coexist.

      1. Poohbear McGriddles*

        I dunno – I’ve been peacefully coexisting with my fellow man ever since those stickers came out. Coincidence? Maybe not!
        Although I guess if I were inclined to sexually harass a coworker, a decal on a coworker’s automobile probably wouldn’t slow my roll. I mean, sure I know now that Jane is not cool with being sexually harassed, but it’s hard to find a someone who’s down with that anyway. So I’m pretty much guaranteed to be barking up the wrong tree regardless of what who has on their car.
        Except the guy with truck nutz – he’s probably into some weird stuff.

  27. Nobody Here By That Name*

    #3 – I had something like that happen to me recently. It was a full job posting with description, so I had even more reason to know it would be my dream job at a dream company. It was posted on a Thursday evening and it was gone by Monday morning. I managed to get my cover and resume letter in before they took it down but at this point I’m assuming the job was never really available.

    So I feel your pain, LW #3. Come sit by me in the “so close and yet so far” corner.

    1. Stranger than Fiction*

      Up thurs-mon? For that one, I’d assume they already got enough resumes, or too many, so then took down the posting.

  28. yep*

    1. I was just asked one of these moral compass questions but the wording was a little tricky to me at first. The job would be in a helping field but working as a processor for applications. The question was if my neighbor asked for me assistance processing an app what would I do. The answer now looks really clear cut and dry to me, but in the moment i was thinking making a referral and helping. –I was about to say sure, I’d help them then I remembered they said processing the app not helping them fill it out. So I said I would “refer them directly to the agency”

  29. Lefty*

    #1 – The fantasy me would respond with “I can’t pick just one!”, punch him in the arm, and run out the door with his stapler.

    The real me would just be grateful that this guy showed his ass-hattery BEFORE I agreed to work there. Seriously, an interview that includes the “Would you rather…” game is a sure sign of a place I don’t want to be.

    1. Michele*

      That made me laugh.
      Does anyone besides junior high school boys actually enjoy playing “would you rather”? That would just be obnoxious.

      1. TeapotCounsel*

        Maybe we could combine LW#1’s situation (forced choice) with LW#5’s (sexual harassment):
        Q: “You’re on Gilligan’s Island. Ginger or Mary Ann?”
        A: Ms. Howell.

  30. Allison*

    Nowadays, Staples seems relevant for two things: recycling old batteries, and back-to-school shopping. Everything else at Staples can either be ordered online, bought somewhere else, or is obsolete for most people. If you want to give someone a gift card to specifically help with their job search, I’d give them something they can use to buy clothes, or maybe a salon gift card for a haircut. Or a spa card so they can de-stress. But cash, or a gift card that can cover everyday expenses, is more practical when someone loses their source of income.

    ALSO, it’s important to note that giving someone money, a gift card, or a token of appreciation for their hard work is a nice gesture when it’s voluntary. It’s not something people should be forced to give.

    When I lost my contract gig last year, due to budget reasons, my boss did help me with my job search, but not by giving me a gift card and patting me on the back, he actually hooked me up with someone looking to hire someone with my skills. I was unemployed for exactly one month, thanks to him. If you want to help your former coworker find a new job, that’s a better way to do it – leverage your network to actually help them find a new job.

    1. JB (not in Houston)*

      I’ll admit that the staples brand of post-its are my favorite, and I love office supplies, so I’d appreciate a Staples gift card. But if I were newly and unexpectedly out of work, I’d probably like a Visa gift card better.

  31. Mike C.*

    RE #5

    I don’t see any problem with the decal at all, and it would be a nice change from the Truck Nutz and whatnot I see around here.

    1. Lefty*

      And – totally off topic, but what is the deal with the trucks with the teddy bears strapped to the grill and the cars with a stuffed animal hanging below the license plate?

        1. nona*

          LOL but they have a pride flag sorta thing with different colors.

          I’ve seen furry bumper stickers around town.


    2. the_scientist*

      Truck Nutz are the actual worst. I can’t think of a single positive thing they say about the owner of the vehicle.

    3. Sadsack*

      This morning I saw a truck with “Sex, Weights and Protein Shakes” in the back window. It did give me something to ponder while I sat in traffic.

  32. NickelandDime*

    I’ve come across #3 before. It might not be a real job listing. I remember applying to a job that I think was an old legitimate listing copied and put on a bogus site pretending to be a job bank site. This job listing had a company name attached to it, however. Right after I submitted my information and resume, I realized I’d been had. Luckily the only thing bad that happened as a result was me wasting my time. This was years ago. Now, I will only search certain websites and try to go to the company website and apply to jobs whenever possible. I also don’t apply to “confidential” job postings. I know companies may have their reasons for doing that, but I can also choose to not be bothered with it.

    1. Cath in Canada*

      I was wondering if the ad was put up to fulfill some immigration criteria or something like that. “Well, we advertised it – here’s a screenshot! – but didn’t get any qualified applicants from citizens and permanent residents, so we’ll be needing a visa for Bob here, please”. Either that or a premature post.

  33. puddin*

    #1 – If I can walk away from the fight with no injuries and no citations, then I’ll fight. But if not, I will take that pack of gum thank you very much.

    #5 – I think this would send unintended messages to the people you work with. While the topic is an admirable one to discuss and shed light on, a bumper sticker does not allow for that dialog, which leaves your bosses and co-workers to fill in the blanks. And who knows what those fill ins will be???

  34. BethRA*

    #1 – I think they interviewers have watched too much Star Trek, and wanted to come up with their own version of the
    “Kobayashi Maru” exercise.

  35. DrPepper Addict*

    #1 – That is a really weird question and I agree with Alison, what type of information were they trying to find out with it? The only possible thing I can think of is it might weed out some people that would say “I steal all the time, so I’d rather do that than fight.”

    I wonder what the readers would think of this solution, if it ever comes up again for any of us in the future. How about saying this as your answer, “Can I ask you what type of information you hope to find out by asking me this question? I’ve been to many interviews during my career and this seems very odd and out of place, as I’ve never been asked anything like this before. I prefer not to answer and I would encourage you to rethink asking that question in the future as it makes the interviewees uncomfortable, when as an interviewer you should be trying to make them feel at home to see if they are a fit for your culture.”

    1. De Minimis*

      I agree that it’s probably a way to weed out theft…I don’t know if they’re really trying to gauge if you would fight a potential thief. I think BethRA is right too, it’s also something where you’re presented with nothing but bad choices in a bad situation. The interviews I had with the IRS used to do something similar.

      FWIW, in retail I remember they said the best way to deal with suspected shoplifters was to continually ask them if they needed help and sort of smother them with customer service.

      It is hard not to get involved and take it personally when someone is trying to rip off the store–I know I got scammed one time working the register and never forgot it. And I always felt good when I was able to prevent someone from stealing, whether it be shoplifting or switching the ID tag on merchandise.

    2. Dasha*

      There was something someone said the other day… When you ask a stupid question you can’t be surprised when people flounder or struggle to find an answer.

    3. Mephyle*

      If the “stealing” part of the question is about shoplifter-catching duties, it seems even less relevant. Because it’s not asking “which would you do; fight or let someone else steal”.

  36. Amanda @ My Life, I Guess*

    I’ve been having similar problems to #3 – although it’s the fact that the job ad is taken down quickly) weeks before the posted closing date) and I have no idea why.

    This has happened twice with the same organization. A promising ad is posted, I meet all the criteria, but then within a day or so, it’s gone. I have no idea why.

    A friend suggested that they are just making corrections to the ad and that it will be reposted, but that was not the case with the first time I noticed.

    Does any one know why this might be happening? Are they hiring internally, but posting it publicly to meet requirements or something?

    1. Kardashian Type II Civilization*

      I don’t know, but since I’m working on stuff like this at my company right now, I can tell you that there is a lot of red tape involved in posting a job ad – the larger the company, the more red tape. There are various levels of review, which can slow things down. It would not at all surprise me to hear that there are times when it takes several weeks to get a job listing up – by which time the persons who posted the job became unhappy with the delays and managed to fill the position simply by networking with friends and associates. And there’s always the possibility that Things Change, and someone hopped on the task of getting a job listing out there … just in time to discover that management decided they don’t need to hire anyone after all. Or – from the perspective of the hiring manager, they simply want a nice stack of resumes. If the job ad is up for one day and brings in 200 resumes, the hiring manager might shut the ad down, figuring 200 that out of 200 resumes, there’s got to be at least one person who can be hired.

      This is all speculation on my part – but I’m actually *inside* of this particular sausage factory at the moment, watching them make sausage, and lots of it, and from what I’ve observed so far, the stuff I outlined above is all entirely possible.

  37. Liane*

    Ques. 1: Yes, it sounds like another Stupid Interview Query. On the other hand, it *might* be a good opening for me to bring up how I am currently using my awesome customer service skills to help a librarian recruit Stormtroopers and Jedi Knights. True story.

  38. John R*

    #3–if it was a government job there’s another possibility–the job was earmarked for a specific person but government agencies generally aren’t allowed to promote specific people and are required to post all jobs to the general public. Sometimes, they meet this requirement by posting the job for an hour or two then taking it down and hoping no one saw it but the person they want to have the job.

    It’s kind of sucky, but it’s also kind of sucky that good workers in government can’t get promoted like everyone else.

    1. HDL*

      I was thinking this, too. Could be one of those companies (like the gov’t) that has a policy to advertise every open position but someone internal had already been chosen to fill that position.

  39. BTW*

    #1 – I recently got the “three wishes” question. I know why she asked that but I think these kinds of questions are stupid. If you are asking the right questions in the first place then you should be able get a good sense of who someone is. (Which through their normal interview questions they did in the end) Props (lol) for the feedback you gave them in the end. Hopefully they learned their lesson haha!

    #4 – I’m probably the minority but I just don’t feel this is right. I feel like it’s blatant lying. Surely you don’t *have* to tell him anything and I don’t feel you *have* to stay because you promised him you would. However, not only has he has given you the opportunity to be honest but you said he has also been very accommodating through all of this. I feel like his intentions are good and if he’s asking in the first place it’s because he would understand if you felt you needed to look elsewhere. If this were me, I would be concerned about burning that bridge and would tell him now rather than after the fact.

    1. #4 op*

      You’re absolutely right, and this is actually the reason why I asked this question. I don’t think it’s right either, but I don’t know of any other diplomatic way to approach it. If I tell him now without having a job lined up, I’m setting myself up for retaliation or to be let go at that specific point, which I can’t afford. I appreciate your insights, but unfortunately, your line of thinking is exactly what prompted me to ask this question.

  40. Stranger than Fiction*

    #3, Alison’s advice is sound, however, I just wanted to give my 2 cents regarding “dream jobs”. Unless, of course, you have intimate knowledge of this company’s inner workings (like you know people that work there) don’t get caught up in the “dream job” or perfect “company thinking’. Example: in my area, there’s a software startup company that has been voted one of the best places to work in a couple of regional publications for a couple years, so my significant other was absolutely thrilled when he got an offer from them a while back. In fact, he had just accepted another offer and had begun working for a different company for two weeks, dropped them like a hot potato and went to this “dream job/company”. Low and behold, this place was an absolute nightmare. At first, they keep the smoke screen going by having new employees participate in this week-long orientation, where they fly people in, have lavish dinners every night, etc. Then, once you settle in and begin your actual job, the nightmare begins. People are leaving there in droves, almost all of them citing ridiculously long work hours, no formal training, bait and switching of the job they described to you and the job you actually end up doing, inexperienced people in director positions, and even nepotism at the top level. On top of it, my SO had an incredibly cruel and inept boss that gave absolutely no direction, didn’t train him on one single thing and constantly contradicted himself, i.e. “go talk to that person about it” then the next day “why’d you talk to that person about it, never do that again” and he actually would yell and scream and tell my SO to also yell and scream at others if he wasn’t getting what he needed from them. For every negative review on Glass Door, their Marketing and/or PR people post an (sometimes blatantly obvious) fake positive review. And in my case, I love my current job, but at first the company seemed hokey to me when I was interviewing/researching them, but here I am four years later. Just sayin’ it’s really hard to say and don’t judge a company by it’s cover.

  41. Creag an Tuire*

    OP #1:
    Real answer: “My answer is ‘neither’ and if you can’t accept that, I guess we’re done.”

    Fantasy answer: “I’m assuming this is some asinine ‘personality test’ and that the ‘correct’ answer is ‘fight’, so… :: knocks over chair :: COME AT ME BRO!”

  42. Mary Terry*

    #1- “Fight or steal? Is this a decision your employees frequently need to make? If so, I don’t think I’d like to work here.”

  43. sophiabrooks*

    #1- What if the interviewee was a Quaker? If the Quaker said steal, because their religion teaches pacifism, would it be religious discrimination? Maybe this is a sneaky way of avoiding hiring Quakers?

    1. Poohbear McGriddles*

      I’d imagine the Society of Friends takes the “Thou Shalt Not Steal” stuff seriously as well, so they’d really be in a pickle.

  44. 20something*

    #4. I had the exact same situation at my first job except the boss was horrible. Her startup couldn’t make money, so she laid another girl and I off and hired us off the books, and when I left for a new job, she sent me this angry email calling me this ungrateful person who took advantage of her generosity in hiring me.

  45. mel*

    #1. Wow, so it’s not even “Are you more likely to….” but “would you rather?”

    I mean, heck, I’m a small person so by the odds I’d be more likely to steal than to fight. But if they’re just asking which one I would rather be able to do, I’d probably answer fight, just because I’ve secretly wondered what it’s like and it probably finishes with a nice endorphin rush in the end. No one makes friends with theft stories.

    And hell, while the question clearly takes place on the realm of complete fantasy, I’d also say I would win the fight. And that I was 5 inches taller. And I didn’t have to work in retail.

  46. Omne*

    #1- considering it was a sports store it sounds like it might have been a half assed way of asking if you were physically active/aggressive/competitive etc.

    Just a thought.

  47. anony*

    Re: 1. Interviewer asked if I’d rather fight or steal

    Sounds like the interviewer was trying to see if you are an aggressive type person or not. Aggressive people tend to choose fight, while most passive-aggressive people would rather steal. Anyway, it’s a bad question.

    1. Student*

      Spoken like someone who’s never done either.

      Both depend heavily on circumstances. Nearly anyone, no matter how aggressive, will back down when facing an opponent with a clear physical advantage – age, size, weaponry, experience, physical condition. The questioners probably didn’t consider that at all – many women don’t want to get into a fight because the odds are likely against them from the beginning with a random, unspecified opponent. As a 5 foot tall woman, I know the odds are against me if I fight most other adults. Me fighting a random average guy is like an average guy fighting a professional football player! No one chooses to fight unless they think they can win or they think they have nothing to lose.

      Plenty of people will steal if it’s a good opportunity with low risk of consequences, regardless of whether they are “aggressive” or “passive aggressive”. Plenty of passive-aggressive people don’t steal. I don’t even see the connection between the two. Thefts are usually done out of impulse or out of desperation. Mugging is a form of theft that’s also violent, but not really the same as a fight.

  48. jag*

    ” Nearly anyone, no matter how aggressive, will back down when facing an opponent with a clear physical advantage”

    Not true. When people are enraged they often can and do fight against odds. I did as a kid. I know of people who have when older.

  49. Malissa*

    My answer to #1

    I would steal. I can bring the chocolate teapot back the next day and explain the awful choice I had to make. But if I fight I can’t unbreak your bones.

  50. Calliope*

    regarding #1:

    I shall steal…your heart! And then I shall offer it up, still beating, to my dark and loathsome gods.

    Seriously, who asks these things? Silly questions deserve silly answers.

  51. LP*

    The custodian at a local bank has a huge decal across the black glass of her SUV that says “I’m speeding because I have to POOP!”

    I think yours would be less questionable than that, but people might wonder about the place you work.

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