office tenant keeps stealing our supplies, professor turned down my request to be a reference, and more

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

1. Office tenant keeps stealing our supplies

I am an administrative assistant for a local development group in my community. In addition to helping with economic development, we also own and operate a small business hub in which we rent out office space to various small businesses and provide them with secretarial assistance and whatnot. We recently had an attorney move into our building and he is driving me crazy. We have a public copy room with a copy machine, computer, hole punch, etc. We provide all the supplies for the copy room. He steals them constantly. In addition to that, I have also found several items missing from my desk, both from on top of my desk and in my desk.

He has returned a few things to me here and there, but definitely not all. The reason I know it’s him—I have a master key and one day had to let a delivery person into his office to deliver a package. While in there, I saw several items that belong to us. He has also taken off with ALL of our coffee cups that we have in the “break room” area. There are several other things that are really starting to get on my nerves, but that is a different question for a different day. How do I ask for these items back in a professional manner? I’m at a loss.

Be direct: “Bob, I let a delivery person into your office the other day and saw that you had several items that have been missing from my desk, like my stapler and coffee mug, as well as the hole punch from the copy room. Can you please return those today? We do provide supplies in the copy room, but they’re for many people’s use and need to remain there.”

If it happens again after that, get more direct: “Bob, like I mentioned before, I need you not to remove items from my desk or the copy room. Your rent covers your office space and access to the copy room, but you’re expected to provide supplies for your own office yourself.”

2. My professor turned down my request to be a reference

How do I respond to a rejection email from a potential reference? 

I am a graduate student and requested a reference from a professor I know well. I was shocked when she responded, “You can use me as a reference, but I would have to be honest… if they ask me about your timeliness or reliability for example, I cannot say that it is excellent. That would be quite bad for you so I’m not sure if I’m the right person to be your best reference. I hope you understand.”

I disagree with her appraisal that I am not reliable, and am wondering why she feels this way. I was late with an assignment, and to her class in the beginning of the semester, but was consistently early after we spoke about it. How do I respond?

Thank her for her candor and then let it go. Don’t push for her to change her assessment, because you don’t want to use a reference who’s anything other than glowing about you.

For what it’s worth, her response doesn’t seem unreasonable to me. Yes, you changed your behavior once she spoke to you about it, but the fact remains that she needed to tell you that your lateness was a problem before you fixed it. In a lot of contexts, that’ll put you in the “not super impressive” category.

3. Can I include internship experience when counting my years of experience?

When looking at job postings that require X amount of years of experience, is it acceptable to include internship experience in your computation of years experience?

Maybe. It depends on how substantive the internship was and how close to full-time it was. 10 hours a week counts for less than full-time work, obviously.

But in general, there’s no rule against counting internship experience.

The bigger thing to understand, though, is that this is all a judgment call. When employers ask for X years of experience, it’s rarely about applying a precise formula where you can or can’t count Y or Z. People get interviewed and hired all the time without having quite as much experience as a job ad asked for. Those years of experience requirements are really just to give you a general idea of the experience level they’re seeking.

4. Do honor societies matter on your resume?

Do honor societies matter? I just got an email from my graduate program saying that they have recommended me for my profession’s honor society. They said that they can only recommend 25% of all students who graduate in a year, and that they can only recommend students with a GPA of 3.75 or higher. I graduate this Saturday, and there are no formal or informal meetings with other honor society members. This clearly isn’t meant to be a networking tool–I think. They’re asking me for $85 for the right to put this honor society’s name on my resume. To be clear, this isn’t an honor society at my university. It is something along the lines of “The International Honor Society for Teapot Makers and Teapot Scientists,” and has a fancy three-letter greek name.

I’ve never heard of this honor society, and I’ve never heard it talked about within the profession. Should I save my $85, or join this honor society?

Save your $85. There are a bunch of these organizations out there making money from people in exactly this way. If you want to be extra sure, ask around in your field to make sure that it’s not actually some prestigious thing that would serve you well, but it sounds an awful lot like all the pitches that you’re about to get to be listed in the “Who’s Who of (your field),” which you should also ignore.

Employers care about honor societies like Phi Beta Kappa, in that it indicates that you were a top student. But most others? Not too much.

5. I saw my temp job posted as a permanent role

I recently accepted a job at a company with the understanding that the position is temporary until September when they can decide whether or not they’ll have enough work to keep me onboard. Just today, an acquaintance asked about possibly being referred for a position at my company that they saw listed on Craigslist. When I looked it up, it’s for my same position, is set to start in June, and doesn’t mentioned anything about being temporary. Is it fair for me to ask the hiring manager about this and request that I be moved to a permanent role if they feel there is enough work to hire on another new person? I’ve been there about a month and things seem to be going well, but I’m slightly concerned that they would post another listing for this job without speaking to me about becoming permanent.

Sure, absolutely. I’d say this: “I noticed that a position similar to mine was recently posted, but for a non-temporary role. I know you’d been thinking that you might not know until the fall whether my position could go permanent, so I was wondering if this indicated that has changed.”

{ 354 comments… read them below }

  1. Shell*

    Damn, I’d just label or mark the items and then have no compunction against just taking them back whether or not he’s there. Then again, I’m super protective of office supplies.

    But Alison’s advice is way better. Listen to Alison.

    1. UKAnon*

      Ha – get one of those label guns that does black tape with white writing to say “Janie’s mug”.

      …Then two days later added ” Not for you Bob”

      1. Coach Devie*

        LOL @ “not for you Bob”

        (I’d totally do something like this if I was in that environment!)

        1. AmyNYC*

          I was an Resident Adviser in college, and we duct taped plastic forks and spoons to all the pens in the office to keep them from being stolen. It did not deter my fellow RAs from eating with said pens.

        2. Kai*

          Yep! I made five flower pens for the front desk at my office, three years ago, and all five are still here.

            1. Kelly L.*

              If they’re not the same ones Kai uses, I don’t see why not. I (and a lot of other people) keep some pens out for drop-ins to borrow but other pens in my desk for myself to use.

          1. Judy*

            My vet’s office has a cute flowerpot with those glass pebbles in it for their flower pens. So it even looks like a bouquet.

    2. Sheepla*

      Has anyone told him that the supplies in the copy room aren’t there for everyone’s use? May seem obvious, but he could genuinely believe that those supplies are provided for everyone using the space. I’d start with clarifying this point before escalating unnecessarily.

      1. fposte*

        I think they are for everyone, and that’s the problem–you use them on-site so others can use them as well, but if you take them back to your office, other people can’t use them anymore.

        You’re right that if this wasn’t said it needs to be, but generally these kinds of leases are pretty clear on this, and it’d take a person with a considerable amount of denial to claim he thought he was entitled to walk off with everybody’s coffee cups from the break room.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      I had this problem with my stapler at Exjob, so I put a sticker on it that had a picture of Milton from Office Space and the word, “MINE!” in big bold letters. No one borrowed my stapler after that, ha ha.

  2. Snoskred*

    #1 – Invoice them for every single item that has gone missing. No joke. I’m not kidding. I personally would make the numbers invoiced double what the actual items cost. Put a note at the bottom that states any returned items will be removed from the invoice.

    If none of the items are returned after the invoice.. and the invoice does not get paid.. it is my opinion that this person is showing you who they are. Believe them. Get rid of them as soon as you can.

      1. GOG11*

        I work with a former police officer who routinely smoked 5 feet outside of the door when there’s a sign right on the door saying it’s the law to be at least 20 feet away…

        1. the gold digger*

          One of my favorite photos – and one that I think represents the French spirit of independence – is one I took of a guy on a train in France, smoking right under the “No smoking” sign.

          I was annoyed, because I specifically wanted the no-smoking coach, but I also thought it was funny.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            There was a post on Buzzfeed, I think, or maybe it was Diply, with pictures just like this. Or “Do not touch,” and then in the picture a finger was a millimeter away from it. I laughed.

      2. Allison*

        Just because someone knows the law doesn’t mean they’ll feel inclined to follow it.

        1. lawsuited*

          And really, taking shared office supplies is more a common courtesy issue than a legal one. I mean, are you going to charge the guy with theft under $5,000 for using the shared hole puncher in his office rather than in the shared copy room or drinking his coffee out of someone else’s coffee mug?

          1. Anna*

            I don’t think anyone is implying they need to be charged with theft. The joke was to invoice a lawyer for every pen and stapler he took from the common area and didn’t return.


          Or they feel they’re above it. Talking to that smoker 5 feet from the door.

        1. Fact & Fiction*

          Yes. The worst office offender lunch thieves I’ve ever known were attorneys in a major law firm. Many of the attorneys were lovely, of course, but some felt entitled to take whatever they wanted despite making way more than the staff whose lunches they stole. But that’s true in any profession: it’s a specific personality type.

    1. LBK*

      That seems extremely aggressive for an offense that’s annoying but not egregious. Especially without pointedly talking to him about it first, but even then I can’t imagine a scenario where invoicing him makes sense. It would be so weird and tone deaf.

      1. Snoskred*

        I disagree. Those items which this person has *stolen* – and yes, I do not think that is too strong a word – are specifically provided for all the people renting office space there to use.

        This person has decided that they need those items more than anyone else renting there, and rather than keep them in the common area for the use of all, has taken these items into a locked area which other people are unable to access.

        I’ve both rented in this kind of situation and *managed* this kind of situation, and believe me taking items out of the common area is a huge no-no for everyone concerned. You probably know this, but in case you have never been in a serviced office situation, those things which are supplied for the use of everyone are not usually cheap – at least they weren’t in the places I rented and managed.

        So guess what happens when the other people are not able to access those items? Two things. 1. They want these items provided immediately! As in manager, drop what you are doing and go and get me a stapler capable of stapling 500 newsletters without breaking because I need it right now. 2. They want a discount on their monthly bill because those things were unavailable to them, and as a part of the rent they pay, those items are meant to be available to them.

        1. Goldenlicious Potatoe Skins*

          I’m torn here. On the one hand, I can see someone mistaking the supplies in a copy room for the free for all supply closet – especially being a lawyer who is probably use to having these supplies provided by the firm. It’s possible that the copy room was the supply closet at his previous role, so it’s not too far afield for me to think this is an honest mistake especially with no signs.

          However …

          He has also been taking supplies from the OPs desk? Including supplies in her desk? What the royal eff??? That to me points to something a bit more egregious going on. Sense of entitlement maybe?

          1. Natalie*

            And all the mugs from the breakroom. One mug, sure, that could be an honest mistake. *All* the mugs? That guy knows that his lease doesn’t include all of the mugs.

            1. PegLeg*

              That is the most understandable one for me- but I’m a chronic “dish forgetter”. I would assume he takes a mug for his morning coffee, then thinks he will bring it back later in the day, forgets, then gets a new one the next day with the same intentions. I only have one coffee mug at work that is my coffee mug, but I forget to bring home my lunch Tupperware until I have nothing to put leftovers in.

              1. Natalie*

                Right, I just think the mug thing makes it clear that he’s not somehow confused about what is provided with him lease.

          2. JB (not in Houston)*

            I wouldn’t assume this guy necessarily ever worked for a firm. Some haven’t. And I feel pretty confident that when he rented the space, he was told what was provided. These kinds of contracts usually cover that kind of thing (although you never know).

          3. Anonsie*

            As someone whose desk is in a spot more accessible than the supply closet, you better bet your buns that a lot of people don’t see any problem whatsoever with just taking your stapler or scissors or a few pens or whatever. A lot of supplies disappear off my desk, and the worst culprits are the folks with fancy credentials who have some encouragement to feel like their time is important enough that taking things from me is totally ok in the big picture.

        2. LBK*

          I agree that the taking of supplies from people’s desks (including mugs, which, ick, who wants to use someone else’s mug?) is a problem, but not one that I’d resolve by sending an invoice – if I were going to take any kind of extreme action like that, it would be terminating the contract and booting him out. Invoicing just seems vindictive, petty and passive aggressive to me.

          For the common supplies, though, that is a problem that occurs in offices all over the world whether you’re a tenant or just working in your normal office building. I used to be the supply manager for my old department and I can’t tell you how often a pair of scissors or the tape dispenser would walk off. Hence, I consider that more annoying than truly morally bankrupt, because people do it in any context; I don’t see it being unique to his being a lawyer or being a renter.

          1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

            “ick, who wants to use someone else’s mug?”

            If it’s been cleaned, why not? Every time you go to a restaurant you’re using dishes and silverware other people have eaten from, but these items are made to be washable.

            I initially pictured the situation as a bunch of common mugs – that’s what we have at my workplace. There’s a bin of clean mugs and a bin for dirty mugs, and they get washed in a dishwasher daily. We do have a problem sometimes with people getting coffee, bringing it back to their desks, and forgetting to return the mugs to be washed. I could see this guy doing that repeatedly and winding up with a huge collection of mugs he plans to return “soon.”

            1. LBK*

              It is totally a mental thing that I know makes no sense, but somehow it’s ickier for me to use someone’s personal mug that they use every day than using a mug at a restaurant (or a shared mug at my house). The irritionality of germaphobia knows no bounds.

            2. Elizabeth West*

              I have my own mug and I either wash it and take it back to my desk, or leave it for the cleaners to put in the dishwasher periodically (the dishwasher does a better job on the tea stains). But it’s my AAM mug, and I’d be mad if someone took it.

        3. mel*

          Also, who steals a coffee mug???? Did it still have coffee in it? Was the rim pre-sipped? SO MANY QUESTIONS.

          1. Lizard*

            I had sort of envisioned the “coffee cups that they had in the breakroom” as the paper coffee cups that sometimes come with a coffee contract. Making off with all of those is annoying but sort of comprehensible in that “I am taking all the communal supplies” way. It hadn’t occurred to me that he had stolen a bunch of actual ceramic mugs!

    2. FD*

      As someone who works with leases…Yep, definitely. That said, I would present the invoice in person, and if he returns the stuff, waive it.

      But make it clear that if it happens in the future, you will invoice him for each item he takes. And absolutely double it–if he wants to ‘buy’ supplies from you, he has to do it at retail price, not at cost.

      1. fposte*

        Isn’t that the hotel approach? “If you enjoy our robes, towels, pillows, or TV remote and wish to take them home, we’d be happy to add their cost to your bill.”

          1. Treena Kravm*

            I have no clue why but some people will take ANYTHING. A hotel remote wasn’t working, so I went to take the batteries out and flip them, and the cover was **screwed in** to the remote…I mean, I know batteries aren’t cheap but come on…

            1. Fuzzy*

              I feel like they’re the same people that go around asking for “their black umbrella” at restaurants and calling it a Life Hack.

              Nope. That’s theft.

              1. Creag an Tuire*

                Reminds me of XCKD: “Life Hack! If you pick up luggage at an airport baggage carousel, nobody will check if it’s yours.”

        1. FD*

          Actually, not many hotels do that these days unless it’s a really egregious case where they took the entire linen supply from the room. The charges are often disputed and it’s very hard to prove. The person will normally just say that the staff stole them or the like.

    3. Leah*

      In thinking about it more, I don’t think the OP should invoice the lawyer. It’s like that study they did at a daycare when they started charging parents for picking up their kids late. The result was that even more parents started picking up their kids late. The payments had removed the guilt factor and the parents now thought it was okay because they were paying.

      If you charge the lawyer for the stuff, he might just decide, “Awesome! I can take whatever I want and they’ll just figure it out and charge me later.” Invoicing could be part of a larger plan to stop this behavior, but I don’t think it by itself would do anything.

      1. Happy Lurker*

        Yeah, I can see this. The guy is just clueless and thoughtless. He walks away with stuff without a second thought as to whom or where they belong. Then he also simply forgets to put them back. He’s just not a type “A” like I am. I know where all my supplies are!

      2. mel*

        Ahhh but if they’re charging double, they’d pull in a nice little profit. Win-win!

      3. Jaydee*

        Exactly! Also, if you give him an inflated invoice, he’s probably going to respond with “You can’t do that!” rather than getting the message that *he* is in the wrong and needs to change his behavior.

        Make the argument to him in terms that will resonate with him. Give him a letter/notice in writing that tells him:
        – what his obligations are under the lease,
        – what he is doing that violates those obligations,
        – specific actions he needs to take to be in compliance with the lease,
        – a deadline, and
        – the consequences if he doesn’t change his actions.

        The specifics obviously will depend on what the lease says and what the exact offenses are.

        Especially if this is new ground for your organization, this would be an excellent time to contact your organization’s lawyer for advice and to make sure whatever notice you give follows the lease and any applicable law in your state. No one likes to pay attorney fees for things that “should be simple.” But a couple hundred dollars now to make sure you get it right could help you avoid greater expenses down the road if you do it wrong. Consider it preventative maintenance/medicine, kind of like getting your car’s oil changed and tires rotated regularly or going for an annual physical even when you are healthy.

      4. Anonsie*

        Oh god. I think this just happened to me. My partner has a more flexible schedule than me so I sometimes ask him to handle errands for me during the day, which sometimes necessitates him paying for parking wherever it is he’s going. A while ago he asked me to pay for the parking whenever I send him somewhere that’s going to charge him for it, and I said ok. But then I started asking him to do it way more because in my head it was like, ok, now it’s not a problem because I’m covering the inconvenience cost to him.

  3. themmases*

    I started working in broadly my field as a very part time undergrad research assistant years before I knew I wanted to do this. My hours were super variable– anything from 20/week to being still on the books just in case– and partially followed the academic year.

    I just say I have worked in this field since 2007 so it is really clear how that matches up with my employment. I only go to the trouble to count up years of work if an application requires it.

  4. Sandy*

    #2- listen to Alison! This is not a subject you want to push.

    I once sat on a hiring committee that received a reference from a former professor that was so bad, we collectively decided to break protocol and contacted the candidate to let her know what her former professor was saying.

    The former professor managed to both trash the candidate and denigrate us, as the hiring committee, for even considering hiring her: “Maybe she’ll be good. Enough for your lowly institution, but she certainly wasn’t good enough for ME” (exact words)

    Although he apparently warned her that it wouldn’t be glowing, she went ahead and used him, with fairly disastrous consequences.

    From the managerial side, it actually takes some guts to say to an employee “I don’t think I can give you a good reference” so take the advice to heart and move on.

    1. TiredManager*

      OP, Allison is right, you were given a gift by this professor – he let you know what he would really say to anyone who asked. My brother found out what happens you don’t get told the hard way. He would get interviews, but no job offers. It was only when he was given some direct advice from an interviewer – “ditch the referee, they are doing you no favors” – that he knew why.

      I won’t go referee for someone if i have any doubts at all.

      1. Vee*

        Letter writer says that it’s a female professor: ‘I was shocked when *she* responded, “You can use me as a reference..’.

    2. Mallory Janis Ian*

      My boss had a bad architectural intern last summer (who had somehow managed to intern at some fairly prominent and impressive firms) who emailed a request for him to write a reference letter for her. I loved his response. He told her that he would do it, but that his assessment would “be measured, in much the same way your effort at our firm was measured.” Being a college professor, he also went on to say, “I advise you in the future to take full advantage of the opportunities that have been afforded you. I wish you every success . . . ”

      My point being that he did her a favor by letting her know that her less-than-stellar performance was still remembered and by offering advice for improvement going forward.

      1. Michele*

        Was the intern smart enough to understand what he was saying? Some people have very inflated views of themselves and don’t realize that they are being tactfully criticized.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          I wondered that myself; my boss can be very subtle when he intends criticism. His praise is overt and up-front, but his criticism is generally couched in read-between-the-lines terms. Also, I’ve learned that, if he’s being extra soft-spoken, he is extra-angry (kind of like the godfather).

          1. Mallory Janis Ian*

            Oh, and if one is smart enough to read between the lines, it’s usually a zinger. There’ve been a couple of times where I’ve realized a couple hours later that I’d been skillfully burned.

            1. Anna*

              Like one of those sunburns you don’t really notice until later. “Why is that comment bothering me? Oh.”

            2. Michele*

              I have that problem with responding to things. The next day, the perfect response comes to me.

      2. College Career Counselor*

        I coach students to ask professors if, based on their knowledge of the student’s work, they are able to provide a strong and supportive recommendation for graduate school (or whatever). And to take anything less than an enthusiastic “yes!” as evidence that they should look elsewhere.

        Now, that doesn’t always stop a well-meaning professor from overstepping his or her bounds on occasion. I recall a letter of recommendation from one professor that OUTED a student to a prospective employer. I called the professor and suggested that perhaps the student should be the person to decide to make that information known to the employer (she sent in a revised letter the next day). Another professor included her diagnosis of mental illness for a student applying to a graduate program. Um, you’re an art history professor. You’re not qualified to provide a diagnosis, and it’s wildly out of place in this letter. If you want to comment on your observation of the student’s BEHAVIOR, that’s fine. Keep the medical diagnosis/editorializing to yourself. I don’t recall if this professor revised her letter, but she might have been better off recusing herself from writing it in the first place.

        1. fposte*

          That’s a great way to frame the question, and it sounds like you’re really on top of the situation.

          I think sometimes people are surprised to realize, given how often professors are asked for recommendations, how little guidance there is for them.

          1. College Career Counselor*

            “how little” often equals “none.” In my observation, the faculty that tend to turn up to workshops on “how to write a good letter of recommendation” are usually brand new to the institution, with a couple of seasoned folks who can pass along their wisdom. There is definitely a middle group of faculty that don’t attend because they already know how to do it/have been writing them for years. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case, judging from some of the letters I’ve seen make it to the recommendation folders in the career services office!

            1. Anonsie*

              I sometimes handle letter of rec requests for faculty and it is my favorite thing in the world when the student also gives us the details of what the institution has said they want to see in a reference. Because otherwise we’re kind of flying blind on this sometimes, like, ok sure they did a good job here… But what kind of qualities do you want us to evaluate? Maturity, sure, but that’s generic as hell. Everywhere has their own little things they like in candidates, and when the students tell us exactly what that is it makes our references a lot better.

              Though a lot of institutions don’t give you any clues, especially the big name schools. They basically just say “go on, impress us.”

        2. manybellsdown*

          I asked a professor (the head of my department) to be a reference for me, and she said she’d be delighted. Then, when she actually got the reference she told them she wasn’t sure who I was. Gee, thanks.

        3. Anonsie*

          I was always told to ask specifically “can you give me a *positive* reference” and then “no really though specifically what might you say about me.”

          Though some systems have this big thing about the student not actually being allowed to be told what the content of their reference is because they want to hear whatever we would say. I think that’s bunk, but apparently it’s done.

      3. jag*

        I told an intern I wouldn’t be a reference because he did not try hard to work or learn during our time with us.

        First I said something along the lines of “I can’t provide you with a good reference” and after he kept pushing I was much more blunt.

        1. Anna*

          I’m always surprised when people think you’re being vague just to be vague. No, unless you really absolutely want the truth, my vagueness is a sign you should drop the idea and move on.

    3. Lurker*

      When I applied for graduate school, I reached out to my college advisor to see whether she’d write letters of recommendation for my applications. I was applying to one state school, one Ivy League school, and two large, well respected private universities. She replied to my request by asking whether I was sure I could get in to any of these schools. So I chose to ask another professor in the same field, who said he would be “delighted” to write me the letters.

      It stung hearing that from my advisor, but at least she was honest (and I was accepted to 3 out of the 4 , including the Ivy League).

      1. MK*

        I think you can be honest without being a jerk (and a jerk who is was in this case); she should have just explained what kind of reference she could give. Also, I would assume that many applicants are not sure whether they can be accepted; that’s not a reason to try nothing that isn’t a sure thing. If she thought your aspirations were unreallistic, she could have advised broadening your search.

    4. Green*

      I had this happen to me. The professor was supervising a writing project that I wanted to publish, gave me comments, I then realized it was unsalvageable and wrote a different piece for publication (that was published). The professor was miffed I didn’t follow the piece all the way through (integrating comments and returning to discuss them in more detail) but didn’t say anything to me at the time. The professor declined to be a reference (despite many other classes with this professor in which I was top of the class), which I thought was unfair.

      It stung quite a bit, actually, but I thanked him for letting me know, apologized for not following through on the original project, and never asked anything of him again.

      1. the_scientist*

        Happened to me, too. This seems to be a common theme in academia! In my case it was a committee member who “couldn’t speak highly of my writing abilities”. It stung, and I didn’t and don’t agree with the assessment, but I’m so thankful this person was willing to be honest because I have had many friends sunk by bad references (usually, interestingly, from professors).

    5. Noelle*

      Completely agree. I asked my adviser in college for a reference letter, which he gladly agreed to, but it was so bad it was unusable. In this case, it was horribly written and so generic that it had no details about me at all. Another professor actually wrote me a weird reference, in that he said I sucked as a pianist (I was a music performance major), but I was the best student he’d ever had apart from that. Basically like, “yes, Noelle is great at writing and super smart and she’d be awesome for this office job, but man, she should not be a music major.” I appreciated his honesty, but it would have been nice if he’d told me that when it was early enough to switch to a different major, like econ.

      1. John*

        Yeah, I actually heard y0u play. ;)

        That is too funny. Hopefully you’ve moved on in your life to the point where it is just a funny story to share.

        1. Noelle*

          Well, now I do something completely different and I get to play piano for my own personal enjoyment. So yes, no devastating impact!

    6. Dang*

      Wow. I wouldn’t even take that reference seriously at all, it’s pretty obvious that candidate worked for a psycho!

      This did happen to me once.. I contacted a former employer. He replaced my former boss who LOVED me (but i didn’t ask her right away because he was more recent and she no longer worked in the field) and he wrote me back a scathing email about how he has a list of things he was going to give me a talking-to about but then I resigned. I knew we didn’t like each other that much personally (it happens), but I NEVER got an impression from him that he even once had an issue with my output.

      I was devastated for a few days because I really didn’t see it coming.. and I’d never had anything but great references (every job I’ve had has commented on how glowing they were). But then I thanked him for his candor, told him I wished I could have had the opportunity to fix those issues, and got in touch with the woman he replaced. She was happy to give me a glowing reference, so it worked out.

      So OP, don’t push, just try to think of someone who knows you well and can vouch for you positively. And be glad you asked her first and she was honest.

  5. #5 submitter*

    I’m the person who wrote in with #5 and just wanted to post a quick update. I decided to talk to someone a couple days later and I ran into the hiring manager while on the way to her office, who said, “Oh hey, I was just going to buzz you.” Turns out they did want to move me to permanent and have enough work that they will be doing that now instead of in Sept. :) I wish they would have told me before posting the ad so I could have avoided some needless worry, but a good outcome anyway.

    1. Merry and Bright*

      That’s great news, OP5. I don’t know why hiring is so weird like that sometines but congratulations. :)

      1. Xarcady*

        Sometimes I think the company feels the temp employee is there and a done deal and all they have to do is hire them. Not realizing that seeing the ad might make the temp believe their job is in danger and start looking for a new job.

        1. The Bimmer Guy*

          Indeed…especially because a temp employee is *highly likely* to be scouring job ads for his/her next opportunity, so there was some major oversight and miscommunication. All the same, that’s excellent news!

          1. Joline*

            There’s no indication that it’s the case in this situation but in a more general sense – sometimes they have to.

            I started my position in a temporary position – I was backfilling for a person who was backfilling for a maternity leave. When a permanent position became available they had to post it because it’s union. And then I had to interview for the position I was already in.

            1. SerfinUSA*

              Yup. We just did this and ended up hiring the temp, but still had to jump through all the hoops with posting the ad and interviewing. I think sometimes it’s an out when a temp employee just isn’t cutting it, but still kinda-sorta expects they will be a shoe in.

    2. Cheesecake*

      It happens if a job changes, companies do interview job holder and a couple of other candidates. But doing this without informing you is a little annoying. Maybe it was a bit of miscommunication between manager and HR or whoever posted the advert? Anyway, congrats!

      1. OP #5*

        Yeah, I should have also clarified that they made me permanent AND are hiring another permanent person for my team because they’re moving my current teammate to another role. That was part of my worry because there’s no reason for there to be 3 of us.

        The manager I spoke with said they didn’t expect to start getting replies so quickly and she got swamped or she would have told me sooner.

    3. Mallory Janis Ian*


      As for the job posting, I wonder if there was some requirement for it to be posted? No matter now, though, right?

      1. Merry and Bright*

        This is strange timing. After I commented earlier, I found out this morning that some fixed-term contractors where I work are in a similar position. The organisation was trying to secure more funding before offering these guys permanent contracts. I asked my manager about the adverts they were placing. He told me they do this so they have some applicants lined up in case the current staff turn the jobs down. It might be a bit fairer to offer first and advertise afterwards. Still, it is one explanation of why this sort of thing happens. Also, it sounds like the employer didn’t count on the OP hearing about the advert.

    4. Goldenlicious Potatoe Skins*

      Great news!

      Now a bit of caution, be sure and find out what everyone in that role is making before you accept an offer. I had some friends go temp to perm, and they got burned big time. They were offered a 50 cents raise, bumpting their pay up to $8.00 an hour. Well 8 months later, as they were training a new hire with half their experience and reliability problems, he blurted out “What do you expect from me when I’m only making $12 an hour!?” They dug around a bit and discovered that everyone else who didn’t start as temp was making between $12 and $16 an hour depending on experience. : <

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        Uh yikes that means they were making less than minimum wage before the .50 raise…unless this was a long time ago

        1. Coach Devie*

          min. wage varies by state @stranger than fiction.

          But yeah, I’ve heard of things like that happening before, and that’s awful!

      2. OP #5*

        Yikes no good. That’s some shady business practice.
        My company posted the pay rate in the job listing and it’s the same as I make. I also attempted to negotiate at the time of hire and they looked into it and ultimately decided that they couldn’t be flexible on it, so I’m not too worried that I’m being taken advantage of.

  6. JAL*

    #4 – The honor society for my major is important for me to include because it gives benefits and is highly regarded in my field. We start two steps higher in the government in regards to pay. Look into it and see if there are any benefits to it.

    1. GOG11*

      This. I work at a University and the honorary for one of my areas provides a similar benefit. It also provides access to a free network/job posting site for members.

      1. Seal*

        Same here. Also, unbeknownst to me when I joined, my late father was a member; I found out while going through some of his stuff. I thought that was kind of cool.

    2. Christy*

      Yes but typically anyone with a high GPA (3.0 overall, 3.5 in major) or in the top third of their class starts two grades higher with the government. If you qualify for the honor society, you probably meet the requirement by virtue of your grades anyway.

      Google OPM superior academic achievement for more details.

      1. fposte*

        And giving benefits is great, but it doesn’t make it important to include for job candidacy.

        1. Artemesia*

          for a spanking new grad, it is, I think appropriate to include awards and memberships in professional honoraries and associations. Down the road not so much.

    3. Josh S*

      I was a Psychology (and business/econ) major in undergrad, and the Psi Chi society is more than a Who’s Who. So, yes, some of the Societies out there are legit. But before you hand over $85 (which is right in that zone of “just another fee that they have at college” to where it makes me suspicious), make sure you understand what the benefits are.

      Is it lifetime membership? Does it convey anything more than the fact that you are part of the society? Do you get opportunities to network? Attend conferences (possibly with a discount for being part of the society)? Does the society have a website that shows actual CONTENT (and not just an attempt to sell you on the idea of how ‘prestigious’ it is to be part of the society)?

      These are the things that will clue you in to the benefits (or lack thereof) of spending your dollars.

      1. Artemesia*

        And if it something like ‘Whos Who’ give it a pass. Nothing provokes laughter during resume screening like ‘Whos Who’. It is in my experience almost always only on resumes of weak candidates.

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          I fell for the ‘Who’s Who’ for high school students, and after I paid, got the book, and saw who else from my school was in it, realized it was a who’s who fell for their scam. That was the beginning of wisdom, when I realized good grades didn’t make me smart, and I’ve kept the book to remind me of that lesson.

  7. Ann Furthermore*

    #2: Alison is right — don’t push it, and move on. Be thankful that she was honest with you up front, and not bad-mouthing you behind your back. That would be much more harmful.

    I also agree with Alison that I can see where she’s coming from. Some people really, really hate it when others are late. My husband is like this. He hired a guy who was doing a great job, but he started out punching in at 7:02, 7:04, and so on, when the work day starts at 7:00. That kind of thing drives him nuts, and because of that, the guy was not making a good impression. My husband’s brother, who also works at the shop, pulled the guy aside and told him, “Dude, you have got to be on time or early every single day. Getting here a minute or 2 late really ticks off [Husband]. It doesn’t matter how good your work is. If you can’t be here on time, you won’t last.” And the guy got the message and started showing up on time, and is still working there. Now…I think my husband gets a little too worked up about this kind of thing, but at his job he’s the boss, so what he says goes. If someone is late once in awhile because of snowy roads, an accident, etc he’s understanding because that kind of thing happens to everyone once in awhile. But scooting in a minute or 2 late every day is a very big deal to him.

    Other people have pet peeves too that just send them over the edge. My boss is very easy going and laid back, but if you’re regularly late with your timesheet, it really ticks her off. So we’ve all learned to get that done before the submission deadline every week, no matter what. Again, if you forget now and then, she’s not going to rake you over the coals, but if you make a habit of it, you’ll definitely hear about it.

    So…all that is to say that this experience has provided you with a very good lesson. When you first start working for someone, or in this case attending their class, you should be on your very best behavior until you get a feel for how they operate. Don’t assume that because something is not a big deal to you, it’s not a big deal to anyone else either.

    I’m sorry that happened to you though…it must have been quite a jolt.

    1. UKAnon*

      Please ask your husband not to be that guy! There’s almost nothing worse for employee morale I’ve yet found than counting every single second. It means if you encounter the postman on the way out and sign for something now you’re running to be on time and turning up sweaty and breathless because that’s ‘more professional’ than being 2 mins late. In some places it means getting the bus an hour early and hanging round so you’re not 2 mins late. It’s the surest way to lose good candidates who know they can be trusted to do their work.

      Obviously this won’t be universal, but there’s few jobs where it genuinely matters, and this doesn’t sound like one of them.

      1. Dutch Thunder*

        I completely agree that it’s annoying for people to watch the clock that carefully, and not great for morale, but at the same time… One might argue that if signing for something on your way out makes you late, you’re leaving too late to begin with.

        1. UKAnon*

          I think it depends a lot. I’ve not been more than a half hour walk from work for a long time, so although I usually give myself a 5 main buffer, I can leave exactly half an hour in advance and be there on time, hence that being enough to make me late.

          If you know Ann gets a bus that’s a minute late once/twice a week but otherwise she’d have to leave an hour earlier, but Bob drives the same route everyday, you cut Ann more slack. Ditto if Carol’s driving country lanes as the only car whereas Dave has an inner city commute with lots of traffic – Dave gets more leeway.

          But really, even 2 mins every day shouldn’t matter if they’re otherwise a good employee. All kinds of things can make you 2 mins late.

          1. The IT Manager*

            But two minutes late every, means that this employee’s routine has him arriving late; he’s not experiencing a random two minute delay every day.

            1. Rana*

              But what do you do if the alternative is to take transit that would get you there 30-60 minutes early? Because some transit systems are just that bad.

              1. Dutch Thunder*

                You talk to your boss to explain the situation, and see if you can move up your start and finish time by 15 minutes. Any reasonable boss would accommodate that as much as possible. If that’s not possible, showing up a little late every day isn’t a solution that’s going to make you look great at work, but at least you’ll have explained why, and it doesn’t look like you just don’t care much about timeliness.

      2. Helena*

        It really depends on the job, though. Most office jobs can have people come in a few minutes late and it’s not a big deal, but Ann’s comment is specifically about a shop, where presumably staff has to be there on time to open. In those kind of jobs, a few minutes late can be a big deal, so her husband isn’t out of line at all in wanting people to be on time.

        1. UKAnon*

          IME, shops generally expect first staff to be there to set up, which are non-customer facing tasks, so as long as they’re done to time it comes back to trusting your employees. If you’re there for opening then there should be other people already there who’ve been setting up, and absent big days like the launch of a new, highly anticipated product, they’ll cope with the first two minutes.

          In any event, it might be employee was dropping stuff off then clocking in. Now he’s clocking in first, so he’s spending no more time on the job but he knows his boss doesn’t trust him to manage his time sensibly.

          1. Holly Olly Oxen Free*

            In my experience, the people who open shops generally are customer facing. I’m not sure what roles you are thinking of but in shops there are few jobs where someone does nothing customer facing, with the exception of maybe inventory and that is also usually done by all employees in smaller shops.

            But regardless, even if the shop opener isn’t customer facing, I think that just means it’s more important to have the ones who are be there on time. Otherwise there is no one there to help the customer. It’s really annoying as a customer to be let into a store and then no one can help you and you’re wondering “why not?” I also sometimes show up right at opening to make a quick purchase on my way to work. If I then have to wait 5 minutes in order to do that it’s annoying.

            I’m not a stickler on time in general. I think in most jobs adults she be treated like adults and left to get their work done. But I also worked retail for many years and if a store is supposed to be open at 7 then it needs to be fully functional and ready for customers at 7. I hate when I go to a store and they are booting up their computers at opening time. That should have already been done. I consider it a deadline, much the same as having a report ready to go for your managers meeting at 10:00, not 10:02.

            1. UKAnon*

              I was thinking either:

              a) Has to turn up to do opening before becoming customer facing
              b) Turning up for shop opening, in which case a) will be there for those two minutes.

              1. Elsajeni*

                Sure, but in most shops, scheduling and payroll is pretty tight — if you’re on the schedule, it’s because they have tasks planned for you to do. If you show up late, either your tasks are going undone, or someone else is covering for you while their tasks go undone. Honestly, I’ve never worked in a shop where the schedule was so tight that it couldn’t accommodate people being two or three minutes late… but five or ten minutes would rapidly become a problem, and even at the two-minutes level, I can’t fault a manager for saying “Hey, we can live with you being a little late when it’s an exception, but not when it’s every day.”

            2. Kelly L.*

              It’s more like, in shops a lot of times it’ll be staggered. So, store opens at 10. There might be a few people who come in at 9:30 to get it ready to open and then some other people who get in at 10 when it actually opens. The 9:30 people don’t go away when the store opens–they just get off half an hour earlier too, so let’s say they leave at 5:30 instead of 6. The store needs people there to get ready to open, but it doesn’t need all the staff for that.

        2. Brock*

          Yes, it really matter what kind of a job. I work in a busy document production team with shifts, and deadline measured in hours or minutes, where being late means lack of coverage or handovers…and then people from the previous shift (who may need to give a handover) have to stay late and possibly miss their train/bus going home….

          I’m a naturally running-late person, but I had to train myself out of it because it really does matter. The worst was (and is) regularly needing to remind my IT-guru husband (whose deadlines are typically measured in months), that I cannot be late regularly (and also I cannot book vacation if certain other people already have the same days). :(

        3. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

          Also, we don’t know how late the student was. I’ve had grad students very regularly show up 30+ minutes late. it is disruptive to my class and tells me that being there isn’t a priority. That said, I don’t know if it would influence a reference, because in these cases, they are late because they are putting their job first (these are night classes). I don’t care one bit what time my employees come in, as long as they aren’t late for a scheduled meeting without a good reason. I don’t understand bosses who fuss about 2 minutes when there is no business reason to do so.

          1. fposte*

            I’m thinking the late paper may have been the kicker here. If the assignment was late and the student didn’t let me know it was coming late (I don’t know if that’s the case here–I’m just saying how it could play out for me), that’s a big flakiness sign; throw that in with coming to class late (presumably more than once, but it’s not clear) and that’s a package I’d be wary of recommending. Additionally, if these recommendations are for post-graduate positions, the student would be unlikely to have been a freshman at that point, so the fact that I’d have to talk to her to explain that these things are a problem wouldn’t indicate good things either.

            1. Michele*

              My husband is a professor, and students turning work in late is a pet peeve of his. It usually isn’t a one-time thing, and it is typically indicative of other problems in class. He is forgiving if a student approaches him ahead of time and says that they have two other papers do that day and request an extra day or two, but he isn’t forgiving if they just don’t turn it in on time and act like it doesn’t matter.

              1. Aunt Vixen*

                Right? I don’t care for policies against any extensions under any circumstances ever, but when I was a grad student (all three times) and a TA, unannounced non-handing-in of assigned work was understood to be good for exactly no credit in all but the most convincing of circumstances explained later. (That is: in the time before cell phones, a kid doesn’t show up for my class and doesn’t hand in the assignment and I have no knowledge of her whereabouts, I mark her down for zero, but two weeks later she reappears and tells me she was admitted to the hospital from the ER on date X and been in there for Y length of time and here’s the documentation and here’s her assignment that she would have handed in on the day? Yeah, I’m going to walk back that zero. But a former colleague of mine got an e-mail five minutes after the start of her class’s final exam from a student asking to schedule a make-up exam. I was not along among those advising her to point to the syllabus where it gave the terms for make-ups and extensions and say Hell No.)

          2. Kate M*

            Exactly. It may have been multiple times at the beginning of the semester. And the the late paper, which seems unacceptable in a college setting (barring some emergency). A late paper could signal someone who will be late with client deliverables or other important things, so I can understand not wanting to refer this person. Plus, first impressions usually count for a lot more. It’s much harder to overcome a bad impression at the beginning of the semester, than to consistently be on time at first, but then be late one day because of traffic or something.

            I’ve mentioned this intern before, but I recently had an intern who was constantly 15-20 minutes late (paid hourly), even after I talked to him about it. I’m someone who is compulsively on time, and just don’t understand people who aren’t. So it really gave me a bad impression of him. That, combined with some other things, would make me not recommend him in the future.

          3. Beebs the Elder*

            I think it’s important that the LW here is a graduate student, presumably asking for references for post-docs or teaching positions. The undergrad years are a time for learning norms–a professor might not hold a late paper against a student if he or she learned from the experience and didn’t repeat it. But by grad school, especially the end of grad school, you’re expected to be a quasi-professional ready to enter the profession and being late AT ALL with a paper or to a seminar is really a red flag. At least it would have been in my program. A lot of things shift in grad school, like grades. At least in my field, anything less than an A- was cause for panic–it meant your work was not up to standard. A B would have been the kiss of death. I don’t know if that’s the case across the board, though.

            1. Beebs the Elder*

              I just realized the LW didn’t specify that this was a letter of reference, which is the norm for academic positions. It looks like he or she might just have wanted to list the person as a reference. If that’s the case, my comments above may not apply. I was assuming the person was headed into an academic field and was answering from that POV.

      3. Colette*

        I disagree.

        This is an environment where the boss cares if people are on time. Part of this job is getting there when your shift starts.

        If the new employee had a problem with that (I.e. bus schedule makes that difficult), it’s on him to talk to the boss about that. It’s not OK to just decide he can get there a few minutes late when that is clearly not the culture.

        1. UKAnon*

          Right, but it’s also ok to challenge the culture. It might be the culture to have sex on the office sofa, doesn’t mean you can’t question that.

          (Side note but when are we going to get an update on that??)

          1. vox de causa*

            I think the phrase “challenge the culture” is inappropriate for this situation. I see what you’re saying, but in this particular case it is a hot button for the boss. That’s not the hill to die on in that job – challenging what is being presented as a deeply-held value would be another negative for that employee. It would be better for the employee to find a way to be on time, as the guy did in that example.

            I worked for someone who was like that. One or two minutes, every day, and you’d get the axe. The work didn’t require punctuality, but the boss did and was never swayed to change her thinking. People who tried to make a case for leeway had a worse time of it.

            She would look at officially (and usually temporarily) adjusting someone’s set hours, due to schooling, or due to ongoing medical appointments, but someone who just can’t get to their desk when their shift started because they were unable to leave their house in enough time? Not excused. I think there is a difference between “challenging the culture” and presenting a case for an ongoing issue and requesting an accommodation.

            I think sometimes you just have to accept that it’s a condition for the sake of your career (that job, references for your next couple of jobs, etc). If it’s something you can’t live with, look for another position, but I don’t recommend challenging a boss over something like “but why can’t I be a couple of minutes late every day?”

            1. Mike C.*

              Sometimes you have to deal with it, but justifying it as the way things should be just because The Boss Said So doesn’t make sense. There are lots of petty, short-sighted, irrational people out there.

              1. Colette*

                There are some things where the answer is simply that the boss says so, and if the boss is the one paying you, your choice is to do what she asks or find another job.

                If I hire someone to clean my house at 10 on Monday, I don’t have to justify why I chose that time or hire that person again if they show up at 10:05.

                1. Mike C.*

                  Having to deal with it, and justifying it as the best and most reasonable course of action are two completely different things.

            2. LBK*

              I don’t think one particularly and unnecessarily stalwart boss is a good reason for other people not to question illogical rules. A hot button issue can still be a stupid issue.

            3. LBK*

              I think there is a difference between “challenging the culture” and presenting a case for an ongoing issue and requesting an accommodation.

              How so? Those sound pretty similar to me. Can you elaborate?

            4. Amy*

              I am so lucky I don’t work at a place like this, because I don’t have a car and bus routes in this city are terrible. The bus is SUPPOSED to get me there 5 minutes early… but it routinely is 10+ minutes late (25 the other day!) or even just doesn’t show up! Taking the previous bus would get me to work 40 minutes earlier, but what if that one doesn’t show up? It’s the only bus option from my neighborhood to work, so it’s not like I can take another bus, and it’s over an hour’s walk. It’s absolutely not a matter of being “unable to leave my house in enough time.” I am an extremely punctual person and am always at the bus stop 5-8 minutes before the scheduled time. It bothers me to be late, but sometimes I don’t have a choice. I think assuming that people who are a few minutes late are just lazy or unable to manage their time is unfair and is making a huge mental leap when missing vital information.

          2. Colette*

            Questioning involves talking to the person in authority, not just deciding that you can ignore it because it’s not important.

          3. Allison*

            I think there’s a big difference between people having sex in the office, and managers expecting people to start work when they’re supposed to. it’s true that an open, flexible schedule is the way to go in most office jobs, but if there’s a “start time,” it’s reasonable to expect people to adhere to it.

            1. Hiring Mgr*

              If the sex in the office can be timed such that you can still be ready for customers at 7:00 and not 7:02 or 7:04, then it should be fine.

              The problem comes when people decide they can have sex in the office at whatever time they want, with no repercussions. Sorry, but if the boss says sex in the office starts no later than 6:30, well, those are the rules.

      4. Ani*

        Most places I’ve worked will fire an employee for routinely being late, three minutes even (or especially. The chronically late seem to always be just a few minutes late rather than early).. It’s not about the boss being “that guy,” it’s about the employee being “that guy.”

        1. UKAnon*

          But Ann says he was doing a great job. Where two minutes late is a sign of a bigger attitude problem, deal with that problem. Where they’re otherwise doing the job well, treat them like adults or expect them to move on to somebody who will.

          1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

            Yes. It’s amazing how treating someone like an adult will motivate them to act like one.

            Also, when you fuss about someone being 2 minutes late (assuming that is no impact on the business) you can bet you’ll get some resentment the next time you ask them to stay 2 minutes late.

            I would rather my employees take that last two minutes to go back for their coffee, find their phone without rushing, or hug their kids than have a frantic person show up on time.

          2. Ani*

            There’s this saying: Showing up is 90 percent of success. Many, many jobs, in the United States anyway, routinely require — it’s literally a job requirement, and will play a role in your success in the position even if you excel at everything else — being there at the appointed start and regular work time. That’s just a fact.

            1. Fabulously Anonymous*

              It depends on the job. White collar office jobs that require employees to attend lunch meetings or work past “closing” time to finish a time insensitive project often allow those same employees a 2-3 minute window to begin the workday. Precise starting times are more common in blue collar positions, factory work, shops and schools.

              1. Mike C.*

                I love the bosses that scream over walking in a few minutes late, lecture you on “proper planning and time management”, then make you work over on projects that have to be completed at the last minute due to poor planning.

              2. bad at online naming*

                2-3 minute window?
                My industry (filled with white collar office jobs) usually allows people a 2-3 *hour* window. In fact, on my team right now is one person who gets in around 5:45am and one who gets in around 11am. It works.

                1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

                  Yep. We’re the same way. I mean, you can’t just not show up for meeting or appointments, but if there’s no reason to work specific hours, you are more than welcome to shift by a couple of hours here and there. Seriously, I cannot tell you how many times employees have told me that this has kept them from even thinking about looking elsewhere. It makes life less stressful in general, and I like working with happy people.

            2. Zillah*

              But we’re not talking about people not showing up at all. We’re talking about people showing up a couple minutes late. There’s a huge difference – and that’s “just a fact,” too.

            3. The Strand*

              Arriving 2 minutes late, when time is not critical, still counts as “showing up”. If time is critical (you’re not a surgeon arriving for an early surgery, a soldier arriving for your shift at the base, or about to arrive for a meeting) that’s something else. If you work for a person who is a clock-watcher, yes, arriving 2 minutes late occasionally will hurt your career. That does not mean that their clock-watching management style is actually efficient or will ensure loyalty from the workers. Those of us who like the ability to flex our schedules or occasionally get caught up in traffic or bus snafus, should not be lumped in with those who are perennially late and off their game. Alison has printed news before though about the perception that people who arrive early (or just before their bosses) and leave early, are thought of as more productive than those who arrive later (not necessarily late) and leave later. Which is crappy news for anyone with a circadian rhythm disorder, or who has a condition like ADHD that causes them to struggle with time.

              When (at the start of my career) I was expected to work until 11 PM one evening at my job on a rush project, was told to get some sleep and come in late, then was interrogated the next morning about why I wasn’t in earlier, you better believe they lost my loyalty, and their disturbed mentality became obvious to me. Prior to that I had felt great guilt any time my bus had gotten snarled in traffic and had me arrive at 8:36 instead of 8:30. But when I actually saw them talking out of both sides of their mouth – yeah. I realized I was only half the problem there.

              Likewise a contract where the manager on-site tried to pressure everyone into arriving at 6 AM on Saturdays and Sundays after a full work week. The on-site manager was neurotic and self-centered (while she was obsessed with her upcoming wedding, she had no respect for her contractors needing time with their families; this is also the person who also cut a contractor the day after his first child was born), and her attempt to make people work 7 days a week destroyed morale. People showed up, but they showed up at 8 AM, or 11, or whatever worked out for them.

              The United States is well known for its work ethic, and for many companies’ ridiculous adherence to “face time” and other perception-based measurements of how hard people are working, rather than actual measures of efficiency, and performance. Yesterday’s letter from the clockwatching nonprofit who wanted their young worker to work more hours for nothing (and told her to use a food bank so she could take the hit financially) reiterated how ridiculous, yet rigid, some employers are.

        2. Mike C.*

          Is this because most places you’ve worked at have a legitimate business need for absolute punctuality?

          1. Zillah*

            This – because there are professions where being on time is legitimately a huge sticking point (e.g., shift work or teaching), but there are also many professions where it is not.

      5. BRR*

        I also think with class it’s different than the office. Office jobs can usually be a little flexible. Class starts at a certain time and you can miss something (such as if housekeeping matters happen in the first couple minutes) and it’s distracting to the professors and other students to come in late.

        Also to the OP, you’re not going to change her mind.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          My favorite professor (I love the hard-ass but fair ones) gave a two-week grace period for people to settle into their schedules, and then she started locking the classroom door to physically bar entrance to latecomers. They could peer in the window all they liked, but no one was allowed to let them in.

          1. Persephone Mulberry*

            I wish more of my professors did this. There are a couple students in particular with whom I’ve shared a number of classes, and you can almost guarantee that they’ll come strolling in 30(!) minutes after the start of (the three-hour) class, every week. When we have semester-long group projects, I go out of my way to avoid ending up in their groups if at all possible, because I just can’t with that attitude.

          2. jag*

            A professor?

            Unless there was something extremely disruptive about having someone walk in late, that’s absurd. It’s grad school. People have lives and studies. If they’re late, they suffer for not getting the right info and perhaps even should be marked down is class participation is part of the grade, but to exacerbate them missing some of the class by forcing them to miss the whole class is nuts.

            ” it really bugged me how some people would wander in 10 minutes late all the time, usually with a coffee in hand. ” Let it go. It’s their problem.

            1. Artemesia*

              Class, especially a graduate seminar, is one place where being late impacts everyone in the group. Routine lateness is disruptive and as someone else noted, it marks the person as poison for group projects.

              1. AMT*

                Agreed. If anything, it’s less excusable to be late in grad school. By the time you have an undergrad degree, you should be able to arrive somewhere on time.

                1. Mike C.*

                  You guys act like they’re making the choice to be late. Have you never had a lab go on too long?

                2. Zillah*

                  I’m not sure that I see a correlation between “being on time” and “getting an undergrad degree.” Is that a thing that the latter is supposed to, like, teach you? Because if it is, my undergrad really messed up.

                3. The Strand*

                  Disagree. If you’re talking about a graduate student taking a class at a small liberal arts school, and holding down a TA or work-study job on campus, I agree with your sentiment.

                  My graduate school has always been a commuter school, and experienced tremendous growth in the last couple of years. We had serious traffic problems in the late afternoon and the evening, when most graduate level classes were held – it got better when a four way stop was installed. Everyone in my classes had another job they had to commute in from. My 4 PM statistics professor very kindly told us he understood that due to the timing of the class, some people would occasionally be late, but that as long as there was no disruption and everyone prepared, it would be OK. That certainly made me appreciate him more. Class did not fall apart.

                  I have a professor friend who does bar the door, but she works with undergraduates in a field (nursing) where timeliness is crucial, and it is a lock-step program where no one is supposed to be permitted to continue outside employment.

              2. jag*

                I don’t see how someone being late to a lecture impacts people much at all.

                What is the disruption in a lecture or even a lecture with some discussion? They flit across other students vision for a few moments. So what?

                1. The Strand*

                  Hopefully they’re not just lecturing at the students but actually engaging them in something more active, such as a discussion or group work. Whether we like it or not higher education is in much more flux than a lot of faculty members want to acknowledge.

              3. I live to serve*

                I just wrote an evaluation for an intern that we had this semester.
                He was surprised at the glowing review. He was also surprised that I noted his dependability and punctuality.

                It is a pleasure to work with people who are on-time. I have classes to teach, meetings, phone calls etc. That I can check in with my crew first thing and move on with my day and my responsibilities is no little thing.

                One to two minutes is no big deal but when that stretches to 10 to 20 that starts to becomes my problem. Then I have to start documenting and if I am documenting an employee that 2 to 5 minutes starts to become a problem because the employee has now made me into the “clock watcher” And yes consistently late at that point is late and I don’t care if it is 5 minutes or 20, I am documenting.

            2. A Teacher*

              Adjunct here, but no. Its not absurd. Do you know how disruptive it is to other students when you stroll in late to class? (I can say the same as a high school teacher.). Its even more frustrating when a student comes in late carrying their starbucks or McDonalds that they stopped to get on the way to class. If you give me a head’s up you will be a few minutes late, or you are a few minutes late every once in while, sure, but those that are a few minutes late EVERY SINGLE class, I find to be annoying and pretty self-entitled from experience.

              1. The Strand*

                To be fair, teacher, there is an outside chance the student is one of those grody Starbucks or McDonalds drinkers that doesn’t finish their drink in one sitting.

                I have even been known to microwave a cooled-down latte that I didn’t finish. I know, grody!

              2. jag*

                “Do you know how disruptive it is to other students when you stroll in late to class?”

                I don’t. I glance up and ignore it. This strikes me as something very very slightly disruptive unless people choose to focus on it, or are unable to maintain focus themselves. I guess I should sympathize more with people who are easily distracted, but frankly I think focus and attention are skills that are easily trained and improved.

                If other people are late to a lecture that’s their problem – they miss learning and maybe even get a reduced grade. But it only bothers me if I let it bother me. I don’t.

                1. jag*

                  ” are skills that are easily trained and improved.”

                  By MOST people. Not every person. Most people.

                2. ExJourno*

                  I have ADHD and am very easily distracted, but it never bothered me in college when people showed up late to class. I’d notice, realize it was irrelevant to the task at hand, and go back to listening to the professor.

                  What DID disrupt me in class: sitting behind someone who was goofing off on their laptop. Also, any time I could smell someone’s food. And yes, I can smell the cheap sushi you picked up at the cafeteria.

                  Look, people should try to be on time. You’re always gonna have better results that way, and I think everyone’s aware of that. But if someone’s tardiness isn’t causing an actual problem, why turn it into a big thing?

          3. Mike C.*

            This is incredibly shitty behavior on the part of the professor. I can’t tell you how many times I was late to a class because a previous lab kept me over, or there was long distance to travel. I’m paying to be in those classes, and so long as I’m not making an ass out of myself, the professor shouldn’t be either.

            1. Artemesia*

              This ‘I am paying’ and you are my servant goes over really well too. If someone has a serious issue — work will delay arrival or a previous class does (rare in grad school) then the person works that out with the professor ahead of time, they don’t just stroll in late because ‘hey I’m paying’ and you are here to serve me.

              1. Zillah*

                I’m not sure what your experience is that you think work or a previous class delaying arrival is rare in grad school, because that’s not my experience at all. IME, many people were coming straight from work or had classes before that on the other side of campus that could cause them to be a little late – and, with people coming from all over NYC, it wasn’t so uncommon for train or bus trouble to be a problem.

              2. Ellie H*

                Well, they are actually paying me which is more reason to be on time! Yet sometimes some life issue comes up, which is more common and potentially more serious when you are older (as graduate students tend to be . . . children, family, commuting issues, some mental breakdown because we are doing 3x the work usually considered feasible, etc.). Also, with few exception every one of my graduate seminars has ended late (oft. by half an hour or so) and professors often start 5min late too. Of course, punctuality is very important because it is a sign of respect, but it’s not always 100% this bright-line issue and it’s frustrating when professors clearly have no respect for our time, especially when this is manifested in a disorganized class. I have to admit I have a higher standard for undergraduate lateness to class bc rightly or wrongly, I feel there are fewer potential mitigating factors.

              3. The Strand*

                I don’t think Mike meant it to the degree that some students do. He’s not saying, “You work for me,” he’s saying that he invested money and time in the class, and he has shown up, and is showing good faith. My close friends who also teach, do generally consider non-traditional and motivated students fairly differently than those who are just there to mark time because Mom and Dad want them to go somewhere, anywhere. And as someone who has taught faculty members I have to say that students aren’t the only ones capable of conveying the “you are my servant” attitude, or worse, “I don’t need to listen to you because I already know everything”. Definitely an equal opportunity sentiment!

              4. Mike C.*

                Where did I say that the professor is my servant? Why are you putting words in my mouth?

                Paying tuition and having the appropriate schedule entitles me to be in that classroom. Locking the door is shitty, spiteful and unprofessional behavior that only serves to embarrass students regardless of whether or not the reason for being late is within their direct control or otherwise had time to “sort out beforehand”.

            2. puddin*

              You are an adult, you control your schedule. If you cannot or do not want to be late, leave the lab in time. Otherwise, be late and know how that impacts those around you. You cannot be late (frequently) and expect everyone else to be ok with that in this type of circumstance.

              1. De Minimis*

                You can’t just get up and leave a class when it’s running late. I know that used to happen to me too, the professor would insist on everyone waiting until they were finished. I also used to have the same problem with classes being far from each other on a hilly campus with a lot of traffic. We usually only had 10 minutes between classes and if the first one didn’t finish on time you often were late to the second.

                1. De Minimis*

                  Agree too though that in grad school that usually doesn’t happen, since it’s less likely for students to have classes that close together and also they will tend to be located in the same general area…

                  The bar is usually higher in grad school, so I can sort of see why a professor might be extra peeved at tardiness or late assignments.

                2. Chartreuse*

                  In the case of the classes being too far apart to travel between in ten minutes, it seems to me that it’s the student’s fault for signing up for those classes back to back. If they aren’t offered at any other times that semester, then take them in a different semester. If a professor is keeping students past the scheduled end time (and it isn’t the student’s fault for dawdling over the work), take it up with the administration. At the college I attended, administration seemed to take very seriously professors both starting and ending their classes on time.

                3. Zillah*

                  @ Chartreuse – Your comment actually really surprises me, because it’s completely counter to and out of touch with my experiences in two separate graduate programs (and, for that matter, my undergrad program).

                  It’s often not as simple as “take it in a different semester.” In a small program (which many grad programs are), there are plenty of classes that only get offered once every three or four semesters, and IME, even if the class is offered regularly, there’s often not a lot of leeway to just put a class off for a year and stay on track with your course of study. I’m not saying it’s not a problem to be consistently late to class, but saying “Just take it in a different semester” completely misses the point and IMO, comes across as either clueless or outright disingenuous.

                4. De Minimis*

                  Especially with the large numbers of students, fewer course sections, and lower funding these days, “take it another semester” can often mean “spend an extra year or two in school.”

                5. Chartreuse*

                  You’re right Zillah that I wasn’t basing my comment on graduate studies (I should have been more clear about that), but on undergraduate, where it would be pretty usual to be able to take classes at different times or different semesters (or at least one of the two).

                  I also left out the part where if it truly is impossible to take either class at any other time or any other semester, you take documentation which demonstrates that to the professors of both classes before the semester starts. You explain to the one that you are going to have to leave precisely on time each day and to the other that you may end up being a few minutes late each day. With a real documented reason that is presented in advance, most professors would not look at you as a flake or unreliable and would not mark you down.

                6. Zillah*

                  I mean… maybe? But 1) there many, many undergraduates who that won’t occur to and it’s far from the most important thing they’ll overlook, and 2) the level of formality you’re talking about would be incredibly out of sync at many schools.

                  Look, it’s not that I don’t think being on time is important. But, I feel like people who are really big on punctuality can get so caught up in the principle that they overlook the validity of genuine logistical concerns and lose sight of the people involved. It’s possible to say, “It important to be on time” while also acknowledging that there are both internal and external issues that make it difficult to do so.

                7. Nerdling*

                  All of the engineering students I lived with/hung out with had specific classes they had to take at specific times, yes, even as undergrads. Hell, I had one class that couldn’t be taken before your senior year and was required to take prior to graduation. There’s no way I would have put off taking it for a full year just because I had to take other classes just prior to or just following that one.

              2. Fabulously Anonymous*

                “If you cannot or do not want to be late, leave the lab in time.”

                So just up and leave chemicals laying around?

                1. Mike C.*

                  Well you can only clean up once you’re done with the experiment and you’re already late but the professor expects you to be there on time since he’s always there on time so do you spend more time cleaning up or not?

            3. Big10Professor*

              Basically, you are saying that the lab was more important than the class you were late to. I hear this from students every semester, and I don’t care why they are late, barring a real emergency. I’m on time to class every day, they can be too.

              1. Mike C.*

                I’m rather surprised that you of all people don’t understand why missing the end of lab class might be a little more disruptive than missing the first part of your lecture.

                Let me give you a little hint: you usually get your data AT THE VERY END OF THE EXPERIMENT. Why is this so difficult for people to understand?

                1. jag*

                  The other thing is, why do they even care? It seems rather petty to me. Yes, if done regularly it is disrespectful to the professor in the second class, and if the second class is group work, it’s a real problem for the other students.

                  But for students in a lecture class, harping on people not being late seems quite petty.

              2. Rebeck*

                For one entire semester I had a 10am lecture (pre-req for the Honours program I had to start the next year) at a building two large blocks off campus proper. I then had an 11am lecture on the far side of the campus, part of the standard structure for the other half of my double degree program. Uni convention was that classes started at 5past the hour and ended at 5 to to cater for such situations. However without fail the 10am lecture (300 people) ran through until 11 on the dot, and the 11am lecture commenced on the dot also, because “this is a compulsory subject so none of you have anywhere else to be. ” He forgot that we were all in double degree programs, somehow.

                And to add insult to injury, the 11am was on the fourth floor, and the lift was so old it would have taken longer than climbing the stairs anyway.

          4. Hiring Mgr*

            What happens if the late student knocks on the door consistently? Wouldn’t that me just as disruptive if not more? Or what if someone had to get up and use the bathroom? Could the late folks sneak in then?

            1. jag*

              Or picks the lock/slide the botl. LOL I might try that. And then say “Oh, sorry for the noise – the door seems stuck.” THAT would be disruptive. LOL.

        2. Allison*

          Absolutely. Even as a student, it really bugged me how some people would wander in 10 minutes late all the time, usually with a coffee in hand. I wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they were commuters who fought a daily battle with public transit or traffic, but the fact is, a lot of college students who lived on campus couldn’t be bothered to even try being on time.

          1. Mike C.*

            If you’re complaining about a beverage explicitly designed help people stay awake and focus in a classroom situation I really don’t know what to say.

            1. LBK*

              I think the implication is that they could’ve been on time but they stopped to get coffee, thus adding a few extra minutes to their commute.

              1. Mike C.*

                Perhaps, or the car accident happened long after the coffee was purchased. It just feels like B* eating crackers at that point – walking in with coffee to me means that you want to learn so badly you’re going to medicate yourself to ensure you pay attention.

              2. Ellie H*

                Yeah, I understand how people feel this way about carrying in coffee, but also your shoes are probably tied and you are wearing something presentable and you have all your schoolbooks with you, all of which takes more time than just racing out the door haphazardly to be as not-late as possible does. I mean, I admit I can be late to class sometimes, but I make my coffee into my travel mug first thing when I wake up and whatever makes me late happens after that. I’m not denying the perception of it though (esp. if it’s coffee you bought somewhere) and I recognize that it’s the perception of carelessness that rankles.

          2. jag*

            Why someone else being lazy/self-absorbed/whatever really bugs you is a question you might want to ask yourself. If their being that way actually hurts you, then bug on. But if it doesn’t, let it go.

            I’m not denying it’s disrespectful to the professor. Just commenting on what it means to other students.

        3. Ani*

          ! :) Oh my. There’s really an argument to be made that class start time is much more flexible than your work start time (especially if you work in an office where it’s clearly important either in the culture or with your boss that you be there on time). Classes — you’re the student/client paying for them. Work — it’s the way you make money, not the other way around. The OP’s situation is pretty shocking to me in the sense that, unless the professor really laid attendance out as a priority (and some do, in fact I can recall several college courses in which attendance alone accounted for some percentage of the final grade), then it seems a bit harsh to base so much of the assessment of the candidate’s skills on it. On the other hand, I’m always surprised at how many readers are so casual about work start times — especially when it flies in the face of so many jobs in the United States, you really can and will be fired for being late. Or it really will affect how your boss assesses your success on the job. There are jobs where it’s explicitly made clear that there’s flexibility in start times, but these tend to be salaried jobs, and for every one that there is, there are probably at least twice as many that make it explicitly clear start time is not a daily flexible casual thing.

          1. BRR*

            Rereading the letter it said an assignment was also late, and for that it depends on the scope of the assignment and how long they knew about it. Facts we don’t know and can’t really comment. Really in the end I think it comes back to the OP is not going to change the professor’s mind as that is the reality of the situation.

            I think work start times differ in terms of what the opinion is on here and how it is done in practice. I think on here people say they are against strict start times but that’s probably not how it is in practice (or it differs for different employees at the company. which I have seen). All speculation though with no facts.

            I always have an issue with saying a University is an employee of a student. Yes you’re paying, but I don’t think that enables you to do as you please.

          2. Chartreuse*

            Agree with you entirely about the classes and student being the client (ie the one paying somebody else to show up, not the one being paid to show up), at least at undergraduate level. But does this apply at the graduate level where a lot of times students are in fact being paid?

            Also, in the case the OP describes, an assignment was turned in late, which is a different thing than just being late to class.

            1. Zillah*

              There are plenty of graduate students who aren’t paid, especially at the master’s level (and those that are often work for it outside of class – research, teaching, etc) – and there are plenty of undergraduate students who get grants as part of their financial aid package. The line you’re drawing doesn’t make sense to me.

              1. Chartreuse*

                If the source of the grant is anyone other than the school itself, the student is still the client of the college (just like it does not matter who gave a passenger money for an airline ticket or even whether passenger borrowed money (credit card) to pay for it, the pasenger is still the client). And even if the source of the grant is the school itself, what that often amounts to is being given a discount on the usual rate for the service provided, which still does not change the fundamental nature of the relationship which is that the student is a client to whom a service is being provided in exchange for payment.

                1. fposte*

                  No, they’re not. Or at least, they shouldn’t be at any decent school, because what you’re describing is a diploma mill where payment is all that matters in whether you get the degree.

                  Money doesn’t get you out of obligations.

                2. Colette*

                  If you show up 10 minutes late for your airline flight, will you get on the plane? No. You are buying a trip at a specific time, and if you miss it, you miss it. The same thing applies to a class, or a play, or a concert.

                3. Mike C.*

                  Collette, the difference there is that the person at the gate will exchange your tickets, and they won’t treat you like an immoral piece of garbage just because life happens sometimes.

                4. LBK*

                  I think you hit something on the nose that I’ve never been able to identify about punctual people – the moral judgment that comes with being late. It’s not just that you’ve potentially inconvenienced them, it’s the feeling that lateness in and of itself is an immoral, sinful act and that you are a bad person for committing it, regardless of the practical impact of that lateness.

                  To which I say, get over it.

                5. fposte*

                  @Mike C–just checking here–this is about your discussion of how people treat lateness generally, right? You’re not saying the professor in this case is treating the student like an immoral piece of garbage?

                6. fposte*

                  @LBK–there was an interesting recent Captain Awkward discussion about this. The points I liked were the one you’re making–look, I’m not being late at you, it’s just an ongoing problem I have–and also the responding point that look, waiting for you gives me anxiety and distress which are also ongoing problems, and that needs to be respected too. (This was focused more on friendship, so there were several posters talking about how they’d worked that out with friends who had different relationships to the clock than they did.)

                7. Chartreuse*

                  Exactly, Colette, that’s my point. You miss the flight but that’s the extent of the problem. The pilot does not get to complain that he was disrespected by your missing the flight.

                8. Mike C.*

                  @fposte Yep, speaking generally here.

                  I think the prof in the letter might be a little harsh if there was only one late incident, but still acting within the realm of reasonable behavior. The fact that she made it clear that she wouldn’t be a good reference rather than just poisoning their future prospects adds a professional touch.

          3. Mpls*

            No – class start time is not more flexible than work start time.

            You may be paying tuition, but you are disrupting everyone else in the class (who are also paying tuition, by the way) by showing up late. I’m kind of sick of the argument that student = client/customer and that somehow requires the school to cater to them. You are purchasing the right to learn from educated teachers and have it certified you learned something. You are not purchasing the right to have the day follow YOUR schedule.

            1. Michele*

              Agreed. You may not want your money’s worth, but that doesn’t mean that you get to rip off the other students by interrupting their class.

              1. Chartreuse*

                It’s not always disruptive to enter a classroom late. At a lot of universities it is fine for students to get up and use the restroom and come back in; if that entrance isn’t disruptive, then neither is the entrance of someone who is arriving late.

                If you know it is disruptive in a particular set of circumstances, sure, a student should not come to class at all they think they will be late, out of respect for the other students. But a student skipping class still isn’t nearly as big a deal as many people want to make it. It’s much more like deciding not to show up for an airline flight. The plane will leave and passenger will be charged whether or not the passenger is on the plane. Similarly, the lecture will happen and student will be charged whether or not student is there for a given class. The airline pilot doesn’t get to be high and mighty and insulted that passenger chose to not take advantage of the ticket they bought and paid for. Professors shouldn’t get to be that way about skipped (or partially attended) classes, either.

                1. Magda*

                  I disagree. Someone using the restroom *usually* does not engage in the same unzipping, shuffling, reaching into bags, coat removing, unwrapping food (!) type of noise that latecomers generate.

                  It’s the same thing when people show up late to movies. I barely notice the people zipping in and out to take a bathroom break, but the ones who wander in 15 minutes late and putz around figuring where to sit, unwrapping their snacks, etc., annoy the heck out of me.

                2. fposte*

                  No, it’s not like that; if it were like that, nobody would ever bother using a professor as a reference, because nobody cares about the opinion of somebody you just bought stuff from. You’re not simply an individual or a consumer in a course–you’re part of a group learning experience where what you do matters to your classmates, and you’ve committed to performing certain tasks, the execution of which you will be judged in. If you’re having problem meeting those commitments, it’s not only fine but the absolute point of the enterprise for the professor to judge you on that.

                  Who the student pays doesn’t matter in the equation, any more than it matters that a judge gets money from the taxes of the people who appear before her.

                3. Chartreuse*

                  “You are part of a group learning experience where what you are doing matters to your classmates” That very much depends.

                  Are there some courses where this is inherently true? Sure. (I’m thinking for example of some humanities programs where there is no lecture, the group discussion is how the learning takes place; a case could be made that the discussion is less valuable if one of the contributors is missing) Are there some classes where the professor artificially contrives things to make this true? Sure. (I’m thinking of things such as a writing class where in the name of “collaborative learning” students are assigned to jointly produce an essay where neither the subject matter nor scope inherently requires multiple authors)

                  But there are plenty of other courses where you show up, listen to the lecture, do your own individual homework and get your own individual grade, or even show up to lab, conduct your experiment, record relevant data and get your grade (some labs especially at more advanced levels might inherently require collaboration such that present students might suffer when their fellow is absent, but there are plenty especially at the undergraduate level that emphatically do not). These situations where a student’s absence impacts only himself are very common; in fact they outnumber the former two, which I think justifies the generalization comparing course attendance to an airline flight.

                  If a student fails to take advantage of the learning opportunity provided, he/she is just as foolish as (if not more foolish than) someone who just decides on a whim they don’t feel like showing up for their $1200 transatlantic flight after all. But they aren’t disrespecting the professor or fellow classmates any more than the foolish passenger would be disrespecting the pilot or other passengers. They’re hurting only themselves. Or possibly not even hurting themselves. There are plenty of lecturers who simply repeat material that is readily (and more efficiently) available in textbook or other sources; a student might be making a wise use of time if they skip the lecture and rely on those other sources and use the time gained to work on getting their homework done to a high degree of excellence.

                4. fposte*

                  @Chartreuse–I didn’t say anything about respect, and you’re not describing any graduate class I teach, but I think we agree that the major person receiving consequences for this behavior is the student. And part of that consequence is the negative judgment of the professor, whether it’s expressed in a bad grade and/or a refusal to provide a recommendation.

            2. jag*

              If someone or even several people walking into a room and sitting down disrupts your ability to learn, you should try to get over that and learn to focus better.

              1. Magda*

                I don’t think coming in late is the worst thing ever, but this is just facile. It’s the responsibility of the person creating an unnecessary disruption to stop doing it, not the job of the other students to adapt to one or a few of their classmates’ disruptiveness.

              2. A Teacher*

                Seriously? Maybe because I teach school and adjunct, but have you taught students will focusing deficits, learning disabilities, or just need the ability to not be int erupted? Its also off putting when I’m trying to teach and John walks in 10 minutes late with his coffee. As stated above, once in a blue moon, whatever, but typically its more often than that. You often can’t discipline a college student for being late so often they feel there are no consequences and continue the pattern. Very frustrating to deal with.

                1. Chartreuse*

                  There’s a big difference between college (optional for student to pursue and paid for by student) and the schooling that precedes it (compulsory and not paid for by student). Let’s not confuse the two.

                2. Mike C.*

                  Why the coffee such a huge deal for people? It’s a beverage that’s been consumed since when, the Renaissance? For the express purpose of staying awake and maintaining focus? Something that might make your lecture a lot more meaningful?

                  It’s not like they’re pulling out a cigarette here, come on.

                3. Zillah*

                  Just a point – if you’re trying to be sensitive to students who struggle with focusing during a class, you might want to stop vilifying people who are late. IME, chronic lateness is A Thing for many people with AD/HD (and, for that matter, some people with mental illnesses – anxiety disorders and depression can manifest in ways that interfere with punctuality), particularly when they’re still young adults and are figuring out coping mechanisms.

                  I’m not saying that you’re out of line for wanting students to be on time, but “Think of the students with disabilities!” is coming off as a little disingenuous to me.

                4. jag*

                  ” focusing deficits, learning disabilities”
                  OK, they can’t get over it. I stand corrected.

                  The rest of us should learn it in college. It’s a skill. It’s not even a hard skill. And it’s a useful skill.

                  “Why the coffee such a huge deal for people? ”

                  Well, if it’s a black coffee no cream then yeah, it means they’re a hard worker. But if it’s a big mochachinno or something it reflects very poorly on their moral values and suggests they are lazy and don’t give a f&ck which pisses me off so much it interrupts my learning.

                5. Mike C.*

                  The number of espresso shots you could cram into such a sugary concoction is amazing.

            3. Chickaletta*

              Mpls, I agree with you. I don’t like the argument that the student can just do whatever the hell they want just because they’re paying. They still need to attend classes, turn in assignment, pass exams… If students were really the clients, then the professors would be asking the students for references, not the other way around.

              Sure, you can show up late for class in college. But does that demonstrate an ability to manage your time, show respect, and prioritize? In the majority of cases, nope, it does not, grasshopper.

              1. The Strand*

                Actually, the professors don’t ask students for references, they get evaluated by students. And if you don’t think those evaluations have a huge, huge impact on how much they get paid, and whether they continue on (especially if they’re an adjunct)… I am not personally fond of the idea of professors serving students as clients, but I am saying that there is a measure of reality in it.

                Evaluations are also crucial to many programs continuing to receive regional accreditation (regional is the only one that matters, unless it’s a specific professional one – for instance, in the American South, it’s SACS).

          4. Allison*

            I disagree. For one thing, while it’s feasible for someone to start their work at any time as long as they meet deadlines and arrive at meetings on time, class starts at the same time for everyone. If you miss the beginning, you miss it. Also, even if you aren’t *that* disruptive (at my school it was normal for people to slip out to use the bathroom during class), it’s pretty disrespectful to the professor, and to your classmates who did make the effort to be on time.

            I just don’t understand people who are almost always late for stuff.

            1. BRR*

              Exactly. Class is a group thing, if your work is independent and it’s not affecting anybody 5 min won’t hurt. Plus a class is shorter than the work day.

            2. The Strand*

              ADHD. And no, I’m not kidding. One of the people I know who is almost always late, to the point where people lied to him about actual start times (tell him to arrive at 1:30 if he’s needed by 2:00) finally got diagnosed with ADHD in middle age.

              1. Mike C.*

                Double this. It’s a real medical condition, but like all sorts of other mental issues, people just like to blame it all on a lack of personal responsibility.

                I was diagnosed in the middle of college, and the meds changed my life.

                1. Zillah*

                  Ditto to both of you.

                  I get that my being late is an issue, and I’m always working on it. I don’t blame people who are bothered. What I do mind, though, are people who either insist that it’s easy or that it’s indicative of some moral failing on my part. It’s possible to make the point that punctuality is important without attributing moral shortcomings to someone who’s struggling with it.

                2. The Strand*

                  Yes — the “moral failing” and “personal responsibility” guilt trip is not fair. There’s a difference between someone who is going out of their way to disrespect a specific person or situation by showing up late, and someone who constantly has trouble with time.

            3. Mike C.*

              I love the “make the effort to be on time comment”.

              “Sorry professor, I’ll try harder not to be behind a car accident on my way to class next time! I didn’t mean to be so disrespectful!”

          5. Snargulfuss*

            Rather than comparing class start time to work start time, I think a better comparison is class start time and work meeting start time. You don’t just get to wander into meetings whenever you feel like it, you haven an obligation to the team to be there. I’ve taught college courses on and off over the years, and guess which students are always the ones asking for lenience when they miss deadlines or turn in incomplete assignments? The ones who are late to class and miss announcements and updates.

            1. jag*

              “You don’t just get to wander into meetings whenever you feel like it,”

              Depends on the nature of the meeting. If it’s a largely one-directional communication, and especially if it’s a large meeting, lots of people do. Or even skip it.

          6. The Strand*

            I would argue that most of AAM’s readership is either in exempt positions, or in administrative roles, or in management positions (whether of a blue collar or white collar field). Fewer of us are in the jobs that are explicit about you being fired if you clock in late.

      6. Ann Furthermore*

        Here’s the thing. My husband is never, ever, ever late. Ever. We’ve been married for 10 years, and together for 12. After I submitted this comment I tried to think of a time when he was late, and I swear I couldn’t. When we were dating, if he said he’d pick me up at 7:30, the doorbell would ring at 7:29. He is the most punctual person I’ve ever known.

        So, in his view, he’s not expecting anyone to do anything he wouldn’t do himself. He’s always on time, so his expectation is that others will be too. Like I said, the occasional traffic jam or bad weather is not a big deal, but the chronic minute or 2 late is a much different thing, at least in his eyes.

        Also, for context, the “shop” is a machine shop. They do custom metal fabrication. So it’s a blue collar environment, where being on time is something measured in minutes, because the shop rates, overhead, and all the rest of it are driven by people running the machines and manufacturing parts.

        Like I said, I think he’s too much of a stickler for this kind of thing, but he’s the boss. I’m also pretty sure I wouldn’t last very long working for him. I have an office job, where no one really cares if I’m not at my desk at the stroke of 8:00.

        1. Artemesia*

          I was surprised that everyone seemed to think that the ‘shop’ in question was a store as shop, in the US at least, is the term used for an auto shop or machine shop. I can’t remember the last time I heard someone refer to a store as a shop. We shop and there are shopping malls. But when someone refers to ‘my husband’s shop’, it is almost always going to be a machine shop of some sort.

          1. Kelly L.*

            I’m also in the US and have heard both…if and only if it’s in reference to a small mom-n-pop place. In my experience, a big store is only a “store,” but a small store could be either a “store” or a “shop,” and when paired with “my husband’s,” it made sense as a small store.

          2. UKAnon*

            I did not know that. Any vendor of goods is a shop, what you’re describing would be a garage.

            C’est la vie.

            1. Artemesia*

              ‘Shopkeeper’ ‘Shopgirl’ very UK. I have many relatives with small retail stores — none of them refers to them as the ‘shop.’ It is really not common in the US.

            2. nona*

              Here, a garage is just the place where you park.

              …And there are regional differences in the US and this is going to turn into tl;dr!

          3. The IT Manager*

            Yes. I am American, and I was totally picturing a auto repair-type shop, and not a store. “Shops” in the UK might be what I would call a store if what I learned from British TV and movies can be trusted.

          4. FD*

            I dunno, we use “shop” to refer to places where you can buy goods too in my area.

        2. Allison*

          I’m a stickler for it too, and while I try to be understanding of people who try to make it but fall at the mercy of a freak traffic jam or delayed train, it drives me batty when people can’t be on time for stuff. It came from my dad, who would get grouchy if we didn’t leave the house when he wanted to leave, whether he was bringing my sister and I to work with him and needed to be there at a specific time, or we were leaving for a vacation and he just wanted to stick to a schedule. It came from my mom, who learned from her dad that you should always give yourself more time than you think you’ll need. It came from my dance teacher who would give us grief when we were even a few minutes late. It came from years or theater where you were expected to be early for rehearsal, “on time” was late. I learned that it’s polite to be on time, disrespectful to be late, and rude to keep people waiting.

          These days I do try to calm my time anxiety a little, at least for things that aren’t time sensitive. I try to get to work by a certain time and I try to get to parties on the early side, but I don’t stress about it too much if I leave later than I wanted or the subway gets stuck. I once had a major shit fit after getting stuck behind a truck that had stopped on a one-way street to make a delivery when I was on my way to pick someone up, and I think that shit fit was one of the reasons he broke up with me, so it was a wake-up call to calm the eff down. BUT for anything time sensitive – dinner plans, dance class, movie, show, or even someone picking me up at a certain time, I still aim to be early and I do care about being on time.

          1. jag*

            I get very annoyed at work when people are late for meetings and it wastes my time. I don’t care much if they are late for a meeting and it doesn’t waste my time (such as a meeting that starts without them and they won’t contribute much anyway.)

            Certain people tend to do both, but logically my ire should be reserved for the former, not the latter.

        3. Windchime*

          I used to have a job at an apple packing warehouse, way back in the day. There were two lines running, and every 30 minutes we would rotate positions. The lines started up at 7 AM sharp, and if someone was late then that meant that either the manager or assistant manager would have to work the line in your place, or that we would just have to do without that person and the entire team would have to work harder.

          In situations like that, being late by a minute or two on rare occasions would be overlooked. But for people who constantly stroll in several minutes (or more) late, it’s a huge hardship for the rest of the team. Maybe not so much in white collar work, but definitely in some situations for blue collar.

        4. The Strand*

          I think that’s unfortunate, as it sounds like he probably is a stickler all the time and not merely on the job.
          I try to arrive early for meetings all the time, but as the first person there a lot of the time, it always surprises me when people apologize to me for being 1-3 minutes late. That’s not going to interfere with our having a productive meeting at all.

          1. Ann Furthermore*

            He has lightened up in the years we’ve been together. Or rather, I should say, we’ve both compromised. For personal things, he has lightened up and doesn’t get riled up if people are 5 or 10 minutes late (unless it’s truly time-sensitive, like going to a movie or something), and I’ve worked to make my own personal definition of “punctual” less fluid. Ha. But when it comes to work, he’s a real hard-ass about that kind of thing.

            1. The Strand*

              He’s the boss, and as long as he’s really clear about how and why it impacts the business, I think it’s a lot fairer and easier to follow, just like someone who works in a more flexible workplace who is very precise with time would need to adjust to the needs of that workplace.

        5. My Fake Name is Laura*

          Is your husband aware that he isn’t the default human that all other humans were cloned from?

      7. DaBlonde*

        Actually, if punctuality is a quality the boss values, that’s fine, but he needs to communicate it and not let it fester.
        Also, make sure you are using the official company clock or something similar. I had a boss that scolded me because I was punching in late by her watch even though I was 3-5 minutes early according to the official time clock. I pointed out that I was early by the official clock and she rebutted with, “I don’t care, you are still late by my watch.” so I started punching in 10 minutes early and that made everyone happy.

    2. Mike C.*

      Unless there’s a business need, watching the clock like that is incredibly irrational. Just because other people have pet peeves that send them over the edge doesn’t mean they should be accepted or treated as “ok”. Just because he’s the boss doesn’t mean that his word is the best decision. That’s an almost worse attitude to have.

      1. Ann Furthermore*

        Well, in his case, I think you can make the argument that there is a business need. He runs a machine shop, so he needs people to be on time so they can be on the machines, making parts, when they’re powered up and ready to go. In addition, if it’s a complex part that requires 2 people to fabricate, if you’re late, then not only are you not working, your co-worker can’t work either until you get there, which is also costing money.

        For him, I think the time sensitive nature of the work he does reinforces his rather compulsive punctuality. Plus, as a machinist, he’s an extremely precise person, because he has to be. He has to manufacture things in accordance with specs, with a margin of error of something like 1/10,0000th of an inch, or something insane like that. So when you have to be so exact, that tendency is going to spill over into other parts of your life, and be reflected in your personality and habits.

        When he remodeled our kitchen, when he hung the pantry doors, they were off by about 1/16th of an inch. No one other than him even noticed, but he did, and it drove him crazy. I finally told him to take the doors off and re-hang them to his satisfaction, otherwise, it would bug him for the rest of the time we lived in that house. So he did.

    3. The IT Manager*

      he started out punching in at 7:02, 7:04, and so on, when the work day starts at 7:00.

      There’s a difference between being a jerk enforcing an arrival time rule that is so unforgiving that people have to arrive quite early every day to avoid a single late arrival, and wanting people to be on time. What the commenter described here is an employee who regularly a couple of minutes late, then a couple of minutes later, etc. If you’re arriving “late” (even a few minutes) everyday or nearly everyday then you’re not giving yourself enough travel time to get to the office. (Someone punching in also sounds like someone who not an exempt employee with a flexible schedule.)

      * If this is because a form of public transportation that only runs hourly and your choices are 55 minutes early or 5 minutes late every day then I recommend talking to your boss about changing your start time slightly. But don’t just be late everyday and assume it’s okay. Have a talk so that what used to be 5 minutes late is now considered on time.

    4. Coach Devie*

      The last traditional job I had before going solo had the slowest computer system to log into on the planet. Also slow computers all over the office (you could log in to punch in to work on any computer) but if the computer was shut down, or not logged into the system that was used for the time clock, it could take as much as 10 minutes to get into. Sometimes longer.

      This was ALWAYS a problem. My punches were often a few minutes after the start time (as were a few other peoples) and we got shit about it a lot. Arriving 20 minutes early worked SOMETIMES but not always.

      We were THERE, often answering phones, questions, etc, while waiting for our workstations to turn on (even with notes on them to not shut them down, often times someone was still shutting them down at night)

      People who have an issue with 1 minute or 2 minutes late are weird to me.

      I love cultures that are flexible enough to allow their adult employees to manage their own time if it wasn’t a detriment to the business (this of course didn’t apply to retail establishments or places where the customer base expects to be able to call at 8am and get an answer) but in other roles, a flexible culture lends itself to productivity!

    1. Elysian*

      There are others too, though, that I think are less useful. In undergrad I was asked to join Omicron Delta Kappa and thought it was a similar scam. I threw out the letter and eventually some administrator approached me and was like, why haven’t you paid the fee for this? I was paying my way through college and didn’t have a hundred bucks to toss as such things. I think the administration eventually paid for it for me. In her autobiography, Sonia Sotomayor actually has a similar story about thinking Phi Beta Kappa was a scam. For what its worth, Omicron Delta Kappa hasn’t been useful to me at all and I’m glad I didn’t pay for it.

      1. Anonsie*

        I keep getting notices about Phi Theta Kappa from the cc I’m taking postbac classes, apparently it’s the two year school’s version of PBK but there’s considerably more debate about whether or not it’s actually as good or if it’s basically a scam.

        All I know if I want them to stop contacting me already.

        1. The Strand*

          It’s not a scam. It’s been around a very long time. They have some good summer programs and leadership opportunities, though how worthwhile will depend on your specific school and how engaged it is in PTK activities. I’ve never been a member but I have met a few student leaders from the group.

          1. Anonsie*

            Not a scam scam like fake, but more like a waste that purports to be more useful than it is, especially since a lot of us taking classes at 2 year schools are doing it to supplement the work we already have and things like organizing and leadership opportunities are not something we need or want.

            1. The Strand*

              It is a YMMV thing, in fact all kinds of things for nontraditional students are going to be YMMV… some of them will get a lot more out of student activities and societies than others based on where they want to go next. It’s really not about PTK, per se, but any society or group.

              The PTK chapter I knew about did a lot of volunteer work in the community, and sponsored an event open to all students. They invited several business and government leaders in this city and from the region to come speak; most of the speakers originally started out at community college, then kept going.

              I think that was a positive, helpful development for students on campus, to get to meet those people and ask them questions. Again, it’s going to depend on what that chapter actually does and what you value. I value the ability of a recent grad to have strong speaking skills and project or event management experience, which is what these students were developing.

        2. Emmy*

          I got those Phi Theta Kappa invites as well, and also something called Phi Kappa Phi from my current 4-year institution. And also constant constant emails from the Golden Key society. I always ignored them because I thought they were just trying to get that precious 80 bucks. Is it worth it to pony up for any of these? Like, networking-wise? I’m about to graduate and will start a PhD program in the fall, so it’s not like I can take advantage of any undergrad-focused activities.

          1. The Strand*

            Yes, they can be worth it (as stated above) if they’re active and you have the time to commit, but you’re on the way out. Since you are about to go into a PhD program, I suggest you save your money, and instead join the PhinisheD web community, and professional organizations in your field. That will help you out a lot more.

      2. Artemesia*

        Phi Beta Kappa is pretty well known by almost everyone and is a significant enough achievement that most people in Academia keep it on their Vita forever. On a traditional resume perhaps not. It is not like the grade inflation that means almost everyone graduates with latin honors — it is usually very selective and the grade point is just the starting point as membership is limited to X number of students. Even those with 4.0 GPAs do not necessarily get in — and many places the quality of the liberal education i.e. the courses you have taken are also critical.

        I think honoraries for a profession may not be known but may signal level of commitment to the profession. Being a member of a professional association in one’s area is certainly useful when starting out, again as a signal that even as a student you were already professionally engaged.

        1. fposte*

          I think it’s known by hirers and faculty academia, but its popular awareness has diminished (I checked with a random grad student who thought it was a fraternity); I think its profile peaked in the Great Books era.

          At least with Beta Phi Mu nobody in the field is going to think you put your fraternity on the resume.

    2. Paige Turner*

      Huh, I know I didn’t pay for PBK- I think you can pay and get some sort of trinket with your membership, but you’ve still earned the membership whether you pay or not. I’ve never given them any money (underemployed with student loans, yo) and they still send me mail. Just my experience.

    3. Christy*

      PBK isn’t like the other honor societies. PBK carries a real weight to it, whereas the subject-based honor societies don’t necessarily.

      Am I really off on this topic? PBK is a big deal. Maybe my opinion is skewed because it was founded at my undergrad, but I’ve always thought PBK actually mattered. (I’m not a member, fwiw.)

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        It maybe depends on your field and how far out from your undergrad? I wouldn’t care at all if one of my law school intern applicants had that on their resume. The grades it takes to get in? Sure. But actually being in it? I couldn’t care less about that. Not a big deal for me or anyone I work with.

      2. fposte*

        Even PBK value has declined precipitously, I’d say. A lot of people don’t even know what it is.

  8. CrazyCatLady*

    #2 I agree that you need to just let it go and consider yourself lucky that the professor was honest with you.

    Based on some connected, it seems like some people agree to be a reference but don’t actually provide a good reference. Is there a good way to find out if a reference would be a good, before using them? When I’ve asked potential references, I usually ask if they’d feel comfortable being a good reference for me, but maybe that’s not enough.

  9. KT*

    #2, appreciate the gift your professor gave you. She was honest and upfront about the kind of reference she would be. She’s not being unreasonable; you corrected the behavior, but required coaching to understand it. Of course you’ve grown and matured since her class, but she only has that class to refer too.

    You need references that are uninhibited in their praise for you, not someone who would have to couch her recommendations.

  10. some2*

    I think the answer to #4 is really, really dependent on your industry. I joined PBK as an undergrad and it was a huge benefit to me – for networking, for getting into grad school, and for getting jobs after college.

    After I got my MLIS, I was invited to join Beta Phi Mu, which is the librarian honor society – and it was worth every penny. Again, major networking events (you should really look into this – if your society is a national one, it’s possible that your local chapter doesn’t do networking events, but if you’re going to move, other chapters in other places might be more active and valuable for your job search). I also got my current job because my boss is also in BPM so that was a huge plus on my resume. In a super competitive field like mine where graduates are plentiful and jobs are scarce, I think it helped give me something extra.

    As always, your mileage may vary.

    1. Judy*

      I was involved in both Tau Beta Pi, the engineering honor society, and Pi Tau Sigma, mechanical engineering honor society, during my undergrad. On our campus TBP had some service projects, and lots of events with industry speakers. They even had an evening session one night during the on campus job fair that was members only. I was much more involved with PTS, we did a lot of service projects, outreach to the local high schools, etc. We also ran a student lounge in the ME building.

      After graduation, PTS hasn’t really been a factor, but TBP actually has a jobs board that seems like it would be useful if we wanted to relocate when job searching.

  11. Darcy*

    #3: As someone who writes job descriptions and has to explain to the hiring managers what they should include in the years of experience required, here’s what I always tell them: That is the typical number of years it takes someone to be able to perform the job. The person you hire doesn’t have to have that many years of experience if they’ve been able to pick things up quicker. So as Alison said, that’s a general rule and if you believe you can do the job, you should apply for it.

    1. Michele*

      I think that if an internship is relevant, it should be included. The point of a resume is to get an interview. The inteviewer can decide if they don’t think the experience was enough.

  12. LizB*

    Wait, employers care about Phi Beta Kappa? Should I be putting that on my resume? (I’m two years out of college and currently searching for my second post-college job, if that matters.)

    1. Olive Hornby*

      I would–I put it on my resume in my first few years out of college, and though I’m sure it didn’t make the difference, interviewers did comment on it positively.

    2. hermit crab*

      I did, in your position! I think at the very worst it’ll be neutral, so it can’t hurt.

    3. Leah*

      Yes, absolutely! That’s one of the only, maybe even THE only, honor society that actually means something.

      1. De Minimis*

        In accounting Beta Alpha Psi can be important, if only because the campus recruiting pipeline often goes through them. After college, not so much.

  13. An advising professor*

    #2- She did you a favor. If you aren’t going to give an exceptional recommendation, the right thing is to tell the student before submitting the letter.
    I get asked for so many recommendations (b/c I’m the composition instructor, and the advisors point their hopeful med/dental-school students back my way), and I’m actually going to borrow her language. She’s preserving her reputation, essentially, by being picky with whom she recommends. And she’s letting you know that the letter wouldn’t speak to your advantage. Believe her!

    1. Chartreuse*

      Agree that it is good that she at least had the decency to tell the student in advance that the recommendation would not be favorable. But I question whether the professor might be overly harsh to so severely penalize some initial lateness in a student who ended up shaping up. Perhaps there is more to the story than we are being told, but on the face of it, I would consider it quite unreasonable to so severely penalize a student who was late to the first class or two and turned in the first assignment late, but then shaped up and never did either thing again (and when I say never again I do mean subsequent semesters, not just that semester).

      (All of that said, when a potential reference is showing negativity, whether deserved or not, the unfortunate fact is the only thing to be done on the student’s end is to drop that reference and look for a different one)

      1. LisaLee*

        I think the real problem was that the professor needed to talk to the student before he shaped up. It’s one thing to be late once and proactively apologize for it, its another to be late (apparently both to class and with work) and need the professor to tell you its a problem before you fix it.

      2. Hellanon*

        I think lateness in young college students is one thing – my first-year students are pretty overwhelmed, and while I won’t make classroom-level allowances for them, I don’t particularly worry about being late = not interested at that point. My 2nd year students, though, have largely figured out that not being in class means missing critical stuff, and will email me if traffic are delaying them. For a grad student to make the decision to be late for class and worse, to turn in an assignment late, under the working theory that it wouldn’t make a difference – that’s evidence of poor judgment. When I write recs, I look at it the same way…

        1. fposte*

          Oh, God, I missed that this was a grad student. Yeah, that’s going to make a recommendation a problem.

        2. Chartreuse*

          Sure, and that’s granted, that the grad student did exercise poor judgment and was legitimately put into the “unreliable” category, but what would it take to get out of that category? How long before that instance of poor judgment is sufficiently far into the past that all the good judgment that has succeeded it outweighs it? Two semesters? Three? Four? Are they to carry that stigma for life?

          1. fposte*

            I’m perplexed by your indignation here. First off, it’s not going to follow the OP at all because the professor isn’t giving a recommendation, so it’s done right there; that’s why you tell the student if you can’t give a good recommendation, because then the reputational issues *don’t* follow them (this didn’t even seem to have had grade consequences). And even if the professor gave a recommendation and mentioned this, the OP wouldn’t be using that recommendation for the rest of her life. Or hopefully for more than about a year.

            Now of course, somebody can make mistakes in a job or a grad program that are then balanced out by later good performance. How much work it takes to balance it out depends on the mistakes, the subsequent good performance, and who’s looking at it. If I’d had the OP in a second class and she was exemplary, that would be enough to balance out some mistakes in an earlier class but not necessarily all of them; it depends. But if I didn’t have the OP in another class, the record from this class is what I’d base my decision to recommend on.

            You want to talk about stuff that follows people for life, try criminal records, because they’re *not* erased by subsequent good performance, so you can be dogged by that “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?” box forty years after you got light-fingered at the CVS. But “You were kind of a flake while you worked with me so I can’t recommend you” is a proportionate response.

            1. Chartreuse*

              I think tone may not have come across well in how I wrote, if you are interpreting this particular comment as indignant (I did start out rather indignant, not so much at the professor but at Alison’s unqualified remark that a person would go in a particular category – with no acknowledgment that they could ever expect to get out of that category – I thought that highly unfair). But by the point that I wrote the comment your reply is under, I was more curious than indignant, genuinely asking – how long?

              And I do appreciate your indulging my curiosity by saying that in your case most things such as lateness would be balanced out by just one additional semester of good work. I was wondering and that helped. Thank you!

              And yes I understand that criminal records follow a person for life but …. are you really trying to equate being late to a *crime*? Wow.

          2. Observer*

            It doesn’t really make a difference. AT THIS POINT, the professor knows her as someone is unreliable. If the OP continues to work with the professor and shows positive change, then the professor’s assessment should change. But that’s not what is under discussion right now.

      3. An advising professor*

        Chronic lateness absolutely stands against a student. I will not give a favorable review to someone who’s always coming into my class late.

    2. Nutty Professor*

      It’s nice to see that someone else was impressed with the language, too. I was thinking how useful the specificity of the feedback was, and her response will remain in my mind for the future.

      It’s a long, complicated story, but the last time I had to refuse, I wavered on the specificity because it was behavioral/work ethic/quality of work, and I was worried they’d take it personally and escalate it. It was my belief that the grade made a stronger case on its own than my detailed and honest assessment would have. In response to the rejection, they demonstrated behavior that further supported my assessment.

      I still don’t know if it would have been better or worse to call them on it- as it was, I’d felt strongarmed by this person the entire semester. (Yes, in retrospect, mea culpa. Just remember, I’ve cut out a lot of detail here.) Then, they were attempting to strongarm me into writing a letter that in my professional opinion, I could not write. At the time, it just seemed smarter to refuse, rather to engage further. And in response, more bullying behavior- so possibly the right call. I guess the lesson is, if someone refuses, take them at their word. They’ve seen the long-view.

  14. insert pun here*

    #3 — yes, include your internship (just make sure it’s clearly marked as such), especially if you’re in a field where internships are normal/expected. At my employer, the initial screen is done by HR staff, and they will flat-out refuse to pass on a candidate who doesn’t have the required years of experience — but internships count. The hiring manager will want to know more about hours, duties, etc, but for the purpose of getting past an initial screen — include it.

    1. Lia*

      Yes, our hands are tied in the years of experience required arena, but HOW we count it is not quite as stringent in most cases (unless the posting says something like “x years of experience in y role”, which is quite uncommon). I can personally think of three cases where internship or student employment experiences counted for the required years.

  15. Chartreuse*

    #2 “In a lot of contexts, that’ll put you in the ‘not super impressive’ category.”
    Permanently and irrevocably? Surely people can change and do change. And if they do, shouldn’t they be re-categorized?

    1. The IT Manager*

      Yes, but this is a grad student possibly for only a semester (3 months) who didn’t realize that being late to class and with assignment was a bad this until it was pointed out to her. It is the grad student who is accessing herself as reliable. If she didn’t realize that being late in grad school was a bad thing, there may be other areas where her assessment is off including describing herself as reliable.

      1. Chartreuse*

        Well, that is a good point that one semester isn’t a very long time to demonstrate a lasting change of habits. The letter doesn’t say how long ago the class was where the lateness occurred; I was reading it as a thing of the past. But if it was the immediately previous semester to when they made the reference request, then yes, the student is on the way to being recategorized, but not there yet. However, if the class where the lateness occurred was several semesters ago though and there have been no recurrences, I could see why the student might be surprised at the professor’s assessment.

        1. doreen*

          I could understand the surprise if the OP had taken multiple classes with this professor- but I’m not sure that’s the case. Something about “I was late with an assignment, and to her class in the beginning of the semester” sounds to me like there was only a single class with this professor. In which case it doesn’t really matter how long ago the class was, if it was the only experience the professor had with this student.

          For those who went to very different universities that I did – as an undergraduate , I generally had a different professor for each course. I think there was one I had twice. Had I finished my MBA, it would have been much the same.

    2. KTGab*

      Presumably, as the student works and finds new references, the professor won’t be needed past the first job, so this becomes a moot point within a few years in the professional world.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Well, they can’t be recategorized by a reference who hasn’t worked with them since. The reference’s job is to speak to what they knew of that person at the time that they worked together. Your point is why you don’t use really outdated references — but it’s not the reference’s job to speculate on how the person might be different now than what they knew of them.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        Yeah, OP can’t undo the unfavorable impression she left on this reference, but she can work to make a better impression on those people who will become future references (can’t undo the past but can do better going forward).

  16. Mimmy*

    When I was in undergrad 20 years ago, I was inducted into something called Sigma Phi Sigma along with 3 others in my class (4 from each class are inducted each year, if memory serves). Anyway, I don’t remember if it was national or if I had to pay any fees…I’ve completely forgotten all about it till now! It’s probably not even worth putting on my resume. It was based on academic achievement and overall contribution to the college.

    The one I did fall for, however, was a Who’s Who thing. OMG what was I thinking?! *facepalm*

  17. M*

    Since you are so close to graduation are you sure that fee doesn’t include fee for the honor stoll and pin? A few classmates that refused to pay fee regretted it at graduation when the rest of us had them on. Yes it was one day but a lot of hard work went into earning it. The pin sits in my jewelry box and the certificate is next to my degree. Unless the cost is going to hurt you there’s no harm in getting it.

  18. Leah*

    Re: #1 – I would say just label everything with the name of the office and “Copy Room.” That was it’s explicitly clear to anyone using it that the items are not supposed to be kept in personal offices. No pleading ignorance, no “Oops!” Plus then it’s easy to identify and get them back.

    As for the OP’s personal stuff, I wonder if the lawyer just assumes it’s like the items in the copy room – up for grabs? She should maybe label her own stuff too. It sucks, but it’s better than constantly replacing things.

  19. Kateyjl*

    For Letter #1: Start tying things down. Even if it’s just attached to a string taped to the table. It works. It even worked for me when the string wasn’t attached to anything. It’s just a reminder to the user to leave it there. If you don’t want to do that, add some wacky decoration to it: tape a plastic flower to the stapler or pen; put googly eyes on the hole punch.

    1. Hellanon*

      My dad used to chain his office supplies to his desk at home – he got tired of my sister & I making off with his scissors in particular, but everything was attached to a 2 ft length of lightweight chain and screwed into the desk top. Made the point…

      1. Nanc*

        Oh my gosh–you’re my sister? Or do you just have a dad who’s an engineer and must have all his tools to hand, whether he’s using them at that moment or not!

      1. dawbs*

        The pen that is obnoxious and large is much harder to run away with on accident.

        There is a pen in our office that was always stolen–always (usually on accident. At least part of the time by me). It’s right in line-of-sight for several people, but it’s really easy to grab the pen to sign your form and stick it in a purse/pocket.

        So I bought that desk a new pen about 5 years ago now. It has a feathered light-up snow-man on the end. The light up part no longer works (boo), but the pen is to obnoxious to stick in a pocket/purse and walk away with–it would only ever be stolen by someone who both thinks feathered light-up snow-man pens are awesome and is ballsy enough to think that we all wouldn’t notice him pull it out of a pocket later on. (although the ink is lookingn low…)

        Obnoxious office objects FTW.
        (also holds true for my shark-shaped stapler, my jumbo ice-cream cone eraser, and my flowered pink screwdriver set)

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          I have a red Swingline stapler, and if anyone ever steals it, I’ll burn the building down.

        2. Mallory Janis Ian*

          But I would totally steal a flowered pink screwdriver set . *tool envy*

    2. azvlr*

      When I was active duty Navy, the department head officers would come to the Admin building every day for the morning meeting. One officer in particular would camp himself at my desk, doodle on my desk calendar, use my phone and help himself to my pens. His existence was soooo much more important than mine, right?! Far be if from me to speak up as a pee-on enlisted person.

      Red ink was for the CO’s signature only, green was exclusively for the XO, blue was for department heads, and everything else was black ink only. I took the one pen I was able to save from the kidnapping, removed all the black parts and replaced them with red. This officer assumed that it was a red pen, and therefore not for his use. I kept that pen for months!

      1. anonintheuk*

        I have a pen which advertises Viagra (one of my aunts works in the pharmaceutical industry). No-one has ever walked off with that.

  20. SerfinUSA*

    Re #1, can you add a line item to his billing statement for ‘office supplies’? That might get the point across, or at least provide funds for spiffy new mugs each month.

    1. SerfinUSA*

      Whoops! Never mind. Already completely discussed upthread. Yay for fellow ‘vindictive’ office-dwellers.

  21. #4 - OP*


    After sending you the question, but before getting an answer, I had an opportunity to speak with my manager and assistant manager about this. Not only had they not heard of the honor’s society before, but it wasn’t something they look for on resumes. They prefer to have your GPA listed on the resume under the graduate program’s name and completion date. I was counseled to forgo spending the $85, and to simply include a line about “graduated with honors” on my resume for future jobs.

    I value their advice because they are both higher up in the organization I am a part of, because they hire a lot for the position I hope to one day get, and because they graduated from the same program as me.

    That all being said, I feel like the last line of advice you gave me was contradictory to the rest of the advice I’ve received. The honor society in question is much more akin to Phi Beta Kappa than to

    1. fposte*

      Oh, interesting–are they librarians or are you working somewhere else? I’d be curious to know if it seemed like Beta Phi Mu wasn’t that well known in the field.

      1. I live to serve*

        Beta Phi Mu was worth it to me. Membership wasn’t just based on grade point average. Excellence in scholarship as well as demonstrating leadership. When I was just out of grad school, this was a good network. As a “hiring librarian” it does mean something on a resume or cv. It is an equivalent of a good recommendation from a professor.

  22. azvlr*

    #3 My internship experience was the tipping point for me getting a job when I transitioned to a new career field, because I was still a year out from the relevant degree. I gained skills in other jobs that are relevant to the new field, even though I didn’t actually hold that job title. I was able to demonstrate that I had been doing teapot design for 11 years in various capacities. I tailored my resume to the job title by phrasing my accomplishments for various jobs in terms that mirrored the job description.

    It wasn’t the time that I put in with the internship, but the skills gained that were valuable.

  23. Coach Devie*

    Okay so… for LW1

    If I see things that belong in a common area not in the common area, I will take them and put them back where they belong. If I see things that belong to ME? I’m also not waiting to speak to you about it. I’m taking my belongings back and THEN we will have a direct conversation about it. If the behavior continues? Then your lease will not be renewed or if possible, terminated.

  24. Jenny*

    On #3, I’ve heard that least some government positions do use a formula to calculate work experience down to the number of days. Does Allison or anyone know if that’s true?

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