my team wants me to bring them cookies, coworker is constantly monitoring me, and more

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

1. My team wants to be recognized with cookies and trophies

I need you to tell me if I’m being a terrible person. I manage a small team of part-time associates doing a pretty entry-level customer service job. Previous managers have apparently baked cookies, purchased novelty trophies, and made up awards to celebrate when employees made their goals. Most of this was on their own time with their own money, although admittedly it wasn’t too much of either. Personally, I think rewarding people for simply making their goals is unneceesary in most cases. That’s what they get paid for, and it’s what I expect them to do. Don’t get me wrong – I always thank everyone and congratulate them when goals are made, and I send out a spreadsheet daily with sales updates in which I also reiterate those congratulations for the entire team to see.

Frankly, before I took over, this team never had a decent manager and rarely made any of their goals. We’re now exceeding all of our sales goals regularly, but I’m getting some comments from some of the more seasoned employees that they want more recognition (like they used to get). My feeling is that I pay them to do a job so I expect them to do that job. When they go above and beyond, a thank you, a public congratulations, and an eventual raise should be motivation enough. I don’t think I should have to bribe my employees to do a good job, but am I wrong here? Am I really a terrible person?

Nope, I’m with you. That said, if I had stellar employees who were telling me that they wanted these thing, I’d get them for them, because it’s a small price to pay to make stellar people happy. But if they’re just scraping by, then no, I don’t think you’re obligated to show up with cookies and trophies.

(Also, are you sure that cookies and trophies are what they’re talking about? If they’re actually talking about something more substantial — like feeling appreciated — that’s something you’d want to pay attention to.)

2. Coworker is constantly monitoring and questioning me

I have been in my current job for about 10 months. It is not ideal (low pay, bad commute) but I’ve been trying to make it work. One of my major issues is the woman whose desk is opposite mine. For some reason, she spends most of her day monitoring my every move. She frequently asks me what I’m thinking about, why I’m sitting the way I am, what I’m doing, who I was speaking to on the phone, and on and on. If I don’t immediately stop what I’m doing to answer her, she assumes I’m mad and then wants to have a lengthy discussion about how to work this out. These talks are often accompanied by suggestions about how to improve my demeanor and attitude.

I get along well with everyone else in the office and have had only positive feedback from my supervisors. No one else seems to find my demeanor or attitude lacking. I have also noticed that this person doesn’t seem to interact with anyone else this way.

My strategy for handling the situation was to try and pleasantly redirect the conversation to a more neutral topic. When this clearly wasn’t working, and it got to the point that my work was constantly being interrupted and impacted, I spoke to our immediate supervisor. Unfortunately, in an attempt to help, she went directly to my coworker and told her that I complained about her. Of course, this has made everything worse. This woman has stepped up her vigilance to the point that she is constantly monitoring my facial expressions and saying things like “You look angry. Are you mad about something?” Actually I’m perfectly fine until she starts hounding me!

Tell her clearly and directly to stop: “Jane, you frequently ask me whether I’m angry or upset. I am neither, but it’s making it hard to focus on my work when you keep asking me. Please stop asking those questions.” … “Jane, it’s hard to focus when you ask me what I’m thinking about, why I’m sitting a certain way, or who I was talking to. Can you please stop asking me questions like that, unless there’s a specific work reason you need to know?”

If it continues after that, go back to your manager and explain that the problem has gotten worse since you last talked to her, that it’s making it difficult for you to stay focused, and that you’ve asked Jane clearly and directly to stop, to no avail. If Jane hears about it and doesn’t like it, too bad for Jane.

3. We’re supposed to share email passwords and log into each other’s accounts

I am newly hired in a customer service role. Anytime a someone in our department is absent, someone else will log into that person’s email account using the absent person’s password to retrieve emails that might need immediate response. I spoke to my supervisor about this practice and explained I’m not comfortable logging in with someone else’s password to access the information. I also explained I’m not comfortable with sharing my password. My supervisor said the email account belongs to the company, not to the individual, and should only be used for business so I shouldn’t have a problem with it. What do you think?

It’s bad practice and most employers don’t allow it for security reasons. But it’s really your employer’s call, as long as they’re not violating any industry regulations specific to your field.

4. Should I turn down a lunch invitation from a former coworker who I don’t particularly like?

I just left a job that made me miserable for a new position that I am loving. I have moved on and am happy. I have met one of my former coworkers, who was a positive person, after leaving. Now a man who was in a much more senior position is asking me to meet for lunch. I didn’t dislike him, but he was a major complainer and I just honestly don’t feel like staying in touch. I left that place for a reason! However, I get the importance of networking and this is a small enough town where we could run into each other again. Any thoughts on how to respond?

I don’t think you’re obligated to eat lunch with him if you don’t feel like it and he’s not someone you’d like. I’d just say that you’re really busy with your new job but that you hope all is well with him and hope to keep in touch. (That last part is the polite “I’ll call you” of the work world.) Then connect with him on LinkedIn or something as a demonstration of a much lower-engagement way to keep in touch. (Although if you can’t stomach that, you can totally skip that part.)

5. Being re-interviewed for a job by the same person who interviewed me last time

I wanted to ask you about an interview I just had that felt very awkward but could have been totally normal. It was a first-line phone interview by a guy who just wanted to know if I had the relevant experience, which I do. What felt awkward was that I was interviewed by this company for another position in January which I was not hired for: it was a field-based position on a team (I am a social worker) for a New York state contract. When they interviewed me in January, the rollout date was supposed to be in May and then the state changed it to July, so they were stuck with all these premature interviews, which they decided to do anyway. I got an email from them about 3 weeks ago saying that there have been changes in that program and they were no longer hiring for it. They didn’t say anything about my performance during the interview.

This is a telecommuting position and they sent me an email invitation to apply for the job. The reason why it feels awkward is because if they wanted to interview me for this position, I would be interviewed by the same person who interviewed me last time. I feel like they kind of “know who I am,” but there are 22 openings for telecommuters, which is a lot, and I don’t know if it’s a good or neutral sign that they kept my resume on file and solicited me for another position. I would assume that if they didn’t consider me a viable candidate for some job within their organization, they would have thrown my resume in the garbage. Do you have a take on this?

Doesn’t seem weird to me. They’re interviewing you again because they probably don’t perfectly retain everything you told them last time (or possibly even any of it), they didn’t get past the phone interview stage last time (which means that they haven’t really gone in-depth yet), and there may be different things they’re looking for this time. This is very normal to do; it happens all the time.

{ 324 comments… read them below }

  1. variety

    #1 – You seem to be doing something right if your team is performing to a much higher standard than under prior managers. The issue could be as simple as “but we always did it that way before.” and they need to get used to change.

    1. Ann without an e

      #1
      When the whole team meets all of their goals together, I think that is actually pretty awesome, especially when they have never done that before, its just cookies, is this the hill to make a stand on? The whole team accomplished something they have never accomplished before, and all they want is to celebrate with cupcakes. No one said you have to make them. Order them from a bakery have each persons name put on them and the goal they met. Its cheap, its personalized, and you might get them to try even harder for the next set of goals.

      1. Elysian

        Maybe, but I can see where the OP is coming from. Is this a yearly goal? Then sure, maybe ordering cupcakes is no big deal. But if this is a daily, monthly, or weekly goal, OP shouldn’t be paying out of her own pocket for treats for the team 12-24 times a year. Plus,OP says they’re part-time employees, so OP probably manages a bunch of people. If OP orders personalized cupcakes for 30 people 10 times, a year, that could be $300-$600 dollars easily. That’s a lot to pay out of your own pocket just to get people to do their jobs.

        That said, I think OP should hear this concern less as “we want cookies” and more as “we don’t feel appreciated.” OP says she is giving verbal praise to the employees, but verbal praise is worth less to some people than others – a comparison to the “5 love languages” pseudo-psychology might make sense here. Some of your employees have probably internalized your verbal praise, but for others that just doesn’t cut it. Are there other ways to show appreciation to employees who meet their goals? Maybe better shifts, getting to go home early after they’ve met their goal, or something else that won’t cost money out of your own pocket? I would think about other ways to show your employees that their hard work is appreciated.

        1. Koko

          Love the love languages insight here! I so often forget that it applies to all relationships, even working ones!

        2. Anonsie

          Agreed. It’s hard to articulate a general feeling like that, so concrete examples (“Well, Jane used to bring us cookies and give little awards, can we have that?”) as examples for what you’re missing is simpler.

          There’s also the factor that they’re doing much better than before. So you might say that of course they have to meet their goals, that’s their job, but if most people weren’t meeting them before and many still aren’t then the people who are meeting the goals are essentially outperforming many of their peers. That doesn’t mean they should get extra special snowflake medals or whatever, but acknowledging that they’ve all done well both compared to their previous situation as a group and (separately) that some individuals are doing particularly well compared to their peers is also important. And, as you say, just saying “good job” doesn’t really resonate with a lot of people.

      2. EvaR

        My company throws junk food and prize raffles at us constantly for meeting routine goals and I hate it. First of all, you’re right that it’s a cheap, low effort way to thank employees for hard work. In the case of the place I work at, this is usually done rather than giving cost of living or seniority raises, addressing issues about our company culture that impact productivity or morale, or fixing ongoing issues with things like our computer systems. It probably would bother me less if those issues were being addressed. But secondly, we sit all day. Our goals often revolve around time spent butt in chair. So we totally need to be eating tons of cake and cookies and cupcakes. And the management becomes very food pushy with this stuff. I get 6 different companywide emails telling me there are still cookies if I want more and so forth. It’s a big part of why I am looking for a new job. Don’t say thank you, that’s what the money is for! If you feel like you need to thank me for regular job duties, something is not happening thd way it should with either the duties or the compensation.

    2. Koko

      Maybe a compromise solution would be to just raise the bar – say I’ll do the cookies or trinkets, but you have to meet all your goals for 6 consecutive months, or you have to come in 10% over goal to get the award, something like that. That way you’re still communicating that goals are something that should be regularly achieved without special rewards, but you still give them the incentives they’ve grown to like.

      And if you managing them better without incentives already brought their performance up from below-target to on-target, perhaps a few well-chosen incentives can bring them from on-target to above-target!

  2. Uyulala

    #2 – How obnoxious. But, it’s a bit tricky since you do generally respond as she expects. When you suddenly change your behavior, of course she will wonder why. And you’ve clearly not told her directly that it is a problem. You need to be direct and not revert back to her desired response when she gets upset.

    If talking to her directly about the need for less interruptions does not help, step 2 might be bringing in one of those folding screens or a plant that blocks her line of sight to you.

    1. Artemesia

      This is one to be blunt on to her. The suggestions Alison made are spot on. You need to identify the behavior when it happens as a pattern and ask her not to do this. Once you have done this, you are in a position to ignore. ( and maybe if she keeps pushing and asks if you are mad, you can say ‘well I wasn’t before, but now I am furious that you have ignored my very clear message that I don’t want to engage in this nonsense with you any longer.’) Probably not. but close.

      But ideally you would also move your desk or have a sight barrier to make it easier on you. Or turn your desk to face another direction or move your computer to block her line of sight.

      Your managers really dropped the ball here.

      1. vox de causa

        How did they drop the ball? They addressed it with the offender. I think dropping the ball would have been inaction.

        1. Artemesia

          I am thinking that going to a pesterer and telling her ‘OP complained about you’ is fairly ineffectual. Effective might be to move the offender where she can’t bother someone or perhaps turn her desk facing the wall.

          1. vox de causa

            What I’m saying is, we don’t know how that conversation went – OP wasn’t there. We’re getting the coworker’s version of it, and that’s not reliable. The structure of what the manager said might have been perfectly fine, just with an employee who is refusing to accept it. It’s been known to happen.

            Also, in every office I’ve worked in, moving someone’s desk is a major operation, requiring a request to the facilities department and the IT department and getting on a list, and you have to justify it because you have to explain why you’re taking those people’s time. It’s not as simple as pushing a piece of furniture a little bit and scooting a chair. I realize after reading more responses that my experience is not the norm, but it might be for the OP’s office.

        2. LBK

          Addressing it doesn’t just mean bringing it up, it means bringing it up and effectively stopping it from occurring. The manager clearly didn’t address it because it’s still happening – she just told the coworker it was a concern, but that’s not addressing it IMO.

          1. vox de causa

            I’m not sure how you think a manager can make bad behavior stop in one visit – ideally that’s what would happen, but in some cases, the offender chooses to keep doing it and things have to escalate. This employee sounds like a problem, but maybe it wasn’t brought to the manager’s attention by the OP’s predecessor so nothing has been done.

            I’m getting the feeling that everyone is wanting the manager to lay down the law in a way that says “Shut up or you’re fired.” I really don’t think that going harsher as the default response is the way to solve problems. If every single thing results in a threat or formal warning just to ensure compliance (or a swifter transition out), I think that perpetuates a culture of fear.

    2. Snoskred

      Because I can be quite the beyotch when I want to be, my own response to #2 would be to provide her with a personal attention day, during which I would do the exact thing she does to her, for one full day. I’d probably make it a Friday so she could have the weekend to reflect upon it.

      In fact I would set a timer on my phone (silent vibrate style) for every 10 minutes, and when it went off I would ask her “What are you thinking?” followed closely by “Why are you sitting that way?” and then “What are you doing now”. If she did not answer any of these right away, I would get up out of my chair and go stand next to her, and say “You didn’t answer my question. Are you angry at me? Is everything ok?” Plus, anytime she gets off a call, I would ask “Who was that you were talking to?”

      I’d make sure to add in at least one discussion about how to work this out, with helpful suggestions on how to improve her attitude and demeanor.

      At the end of that day, she would likely have a very good understanding of how annoying my behaviour was and me being the beyotch I am, I would pull her aside and say “Are you feeling ok with how I treated you today?” to which her answer would likely be no, and then I would say “Now you know how I feel when you do those things to me”. I might add “Did you manage to get any work done with all my interruptions?” and when she said no, I’d say “that is the exact problem I have when you interrupt me with your questions”.

      I would likely have told my manager in advance that I intended to do this, but LW2 given your manager did not handle things well last time you did that, I probably would not mention it. If she reported the personal attention day to my manager, I’d simply say “I told you about the situation and you did not handle it, so I decided I would try this approach and see if I could fix the problem myself”.

      I’d be torn between doing that, and/or bringing in my own folding screen. :) Being the beyotch would be the cheaper option for sure. Folding screens cost over $100 here.

      1. fposte

        Yeah, if I were your manager I’d consider this an amusing joke but nothing you should actually ever do. Aside from the fact that it’s inappropriate office behavior from you as well as her, it’s highly unlikely to be effective.

        1. Snoskred

          Sometimes the best way to show someone how their behaviour affects other people is to hold up a mirror. :) Apparently the manager thinks this behaviour is perfectly fine, as the manager isn’t doing anything about it.

          It is pretty clear the manager is ineffective and not helpful, and this person has been putting up with this behaviour for a considerable amount of time. And it seems like the worst thing that could happen would be the co-worker bitches about it to the manager, and then the manager will tell the LW that the co-worker bitched about her.

          Sure, try the headphones, if you can get a cheap screen maybe that will help, if you can ask to be moved that might be an option. But failing all that, holding up a mirror to this person might be a decent possible solution. :)

          1. Ruby

            People who behave like this aren’t likely to get the point. And such behavior is inappropriate whether you are doing it to make a point or not.

            There are much better ways to address the problem, such as those Alison recommended in the post.

            1. Allison

              It is possible that people who behave inappropriately do see their behavior in others, and it dawns on them that the behavior looks bad, or they see how it affects others, and they change for the better. Unfortunately I don’t think this happens nearly as often as we’d like. Two wrongs don’t really make a right here, and sometimes it just means that now two people are behaving badly and the negativity is multiplied.

              TL;DR: this strategy, fun as it may be, has a high likelihood of backfiring.

          2. Sans

            A lot (most?) people who have odd or offensive behavioral habits won’t even recognize it when someone else does the same thing. They lack the self-awareness needed to imagine how they look to someone else. They can see the exact same behavior in someone else and think it’s awful and that they’d NEVER act that way … and they mean it. Even if you tell them bluntly that their behavior is identical, they will not believe it. You will be the unreasonable person. They will be the innocent victim.

            1. Helka

              Or, alternatively, general-you also engaging in this behavior will legitimize it to them as ‘acceptable behavior.’ It also weakens your ability to change tactics later on and tell them to stop.

            2. MsM

              And even if she is aware that this is bad and she shouldn’t be doing it, I’ll wager that it comes from a place of deep insecurity. This tactic won’t get her to shape up; it’ll make it impossible for her to work with you. Which would get her out of her hair, but I don’t think your manager will appreciate having to hire a replacement.

            3. Karowen

              Seriously! I once mentioned to a co-worker that I wore headphones to block out the chattering and the humming because it was hard to get work done otherwise. His response was “Yeah I have to do that too!”…He apparently had no clue that he chatters incessantly and then hums random stuff. (And when I actually asked him point blank to stop humming his defense was something to the effect of “but I’m humming a song, the other hummers are just humming.” Doesn’t make it any better dude.)

          3. Stranger than fiction

            Perhaps the mgr just didn’t take it as seriously as the Op explained it here. Maybe she just thought they were being petty. Op needs to be more direct with both of them.

          4. manybellsdown

            “Sometimes the best way to show someone how their behaviour affects other people is to hold up a mirror. :) ”

            I have always believed this myself, but after years of experience, I’m gonna say: it just doesn’t work like that. The other person is usually simply unable to see that they’re doing the same thing you are, because in their head they have A Very Good Reason and feel perfectly justified. Furthermore, people aren’t the same, so she may very well LOVE being asked what she’s thinking or doing every five minutes. It might be the attention she craves or just what she considers casual friendliness. I’ve found it’s incredibly rare for someone to actually stop and say “Whoa, is THAT what I’m like?” 99.9% of the time they’re more likely to decide that it’s not the same thing because [insert rationalization here].

            1. Jill

              I dunno… even if it doesn’t work, gosh, would it ever bee some good stress relief. Especially on a Friday!

      2. The Cosmic Avenger

        While it sounds like it would be satisfying at the time, fposte is right. All this would likely do is feed the drama llama. Asking someone like that “Are you feeling ok with how I treated you today?” would lead to an hours-long discussion. On Monday she’d be abuzz with “Why aren’t you paying attention to what I’m doing today? Are you mad at me?”

      3. vox de causa

        I’ve worked with people like the OP’s coworker – turning their behavior around on them never helped in my experience. That’s what they want – they crave that constant interaction all day long. The point of spending a day wasting their time with interruptions would probably sail right over this person’s head.

        I think OP should have been more direct to begin with, when dealing with the nosy coworker. Going to the supervisor was an okay step. Now that the offender has been spoken to and there is no improvement, it’s time to take Allison’s advice – do the direct thing, then go back to the supervisor if there is no improvement.

        Also, I’ve seen a few mentions that the supervisor messed up the handling of this. I don’t see how – the supervisor SHOULD have spoken to the coworker – their behavior is a problem and she talked to them about it. We don’t know exactly what she said, but what we’re hearing is filtered through the person who got the talking to, and I would consider them an unreliable narrator. The supervisor may have said “Your constant questions are making it difficult for OP to complete her work, so I need for you to stop doing that.” But the coworker hears “OP complained about you!” and that’s what gets back to OP.

        If I were the supervisor, I would want the OP to do exactly as Allison suggests. Be direct, and when that doesn’t work (because it’s not likely to, but they should give it a shot), go back to the supervisor. Not following your supervisor’s instructions is pretty serious, so this 2nd visit will likely be a lot more formal.

        1. Snoskred

          Whatever the supervisor did, it clearly did not work. That is why people are saying they’ve dropped the ball. In this instance the LW has this problem and she’s handed it to the supervisor in the hope it will be taken care of.. and then not only has the problem not been resolved, but she got a lovely side serving of “You’re a dibber dobber tattle tale” from the co-worker.

          You’re all probably right and holding up a mirror might not work in this instance. :) I’ve used it in the past with excellent effect, but not in an exact same situation as this.

          1. Colette

            Most of us have had the experience of needing two or more approaches before we’ve been able to solve a problem. I don’t see the first approach failing as an indication that the manager doesn’t care or can’t solve the problem.

            1. vox de causa

              Right. Sometimes these things take time, because people aren’t machines and you cannot control them. You can lead them and you can dismiss them, but I think holding the manager responsible for continued problems after one visit is unrealistic.

          2. vox de causa

            I think the manager should get the benefit of the doubt – it’s not unreasonable to have a visit where a manager tells someone that their behavior is a problem, without threatening any action. It’s completely reasonable to point out what is happening, why it’s not okay, and tell them to stop. What the coworker did with that information was ignore the instruction and lash out at the OP, which means it’s now time for a second, more formal, visit with the manager.

            I’m a big believer in giving people a chance, gently, before starting write-ups and moving toward a PIP, which (and I know I’m reading between the lines here, but I’ve known more than one person who acted a lot like this coworker) is sometimes the only way to get the offender’s attention. I think coaching and trying to help people be successful is the better way to go, on the whole. With some, it doesn’t work, and then you have to make the consequences of continued misbehavior very clear, but with others, they just need to see themselves and the situation more clearly, and that resolves the issue.

            I just don’t believe that the coworker’s behavior is reflecting badly on the supervisor from what we know at this point. If we get an update that the coworker is still doing it and after being told again, the manager still hasn’t shut it down, then I’d have to say the manager is doing a poor job.

        2. M-C

          I’m afraid we’re all getting tangled up in how utterly annoying #2’s coworker would be to most of us, and what could possibly be wrong with her to act like that :-). The fact is, it doesn’t matter what makes her act like such a pest. vox de causa is right, this is actually a problem for the manager. So thanking the manager for their intervention (which could well have been perfect as snoskred points out, regardless of result) and asking for the next step would totally be the thing to do. A little brainstorming about what would otherwise work might be in order? As someone suggested, maybe just moving out of the direct line of sight might alleviate the situation. If outright moving isn’t possible, some kind of visual screen, whether big plant or whatever. And OP could try to see it as an opportunity to practice their assertiveness :-). I second the headphone suggestion, interfering co-workers are the main reason so many people work with headphones on, whether they’re actually listening to anything or not. I’d ask the boss to pony up expenses for whatever you agree to though, so the victim in this situation isn’t further victimized..

      4. Wee

        I’ve done this in my personal life and it works like a charm. I Wouldn’t try it professionally though. I could see that back firing.

    3. Jeanne

      That’s a great idea to block the line of sight. Doesn’t this woman have any work to do? Follow Alison’s advice of being direct. Then refuse to answer any more questions of this sort. If possible, do not even look her way when she asks. Pick up your phone and dial your home voice mail or whatever.

      I cannot come up with any reasonable explanation for this type of crazy behavior.

      1. Dynamic Beige

        If it’s affordable and practicable, you could get a whiteboard or corkboard and make your own organiser. Screen from annoying cow-irker and more efficiency in one! Then, you’ll just have to wait for the “I can’t seeeeeee OP2 any more” complaints. It sounds like this coworker is either expecting that Everyone Should Be Friends or they are threatened by you for some reason. Or they’re just really, really nosy.

        If the “why do you need to know” suggestion of AAM doesn’t work and you can’t screen yourself off from this person, see if you can move your desk or switch positions with someone else. There may be a legitimate reason “since I’m now working more closely with X Team, if I could move closer to where they are located, I think that would help us communicate better” or “Cow-irker is still monitoring my behaviour and it’s affecting my ability to get my work done as they are constantly interrupting me for no reason applicable to the work I’m doing. Can I be moved to somewhere else? Maybe if I’m out of their line of sight, they won’t feel the need to constantly check up on me.” Yes, as that other letter a few weeks ago demonstrated, that might invite Drama, but it might be the fastest solution.

        While it might be satisfying to do the Mirror Their Behaviour approach, sometimes that works, others the person might think you’re making fun of them/don’t see that this is how they’re acting and will just make it worse. You might want to keep a running score of how many times Cow-irker asks you the same question, especially if they are not assigned to the same project(s) you are, and then on Friday when they ask you again who you were on the phone with, start making casual comments about why they need to know “Jane, were you put on the NerfHerder account and no one told me? Because you’ve asked me about it 15 times this week by my count and if I’m supposed to update you on its status, no one has told me to do so. Would you like me to go and speak with Manager/Project Lead about what steps I should take to make sure you’re looped in?” or “Jane, you’ve asked me several times this week about the Dingleberry project and it was requested that I not discuss details about it with people who are not on that team. If you want to work on it, please go and talk to ProjectManager or I’ll have no choice but to ask them for direction about what I am allowed to share with people in the office who ask questions about it.” The mere threat of getting other people involved might stop her, or you might have to do it several times before she gets the message.

        1. Prismatic Professional

          “Cow-irker” – I am now seeing somebody who goes up to cows, minding their own business, and poking them. “Hey, hey, hey.” Cow-irker, “Moo.”

    4. Ann without an e

      You could go with, “Stop asking me that its annoying, that is what makes me angry.” Or, “I get really mad when my concentration gets broken, its a thing, I know, can you please not do that.” OR Ear buds + music = easy to ignore co-workers.

      1. peanut butter kisses

        YES! Why not be honest with her when she asks if you are angry? Just say that her constant questions are annoying to deal with and that you would prefer her to do her own job and let you do yours.

        If that doesn’t work, why not document every single question she asks you with a timeline for a week so you can show it to your boss and let them know that she is wasting her time and yours with her behavior?

        You can also ask your boss if you can trade places with another co-worker. Just leave the scene of the crime so to speak.

        1. Stranger than fiction

          Great idea just make a little hash mark every time she asks a question on a little post it then if she acts like she’s shocked or in denial hold up the post it and say look you asked me 39 questions today!

        2. Rana

          Alas, I suspect she’s the sort of person who, upon learning that someone is angry with her, will then switch into full-on “Oh my gosh I’m so sorry you must hate me I am such an awful person please tell me I’m not horrible” mode. Just as time-consuming, perhaps even more annoying.

    5. Clever Name

      I realized just yesterday that the reason why 2 of my office mates (in a very long string of office mates) annoyed the crap out of me was because they took our working in the same room together as an opportunity to share every complaint about their personal lives to a captive audience. So, I feel you, OP. I guess the only consolation here is that it doesn’t sound like she’s sharing personal information. (I know way too much personal information about some people that I can’t un-know)

      I agree with the others, direct is best. Unfortunately, being direct is very hard in situations like this.

  3. A Non

    #3 – At most organizations large enough to have an IT department, logging in with other people’s credentials is verboten. It wouldn’t be permitted where I work. You probably don’t want to go over your manager’s head on this one, but it might be worth looking up if your organization has a policy in writing. There are technical ways of giving people access to each other’s email when they’re out that doesn’t involve sharing passwords. IT exists to help with things like this.

    1. Jennifer

      At my work, this is why we have group e-mail accounts that people are supposed to send requests to so that everyone knows about the e-mails even if someone is out sick. Everyone has access to them via Outlook like they do their regular e-mail. Also, we generally put “I’m out from X to Y, e-mail this address for assistance” away messages on our e-mails.

      I’m just saying that there are other ways to address that problem than having public e-mail addresses for everyone at work. But if they make you, then that’s their stupid, I guess. Might as well pick a password like “change me.”

      1. The Cosmic Avenger

        In Outlook, people who have access to your messages (without your password) are called “delegates”. You can delegate to let someone check your messages. You could also have group email addresses, and then sign each one with name or initials, the way many large companies do with their social media accounts, or you could use a ticketing system. Many helpdesk systems can start a ticket in response to an email and send an email when a ticket is responded to via the web interface. And users can usually see all tickets, and could respond to tickets that other people had started work on.

        1. Dutch Thunder

          This is what I was thinking – delegates. We used to do this at my old job. Even if someone sends an email from your account as a delegate, and you can set this per person, it will say it’s from “Swiss Sunshine on behalf of Dutch Thunder”.

          1. Michelle

            I was thinking the same thing. I am a delegate for my immediate supervisor to check his email for anything important while he is off/out for more than a day. I have a coworker who can send invites from the staff calendar and it says “Jane Doe on behalf of Michelle”.

            1. Chinook

              I echo the need for OP #3’s employer to make use of delegates in the email system. For me, it is not just the risk of someone reading something confidential (think HR or payroll info), but also the fact that one employee could sabotage (innocently or on purpose) another one by sending something from another person’s email account. Delegates are clearly identified as sending on behalf of someone else.

              Plus, as a delegate, you don’t see anything in the mailbox or calendar that is marked private or confidential (I think private just makes it blind but forwardable but confidential means it can’t be forwarded?)

    2. Connie-Lynne

      Yep. Gmail and Google Groups support several different ways of doing this. It’s “harder” than just sharing passwords, in the sense that it takes an hour or two to set up the first time and then of course everyone has to learn the new way of doing things, but it’s far more secure. Additionally it’s far more efficient; there are ways to use Group accounts essentially as mini-CRM queues.

      I’ll dig up some links tomorrow morning and post them in response to this.

      If your boss insists on not changing their policy/procedure, or if you simply don’t want to rock the boat in this way — and it is a big rocking for most people who are ignorant enough of computers that they’d even suggest password-sharing — my suggestion is that for your own protection you change your password after you return from being out. As long as you’re in the office, regular password changes are proper security hygiene, so doing so should be unimpeachable behavior.

      1. Graciosa

        I’m not sure that this accomplishes anything.

        If the manager is demanding password sharing in case someone is out, I would expect that to be a standard requirement to cover unanticipated absences as well – meaning that the current password must be available at all times, not only for scheduled absences such as vacations.

        Changing the password frequently under such a scenario is only likely to create unnecessary work to keep it updated.

        1. Connie-Lynne

          Oh, I wasn’t assuming the manager wanted pre-emptive password sharing. I was assuming they wanted the password shared when someone called out or set up vacation.

          Ugh, yeah, in that case you’re really screwed because password changes won’t help.

      2. Connie-Lynne

        So, there’s two common ways to solve this problem with Google Groups.

        The first is to simply set up a Google Group, enable “post as the group” in Group > Manage > Permissions > Posting Permissions, and then set up that group as an alternate-reply address for yourself. In this case, everyone needs to remember to always reply-all, so that folks can see the matter has been handled. This works great for low-traffic groups or small groups.

        Collaborative Inbox is basically a mini-CRM or ticketing system included in Google Groups, and it’s slightly different from what I described above. Here are some tutorials:
        http://vipclouds.com/1878/setup-ticketing-system-using-google-groups-business/
        http://static.googleusercontent.com/media/www.google.com/en/us/support/enterprise/static/gapps/learningcenter/Google-Groups-Create-a-collaborative-inbox.pdf

    3. SaraV

      +1

      My former IT self had all the bells, whistles, and red flags going off. I’m pretty sure many companies have the e-mail login tied to the person’s network login. People can have different permissions and access to different things that other people shouldn’t have access to. To me, this is just a recipe for Something Bad to happen.

      Yes, set up a group email account, and then you’ll have to train your end users to use that account exclusively for requests.

      1. Beancounter in Texas

        +1 on this. At Former Job, all managers had permission to open the mailboxes of their teams and The Boss had permission to access everyone’s mailbox, without being designated as a delegate. The user couldn’t stop the access if they wanted to (without asking IT to do so).

        And at jobs that host their own email, I always suggest and AccountsPayable@Domain and AccountsReceivable@Domain mailboxes that can be accessed by many people or forwarded to a specific user so that the company isn’t scrambling to notify customers & vendors of personnel changes. The City of Dallas learned this lesson the hard way in 2013 when they lost the website domain for the Dallas Public Library because the renewal email went to a former employee’s direct mailbox, instead of a generic Admin@City of Dallas. They were lucky that nobody had snatched up the domain name before the City caught the error.

    4. Mallory Janis Ian

      I’m laughing because at my small firm (13 people total, including the two principals), we have one shared password for everything, including email and all our online accounts that we use. Just the *one* password, and that’s it.

      1. A Non

        *twitch* *twitch* I’m just hoping that by “firm” you don’t mean that sensitive personal or legal records are involved…

        1. Mallory Janis Ian

          Plus the company size now represents almost triple growth for then in the past couple of years; it started out with just the two principals, then there were four people for several years. So we’re still operating as if we are still just 2 – 4 people.

    5. It'sOnlyMe

      In my former company we had a clear IT policy which included not sharing passwords but my TL insisted he have our passwords and would use freely when we weren’t in the office.

      Fast forward to me being called in to my Manager’s office and being asked why I had done an update on an account that shouldn’t have been updated. I couldn’t remember the client or the file and after reviewing it, I noticed that the update was made when I was on vacation and not even in the country; turns out my TL shared my password with a temporary member of staff who had been doing my role while I was away (and incorrectly at that). Cue red faces but no apology.

      That was a lesson to me to keep a personal log of my daily working hours that I could always refer back to to CMA. And thankfully that is Former Job.

      1. Mike C.

        This is my issue right here. If someone has access to my email account, they can impersonate me.

        1. Windchime

          This, exactly. Since I work in healthcare, we have strict rules about password sharing. Patient charts are 100% electronic, and there is no way I want my password being used to access a chart inappropriately. People get fired over that kind of thing.

          1. A Non

            Yeah. It is against HIPAA regulations to share login information. If there’s a data breach and investigation reveals that managers were telling people to share passwords, the organization is going to get hit with some massive fines. And those managers can be held _personally_ liable. It is a firing offense.

      2. A Non

        *twitch* *twitch* So glad it’s Former Job. Where I work, if someone told me a manager was insisting on sharing passwords despite a policy against it, I’d take that info to the CIO and he’d have a chat with the manager without ever revealing where the info came from. But I also have a sensible and diplomatic CIO.

    6. Anna

      I was thinking the exact same thing. Where I work, giving your keys to someone else or you login is a fireable offense.

      1. Stranger than fiction

        Oh and don’t get me started on out of office messages nobody does them right here

  4. a

    I got a feeling from OP #1’s letter that the employees are feeling underappreciated in ways other than just lacking cookies and trophies. OP seems to me like she’s a little fed up with them. If that’s the case, the employees can probably sense that. (Although it sounds like it was reasonable to be frustrated with the way things were run before.)

    1. MK

      However, if these employees have made significant progress, they may naturally feel unappreciated. There is a bizarre disconnect if one is a low performer and gets cookies and then becomes a good one and gets nothing. It’s not the OP’s fault, of course, but it’s something to keep in mind.

      1. Kimberlee, Esq.

        This. It’s not OP’s fault that a cookie culture has been built, but the fact is there is a cookie culture, and if you want to change it, you’re going to have to work with the fact that it will feel punitive.

      2. ThursdaysGeek

        Yeah. They weren’t doing such a good job, and when they did do an adequate job, they got cookies. Now they’ve come together and are really doing a good job, and there are no cookies at all.

        It’s kind of like when you are really working hard and get a ‘meets expectations’ on your review, because of course, that is the expectation. That’s especially hard to take if you’re working harder than before and before you were getting a better review. The scale changed.

        The scale needed to change, but that acknowledgement of how much better they are doing needs to also be clear.

    2. Juli G.

      I got the same fed up vibe – especially “that’s what I pay them for” since I assume OP didn’t buy this business. I also feel like OP is taking a lot of the credit for the turnaround – which is deserved but the employees were open and receptive to change even without the things that previous motivated them so they get some credit too.

      I would make them some cookies. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with buying lunch or bringing in cookies occasionally as a thank you.

    3. LBK

      The one thing that stood out to me was “eventual” raises. Maybe the OP needs to revisit everyone’s current pay and make sure there aren’t any immediate raises that need to be given? It could be that the request for cookies and trophies is an analog for not being compensated adequately; if they weren’t hitting goal before the budget probably couldn’t handle adequate pay/raises, so it may not even occur to them that they could be fairly compensated in actual currency instead of food.

      1. Retail Lifer (OP # 1)

        Everyone is caught up on raises now. We did take care of that shortly after I started – some associates had been missed while there was no manager in place and they were owed (and received) back pay. We did have one associate who has been here for many years that was told her wages were capped. I found out that was a blatant lie (my boss’ boss just didn’t want to pay any more) and we got her a raise, too. But you might be right – I’ve been here just under two years and the raises are pretty low now but they were downright pathetic when the team wasn’t making any of their sales goals. Hoping the team will start to realize they can earn actual money, not just cookies!

        1. Brett

          This sounds way too much like my workplace, which is a compensation disaster.
          COLA raises stopped in 1986. Merit raises stopped in 2007. This year, they are going to get us “caught up” on raises, which still left me getting paid less adjusted for inflation than what I started at in 2008. But with no accounting for my performance, experience, increased value, increased credentials, or especially the explosion in wages in the market for my profession.
          If you ask the person in charge of this, and you can believe I have, he will also say that I was caught up.

          You sound like the person that drops into the situation I have after all the mess has happened. And really, if I were told that the cookies and trophies would stop (or in our case, recognition plaques and training budget are really the cookies and trophies, and those did stop for a while), then I am not going to believe a word you say about raises. It may not be you, but if there has been years of broken promises on raises, then even a minor broken “promise” of cookies and trophies is reinforcement that you have been brought in to continue the same.

        2. HumbleOnion

          You got them raises and *backpay* and they’re still whining about cookies? Hell, if cookies are what they really want, maybe it’s time to be less of an advocate for them.

          You sound like a great manager. Maybe they have Stockholm Syndrome or something.

        3. Marina

          I was thinking about the $$ aspect as well. You mentioned that these were part-time entry-level jobs, which I assume means entry-level pay, which honestly probably means none of your employees are making enough money to buy their own cookies. At that kind of job, it’s difficult to feel like the paycheck is enough, even if it’s at market rate. Unless you’re able to get them raises to the point where they’re making median wage or above for your area, I think “perks” like cookies really do go a long way.

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            Yes, but as the retail supervisor of minimum wage employees, she’s probably not making very much herself. Asking her to use her own money to buy stuff like this isn’t really fair.

            1. AnonEMoose

              That’s very true. Thinking about this, I wonder if a nice note to each employee, thanking them for doing X (whatever X would be appropriate) would work just as well as cookies or trophies. Or hand out a couple of small pieces of chocolate (Hershey’s Kisses, miniature candy bars) or something like that with the notes if that would be feasible.

              It does seem like the employees may be feeling a little unappreciated, and something like this can, if done well, might help morale. And by done well, I mean the notes should be personalized more than just “thanks for your great work;” mention, to the extent possible, something each employee did well that helped the team achieve goal.

        4. AdAgencyChick

          Have you had a nothing-held-back convo with your team about this? As in, “I understand your previous manager was really into the cookies and trophies. I also understand that raises were really hard to come by. My style is different; I would rather make our goals and make sure the home office knows it so we all go home with more money in our pockets. Can you get behind that?”

          And couple that with lots of verbal acknowledgment of goals met and exceeded — costs nothing, and may help a team that’s used to cookies and trophies get used to the new setup.

          1. Cordelia Naismith

            Or maybe something like a bulletin board display — “These people have met their goals this week, these people met all their goals this month, and So-and-so met all their goals for the last six months.” That way, they get recognition, and it doesn’t cost the OP anything except a little time organizing the board every week.

            Or maybe that’s cheesy.

            1. Cordelia Naismith

              In addition to a conversation like the one AdAgencyChick recommends, I mean, not instead of.

            2. Meggers

              Just cuz it’s cheesy doesn’t mean it’s not useful/valuable/fun/etc. Some recognition/appreciation is both. (See: awesome wrestling belt, golden plunger)

        5. Graciosa

          Without downplaying the importance of either appreciation or actual compensation, I’m wondering if there’s another element in the cookie request that may not be apparent on the surface. For example, did everyone on the team get together for a few minutes when the cookies arrived? “We used to get cookies” may really mean this was a (hopefully short) team building ritual, and its absence is being felt.

          One of the challenges we face as managers is remembering how different we all are. For example, I dislike public recognition intensely, but have to motivate people who bask in spotlights. There are people who really want to hear how well they’re doing on a regular basis, and others in the “Talk is cheap – where’s the money?” camp. Some people prefer admiration directed only at work product and others want to be recognized as a department rock (reliable, steady, and someone who can always be counted on). Some people want a very professional relationship with a manager, while others want to feel that they’re working for someone who knows them personally and cares about their future.

          You’ve obviously done a lot already to help your team and improve performance. I would probably have the same reaction to the cookie request (Cookies? Seriously?) but the truth is that there may be an opportunity here to learn more about what motivates the individuals in your department. If there is something you can do differently to improve their performance, I think you should consider it – even if it’s a request for (OMG are you kidding me?) cookies.

          1. Koko

            This is also a good point. Our managers periodically bring in breakfast treats or take us out for a happy hour, and while I do avail myself of the free food and drink, what I actually appreciate about those gestures is the time our team spends together celebrating our accomplishments as a team. If they just came around and distributed breakfasts to our individual offices or gave us gift certificates for the local wine store or something as a reward for a successful project I would probably actually think that was a little weird – like, you paid me to complete that project, I don’t need a free bottle of wine or a bagel for this??

        6. LBK

          Well…that sounds like pretty much everything you can financially support. I’m kinda surprised that they still don’t feel appreciated. Especially if there’s a rankings board too – when I was a retail sup my employees would bug me every week to update them and then grill me on each number. Does your team seem particularly competitive?

          1. Retail Lifer (OP # 1)

            They are. Shockingly, no one ever did much to communicate their personal results and/or team results. This is Management 101, but something that seemingly every previous manager missed. Once I started a spreadsheet that showed how they were doing individually and vs. the rest of the team, their numbers went up. That wasn’t the only reason, but I think it was a big part of it.

        7. Elder Dog

          “Hoping the team will start to realize they can earn actual money, not just cookies!”

          Don’t hope. Tell them. Don’t get their hopes up if you can’t follow through, of course but if you want them to “realize” something, say it, out loud. Unless you run a psychic hotline, of course.

          And if people get fussy about you not spending your own money on cookies, tell them that comes out of your pocket and you don’t know how much their other managers made, but you aren’t making enough so you feel you can do that.

          Don’t assume they know any of this. Tell them.

    4. jhhj

      I’m getting “I see that everyone has stepped up their performance to not just making but exceeding goals, but they don’t find a spreadsheet with a congrats enough appreciation. I plan to try to get some of the people who go above and beyond a raise or something eventually, though no one knows if this can ever happen.”

      People are satisfied by a job well done, sure, but they also need appreciation. And obviously they’re looking for low level sorts of appreciation — cookies — so maybe you should consider why you refuse to do anything more obvious. Do one nice thing congratulating everyone for being so successful — see if the company will bring in a lunch for them, or breakfast, or just give in and bring a lot of cookies and make a big announcement about how well the team is doing and how proud you are of all of them.

      Maybe they should have been doing this well beforehand, but what they see is that in the past, they did well and they got enthusiastic praise; now they do well all the time and it’s ho hum. You need to reset expectations for simply meeting goals, but you also need to make sure that your employees continue to feel like they are valued, and — whether you like it or not — a congratulatory spreadsheet is not doing it.

      1. Persephone Mulberry

        Agreed. Praise and recognition are defined differently by different people, and if this team is motivated by tangible rewards, that’s just a different kind of recognition, not a “bribe”.

      2. AndersonDarling

        I’m guessing these are monthly goals that wouldn’t equal a monetary bonus or raise. But being in retail situations, the managers and district managers generally get bonuses when goals are met. It can be demeaning to work your butt off to get your superiors a bonus and gain nothing for yourself.
        It think it is different working in an office where your goals are really your own. But it sounds like this goal takes a team effort, and I agree that the team should be rewarded.
        It sounds like the OP may be saying that the reward for reaching a goal is keeping their jobs. But I think the real impression the OP wants to give is that the hard work is appreciated.
        If the goal is worth working for, then it is worth celebrating when it is reached. Get a cookie cake. At least the team is saying exactly what the find motivating, most managers spend years figuring that out.

        1. Koko

          Gotta love those incentives that seem to pit management against their employees. Like a food shop I worked in once where for every dollar a manager came in under labor projections on their shifts they got a portion of it as a bonus in their check. It really incentivized the managers to run very lean shifts, which meant they’d send folks home early at the slightest slow-down. The folks sent home were sore about regular losing a couple hours’ pay and having to turn down plans but then routinely not ending up working those hours after all, and the folks who stayed resented the higher-stress that came from being just-barely-staffed so they struggled to get their sidework done if there was an unexpected rush. And everyone knew that the managers received bonuses for doing this.

    5. Retail Lifer (OP # 1)

      More fed up with the company we work for than them, but yeah, they can probably sense it.

      1. Ann without an e

        They all got raises almost two years ago, which is awesome. They just made all of their goals as a team for the first time, is it really that big of a deal to let them eat cake?

    6. Stranger than fiction

      Also sounds like old mgr coddled them and it did nothing to improve output. Maybe just come right out and talk about it at next dept mtg? Hey I know Babs used to do a b and c but here’s my take on it…

    7. M-C

      Yes, I don’t think I’d like working for someone who sounds so annoyed about the team. So OP is able to squeeze more work out of the employees, good for her. It remains to be seen whose standards were the most realistic? And doing so without expressing even the level of appreciation that used to be given for less work seems lacking in the most basic graces. Trophies wouldn’t do it for me, I prefer cookies which can be disposed of more readily :-). But that’s not the point, if people want something tangible, just shut up and give it to them.
      And watch for a time when people start leaving your department in droves..

  5. Snoskred

    #1 – This is a bit of a tricky one and I’ll be interested to see the comments on this. I have two opinions on this subject.

    1. If your staff were not performing when you arrived, but they are now exceeding sales goals on a regular basis, then I do think that specific fact deserves some recognition above and beyond words in an email. Anyone can type words in an email. Email does not always feel like a form of recognition to some staff.

    2. If baking them something (or buying something if you are not inclined to bake) or if taking some time to create certificates on your computer which you can give out at a “ceremony” will make people feel more appreciated, I don’t see anything wrong with doing those things.

    Sure, they are getting paid to do a job and that should be enough. But it has been my experience that the difference between a good manager and a truly great one is the relationship you build with your people and having a small celebration can be a big part of building that relationship, even something as simple as bringing in cookies or a cake and taking a moment to say to your staff something simple like “When I first arrived here, sales goals were not being met, but now you guys are performing and exceeding the goals regularly, and I just want to take a moment to recognize that and thank you.”.

    Betty Crocker packet mixes were invented almost exactly for this reason. You can easily home bake something and take it in – you can even customize those mixes by adding an extra thing if you want to. Me personally I do the Cinnamon Crunch muffins (this might be Cinnamon Streusel muffins in the USA) and add in some tinned black cherries and people seriously go nuts for them, even though it is a $4 packet mix with a $1 tin of cherries added.

    If you do not want to do a staff get together, or if the part time nature of their role makes it difficult to collect them all into one place, then a small lolly bag or block of (decent) chocolate with a personalized card or tag or short letter might be a good way to go.

    I’m a big blank card person myself, you can often get blank cards super cheap these days and if you don’t want to buy them, you can print them with your own printer and even use your own photos if you like.

    If you make certificates and hand them out, I think a photo of you with the staff member and the certificate can be an awesome thing to do as well. Especially if you have an area on a wall where you could put those photos.

    Anyway, that is just my opinion, will be interested to hear other opinions on this. I think this might be a hotly debated topic. :)

    1. Jeanne

      I am wondering if, certificates or not, there is a lack of *personal* recognition. Are you saying Great job everybody! Or are you specific? “It was Jane’s work on project x that really made the difference this week.”

      Also, you say one of the rewards for a job well done is a raise at the end of the year. Are you sure? They could have been burned before. The company would say thanks for your work, no money for raises. It may be that your workers know this and would at least like the cookie party because they know no one above you cares.

      1. Elsajeni

        These are very good points, especially about personal recognition. In my retail job, the goals and the pressure to meet those goals came to us individual workers, but the recognition when we met or exceeded them went to our store manager, or, at best, to “The Store #XXXX Team” — it was always completely impersonal, and often closer in tone to “Your work is satisfactory” than to “Congratulations and thank you for your hard work!”, even if we had significantly exceeded a goal. Any recognition more personal or enthusiastic than “The interchangeable cogs are performing at an acceptable level” had to come from our immediate manager. That may be a big part of what OP#1’s employees are looking for.

    2. Zillah

      I don’t really agree in general – I think that baked goods as reward can be fraught for a lot of reasons, and the staff should feel appreciated in a way that doesn’t require gimmicky certificates – but I especially don’t agree re: the baked goods in particular if the OP is female. It’s one thing if you genuinely enjoy baking (though even there, I’d say avoid doing too much of it), but in this case, the OP would be ceding to their staff’s pressure to conform to certain gender roles, and to me, that’s not a message you want to send.

      1. Connie-Lynne

        I’m with you on the “good gravy, not cookies from a lady-manager AGAIN” angle.

        OTOH, I did bake my team cookies a few years ago when I happened to mention in work-chat that I’d gotten a new Kitchenaid and was excited to try it out, and my team (including women) scoffed at my cookie-baking ability. “Surely you are not able to make Proper Cookies, CL!” I’m pretty sure they were just teasing with a little bit of “and maybe we’ll get homemade cookies” tossed in for fun.

        I made cookies for my local team, my remote team, the IT dept and the admin staff (because god bless them, also, economies of scale and bribery for cookie shipment help). I arranged to ship cookies to all offices as well as to the homes of all our remote workers (I also shipped to remote IT and admin staff).

        It was a ridiculously well-orchestrated cookie shipment. I got my super-satisfaction when, on the day I roughly expected all shipments to arrive, I was sitting in the team meeting (with all remote offices having been briefed on “don’t tell anyone you got cookies,” mostly because of time zones) when one of our members had to leave to answer a doorbell. He comes back with a Fedex box, open, and “I just got cookies!” at which point we all celebrated a fabulous year and also the team had to admit that my cookie-fu was Superior.

        That Fedex timing was the Best Ever. My team never did entirely believe that I hadn’t managed to orchestrate the during-team-meeting delivery. It certainly did wonders for my reputation as a manager who knew how to Handle Things.

        So, in summary, I suggest: If you are a woman, _mostly_ refuse to make cookies for your team. It’s sexist and frustrating. But if you’re gonna make cookies, Make Cookies Like a Boss. Use the cookies to showcase that you absolutely have everything handled. And pray for a little extra showmanship from Fedex.

        1. Sunshine

          That’s a great story. I’m also an occasssional cookie baker (not for rewards, but because I sometimes get insomnia, and I jus want to do Something Nice for the office). But you’re at a whole different level. Kudos.

        2. LMW

          Good story! I think the whole baking-woman thing really depends on the environment. I used to bake for my old team all the time. I’d even do fancy birthday cakes and stuff (because I like to bake as a hobby and I live alone and someone needs to eat that stuff). But, I really felt respected for my professional skills and we were a close team where people liked to know a little (not too much) about people’s interest outside work. And it helped me get to know people I didn’t work with regularly– they’d stop by to say thanks for the cake and we’d talk about projects we were working on, which helped me get involved with new areas in the company. It also helped that we had a few men who brought in treats too.
          In the three years I’ve been on my current team, I think I’ve brought in one treat about a year in. There’s not much regard for my area (because I’m not an engineer) and there’s a faint whiff of sexism in the air. So no cookies for them.

        3. Anon in SC

          I think I need to make this my motto: “But if you’re gonna make cookies, Make Cookies Like a Boss.” It applies to much more than cookies, and it’s fun to say. And I love cookies.

      2. Snoskred

        Well, I have to say I disagree somewhat with that gender roles concept, though I’ll just leave it at that, as that discussion might be going a little off topic and heading into a much larger and different discussion.

        1. Snoskred

          I should also add, I am from Australia and many of our best and well known bakers and chefs are male, so this might bias my thoughts somewhat.

          1. thisisit

            but do they make *cookies* for their sou-chefs as a thanks?

            i could go either way on the cookie front, as someone who loves to bake. but then my team always knew that and treats in the office were no big thing. to celebrate a milestone, i usually took my team out for drinks or lunch.

          2. cardiganed librarian

            Yes, office cookies are not associated so much with being a chef as being in a motherly role.

            That’s not to say that I don’t bake for my co-workers, but I’m completely lacking in managerial ambition in a female-dominated field.

      3. Retail Lifer (OP # 1)

        I AM a female and I hate baking, although I don’t know if that’s because I tend to hate to do things that are generally “expected” of me because I’m a woman or if I’m just lazy once I leave work. There’s a strong case either way.

        1. Dana

          +1 I don’t cook or bake (I eat a lot of frozen meals and takeout) and some of it is DEFINITELY because it’s expected of me.

      4. Colette

        The OP could avoid that perception y buying cookies or donuts or whatever – she doesn’t have to bake them herself.

        Everywhere I’ve worked, baked goodies were appreciated – and bought ones were enjoyed as much as homemade ones.

    3. Connie-Lynne

      Be sure to be direct and specific in your praise — if someone has performed well, specifically celebrate their success not only within your team but in whatever forum your company provides for other celebration: an intranet, division-wide email, or CCing in the top cats at your company in a “yay, Jane!” email.

      Be very careful to give specific rather than general praise. “Great job! Bam!” is all well and good but “Jane managed to increase tea-of-the-month subscriptions by 10% by Seriously Applying Herself” goes a lot farther.

    4. Neeta

      While I don’t consider myself one of those people who needs to constantly be patted on the head, for doing my job… I can also see the benefit in these types of “activities”. I should mention that the age range in my office, is mid-twenties to early thirties. So maybe that’s also something to factor in, when planning these types of activities. Still, the occasional “treat” was always welcome.

      My previous manager used to do small things like this too, such as office wall painting, Secret Santa, decorating the office for Halloween, pumpkin carving, etc. Now, I know that most of you hate this kind of thing, and I was initially leery of joining it too, besides participation was entirely voluntary. In the end, my colleagues’ enthusiasm infected me too, and I ended up occasionally joining in. As far as I’m concerned, it really made a difference in office morale.

      So, occasionally bringing some cookies, and doing fun stuff, might even end up being helpful. I heard that in some companies, managers get a monthly “allowance” for such activities (eg: team building). Couldn’t you ask your own manager about the possibility of getting some funding for such things (so that you won’t have to pay for it all out of your own pocket?).

      1. misspiggy

        Yes. It’s about your manager doing something human and personal, outside of normal work behaviour, to show she cares about you as a person. It has made a huge difference to morale when managers have done this, particularly when they have been pushing us hard.

      2. Xarcady

        The morale issue is huge.

        My sister worked for a small, 35-employee company. Over the 9 years she was there, she was steadily promoted–they created new positions for her–and got raises regularly. And she liked most of the people she worked with.

        She had two main complaints. One was the workload. When she started, her department had 10 people. When she left, there were 5, and the workload had increased.

        The other was that there was no recognition from the owners of the company ever about the work anyone did. There was also no recognition from her immediate manager. And one of her complaints was, “He never even brings in bagels or doughnuts.” Not that she was especially eager to eat a bagel, but her point was that stopping on the way to work to get a few bagels would have taken him just a few minutes, and he wasn’t willing to put out even that much energy to make his people happy.

        There’s this book out there called “The 5 Love Languages” or something like that. It gets into the things that make people feel needed and loved. The premise is that there are 5 main ways–something like getting gifts, getting verbal messages, people doing things for you, people spending time with you, and one other I can’t remember.

        I’ve come to realize that there’s some truth to this and you can use it even for people you aren’t in love with. Realizing one of my siblings really speaks the language of gifts has made me a better gift-giver for them. Realizing that a friend really likes it when people do a little something special for her makes our friendship better–I can offer to spend all the time with her that I want, but she feels happier when I do a little something for her, like offer to walk her dog when she broke her ankle.

        It could be that the people who work for you simply appreciate cookies and trophies more than they do words of praise in an email.

        I’m not saying you need to provide cookies weekly, nor that you need to make the cookies yourself. But if the team has a great quarter, why not provide treats or pizza? If someone has a great week or month, why not drop a chocolate bar on their desk? Scale it way back from the apparent steady stream of treats and awards of your predecessors, but maybe don’t eliminate them entirely, because they clearly mean a lot to the employees.

        1. LMW

          I was thinking along these lines too.
          You don’t need to bake (especially if you hate baking). But, OP, your team is telling you that this more public, team-oriented type of recognition means something to them. You can use that information somehow to increase morale and productivity.

        2. Elysian

          Ooo I missed this when I made a similar comment above. Yeah, OP it sounds like the way you feel most comfortable giving appreciation is verbally. Maybe that’s how you prefer to receive it, too? Other people might just not be as receptive to verbal messages of appreciation as you are. It sounds like a number of people on your team “hear” gifts better than verbal praise, so you might want to think about a creative way to leverage that that doesn’t come out of your own pocket.

      3. Retail Lifer (OP # 1)

        It will have to be out of pocket. We don’t have a budget for such things, and our budget for other things is declining so there’s no wiggle room.

    5. ReanaZ

      “Sure, they are getting paid to do a job and that should be enough. But it has been my experience that the difference between a good manager and a truly great one is the relationship you build with your people and having a small celebration can be a big part of building that relationship, even something as simple as bringing in cookies or a cake and taking a moment to say to your staff something simple like “When I first arrived here, sales goals were not being met, but now you guys are performing and exceeding the goals regularly, and I just want to take a moment to recognize that and thank you.””

      This.

      I am a pretty self-motivated and high-performing person in general. And I am happy to get paid to meet my goals, and I don’t slack at work. But the difference for me between meeting goals to the letter and performing exactly as you tell me to and for me being truly invested in the work, committed to doing a great job over time, and building up the good will to get me to go above and beyond when needed is how much you make me feel valued and appreciated as an employee and a person. This is even more important with part-time grunt work–not a lot of intrinsic motivation and satisfaction to be had there from the work itself, so any motivation comes from knowing you’re doing a good job and feeling valued by your manager/company. People feel love in different ways (I don’t like the religious bent of Languages of Love, but I find them a very useful concept for making sure I’m showing appreciation in ways people value). Emails aren’t making these people feel valued. They’re telling you they feel valued by tokens of appreciation. Part of being a good manager is listening to that.

      I don’t know if you’re a terrible person, but you definitely sound like a grinch. If people still weren’t meeting their goals, sure, don’t praise them. But these people have totally turned around their performance for you, and you’re going to begrudge them a $5 packet of cookies? Seriously?

      1. fposte

        I don’t think it’s as simple as begrudging, though. I think the OP is noting that the previous manager put a lot of time into fripperies and not a lot into managing actual performance; she really doesn’t want to emulate manager 1 and engage in cozy pat-on-the-head type managing instead.

        That being said, she’s got a team that’s used to this stuff and now no longer has it, so I think it’s not just about the ideological superiority of what she’s doing. (That’s especially since it sounds like it’s not that great a job, in general.) In that case, I might fork out for cookies every now and then, though not necessarily as an official reward, because I’d like to separate it from the work metrics.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian

          That’s what I was thinking: that OP could still bring in cookies as an occasional expression of appreciation/camaraderie, but it needs to be separated from being a direct award for a particular performance.

        2. Retail Lifer (OP # 1)

          This, this, EXACTLY THIS.

          I don’t think I should have to tie performance to baked goods, but that doesn’t mean I can’t do something nice just for the heck of it.

          1. JB (not in Houston)

            Yes, I think that’s a great point, fposte. You want to work on getting their minds away from the idea that just doing their job deserves rewards (that’s what the paycheck is for). But bringing in a box of donuts or something periodically just because is a nice thing to do and would be appreciated, plus it would kind of cushion the withdrawal.

        3. Artemesia

          I would not be doing what the previous manager did. So I would not be baking cookies. But I would try to figure out some tangible way to reward people. Perhaps when an important milestone is reached e.g. 3rd quarter of exceeding sales targets — or whatever is wonderful in your setting — take everyone out for lunch. After being nagged to bake cookies, baking cookies would not be enough anyway. Recognize people but do it in some different way than the previous manager did it.

          I’m not their Mom so when I was the boss I didn’t bake cookies — one thing I did do though was bring a ham or a giant box of fried chicken to potlucks organized by staff a couple of times a year. Those events always seemed to be awash in jello salad, potato salad etc and the more expensive protein item was much appreciated. I didn’t have any budget to actually buy lunch so when I did anything like that, I paid.

        4. ReanaZ

          Yeah, I agree. And I think that’s what’s getting conflated here. Employees are asking for appreciation overall, and the manager is hearing “Bribe me to do a good job!”

          I think the manager should bring in tokens of appreciation occasionally to make people feel appreciated, since this is how her employees are saying they feel appreciated. Not “You met goals, have a cookie.” but “Everyone’s been working hard lately, and I appreciate that. Doughnuts in the breakroom!”

      2. J.B.

        I’m thinking from a little different angle. Previous bad management, now team is doing better. Are there good performers and lower performers? Were the good performers doing well previously and better now? Good performers are probably happy that everyone is being held to a higher standard. BUT just clearing a paycheck isn’t everything. When you are a good performer it is still nice to get some recognition. A personal direct thanks may go a long way. If the only motivators applied are the negative ones and there is never any positive feedback, why on earth would a good person stay?

    6. Coffee, Please

      I like cookies as much as the next person, but I much prefer to have the money I need to buy the kind I like. My husbands wonderful boss got promoted last year. She introduced her new replacement, who would be his direct supervisor, by saying “she makes a wonderful baked goods.” And I have to give her that. She does make wonderful baked goods. And I have to give her that. She does make wonderful baked goods. What she doesn’t do well is set clear goals, provide feedback, or manage workload. She is a horrible manager and a pretty good pastry chef.

      1. ReanaZ

        I like monetary bonuses for good performance as much as the next person, but I also like being made to feel valued as a human being. And I’m from a feeder culture, where food is a method of communication for conveying appreciation. Occasional doughnuts in the office with a sincere ‘thanks for your effort’ are far more motivating me than someone giving me $2 extra in pay for the month (even when I made poverty wages).

        I think baked goods are a distraction here. OP1 sounds like a performance-driven manager who is getting results from a previously poorly managed department. Great.

        But she is ignoring and being extremely dismissive of her employees communicating real needs to her: We are doing all this work for you and not feeling valued. Tokens of appreciation like baked goods make us feel valued. We have met our goals, and you’ve only recognised us by emailing around a spreadsheet (?!).

        This is not great.

    7. The Strand

      I agree with much of this. Blank cards with a handwritten note are great for telling individuals they’re doing well.

      If you don’t want to bring in cookies, throw them an ice cream social.

      Consider the social bonding that might be inherent, as has been said. Food is a great way to encourage that bonding, but so are games – even if the prizes are silly little hats and Cracker Jack prizes.

      That’s another one to feed ’em – Cracker Jack.

  6. CreationEdge

    #3

    The problem with it is than unless you have a serialized or generic email address, the email address contains your name. If others are able to send out emails in your name (which they’re able to using this password workaround), then your email has zero integrity and I would not want my name attached to such an account.

    All it takes is one disgruntled employee to send out nasty emails under someone else’s account.

    As previous users have suggested, there are ways to set up group emails.

    If you want this changed, go to your boss with a solution instead of the problem.

    1. Jessa

      I can’t even. The OCD in me who has her computer security set to what my husband calls “raging paranoia,” would absolutely lose it if I was required to give that kind of open unrestricted access. It’s one thing to let the boss check the mail (and even that I’d not like, I’d like them to have some kind of overarching admin password that showed when they were in the account,) but globally? Oh, no they don’t.

      Anyone having access to my email (and therefore able to speak in my name without anyone knowing it was not me,) had better be set up to have some kind of security trail. I want and for my own mental health would NEED to know and be able to absolutely PROVE whether or not an email with my name on it was sent by me.

      I get that the company owns the email. But I own my name and how I communicate with it. This policy would freak me out to probably being a total deal breaker. I’m the sort of person that won’t initial a piece of paper without being given a copy of it. No copy no signature. Won’t sign if I couldn’t read it first either.

      This just screams to me the ability to gaslight someone or get them in trouble by sending something in their name that’s awful. Could you imagine if someone hated you and decided to delete things, send responses in your name to bosses, whatever?

      1. sittingduck

        I guess I’m the odd one out, because I have no problem with this. I never even changed the password for my sogn-in from what the company give me when I started, so they already know my password because they gave it to me.

        I work in a really small office, and while we do have office email that everyone can access, when one of us is out, there are typically emails in their inbox that need immediate attention, and not everyone pays attention to ‘out of office’ replies that say to send the email elsewhere.

        My email account at work is just for work, there is nothing in there that I would mind if anyone else saw.

        I do also trust my coworkers to not do anything malicious while in my account. I tend to assume the best in people until proven otherwise.

        I even fully expected Allison to just say that sharing passwords at work is the norm!

        1. Judy

          I’m generally not worried about malicious things, but at a former employer, we had a shared drive, where we were to place certain project documents. The director had a program that audited the documents to see for a given project, which documents existed. There were many issues due to people (hopefully accidentally) dragging and dropping folders to places they shouldn’t have been or deleting random things. Once they did more stringent lockdowns, we had much better metrics for project documents, at least on my team.

          I don’t trust everyone in my office not to mess things up. I don’t trust myself to not mess other people’s things up. I was just given access to a database to review some things, and I made sure they gave me read only access. I don’t want to break it.

          1. dawbs

            Yes–the “you realize that someone could break this/screw this up/email everyone and their brother and there would be no breadcrumb trail (to implicate who did it OR to use to figure out how to fix it) to who did it, right?” is a legitimate concern.

            Other side of the ‘can’t tell who did it’ is that it’s a lack of protection for employees who are doing their job too–no ability to prove innocence.

            I have a login and password to 3 logins with varying ability to see things/email accounts at my work (mine, departmental [shared], and specific weird [shared]). None of the people who work for me, who don’t have access to those shared accounts, ever get to touch my computer under my login–because (and this has happened!) the question of “Is there any chance Bob could have seen *super secret squirrel information of some sort*? Because that information seems to have become available to the general public” is one I always want to answer with “NO”.

            I don’t keep Bob out of the departmental account because I think he’s going to break things or because I don’t trust him (Bob is much more trustworthy than some people who have access to the account)–it’s to protect him when/if there’s concern about access and or wrongdoing.

            I very much like being able to ‘prove’ my workers’ innocence, on the rare occasions it could be questioned. (and last time it was an issue, a cloud of suspicion hung [rather unfairly] over a group of workers with a lax supervisor who [against policy] shared his logins).

        2. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2

          Re #3 – having worked in IS/IT – and many areas of data security over the last 30+ years – it is NEVER acceptable to “share passwords”. I even bust out laughing about “turning over passwords when you’re fired” because this should never be a problem – you suspend the user’s ID and march him/her out the door.

          Even if the person is a system administrator – you always set up TWO people in the event of what we call “hit by train” or “wins Powerball” situations occur.

          Passwords are set up for two reasons. Number one, above all – is ACCOUNTABILITY. Who did what, when — can be tracked. The second reason is to protect company resources – but from someone who has done forensic work in this area = accountability is the key.

          Sharing passwords ends accountability. When you toss away accountability, you’ve already damaged security. A miscreant can do all sorts of damage if the user-id is shared, because no one can be blamed.

      2. Artemesia

        This. If they want to do this I don’t want ‘Artemesia’ in my email address. Give everyone the same email ‘cluelesscompany@’

      3. Beancounter in Texas

        Absolutely. Former Job was full of gossips in ~35 people who all had the same password for their web-based email (by their manager’s policy). Given their constant drama, it amazes me that nobody thought to abuse that access to get someone fired.

        1. Chinook

          “Absolutely. Former Job was full of gossips in ~35 people who all had the same password for their web-based email (by their manager’s policy). Given their constant drama, it amazes me that nobody thought to abuse that access to get someone fired.”

          I almost quit over this exact issue! As receptionist, IT at our head office refused to give a separate login ID for the reception computer for whomever was covering the front desk while I was on break. So, in order for anyone covering my lunch to see any email requests for couriers, faxes, etc., I had to let my coverage use my ID while I wasn’t there. I complained form day one but the official line was “it can’t be done on our current system.” I knew better but needed the job.

          Turns out that one lady who didn’t like me would go through all my emails when she was bored and came across and email I sent my manager about how I had issues with this lady and how she would deal with me (issues I had brought up with her personally but she would brush me off, so I escalated via email to my boss because I couldn’t get time to see said boss in a confidential meeting not at front desk). She then complained to this same manager that I was writing about her behind her back. When I was confronted as if I was in the wrong, I pointed out that this was a prime example of my issue with her and quit on the spot since they obviously didn’t trust me even though this complaint was proof of my complaint.

          While packing my bags, the boss convinced me to stay but only under my conditions that a) I get my own login (the email she found was filed with other HR information about me) and b)that lady never cover for me at reception again. I should point out that this office had some underlying drama going on amongst its support staff that this was just a symptom of and I was happy to a) eventually move on to be an AA to a department there that took me away from the drama and b)eventually get poached by one of their customers.

    2. Mockingjay

      #3: One red flag for shared email access would be employee privacy. What if Employee A has an email in their In box regarding a performance issue, pay, or something else that should be only viewed by A and her supervisor or HR? Employee B does not need to know.

      Please set up a group email for all customer service issues.

      1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2

        If you have customer service issues – you set up a tracking system and accountability still exists.

    3. The Strand

      Whew. I thought I was the only person to worry about that.

      Family email accounts are one thing. At work, though? Uh-uh.

  7. BuildMeUp

    #1 – First off, do they all know that they’re working toward an eventual raise? A team that has struggled in the past might not have been getting regular raises, if they’re merit-based. If that’s the case, it might help to meet with them individually and let them know what they’re working toward, especially if there’s potential for them to move up in the company.

    Did they specifically ask to have cookies & trophies again? If it was more of a general concern about recognition, I think it’s worth looking into, because there could be other things that would help motivate people. Setting up a potluck lunch (or asking the next person who brings the topic up with you to set one up, if you’re comfortable delegating – that way you don’t have to take on the responsibility, and it will help the person feel like they’re really being heard), giving team members a way to recognize each other for giving great customer service, recognizing a team member’s success by letting them go home an hour early if possible, etc.

  8. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

    #1

    I’m going to veer off a little on this one. You’re dealing with CS > sales goals, which means you are working with people facing your customers and responsible for sales which means, in my book, the way you treat them is the way you are treating your customers. I flat out cater to my high performing reps.

    Screw baking cookies and plastic trophies if neither are your thing, but you want to build an environment charged with positive energy so that your customer feels that on the other end of the phone line/email. Any sales environment should be fun.

    We always celebrate making goals. In the marketing dept, we celebrate per quarter with a nice couple hour lunch out and a bonus (for making a stretch goal). In the sales dept, we celebrate on an event or day basis. A high sales day, good lunch in for the entire division the next day. A high $ individual sale, we recognize the rep with a small $ bonus that day in addition to commission and a shout out so everyone knows about the accomplishment.

    My point: It’s my belief that in a customer facing environment, which can be draining as hell, the person running the place does have to do more than just expect people do their jobs for **best results**.

    1. thisisit

      the psychology of persuasion also shows that celebrating accomplishments (even in small ways) motivates you to repeat that accomplishment (very useful for trying to form new habits).

      of course, people should do the job they are paid to do, but is there a downside to showing appreciation? i don’t love the cutesy trophies (that’s a bit too special snowflake for me), but some very specific and direct positive feedback does wonders. and i do think that acknowledging the turnaround in the team in a meaningful way is really important, such as through bonuses, a special “ceremony” to acknowledge the team in the company, a small party, lunch, whatever.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

        We’re sarcastic people from South Jersey, outside of Philly, so some of the stuff we do is ironic. We have, swear to god, a professional wrestling belt with jewels that goes to the top sales rep for the prior month.

        Because, it’s funny.

        But, it also is recognition.

        And funny.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian

          Aw, man! I’ve always wanted to win a knock-down, drag-out, no-holds-barred, cage-match customer service smack-down and get a giant bejeweled belt for my efforts and walk into the office the next day with the swaggering braggadocio of a bullfighter. That is just fun!

          1. Mallory Janis Ian

            Now I’m playing “Eye of the Tiger” on Spotify to rev up for my workday. I think approaching the day as if it’s a training montage might help; at least I’ll get some self-encouragement, if I don’t get any from anywhere else :-)

            1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

              LMAO.

              We blasted “Eye of the Tiger” the first month we awarded the belt.

              We had to stop after that ’cause, customers on the phone and all. We are actually a corporate business… on the outside.

        2. Retail Lifer (OP # 1)

          This is more my thing than baking or stupid toy trophies. Not sure how much my staff would appreciate a wrestling belt, but this gives me some good ideas.

          1. Snoskred

            Baking is not my thing either. Seriously I have had some huge fails. But every single time, I can make those cinnamon crunch muffins without fail and every single person who eats them thinks I made them from scratch and asks for the recipe. And if it really is not your thing, bakeries exist. :)

            My parents run a retail store, and one of the things they always do for the sales staff is make sure there is fresh bread, cold cuts, and things like lettuce, tomato, sliced beetroot, and various sandwich fixings in the fridge. This is because the staff often neglect lunch for making sales and they do not have an easily accessible kitchen or microwave, but there are two offices with a fridge. And they will quite often make a sandwich for someone who is with a customer so they can eat it when they are finished.

            They also have a good stock of cheese and crackers, and a staff lolly jar. When the staff have to work a late night, they will go off and get chicken and salads for the staff – they used to get pizza but at a meeting the staff were on a health kick and wanted more healthy options.

          2. thisisit

            it is important though, to be responsive to what your team wants too. i mean, i also don’t like the trophy idea, but if it means a lot to them, it’s really no big thing.

        3. the gold digger

          I used to go to insurance agency Friday meetings when I worked for an insurance company. At first, I could not figure out why the agents cared so much about the stupid cheap plastic pens a few of them would be awarded for meeting or exceeding sales goals. Then I realized it wasn’t about the pen – it was about the agency manager calling out the person’s name and everyone clapping as he went forward to receive his award.

          Sure, you don’t have to reward people for doing their job. That is what they are being paid to do. But everyone wants to be recognized and acknowledged. And it costs almost nothing to give that extra attention to someone. Why would you not do it?

        4. LBK

          We had one of those in my old department! And a plunger that was spray painted gold that went to whomever made the most sales that were under the required amount to get compensated on them (since they were the “crappy” accounts). Whoever had it at the end of the month got a $25 gift card. Basically a way to motivate people to still provide good service to the small accounts instead of rushing them off the phone.

          1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

            oh. good. god.

            I have got to figure out how to fit a gold toilet plunger into our plan.

            We had a brand (which I inherited and then disbanded) that was awful to work on. Horrific. Torture. The Worst. I so could have used this.

            1. Mallory Janis Ian

              “I have got to figure out how to fit a gold toilet plunger into our plan . . . ”

              And a gold spray-painted Barbie doll!

          2. Hlyssande

            That’s a really awesome thing to do. I can imagine how it would help out a collections team too when there are a ton of small potatoes accounts compared to the big money ones.

    2. Former Diet Coke Addict

      Ah, Wakeen, I want to work for you. Here is the sum total of recognition I’ve received for my own sales position:

      End.

      We discuss this with some frequency in my office–that it would cost my boss almost nothing but earn him many dividends in good will, but he’s penny wise and pound foolish when it comes to employee retention.

      1. Me

        +1

        I’m not in sales, but my dept produces the stuff that everyone else in the company sells. We were promised a pizza party in Jan for ‘above and beyond’ but the Big Boss was snowed in in Boston so it was ‘postponed.’ Read, cancelled. Big Boss has never been to this room, so why she suddenly had to have this pizza I don’t know.

        They got bonuses in Boston. We haven’t had a meaningful raise in years. And we’ve had 3 rounds of firings of the older, experienced ppl in favor of young, cheap newbies. Yep, morale is awesome.

      2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

        The place you work and your boss sucks on so many levels.

        There will be party at AAM when you get out of there. Streamers, pizza, and cupcakes. Mallory is in charge of the music.

      3. AnonAnalyst

        I do too! I’m not in sales but am in a client-facing role that impacts client retention, and I have gotten zero public recognition in the three years I’ve worked for my company. I’ve gotten some “good work” nods from my manager privately but nothing broader. Unfortunately, everyone else in the company does provide this, so at this point I am literally the only person here who hasn’t gotten some mention of being awesome in broader company communications (including newer employees who have been with the company for a few months).

        It shouldn’t, but totally does, make me feel like I’m either a) incompetent or b) completely not valued in the organization, even though my manager has made comments to me privately that would suggest that neither of those statements is true. The impact to my morale here is not positive.

        I realize this is not the same as the OP’s situation since it sounds like she is still recognizing people publicly, but I have to agree with Wakeen. It sounds like this team wants more of a group celebration/recognition event, so if it’s me, I’d probably think of something that was more of a fit with my personality (definitely NOT the trophy thing!) Otherwise, you might start seeing a drop in morale if people start to *feel* like they’re getting no recognition, even though the OP is still providing it.

    3. Laurel Gray

      This post is such a great template for a new or stuck manager looking to improve morale. Every example of recognition you gave is excellent.

    4. OriginalEmma

      I used to work in a call center and while it very much clashed with my personality (shy, introverted) and I lasted 1 year 1 month exactly in that role, one of the nice things about my office was recognition. We had monthly birthday cakes (which aren’t everyone’s cup of tea but I enjoyed the surprisingly nice sheet cake from Costco or ShopRite), public but not gaudy recognition ceremonies for 1-year, 5-year, etc. terms with the company, and a fun environment. Our team leads were active in giving praise (at least that’s how I perceived it).

      But seriously, you sound like a wonderful manager and your company sounds great.

    5. Sunshine

      Wakeen, I learn so much from your posts. I manage a sales/CS group also, and you’ve given me a new perspective in keeping them motivated. Sometimes I forget what a soul-sucking job that can be.

      Thank you!

    6. JB (not in Houston)

      I think you make some good points, but I’m not sure how much of that would work for the OP. She mentioned that this would all have to be out of pocket. So the bonus and lunch out probably wouldn’t work. But maybe other, less expensive signs of appreciation?

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

        Agreed. Alison brought that up further down the page.

        The summary of my thoughts on that is: if the OP can’t secure a small budget, even as small as $500 annual, to cover some modest gestures, my problem would be with the company and not the employees who miss cookies.

        I absolutely agree that it shouldn’t be on the OP to make up the difference out of her own pocket, save a dozen bagels now and again.

  9. Dot Warner

    #1: Is anyone else wondering if their previous manager was Michael Scott?

    OP #2, is it possible for you to wear headphones while you work? You don’t even need to listen to anything, just have them on and pretend you can’t hear anything until she asks you a question that’s actually work-related.

      1. Dot Warner

        “Huh? Oh, sorry, I’m really busy and music helps me focus on work – you know, that thing we’re all here to do?” [headphones back on, continue ignoring.]

        At least, that’s what I’d do if management won’t move either of us.

    1. RubyJackson

      Every time I read the suggestion of wearing headphones, it upsets me. Wearing headphones is like having a vice grip on your head; why does the person who is suffering from the inconsideration of others have to be physically punished for it? (Ranting here.)

      1. Anna

        It’s not a physical punishment to everyone. I used to work in a cubicle office and I wore earbuds ALL DAY listening to music or podcasts to keep noise down and to amuse myself.

        1. Snoskred

          I wear a headset at work and cordless headphones at home. In total, I’d have headphones on 10+ hours a day and they are very comfortable. :)

          Plus, cordless headphones at home means I can do chores and listen to music or the teevee. :)

      2. M-C

        RubyJackson, you need a headphone upgrade :-). Read up, and borrow some likely (modern) ones from people, you’ll be surprised at how much hardware has improved in the past 20 years.

  10. Wacky Teapots

    Op #1. You sound like a blow hard. Do a group recognition thing after you see your quarterly goals met/exceeded. It’s four times a year! I get NOTHING all year long.

    1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

      See, that’s because you are working for the competitors, Wacky. Over at Wakeen’s it’s party all the time! :p

  11. thisisit

    #5 – I can’t tell from the way it is written how many interviews there are/will be, and which have occurred and which haven’t. In any case, being screened by the same person for multiple positions doesn’t seem odd to me. They likely have a script or series of questions to ask, and they are writing down the answers which will be used to determine if you move onto to an in-person interview (which would be more personable I hope).
    So it’s possible the screens will ask different questions, depending on what’s relevant to the position.

    However, I have a near-perfect memory, and I would be so awkward in a second screening with the same person. I’d keep wanting to refer to the other screening (“like I previously indicated….”), which would probably just be confusing. I guess if the interviewer doesn’t acknowledge that he’s screened you before, you should just start it from scratch. If he does say something, then it might be easier to refresh his memory on things you’ve said before, though I’d still say them again in their entirety unless he says otherwise.

    1. Ann without an e

      Probably not its during the lunch break on a week day. Men don’t think that’s a date. Please tell me men don’t think that’s a date. If he offers to pay it might have been a fishing expedition, but definitely not a date, maybe. But OP#4 makes it sound like this guy was a contributing factor to her leaving, I would stick with linked in.

      1. MK

        Where I live, office hours are not 9-5, but either 7-3 or 9-2/18-21, so lunch does not happen on a short break in the middle of your work day. Which is why it’s a pretty usual time for purely social activities and could well be a date (or at least a casual get-to-know-you, to see if you want to invest a Saturday evenign on someone).

        1. Ann without an e

          I was going with the 8 to 5 one hour lunch break assumption. Depending on where these two work places are located it might not be that inconvenient or weird. If OP has the situation you just described then yea, it might be a date, if the OP has hours to what I work and just described then he may want to vent, is hoping she can put in a good word and help him get out too, he thinks they are friends or he wants to pursue dating her now that they are no longer working together.

          If it is the last one I really respect him for waiting until they were no longer co-workers. That is incredibly professional of him and I think speaks well of him and his intentions, maybe he should be given a chance based on that, who knows, he could be great to hang out with. So now that I thought about it OP4, go to lunch see what happens, if you don’t go you could be missing out on a great person.

          1. MK

            Eh, I don’t think the OP needs to o “reward” this guy with a date, just because he didn’t behave inappropriately while they worked together. Especially since it sounds as if she knows him pretty well and dislikes him quite a bit. No one deserves a medal for not sexually harassing a female subordinate. Sure, if this is what’s going on (big if, by the way), it speaks well for him being a decent person, but it’s not a sign of greatness in my opinion.

    2. BadPlanning

      Having been on some accidental dates (I was going to lunch, apparently they were going on a date), alarm bells rang for me too, but I’m a little paranoid.

      1. Ann without an e

        Like I said above it is really professional of him to wait until they are no longer co-workers to pursue her, if that is what he is doing. I respect that.

    3. TheLazyB

      Does it matter either way? I suppose you might want to be a bit more emphatic if there’s a possibility it was a date :-/

  12. TotesMaGoats

    #1-So your team is regularly exceeding their goals. Exceeding goals is going beyond what they were hired for. They are also telling you that your form of recognition isn’t working for them. They’ve also told you exactly the form of recognition that they want to receive. Make some cookies and print out some silly certificates. When people exceed the bar AND they tell you what they like for recognition, you do it.

    If they weren’t meeting goals, I’d completely agree with Allison. Or if they were barely squeaking by, that would be another issue. How many times have we read about managers who don’t know how their teams like to be rewarded?

    A spreadsheet and email wouldn’t do it for me either. Because it really requires zip effort on your part. Stop by Panera and pick up some bagels. The things they want may seem silly to you but if it makes them happy, what does that matter? We have a spirit stick that we’ve regularly used as our “silly” reward in addition to actual rewards for stellar service. People love that thing.

    1. Retail Lifer (OP # 1)

      I know people love that sort of thing, but I don’t feel like I should have to tie performance goals to food (that I have to pay for). I like one of the other poster’s ideas of just bringing in cookies or something for the heck of it, and the suggestion for a more silly reward. I’ll definitely work on this.

      1. TotesMaGoats

        Perhaps you are focusing too much on the food aspect. What if they said they really wanted recognition in some other way? Would it bother you as much? Or do you consider food to silly of a reward? A pat on the back either in person or via email and the possibility of a raise (which I probably won’t ever see) isn’t recognition at all.

        I have to do recognition with food. I can’t give out gift cards or anything with monetary value. State rules. There are times when I’ve said, “if we make our enrollment goals by X date” or something to that effect, then lunch is on me. Or there are times when we’ve got a week of events and my people are busting their butts just to get through the day that I”ll bring in bagels to make life a little easier. And sometimes I just bring in cookies because I like to bake and my team loves to eat.

        I’ll add that I do the vast majority of my recognition out of my own paycheck. That’s part of being in management and part of being in management at a state institution. I don’t have a team building fund.

      2. the_scientist

        I’ve been in my new role three months now and took over a lot of projects that were previously owned by a senior (I’m a junior) who transitioned out a couple of weeks after I started. One of these projects is a huge, interactive, publicly available performance report and frankly it’s a bit of a nightmare. I was really thrown into the deep end on this and based on the feedback I’ve received, I’ve done a great job at a) turning things around quickly and accurately, b) keeping multiple “balls in the air” and c) maintaining positive relationships with partners despite some tensions (i.e. having to ask our lead investigators to review things in a day rather than the week they usually get). My boss joked that she was going to reward me with chocolate (and perhaps wine) for my work, and then lo and behold, I arrived to find a fancy chocolate bar on my desk after a particularly brutal day. Maybe I’m like, easily placated or something but it did make me feel appreciated and valued! When people would praise my work on this I would be all “oh, no worries, just doing my job” but this tiny gift from my boss was an immediate, tangible (and delicious!) way of saying “seriously, thank you for your hard work on this; I know it’s a tough project but you’re doing great”. Anyone can say “great job” and not really mean it, but a boss taking a few minutes out of their (busy) day to reward someone with something immediate and tangible is really meaningful, at least in my experience.

      3. Us, Too

        Your staff is telling you what they like and you aren’t wanting to do it because you, personally, don’t like it. I think that’s a little short-sighted. Motivating people should be about what makes them tick, not what makes you tick.

        It strikes me kind of like buying a gift for someone based on your own preferences, rather than the recipient’s.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          But she would have to pay for it herself, out of her own pocket. If I’m remembering the rest of her posts here correctly, she’s not making a ton herself. Why should she have to do that, when there are other (free to her) ways of showing appreciation?

          1. Us, Too

            She’s also said that she’d consider bringing cookies in “just because”, but not tying it to work performance. Or maybe doing some other kind of silly thing like the “belt” which isn’t free, etc. So cost has not been articulated well as the primary motivation for not doing something.

            I mean, sure, she doesn’t HAVE to do this. On the other hand, it seems to me that $5/quarter for some rice crispy squares is a decent investment in a happier workforce.

            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              She does say above that she doesn’t want to spend her own money on work stuff, which I think is reasonable, and that she can’t make it a frequent thing because it would be coming from her own pocket.

              1. Us, Too

                I agree that it shouldn’t be an expectation, but if she’s willing to bring something in sometimes, it strikes me as odd that she would ignore the preferences of her staff in doing so. That’s probably less effective in terms of ROI than considering their stated preferences.

                1. Retail Lifer (OP # 1)

                  I wasn’t looking at this the right way until read the responses. I had it in my head that, if I were to do what they requested, I would have to buy them something every time they did a good job. That’s not feasible, but also probably not really what they wanted. A random act of appreciation is within my personal budget and I know they would truly appreciate it. I’m not going to tie cookies to performance, but I can show appreciation in a different way than what I’ve been doing.

                  I’m still not baking though.

          2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

            May I please say how much I agree with this. Recognizing employees should come out of company money, not the manager’s personal funds.

            1. Katie the Fed

              I pay for a team lunch once or twice a year, and bring goodies in around the holidays. I obviously couldn’t stick those to the taxpayer, and I make enough money that it’s not a big deal.

              1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

                Understood and my taxpayer self appreciates you!

                If there is no money in a for profit business to spend any money on appreciation for people fronting customers attached to sales, that business doesn’t care about customers or sales.

                Its a normal thing for a company to budget for. As a manager you may or may not have to be aggressive to get the budget, but if you advocate for a small budget and get nothing? That’s a terrible company. I wouldn’t be inclined to make up their short fall with my own pocket book (past a dozen bagels here or there).

            2. Kat M

              Exactly. I wasn’t a manager but, in a stipended volunteer position where my money was going mainly to rent, I got shamed for just this-not purchasing things out of my own supplies for events, while the coworkers who lived with their parents/relatives and thus had money were spending money.

              Also, you never know someone’s financial situation. A salary can look decent until you realize that someone is the breadwinner, has huge medical bills, is financially supporting relatives who are in need, came out of bankruptcy or what have you. It’s nice if you can-but shouldn’t be an expectation.

            3. This

              One of the things OldRetailJob did right back in the day was to budget for this sort of nonsense. There would be contests- the top 3 people storewide with the most new credit applications would win a prize. All of the prizes came out of inventory and could be substituted for something the same dollar amount. The top performers storewide would get little token things like a gift card to the store, and they would get called up in front of everyone at a meeting. We had cake. We had pizza parties on inventory days and other days when we were busting our butts. We had a bbq once a year where the managers would make hot dogs for the staff. Our manager did these silly little training quiz games where we could win candy bars.

              All of that changed by the time I left, but those corny incentives really meant a lot to people who only made a few bucks an hour. The store buying you lunch was a big deal. The little prizes I won meant a lot to me, and I worked hard as a thanks for what was essentially a thank-you gift. The grand poobahs at your store are really missing out on an opportunity here, but none of this should come out of your pocket.

              1. Connie-Lynne

                When I was younger and worked retail, the company I worked for also provided that budget … And none of us knew it existed until our new AM revealed that the manager had been stealing the entire morale budget for himself and his (not employed by the company) friends!

  13. LJL

    OP #5, I have been in that situation and it has worked out well for me. In fact, that’s how I got the terrific job that I have now! I took it as “well, I wasn’t the right fit then, but their needs must have changed and I am now.” Best of luck! I know it’s a bit awkward, but if you focus on approaching it as a fresh interview for a slightly different position, I think that would serve you best. Say something like “great to talk to you again,” but otherwise I wouldn’t acknowledge the previous interview in your current one. If for no other reason, because it would make me feel uncomfortable. Good luck!

  14. LBK

    I’m pretty surprised by all the comments saying a thank you and a raise isn’t sufficient to reward a team for hitting goal. Isn’t that what we encourage here all the time instead of trinkets and free food, because those don’t make people feel as appreciated as being supported in their career or getting adequately compensated for their efforts?

    I do think there’s something specific to a customer-facing position that maybe merits an extra pat on the back since those jobs suck, but this seems like a total turnaround from every other comment thread we’ve ever had about recognition. I’m thinking of the recent one about company anniversary gifts where the almost universal sentiment was “I don’t want a crappy watch, I want a raise”.

    1. Judy

      Well, it’s not a thank you and a raise. It’s an email saying “congratulations” and an eventual raise. And it’s not clear if the eventual raise has been described, or is just in the manager’s mind.

      I guess I look at it as food is generally good. The managers in my world who show up on Saturday morning if we’re working all weekend with bagels and donuts are the ones that are thinking of us as people. Chocolate chip cookies or brownies or a fruit tray in a team meeting because the goals were met is a tangible, immediate reward. Many of us did X because we were told it would lead to a raise or promotion in the future and, well, it didn’t. I’ve worked at places where the annual profits were higher than they’ve ever been, and we got at 2% raise.

      I’m not in to trinkets, but treats as an immediate “wow, that was great work” appreciation is nothing I’d turn down.

      1. Kelly L.

        Yeah–I see food as separate from some of the juvenile things some workplaces do–I have a friend whose workplace is horrible but sometimes gives out things like kindergarten-level puzzles because Whoo! We’re so fun! when really they ought to do things like hire more people so there isn’t surprise mandatory OT all the time. But most people like food, especially if there isn’t a “mandatory fun” party attached to it, and it can be a nice pick-me-up during a hectic day.

        (And to address some other comments upthread, OP wouldn’t have to bake it herself! Nothing wrong with storebought.)

        1. The IT Manager

          I hate “junk” gifts or trinkets. I hate the idea of waste and throwing things away, but I am also not fond of storing junk (or paying the have it paked and moved when I do). When people get a juvenile trinket/toy, they either have to throw it out or store it. Make it something of value they can use or something consumable (like food). That’s why I feel like food is a win. It is inexpensive, I appreacite it (although it can be fraught), and it’s not something I have to find a place for.

          1. JMegan

            Yes, to all of this! Or if not food, a gift card. There are lots of places that it’s reasonable to assume that most people could use – Amazon, WalMart, drug stores, grocery stores, movies, etc.

            But consumables win over trinkets for me, every time.

      2. AndersonDarling

        And the food is an immediate reward. A raise can seem like years away and very small compared to all the work.

  15. HR Generalist

    I’m on the other side for OP#1. The sounds of the letter reminded me of my retail job I worked in university- the job was thankless. You were always front line for customer complaints/anger, upper management had ridiculous sales quotas and kept upping prices/standards, and our store manager treated us like children to be babysat and always watched because we might steal something.
    It was terrible. We hardly ever met our sales goals. When we did, it was because management eased up on pushy sales tactics and made products that we could actually stand behind. Long story short – we could’ve used some damn cookies, especially for those times we miraculously made our sales goals. “That’s what I pay them for” is laughable to me because, at least in my case, we were paid minimum wage and the working conditions were atrocious – we definitely felt entitled to more and turnover was so high because everyone got out as soon as they could.
    Anyway, maybe a lot of harboured resentment there but I’d be baking some cookies if that was my team.

    1. Retail Lifer (OP # 1)

      As far as a retail job goes, we have decent hours (we’re out within 15 minutes, not folding stuff for hours into the middle of the night like Abercrombie) and we give two raises a year (I haven’t seen many other retailers do that). They also get a $25 gift card immediately (that corporate pays for) if they score 100% on a mystery shop. I always thank them and congratulate them and I feel like I’m being appreciative enough, but maybe not. My problem is that I’m averse to spending my own money on work stuff, and I don’t bake. There have been some alternatives presented here so I’ll be checking back for other ideas.

      1. Partly Cloudy

        Could you expense it if you used your own money for cookies or whatever, assuming the amount wasn’t crazy? Or just get whoever is above you to approve and give you the money in advance?

        1. Sunflower

          Yeah – I would maybe have a talk with your manager about getting the company to cover costs. Your manager obviously sees the staff is making huge improvements and if buying cookies is all it takes to make them happy, it’s much cheaper than the alternatives (raises, having to train new staff due to turnover)

          1. Retail Lifer (OP # 1)

            We have zero budget available and that won’t change. We’re in the midst of some major cost-cutting and they’re nickel and diming everything. It will have to come out of my own pocket. I’m not completely opposed to doing this once in a while, but since I have to foot 100% of the cost, I can’t make it a regular, frequent thing.

            The thing is that when they hit a goal before, the old manager would buy them something. We’ve been hitting goals left and right recently, which is awesome, but some of them seriously want something EVERY TIME now.

            1. Kelly L.

              Can you give us an idea of how they’re expressing this? Is this grumbling that’s getting back to you via the grapevine, or something people have approached you about face-to-face, or more of a general vibe, or joking comments like “What, no cookies?”, or…

              1. Retail Lifer (OP # 1)

                One of my associates actually wrote in her self-evaluation (that goes to me, my boss, my boss’ boss, and corporate) that she wanted to be rewarded with cookies, a plaque, a trophy, etc. “like we used to be.” Yeah, instead of training/coaching/feedback to help them develop the skills they needed to regularly make their goals, the former manager gave them stuff when the stars aligned and they randomly did.

                I spoke with the other associates who worked with this manager, and they did say she baked for them and gave them stuff when they hit goals. They have also told me repeatedly that she didn’t so anything else in terms of training and development. I guess this is why I was having such a hard time with this – I’m trying to teach them how to be better at their jobs so they can regularly make their goals, not bribe them to do so. But I do understand now that they just want another form of recognition, and I’m willing to find one.

            2. jhhj

              Have you considered telling them this and asking for what they think would be reasonable? They might not realise that it was out of their old manager’s pocket (and I think that not wanting to do this is entirely fine).

              1. teclatwig

                I was at least 4-5 years into my work life before I discovered that managers might be paying out of their own pocket. If these are entry-level people, they might not have a clear understanding of budget lines. Now, I realize that “I don’t want to spend my money on you” can sound harsh, but I think there could be a way to finesse it.

                From the description, it sounds like it might work to set meta-goals that will only happen a few times a year. “You have all been doing so great; if you hit [x metric], we’ll have party/cookies/whatever.”

            3. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

              Blah.

              I somehow missed that you were OP 1. Given that OP 1 is in your user name today, I don’t have an explanation for that.

              Okay, how about asking them how they’d like to celebrate? You don’t bake but you’d like to celebrate too, what ideas do they have.

              We have a dip day in marketing. Everybody likes dip so everybody makes a thing of dip (there is HOAGIE DIP which is the best) and then we eat dip (the best part of any party) all day long.

              I absolutely agree that you shouldn’t go significantly out of pocket for this.

            4. Elder Dog

              I agree with others here. They may not understand you would have to pay for the cookies. They may not know you don’t bake either.

              Tell them the rewards they’re meeting goals to get are raises, not cookies. Be explicit about it. Don’t expect them to understand that.

        2. Judy

          I’d consider asking for a “team regonition” budget. In corporate settings, it’s not unusual to have a budget of $20-$75 (or more in the past) per employee for yearly team recognition, that could be used for treats, lunches, however the manager would like. Sometimes it was separated so that they had $X over the year and $Y for a end of year lunch.

          One manager would cater breakfast 4x a year, while another might do 2 lunches, and a third might bring in treats more often. There were two teams near me that for a few years the two managers would bring in waffle makers and fixins and fix waffles for the entire team. These examples are about office work, not shift work, but it’s certainly not unusual.

      2. The IT Manager

        Read the comment about “love languages.” These people (at least the vocal ones) are telling you how they want the recognition. But how many are saying this? I don’t think you should have to spend you own money on it. (Keep in mind your predecessor may have liked to bake for herself but then did not want to eat all of the results so ithe baking may have been more for her than for them.) I’d make sure that you were recocognizing individuals publically.

        I personally am not a “gift” person especially cheap trinkets that I have to store or throw out once I get them. (I don’t mind baked goods though since I enjoy sweets and it’s not something I have to keep.) I wouldn;t even be that excited about the public recognition. A heartfelt, authenic compliment goes a long way for me.

      3. ThursdaysGeek

        I completely understand not wanting to spend your own money, and consider it valid to let them know that any extra acknowledgement is coming out of your own paycheck. That way, when you do buy cookies (occasionally), they should have an even greater appreciation. I know I appreciated my boss when she bought team lunches out of her own pocket.

        One thing we have at our work is a little banana trophy, which gets passed around to the ‘top banana’. You could have some sort of cheap trinket that gets moved around, perhaps even to the best person the previous day or week. In our case, we nominate other co-workers when they do something we appreciate, but the notes are read publicly, so everyone hears the great things we are doing. You could even spend a little bit of your own money for a real banana as a prize (providing there are no banana allergies).

        Top Banana, Top dog (toy dog from the dollar store), or come up with some that fits your business. If you do something like that, make sure it’s something that anyone can get, and it it doesn’t go to the same person time after time.

        Or, tell them that you’re not a baker and you can’t afford to buy a lot of goodies. Then ask if they have other ideas of how best to acknowledge the good job they are doing (in addition to the pay for them that you’ve already been fighting for). They’ve been asking for cookies, but see if they have other ideas that would also make them happy and feel appreciated, in a way that won’t break your budget. After all, they know themselves best.

  16. pucksmuse

    #2 – This woman is like a toddler, asking questions because she wants attention. She wants you to get upset, disrupt your work, run to management for intervention, because even negative attention is attention. So you have to emotionally divorce yourself from this process, as annoying as it is. You have a few options.

    1) If you are allowed by management, get headphones and turn up the music so you can’t hear her. (For the record, this is not how I treat my actual toddlers.)

    2) Ignore her entirely, wait for her to escalate, continue to ignore her. (Again, not how I treat my children.)

    3) Answer a question with a question, i.e. “Why do you need to know?”

    4) Don’t answer at all. “Please stop interrupting me and let me work.”

    5) Answer briefly without any further interaction, in the flattest, most bored tone imaginable. Keeping her from getting the reaction she wants. “Because this is the way I need to sit.” And then ignore the “But, why?”

    #3 – NOPE. NO. NO. NO. NOOOOOOOOOOOO.

  17. Allison

    OP #2, I have to wonder why people think it’s cool to micromanage their coworkers. Is she older and/or more experienced, and this is her incredibly misguided way of mentoring you? Is she really bored? Or is she just trying to feel more powerful?

    1. Elizabeth West

      You know what she reminds me of? A little kid who, when told “Stop touching me!” holds his/her finger right next to the other kid. “I’m not touching you.” This might just be fun for her.

    2. Wee

      Also, who else has she done this to? Hard to believe LW is the first in her department to experience this behavior.

  18. illini02

    #1 I say just bake some cookies and give them some trophies. When people stay at a job, often times it is because of some kind of perk, whether food or recognition or something that makes them feel good. I get that when new managers come in, changes are bound to happen, but it seems you have taken away something that they enjoyed and see their payment as enough. Trust me, if money was everything, a lot more people would quit jobs. Fact is, they don’t feel appreciated. Whatever you THINK you are doing to make them feel this way isn’t enough. So if you are determined to not do more, then be willing to lose them. Its like if I’m dating a girl, and she says she doesn’t feel like I appreciate her. Doesn’t matter what I think I’m doing, if thats how she is feeling, then what I’m doing isn’t enough. I don’t HAVE to change, but if she dumps me, I can’t be mad. If you have a good team that you want to keep, I say just suck it up and do it.

    #3 The email is the company’s, not your personal email. So in my opinion it is their right. My company can go into my email whenever they want. What are you really hiding on work email that you feel uncomfortable with others seeing?

    #4 Maybe I just like to keep the lines of communication open, but I say there isn’t anything wrong with just meeting up for coffee. Set a hard time limit, hear the guy out, and be on your way. Who knows, it could work in your favor down the line.

    1. Artemesia

      #3 misses the point entirely -if someone has my email account with my name on it, they can do all sorts of mischief in my name. At the least if we are using common accounts I don’t want my name on ‘mine’.

      1. illini02

        I suppose, but do people really have that little trust in their co-workers. I know a lot of people on here assume the worst. But at minimum, if you are out and someone sends something from your email, the date will prove that it was someone else who wrote it.

        1. Chriama

          Also: the more people know your password, the more potential security leaks there are. All it takes is one coworker making a list of all the email accounts they have access to (understandable, because who can memorize the login and password for 10 of their coworkers’ accounts) and storing it unwisely, and now there’s a huge leak. There are ways to grant that access that provide better security, so why not use those?

          1. M-C

            Make that -atrocious- instead. Or shall we say more accurately NO security practice? If that’s a company policy, no security, that’s cool for them. But sooner or later something will happen, and who will be left holding the bag? Not the stupid manager I’d guess..

        2. Hlyssande

          What Elizabeth said.

          Someone mentioned upthread that email logins are often tied to network logins. The same is true at my company. If I gave someone my email info, they’d be able to log in as me on the network as well and could cause serious havoc under my name. NO THANKS.

  19. Sunflower

    #1- I think another thing you aren’t considering is that this team is probably working harder than they’ve ever worked before so they are probably looking for even more recognition. Are these ‘eventual raises’ definitely coming? Have you told your employees? If not, I would talk to your manager about your staffs improvement and go to bat for them. In the past, raises may have never even been on the table so your staff might not even know it’s a possibility. I think once it’s presented, they might not care about the cookies so much.

    #3- You can’t be the only company that deals with the issue of answering urgent emails when someone is out of the office. Is there anyway whoever is out for the day can have copies of all incoming emails forwarded to a general account? That way everyone has access and people can respond from either their own account or the general account. There has gotta be some sort of email system for this.

    #5- I don’t see anything weird about this. I never expect anyone to remember me once an interview process is over. People don’t get hired for jobs all the time and they are often passed along to other depts in the company.

  20. Allison

    For OP #1, I don’t blame you for feeling annoyed that your team is bugging you for cookies and trophies just because their last manager did it. It does seem a little juvenile, I know I wouldn’t ask it of a manager. BUT I do think that treats can be a good morale booster and a good way to motivate people, so while I don’t think you should buy into the pressure to copy what your predecessor did, I think that if you ordered them pizza for lunch one day, or brought in bagels and donuts one morning, as a “thank you” for their hard work, could really go a long way in making them feel appreciated.

    I want a bagel now . . .

  21. It's All About the Food

    Just bring in cookies.

    Always bring in cookies. Edible arrangements. Cakes. Pies. Whatever.

    The cookies love you, LW1, don’t fight the cookies.

    1. Judy

      My daughter’s favorite campfire song:

      They’re made out of sugar and butter and flour
      You put ’em in the oven about a quarter hour,
      But the thing that gives them their magic power
      Is the chocolate chips inside.

      Chocolate chip cookies, you gotta have more
      You can bake ’em in the oven, or buy ’em at the store
      But whatever you do, have ’em ready at my door
      And I’ll love ya till I die.

  22. CheeryO

    #5, I feel your pain. I interviewed for the same job twice with the same people, and it was a state government position, so there was a very rigid formula to the interview. As in, I was asked the same exact list of 10 or 15 questions, with no follow-up discussion anywhere. It was very awkward for me, but I tried to put the first interview out of my mind and focus on giving genuine answers, regardless of whether they were the same answers I gave the first time around. I was offered the job, so it worked out in the end!

      1. De Minimis

        I had the same experience, except with county government and think it was something like four times. It was an entry-level accountant position, and one of the interviewers flat out didn’t seem to care for me. Unfortunately, he was on the panel every single time and I wasn’t working at the time so every single time he would grill me about being out of work [and also about unemployment gaps while I was in grad school full-time] and my overall lack of experience. It was a case where I had one of the top scores on the exam so they had to call me in any time there was a vacancy.

        Think it was something like the fifth or sixth time when I decided to tell them no thanks when they called about an interview.

    1. Joline

      Yeah. Often if there’s government or unions involved there’s very strict rules around hiring.

      I work in a union environment – I was hired as a temporary employee because they needed to keep a permanent position in the area free due to a mat leave. At one point they got a permanent position free so I interviewed for it – to continue the exact same work and reporting lines just as a permanent instead of temporary employee.

      I was informed that when interviewing for a union position that they have set questions and a set framework for marking that they have to use with everyone. So although they (I was being interviewed by my supervisor and another person) knew how I would approach different situations because I’d been doing it, they knew my skill set, etc. I had to explicitly say it within the interview so they would have that support within their hiring file if anyone ever challenged the hiring.

      So my only tip is that like CheeryO says – when you go to these second interviews never assume that they’ll remember what you said in the first interview or that they’d even be able to use it. (a tip I was given for union type positions was to make sure to explicitly mention certain strengths, achievements or whatever so you can get maximum marks).

  23. Ann O'Nemity

    I’m really surprised that so many of the commenters think that OP #1 should spend their own time and money to recognize staff. This should be the company’s responsibility. If there’s no budget for it, I don’t think a manager should be pressured to do this type of thing.

    1. illini02

      While I agree that the company should foot the bill, sometimes managers who want to keep their team happy need to go out of their way a bit. And as a former teacher who spent my own money on LOTS of things (and probably was paid less than managers) there isn’t going to be much sympathy from me

        1. illini02

          I’m not saying its right at all. But I do think that sometimes its a necessary evil. I’m sure just about every manager I’ve had has spent their own money on things for their subordinates from time to time. I’m not saying OP should do this ALL the time, but I don’t think spending $10 every month or 2 to raise morale is that terrible either.

    2. Lia Brigante

      I agree with you, that said, I had a really good manager for years who made sure we were always getting “perks” (which I am sure she got budgets for) and she got +++ work from us in return. Money’s not everything. People do want to feel as if you’re appreciated, and a “group email” sometimes just doesn’t cut it.
      Lia

      1. former teacher

        Totally. I had students who adored teachers that almost never bought them things. I had students who adored a teacher that brought them candy semi-regularly. I bought candy and food A LOT – often as part of an activity – but they didn’t like me because I never learned how to celebrate their accomplishments. I was pretty demanding, and it was tough to hide my disappointment when they fell short. A few of them told me openly during the year “it’s like nothing I do is good enough.” (I felt the same way about teaching. I was mostly mad at myself, but kids don’t see that, and people who are stuck in low-paying jobs without a lot of mobility aren’t always going to see it either.)

        If OP #1 finds a way to celebrate their efforts and outcomes, that’s what matters.

  24. Oryx

    #1 talks about an “eventual” raise. What does that mean? Is there a timeline or is this just being dangled as a carrot without any follow-through?

    1. Juli G.

      She commented up thread that very on was recently “caught up” on missed raises and that corporate gives biannual raises.

  25. Brett

    #3 The only excuse for these procedures is that the company does not want to spend money on the appropriate software tools to handle it correctly. It will cost them when something horrible happens involving information gained in email and they have no audit trail. Worst case? Someone defrauds customers using the email of a co-worker. Unfortunately, this does happen in customer service, and providing a huge supply of apparently legitimate identities is a treasure trove to a defrauder.

  26. Amanda Shore

    re:My team wants to be recognized with cookies and trophies

    I was wondering if this person’s team understands the objectives and expectations of their jobs. I think it’s important that employees understand what it means to meet expectations in their jobs and what qualifies as exceeding expectations.

    Some people are driven by feelings of accomplishment or esteem, meaning they desire recognition to know that they are doing a good job. If someone doesn’t tell them they’re doing a good job they assume they’re not performing accroding to expectations, creating anxiety and stress. In other words, simple things like acknowledging that employees are performing according to expectations can boost morale and engagement.

    1. nona

      +1

      The reinforcement they were used to is either gone or pretty different from what it was. They might just need to be clear on how they’re doing.

  27. BadPlanning

    On OP#2, it would be highly tempting to start making up absurd and long winded answers. Maybe bore the coworker into not asking anymore. But, that would probably only work for a normal person.

    “What are you thinking about, OP?” Well, I was planning to use a standard sort on these names for this spreadsheet, but it looks like we mixed people names with company names, so I’m wondering if we should split into 2 lists, or add a separate company field and put a contact name in the name field. But then I didn’t want duplicate county entries because someone put in a new company contact.”

    “Why are you sitting that way?” Well, I read an article about how bad desk sitting is for you, so I’m trying an assortment of micro adjustment. Right now, I sit leaning to the left, but next I will swap to left ankle over right ankle, then vice versa. Then lean forward, lean back, lean right. Sit on my leg, sit cross legged. I’d like to kneel, but this chair just isn’t big enough.

    1. M-C

      Snort :-). You’re really cracking me up BadPlanning, but I’m afraid someone like #2’s problem may just find fodder for more grilling in such an answer :-).

    2. Sarkywoman

      Um, this is actually how I respond to questions from my colleagues. I’m naturally absurd and long-winded (or so I’ve been told). I can confirm that it certainly puts people off of talking to you! (Except for the ones who find you adorably bemusing…)

  28. Kimberlee, Esq.

    I’m just gonna say, if I was getting cookies on the reg for just showing up and only spottily meeting my goals, and then I started doing way better under a new manager and there were suddenly NO cookies, I would be miffed about the lack of cookies. I should be getting DOUBLE cookies.

    1. nona

      Yeah I’d understand, and yay for new good management, but the part of me that is 5 years old would want all of the cookies.

  29. Lia Brigante

    Thank you for answering my question. I actually did get past the phone screening last time and was interviewed at the office, but this is a totally different position and I think you’re right, they probably don’t even remember most of what was said. The interview was cut short because I suggested that the interviewer, who looked exhausted, take a brief break before she saw me – brief turned out to be half an hour, which cut my interview time in half! See where being nice gets you! But seriously, it’s a huge corporation with subsidiaries everywhere and I am sure this type of thing is normal in “corporate” these days —- which is why I haven’t worked corporate in a while! So I appreciate your perspective. Thanks for your time.

  30. Dasha

    #1 OK this may be really dumb, but maybe they just like snacks? A little sugar can increase productivity. :)

  31. Carrie in Scotland

    OP 1 – My floor has a milk fund. We pay in £2 a month for milk for our tea & coffee (which we bring in ourselves). At the end of each quarter, I suppose (we had one at Christmas and one 2 weeks ago) we had a pizza day and got some delivered pizzas, garlic bread, dips, chicken etc and had a slightly extended lunch break. It was great and everyone was happier after.
    Would something like this be possible for your team every so often?

    1. Emily, admin extraordinaire

      Yeah, I was wondering if they just want a chance to celebrate, they might be willing to pitch in a bit. Like, everyone give $2 and buy a bunch of Little Ceaser’s (or a local equivalent) $5 pizzas and have an after-hours pizza party. Designate one day a month where people can bring treats to share and leave them in the break room. A potluck barbecue in the summer. Buy a bunch of candy the day after Easter and leave it in a bowl in the back. Something.

      Food goes a long way toward building morale. It’s just the way it is.

  32. MsM

    I’ve been a much milder version of #2 in the past (worrying about what my coworker was doing, minus the confronting them about it part), and in my case, it was anxiety. I wasn’t feeling confident in my work, I was worried that everyone else noticed how badly I was doing and was talking about it behind my back, and I needed to reassure myself that wasn’t the case.

    That said, understanding where it comes from in no way makes it your job to manage this for your coworker. Tell her the thing that irritates you is having to keep having this conversation instead of focusing on your work, and you’d appreciate it if she’d trust you will tell her if there is a problem or something that requires her attention, and just assume that everything is fine otherwise. If that doesn’t work, then maybe your next conversation with the supervisor should be a joint one so she doesn’t have the opportunity to take what’s said out of context.

  33. Leah

    Ha, I’m just imaging the conversation with the annoying coworker.
    “Hey, hey, you have an annoyed look on your face, are you made? Who was that on the phone?”

    “Yes, I’m angry because you constantly interrupt my work. Please stop immediately.”

  34. RubyJackson

    OP #2, if it continues, go back to your supervisor and asked to me moved to a location away from this woman. She’s a distraction.

  35. Lia Brigante

    Yes I have asked to be moved and I got my request and it worked out fine. That is a good suggestion. Lia

  36. Ben Around

    Re #1: “Personally, I think rewarding people for simply making their goals is unnecessary in most cases. That’s what they get paid for, and it’s what I expect them to do.”

    Every time I worked for someone who felt the need to say that, it was a mean-spirited manager whom I couldn’t wait to get away from. I think the employees are picking up on a vibe that exists.

    “Part-time associates doing a pretty entry-level customer service job” sounds like “low wage.” If their performance has improved, is it too much trouble to stop at Krispy Kreme on the way to work or to regularly put up some form of recognition on a bulletin board?

    1. Kat M

      If they’ve exceeded their goals, it would be one thing. But just meeting your goals? That’s….what you’re paid to do.

      1. Ben Around

        If the employees are mentioning a sense of feeling unappreciated, I think they’re probably right. And with the economy improving, the OP should consider acting more appreciative, because the employees aren’t stuck.

        1. Kat M

          To be fair-it might not be her fault though. That’s the fault of her company for having this culture and then not paying for it.

          And frankly, if it has to come out of her pocket and is expected as a frequent thing (when, in multiple comments, she has stated she’s all right with doing it occasionally), it might actually be “too much trouble.” You don’t know what her financial situation is like-she’s probably making barely more than most coworkers.

          I’m sensing a bit of judgment to the OP…I’m sorry your personal situation hasn’t been great….but it sounds like she’s trying to do a good job and the fact that she asked Alison about it shows that she clearly cares about doing the right thing.

    2. former teacher

      ^YUP. “That’s what they get paid for” was me all the way. Grades were the only thing I had to offer, so there was always mutiny when not enough people got As. My room was the only one with no kids in it after school, except when the VP needed a place to stick people on detention. I thought I was helping them raise their standards and they just thought I was a terrible person. If I’d learned to lighten up and celebrate the baby-steps a little more, maybe I’d still be doing it.

    3. former teacher

      An important and promising difference here, though, is that OP #1 is open to ideas and interested in exploring alternative celebrations – like the wrestling belt! Looking for feedback and insight doesn’t sound so mean-spirited.

  37. puddin

    #1 – does your District Manager have funds to use for recognition? Any vendors or suppliers that come into your store for product education/sales instruction? Those two sources might help provide the funds you lack for any tangible rewards past compensation. They would also be good sources for morale boosters.

    Praise from your boss is needed and valuable. Praise from someone who is more distant from the daily ops and less familiar with the individuals (like a DM or vendor rep) may seem even more valuable because the stellar work caught someone’s eye from afar. It can convey that the good work reputation bubbled its way outside of the normal daily crew to the ‘outside’ because the work was THAT good.

    Might not apply depending on your store products and structure, but thought I would throw that out there.

  38. teclatwig

    #1, I don’t think you are an awful person or a scary manager or anything else, but I do wonder if you aren’t being a bit rigid and defensive by falling back to that stance re: meeting goals is what they are paid for. Managing a team of people is also about helping maintain and raise their job satisfaction. Recognizing them for doing well at their jobs is not coddling them.

    I can see why you would balk at what must feel like bribery just to get them to meet each goal. I support you in wanting to change the equation. But, you weren’t given blank slates to manage. Since they were trained to see cookies=recognition, simply getting rid of cookies will feel like taking away that validation. Since you say they have been meeting all sorts of goals when they didn’t before, *that* is a significant achievement that you ought to be meeting with more than, “it’s what they get paid to do.” It sounds like you are very responsive to why you are hearing here, so I apologize if you’ve already heard this message, but I would like to re-emphasize that spreadsheets which report how well people did are…not going to feel like recognition to most people.

    I too like the silly award approach for incentivizing performance, though I hope you will also come up with some ideas for recognizing and celebrating a good run of work by your team.

    1. Retail Lifer (OP # 1)

      Thanks for all the help on this, AAM fans. I’m glad I’m not getting pummled for the “this is what I pay you for” stance I took, as what *I* get paid for is helping them achieve that goal and I’m obviously responsible for their results. I’m not the best manager in the world, but I’ve done a good job organizing this team and getting them focused. What I haven’t done is paid enough attention to the fact that they’re not all responsive to the type of recognition that I prefer. I have some serious resentment for my job, but it has nothing to do with my team. My team is awesome. I was only seeing this as a demand for cookies for performance, not a request for a different kind of recognition, and I’ll fix that.

      1. ThursdaysGeek

        Well, since you’ve taken them from occasionally meeting their goals to regularly meeting and exceeding their goals, and have arranged to get their pay up to a better level, then you deserve a cookie too. You may not be the best manager in the world, but you’re sure better than a lot of them! So, here’s a virtual cookie, one of my signature chocolate speck cookies, still warm and gooey from the virtual oven.

  39. Former Cable Rep

    My husband works retail, and he’s the best in his market at what he does. His job always lets him know when he’s the top in his market, which is a huge boost to his morale because his market involves several major cities. It makes him feel good to be better at his rinky-dink little suburban store than the sales people in Chicago. It’s recognition he can point to when interviewing for internal positions. It costs his company nothing to let him know when he’s the best around. When you can say “We beat out those slackers at store 305, we’re x% over our goals, great job team!” and “Jane is our employee of the month with 200% to budget!” that’s the kind of recognition that makes people feel invested in what they’re doing.

    Now my husband’s company does also pay them a bonus when they make a certain percentage over budget, and a double bonus when they hit a different goal, and gives him company points towards rewards in an internal system. I understand that’s not under Retail Lifer’s control, but it’s one of the reasons this is one of the best companies he’s worked at. Tangible rewards really shouldn’t be coming out of the manager’s pocket, if they exist they should be coming from the company itself. Retail Lifer shouldn’t have to absorb a cost out of pocket that the previous manager was willing to put up with.

    I’m sympathetic to the people she manages, retail customer service is a stressful job where you deal with awful people all the time. I’ve never gotten cookies for meeting or exceeding my sales goals, though, and I wouldn’t expect them. I’d expect my manager to share my successes with the team, give me accurate, timely feedback and useful coaching, and make sure I have the tools and support to do my job. At most, I expect the company to buy me pizza on Black Friday, only because it’s impossible to leave the store on that day. Give me the kind of recognition I can put on a resume. I can’t take cookies to my next job interview, I certainly can’t pay the rent with them.

  40. peanut butter kisses

    #1 – If they have trouble meeting their goals, you might want to reevaluate the goals and see if they are realistic. See what the problems are and perhaps more training or additional resources can help? I don’t think the goals aren’t being met because of cookies but surely there is something that can be done to get your goals accomplished.

  41. Meggers

    WRT LW #1, several people have commented about the 5 Love Languages. There is actually a version for work – The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace: Empowering Organizations by Encouraging People (it is co-written by the Love Language writer). I highly recommend it – it’s a quick read and it highlights/reminds you that people place different value on different types of interactions. It also talks about the difference between recognition and appreciation, which is subtle and important.
    Short version: just because you’ve expressed appreciation doesn’t mean they’ve heard appreciation. Make sure what you want to put across is being communicated, which involves both parties (sending and receiving). Some things may seem stupid/annoying/unmotivating to you but are important to the recipient. You don’t have to coddle people, but you do want to make sure they are hearing your message.

  42. ECH

    I discovered my guys (two of my three employees) love roasted peanuts. When they are on sale at the store I get a batch and we have a never-ending supply in my department. They nibble frequently and I joke that “they work for peanuts.”

  43. Ineloquent

    OP #1, you may be unwilling to do cookies or trophies or whatever, but what about other, more valuable (to me at least) recognition? Allowing someone to leave an hour early at full pay or take a long lunch, better parking spaces, low value gift cards (or similar), regognition from higher ups, first shot at shift selection for a week, or things like that. If they’re minimum wage workers, the company may only be out a tiny bit of money for some of these, but it could generate huge goodwill and make your people feel like you really appreciate their wonderful success.

    1. Petronella

      +1 to these suggestions, some of which are probably within the OP’s power to do. I especially like the idea of tying better (more convenient, more lucrative) shifts to performance. I don’t blame the OP one bit for resisting the cookie expectation. When I managed a retail store, I didn’t earn all that much more than the people I was managing, while working long exhausting hours. The last thing I had time or energy for was baking cookies on my own time (and the ingredients aren’t cheap either). And even $10 a month was out of my budget.

  44. Mike B.

    #4 – Unless this is a person you absolutely loathe, or a person whom you suspect of having an ulterior motive, I suggest that you just put your feelings aside for an hour and meet with the guy. He sounds like a potentially valuable acquaintance to cultivate.

  45. Mabel

    RE: #1 – I was thinking that if you wanted to keep in touch just for networking purposes, perhaps you could suggest meeting for coffee instead of lunch. That way you’ll have connected, but it didn’t take too long, and that would hopefully cut down on any potential complaining on his part.

  46. Natalie Anne Lanoville

    #2: Definitely don’t mirror. Also IMO don’t tell her she’s making you into the angry person she thinks you are or bring up how she makes you feel at all. This is what I’d do:

    “Co-worker. You need to stop speaking to me about my feelings and my wellbeing; it is an invasion of my privacy. If you ever have a concern about either that you cannot keep to yourself, bring it to my supervisor.

    In addition, you need to stop speaking to me about work-related topics that do not directly affect you or your work. If I ever fail to respond appropriately to a relevant-to-you work-related topic that you attempt to address with me, again, bring it to my supervisor.”

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