do I have to buy my boss a wedding gift, my interview slot was revoked, and more

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

1. Do I have to buy my boss a wedding gift?

I know that social convention dictates that one wedding invitation equals one gift, and workplace rules generally say that gifts flow down, not up. I don’t socialize with my boss (or anyone in my department) outside of work. My entire department received wedding invites to both the destination wedding and the reception a month later in our town with out holiday gifts (a restaurant gift card). The kicker is that my boss assigned me to cover a travel assignment over the weekend when his reception is. The entire office was also invited to the reception. Am I obligated to buy him a wedding gift? And if so, can I get away with something like a bottle of wine?

Wait, no, wedding invitations do not obligate you to send a gift! You really should give a gift if you’re attending (although with destination weddings, thoughtful couples will make it clear that simply getting yourself to their far-off destination is gift enough), but simply being invited absolutely doesn’t obligate you to give one.

Given that (a) it’s a destination wedding and (b) he scheduled you to travel somewhere else that weekend, I’d read this whole thing as him issuing invitations to his staff for the sake of politeness but without a real expectation that any of you will attend.

Anyway, no gift necessary. A card and sincere congratulations would be a nice gesture, but you really don’t need to feel obligated to do anything beyond that.

2. What to do when some interviewers don’t show up for a group interview

I have found myself in this situation several times: I am scheduled for a job interview with several of the staff, such as partners in the firm. But only one of the interviewers is available when I arrive. The others are held up — in a meeting off-site, for example. I offered to wait, offered to leave and return later in the day, and failing that, tried to reschedule. I tried my very hardest to pin them down without appearing pathetically desperate! Yet, they would say the other interviewers would not be back that day, and today is the last day they’d be interviewing for the position, and they had all the info they need from me talking to the sole interviewer. I told them I feared it put me at a disadvantage by not having the opportunity to interview with the other staff. And sure enough, I never was hired in these situations!

How could I have coerced them into rescheduling my interview, short of camping out in front of their door?

You can’t. They’re the ones who set the parameters for their interview process, decide who will participate, and decide whether or not to make changes to it on the fly. It’s possible that the missing interviewers aren’t key to the final decision-making; it’s also possible that they are, and that you are indeed being put at a disadvantage. But there’s really nothing that you can do when this happens; it’s out of your hands.

3. I was offered an interview slot and then it was revoked

I applied for a job about a month ago that I was really excited about. Today I got a call asking if I could interview, and I was thrilled! The person asked me if I could interview on Saturday (it was Thursday, so two days notice). I explained that I was going to be babysitting a friend’s kid literally all day Saturday but other than that my schedule was pretty flexible, and she said she would check with others and call me back. She called me back saying that all other slots were now full, including on Saturday even if I did figure out how to make it work, so unfortunately they wouldn’t be able to interview me after all. This isn’t how this is supposed to work, right? Maybe I just wasn’t a competitive enough candidate for them to try and accommodate. This is barely a question, I mostly just want your permission to be mad about it.

Permission granted. When you reach out to someone for an interview, it’s rude to then say, “Oh, never mind, we have enough other people to talk to.” It’s also rude to give someone so little notice, unless you acknowledge that it’s short notice, apologize for it, and ideally offer other options as well. (In fact, there’s another letter on a related topic coming later on today.)

4. Employer barred me from having contact with my ex

I work for the federal government at an airport. I’ve dated a coworker, and things ended badly to the point where police got involved. The coworker who I dated filed a false harassment claim on me, and my work issued out their own “no contact” order, which states that me and my coworker aren’t allowed to talk or see each other while at work, off of work, and through any social media, and if one of us is at a bar/restaurant, and the other person shows up, someone has to leave (like a restraining order). I’ve had an altercation with this coworker outside of work. Can my employer fire me because of that?

Yes. After all, imagine if you were being harassed by a coworker and one way that your company was able to protect you was by ordering that person to have no contact with you — and then the person broke that agreement and had an “altercation” with you outside of work. It would be perfectly reasonable for your company to hold the person to the terms of the original agreement, decide that they were making it impossible for you to feel safe at work, and fire them as a result.

I understand that you’re saying that the original harassment claim was false, but your company was apparently concerned enough (rightly or wrongly) to issue this no-contact order, which was apparently broken. That said, if you didn’t initiate contact or start the altercation and if you tried your best to extract yourself from it, you could try explaining that. It sounds like a pretty bad situation though, and one where you’d each be better off working separately.

5. I’m supposed to report on an organization that I just interviewed with

I work at a news organization that is affiliated with a large university. I’m currently searching for a new role, moving into more public/media relations than journalism.

I had an interview with a department in the university for a role that I’m really excited about. But I just got an assignment from my editor to report on a potentially unsavory (not earth shattering, but unpleasant consequences) decision the university is making. Here’s my dilemma – my editor said I need to contact the PR/Relations department and the hiring manager I interviewed with!

I feel uncomfortable ethically for several reasons. Seems like the only course of action is to delay the story for a little while, and hope I get an answer about the job? I’m uncomfortable approaching the university department as a reporter for my current job, especially on a story that may garner them some bad press on a local scale. I also know this constitutes a conflict of interest on my end as a reporter but I don’t think I want to reveal my boss that I’m looking to leave. Any suggestions?

You have totally stumped me and I don’t know what to advise! I’m interested to see if others have advice on this.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 285 comments… read them below }

  1. Bend & Snap*

    #5 I’m a publicist and i’d try to squash your story. Not a position an interviewee wants to be in.

    Can you fudge the conflict of interest? Family ties/donors/strong loyalty etc.

    1. Natalie*

      Or maybe fudge the timeline? If you had interviewed with them a few years ago would that still count as a conflict?

      1. Cass (OP #5)*

        My gameplan right now is to continue with the other side of the story first and save the approach to the PR office for last. Hoping the timelines should match up.

        1. BRR*

          That sounds like it might be your best bet. Can you have somebody else contact the PR department for you?

          Wow this is a tough situation.

          1. Cass (OP #5)*

            Only my editor, who would probe why I couldn’t do a simple aspect of my job lol. Thanks though, I am at a loss and just going to move forward deliberately and hope I don’t find myself between a rock and a hard place.

    2. Cass (OP #5)*

      Not really, apart of the job is reporting on the university. (We are not a huge market, so a lot of news is driven by the school.) If I couldn’t do that, I’m sure my ability to do my entire job would be questioned.

      1. sunny-dee*

        It’s not actually a fake conflict of interest — this is, in fact, a very real conflict of interest. You want something from the university (a job) and are able to assist the university (delay or squash a negative story) in order to obtain that position.

        If you want to pursue the job with the university, you need to tell your editor. If you decide you want to keep what you have, you need to withdraw from the job.

        I was a reporter for a newspaper and in a similar situation when I applied for a job with the city.

        1. Natalie*

          I don’t think anyone is saying the OP’s conflict of interest is fake, but rather that they should come up with another (fake) conflict of interest that they can safely tell their boss.

      2. Juni*

        “My (uncle/grandfather/spouse/etc.) is a large donor to the University. I think this is a conflict of interest, so I have to decline the assignment.”

      3. Lisa*

        I’d fake sick on the day of the interview, and get your boss to do the interview.

    3. Jady*

      Exactly what I was thinking. You can say you know someone in that department personally and it’s a conflict of interest. Pass the story off to another employee.

  2. SeattleMom*

    Keep it brief and on point with your editors. I have a conflict of interest with the institution and I need to recuse myself from reporting.

    1. Emmie*

      This is what I came here to write as well. You could say that you have personal relationships there that are a conflict of interest, and would negatively impact the neutrality of the story. And, tell your employer that’s all you can disclose. It’d be helpful if you had a colleague to recommend as a substitute to your boss. “While I have this conflict, Waukeen would be a good fit for the story because….”

      1. Emmie*

        One other thing…. I also think you have an obligation to bow out of this story asap. It will be easy to discredit your work based on the recent relationship. … we denied #5 for a job here, and s/he wrote this salacious article. Writing it could have other professional implications outside of the immediate concerns, and impact your employer’s credibility. Way to go for wanting to bow out, and I hope you do.

      2. Treena Kravm*

        This. I’d imagine that in journalism, this is one of those “enough said” moments.

    2. Jessa*

      This. There is no really ethical way for you to do the story whether or NOT you get the job. The conflict is A: you get the job and are accused of going easy on them. B: you do not get the job and they are accused of not giving it to you because you said something bad about them. C: you soft pedal in general and the article is not completely accurate or fair because you’re afraid of A or B. Even if A B and C are completely false, there’s just too much conflict. An editor who puts you in that position is an idiot, because part of their job is making sure news is reported fairly and without conflict or the near appearance of conflict. And the solution which is to mention your potential bias in the article also has the potential to bias the school’s decision on your hiring status.

      I’d go back to the editor and lay it out very clearly that ethically this is bad.

      1. Tau*

        My understanding is that LW is fully aware of this, but can’t lay it out for her boss because that would require telling her boss she interviewed there for a job – so, telling her boss she’s job-hunting.

        It really seems like some vague “conflict of interest cannot get into details” might be the best way to go here.

        1. Cass (OP #5)*

          Yes, my editor does not know I’m job searching and have had interviews with this office. I have done prior business for stories with this office, so it would definitely be off to all of a sudden say I can’t anymore. I’d expect a serious conversation about could I actually do this job anymore.

    3. Cass (OP #5)*

      As I mentioned above, probably about 30% of the stories I do involve the school. And I’ve done several already, making contacts through the same office. (The PR office serves as the point of contact, they then refer me to the office within the University in most situations. I am not sure if that will be the case with a potentially negative story. It may be “no comment.”)

      1. Koko*

        It sounds like, given how often you report on the university in your job and that you can’t report on the university while interviewing with the university, you have a very small window in which to complete an application/interview/offer without running into a conflict like this. I wonder if it might be appropriate in this situation to let the PR department know you have this issue to see if they can speed their process a bit if you’re a top candidate. Something about how while your candidacy is being considered you’re unable to take a significant percentage of the assignments given to you. I’m actually wondering if the sort of transition you want to make is even possible if they can’t move their hiring fast enough to happen in-between university stories.

        1. Sunflower*

          This is how I feel too. If you’ve reported on them before, I think your best bet would be letting the hiring manager know you are writing a story on them- don’t disclose what kind of light it sheds – and say you’d feel uncomfortable writing it while you are still a candidate in the running. It’s not an ideal situation but I think it might be the best solution here for you to maintain a good relationship with the university while keeping your job.

        2. Grand Bargain*

          I really like how you address both the journalistic ethics and the career ethics, Koko. You certainly give OP a way to navigate through the conflict.

      2. Kyrielle*

        Have the stories been negative before? If not, couldn’t you have a potential (vague) conflict of interest that didn’t significantly impact positive stories but might impact a negative story, especially if you suspect it would be handled directly by the PR office rather than referred on?

        1. Cass (OP #5)*

          Most of the stories have general been positive. A couple focused on a scandal that hit recently, but for those stories I didn’t need to approach this office to complete.

    4. A Journalist*

      Yup. Your editor needs to know you have a conflict of interest — it’s the ethical and correct thing to do.

      But you don’t need to say you want the target to hire you. It’s just: “I’m sorry, but I have a conflict of interest here and should not be the one to write this story.”

      If your editor pries, you simply say that there is an existing personal relationship between you and this person and that it would negatively affect your ability to report accurately.

      Don’t just camp out on the story, though. That’s not fair to your editor, your readers, or your current role. Or yourself.

    5. John R*

      This seems the most ethical and honest answer. You’re being truthful, yet not disclosing anything. I would add the word “I CURRENTLY have a conflict of interest …” in case the job doesn’t pan out, though then I suppose you’ll have to ask yourself if you can be objective about the University if they deny you a job.

  3. Kristin*

    Just say you know the hiring manager socially (friend of a friend, whatever) and request another reporter be assigned.

    1. themmases*

      I agree. The OP doesn’t even have to say they know the hiring manager socially– they can honestly say they know this person outside of work and don’t think they can be objective.

      1. Cass (OP #5)*

        Thanks for your advice, but that won’t help with this situation unfortunately. If I claim I know the entire PR office socially and say then I can’t do any stories on the University, I’d be out of a job eventually I assume.

        1. Natalie*

          How is this going to work if you do not get the job at the university? Presumably having been rejected by them recently would also count as a conflict that you would have to disclose?

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I’m wondering that too. OP, if you don’t get the job, how will you avoid the appearance of conflict of interest in your coverage of them in the future, particularly if you need to write something negative?

            1. Cass (OP #5)*

              I understand how it may seem that way, but I don’t even think my editor would bat an eye if I continued to do stories on the University, even after telling her the entire story. Being a small town and the school being the main employer, we all have conflicts of interest. (Example – our news director is married to a PR manager at the school.) Also, I genuinely believe if I was not selected for the job that it would influence my actions going forward in anyway.

                1. Emmie*

                  Maybe your best bet then is to reach out to your contact at the University and remind them that writing about the school is a big portion of your job, that you’ll continue to get newsworthy assignments about them – some positive and some negative. Tell them that you’ll have to continue writing about them, give them a heads up that you’re calling about an article, that you hope it doesn’t impact your candidacy, you take * great pride in your journalistic neutrality *, hope they respect your continued current employer commitments, and remain interested in the job. I’d say this verbally. I wouldn’t email it … it could be discoverable in litigation, or if it is a public / state school then subject to open records request.

              1. fposte*

                But it’s your editor’s prerogative to make that call, not yours. Sure, maybe being in bed with the university means that there’s just no way to disentangle the two, but it’s still on her, not you, if it comes out and ends up as a problem. There’s a reason disclosure is generally considered mandatory.

                I’m less concerned with the university as a whole stuff–university-supported news orgs are pretty inextricably in bed with their universities–than working with that specific PR department.

              2. PRGal*

                I would consider explaining that you’ve met with them about a job, and positioning it like they reached out to you/recruited you and you were open to a conversation. I understand the risk there but think you’d be more likely to be exposed to a serious career risk if you don’t disclose this. Hopefully your editor would appreciate that you’re trying to do the right thing from a journalistic perspective, and hey, maybe it’ll open up a conversation about why you’re considering leaving and improve or change something for you!

            2. Cass (OP #5)*

              I think I need to clarify – my true concern is my standing as a job candidate. There are numerous connections that would be considered biases all across my news organization – it’s not ideal, but we’ve been able to operate under these conditions since it was created. In true blue journalism, I could always be accused of being biased on any story concerning the school/area. I’m an alum, my family has strong connections to the school (family members were deans of departments), I’m a fan of their sports, I attend networking events and awards ceremonies. Just to lay it all out there.

              Moonstone mentioned below about the realities of working in a newsroom, and he/she hit the nail on the head. I always just try to do my best ethically.

              1. Cass (OP #5)*

                Plus, I have a tattoo of the school logo. :) To put things in perspective, lol.

                1. Senior Flack*

                  Given all that, I suggest you carry on with covering the story and at the point at which you would normally contact the press office, first ring the hiring manager. Explain to her that as she knows, your current job involves reporting on the school and you just wanted to give her a heads up that you are about to call the PR about something. This would be a good chance to stress that obviously you have an obligation to your employer and to yourself to do the best job you can, without fear or favour, which you’re sure she appreciates . But you’re still very interested in the job. I’d be ok if someone said that to me – she knows you write about them so it’s unlikely to be a shock.

        2. Raptor*

          Could you just say you have a friend who is interviewing there and has been talking to you about the interview and knows about your story? And until the friend hears back about the job, you don’t feel right about listening to her and also reporting.

          I know, it’s a tv trope.. replacing yourself with, a friend.. but that’s the best I got.

          Of course.. if you do get the job, this whole lie is going to come out. But I understand not getting the job and wanting to stay put. Maybe talk to the university instead and lay out the conflict of interest (and don’t mention if it’s a bad or a good story) and see what they are willing to do to help.

          Good luck! Rock and a hard place.

          1. Lisa*

            Depending on how long OP is in the job now, she can say ‘I interviewed with her last year’. It would be a conflict of interest for me to get a quote directly from her. Then ask the editor to get the comment.

  4. CMS*

    #3: That is incredibly rude, but unfortunately, it is quite common, especially for jobs where there’s a LOT of people who apply. I was referred to a job by a friend of mine once and they called me for an interview on a Wednesday night and wanted me to come interview on Friday morning. Since I had a shift on Friday morning, I told them that I wouldn’t be able to make that interview but I would be able to let them know when I would be available on that Friday, as that is when I found out my schedule for the following week. I called them back and the lady I talked to told me that they already filled up all the slots for interviews (which I heard her mutter to herself, “hmmm, there’s no openings here…” Huge red flag right there), but since I was a referral, they fit me in before all the other interviews the following Monday.

    So I was lucky to get an interview, but I was met with them forgetting my resume (but I didn’t bring mine, as I was told I wouldn’t need it), the interviewer was late, they were not really friendly and when the interview was over, I was rushed out the door and I never heard back from them. In fact, my referral person tried to ask them about me and they wouldn’t give her any information about it.

    It’s really frustrating when you’re treated like that, but see it as a blessing in disguise. At that workplace, you’d only be a number, not a person.

    1. TheLazyB*

      Too late now, but I always take my CV, whether or not think I need it :-/

      All sounds very frustrating.

      1. Ann Furthermore*

        Me too. I worked with a staffing agency once, and they put my resume into their system and sent that to hiring managers. I’m sure they did that to keep candidates’ contact information confidential, or something.

        Anyway, at an interview I could see the hiring manager had made some notes on my resume, and due to my ability to read upside down, I could see that the version she’d gotten from the recruiter was full of typos! The hiring manager had marked my resume up with a red pen. I whipped out my own resume and said, “Here’s a copy of my resume, in case you’d like to look at it.” I was so ticked off.

        I did end up getting that job, and that red pen became the bane of my existence. But that’s another story.

          1. OhNo*

            Sometimes recruiters (or staffing agencies, or whatever) have someone put your resume into some special system they are using. So, when it gets converted to their system, errors will sometimes appear out of nowhere. I’ve had this happen to me before via a temp agency, so I imagine it’s not uncommon.

          2. Delyssia*

            When I went on interviews as a potential contract employee (where I would be employed by the staffing agency during the term of the contract), the agency would provide me with “their” version of my resume, so I could have a few copies on hand in case anyone I was interviewing with didn’t have it in front of them. In my case, the only difference was that it had the agency’s contact information instead of mine.

          3. themmases*

            When I copy things from a form into a database, I sometimes find it faster to just type the short responses. Maybe someone at this place did the same thing, but was not so great at typing– or spelling.

          4. Holly Olly Oxen Free*

            I have had recruiters ask me to speak about a position and they type up what I’m saying and replace what was already on my resume about that position. Usually what they write is their own interpretation of what I said and for my more technical roles a misunderstanding of what I actually did. Then they submit that to the hiring manager. I don’t really get why they do this. My resume speaks for itself.

    2. OP*

      The weird thing is, I don’t think I would be a number, not a person–it was a development role at a small collectively-run nonprofit! But I do suspect they might be fairly unorganized.

    3. Retail Lifer*

      This is REALLY common. I’ve gotten several calls for interviews with only a day or two notice, they only had a couple of spots at times that wouldn’t work at all because I was at work and didn’t have time to find someone to cover for me, and they were ONLY interviewing those one or two days.

    4. Vicki*

      I’ve had it happen that they called on Monday, wanted me to come in Wednesday, I made the appointment, and later Monday (or Tuesday) they canceled and said “Too bad, we hired someone.”

      Consider this one of those cases where you’re better off.

  5. MK*

    OP5, delaying the story for a little while doesn’t seem much of an option to me. To begin with, you have no way of knowing how long it will take till you have an answer from the hiring manager. Second, while you still work there, you have an obligation to do your job to the best of your ability, not delaying it to suit your personal career goals. And thirdly, if you don’t get the job, it will be equally inappropriate for you, a rejected job candidate, to then report on the departments.

  6. MsM*

    #2, I don’t think you weren’t hired because you didn’t get to talk to everyone. I think you may have put yourself at a disadvantage when you didn’t just roll with not being able to talk to everyone. If they really felt they needed you to talk to everyone, they’d have made sure everyone was available, or brought you back at a later point in the process to meet the people you missed. And if there’s someone you’d be working particularly closely with who wasn’t there, you can always say you hope you have a chance to meet them soon in your thank you note, or ask to do so before you accept an offer. Or just take this as a sign that the place may be a little too lackidaisical to be a good fit for you and keep pursuing other opportunities.

    1. themmases*

      I disagree. At my old job several people would get to interview and it would be very unlikely for someone to be hired without meeting them all. Obviously knowing that we would never deliberately schedule an interview where an important person couldn’t attend, but if for example a doctor got called away they probably made some interviews and not others. Now you’re in the position of trying to convince a busy decision maker (but not the sole decision maker, or else the interview would have just been rescheduled) that they need to make a second time to meet and consider Bob, after they already got attached to Jane from the other day. If Jane really is a good candidate too, which she probably is, then sometimes that’s that.

      1. MsM*

        Well, but if the person who got attached to Bob really liked Bob that much more than Jane, I doubt they’d have just let it drop. And in that particular scenario, I can’t imagine Bob would’ve helped his candidacy by insisting on finding another time when then there is no way to guarantee there won’t be a patient emergency then, too.

        1. themmases*

          I think it really depends on the power dynamics of the group, and the purpose of the role. In the role I helped interview for, it was me (research coordinator who would spend every day with this person and train them), director who functions primarily as a supervisor, and doctors and faculty members who will actually be giving this person their work.

          For roles like that, sure the director is the hiring manager on paper but in reality this is a staff position the faculty will be really close with– almost like a PA– and they make the real decision from a list the director narrowed down. Unfortunately it’s totally possible to not get to meet with the real decision maker, who on paper looks like more of a courtesy meeting. And if they get attached to someone they did meet, well, it’s their call.

          I don’t necessarily think this is right– I hated having both a supervisor and a “real boss”– but I don’t think it’s an uncommon arrangement for support staff.

      2. snuck*

        I can see this being important in some fields, we don’t know what position the OP was interviewing for. In a team environment meeting the team is important – but not necessarily at a first screening interview. If you have ten good on paper applicants and can’t decide between them, but know this new hire works 80% of their time with Person Y then why not let Person Y screen them down to five or so for a second round interview rather than waste Person X and Person Z’s time for five extra interviews?

      3. fposte*

        Sure, but that’s up to the employer. If the employer is okay with interviewing you without all the originally planned interviewers, then it’s okay. The applicant isn’t going to know better than the job whether it’s an issue, and she can’t force them to cough up the other people.

    2. plain_jane*

      I agree. Your strong reaction to only seeing one person would have been a red flag in any hiring situation I’ve been in. Personally I find it easier to connect with a smaller number of interviewers, so I think it’s actually a bonus to be put into this situation.

      ” I tried my very hardest to pin them down” – it is very hard to pin someone down if you have no leverage. To use another martial analogy, I think you need to roll with the punches.

    3. Artemesia*

      The person who whined that they ‘feel at a disadvantage’ because they didnt get interviewed by everyone has put themselves at a disadvantage. That may be what annoyed them and that they remember. Yes it is a bummer. But complaining about it especially in terms of your interests rather than your interest likely didn’t help the OP’s case. Of course, it might also be that they had another candidate who was just a better fit and it made no difference. But it never helps to be a ‘difficult’ candidate.

      1. LBK*

        Where are you seeing that the OP whined to anyone at the company? It sounds like she didn’t even get to speak to a decision maker, I don’t understand how you get the impression that they could’ve been annoyed by her actions here. Especially since I see nothing annoying about offering to reschedule or wait until the interviewers were available.

        1. Kate M*

          Maybe whined is a strong word, but pushing them to change their plans and then stating that they feel like they’re at a disadvantage doesn’t really come off well. To me, for a first round interview, it would make sense to send an invite to several members of the team to interview, and then just go forward with whoever could make it (assuming one or two could). As long as everyone who mattered was able to attend one interview with the candidate (be it a second or third round interview), I see nothing wrong with people’s schedules not allowing them to make the first.

          Sure, it’s not a bad thing to ask if it would be better for them to reschedule. But they probably know what they’re doing (or at least have a plan in place). By pushing back against their plan, and trying to reschedule and “coerce” them to change, that’s really going to annoy me. It’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy. You’re so sure that you’re put at a disadvantage, that you complain about it, saying the interview isn’t fair, and then are shocked when you don’t get hired.

          1. LBK*

            It doesn’t sound like they had a plan, though. If they led with “We’re actually not having the interview” and then the OP pushed back after that, that would be one thing, but it sounds like she’s being told “Bob isn’t available at the moment” and then when she offers to come back at a better time, they’re saying the interview is unnecessary. That’s extremely rude, IMO. And even if the plan from the start is to cancel the interview, it’s really rude to not give the OP a heads up before she comes into the office.

            1. Kate M*

              That’s…not at all what I got from the question. The OP said that they were told they would be interviewing with a few people, (so for example, Sue, Joe, and Bob), but when they got there, Bob said they would be doing the interview solo. That doesn’t seem that weird to me. People get called into different meetings all the time, or things come up. They were still having the interview, just with one person instead of three. That one person can probably make the decision of who goes to the second round interview.

              I saw nowhere that they were trying to cancel the interview. The OP was upset that they weren’t being interviewed by all the people they expected, and so was trying to push back and reschedule for when they would all be available (and tried to push back several times). That seems unacceptable to me.

              1. LBK*

                You know what…I’m a total idiot. I read the letter wrong – I thought this was a second round interview kind of deal and she’d already met with one interviewer, and them because the full group wasn’t available they were declining the second round. Now that I reread it sounds like the interview *did* happen, just with one person instead of the whole group, and she pushed back on leaving it at that.

                In that case I do agree that it’s not the OP’s place to push back. My apologies!

        2. Artemesia*

          The OP said that s/he told the interviewer that s/he felt this put them at a disadvantage. Criticizing the hiring practices of those interviewing is a really inept move in an interview. It is one thing to say ‘I would love to be able to talk with Bob and Ray and would be happy to return for another interview if that is possible’ has an entirely different tone than ‘I feel not getting to interview with Bob an Ray puts me at a disadvantage.’ That is way out there on the high maintenance whiny end of the applicant scale.

    4. Anonicorn*

      I agree. I think the interviewer already knew that he/she didn’t want to hire the LW.

      1. Julia*

        Yep, that was my read on the situation. OP failed the first round and did not qualify for the next round of interviews that were scheduled. It would just be uncomfortable for everyone (including OP) for the interviewer to say so in the moment.

        1. Julia*

          Oops, I misread it and phrased this poorly, but I still hold that the first interviewer had already decided not to hire OP.

    5. AnonAnalyst*

      Totally agree. Asking if it would be better to reschedule the interview when everyone else was available is fine, but continuing to ask and/or push the issue would be a huge red flag. And this is coming from someone who works in an environment where nearly all work is done in teams.

      The continued questioning and statements that you feel like you’re being put at a disadvantage would stand out in a negative way, and are unfortunately the kind of thing that I would remember and report back to the rest of the team that wasn’t able to meet you while giving my overall impressions of the interview. I understand the concern, and it does suck to find out that you may not be meeting the team after all, but in the future your best option really is just to roll with it and stop trying to force them to reschedule.

      1. Koko*

        Especially in hiring – you’re probably dealing with a high-level executive admin and a team of executives, who are all high-level enough to be accustomed to doing things the way they determine is best and not being challenged on it. Shoot, when I was an office manager and did all first-round resume screening I positively bristled at people who didn’t follow application instructions. Inevitably outsiders who object to an internal process have little comprehension of why the internal process is set up the way it is, which I should think would be obvious enough to recognize how insulting it is as a high-level insider to have an outside candidate try to tell you you’re making the wrong business choice.

        1. LBK*

          While I understand that only the company can know from the inside what makes sense for their hiring process, I can’t imagine scheduling an apparently pointless interview makes sense in any context, and moreover it’s really inconsiderate to the candidate. If the interview was unnecessary from the start, why waste the candidate’s time scheduling it? If it was necessary, why was it so easy for the company to blow off?

          I’m willing to put a lot of interview process weirdness down to “you can’t know what’s going on from the outside,” but this situation does not meet that bar to me. The way they acted is just plain rude.

          1. Koko*

            It wasn’t a pointless interview though. She’s of the opinion that it was pointless because she didn’t meet with the entire team. But someone still interviewed her, and the company is in a much better position to judge whether that was sufficient than the candidate is.

            I almost always interview candidates as part of a group, but we do that because we want to give the entire team the chance to meet the candidates if they want, and we want to put the candidate through as few interviews as possible – it’s not because we want to give all candidates the chance to be interviewed by the entire team. Which means if someone from my team can’t make it to the interview, it doesn’t matter at all. The remaining members of the team can conduct the interview equally well, and the missing person wasn’t the key decision-maker in the hiring process, they were simply invited to participate in the interview as a professional courtesy.

            1. LBK*

              See above – I read the letter wrong, I thought the interview was declined completely, not proceeded with fewer people than expected. Disregard!

          2. CylindricalSpiderWebbing*

            Not really …

            I commented on this down below, but our company takes an everyone who wants to meet/see the candidate approach. The key stakeholders have to be there, but if, for example, the other team manager or some of the senior team memebers get a conflict, it’s not big deal if they can not come. If that small of a change up throws a candidate way off there game that would be a huge red flag for us and if we had interviewed with OP, and after having refused their polite request to reschedule, the OP had stated that they really wanted to come back when they could meet with everyone and that he felt his candidacy was at a disadvantage that would have been some strong marks against him.

      2. Holly Olly Oxen Free*

        I don’t even think OP was at a disadvantage in this situation. Either the interviewer is empowered and capable enough to make the decision to move forward or they’re not. If so then no need to worry about not meeting others. If not then you will certainly be given an opportunity to meet with the others if the interviewer thinks you’re a strong candidate. If they don’t think you’re strong, they probably wouldn’t have thought you were strong regardless of who you met with. In the end it makes absolutely no difference whether you meet with all of them or not.

    6. LBK*

      Huh? I’m confused, I think offering to wait or reschedule is perfectly normal and exactly what I would expect a candidate to do. If I said “Bob isn’t available at the moment” and the candidate said “Okay, well I’ll just leave then” that would be a giant red flag to me that they didn’t really care about the position. I don’t know how you can see the candidate’s willingness to be flexible as a bad thing.

      1. Koko*

        It’s because the candidate wasn’t asked to be flexible. The person available said, “Bob isn’t here, so I’ll be conducting your interview by myself. Let’s get started,” and the candidate said, “Well, I can wait if Bob will be coming back. Or leave and come back later?” (“I offered to wait, offered to leave and return later in the day,”) The interviewer said something like, “Bob won’t be back today, so I’ll be interviewing you. Will you follow me?” And the candidate argued at least a second time (“… failing that, tried to reschedule. I tried my very hardest to pin them down…”), saying, “What if I came on another day?” and after that was turned down, she “told them [she] feared it put me at a disadvantage.”

        Based on my reading of this, she was told Bob wouldn’t be available, the interviewer showed no interest in rescheduling, and she tried at least 3 times to argue with the interviewer’s decision to interview her alone. That’s the opposite of flexibility.

        1. LBK*

          We must be reading this differently then, because now I’m kind of unclear on the situation. It sounds to me like the OP had already interviewed with the single person and when she offered to have a follow up with the other people, that was declined. That still sounds pretty flexible to me – I don’t read that as argument.

          1. LBK*

            You know what, I did read it differently – ie incorrectly. Sorry about that, you’re right. It wasn’t appropriate to push back on having the interview with 1 person instead of the full group that was expected.

      2. Graciosa*

        I suspect insulting the interviewer didn’t help.

        The remainder of the panel trusts the interviewer to make a fair assessment of the candidate, and is willing to rely on her judgment.

        The OP, who does not even know her, is certain that the panel cannot trust her judgment.

        I wouldn’t have hired the OP either.

        1. BananaPants*

          No kidding. I would be pretty insulted if a candidate pushed back and wanted to interview with additional people after interviewing with me – my teammates and manager trust me to assess a candidate on my own, who the heck is the candidate to think otherwise?

          1. Artemesia*

            If the process proceeds of course then needing to meet with the team s/he would be working with is fine to push for — but that is part of the final courtship to hire — not at the entry interview stage of the process.

    7. bridget*

      I agree. After hearing that the other panel members aren’t available, I think the OP was in the clear to offer to reschedule once. After that, if the interviewer said “no that’s ok, we can proceed with the interview,” then the OP has to stop pushing. Pushing in the form of stating that she will be disadvantaged generally comes off as pushy at best, and sort of like she is suspicious of the process/insulting to the remaining interviewer at worst. Plus, it makes it sound like she expects the interview process to be 100% fair. Ideally it would be, but candidates don’t have some sort of due process right to equal interview processes with the other candidates.

  7. Grand Bargain*

    #5. Seems like you’ve been handed a very strong ready-made case for why the university needs to hire you. They’ve got PR problems and perhaps an administration that is tone deaf to PR issues (but then you already know that since your news organization is affiliated with the university). You’ve got the background, the skills, and current knowledge about their issues. That puts you a leg up on everyone else. I can’t see how this hurts your chances of getting the new job. There is a risk, though, that Hiring Manager may blow your cover with your manager by trying to put a lid on the story herself. Do the story. Sensitively, respectfully and honestly. But, definitely do the story.

      1. Grand Bargain*

        I do sort of see that this situation may create a conflict of interest. OP might stand to benefit either way – from going easy on the university, or (in my scenario) by being tough. In a sense, though, isn’t there already a conflict of interest (COI) present in that OP works for an affiliate of the university that is reporting on an unsavory university decision. It seems OP’s organization has a permanent built-in COI via its affiliation. Does this really make it worse? I’m not a reporter (IANAR), so I would be very interested in better understanding the journalistic ethics involved.

        1. Noah*

          This is such a no-no. The person doing this story risks damaging their reputation and their news organization. You don’t report on a story when the conflict of interest is this clear.

        2. Noah*

          For #5, I’m curious about the university affiliation. We have an NPR station that runs through university– is it something like that?

          Either way you need to recuse yourself, this is such a clear conflict. The fact that you’re even considering it is worrisome.

          The caveat is if you’ve covered them before, then it is harder to suddenly have a conflict.

          1. Christy*

            That was my guess–that it was an NPR affiliate. So it’s like (in DC) if someone from WAMU was reporting on American University.

        3. Oryx*

          With a clear conflict of interest the ethical issues are pretty clear. More than that, there are two scenarios that can play out:

          OP gets the job — accused of going too easy.
          OP doesn’t get the job — is accused of revenge writing.

          Even if neither of the above are actually true, the perception will still be there and it hurts the credibility of both the OP and their article.

    1. hbc*

      This is one where intent and actions can be good, but the appearance will all be negative. If OP gets hired and is connected in any way to a piece that exonerates the U, it’s going to look like quid pro quo. Hired and a negative piece, strong possibility of firing and/or accusations that there’s more dirt that got hidden in exchange for the job, depending on the timing. On the other side, a rejection could look just as bad–positive piece means unsuccessfully trying to curry favor, negative piece means payback for the rejection.

      It’s a tricky situation, but I agree with the commenters saying there has to be a no-detail COI declaration immediately, preferably by an email to provide a time-stamp. Even being involved in delaying a story could look bad.

    2. Cheesecake*

      How can OP do the story honestly and sensitively if OP is actively pursuing a job in that university? OP can write respectfully, but i doubt it will be objective.

      And this story will absolutely hurt the chances of getting that job or potentially any job in that field, because, putting on shoes of that hiring manager, it looks like OP has set that interview under falls pretenses to get more inside info for the article and i’d be pissed enough to make sure the outside world knows. Another question is: does OP still want a job in that PR department, knowing about that shady story?

      So from whatever angle i look at it, the only way to go is to get out of this assignment

      1. Cass (OP #5)*

        I’m already an employee of the University. I know you aren’t aware of the situation as I am, but assuming I set up the interview to extract information is laughable. The PR department and I are essentially colleagues, I’m considered an internal candidate.

        1. Cass (OP #5)*

          It’s a public issue, with many forums for community members to voice their thoughts. Not something I’d need a cloak and dagger to report on.

    3. Cari*

      Oh good grief no.

      “I’ll fix your image problem if you give me a job” essentially?

      That is not ethical and would more likely harm LW5’s job prospects with any decent employer. They interviewed at a university, not Gawker.

    4. Apollo Warbucks*

      I can’t see how doing the story will end well for the OP no matter how “sensitively, respectfully and honestly” they write the piece. Even if they are objective it would raise legitimate questions about their true impartiality being as they wanted a job form the university or they upset the university so no job offer is made or did they go easy on the criticism to get the job?

      When it comes to ethics and integrity doing the right thing isn’t enough you also have to be seen to be doing the right thing.

    5. Karowen*

      No no no no no. Definitely do not do the story. There’s no way to do it without negative implications. Even if everything is reported 100% fairly and accurately, this will blow up in someone’s face. As others have said, plead conflict of interest (which is true) and bow out ASAP.

    6. Cass (OP #5)*

      I may need to take this advice.

      I know there is a point that no matter what happens, I can’t do this story anyway. But while I appreciate that is journalism at it’s finest, if you read the first sentence of my letter, my news organization is already affiliated with this University. So there’s an inherent conflict of interest that we navigate sometimes, but have still been able to do our jobs. This question was more about how I handle my job interviews with this particular office.

  8. Mike C.*

    OP5: Maybe I’m being really paranoid, but is it at all possible that your boss somehow found out you were interviewing there, and decided to give this assignment to you to either get you to “confess” or nail you for conflict of interest? Or is this a situation where stories like this are part of your normal beat?

    1. Ani*

      I can only think this is a student reporter and that yes, probably has in the past or could reasonably be expected to need comment or information from the university PR department in the future.

      1. Natalie*

        If the LW was a student, though, they could easily and safely tell their boss about the interview. People expect student workers to move on, after all.

    2. Cheesecake*

      Yuk, if it is true (that might as well be) then i wouldn’t want to work for such lurky boss

  9. Marzipan*

    #4, when your work issued their own ‘no contact’ requirement to you both, that reads to me as being something not only for your ex’s protection, but for *yours* as well. That would certainly be the spirit in which I’d have issued it (and, indeed, in which I’ve done something similar in vaguely analogous situations in the past). So, not so much “This will keep horrible abusive #4 away from poor ex”, but “Clearly the relationship between #4 and ex ended very, very badly, and at this point any contact between them is really only going to escalate matters further.” It’s not necessarily a taking of sides or a believing your ex over you; it’s a damage-limitation measure that helps everyone in the situation.

    Which, to me, would make a subsequent ‘altercation’ between you a big issue. Because unless the altercation literally consisted of you running away saying ‘we are not supposed to have contact’ while ex pursued you, it would say to me that both you and ex are prioritising the continuation of a personal dispute over your jobs. And, your actions would strongly suggest that you are incapable of *not* having an ‘altercation’ if your paths cross – which is a difficulty if you both work for me. Really, your actions are saying that you feel it’s actually more important to you to have that row than it is for you to have a job. Which is your choice, but at this point I might well be starting to feel that you’d made that decision for me.

    #4, I’m sorry if this sounds harsh. But honestly, what you need to do is exactly what your employer asked you to do in the first place – back off and stop all contact with your ex. You’ll get no answers there, no explanations, no vindication. Look to your own support network of friends/family to help you heal, and move on with your life. Look after yourself.

    1. some1*

      I can’t agree more. LW, stop thinking of the no contact order as a punishment and start thinking of it as a tool to protect yourself from further accusations and save your job.

      1. Arbynka*

        Yes. Plus I cannot imagine I would want to be in contact with someone who falsely accused me of harassement, ex or not, anyways.

    2. Jaune Desprez*

      Exactly this. I was once a witness to a similar situation in a previous job, and both people were fired. One employee was clearly more responsible for the conflict, but there was enough blame to go around that management decided it was best to terminate them both.

      In the long run, wouldn’t you be happier in another job? Keeping a constant eye out for your ex has got to be tiring, and even if your management and coworkers agree that your ex is mainly at fault, this situation will probably affect their perception of you in a way that will be hard to repair.

    3. HigherEd Admin*

      …that both you and ex are prioritising the continuation of a personal dispute over your jobs…Really, your actions are saying that you feel it’s actually more important to you to have that row than it is for you to have a job.

      +1. I couldn’t pin down what felt weird to me about this situation and you hit the nail on the head.

    4. neverjaunty*

      Yes, this.

      OP #4, if this is a situation where your ex is trying to violate the no-contact order in such a way as to get you (or both of you) fired, THEN you need to take that to your boss; say if your co-worker keeps finding ways to ‘have to’ talk to you at work, or following you around to try to get you to leave places to avoid them. Otherwise, your problem should not be “is this legal” but considering why things have gotten to the point that your workplace had to get involved.

    5. AGirlCalledFriday*

      I get a very bad feeling here. I was raised in an abusive home, so I mighy be filtering this through my own experience… But I’ve noticed that a person at fault will be vague about the facts and accuse the other of ‘false’ accusations. When an innocent person gives the same story, there’s a genuine element of confusion and distress that they have upset or scared another person. There are more details about the situation. Then the very matter-of-fact “I had an altercation”. It’s devoid of emotion. In my experience of abuse, the unemotional recounting of an event where no responsibility is taken, and described almost as though it was outside your control, combined with ‘false accusation’ (but no attempt to explain why it was false) were very common occurrences.

      It may not matter for the purposes of this answer, and I may be wrong, but op is throwing up red flags everywhere for me on this one.

      1. Kathryn T.*

        I came in here to find out if other people had this same reaction, because boy howdy I did.

  10. Merry and Bright*

    On #3 I would start by saying that I have been interviewed by some very fair, professional and honest interviewers over the years and I have good impressions of them whether they hired me or not.

    On the other hand, I have had the chaotic ones, the ones that stood me up altogether (note the plural) and the ones that were just a-holes pure and simple.

    It sounds like the OP had a lucky escape if that is how the organisation treats its staff. The interview experience is the best advert you have.

    1. Cheesecake*

      Exactly this: the interview experience is the best advert you have.
      It is not so easy to schedule interviews and stuff happens. But calling back and saying “nah, don’t bother, we have enough people” is just wrong and could have been handled differently.

    2. NickelandDime*

      Just like an employer only has the interview and your resume to go by in hiring you, and it’s so crucial to make a good impression, you should also be judging them during all aspects of the process. I’ve had employers do this to me – and it simply told me that hiring the best person isn’t important to them. It’s more about finding a warm body and getting this done so they can move on. This can lead to bad hires. I don’t like working for and with bad hires.

    3. CylindricalSpiderWebbing*

      Yes. I consider these “bullets dodged” situations.

      I just got back from a terrible interview where I withdrew my candidacy immediately afterwards.

      1) They gave me very short notice
      2) I asked if we could start with a phone screen, since the interview location was not the normal office and was quite a drive. I wanted to be sensitive to all our time, and was told it had to be an in-person interview. Which would be fine except
      3) they forgot I was there. Left me waiting 15 minutes past the interview time, and then when they came out laughing with another candidate the receptionist announces “your 2pm is here” and both interviewers balk. Look blank, and then go “Oh. Ohhhhh! Yes yes come back.”
      4) They had not reviewed my resumes
      5) (And this one really sticks in my craw) They only asked me one question! One! And it was “What can you bring to this organization”

      Bullet. Dodged.

      1. NickelandDime*

        I hate wasting a suit on crap like this. You did right to withdraw your candidacy. All I could imagine is things like this happening every. single. day. The lack of organization, preparation, professionalism, respect for people’s time, etc., tells you everything you need to know.

    4. A Teacher*

      I wish more employers remembered that interviewing is a two way street. Decent interviews where I don’t get the job, I still look on that employer in favor and would recommend other people working there–or doing business there. Crappy interviewers I remember to not do business there and not recommend them to other people.

  11. Noah*

    For #5, I’m curious about the university affiliation. We have an NPR station that runs through university– is it something like that?

    Either way you need to recuse yourself, this is such a clear conflict. The fact that you’re even considering it is worrisome.

    The caveat is if you’ve covered them before, then it is harder to suddenly have a conflict.

    1. Cheesecake*

      Why is it worrisome though? It is not as if OP has written the assignment and is thinking to push “send” or not. OP does not feel right doing it, but it is her job and situation is sticky so i feel for OP.

      1. Noah*

        Fair point, and I may have misinterpreted. I guess I’m just surprised they’re considering it at all. Full disclosure, I was the type of journalist who was anal about ethics– as in don’t eat the free food at the event you’re covering because that’s a conflict.

        I also want to know more about the affiliation. It’s still very hazy to me. Is it a formal partnership? Or just a situation where the school is covered a lot?

        1. Ani*

          I said above I almost have to think this is a student journalist, though it’s unclear whether we’re talking about work at a student publication or, for example, as a “special contributor” to a news organization via the university’s communications program — CNN might publish a student contributor’s report, for example. The whole thread is confusing — I don’t understand how many PR departments people think evenBig 10 university has. Calling the university’s PR department is pretty much a routine thing to have to do when covering anything administration-related, and it in no way suggests the issue being reported on has to do with any impropriety in the PR department itself. But all of this is separate from the question of how OP should handle this.

          1. Noah*

            I think the arrangement could potentially be important. If it’s a student reporter, then it makes sense that they would eventually be job searching, so telling an editor would really not be a big deal. But, I get the impression that this is a professional reporter, based on the “looking for a new role” comment.

            The university I work at actually has several news organizations: one is the “official” channel, and one is an independent organization that receives a modicum of university funding. In a situation like that, it would likely be easier to justify a more general conflict of interest– saying you volunteer with them on some university initiative, or something like that. And, I think that is the best idea here. Hopefully the organization is well staffed so it won’t be hard to slot in another reporter.

          2. Cass (OP #5)*

            – not a student journalist

            – we have 1 PR office. But you are correct, there is no impropriety with the PR office whatsoever. They would just be providing a contact of someone who can talk about the issue or decline to comment.

            1. Noah*

              Based on what you said about NPR affiliation, I can see why this is tough. The case here in Boston is that WBUR is basically funded directly through Boston University, in addition to grants, fundraising, etc. It’s a wacky dynamic.

              I definitely wouldn’t try to delay the story. First of all, as you hinted at in another comment, this has implications no matter what ends up happening with the job. Second, I’m not sure how feasible that is. This sounds like it would be a more time-sensitive piece, so I can’t imagine your editor would want to push the deadline more than a day or two.

              It’s tough without knowing the specific nature of the story, but I think you might need to take the route of just going to your editor and declaring a general conflict of interest. They might probe, they might not. The one caveat with this, again, is that if you’re regularly working with these PR contacts then it might be curious as to why there’s all of a sudden a conflict. Maybe you can indicate that the conflict is more at the department level that is the subject of the story itself?

              I realize this probably isn’t helpful at all and I feel really bad. On the plus side, you’re making a good move by looking to leave journalism. I did the same a few years ago and I’ve been very happy.

              1. Cass (OP #5)*

                Thanks for your advice. And yes, I am very hopeful about this role because I do feel I could do my best work with PR for the University.

                1. rp*

                  If the PR department is just handing out contact info for someone else I don’t think it’s that big of a deal. It’s not like you’re doing a story ON the PR department, right? I get that it’s not a good story, so that’ll have some impact on the PR department, but you’re still just going to them for contact info. Think of it like going through a receptionist to get someone at a company.

                  I had a situation a while back–interviewed with an company that has an education platform, less than a week later I discover we’re going to start designing a program with said company. And one of our points of contact is my interviewer 0_o. He was professional, I was professional, it was fine.

                  Good luck

                2. Moonstone*

                  I saw this play out when I worked in a newsroom. I personally think you have to cover the story. I am going to do you the courtesy of assuming you are a professional who often has to compartmentalize your biases when you try to be objective. This is news — there’s not any real objectivity, just our best efforts. And news is always about conflict.

                  It’s horribly awkward for you as a job candidate, of course, but you have to call the hiring director and say upfront: “I am calling in my role as a reporter, and I am sure you can understand that.” Folks who think you can “recuse yourself” or cite a conflict of interest probably don’t have much experience in a newsroom; it’s not like there’s a bunch of reporters standing by to fill in for you. If you don’t cover the story, you are going to screw up your relationship with your editor/boss no matter how you try to get out of it.

                  Also, I concur with Noah, above, in that it’s wise to get out of journalism. I loved it, but it didn’t love me back.

                3. Cass (OP #5)*

                  Thanks, Moonstone. That is very helpful. I have my next interview with the office very soon, and may find a way to present this issue. Others I’ve spoken to have said it’s likely the PR department realizes I still have a job to do and as long as I am professional and clear, they won’t think poorly of me.

                4. Grand Bargain*

                  I like Moonstone’s comment… that it comes down to ethical, conscientious individuals doing the best they can with what they have to work with (thanks to Bagger Vance).

  12. Macedon*

    #5. Conflict of interests. Don’t pursue this even if you don’t get the job or if you withdraw from the process. Give it another month (preferably more) after this before taking on a piece involving the university at all. If your primary topic IS the university (is this a student newspaper?), this may mean settling for a temporary beat reassignment.

    Your editor will – understandably – want to know why you’re unable to take on the story or might even require further accommodation, and this is where you have a few options: 1. invent another alleged reason why you can’t do the piece (time schedule, conflict of interests caused by a close connection to the PR/issue) or 2. if you have a solid relationship with your editor, mention the job interview. Were this any other industry, I wouldn’t be too quick to recommend this, but a good editor has long learned journalistic confidentiality.

    That said, while you can’t actively participating on the piece, it doesn’t constitute a conflict of interests to pass on (on-the-record) information or contacts, should you be asked to do so.

  13. BRR*

    #1 I think the answer is a little off. It sounds to me like there are two receptions, one destination and one a month later where the OP lives but that they will be out of town during the reception where they live.

    I’m going to differ from Alison’s response a little. If you think they’d be fine with a card that sounds perfectly reasonable to me. If your boss might get upset I would probably get a little something (wine works if you know what they like and that they drink). I don’t think it’s right but if you are able sometimes a couple bucks is worth it to avoid a shit storm, but once again if your boss isn’t a diva about things a card is fine.

    1. Artemesia*

      Or the entire work group could go together on something. But especially since the OP is being assigned elsewhere on the reception day, a card regretting s/he can’t be there but will be in Detroit on assignment and wishing them well is also fine.

      It is so weird to send destination wedding invitations to employees that I have to assume this is done out of some misguided sense of politeness.

      1. Bend & Snap*

        I always hated this. At my last job we were expected to pool money for management weddings and get something off the registry, so the person who out earned us also got an expensive gift from us. Nobody did that for the peons.

        1. Artemesia*

          I totally agree. Although since the boss invited them to the wedding they are in a bind here. I don’t think this is ‘right’ but it is the political reality the OP is facing. I am a firm believer that giving should go down and not up in the workplace. The worst cases though are not weddings, a presumably one time event, but Christmas and sometimes birthdays. I have worked in offices where a fussy overbearing AA orchestrated lavish gifts for the boss; it is unpleasant and the boss needs to totally put the cabosh on that. In fact the boss in the OP’s case should have made it clear that while he hopes employees can come to the reception that he does not expect gifts.

      2. BRR*

        It could be a politeness, a huge wedding, or they wanted to invite some people and had to invite everybody per wedding etiquette (the worst three word phrase in the entire world). My boss got married when I was only in my position for about four months. The other people have all been together for at least eight years. I would have been invited because it would have been rude to invite the other four people and not me.

      3. Partly Cloudy*

        I agree, this is strange. What if all the employees RSVP’d yes to the destination wedding? Would they shut down the office?

        1. )P#1*

          More background information: One of my coworkers is actually the wedding photographer. And my boss is a diva, which is why I wanted Alison’s opinion on this (thank you for answering my question!).

          1. Brandy*

            I haaate diva bosses. And I hate the societal pressure to have to buy gifts for someone that A) doesn’t need and b) I could care less about. We don’t do gifts in my family just because and yet in this situation you have to. Ive worked for a diva boss before and was the only non brown noser. I didn’t last that long (17 months).

    2. MK*

      I agree. The boss probably invited the employees to the wedding just to be polite, without expecting them to come, so missing that is no big deal. But he may well expect them to come at the local reception, and bring gifts; this sucks, but the OP should consider whether not buying a gift might affect their relationship. Also, it would be a ggod idea to make a point of reminding the boss that the OP cannot attend because of work obligations, so that the boss won’t assume they just ignored the invitation.

      I think the major problem with wedding gifts is that it’s not easy to do them on the cheap. I can find charming birthday, christening, housewarming, etc gifts for under 10 euro, but wedding gifts are more difficult. For example, wine is ok, but it has to be a decent one, not something you get at the supermarket for 2.59. It also has the advantage that it is suitable unless the receiver is against alchool or in recovery; even if they don’t like it themselves, they can keep it in the house for guests.

      1. Decimus*

        Gifts shouldn’t be required but I can see how the OP might feel obligated. I will note it is very possible to get a good quality wine if you go outside of the popular places. I’m quite fond of Greek wines, for example. You can get a very good wine from Crete, both red and white, for under $20. It’s often in the $10-15 range.

    3. Elder Dog*

      Wonder if the boss even knows the employees were sent invitations. I know more than one wedding, bride and her mom sent the invitations, and decided to send them to employees of the husband to be. They had his assistant take them around to the desks. I’m pretty sure the intent was to ask for presents. Icky.

  14. JHS*

    For OP #1, I disagree that an invitation doesn’t warrant a gift. At least the Emily Post rule is still that you send a gift regardless of attendance. However, that is absolutely why the invitation was entirely inappropriate and should be viewed as “asking for a gift” which is rude. That being said, I actually like OP’s idea of getting a bottle of wine and a card. Alternatively, a group could go in on a gift for the boss but only spend the equivalent of a bottle of wine as a nice gesture. OP just needs to avoid the situation where he/she is the only one who doesn’t get a gift. A bottle of wine and a card would be a classy touch regardless.

    1. JB (not in Houston)*

      Eh, I’m with Miss Manners on this–you don’t have to give a gift just because you were invited. That’s the kind of thinking that leads people to send invitations to people they don’t actually want to attend, and to people thinking that people they just from the fact that they are getting married, they are *owed* presents, i.e., leads to some thinking they get to shop for whatever they want using the bank accounts of others. [I’m not saying everyone thinks this way, but you can see how that kind of rule leads some people to think that way]

      Only the OP knows the culture of their workplace. But I wouldn’t send a gift, but if the OP’s boss is one of those who likes to be sucked up to, they maybe should send something small.

      1. Demanding Excellence*

        Agreeing with JB here – just because you’re invited to something doesn’t mean you have to give a gift.

        Several years ago, I was invited to my boss’ son’s wedding. I adored my boss but didn’t hang out with him outside of work and I had never met his son and his fiancee. I did check out their registry and there was nothing on it less than $100…and I was making very little at the time and struggling to pay my own bills and buy wedding presents for my own friends who were getting married around the same time. (And yes – I know that you don’t always have to buy a gift off of the registry, but in instances where you don’t really know the couple very well, I usually do. And honestly – when the couple is registered at Pottery Barn, Williams-Sonoma, and Bloomingdale’s – they are probably not going to appreciate a set of glasses from Walmart – just sayin’.)

        My former boss never wanted to make anyone feel left out and, as Miss Manners puts it, is “exceedingly polite,” so he invited everyone in our department, plus a few of the others executives on his level. Most of them went, because they had worked with my boss for several years/hung out with him outside of work. I didn’t attend and didn’t make a big deal about it, and we maintained a great working relationship.

        1. Beezus*

          Agreed with both of the above. I’ve skipped attending weddings and I’ve skipped gifts for weddings plenty of times. I was a part-time temp on a gig for 2 months, when I got an invite for a senior coworker’s wedding. She felt obligated to invite me because the rest of the team was invited and there was a lot of wedding talk in the office, and she didn’t want me to feel left out, which was sweet, but I honestly didn’t have room in my budget for a wedding gift for someone I barely knew. I wished her the best, but I didn’t attend the wedding or give her anything.

    2. )P#1*

      Thanks for the advice everyone! Just wanted to clarify that I’ll be travelling when the reception is, not the actually wedding. The timeline got a little muddied in the letter. I also looked at the registry, and anything inexpensive would be pretty lame to give on its own (e.g., a glass measuring cup), hence the wine idea.

      1. LizNYC*

        Another option: since your entire office got invited, maybe you all (or some of you) could go on a bigger gift together. That way, not everyone has to find their own gift. Plus, I think that would look just as good, you can all get “credit” for the gift, and you’re not stuck with either the $5 measuring cup or the $200 china ;)

      2. MK*

        A glass measuring cup is an extremely useful object that most people forget to buy for themselves! I don’t think it’s lame to give them something they specifically asked for; my cousin specifically included inexpensive items is her wedding registry for people who couldn’t or wouldn’t want to spend much money. If your boss and their spouce do any cooking at all, they will use your gift more than often that the expensive china their aunt got them.

        1. fposte*

          Seconded. If it’s on the registry, it’s a fine present to give, regardless of the cost. (And really, whatever you give is a fine present to give, registry or no. Unless it’s like a voodoo doll of one of the couple or something.)

        2. K.*

          I use my glass measuring cup at least several times a week.

          When one of my friends got married, she put some inexpensive items on the registry (muffin tins, wooden spoons, etc.) because a) they legit didn’t have them and b) the socioeconomic backgrounds of the guests varied pretty widely. I was in the wedding and the wedding party chipped in for a bigger gift* but I know they got those cheaper things.

          *Even that was done in a pretty egalitarian way – her brother sent out an email asking us to tell him what we could chip in and he’d add it up, send out a few ideas for gifts at that price point, and then we could agree on the gift. No one but him knew what everyone contributed. I was so grateful – at the time I was in grad school and working part-time, so my budget was really tight. I’d totally have gotten them those muffin tins if we hadn’t done it that way!

        3. chewbecca*

          We registered for a lot of lower-priced items, and would be happy to get any of them individually (my fiance is incredibly excited about a $15 mug tree and I’m really hoping we get the the paper towel holder we added). You could also get a couple inexpensive items and give them together. I think we have a good amount of items on ours that are $5-$10, so they can be given individually or with one or two other items, kind of like a care package.

          Ick, that makes us sound pretty gift-grabby and we really aren’t. I felt guilty putting $70 sheets on there because I felt that was too much to ask our guests to spend.

        4. Annie*


          I bought myself a 2nd glass measuring cup because we used the first one so much that the numbers wore off the side!

        5. Connie-Lynne*

          One of the guests at my wedding got us the $10 cocktail shaker we registered for and we use it so much!

          She added to the gift herself — her favorite cocktail recipes and a tin of rimming sugar, I think. All told, probably a $15 gift but so thoughtful and useful. We appreciate it way more than some of the odder, more traditional stuff we were gifted by parents’ friends.

          1. Connie-Lynne*

            … which is to say, I don’t think you should feel obligated to get anything, but a glass measuring cup with your favorite recipes would be a great low-cost but thoughtful gift.

    3. Sunflower*

      I’m not saying this is what your boss is doing but between me and my friends, way too many of us have been invited to destination weddings by people we barely talk to. It’s always felt oddly like either 1. fishing for gifts or 2. trying to play off that they are super giving people by inviting a ton of people to their wedding. Both times they know 90% of the people they invite aren’t coming.

      My feelings are when people genuinely can’t make it a wedding, they send a gift because they know when it;s their time to get married, you’ll be giving them a gift. Sounds like your boss will not be coming to your wedding so don’t stress over this.

      I do think the bottle of wine and card would be nice- if there is anyone else in the dept not going to the wedding, it would be nice if you all chipped in on that.

  15. ReanaZ*

    I have a really hard time believing that someone who got in “an altercation with this coworker outside of work” after being issued a no-contact order was really the victim of a “false” harassment complaint.

    1. Foxtrot*

      Ehh…I wouldn’t be quick to jump on the OP unless we know the entire story. It’s possible he’s an overall bad guy, or it’s possible it’s a two way sticky situation. I have a no contact order currently against someone else and the rules are really strict for the one it was issued against and almost non existent for the one who ordered it. I’m pretty sure my state doesn’t allow two-way restraining orders either…which means the other guy is out of luck getting one on me until mine expires. So, there’s nothing barring *me* from initiating the contact, just him. Also, orders cannot be used as “retribution” for my state. When OP mentions that “someone” has to leave a bar…no…*I* would have to leave if the other person was there first and I felt uncomfortable. I can’t use the order to spite someone, if that makes sense.
      In my case, it was a stranger and I was perfectly content to nope my way out of the situation as fast as possible. Messy breakups aren’t always one sided, though. What if the ex showed up at OP’s house and they started fighting? What if the ex is making a scene and saying he has to leave a public place when he was there first? He technically didn’t break the police order in those cases…maybe the work one?

      1. Natalie*

        I don’t think this is an official no contact order, just rules put in place by their employer, though. Legal limitations on judicial no contact orders wouldn’t apply here.

      2. bridget*

        Also, in many states (including mine), restraining orders *are* a two-way process. The person who requested one can be (and often is) held in contempt of court for initiating contact.

    2. Foxtrot*

      That being said, the best course of action is to get away from the ex as much as possible. No good will come of it.

    3. brightstar*

      Why is it so hard to believe? It doesn’t necessarily follow that OP #4 started the altercation. We don’t have enough information to determine whether or not the harassment claim was actually false or how the argument/fight happened. These people work together and are obviously emotional about the breakup. And there’s no way for us to know what really happened and who’s telling the truth.

      1. neverjaunty*

        I suspect a lot of people are picking up on the phrasing. “I had an altercation” is really vague, and comes across less as ‘my ex walked up to me and started screaming at me’ or ‘my ex attacked me’ and more as the OP having been at least equally responsible for the altercation, particularly since OP’s question seems more about whether the no-contact order in this situation is okay. That said, it doesn’t matter. Unless the ex is continuing to have contact with the OP or to try and bait the OP into violating the no-contact order, all OP needs to know is 1) yes they can probably fire you and 2) why would you want to contact somebody who files a false harassment claim against you?

        1. ReanaZ*

          Yup. That phrase triggers all sorts of nonsense for me.

          Also, if someone filed a false harassment claim against me, the first thing I’d do is spend a really long time thinking about why and if I accidentally did someone that made them uncomfortable without realising. The second thing I would do is RESPECT THE HELL out of a No Contact order. Whether I thought it was fair or not. This is a pretty extreme step for someone to take to get me to stay the hell away from them, so whether or not I thought the claim was justified, I would avoid, avoid, avoid. Both because I’m not a terrible person and it’s clear said person is going through something and needs hella space. But also to protect MYSELF from their continued escalation of the problem.

          tl;dr: Yes, your employer can fire you. And yes, you probably deserved it. Yes, you should probably do some thinking on how you got to the place that you’re even asking this question. Go get some space from this toxic situation and this person who is toxic for you and find a place that is healthier for you to work.

    4. LBK*

      I think you can easily have a toxic relationship with someone that causes explosive reactions when mixed but that doesn’t involve you harassing them. I’ve certainly had one – we’d be together for a few weeks, have a huge fight, then go months without speaking…eventually rekindle, rinse, repeat. Neither of us was harassing the other, but we certainly shouldn’t have been allowed to be around each other.

      1. Gene*

        This is something I’ve never understood. Why, oh why, would you “rekindle, rinse, repeat”?

        1. LBK*

          I spent a year in therapy working that out! Not as simple as it seems. Even if you know it’s a stupid idea, it’s harder than it appears from the outside to break the cycle.

    5. Daisy*

      Yeah I’m with you there. The question doesn’t seem to be “how can I avoid my ex” or “how can I save my reputation at work”, but “does my job have the right to tell me to stop following my ex round for fights?”. Its a bit creepy.

      1. Michele*

        That is the way that I see it, too. OP is being obsessive and unwilling to admit that their behavior is at fault in any way.

    6. some1*

      I actually don’t think it’s relevant to the question at hand. If the LW indeed harassed her ex, it’s not like her plan of action should change whatsoever here. Not to mention the fact that she’s being punished as though it’s true, has her job in jeopardy, and had her personal life revealed at work. She’s not exactly getting away with something if she fudged the truth to Alison.

      This isn’t like getting 86ed from your favorite bar because an employee mistook you for someone else and there’s a mutual benefit to correcting the mistake.

    7. nona*

      It could be that the other employee started … whatever happened, and filed a false report?

      Either way, “no contact” sounds like the way to go.

  16. AnotherAlison*

    #3 – It sucks, but I don’t think this is that crazy. I had that situation happen once — I was an alternate for an FBI interview, and they called and asked if I could come in for “X” slot. I said yes, but ended up not being able to go due to a family emergency. (A few hours before, I got a call from my dad that my grandfather was in the hospital dying–he had coded–and that I needed to come say good-bye. He ended up living 4 more years, so I probably should have gone to the interview.) There wasn’t an opportunity to reschedule, but at least I knew it up front. I did get called back a couple years later, but then I had a 1-year old baby and wasn’t interested.

    1. Persephone Mulberry*

      I also missed out on a second interview because I woke up sick as a dog on interview day, and because it was a school district job with a very rigid interview process, there was no way to reschedule.

  17. joe*

    5 – Lie about what the conflict is. I don’t know whether you need to explain the conflict at all (or can just say “hey I have a conflict and can’t do this story”), but if you do, the answer is surely that you have a conflict due to your personal relationship with people who would be the subject of the story. You obviously can’t write this story, whether or not you delay it, and whether or not you get the job.

    2 – It may put you at a disadvantage, but there’s nothing you can do about it. I would worry about seeming inflexible, or pushy, or overly eager, or something — and as a result, I think it would be better to just roll with the punches and not try to force them to reschedule.

  18. Noelle*

    #5 – I’ve been in a similar situation and, unfortunately, it did cost me numerous job opportunities. I was a policy researcher and we made the stupid mistake of partnering with an organization that was investigating one particular company, in an industry I was trying to break into. I had interviewed with three different companies and had already scheduled a couple second round interviews when the organization we partnered with expanded its investigation to pretty much everyone in the entire industry. All my interviews were cancelled and I was contacted by their lawyers that they couldn’t move forward. It sucks, but I understand why they did it. Even though I was very tangentially involved in the investigation, it’s just too easy for the media to spin a story like that. I’d tell your boss you have a conflict of interest now, and hope she doesn’t press you for the details. But even if she does, I don’t think that ethically you can do the story.

  19. tango*

    Re OP#2 – I’ve had a few interviews where I was supposed to meet with Frodo and Wakeem but ended up meeting with Thelma and Louise instead or just Thelma or just Frodo. That did throw me off because you’re expecting certain people, reviewed their Linkedin profiles, learn about them if you have contacts at the company, etc, so it can be a bit unnerving. I wonder though if it’s not sometimes done intentionally just to see how a candidate reacts.
    The OP indicates it has happened numerous times where only one person interviews her when many were scheduled. It doesn’t sound likes she’s given prior notice but learns when she arrives. I wonder if a receptionist or someone is screening, the OP arrives, they make a judgement based on her appearance or behavior while she’s waiting and passes on to the initial interviewer that she’s not a good candidate for full panel interviewing. Or she’s just not that strong of a candidate and before she arrives, they’ve already kind of decided who their top one or two are from previous interviews or resumes and just decide that they aren’t that interested in getting to know her better.

    1. CylindricalSpiderWebbing*

      Wow. That’s complex.

      Granted I do not have a ton of experience on the interviewer side of this process, but it’s always been a struggled to rearrange busy schedules for outside candidates and sometimes, oftentimes actually, someone gets a last minute conflict that either forces us to have the interview with a smaller person or rearrange the interview orders/composistion.

      I just couldn’t imagined having the time or flexibility within our group to rearrange interviews off of the snap decision of our receptionist.

      That being said I have intereviewed my fair share of very shabbily dressed interviewees. And I’m not talking a cheap suit, I’m talking no suit, looks like you haven’t shaved for days, what is that under your fingernails, type shabby.

    2. Michele*

      Sometimes schedules change. Also, in our department, you will typically interview with at least half a dozen people, and vacation days are always approved if you have the time on the books. Someone might decide to take a few days off or need to call in sick on the days when a person is being interviewed. It isn’t regarded as a big deal because there are so many people to meet with. Occasionally, schedules will shift during the day due to emergencies, but there is only one time that someone will deliberately not meet with a candidate. Our department’s VP likes to be scheduled last, and if a candidate isn’t doing well, he won’t meet with them.

      Also, I get creeped out when I interview someone and they have my biography memorized. It is one thing to check out my LinkedIn profile and realize that we went to the same school, but when someone memorizes all of the details about where I have worked and knows my publications, that goes beyond doing their homework and into creepy territory.

  20. Allison*

    #4, I don’t have all the details on how you broke up, who started the altercation, or who the “bad guy” in the breakup is, but it sounds like you’re in a messy situation and it’s better if you just stayed away from your ex for now. Even if there wasn’t a “no contact” order, nothing good can come of you two speaking to each other at the moment. If your ex confronts you, back away, don’t engage. And no matter how mad you are at your ex, vent to a friend, don’t yell at them about it.

    Most things heal with time, and i’t’s possible that one day you two can speak peacefully about what happened, but sometimes that takes a year, or at least the better part of one. But right now, contact with them is like picking a scab – it’ll probably reopen the wound, and even if it doesn’t, it’ll likely prolong the healing process.

    1. Ann*

      Maybe I’m missing something, but why would the OP want to be around the ex? If the relationship did reach such a bad point, isn’t it good that there’s something that actually keeps the two to be apart (so the “bad guy” can’t go after the “good guy,” to oversimplify)? The thing about being forced to leave a restaurant if the other one shows up seems like it might be inconvenient, but it seems like there are more advantages than disadvantages to having an order like this in place, at least temporarily.

      1. Allison*

        It’s complicated. No matter how badly things end, you think of that person sometimes, and there’s still the impulse to share this thought or that joke with them, or tell them about something that happened, even if realistically you know they probably don’t care. Other times, you hate how much negativity is between you and that person and you desperately want to talk things out, make one last attempt to get them to understand your point of view in some disagreement you had, or swallow your pride and forgive them just so the two of you can coexist . . . but it doesn’t always end well.

        1. some1*

          And even when you don’t want to contact the other person, if they do something to you it’s really, really hard to be the bigger person and let it go.

  21. Persephone Mulberry*

    #3: I don’t often disagree with Alison, but no, I don’t really think you have anything to be mad about here. They offered you a specific time slot, you told them you were unable to accept it, they filled it with someone else. It’s a bummer that they didn’t have any other openings to offer you, but it’s not THAT uncommon that they are only holding interviews on day X, and if you can’t make X, they’re going to pass on you.

    1. CylindricalSpiderWebbing*

      It’s somewhat common in Japan to steal someone else’s umbrella if you forget yours and it rains … that doesn’t mean the person left without an umbrella can’t be sour about it or that the umbrella stealer is justified/in the right.

    2. Sunflower*

      But I think the hiring manager should have disclosed this was the only day available. Hiring managers often ask when is the best time for me to talk is but if they only had one time available, I could make it work. OP may have been able to find someone to babysit for an hour or two if she had known that.

      1. Persephone Mulberry*

        The company said, “We’ll see what we can do” and it didn’t work for them. The company was under no obligation to hold that Saturday spot for her after she told them point blank that she couldn’t do Saturday. It’s the OP’s loss for not saying “Well, Saturday would be difficult but I would make it work if there aren’t any other options.”

        1. OP*

          I do wish I had said that now! I do think I said something along the lines of “it would be very difficult for me to make Saturday work” and asked about other options but I wish I had sounded more hopeful about the idea of being able to do it Saturday. When I’ve done hiring it never would have occurred to me to not make at least an attempt to accommodate someone’e schedule if I thought they were a solid candidate, though.

    3. Rhonda*

      The last job I interviewed for had over 200 applicants. Phone interviews got us down to 5 strong candidates but it is easy to see that with a job pool that deep, there’s plenty of other perfectly well qualified fish in the sea. It’s easy to fill up all your interview slots, especially if your staff is so stretched that there’s no time for interviewing every possible good candidate…And believe me, if my family thought I was turning down interviews because of babysitting jobs, there would be hell to pay!

      1. OP*

        I didn’t turn down the interview for a babysitting job, I just asked if I could do it another day. But also I would prefer to not be a person who drops obligations last minute and flaking would have been very stressful on the kid’s mom, plus I wouldn’t have been able to pay some bills without it.

  22. Allison*

    I’ve never been married, but if I was getting married, my priority would be surrounding myself with friends and family to celebrate my big day. There would be people I’d expect gifts or money from, namely family members and close friends, but I wouldn’t exactly keep score of who brought a present and who showed up empty handed, because I know times are tough for people, especially people in my generation. Sure, my fiancee would want money to save for the future and/or travel on our honeymoon, and we may want to upgrade our household a little with some nice things, but I don’t understand why some people put so much stock in gifts – who gives what, whether someone gives enough,etc.

    If I invited someone, it’s because I want them there, not because I want them to give me something.

    1. Sunflower*

      Unfortunately, it seems the more expensive the wedding, the more people care about this stuff. I think the whole back and forth with weddings is really strange- mostly the registry part. I can’t help but feel when I’m at a shower or wedding that someone is opening a gift, knowing exactly what I paid for it and thinking in their head ‘this amount of $ is what I mean to you’

      Also, every person I’ve talked to who has been married has a spreadsheet of what/$$ each person gave them. It’s more so they know what to give a person when they get married rather than mentally berate the person but I’d consider that keeping score.

      1. MK*

        Where I live, registries don’t usually work this way; you can just deposit a certain amount of money with the store and then the couple can choose what they want. And if they spend their honeymoon studying the list of who gave how much, I don’t mind them knowing the amount they are worth to me.

      2. Allison*

        I figured they did that with the gifts they got so they remember to write a thank-you note to everyone.

        I think registries are fine. If you’re gonna spend money on someone, you might as well make sure you’re giving them something they want (and, ideally, something they will actually use). Unless you know the couple really well, especially their lifestyle and the size of their house or apartment, the registry is a pretty helpful tool. I don’t really understand people who think it’s a list of demands.

        1. Pickwick the Dodo*

          Yes! My gift spreadsheet is for ease of thank you notes! Same reason you keep a list at Xmas/birthday parties/etc. I don’t really care how much people spent; some of my favorite & most thoughtful gifts have also been the least expensive.

          I use registries to see what sort of things the couple likes (lots of techy kitchen items, yard items, etc.) and color schemes. I often but not always buy off-registry. I am fine with receiving on-or-off registry items or none at all–many of my friends and family are making a big sacrifice by traveling to the wedding at all. When you attended an out-of-state college and have a spread-out family, any wedding location will be a destination wedding for some.

          (I’m having a large & expensive wedding, but I blame my fiancé’s family for being enormous [literally four times the size of mine].)

        2. Hiring Mgr*

          You are looking at it the wrong way–the guests should be considered vessels transporting gifts and money. Don’t get me wrong they may still be dear friends and beloved family members, but as a bride or groom this is YOUR day and your only obligation is to feed them a bit and thank them for the loot.

          1. fposte*

            I’m hoping you’re joking, but just in case, I’ve never been friends with somebody who felt that way about their wedding, and I don’t think it’s likely in the future, either.

      3. Natalie*

        The spreadsheet is just an updated version of the maid of honor writing all the gifts down on a notepad. No one sane is using it to keep score, and generally the sort of people who keep score like that don’t need a list.

        1. Pickwick the Dodo*

          Yes, they have developed super-sensitive noses that can SMELL a cheap, discount or knockoff gift from across the room. Nordstrom rack? NOT ON THEIR WATCH.

          1. the gold digger*

            Nordstrom Rack has its own buyers! I thought it was just the leftover stuff from Nordstrom, so, past-season good stuff, but I met a woman who used to be a buyer for Nordstrom and she told me nope, completely different product lines.

      4. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        I kept that list, but it was so I could thank everyone appropriately.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      I’m the same way. But I’m not close enough with my workmates to invite them to my wedding, and I wouldn’t expect to be invited to theirs.

  23. Rindle*

    #4 – Since the OP is a federal employee, it may not be so clear cut whether s/he can be fired strictly for the behavior described. And I’d bet my paycheck that s/he can’t be fired for it on the spot (without paperwork, an appeals process, etc. that takes months at the least.)

    1. Sunshine Brite*

      I would be very surprised if they didn’t already have the paperwork in process based on the no contact restrictions that they’ve put in place. There’s already at least some paperwork trail there.

    2. Sunflower*

      Hmm I’m not sure. OP works in a high security facility where even a small outburst can severely disrupt an entire facility. My guess is there has gotta be some clause saying if you violate a safety issue (Id think a no contact would fall under that) you’re out immediately.

      1. Nerdling*

        I would suspect that to be the case. For something like a violence or potential violence issue, immediate action to remove the employee from the facility can take place — the removed/fired employee would simply then have the ability to appeal the action/firing. We’re going through something similar now (federal agency).

  24. CM*

    #5 – I was in a very similar situation with a conflict of interest. I ended up coming clean and telling my current employer I couldn’t take the assignment because I was interviewing with the other company. It was incredibly awkward but I think it was the only ethical thing to do. (I was also very surprised by the outcome, which was my current boss sitting me down and telling me all the reasons he wanted me to stay.) I definitely would not say you have a conflict but be evasive or lie about it — your employer will legitimately want to know why and you should tell them rather than trying to be sneaky about it.

    1. MK*

      I don’t think not wanting to tell your employer you are jobhunting is being sneaky. Also, if the OP tells their manager they have a personal conflict of interest, it’s not “legitimate” for the manager to demand details. The fact that it worked for you doesn’t make it good advice.

  25. Sunflower*

    #5- Is there anyway you could feign a temporary conflict of interest? Say you are working with someone in the department on a short project outside of work and it will be over in X amount of time so for right now, you don’t feel comfortable writing the story for right now but in the future it will not affect anything?

    1. Cass (OP #5)*

      That’s good advice, but I don’t think it could be applied in this situation. Thanks though

      1. Sunflower*

        Do you have any trusted friends in your network who might have some advice? This is obviously a sticky situation but I wonder if anyone in your industry has been in this situation before and has dealt with it

        1. Cass (OP #5)*

          I asked a colleague at the station who is leaving. She didn’t have any concrete solutions, just suggested I go along with the story and see where everything falls. (I’m not in a position to decline the story without revealing the new job.)

    2. Michele*

      I don’t think this is a temporary conflict of interest. I think this is a real conflict of interest, but one that puts the OP in a lose-lose situation. Not that I have an answer or anything.

  26. RVA Cat*

    OP#4, you need to move on. Perhaps literally — if you and your ex can’t cross paths in public without an “altercation,” you should seriously consider relocating. At the very least, transfer to a different airport as soon as you possibly can.

    Also, you have one of the few jobs where people’s lives are at stake. There is no excuse for letting your personal drama distract you from your mission. You have a stressful job — among the most stressful out there, if you’re an air traffic controller. Honestly it terrifies me that your mind could be on your breakup drama…

    Get help. Whether the harassment claim was valid or not, it’s clear you have some anger issues. Therapy should help you cope with this, learn from this situation and again, move on.

    1. Michele*

      Agreed. I suspect the OP is more responsible for these altercations than they admit. It might be that they don’t consider the harrassment claim to have merit, but the ex felt very threatened. The OP sounds abusive to me.

      1. nona*

        Or OP’s ex is responsible for whatever happened, or both of them were, and OP is trying to describe this impartially (which leaves a lot of room for interpretation).

      2. RVA Cat*

        Me too, though it could be the ex, or mutual. At this point one of them is gasoline and the other is a match.

      1. Rhonda*

        Here’s a good reason why so many companies have rules about no fraternization with co-workers. It’s anything from awkward to life threatening for the couple and the rest of staff…get away from this situation, you don’t want to become a statistic!

  27. Sunshine Brite*

    1. I’d just get a card and gift card to the main coffeshop around here if I didn’t know something more personal to get them for whatever I felt comfortable doing or that bottle of wine if you know they both drink.

    2. Just keep being flexible and try to wow the one interviewer and encourage the others to contact you if they have any additional follow-up.

    3. Permission to be mad. This happened to me quite a couple times the last big job search I did and it was really frustrating and inflexible. Mainly for jobs that wanted open availability anyway so now I see that I would’ve run into that regularly of them wanting me to come in at very short notice.

    4. Heck yes they can fire you! It’s not like they can really dig and say what’s false and true they just have to maintain a safe work environment for all. You need to start job searching or put in for a transfer and not date coworkers again. If you have any police documentation that the harassment claim is false then show them that but other than that. Stay away from your coworker and try to focus solely on work while you’re still at that job.

    5. I think the ethical obligation outweighs the need for secrecy with your boss. Frame it like you’re not sure if you’re planning on leaving exactly yet but there was an opportunity you wanted to explore more about and the contact for the story is the contact for the position.

  28. Michele*

    #3–I am convinced that some interviewers get off on the power they have and enjoy being as unaccomodating as possible. It is more important that they show how powerful they are than to make an effort to find the best person. Depending on the job, 2 days just isn’t much notice for an interview.

    1. OP*

      I’m inclined to think it has more to do with lack of organization than maliciousness (it’s an organization I really respect that does amazing work so that’s what I would like to think anyway) but I’m sure this is sometimes the case!

      1. Seattle Writer Girl*

        I’m with Michele on this one. The CFO at my LastJob would always keep candidates waiting for 5-10 minutes past their scheduled interviews–ALWAYS. It didn’t matter if he knew the candidate had arrived, it the candidate was early or late or if the CFO was coming from a meeting or not, he always waited for at least 5 minutes before greeting a candidate.

        I couldn’t find any logical reason for this to happen EVERY. SINGLE. TIME other than it was some kind of power trip.

        1. Michele*

          I used to have a boss that did garbage like that. He was obsessed with being more important that everyone else, and one of the things he did was always show up late to meetings. It didn’t make him seem important (especially since we all knew how incompetent he was), it just made him intolerable.

    2. catsAreCool*

      There’s a saying that goes something like “Never attribute to malice what can be adequately attributed to stupidity.” It’s not always easy, but I’ve found if I try to follow that rule (maybe substitute “stupidity” with “not thinking”, “too busy”, or “messed up”), it’s much easier on my nerves.

  29. LizNYC*

    #4: IMO Reason #476 why dating a coworker is a bad idea. What if it all goes south? And really, really badly? Then one of you might find yourself out of a job.

    1. Anonymosity*

      I think one of my coworkers is really cute, but though it’s fun to think about, I just can’t bring myself to ask him to coffee for this reason. (Besides, I don’t think he’s all that interested anyway.)

    2. Brandy*

      I have 2 supv. here that just broke up. They were engaged. They are constantly on and off again.

    3. catsAreCool*

      I’ve got a few rules for dating a co-worker:
      1. Has to be single.
      2. Not a supervisor or a subordinate
      3. Should be able to mostly avoid if it doesn’t work out.

  30. JoAnna*

    OP, any chance you can write the story anonymously, without your byline on it? That might help mitigate the appearance of favoritism/revenge writing, depending on how the interview turns out.

  31. The Strand*

    #5 – (and the Poynter institute) is your friend.

    This is a huge conflict of interest. You’re still a journalist now. Do what is ethically right for you to do as a journalist.
    You have to weigh the fact that you are not wanting to signal your intent to leave, against what hell will break loose if your editor finds out you didn’t come clean about the ethical challenge in front of you.

    If it were me (now just an occasional freelancer, but also an editor for several years) I would be inclined to give you a worse evaluation over you not behaving ethically, than the fact that you were going to leave in the first place. And don’t think the ethical dilemma would only matter to journalists.

    Don’t stall; explain that you had learned of an opening, and wanted to learn more about the other side of the street (marketing, PR), went for an interview, and then see if you can remove yourself from this story.

    Your reputation for integrity is one of the only things you have in journalism. Just ask Brian Williams.

    1. fposte*

      I think that may be especially true in a case like this where you’ve already got a news org that’s involved with the university–it wouldn’t take much to suggest they’re not able to accurately report on the school.

    2. Cass (OP #5)*

      I appreciate your advice – but this is not a capital case, no “hell breaking loose.” There are other factors I’d rather not reveal about why I’m not telling my boss I’m job hunting, but if I did explain my situation they would probably tell me to go ahead with the story anyway. I know I obviously have more information on the situation than you do, but the conflict of interest isn’t earth shattering. My question is framed mostly about my job candidacy, not being ethical in this assignment.

      1. The Strand*

        I wasn’t referring to a capital case. I was referring to the ire that many editors or managers would aim at you if they felt you weren’t upfront with them. I would be seriously pissed if I gave you an assignment and you didn’t just tell me, “I’ve got a conflict of interest, do you still want me to write this?” within a reasonable amount of time. I did have a contracted writer do something that was a conflict of interest while working for me, which I didn’t find out until after the story ran, and I was so angry that when the contract ended, I never used him again. He is a nice person, a solid writer, but once that trust was broken, that was it for me, I was too concerned of him slipping in some other situation.

        And if (according to other suggestions) you lied about what that conflict of interest was, and then got hired by university PR soon after? I would probably tell other employees, in future, to use other sources or connections in your department for our stories – because I wouldn’t trust your word any more.

        I especially would not appreciate it if I found out or believed you were much more concerned with hearing back on the job interview, than on doing the assignment I gave you: prioritizing your career plans over the needs of the readers/audience to get accurate, timely information, which is what I care about as an editor or manager.

        It seems to me you wrote in to get permission to wait on the story until you know whether they want to hire you. I think that is counter to doing your job as a journalist. I realize you want to move out into an arena where the rules are different, and I agree with Moonstone above that journalism often isn’t kind to the people who love it. But you are a journalist right now, and your perceived integrity is important. Your organization’s perceived integrity is important to everyone who reads or listens also. I wouldn’t feel real good about listening or watching a news piece if I learned that the reporter waited to collect information, or conduct interviews, until they learned whether they got hired by the company they were reporting on (or using in their reporting).

        So, your next step also would have a big impact on how your work is viewed, especially in the smaller ecosystem of a university, or a college town where it’s the major employer.

        Consider also that this would not reflect well on you with your new bosses; they probably value your existing relationship with your boss and news organization extremely highly, so you want to do what is not only ethical, but least likely to PO the boss. It sounds like you might have a boss who will be angry at you leaving your job, period – that to him or her, it’s disloyalty personified (lots of us have been through that gauntlet here at AAM).

        You have more information on this specific situation than I do. But I’ve worked inside one or another of these smaller ecosystems for almost two decades, six of the last years working closely with Marketing and PR, the very area you want to move into.

        One of my relatives was also collateral damage in a major university scandal. It involved a conflict of interest, journalism, and millions of dollars. The university and her boss lost an enormous amount of face, though he (a respected journalist) eventually got his reputation and a multi-million dollar settlement.

        I definitely don’t think what you’re talking about (the story you’re reporting on or your personal issue) is in the same neighborhood, but I do believe that how you frame this situation, will impact your reputation. In communications work, and journalism, your reputation, and how you deal with relationships, has a big impact on your effectiveness and how much people trust you.

    3. The Strand*

      Reading the additional info about how interconnected you are, your family, and how some of your colleagues also work at the PR wing: I would again advise being more upfront. It’s possible everyone already knows you’re interviewing, already knows your business – or will very soon.

  32. Forrest Rhodes*

    #5 Ouch. I feel for you, Cass—this truly sounds like one of those “heads, I lose / tails, you win” situations. You’ve received some very thoughtful responses, and yours have been likewise, all of which increases my admiration for AAMers.
    The thing that keeps pushing at me is: although it’s probably possible to come up with a good lie, that always seems to me a dangerous road to take. My experience has been that a lie—even a small lie, or one told with absolutely the best intentions—always eventually returns (and at the worst possible time) to bite me in the nether regions … which is why I’ll do anything, up to and including a Joey Tribbiani-type sprinting-out-of-the-audition-studio move to avoid prevarication.
    In your situation, I would tell my editor I can’t do the story, and why, and let the chips start falling. It may work out better than you expect; your honesty may be greatly appreciated and you may become a legend and a standard for journalistic integrity that will last for centuries (think: Walter Cronkite).
    Whatever your decision, I admire you for the thought you’re giving this and I wish you the best.

  33. sittingduck*

    #3 I have a similar story. I was called on a Wednesday morning(10 am) to come in for an interview later that afternoon(3pm). I was really excited and made time in my schedule for the interview. (I was unemployed so it wasn’t hard). At 1pm I got another call saying they chose the candidate that interviewed at 11am so I didn’t need to come in for the interview after all.

    All in ONE DAY.

    Some people……

  34. Observer*

    #2 The main thing that jumped out at me was your use of the word coerce. Either you don’t know what the word means (in which case I can see how you could wind up seeming like a poor candidate, if you often use words you whose definitions you don’t know) or you do, in which case you have a major attitude problem.

    Any sensible hiring manager who gets a feel of this attitude is going to be very hesitant to hire you. Especially after you try to push them to change to do things YOUR way rather than their way, imply that you know how their interview process should work better than they do, and then tell them that they are not capable to acting fairly if they act outside of your prescribed parameters.

    You also show yourself to be oddly hung up on inconsequentials. Why would the absence of some of the scheduled interviewers put your candidacy at a disadvantage? I wouldn’t argue with someone who said that to me, but I would probably be thinking “Huh? What’s that all about?” And I can assure you that I would be really worried about their capacity to operate in an environment where change is a given and where lots of things operate in ways that don’t always seem sensible, even when they are. (Never mind situations where things really are NOT sensible.)

    The bottom line is that there are a LOT of reasons why you might not have been hired for these jobs, none of which have anything to do with the “missing” interviewers. But, the reaction you describe could very easily be the reason as well. If you don’t want these situations to work against you, you have two choices in how to react. 1. just accept it, and move into the interview. 2. OFFER to reschedule and whip out your smart phone so they can do so on the spot IF THEY SO CHOOSE. If they say that they don’t want / need to reschedule for any reason (or no reason, for that matter), then you just put your phone away. And then move into the interview with good grace.

    Those are your ONLY choices if you want to maintain a chance to get hired. ANYTHING else will absolutely work against you.

    And, please, rethink your attitudes. It could save you a lot of headache over time.

    1. Elikit*

      Yeah the use of the word “coerce” was really, really off putting for me too!

  35. Mena*

    #1: the ENTIRE department received an invitation to a desination wedding? And you don’t socialize outside of the office? Oh, this belongs in Ettiquette Hell, for sure.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Yeah, I’m thinking gift grab, especially if the boss is a diva. I cannot imagine any other reason to issue invitations to people I don’t hang out with!

      1. )P#1*

        Six person department, including myself and the boss. And I’m pretty sure some of them do socialize together.

      2. Brandy*

        Or invites for “work” friends. These are people you’ll never see again after leaving the company. I had a work friend getting married and I was thrilled when she quit to work with the fiancée. I didn’t want to go to her wedding (I know its mean but true) and I didn’t want to feel like I should have to buy her something as she was older, living with the fiancée and already been married once, she didn’t need anything.

  36. Adriana Ainslee*

    I am the OP of “what to do when some interviewers don’t show up for a group interview.” Thank you to Alison and to all of you who have commented; I very much appreciate your insights! To clarify: one time when this happened, the sole interviewer was the person that the new hire would replace. She basically only talked about the company and didn’t really ask me anything. I was then told the other two people would be held up indefinitely. I waited, then left for awhile and then came back and they were still off-site. That was when I tried to reschedule, to no avail. (Yes; I really did mean to use the word “coerce.”) Another time when this happened, the other interviewer was on a phone call, and so they sent me to talk to the receptionist instead, and then after that I was told the other interviewer would be unavailable the remainder of the day and I was unable to pin them down to a reschedule. I just wish there had been some way of salvaging those interviews— but at the same time, I take some comfort in the fact that I did everything I could to at least try!

    1. Observer*

      I’m thinking about this, and it seems to me that you didn’t quite get what a number of people are trying to say to you.

      It sounds like you had bad experiences, but there is no reason to believe that if you had gotten the full interview things would have been any better. I don’t want to pile on, but I want to highlight some things.

      No mater how poorly or inappropriately your interviewing company behaves, “forcing” them to do things your way is generally not something that should even be on your radar. If someone does something illegal, then you can consider legal action. But otherwise, forget it. It’s not a healthy way to operate.

      Rightly or wrongly, the minute you told them that what they are dong is unfair (which is what you were doing when you said the your candidacy was being put at risk), you almost certainly lost any chance at the job. It doesn’t make a difference if they were being unfair (which they might mot have been – you don’t know what happened to others.) It’s the very rare employer that’s going to want to deal with that.

      Lastly, in the case of talking to the receptionist, it’s quite possible that they did, in fact, find out everything they need. Many, many employers take what happens to the receptionist extremely seriously. If the receptionist got a sense of the negative attitudes you seem to have, it’s quite possible that they decided to pass for that reason alone, and having the full “proper” interview would have made no difference.

  37. John*

    About 5, claim a conflict of interest that would impede your ability to be objective. This is standard journalism ethics, and your supervisor should understand. It’s true, moreover, that your main reason for not wanting to do the story is the job you hope to get. But your boss doesn’t need to know about that. If pressed, just say you’ve had interactions with those people in the past that would impede your ability to be objective and/or would make them unlikely to talk to you frankly, and that it would be better for the story to be reassigned. (Sorry if this has already been discussed–I couldn’t read through all the responses.)

  38. MH*

    For #5, maybe say you’ve been looking at taking courses there and you’re afraid it’s a conflict of interest?

  39. Dr. Pepper Addict*

    I know I’m late to the party here OP5, but I think one piece of information is vital here: the timeframe for making a hiring decision. Call the person you interviewed with and ask them if they have a timeframe for making a hiring decision. Then compare that to when your story is due. If it’s outside of the timeframe of when the story is due, just open up to them and tell them the predicament you find yourself in.

    Here is one advantage, I believe honesty is the best policy, but in this case you can choose which side you want to be completely honest with (not saying to lie to the other side, just omit information). If you think you’ve got a good shot at landing the new job, go to them and tell them that you are obligated to do a good job for your current employer and your viewers to report the story you were assigned.

  40. Jennifer*

    Cass/#5, you have my sympathies. I went from journalism to university work, except in the usual way (i.e. got laid off, har). However, after reading everything you said, I really can’t think of a way out of your situation without having to Pick One Side and stick with it–as in either risk losing your job and telling why (since there seems to be no other way/lie/option for you, as you say) or telling the university you need to withdraw your candidacy and give up on working in that department. Is the bird in the hand worth the one in the bush, or vice versa.

  41. Adriana Ainslee*

    Thank you for providing your input, Observer. I appreciate it. I think what it is with me is that I have noticed patterns woven throughout my nearly 40 years in the workforce consisting of over 60 jobs (I very often worked temporary jobs) and well, countless interviews…. I admit to becoming a little paranoid, a bit superstitious, and a lot negative…. for example, I usually ask interviewers if they will call me one way or the other when the position is filled. When I ask that question, if they tell me to call them instead, I tell them I have gotten superstitious about doing that, because every single time an employer has told me to call them to find out if I am hired, I was not hired. I have never worked in any hiring capacity, and all this is very fascinating to me, finding out how hiring managers’ minds work! I had one interview that consisted of, “Do you have any questions?” To which I replied, “What information do you need from me to evaluate my suitability for this position?” To which they responded, “We have your resume. That’s all we need.” I never even had the chance to sit down! Numerous times, although I never misrepresent myself on a resume, and always read their job posting very carefully, I have found myself in interviews for jobs that require skills/experience I cannot claim, or that require I have a vehicle. I think all of these situations fall under the umbrella of “how to salvage the unsalvageable interview.” At least I did my very best to put them on the spot, seeing as from the responses here, they were not planning to hire me anyway. Only twice in my whole life was I ever told up-front by an interviewer I wasn’t suited for the position– once because he was somehow offended I had filled out the application in pink ink (it was the ’80s); once because they were looking for a go-the-extra-mile team player willing to do the work of three and get paid for one. In both cases, I thanked the interviewer sincerely for being straightforward with me instead of stringing me along.

    1. Loose Seal*

      Do you see how you are still trying to control the situation? You ask hiring managers to call you and they give you a specific direction for you to call them instead. And yet you still try to force them to do it your way. Unfortunately, your superstitions and paranoia are your feelings to manage, not the interviewers.

    2. Advances, None Miraculous*

      Oh, no. Paranoia, superstition and negativity? That’s a fast track to a self-fulfilling prophecy, and nobody hides those attitudes nearly as well as they think they can.

      Whenever I’ve interviewed people they’ve been very keen to put their best foot forward, and have only been hampered by nerves. If I had a candidate ask me questions about the next steps in the hiring process, demonstrate a chip on their shoulder and essentially accuse me of acting in bad faith, I’d be wondering what their day-to-day behaviour would be like when they’re not trying to make a good impression. With the vast majority of other candidates displaying better appreciation for professional norms, applicants who don’t are being crossed off the list as not suitable.

      Bottom line, you really need to look closely at what you’re contributing to the situation. Phrases like “how could I have coerced”, “put them on the spot” and “somehow offended” sound antagonistic or lacking in reflection and raise some fairly bright red flags.

    3. Observer*

      You say that you have seen patterns, but you seem to have missed the patterns of your own behavior. Loose Seal and Advances have both picked up on issues that you really need to address. I have a few other thoughts, though there is some over-lap.

      60 jobs in 40 years, and who knows how many more interviews? I know that there are a lot of lousy employers, and even more lousy interviewers (we see lots of them here on AAM, for that matter.) But, this different. You have a pattern here of bad interviews and very short term jobs – lots of them. It’s not just that you cannot GET a job, you seem to have a problem HOLDING a job. (And the worse that gets, the harder it is to find a job, as well.) The one thing that is common to all of these situations is *you*.

      You also don’t seem to be very good at learning from the feedback that you do get. You got explicitly told that using pink ink for an application is a no-no. Even if there could be no good reason for the interviewer’s response, it still makes sense to think about changing. You need think about whether the pink ink is worth jeopardizing a job over. Also, whether this interviewer told you about something that others agree with, but just won’t tell you.

      In fact, I would think that if you continued to use that pink ink, it did harm you in your job search. To many people, pink in comes off as “girly”, “childish” or “frivolous”. That may be stupid, but it’s real and not an impression you want to be the first thing someone thinks about you. Furthermore, many people find pink in (especially when the pen is light) hard to read. Making your application hard to read is never a good move. And, many applications actually have instructions that they should be filled in in black or blue (sometimes one, something the other) ink. Even if this particular application didn’t have that instruction, I could see someone thinking “Who comes to fill in a work application without a decent pen? Or at least ASK for one if hers ran out?”

      The point here is not the pink pen. After all, I could be totally wrong about the thinking of your interviewer. But, I could be right. The point is that when you were given specific feed back, you didn’t do anything with it. You simply dismissed it as someone who “somehow was offended” without even thinking about a possible reason, and about the possibility that someone else might see it similarly.

      Lastly, I find this line very odd: “At least I did my very best to put them on the spot”

      What exactly would be the purpose of doing that? And why do you find that comforting? I do get that sometimes in the moment it feels good – they treated me poorly, at least I tried to get them to squirm. But once you get past that point, why does that seem to give you validation?

      1. Merry and Bright*

        Some good points here, but I’m not sure Adriana has problems holding down a job, because she says she has done a lot of temping. And to be fair, the 80s were big on terrible advice like colourful ink and novelty paper for job applications :)

        1. Observer*

          Sure, lots of bad advice got handed and some of it STILL gets handed out. The issue I was pointing to was not that she had made the mistake in the first place. It’s about how she reacted to the feedback about it. The short version of what I was saying was this: You did something and an employer told you that it disqualified you for the job. Your reaction was NOT to think about the possibility that there might be at least some reason for the negative reaction. Nor even to think about the possibility that other people might have a similar prejudice against that particular action. Rather it was about someone being “somehow offended”. In other words, a random reaction not related (even stupidly) to an action you took.

          You could be correct about the temping, in which case the issue of holding a job may not be as relevant. But there are still a LOT of interviews at play. I’m not going to say that every interviewer was great or even good. But, when someone has such a uniformly bad set of experiences, over such a long span of time, you have to look at the one common factor.

  42. Adriana Ainslee*

    Please know that I am giving serious consideration to everything everyone is saying to me here. I think I will need to research my potential jobs more thoroughly before even setting up interviews. Thinking back, there have been quite a few times that employers had screened my resume so haphazardly that they called me to interview for a position I wasn’t qualified for. I have also had staffing services send me out on jobs that required skills I never claimed to have, and therefore could not fulfill the assignment beyond day one. Yes I am placing the blame on them as usual– but I should not have left it up to them to determine whether I possessed the basic qualifications for that job. I should have asked more questions before agreeing to an interview. And I agree that I might come off as negative without even realizing it. One time, my interviewer told me, “Maybe this isn’t the right job for you.” I hadn’t realized my questions about the job had come across as negativity. And I said, “You may be right. I have never done this type of work before (sales– and he already knew I had no sales experience) and I can’t know unless I try it out.” Well, that turned out to be the best, the best-paying, job by far I ever had, and the longest (I only left because I relocated out-of-state). I am very grateful for everyone’s feedback here! These glimpses inside the managerial mind are truly enlightening. You can be certain that I will continue to process all this valuable info in order to make some revisions in my interview strategy.

    1. Lamb*

      When it comes to your superstition about being the one to call and follow up, I really think you should find a lucky thing to do so you can make those follow up calls yourself rather than asking the “Call us” folks to call you. I think this because
      1) you are currently asking them to remember that you, out of all the applicants, need to be called when everyone else is taking care of their own follow up (so you = more work for them; not good)
      2) if at this initial stage you are asking for a favor to accommodate your superstition, what’s to say you won’t have more superstitions that you’ll be asking them to honor once you have the job (is it bad luck to check e-mail on Mondays? Are you superstitious about all types of follow up calls and refuse to make any? Do you call in sick if you see a black cat while on your way to work? These are reasonable things for them to wonder)
      3) you are already showing a willingness to push back on reasonable requests due to personal preferences
      4) you are reminding them that other companies have rejected you from jobs, and the fact that you’ve developed this superstition makes it seem like you’ve been rejected by A LOT of companies (which could leave the interviewer wondering if they missed a red flag that all those other companies saw, even when the “red flag” was “doesn’t have Unlisted Skill X”)

    2. Lamb*

      Also, on your anecdote about the interview where all they asked was if you had questions, they probably expected you to HAVE questions. Is it lazy interviewing to only ask “do you have questions?” And nothing else, even when the applicant doesn’t ask much- yes! But as the applicant, you should have some things to ask. What are the most important duties of this position? What does the person in this job spend the most time on? Does the position answer directly to you?

    3. Observer*

      Another thing you may want to consider – job coaching. I know that there are a lot of very bad coaches out there, so you do need to be careful in who you hire. But, it seems to me that someone who could help you identify the patterns that you can and should take responsibility for, and help you figure out how to change those patterns could be very useful.

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