job candidates who are willing to do any job, new desk is right next to my manager, and more

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

1. My new desk is right next to my manager

My office is currently undergoing a rearrangement of the seating plan. I work in a team of 10, and my new assigned desk is right next to my manager. My current desk is a couple away. This is the second role where I have been moved to the seat directly next to the manager. Is this coincidental or is this something which managers do for a reason? If so, what does it mean?

Without knowing a lot more, I have no idea whether it’s happening for a reason. It certainly could be entirely coincidental. But if it’s for a reason, it could be any of the following:
* Your manager wants you near her because the nature of your work requires you to talk to each other frequently.
* You chit-chat too much or otherwise waste time and she thinks being right next to her will cut down on that.
* She enjoys your company.
* She’s not yet confident in your work (because you’re new or junior or still figuring things out), and being right next to you gives her the opportunity to observe your work habits and possibly more easily give feedback.

Do any of those sound like the case? If not, I’d assume the move is coincidental (someone has to be at that desk, after all).

2. My coworker keeps promising people information that I’m not allowed to release

I work for a large research university. Our department coordinates with many other research divisions on campus, sharing best practices, co-hosting events, etc.

I have a colleague who works in a related department (I’ll call her Sally) who won’t stop volunteering me to share personal data from the students/staff at the university. Sally continually asks for me to share our student information lists with her (separate) department, to use for marketing purposes. This information includes student/staff names and email addresses. We have obtained this information from subscribers self-selecting into communications from our department.

I have continually explained to her that we will not share our data, as we do not have permission to distribute and it is an abuse of their information. We’ve had this conversation countless times in person and via email. Every time she is understanding, but continues to ask.

My latest dilemma is that she is now sending people from across the university to me to ask for my lists. I have gotten three emails in the last week that say something along the lines of “Sally told me to ask you for this information list for marketing our XYZ…” In the case of the emails this week, I have never met the people requesting this information. I feel it puts me in an awkward situation to say “no” when she has clearly already promised them the information (even though it is not her information to give!). How do I handle this? Continue to tell her no? Is this worth looping a higher-up in on?

I’d go back to Sally and say this: “We talked several times in the past about how we cannot share student information lists, but people keep telling me that you sent them to me for these lists. We must be miscommunicating somewhere. How can we solve this?”

If she says she just forgot, then say, “How can we handle this going forward so that it doesn’t keep happening?”

If it happens again after this conversation, then yes, I’d give her boss a heads-up and explain that you’ve tried to address it multiple times with Sally directed and would appreciate her advice in figuring out how to get it to stop.

Meanwhile, though, for any future requests, just matter-of-factly explain to people that Sally got the policy wrong and in fact you can’t release the info because of (reason). You don’t need to feel awkward about that; you’re not the one causing the miscommunication.

3. Candidates who are willing to do any job, rather than having specific goals or interests

I work for a national full-service staffing agency as a staffing manager. Note, I didn’t say temp agency. I staff for some temp jobs, but mostly we focus on temp to hire and direct placements. Therefore, getting the right fit for both the client and our employee is very important. We like to see long-term relationships made.

One of the most common situations I run into is when a candidate comes into the office to apply or for an interview, and I ask what type of work they are looking for, and they respond “I’ll take anything! I don’t care what type of work you have, I’ll do it.” While I appreciate this willingness to jump into any job in order to get a paycheck, it’s not really what we do. I have people that apply on the same day for an executive management job (salaried, requiring a degree and high skill level) and a warehouse/forklift job. When I try to explain that I would prefer to have specific direction as to which types of jobs to match them up to, they seem confused. To be honest, it’s not my job to decide for someone what their career path should be. I believe that every job you have contributes some way to what you will eventually do for a career, so I have always chosen my jobs with goals in mind.

How do I politely make it clear that if they just want day labor, they should go to a different type of agency? I hate to put the candidates through so many hours of applying, interviewing, testing, etc. if that’s all they want. Also, how do I help guide someone towards long-term goals when sometimes they can’t see beyond the next paycheck?

I have had bad luck with making what I thought were long term placements, and they will quit after one day. They talked the talk basically but couldn’t walk the walk. And after we had spent at least 6 hours just with the person going through the process. (Not all at one sitting). It makes us look bad with our clients and honestly, it blindsides me and I get very disappointed because I am very invested in our employees to help them be successful.

Why not be clear with them about what approach you need from candidates and why? I’d say something like, “That’s not really how we work. We find our placements are much more successful when people have clear professional goals, and our clients are generally looking for employees who specifically want the type of work they’re hiring for. I see you’ve done XYZ in the past — are you looking to continue in that line of work, or are you looking for something different?”

Keep in mind, too, that your job isn’t to guide people toward longer-term goals. If you need them to have goals in order to be right for your agency, that’s totally legitimate. It’s also legitimate for them to just want a job; there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, even though it’s not right for your context. So ideally you’d explain to people up-front what you need from the candidates you work with, so they’re clear on it before they apply or come in for an interview — and they can then decide if that’s the right match for them and also be better prepared for their conversation with you.

4. Should my resume list a job I worked off the books?

When I was in college, I worked a part-time job that was off the books (hourly), yet the business ended operations about six years ago. I took the job because it was within walking distance of my house and allowed for very flexible hours, both of which I really needed at the time. Unfortunately for me, that job was the environment where I thrived the most: a very small entrepreneurial enterprise that sold niche collector items exclusively online. I worked there for over five years, anywhere from 15-40 hours a week. I started off by making items presentable, and by the time we were finished I was just about doing all of the business except signing the checks. This included data entry, spread sheets, inventory, bookkeeping, merchandising and pricing, customer service, website design, and training temporary employees. So I still have a lot to say about this job!

The economy was our downfall and we never recovered. Between my back going out on me at the most inopportune time ever and the poor entry-level job market, I was out of work for three and a half years (excluding a two-week warm-body job and six-week temp job). I did eventually get back to steady work (a year and 10 months and counting), but I will be looking again real soon. I’m raising the bar at my current temp-to-perm job, but other than this off-the-books job, all of my other jobs have been dead-end and short-term.

Google searches for the name of the company do not bring up much, only resumes and profiles of employees. We didn’t have a need for a storefront, and local business wasn’t our thing, so this is totally predictable. In the past our company had more search results, but those have understandably vanished over time. I could totally understand a potential employer seeing this as a red flag, even before a thorough background check doesn’t bring up the job.

Should I omit this from my resume? What about my cover letter? If I discuss it in my cover letter, should I address the payment situation?

You should list it. It’s work you did, and it’s relevant. The off-the-books part isn’t great (you were basically cheating the government by not paying taxes), but that might not even come up, and the benefit you’re likely to get by listing it is greater than the possible harm. You don’t need to explain the payment situation in your cover letter, or even at all — unless there’s a background check where you know it’s going to come up, and then you’d explain it at that point. Meanwhile, try to track down your manager from that job or anyone else you worked with; if you have references from that job (especially your manager), it’s not likely to be a huge sticking point. (And lots of businesses don’t have a web presence, so I wouldn’t worry too much about that.)

5. Team-building treasure hunt

I’m just curious for your take on a team building event my organization had today. One of the events was a “treasure-less treasure hunt.” The event itself was pretty cool. You had a route to follow and a list of questions to answer. You would walk down a street and say what color doors houses 20, 25, and 30 had. Or you would go through a park and have to find a statue and say who it was of and what they were famous for. Or list the numbers of the busses that ran down a street. Our office has just moved and it was a great way to get to know the new area (we’re in the UK and in the middle of town; the route took us right by the town hall).

But there was a problem. We were told to bring comfortable walking shoes (which we all did) but the route was four miles. What do you think of a team building day having an unexpected four-mile walk in the middle of it?

I think if all of you were enthusiastic and enjoyed it (and were warned about the four-mile walk in advance and given the opportunity to opt out and chose not to), then it was fine for your particular team. But in general, offices need to think about people who can’t comfortably walk long distances (for medical or other reasons) or who would prefer not to; it will be an issue on some teams and not on others. On teams where it is an issue, it’s better to choose another event, since leaving someone out or making them uncomfortable is contrary to the whole point of team-building.

Of course, I’d also argue that there’s not a huge amount to be gained from these kinds of activities in general, aside from just having fun if the activities happen to be fun for the people involved (which can be a crapshoot). The best team-building comes from having people do actual work projects together, with clear goals, clear roles, and appropriate feedback and recognition, and from giving people the chance for meaningful input into the direction of the team.

Read an update to this letter here

{ 270 comments… read them below }

  1. De Minimis*

    With #3 I wonder if the people who quit after one day might have found a permanent position from one of the other places where they’d applied.

    1. OP #3*

      Yes, a couple of times that has happened. Which they haven’t told me in the moment-they just basically said “I quit-it’s not a good fit”- after interviewing with the client directly and accepting the job. After some digging, I did figure out that was what happened.

  2. Scotty_Smalls*

    For #3 is it possible to refer those people to another agency that does temp jobs? Maybe do some advertising that emphasizes the kind of candidates you want.

    1. OP #3*

      That was sort of my question- is it rude to refer them to more of a day labor agency? I try to get most of the candidates that walk through my door to work quickly in a position that is a good fit, but sometimes that is not possible, due to their needs/skills/background, etc. I do try to make our postings very specific with details that let candidates know that our positions are temp-to-hire, but as I have found out, people don’t always pay attention to the details!

      1. snuck*

        I would rather be pointed somewhere more suited to my career plans than left to languish on your books. It comes down to how you couch it…

        “Ethel, you have a wonderful set of skills, and I can see them really fitting in to a role in teapot pouring. This agency doesn’t get a lot of jobs like that on the books, can I suggest you also try out Agency Extraordinaire… they get a lot more jobs for these sorts of roles on the books”
        “Cyril, it seems you are looking for a transition role, can I suggest listing your resume at Agency de Temp, and if we get something short term that looks like a good fit we’ll contact you”
        “Augustine, it’s important that this role have a person in it who is interested in a long term commitment there, we’re thinking at least a year. We know it’s a short term contract but the client has indicated it’s likely to go longer. In light of this can you commit to this length of time in the role?”

  3. Tim-Tim's Teapots Inc.*

    2. Is there a specific part of the handbook, policy manual, etc., that identifies that policy? Can you point that out to them?

    5. They should’ve told you that you’d be going four miles. Four miles is easy enough for someone like me, but not for everybody. At Tim-Tim’s Teapots, we give our employees a realistic idea of what to expect.

    1. INTP*

      And even if you can easily walk four miles, “comfortable walking shoes” for 1-2 miles is a completely separate category from shoes for walking 4+ miles! I have flats that I can walk about an office or for short errands in easily, but I wouldn’t be confident that they could make it through a much longer walk without giving me blisters.

      1. OP#5*

        OP#5 here, I wore converse, which are comfortable shoes, but for a 4 mile walk I needed proper running shoes. I ended up with a few blisters, but the biggest issue was how unexpected the length of the walk was.

        1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

          My feet hurt just thinking about it because OP, my mind went immediately to your situation. I would have likely worn converse or toms, as opposed to bringing my running/walking shoes.

        2. Lanya*

          OP #5, I feel your pain. In July, we had a similar “surprise” team-building activity that involved walking & driving all over the town with no advance notice about what we would be doing. I didn’t have appropriate shoes, I didn’t have a hat or sunscreen for walking around, and if I had been forewarned, I would have also spent some time cleaning the inside of my car before four of my coworkers piled in with me for the surprise scavenger hunt. I was not happy that afternoon, but I still participated. After it was over, they asked us if we enjoyed it, and I said I would have had a better time if there had been more of a heads-up about what was going to take place so that I could have planned better for the day. They thanked me for my honesty, but I think I was the only one who was upset with the lack of advance information.

          1. OP#5*

            Yeah, they’re flat but no padding. I had running shoes in the trunk of my car. I could have put them on, the whole issue was that I didn’t know I needed to!

          2. Witty Nickname*

            I see people at Disneyland all the time wearing Chucks or flip flops or other shoes with no support or cushioning. Or HEELS. I can easily walk 3-4 miles there when we’re only going down for a few hours (a whole day is 7-10 miles, easily) – I can’t imagine trying to do that in anything other than my running shoes or really comfortable Skechers sandals.

            This past weekend was “Dapper Day” where people dress up to go to Disneyland. It actually looks really fun, but I will never do it because sneakers are not dapper. :)

            1. manybellsdown*

              Seriously I was always amazed at the shoes people wore to Disney. I would be in my most comfortable and still in pain. Even if you’re staying in one of the hotels and not trying to do it all in one day, it’s a lot of walking just to get to anything!

        3. Retail Lifer*

          Those are all I own…I would’ve bought a cheap pair of more appropriate sneakers if I knew I had to walk that far. I’ve walked just over a mile in my Converse and that was the very most I think I could ever do comfortably in those.

    2. MissDisplaced*

      4 miles sounds a bit long for a workday jaunt! Yeah, they should have given notice that you needed your sneakers (or what do you call them there sand shoes?). It does sound like fun though. How long did this whole thing take by the way?

        1. Claire (Scotland)*

          Sand shoes are what we called the shoes we wore for PE when I was at school. Like plimsolls, I think.

          1. Lindsay (not a temp anymore! yay!)*

            HA! Interesting, I’m just getting caught up on Dr. Who for the new season, and Tennant was yelled at for wearing “sand shoes” in an episode. He wears Converse Sneakers. I had no idea what they were talking about. Interesting how things come back to you!

  4. Truffle Pig*


    I imagine that working in placement encourages people to see the world as one in which the goal is to put square pegs in square holes and round pegs in round holes, but I sometimes wonder if maybe that attitude underestimates human adaptability. In some management circles, the executive manager of the warehousing company who is incapable of driving a forklift is seen as a Bad Sign — how can they adapt their business to meet the concerns of their employees (in a way that makes larger economic sense, of course) if they have no experience with the work that their employees do?

    Although probably not intentional, I think that there may be a little bit of class prejudice going on. Everybody is a day laborer in the new workforce, whether it be project managers, contract programmers, floor leads with zero-day contracts and “just in time scheduling” agreements, or the traditional day-laborers that the OP feels uncomfortable having their firm associated with. This is a larger trend in business, which is probably why placement agencies have so much business now.

    I think the true problem is employees quitting after a day; what are the exit interviews saying? Do these companies have a blind spot when it comes to their requirements? Is there something about the workplace culture that is not being explained to you and thus not being placed for? Sometimes a company will come to a placement agency with a very specific set of requirements that has a fundamentally flawed set of premises — sort of like going to a hardware technician and telling them that you need them to build you a big computer when what you really need is a fast computer, having never questioned if the two were really one and the same.

    If the companies don’t involve you in the requirements process, I can understand getting stuck — after all, even if you give them exactly what they asked for, it won’t accomplish what they hoped for.

    1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      I think there’s a difference between being able/willing to do a number of different things to gain a well-rounded experience, and saying “I want to apply for any job, no matter what it’s for.” It sounds like the OP’s agency is trying to place people in jobs where they will stay for some time, maybe years. It’s therefore important that the potential employee really wants to do the job they’re applying for, so they won’t want to move on.

      As an example – my experience is as a teacher. If I found myself out of work, I’d want another teaching job. I don’t think I’m morally “above” driving a forklift, or anything else, but I know that if I took a forklift job to make ends meet, I would keep searching for a teaching job. It would also be pretty reasonable for many possible employers to look at my resume, say “we don’t think she’d stick around as a forklift driver, and we want someone who will be here for a while” and pass on me. If I did want to change careers, it would be on me to explain that convincingly up-front in my cover letter.

      1. The Bimmer Guy*

        “…we don’t think she’d stick around as a forklift driver, and we want someone who will be here for a while”.

        You’re so right, Elizabeth. And this goes further than a candidate’s particular vocation or career experience. This is also why employers avoid hiring senior or overqualified people for junior positions. Usually, the pay for an entry-level position will be much lower than that of a position that requires seven years’ worth of experience and a graduate degree. Employers (understandably) feel that senior people in these positions will jump ship as soon as something better or better-paying comes along. Good employers are looking for people who’ll be content with the company and the position, and who’ll stay for a bit.

        1. Ani*

          Something else is wrong though. People desperate for work who can and will do any job don’t quit end mass on the first day.

          1. Ad Astra*

            Yeah, I suspect the OP has two different problems on her hand. The first is that candidates come to her so desperate for work that they’re all over the place, and she needs to explain that her agency takes a more focused, long-term approach. The second is that candidates seem to be quitting very early into their placement, and that’s something worth investigating. If it’s possible, I’d recommend talking to those candidates and the clients about what happened to see if there’s a pattern.

            1. De Minimis*

              As a job seeker, I usually view opportunities through placement agencies as being second-tier. I only apply through them when I’m having trouble finding opportunities that are with an actual employer. My guess is the candidates have a number of irons in the fire, they start something through an agency but then get an offer elsewhere. That’s just the marketplace. From my experience, the jobs that are not through an agency usually pay more and offer better benefits.

            2. snuck*

              Does one make an assumption that it’s the workplaces, the lack of professional stay-ability of the candidates, or the recruitment professional skillset?

              I think some of this falls back to OP3 (who is well aware and working on this clearly given they’ve written in)… OP3 is seeking a way to weed out those who are so desperate they’ll take an interim career side step until they can find something more in their line, or who will take something they aren’t suited to. It sounds to me like this is a big part of the problem that OP3 has already worked out – these people weren’t suited for these roles in the first place not because of skillset but because of attitude to the long term role.

              OP3 needs to hone skills on reading body language and looking for the small lies people tell to get them into any job until they get the next one. If a person has a long history in a set career path and is looking for something else entirely then ask deep and meaningful questions and look for the small signs of white lies. If a person is massively overqualified for a role and you have lots more suitably qualified why put the over qualified person in in the first place? If a person has a history of job hopping why employ them in a long term role if you have other similarly qualified candidates? If you treat the longevity of the occupation of the role as a required skillset and select in part for that too you might do better. (and of course, there are occasional exceptions to every question/rule / scenario)

          2. Jennifer*

            I second this. The only time I’ve heard of this happening was when a friend of mine was desperate for work and took a job in a warehouse where she had to work overnight and got out at something like 3 or 4 in the morning. She also doesn’t drive, so that involved hours of waiting in the cold dark streets for a bus to come. I don’t blame her for doing a quit after one day under those circumstances.

        2. Truffle Pig*

          They pay and benefits part is, I think, more important than the vocation for jobs that don’t have “class status”. While there are candidates who look themselves in the mirror every day and say, “Your father is a stock-broker and you’re a forklift driver, what a disgrace!” generally the folks who have this reservation resist applying to those jobs anyway — by the time they apply they have already worked out the cognitive dissonance on their end.

          This is one place where government work really has it right –in what other field do you find forklift drivers who will readily remain forklift drivers for decades, even when there is zero opportunity for upward advancement? The reason (IMHO) is that a person can raise a family on a government forklift driver’s salary, the job is stable enough that it is responsible to do so, and the benefits are broad enough that when the consequences of a lifetime of warehouse work start to rear their heads, a government forklift driver knows that they won’t lose their retirement savings to medical bills. These are all things which are not necessarily true for private sector (especially non-unionized) warehouse work.

    2. JessaB*

      I had one that I quit mid day one. The job was pretty good, but nobody at the company told the staffing agency about the physical plant. High bar stool type seat with no proper footrest and lifting heavy boxes. I cannot physically do that, even if I can actually do the job task. But they wouldn’t accommodate me by putting me in the part of the task that sat at a desk. So I called my agency and walked. And they were annoyed
      with the company because they asked them about barriers. Sometimes the job is a good one and the tasks are things you can do but there are other barriers to actually accomplishing the job. I would absolutely make sure that you talk to the one day quitter and listen really listen to why they left.

    3. OP #3*

      The last thing I would ever want anyone to think is that there is class prejudice going on. I don’t discriminate against anyone-I am being practical in the sense of not wasting our candidates time. Job hunting is so discouraging for so many people-I would rather be honest and up-front about our process and what we (our clients) are looking for at that time. I do try to keep a small pool of day labor for special projects for our regular clients-but those are typically people that I am a little unsure about for whatever reason and want to try them out and/or get a better sense of their skills. The intention is to eventually get them into a long-term position where they can succeed.

      It is so very true that sometimes our client asks for one thing and really wants another.There is no way to find that out except placing someone and getting feedback, and then adjusting what we are really looking for.

      1. Jennifer*

        These days, though, some folks really (literally) can’t afford to be picky and go for what they “want.” I can see why folks with no special skills/specializations would just be like “give me anything.”

        1. Ad Astra*

          OP, you might have to tease some information out of these candidates. “I see that you’re willing to do whatever’s available, but what do you think you’re really good at? I see you have some experience in [field]. Are you looking for something similar, or are you trying to go a different direction? Is there anything you feel you’re really not good at, or any type of environment where you know you wouldn’t thrive?”

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Ugh. I went to an agency once. I doubt I will ever go again. I needed work, FT, regular work. They asked what I was looking for, silly me, I said anything. Yep, was not a good time in my life, I absolutely had to find a job. At that point it took everything I had to ask for help because I was always taught that asking for help was something to be ashamed of. (Another issue, but I eventually learned how NOT true that was.) They said I had to pick something. I was in my 20s and had no clue what types of jobs were out there. I said,”Okay, I pick A.” They never called and I never went back there. That conversation was a good chunk of a morning for the both of us. She made all kinds of promises to keep me in mind and try to help, etc. If she had been keeping me in mind, I thought she would have called at least once*.

        I have no idea what your job is actually like, please disregard if I am off-base, but if you can form a checklist and give it to people who “want anything” that might help. Tell them to pick their top three choices, let’s say. Your check list could be a list of types of jobs you get in most frequently. If nothing else, it will become apparent to the person that you do not service arenas she is interested. If the person shows awareness or asks about that, maybe you know of some place they could call that would find work in their arena. Most places I have worked, I tend to build a customer resource list. If my employer does not offer X, I would try to figure out who did offer X so I could tell customers who ask.
        The reason I like this idea is because people who are going home to nothing for dinner might not be able to answer what type of work they want. Panic/pressure will do that. They are too busy thinking about how there is no food in the house and they can’t tell you there’s no food. If they can work off a list, you might get stronger answers than if they have to guess.

        *Going back to the point about calling at least once, she gave no time frame. I had no idea if she was going to keep me in mind for three days or three months. It was very awkward, as I felt like I was asking too much of her then, compounding that I had no idea how long I could expect her to be trying to help me. With all that awkwardness going on, I felt I should just move on. There’s a lot to be said for people who can speak clearly and directly.

  5. AnnieNonymous*

    I feel like I’ve been Sally before, or the third parties that Sally is referring to OP2. If the third parties need the information to do their jobs, but they’re not legally entitled to it, that’s a bigger issue. I can see how Sally might just be giving them the OP’s email address because she doesn’t know how to solve the problem. IMO the real issue is that other departments need this information and no one has ever told them that they can’t have it. The departments aren’t talking to each other, and that problem is way bigger than Sally.

      1. F.*

        The OP might want to loop in the university’s legal department. They can explain exactly WHY the OP is not allowed to give out student information. The OP can then have the exact language to use the next time someone ask for the information. Sally also needs to be included so she stops referring requests to the OP. The OP can formulate a simple email with language like, “Per our Legal Department, the law reads as follows: (etc.)” to send to the requestors.

        1. JMegan*

          Or Information Management/ Records Management/ Privacy, if there is one (many large universities have at least a couple of people in this type of role.)

          I don’t work for a university, but I do work in the privacy office in my organization. And if somebody were to ask me if it’s okay to share student information for these purposes, my job would be a resounding NO. Even if there are no laws in place, in general it’s not appropriate to use (or share) people’s personal information for anything other than the purpose for which it was collected. And in many places, you’re required to get specific consent to send someone marketing emails, you can’t just do it because you happen to have their contact information.

    1. Engineer Girl*

      Sally should not be giving out the OPs address even if she doesn’t know how to solve the problem. That’s dumping it on someone after they have expressly told them they couldn’t do it.
      I’d be tempted to tell the 3rd parties that Sally gave them bad information – that you are not allowed to disclose the info. It makes Sally look bad, but after so many incidents she deserves it. I do think it is fair to a) go to Sally first and b) go to her boss first.

      1. CMT*

        This wouldn’t be making Sally look bad just to make her look bad, though. It would be telling the truth, and that seems more than okay to me.

      2. neverjaunty*

        No, Sally makes Sally look bad here, by sending these people to the OP when she knows the OP isn’t allowed to give out that information.

    2. Engineer Girl*

      The OP told Sally no and told her why. If the other departments need the information then they need to generate their own data. I’d simply tell the 3rd parties that Sally gave them incorrect information. I’d talk to Sally once more, and her boss once, and then let the consequences happen. You have no obligation to protect other departments when you’ve explicitly tried correcting the situation. Consequences provide incentive to change behavior.

    3. MK*

      The problem is not that the departments aren’t co-operating, it’s that other departments want and don’t have a list of students’ e-mails. And the solution is pretty simple really: get them directly from the students, like the OP’s department did. Frankly, the other departments’ “problem” sounds to be more unwillingness to do the work to get what they need and trying to profit from someone else’s than anything else.

      And it’s quite possible that Sally is being manipulative here; maybe she thinks that if a lot of people are asking for the list, the OP will cave and give it to them and her as well.

      1. AnnieNonymous*

        I think this is likely as well. I don’t know why people think I’m giving Sally a complete pass here; it sounds like her job involves passing along these requests, no matter how often they come in and even if the third parties have already been told to stop. My point was that I don’t think Sally is the problem, in the sense that dealing individually with her won’t stop the source of the misunderstanding. The issue is that the other departments need this information and haven’t actually been plainly told that they can’t have it. Sally’s probably not sticking to her guns and speaking up, but laying this on her is shooting the messenger. The problem isn’t originating with her.

        1. Engineer Girl*

          The problem is absolutely with Sally. The OP told her she couldn’t have the information and she continues trying to get it. She’s been told “no” multiple times yet continues trying to involve the OP. What part of “no” doesn’t she understand? The “n” part or the “o” part?

        2. Zillah*

          If you’re saying that Sally isn’t the problem and that laying this on her is shooting the messenger, though, that is giving Sally a pass on her behavior. “Shooting the messenger” would be someone telling the OP that other departments want the information; what Sally’s doing is consistently telling other departments that the OP can give them information that the OP has explicitly said she cannot give out.

        3. I'm a Little Teapot*

          As I see it, there are the following possibilities:

          1. Sally is just not remembering that she’s not supposed to direct these requests to OP (despite being told multiple times)

          2. Sally knows she’s not allowed to give out the information, but is trying to get OP to do it and take the blame

          3. Sally doesn’t like to say no to people, so she’s palming that responsibility off on OP, or

          4. Sally doesn’t think the people asking her for the information will believe she is allowed to tell them no, and Sally thinks OP has greater authority (or that these people are more inclined to listen to OP).

          1. Blurgle*

            5. Sally thinks if she just figures out the right way to ask, big old meanie OP will (sigh) finally give her what she wants, which is all that matters to her.

            1. CMT*

              Yep. I’ve definitely dealt with people who think if they just ask the question in a different way (repeatedly), I’ll finally give them what they want. Rules are rules, and even though you’ve asked 15 different times in 15 different ways, I can’t break them.

              1. neverjaunty*

                Yes. You expect this kind of behavior in small children; in adults it’s just selfish and obnoxious.

          2. Meg Murry*

            6. Sally knows perfectly well that OP isn’t allowed to give out the info, but if she is low on the totem pole in a university hierarchy, the person asking for the information won’t take no for an answer from a lowly person like Sally, and Sally has thrown up her hands and said “well, you can ask OP, but I know she won’t give it to you either.”

            In some university hierarchies, professors and deans won’t take a no from a “lowly admin” and need to hear it from someone higher up (OP or OP’s boss), and even then might try to go up the ladder to get the info.

            I agree with other advice that OP (or OP’s boss or legal team) needs to just make a boilerplate response, and send it every time. OP – if your school uses gmail for your email, look into “canned responses” or else write something you can copy and paste – my life got much easier when I was able to just send the “nope, can’t do it, and here’s the legalese why” response every time I got one of these requests – and if possible, provide it to Sally so she can do the same and the requests won’t get to the OP. Or if the department has a website, maybe the biggest boss there can write something and officially post it on the website (or OP and legal can write it and the boss and edit and put her/his signature to it), so all Sally and OP have to do is provide a link. I know where I worked, people would get snippy with admins, but if the admin could provide a boilerplate letter that said “against policy, not going to do it” signed by the Registrar, Controller, Dean of Students, etc – someone with equal or greater power to the asker, that usually shut down the conversation.

            1. Decimus*

              There’s also the possibility of #7 – Sally may know she’s not supposed to pass these people off to OP, but her superior may have told her something like “I don’t care, I don’t want to deal with it, direct them to OP when they ask” and Sally could be in the position of either directly annoying her boss or annoying OP, so of course she’ll choose the latter.

          3. Ama*

            I worked in university admin for almost a decade, and encountered “Sallys” of my own whose motivations were 1, 3, or 4 quite a bit, but I don’t think I ever encountered someone malicious enough for 2. Passing the buck? Super common. Trying to “gotcha” someone? Not so much.

            I also encountered more than one person who was told by Sally “Ama is in charge of those lists but she doesn’t give them out,” who then emailed me and lied that Sally told me I could help them, so I’d watch out for that, too.

            1. JessaB*

              This. Just because you’re being told Sally said so, doesn’t mean Sally actually ever did. Although she might have been wishy washy – “She doesn’t give this out, she can’t, but maybe your use request will fall under some rule I don’t know.” Because there ARE legal reasons to need the info the OP has. Sally just doesn’t have any, but it’s vaguely possible that someone she sends over might fall into the “Okay to release group.” There can be legit reasons to use contact information after all that fall within FERPAs rules. OR if it’s significantly important enough, it’s possible to frame this as “OP we need to contact x group. We can’t get the info from you. Here’s what they need to be told. This really has to get to them please send it.”

        4. Lindrine*

          Yeah I agree. I liked the idea of getting legal clarification if needed – we have had to do that just to keep trademarking of products consistent. I also like either having the OP’s boss contact Sally’s boss or looping Sally’s boss in, depending on how things are done. If you have to OP, send an email to Sally stating “as we discussed…” so it’s in writing.

          Also – I suggest getting the OP boss involved at least as far as brining up the compliance issue and seeing if maybe boss can bring it up at a bigger multi-departmental meeting or in a newsletter? Or – and we have done this before – have big OP boss send out a bigger email to other departments saying they can’t give this info out and why.

      2. Shan*

        I definitely think this is likely. I’m in marketing for a non-profit and people often ask for my email list. They’re usually pretty innocent requests, but I have to say no because from a marketing standpoint, giving out email lists can actually be a really bad practice. (Because people don’t like getting emails they didn’t sign up for!)

        Sally is either keeps asking because she doesn’t understand why she can’t have the email lists, or because somebody’s asking for the info and she doesn’t feel comfortable saying no so she passes the request along to OP. Worst case scenario: she’s a really lazy marketer and/or hoping if she asks enough, she will get a yes. In any situation, I think what Alison said is spot on.

        1. Chinook*

          “I’m in marketing for a non-profit and people often ask for my email list. They’re usually pretty innocent requests, but I have to say no because from a marketing standpoint, giving out email lists can actually be a really bad practice. (Because people don’t like getting emails they didn’t sign up for!)”

          I have this problem with a volunteer group I am president of. We guard our membership list like it is gold because we don’t want to lose these ladies. We know if the list got out just once, either the user wouldn’t bother to ask us the next time and just reuse or they won’t know to BCC the list and suddenly our ladies our getting all sorts of email requests and junk mail because of it. If the other group really, really, really wants to get us a message out to our ladies, then I have them give me the message and I give the okay to our communications person who then sends it out on behalf of the requestor. (You will note that it is so well guarded that only the communications person has the easy to use list even though I can access our roster)

    4. The Bimmer Guy*

      I think “Sally” is definitely just tossing the problem in OP’s direction so she doesn’t have to deal with it. OP, I’d definitely do what Alison said and see about letting one of her managers know that you can’t give out this information, but that Sally keeps sending these parties to you.

    5. neverjaunty*

      But when you were Sally, did you ignore the person who explained she was not allowed to give out that information; claimed you “forgot” you had been told she was not allowed to give out that information; and then had other people in your department try to get the information out of that person? I am guessing not, and that you would have explained why you needed the information, and if you still couldn’t get it would have gone up the chain to try to get it OK’d.

      Imagine that the letter was from Sally. “Dear AAM, I am in marketing and need student contact information to do my job. Wakeen in another department has all this information, but every time I ask, tells me they aren’t allowed to release it. What do I do?” I doubt AAM’s advice to Sally would be ‘keep asking Wakeen until he breaks down and gives it to you!’ or ‘ask other people in your department to call Wakeen and ask for it’.

      1. AnnieNonymous*

        When I was Sally, the people asking for the information had the authority to make me think my job was on the line, while the “OP”-equivalent didn’t, so I kept forwarding the requests on to the “OP” so I could say that I did. If neither side could meet in the middle and talk things out without using me as a go-between, there was nothing I could do, but both sides still laid the blame on me.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Which is why AAM’s advice was that the OP talk to “Sally” to find out what the problem is, and if that doesn’t solve it, to go to “Sally”‘s boss. It sucks that your “OP” blamed you for the decisions of your bosses, but from that “OP’s” perspective, you were ignoring her refusals and trying to get her to do something that put her job in danger.

    6. Koko*

      She mentioned marketing as the reason for this. This isn’t quite the same as “information they need to do their jobs that they’re not legally entitled to” – it is that, but there are other ways to get this information. They’re just looking for the easy way out. These are marketers who just want access to someone else’s marketing list instead of building their own marketing file.

      The problem is that ethical marketers always tell people when they sign up for a marketing list what they’re signing up for and promise not to share their email address with anyone else, because people hate spam. If I sign up to get emails about New Teapot Design Releases I’m going to be really annoyed if I suddenly end up on mailing lists promoting New Tea Flavors and Beverage Industry Events without my consent.

  6. Anonymous Educator*

    #3. I don’t think the real issue is that they’re willing to do any job. It sounds as if the real issue is they’re not committing to a job once hired. Now, obviously, you could make the case that you’re far less likely to commit to a job if you’re willing to take any job, but I’ve seen a lot of cases to the contrary (both ways) in my own circle of friends / co-workers but also as someone who also used to work in a recruiting firm. Plenty of flaky candidates who were searching for only one type of job, and plenty of committed candidates who were open to different types of jobs.

    #5. I had a job like that with a scavenger hunt–type activity but nothing was announced ahead of time (except the comfortable walking shoes). I believe we walked and ran more than four miles that day… and then had to do a dance exercise class afterwards, as well as some gym-type relay race games. It was exhausting. Even though it was fun, I would have appreciated a heads-up!

    1. OP#5*

      OP#5 here
      It was fun, and someone went to a lot of effort to plan it, which I appreciate. However, I’m fat and middle aged and at least one of the women on my team had a bad back. We can walk 4 miles, but I think we needed to be warned and prepared for it. It was all fun and games for the first couple of miles then we noticed that we were only halfway through the instructions and it became a bit less fun at that point.

      1. Brandy*

        Not everyone feels up to just getting up running around town. What about people that are old, fat, handicapped or not feeling well, or don’t have the gas to be driving all around town.

        I don’t need team building, I need to come in, sit down and get my work done.

        1. simonthegrey*

          Also what about people like my husband? He’s overweight, but we’re still somewhat young and he does a fair amount of walking. However, he sunburns if you stand near him and think about the sun too hard, and there doesn’t seem to be a sunblock in the world that helps (he sunburned during our overcast, rainy outdoor wedding).

          1. Nanc*

            Ah, another member of the whiter-shade-of-pale people! Our clan badges list the number of hats we currently own.

      2. Anonymous Educator*

        I hear you. I’m not fat or middle-aged, but I was still winded and would have appreciated a heads-up. I can only imagine how it must have felt for you to be surprised by what you had to do.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I’m middle-aged but not fat, and I would not have appreciated it either, because I don’t like walking outside in the middle of the day in my work clothes and probably getting all sweaty.

    2. JoJo*

      If I were to walk miles then jump up and down on my arthritic feet, I’d be in agony for days afterward. Who thinks up these things? Do they assume that we’re all 25 year old gym rats?

    3. OP #3*

      Anonymous Educator, I think you were able to put into words what I wasn’t able to! Yes, that is the issue. It’s hard to tell how committed someone is because as I said, they can talk the talk, but not walk the walk. I have had a lot of people take me by surprise by being flaky-I wouldn’t have predicted it at all.

  7. INTP*

    #5: The items on that scavenger hunt are so strangely boring that they seem like homework to prove that you actually walked where they told you to walk, not even like a scavenger hunt for fun. Hopefully it’s really just the laziness of the person who wrote the items and not that they are really determined to make you prove that you took a walk properly, but still – the colors of doors? Who cares? It would have been better to give you a map and a list of more open items IMO, like “Find 3 places where you’d like to have lunch. Find a drugstore close to the office. Find a nearby park.” That way the information would be more useful and interesting, and people would have some opportunity to choose how far they want to walk to find things.

    1. AcademiaNut*

      My first thought on reading the list was to wonder how much could be done with google maps/street view from the comfort of a coffee shop with free wi-fi.

      1. Blurgle*

        My first thought was that I’d be wondering if I would lose my job for calling a cab after about 500 feet – or whenever my left ankle seized up, which would likely be at about 500 feet.

      2. the gold digger*

        That’s how my lab partner and I in the freshman physics lab did it – we were required to find the density of water and the rate of gravity.

        We looked at each other and said, “But we know this already!”

        So we calculated the proper answers, then set up the equipment to get those answers, and were done in half the time everyone else was.

        However, neither of us has gone on to get a Nobel Prize in physics.

    2. OP#5*

      That’s on me for not describing it well, there were about 10 pages of items to collect and I just listed two nondescript ones. It wasn’t boring and there were some tricky ones. The route was nice too, it took us along a canal and through a park and by the town hall. On a Saturday, with a pub lunch in the middle, it would have been a cracking walk.

        1. OP#5*

          We all took money on the assumption that we would have a chance for a sit and a drink at a coffee shop along the way. But the route took most teams about 1:45. We were allocated 1:30 to do it and I think one team out of six did it on time, but they were in the afternoon group so the morning group warned them about the distance and apparently they sent some of the fitter members of the group ahead as runners.

          1. nerfmobile*

            Wow, the allocated time works out to a 22 minute mile – normally a 20 minute mile is a decent pace for an averagely fit person to walk if you are walking for exercise (15 minutes if you are walking very briskly). If you’ve added in 2 pages of scavenger hunt items that’s definitely not enough time – no wonder most teams took longer.

            1. OP#5*

              There were actually 8 or 10 pages of items to collect. I think the numbering went up to 67 and several of them had multiple parts.

      1. Blurgle*

        Yes, but it wouldn’t have been nice if you were in severe pain and terrified that complaining would affect your career.

        What a horrible thing to do to employees.

      2. copperbird*

        I did a work scavenger hunt in London once. It was quite good fun. My team came last because we made an executive decision to stop for coffee rather than racing round to collect as many places as poss, but ultimately it was a good team building activity and no one actually cared (aside from the other teams) about who won.

  8. Almond Milk Latte*

    #5: At my old job, many of us worked remotely so we’d gather in Seattle every couple of months.

    One year, we were set free to meander and ended up at Pike Place Market. I have fond memories of hanging out with my teammates, tasting cheese, ogling the pepper wreaths.. We actually got to know each other, look at things together – It was a really awesome time. I miss those guys.

    A year or two later, we had a scavenger hunt and my group ended up super lost. Lots of walking up and down hills, lots of walking past all the interesting things. There were segways involved, and they had a weight limit, so anyone over 200 pounds (or who lacked a death wish) had to sit in the sun for an hour, so that was extra fun. It was hot, it was exhausting, and I don’t even remember who was in my scavenger hunt group. The only thing I remember was being miserable and missing lunch.

    1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

      Your two different experiences are always what I try to bring up when planning these things.

      Admittedly, I am the kind of person who hates “activities” and often finds the one my current employer asks us to participate in juvenile, but at my previous job, my team often shared that the time they really enjoyed was when they simply got time to hang out with our other department and chat.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Wait, 200 pounds was the upper limit??? Hoo boy. If that had come up with my company, I would have been the only person sitting out. I’m just imagining the embarrassment. That sounds like a miserable waste of a day.

      1. Alanis*

        I’ve been on a segway in 2012 and 200lbs wasn’t the upper limit (or I wouldn’t have been on it). But I’m sure there are multiple types of them, some rated for more weight than others.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        I hope you do not mean that literally they sat in the sun for an hour. I would be vomiting. I can move around in the sun, but to sit in one place means I will be revisiting my last meal.

        I can see how some of this might be fun. But mostly, I tend to think that I am hired to do a job and this type of thing is, at best, non-essential.

  9. AcademicAnon*

    #2 FERPA is a real concern here. Since too often email address for universities include full names which could lead to other information.

    1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

      The University I worked for changed the language on the emergency contact form so it said that in addition to contact parents and students in an emergency, we could “contact them for University purposes.” (i.e. fundraising, alumni association, athletics)

      It took a long time for people in the registrar’s office to get used to the change and there was a lot of back and forth on when/where it could be released. FERPA was brought up a lot, but ultimately names were released.

      I wonder if Sally came from a place that had a similar policy in place? Not that it excuses asking or sending other people the OP’s way after being told the policy.

      1. JHS*

        Email addresses can be considered “directory information” under FERPA if the university has a policy of releasing such information and informs students in the annual FERPA notification. OP could find out if email addresses are able to released based on being directory info. However, it sounds more to me like OP’s department collected the addresses from an opt-in list where they specifically said your email address will only be used for X purpose and Sally wants to use it for Y purpose.

      2. Graciosa*

        Did people have an opportunity to opt out of sharing ‘for university purposes’? It seems a little disingenuous otherwise.

        1. JHS*

          I agree…that may not be sufficient under FERPA because FERPA still says that even within the organization information should only be shared on a “need to know” basis unless there is consent. Not sure this would qualify as consent.

        2. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

          I don’t remember if there was an opt out…but I do remember seeing emails from parents who were pissed they were getting telefund calls for the Parent Campaign.

        3. neverjaunty*

          It’s not “disingenuous”, it’s deliberately deceptive. The people signing it think “university purposes” means important purposes that have to do with the student’s well-being and progress, and don’t realize it means “any purpose the university wants to use it for”.

          1. FatBigot*

            Yes, and it’s self defeating. Matt Read over at Dean Dad regularly complains that students are overwhelmed by irrelevant e-mail from their institution. This means that important messages can be lost among the spam.

            Given what Dr Read has to say about workplace readiness, I think there could be some profitable cross-posts between him and Alison.

            His blog is at
            In particular, see the first comment here:

  10. Gecko*

    I hope something like 5 doesn’t happen to me. I look completely healthy and like I should be physically fit, but I have a heart condition. I probably can’t walk 4 miles, especially at a fast pace. If I had been told to wear comfortable shoes, I probably would have asked questions, but I really wouldn’t want to discuss my condition. It doesn’t interfere with my normal desk job in any way.

    Employers, please don’t assume that just because someone looks “healthy” or doesn’t have an obvious physical difference, that they don’t have mobility challenges.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      They really should have an opt-out available, I agree. While this is great for exercise and team building, you can’t possibly know the situation of everyone.

      1. Arielle*

        Yup. There’s no reason you would look at me and think I wouldn’t be able to walk four miles, but walking in hot weather causes my blood sugar to plummet. I walked a mile down the Coney Island pier this weekend when it was hotter than I’d planned for, and my blood sugar dropped over 100 points in 20 minutes. It’s possible for me but I would need advance warning so I can adjust my insulin pump settings accordingly, prep with extra snacks, etc.

        tldr; Not all activity restricting conditions are visible or obvious.

        1. simonthegrey*

          Indeed; if it were hot, I’d have to sit it out. I look overweight but not dangerously so, and I know people would think “a walk would be good for her,” but actually I have had heat stroke in the past. I stop sweating once I get hot, overheat, and am at risk for heat exhaustion/heat stroke basically forever. If I thought it was a mile or two, and I knew there would be some shade, I’d probably be fine. Four miles, especially if there was nowhere to stop and cool down to regulate my body temp, I’d be in a world of hurt.

        2. Honeybee*

          Yeah, walking for four miles straight in the heat would likely trigger a migraine for me.

          Honestly, a four mile walk (around 1.5 hours, potentially longer depending on speed) in high heat isn’t really great for anyone, currently healthy/abled people included.

          1. I Agree*

            Yup. I can ride my bike 20 miles without much difficulty, although it is more unpleasant in the heat of summer (around this time of year it’s perfect) … but walking even one mile is honestly too much for me.

      2. OP#5*

        One person did opt out because she wasn’t really capable of doing any amount of walking. No one else did because we had no idea what we were actually doing which leaves quite a broad range. For example, I’m part of an office walking group that goes out every Wednesday. It’s walk at your own pace and I usually do 3k in 30 mins (the real keeners do 4k in 30 mins). So I expected that I was up to the task.

      3. Kix*

        Word. I am fat, and I do have health issues (not as bad as they used to be), and when I told my then-manager that I couldn’t participate in some highly physical team building event, he replied, “Can’t you just try to make an effort to get along?” I was embarrassed. What I should have done was hauled his azz to HR.

        I feel the same way about people who schedule walking meetings. Don’t just assume people are able to go walking for an hour or so while talking business.

  11. Dan*


    You’ve got a lot going on here, some of which you can’t solve.

    Applying for multiple jobs isn’t a problem. When my skills match multiple jobs, I apply for them all. Your problem is more likely that people are applying for jobs that they aren’t qualified for. My current division has like 20 openings. I’m qualified for them all, my goal is to get in front of an hm stat. I’m actually interested in about 90% of the work, so making me arbitrarily pick my career direction from vaguely worded job descriptions makes no sense.

    You illustrate one example where someone applies for an mba job and forklift operator. Are they qualified for either, let alone both? If not, reject them. If they are, talk to the hiring managers and see what the best fits are.

    Also keep in my that you’re dealing with a certain type of job seeker. Those that are living paycheck to paycheck have real problems. Who cares about some ambiguous career track when rent has to get paid next month? Learning how to effectively deal with your typical applicant pool will help you in the long run.

    What do you mean by day labor anyway? Do you mean temp work? If you’re not doing temp places then say so. But gone are the days where people put in 25 years and climb the ranks. Everybody is looking for a paycheck first and foremost, the rest of it, well… Rewarding jobs and career paths are nice and all, but paying the bills comes first.

    If you want me to stick around, you have an obligation to present the job accurately, pay fairly, and treat me like a human being. I expect that on an ongoing basis, too. If people walk out the first day, there were severe misunderstandings or misreprestations. Or the boss was an asshat, and you didn’t tell me that up front.

    Make no mistake, when I’m out of work, I’ll take anything that is a reasonable match to my skillet. I can’t hold out for positions that may not even exist anymore. That’s not a character flaw that should be held against the jobless.

    1. UKAnon*

      What you say about jobseeking is both very true and very depressing (it’s 8am here, so you’ve set me up for a sad day!) I think that people are still looking primarily for jobs that advance their career – though I say that from a background where we can (maybe) claim unemployment benefit for the length of a job hunt, so perhaps that builds a slightly different culture – but after a while, if it even uses your skillset it’s a bonus.

      Also, “a reasonable match to my skillet” is possibly one of the creepier typos ever.

    2. The Bimmer Guy*

      I don’t think OP’s complaint is designed to be highlighted as a character flaw of people who are looking for decent work with which pay their bills, because that’s a genuine reason to apply for a job…but OP’s agency simply doesn’t cater to candidates in that situation. Not that it’s better or worse, but OP’s agency is looking for candidates who have specific career paths in mind and who are interested in forging long-term relationships with their employers. Someone in your scenario would be better served by a different (not better, not worse, just *different*) placement agency.

      1. W.*

        The way it was worded seemed a bit off – OP says they planned every role within their professional career which is great but certainly not universal – lots of people get deterred and may be trying for one thing but unable to, also for some it’s hard to plan – I’m a job seeker and realistically my ability to plan my future depends on my job, and where I see myself in five years relates to whether I find a job in what I want to do. And at a certain point you would just like a job, I think OP just needs to ask lots of questions to be able to help these candidates figure where they’d best fit. And I’d really drop the idea that people get to plan their professional career – for a lot of people that’s a privilege – most people stumble into things or try to make ends meet.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I agree, planning one’s career is a luxury. For many people it is not an available option at all, they must take the available work they find, period. And if the boss is a glassbowl then they just have to put up with it.

      2. Charby*

        I suspect that most people with minimal job experiences really don’t have the strong and clear preferences that the OP is looking for; what she might end up settling for is someone who is willing to do some preliminary research and identify a career path that they are willing to commit to for at least a few years. The candidates probably think that they’re being flexible or open-minded by not expressing any opinions but then they end up looking muddled and unfocused instead.

        She’s not looking for temps or other short-term workers, but I’m not sure that she’s really asking for people to commit to a lifetime of employment either. Maybe she could communicate that aspect of it more clearly; I think most people would be hesitant to declare that they will only ever be interested in a single career path, but if it was framed more as discussing career goals and interests and guided career exploration (which is what the OP’s letter indicates) she might get less indecision.

      3. Anx*

        I think part of the problem is those particular placement agencies don’t really exist. It seems that there are programs for manufacturing, blue collar, or support role job placement. There are recruiters and placement agencies looking for long-term employees with more advanced but specific skills.

        But the applicant that is limbo, whether going through a prolonged job search after an industry’s contracted, are laid off (especially over 50), or who have little experience for jobs they’ve trained or study for don’t have a lot of options.

        1. Spinanch Eater*

          I think the under 30 and over 50 crowd have it equally tough where layoffs are concerned. The latter may have been laid off from industry’s that might never see that capacity again, and the former are floating around with 1 to 3 years at best entry level experience and are now competing with the shiny new “more malleable” college graduates. It’s very tough either way. My husband is 27 and has been turned down for even part-time unskilled retail work. It’s just really hard out there.

          1. Anx*

            I’m 29. I concur. I’m not trying to make too many excuses for myself, but I do think there’s some truth to the matter. My parents are on the other end of the spectrum. While my mom wasn’t laid off, she took a career detour to run a business outside of her industry. She has no illusions of going back to where she left when she had kids, but she can’t find anything at all. Maybe she’s too picky, though, because she balks at salaries I’d kill for. Which probably says a lot about wage stagnation and deflation.

            It’s so hard to apply for jobs with a few internships and part-time gigs since graduation. I feel like I have so little professionally to show for the past 7 years, and I honestly don’t even feel that much more professionally mature now than I did at 22. In some ways I’ve even regressed (confidence wise). I probably should have been blogging a lot or otherwise creating a more tangible side project in the meantime.

            I literally don’t see entry level positions that often. I can’t even pretend I don’t have a degree because I worked in jobs that make it very obvious I was in college (in student services). Many of my friends are similarly floundering. You’re right that it’s hard to compete with fresher grads without having the experience one might expect from someone in their late 20s.

            1. W.*

              Same situation for me in fact I was just interviewing for a job where I learned the outgoing person had been a fresh graduate. Comparatively I have the same years of experience you have, but I apparently am still equal (or less than) a new graduate.

    3. I'm a Little Teapot*

      Exactly. I am that jobseeker, OP3. I have been on a regular basis for years. No “permanent” job has been seriously interested in me for years, except for a couple of fiascos with bad bosses. I am not planning a career path, because that would be hopeless at this point; I’d be very unlikely to get whatever very specific job I aimed for. I need to pay the bills, and while I never apply for jobs I’m unqualified for I don’t always apply for jobs that are a perfect fit. And if you’re running a temp agency, even one with long-term positions, you need to be aware that most of your applicants are people who are not having good luck finding a perm job but need a paycheck. Some might be people who need a job for a limited, specific timeframe (for example, they know they are moving in a few months), and a few may prefer temp work for whatever reason, but most people want the benefits, higher pay, and security of a permanent job but haven’t been able to find one.

      1. Not Today Satan*

        “I am not planning a career path, because that would be hopeless at this point; I’d be very unlikely to get whatever very specific job I aimed for.”

        When I was job hunting, by far the most painful thing was when a well-meaning friend would say, if you could have ANY job in the world, what would it be? It had really gotten to the point that daydreaming about having a good, fulfilling job seemed so unrealistic that I didn’t even know how to think in those terms anymore. I literally just wanted a paycheck from a non-abusive boss. It was hard not to cry every time I was asked this.

        1. Q*

          I was asked that recently too…what would your ideal job be? My answer…The one I have now. Except the version three years ago before we got current manager who is running this place and our morale into the ground.

        2. Jennifer*

          It makes me angry when people say things like that. Because I CAN’T have any job I want, period. Nobody will take me!

        3. Not So NewReader*

          Dreams die at some point. There is only so long that you can struggle and after that the whole concept of “career path” seems silly/frivilous in the context of your path in life.

          My wise friend, that I mentioned once in a while, thought that for most people by the time they hit 39 most of their unobtained dreams are dead/gone. They have given up hope of ever seeing that dream happen. They realize that what they have will be all they ever have and they plod along hoping somehow to make it work out.

          Yes, there could be self-filfulling prophecy going on there. Or, there could be a level of brokenness that not many people understand.

          Good discussion, important stuff here. Thanks, all!

    4. Not Today Satan*

      This. #3 brought back painful memories of my days of unemployment. People are desperate out there. They claim the unemployment rate is getting better, but I don’t know–I’m a financial counselor and still see a LOT of people working multiple crappy jobs, commuting 3+ hours each way for their job, or having a poor-paying admin job despite a master’s and 100,000+ in student loans. It’s really scary and depressing.

      One of the most demoralizing part of my job search was when I’d meet with recruiters and try to finesse some BS answer that assured them I was interested in this particular opportunity, but keep me in mind for anything! literally anything! heh heh

      I get that quitting jobs after a day isn’t great but I wouldn’t really blame their lack of career goals or desperation for it. In fact, the two don’t seem to match up.

      1. Spinanch Eater*

        Part of the “better” is not counting those who took a break from searching at any point. My husband does not count as “unemployed” because there was a 6 month period after he was unemployed for 12 months when we decided his efforts would be better spent on other endeavors.

        Now we have relocated and he has been actively looking again for 7 months but I doubt he is being counted towards the unemployed.

      2. CdnAcct*

        The unemployment rate doesn’t show the full picture – part-time, temporary jobs are rising, while full-time permanent jobs are decreasing. So yes, someone might be employed, but the job quality is way down.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        NTS, you brought more good points to the foreground. No one talks about how demoralizing it is to sit and talk about how a particular opportunity is so interesting/exciting when your top priority is to pay the rent/mortgage this month. Everyone, who does this, knows they are lying through their teeth but the hungrier you are, the more willing you might be to lie.
        Then you start thinking, “okay, this will pay the rent, but I still won’t have food on what they are offering”. And the downward spiral continues.

    5. Esperanza*

      One warning about this approach is that at my organization, when someone has applied to 20 jobs we call them “serial appliers” and they get rejected without a glance. I’ve seen the HR manager say “Oh, that guy again” and remove them immediately.

      I’m hiring for a specific position, and it is frustrating to wade through resumes from people who have applied to every opening in the organization. I want someone who is targeting this type of work, has the required skills and experience, and will be happy with the role.

      So in my experience trying to “get in front of a hiring manager stat” is the wrong approach. It’s clogging the system with countless irrelevant applications. I totally get and sympathize with desperation / willingness to do anything, but we are looking for people who have put serious thought into fit. I think applicants imagine we will say “Well they aren’t right for this position, but I’m going to keep them in mind” — in reality that only happens when we have a couple of similar openings. People who apply to everything are just tossed.

      1. F.*

        I am an HR Manager and have to wade through hundreds of resumes. I do exactly the same thing to the serial applicants. I would also add that in our state one has to apply for a certain number of positions weekly in order to keep their unemployment benefits (and food stamps, too, if unemployed, if I understand correctly). I see lots of resumes from people who totally ignore the required qualifications for an advertised position just so they can say they applied. For example, I recently had someone with years of admin experience applying for a highway construction field inspector position which required very specific certifications and experience as stated in the advertisement. You can’t tell me they couldn’t find admin positions out there. For SOME people, that is just a way of scamming the system to keep their benefits when they don’t really WANT to work. (NOTE: this is NOT an indictment of the truly desperate unemployed. Been there, done that!)

        1. Ad Astra*

          Unemployment Insurance is such a pain in the butt that I can’t imagine many people are truly scamming the system. It would be easier to actually work.

          That said, in weeks when none of the advertised jobs fit my skillset, I made sure to apply for things that were so far outside my abilities that there was no way they’d call me for an interview. If I applied for a job waiting tables or doing low-level admin work, they might actually want to hire me. I wouldn’t be allowed to turn down the offer, and I’d wind up making less money than what my benefits were paying.

          1. F.*

            In my state, you cannot be forced to accept a position that pays less than a certain percentage of your former wage. You might want to look at your state’s requirements. It could save you (and some poor, hapless resume reviewers) some work. Unfortunately, I do know people who have bragged about scamming the system in the way I outlined above. I wish everyone who is truly looking for work the best of luck in their job search!

            1. Ad Astra*

              That’s good to know! Fortunately, I found a full-time gig, but I remember being extremely unclear about what I could and couldn’t do under UI.

              As for scammers, I’ve learned there’s a certain small percentage of the population that will do anything to get out of doing whatever it is they’re supposed to be doing. In school, these were the kids with the most elaborate methods of cheating on their tests. Most of the time, this requires far more time and energy than it would to just do the work. It’s a weird way to look at the world.

            2. ThursdaysGeek*

              I suspected that was the case when I was unemployed, but when faced with a job offer that was a 20% pay cut from my former job, the other option was unemployment benefits running out in another month or so.

          2. Not So NewReader*

            Our systems encourage manipulation. I have seen countless stories. What is sad to me is the stories that are happening for a reason. Spouse one is sick and dying, spouse two is applying for whatever just to keep some money coming in the house so spouse two can give 24/7 care to dying spouse. Or the young mom, who can get a job paying X per week, but childcare costs 2X per week.
            In some ways, I think our society is pretty harsh. How’s that expression go? Bandaids for bullet wounds. That’s the way we (society) go at problems- the thinking is sometimes superficial.

        2. JessaB*

          Some times you cannot find an admin position that has the skillset you have. A lot of them are now asking for specialties that are not traditional admin stuff.

          1. Jennifer*

            Yeah, I am running into this problem all the time now. They basically want an accountant/event planner/god only knows what else on top of the usual now.

        3. Merry and Bright*

          I get what you are saying, F. In theory it would easy to get an admin position, especially with years of experience. But even here many openings ask for admin experience in that specific field which means HR would discard those too. I’m excluding fields like finance and law which often need specialised admins. But often an employer will ask for an admin with X years’ experience in Teapots, Coffee Makers or Sugar Bowls so there can be a reason why someone feels compelled to apply for different occupations to meet government requirements. Or you might just run out of admin jobs to apply for that week or month. The UK does this and it sounds like the US does too.

        4. Liane*

          Scamming the system is not as easy as you blithely imply anymore.
          I just recently rejoined the Underemployed ranks from the Unemployed ranks. Within a week or so of starting New Job (temp to perm & nothing I’ve ever done before), the UI people sent me a note. Something like, “Congratulations! Our latest New Hires Report indicates you have a job as of mm/dd/ 2015. BTW, we will audit any & all your claims for after that date. You will have to repay & can be charged with fraud if you didn’t report new earnings, even if you haven’t been paid yet, correctly.”
          Another week, passed & I got a notice that they audited me & wanted me to explain 1-Why I didn’t report [amount less than $50] for week A & why what I reported for week B was lower than what NewJob said I earned.
          Fortunately, UI Auditors here are decent people, and had no trouble with the truth: Week A (a few hours one afternoon) was described as “information/interview session,” not work, so I had no idea I would be paid; and the other weeks, I was told job paid $X/hr when it actually paid $Y/hr.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            In a similar vien a friend of mine was told she had to repay 1700 dollars in food stamp money. Working for $10 hour and taking care of a very sick spouse that can’t seem to stay out of the hospital, it will be a while for her to repay that money.

      2. Mike C.*

        It’s really difficult not to apply to all the jobs when a company is hiring for the same or similar positions across multiple departments.

        1. RG*

          Definitely. I remember, back as a college student, applying for a ton of internships at a company. For the record, I really did (and still do) think the company makes cool products, but the only real difference between job openings is which product you’d work on, not actual qualifications. Except this is, you know, my first internship, so I don’t really know what I want to do yet. How do you not end up with a lot of kids doing the same thing I did?

        2. over educated and underemployed*

          Agreed! I hope these comments about “serial” applicants are not coming from hr people out of large organizations where people really might see a number of good potential opportunities.

          1. snuck*

            I think the comments are more directed at the scatter gun approach where people do not have a clear fit.

            I can see someone applying to five similar customer service positions, maybe a team lead, a CS specialist, a CS with a couple of different locations or shifts.

            But for them to apply for those and then a payroll, accounts receivable, EA and a technical role as well suggests they aren’t actually that interested in CS passionately, but just any job.

        3. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

          When one of my dear friends was looking for a customer service position in our small town, one of the big 3 employers had 5 CSR positions open, each in a different department. She ended up applying for one and putting a note that said she would like to be considered for any of the positions (they all literally had the same job description except “assisting customers with X.”

        4. Esperanza*

          There is a big difference between applying for the same position across multiple departments, and applying for a wide variety of positions that are completely different roles. When someone has applied to a bunch of very different roles (often with the exact same materials) they aren’t considered. For each of those jobs, they are competing with people who have relevant experience and tailored cover letters, so why would we interview someone who has applied indiscriminately to countless jobs here? It’s just a bad approach.

          But if someone is applying to similar jobs and makes a good case for each one, that’s different.

          1. Spinanch Eater*

            But what about someone who has experience in each of those wide array of jobs, and has tailored their resume to each job, but has applied to say 12 positions in your org?

            My husband graduated during the height of the financial downturn, worked as a VISTA for two years, 1 year was warehouse management at a food bank combined with a financial services aid of sorts, and the second year was office management and teaching at risk youth. He then worked at a non-profit for a year and some change (writing, editing, office managerment) before being laid off. He has been able to find Zilch since then. It’s so bad he has applied to pet stores and even the grocery story and has not heard back for those positions either. It’s really depressing.

            We live in a rural area with only 2 major employers and he is terrified that one of them is basically doing what the HR manager said above. “Oh this guy again? Tosses in trash without even looking.” He’s applied to about 12 jobs in about 3 job roles, but he does have experience with office management, financial aid, and warehouse management so why wouldn’t he apply for those opportunities?

            1. Esperanza*

              That’s rough — I wish I knew what to suggest, but I don’t. I can only tell you that applying to a lot of different jobs is viewed negatively in my organization. Multiple people above me told me to disregard applicants who had applied to a bunch of other openings. Part of it is the bad behavior of people who spam every posting with the same irrelevant materials — it makes people start recognizing names and disregarding them.

              But we’re also looking for people who are targeting a particular role. We don’t want someone who just needs any job, because they might leave as soon as something better comes along — and we want someone who views the opening as a good fit for them, and it’s hard to tell what someone really wants to do when they’ve applied for everything.

              I know that’s really unfair because your husband would probably be great at any of those jobs, and would happily stay. Three roles doesn’t sound too extreme, though. And if he is tailoring his cover letters to each opening, he’s already doing much better than most serial appliers.

              1. Jennifer*

                These days, I don’t think there’s that many people left who are so privileged that they could and would leave “as soon as something better comes along.” Very few “something betters” come along any more. At this point plenty of people are desperate.

                1. Diluted_TortoiseShell*

                  It’s true that sometime people leave for something better, but I would think that fear would be minimized when you see someone applying who has been unemployed for a year or two. Do you really think that the minute you employ them in retail: poof they will leave? It just seems unlikely and is doing a huge disservice to large swath of millennials who had the misfortune of getting laid off shortly after college. What are these educated young people suppose to do if retail won’t hire and they are less desirable for professional positions than new graduates?

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Honestly, yes, sometimes, if the job they get isn’t in the field they want/studied. And it’s reasonable that they’d do that, but it’s something employers are understandably wary of.

                3. Not So NewReader*

                  Right on, Jennifer and if employers paid a living wage and treated people with basic human respect, people would be more inclined to stay.
                  My uncle managed a department for a well-known business on the upper east coast. He said that if you want people to stay you have to 1) give them basic respect this includes everything from daily interactions to appropriate training. 2) Pay them a living wage. 3) Encourage them that they could work somewhere else. Ironically, when they do look around they more often decide to stay put. My uncle said his employee turn over was very low. I bet it was.

            2. Ad Astra*

              I’m not in HR, but I would have to guess a major employer in a rural area might be less bothered by multiple applications from one candidate. With so few companies hiring in the area, it probably happens all the time, wouldn’t you think? But if I were him, I’d make sure all my resumes are tailored to the position he’s applying for, since a lot of his experience might be irrelevant to a given position.

            3. snuck*

              I live in a rural area too (now)… It’s hard because there’s signficantly less options.

              From what I can tell (in rural Western Australia – which is REALLY rural compared to where most people consider rural)…. a lot of these jobs come down to who knows who and what your reputation is.

              If there’s been some reputation damages with your husband he might need to work out how to repair that (I’m hoping that’s not the case!), and if he has a personality clash or whatever with either of the two companies that are available then he needs to work out how to work around it. It’s not like those of us who live in these situation can apply to the next shop over :/

              If it’s not any of that can I then suggest he make an appointment with the appropriate department/manager in those businesses and make it clear that he wants to talk about future employment opportunities and his skillset and if there’s a possibility for future openings. I wouldn’t advocate this in metro/urban areas but in country areas it might be of help. I would think carefully about each business and who they employ into what roles now and what you can do similar, given these businesses are usually small businesses and have a ‘style’ of employment set by the owner.

              Generally it’s possible (here in country WA) to get a few hours here and there, cleaning, stacking shelves, shire work sweeping or sorting recycling etc. Not glamour jobs, but they all actually pay reasonably (due to their lack of glamour), and give a chance for others to see him in a working role again. It’s not seen here as a step down, just a gap filler, when people do this – recognition that this is how it is in country towns.

              Also… has your husband looked into his skillsets differently – he could well be good at writing grant applications and managing small projects – could he cobble together a chunk of grants and money and run some programs… anything from Al Anon to youth centre/work to unemployment skills training?

            4. Spans*

              I’m afraid I may have blacklisted myself at Town’s Major Employer for this same reason. I don’t have Big Kid, Professional experience in any fields, but I have applied for seemingly scattered positions that I was genuinely interested in and/or felt I had some relevant experience in. I wrote a cover letter (tailored) for each:
              -admin work in departments relevant to my degree, after having done minimal clerical work in college jobs when I was looking for a support role
              -janitorial work because I really like cleaning and have some training in hazardous waste disposal and epidemiology and they have evening and late afternoon shifts; I’d probably do any job if I could do it at night for quality of life purposes. plus, the pay was better than other positions they posted.
              -lab tech positions (I studied bio)
              -eh&s positions (I studied environmental health)

              I cringe looking back because I was overly earnest (and still am to some degree). I have never applied to a job I couldn’t see myself in for at least 2 years. I think it’s tough when you’re still trying to figure out your career path and are open to so many options. But I wasn’t really looking at what I wanted to do, more like what I saw myself being able to do. I think part of this

        5. Elizabeth West*

          True; when I was unemployed, I applied to the big health systems for clerical jobs. They were always clerical, though in different departments. I never got a call from either of the hospitals until after I got my current job. They didn’t pay enough for me to live on anyway.

      1. VintageLydia USA*

        Considering how many retail managers I knew with MBAs or working toward one (a surprising number, really) the combination isn’t actually that unusual.

      2. JessaB*

        My sister stopped listing her MBA on her CV because despite 40 years of nursing if they saw the MBA they wanted her in a management role in an office instead of being patient facing. She doesn’t want to be a manager. So she just took it off completely. Sometimes the certification is more harm than good.

      3. OP #3*

        The Gold Digger- Exactly! The candidate didn’t have quite the range of experience required for the executive level job, so I pursued the warehouse/forklift job instead. Unfortunately, the candidate went out for the interview with the client and made it very clear he/she was not suited for the job, despite having several years previous experience. So now we are on to other options for that candidate.

        1. snuck*

          I’m in Australia, so it might be different here…

          Here in Oz the recruitment agencies work for the company not the job seeker. Recruitment Agents actively seek and court companies and try to win more and more of their business… they fill according to the company’s requirements… Job seekers court recruitment agents and try to win favour with them and get onto their books… the recruitment agent owes the job seeker very little in teh way of finding them a role, they are seeking to fill a company’s role and if the job seeker fits – great! – if not… keep looking buddy.

    6. A Minion*

      I agree with all of this. I worked as a Staffing Specialist for Manpower years ago and upper management was constantly pushing us to do more direct placements for permanent, higher level positions because that’s what brought in the money. The problem was that this area is very heavy in manufacturing – we have furniture factories, textiles, a Pepsi and a Gatorade plant – and most of the jobs we had available at any given time were short-term, temporary jobs that required minimal skills. Our workforce consisted primarily of displaced workers looking for anything at all to pay the bills, so it was very unrealistic to expect that we would be placing many executives in this area.
      The people we had applying were the “anything at all” type and so asking them about their career goals often brought blank stares and confused looks. They needed something to pay the bills. Hell, I’ve been there a time or two in my life. Especially when I was young – I won’t to into the whole story here, but I was an unskilled worker looking for anything and I ended up with a great career. My early jobs were kind of all over the place, but once I found something I liked and was good at, my career path kind of laid itself out and now I’m working in the nonprofit world as a finance director and really enjoying it. My biggest career goal in the early days was “office job” – I just wanted to get out of factory work and into more administrative type work, so I didn’t care what I did, as long as it was in an office setting. I figured I’d get a better idea of where to go from there once I was in the door, so to speak. Sometimes it’s looking beyond their “anything at all” answers and seeing that just because they’ll do anything doesn’t mean they can’t end up in a career path that works well for them.

  12. Merry and Bright*

    On #5, I sympathise. In one job I was told I wasn’t a team player because I declined to do an assault course. I’m not overweight and I’m reasonably fit (I do a lot of swimming). But the assault course? Not on your life. Way beyond me. Plus I hate doing stuff where I am shouted at!

    1. Myrin*

      If you don’t mind, what in the hell is an assault course? Some kind of course where you supposedly learn to defend yourself against verbal and physical attacks? (I’m scared of googling it tbh.)

      1. UKAnon*

        I think it means an army assault course – all the jumps and nets and climbing and what not that soldiers in training do. I think you’ll be safe to Google :-)

      2. Apollo Warbucks*

        An assault course (sometimes called and obstacle course) involves crawling, climbing, running and jumping over various obstacles, such as walls, water holes, rope ladders / cargo nets some might have a zip line so you descend from hight.

        1. Myrin*

          Thanks so much, UKAnon and Apollo! Turns out my dictionary could have told me it’s an obstacle course, I just totally didn’t think of even searching for the word since I was so focused on the “assault” part. That makes it even stranger in my opinion – aren’t obstacle courses something you usually do alone? I mean, you can obviously be split into teams which then go against each other but I don’t really see how that can help strengthen the bonds of the team as a whole.

          1. Apollo Warbucks*

            Some obstacles require a team effort to over come, or you race in teams to see which team is quickest overall. I’ve not done an assault course since summer camp when I was at school, unless you’re a soldier I don’t think it does much to help team building in an office.

          2. Hornswoggler*

            I think the ‘assault’ bit is meant to indicate the participants assaulting the course, not the course (or anyone else) assaulting the participants.

          1. Charlotte Collins*

            We did an obstacle course when I was in 6th grade. They used the playground equipment that had been there for years and years. I was able to do a reasonably good job because it was the same equipment that I had been playing on for the past 7 years (including kindergarten), and we didn’t do anything that different from what we’d have to do otherwise.

            I do remember once having to run through tires in gym class in middle or high school. (Tires were laid flat on the ground next to each other, and you put one foot in the center of each tire. I think it’s a football thing?) Not really something that you can do both quickly and safely if you are short.

    2. Lia*

      No way on anything from heights. I am quite fit (training for a marathon now) and wouldn’t have trouble with a basic obstacle course since I enjoy trail running, but zip lining and any kind of climbing over about 6-8 feet would be a HUGE no way. Also, I am a very weak swimmer, so anything involving water deep enough to need swimming skills would be out, too.

    3. neverjaunty*

      “Not a team player” is the dysfunctional workplace version of “C’mon, all the COOL kids are doing it!” and “Just once never hurt anybody!”

      Screw those people. I have no interest in disclosing my health history or physical limitations to mollify bullies.

    4. DMented Kitty*

      I actually like obstacle courses. When my grade/high school had Field Day I always signed up for the obstacle course, funny thing is I’m always the only girl in my team (I wasn’t afraid of getting dirt and scratches). Most of it was diving under tables and clawing at dirt, so I did fine. My team always won first place because I’m tiny enough to dive underneath stuff really quick (my taller guy teammates got scratches on their back because they keep hitting the underside of the tables).

      As long as the obstacle courses do not consist of things that short people would really have problems with (e.g. hurdles), I’m all for it. I can easily tune out people shouting at me anyway.

  13. Matt*

    I’m a passionate walker, I often choose to walk home from work instead of taking the bus, which is about two miles … but four miles would be really tough for me, mostly because my feet really start to hurt at some point. I’ve done it, but in the context of hiking – in the woods, over a whole day tour, with rests, picnic, you get the point … four miles in an urban area without all the beautiful sides of a hiking tour would be torture for me.

    1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

      I completely agree that there is a huge difference between choosing to do something and having it sprung on you.

      I’m an avid runner and I usually do 2-3 miles in the morning, but when I’m training that could be as high as 8. Adding a four mile walk when I’m ramping up would be miserable if I didn’t know it was coming.

    2. MashaKasha*

      Hiker/passionate walker here too. I would’ve LOVED this event. The most I’ve ever done was 15 miles in the woods with steep hills, and 7-8 miles in the city (NYC had a hiking event called SummerStreets during the weekend that I was visiting there with friends.) (Not on the same day.) So I would’ve loved loved loved it. But most people are not me. Just like I have health issues that prevent me from doing some of the other activities, many people have health issues that would’ve prevented them from doing a four mile walk on city streets. Not The Droid… is making another great point as well, that for some people, this four-mile hike could be coming on top of an eight-mile morning run. And then one just has to ask – how is it a team-building exercise when the majority of the team cannot do it?

      1. Lia*

        Yep, I thought of that too. Had something similar sprung on me a while back — had done a long training run, then wound up hiking 5 miles later that day. My poor feet — I was hobbling by the end!

  14. Apollo Warbucks*

    #2 Sally needs to do a better job in managing the expectations of the people asking for the information and tell them clearly that they can not have it, I understand that it can be hard to say no to people but at the moment she is causing extra work for the OP and probably causing frustration for people by telling them they can have the information when they are going to have their request refused.

    I get requests from a number of departments that have confused IT issues for problems other departments should deal with. I managed to get some standard scripts I can use to answer these queries from the departments involved and most of the time the people will accept that answer even if it’s not the one they are looking for. So maybe the OP could tell Sally clearly what to say to the other departments that ask for a list of email addresses or just ask her to telling stop giving people her name if there’s no reason for the OP to be involved. For people who insist on arguing or won’t take no for an answer if the university has data protection policy maybe Sally can refer them to that, where it is clearly written that disclosure is prohibited, nearly all firms in the UK have a data protection officer who’s job it is (either full time or along with other duties) it is, is to to ensure legal compliance with data protection requirements, is there something comparable in the US? if there is and it’s a persistent problem the OP could ask for their advise about how to educate people to stop asking for things that will break the law, there are some heavy legal penalties in place for breaches so it’s worth making sure people understand what they’re doing.

    But in the mean time OP I would tell Sally once more not to tell people you can give them a list of email addresses and then the next time someone tells you Sally told them you could help, say “Sally was wrong I have told her before that we can not hand out our list of email addresses”

    1. Xarcady*

      I like this solution because it gives Sally something to say that is more positive than, “I know someone with the list of emails you need, but you can’t have it.”

      That said, the OP’s department has the list, and found a way to get the list. I’m wondering if there isn’t some other office on campus that could give out student emails to other departments that are entitled to have those emails. I’m thinking that say, the Registrar’s Office might need them, Housing might need them–there has to be a way for some departments to get the emails in a legit manner.

      And then the other departments need instructions on how to build up their database of this information–which again, should come from some place in the University, not the OP’s office. (I have a feeling the info is out there, and some of these info seekers just don’t want to do the work necessary to accumulate their own list.)

      1. Apollo Warbucks*

        From the letter it seems like Sally wants the email address to use for marketing, where as I assume the OP is using them for admin purposes so they can be shared with other departments such as the Registrar’s Office and Housing, but the problem comes from handing them out for direct marketing, where the students have not given consent for their emails to shared for that purpose.

        1. Kelly L.*

          This. I’m sure the Registrar and Housing have all this too–but they can’t give it to Sally either.

      2. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

        It sounds like the OP’s department collected email address from people who opted-in, so I am guessing sign-up sheets and other forms of collection.

        A lot of Universities are adding the caveat of “University purposes” to their contact forms, but if there is not something similar in place, it is nearly impossible to get student emails for marketing purposes.

        1. Bostonian*

          This “University purposes” thing explains a lot about my inbox. I’m a grad student getting a a double masters degree, so I get all the email from two departments. The number of email lists that I’ve ended up on and can’t unsubscribe from drives me crazy – notices of lecture series I have no intention of attending, irrelevant job postings, campus-wide events vaguely related to something I attended once, etc. It’s maddening, and I appreciate OP not sharing her lists with other departments and making the problem worse.

          1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

            Just wait until you are finished with your degree and you get solicitations from both :(

  15. Green Tea*

    #3 – I think in this job market crisis it is no wonder that people are throwing themselves at any job they can find. Frankly, I don’t blame them. There are people that are willing to get any position to just ‘get their foot in the door’, or are so desperate in their job hunt that they will take a job totally unrelated to their qualifications. If they choose to do that, then that’s their prerogative.

    As other commenters have pointed out, the real issue is that people are quitting so soon. Perhaps you could implement an efficient filtering system for applicants? Have them write out their most desirable positions available at your company, and if they match the desired skills/attributes then talk to them further. If they are totally mismatched then don’t pursue them. It may create some extra work, but could pay off in the long run.

    1. Ani*

      Quitting after 1 day also really stands out here to me as a subject being swept under the rug. This just does not happen this routinely with people desperate for jobs living paycheck to paycheck. I’m not sure where the disconnect is but something is way off.

      1. AcidMeFlux*

        Well, I did this a few times years ago (like 30) when I was a whelp, seriously poor, and still young and optimistic enough to believe that energy + motivation = skills. Several times I bailed on jobs after one day because I convinced myself and the recruiter (granted, these were temp agencies) that I could do it, but I couldn’t. A very technical and complicated data entry job, a job involving much more advanced proofreader skills than I was capable of, and a high-speed medical dictaphone transcription job all come to mind. After a few humiliations like this I decided to be honest with recruiters and myself and only say yes to things I felt comfortable with (and yes, I literally went hungry at times). I also found a temp agency that was very professional, friendly and had a good eye for scoping out just what people were good at. And from that momen, I really learned how to work.

      2. OP #3*

        There is a disconnect-usually it’s something that #1) maybe I should have picked up on or #2) there is something in their personal situation that is causing them to quit- either they don’t have their transportation or housing worked out, or they have some physical restriction that they didn’t disclose-like the woman I sent to do janitorial and said she could do the job (i was very specific about what it was) and then quit after 2 days because she has severe back problems.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          You can build a check list off these scenarios. Keep adding to your check list as new reasons occur.

        2. snuck*

          There’s some things you can take from this.

          Explain the hours to people and before you offer them a role ask them to confirm how they will get transport. If they wave you off and say “bus” ask them which bus at what time… and get them to really look into it.

          I would add to the bottom of any forms a seperate signature box along with a sentence that covers the good old “I, Snuck Snuckums, confirm that to the best of my knowledge there I am able to perform the tasks required of me in this role” and point it out to them. Explain you’ve had people conceal phsyical or skillset limitations before and if the job is a bad fit for pre existing issues then you’ll find it hard to place them in any role again in the future, that this is a trust exercise as much as helping them to find their good fit for a job.

          Another thought is… you made a comment about these being manufacturing and factory work on the factory floor… there is naturally a high turnover in those roles, but if your rate is higher than normal then it’s worth the effort to get on top of it. It sounds like you are explaining in explicit detail the requirements of the jobs – maybe it’s time to step up the reference checking… there’s no reason you can’t say (I think… Aussie law might be different to US, someone correct me?) to a reference “In the role Agnes is applying for there will be a significant amount of lifting heavy buckets, mopping, moving large amounts of rubbish around in trolleys and other demanding physical work. In her role with you did Agnes ever perform tasks like these and was there an issue with her performance in those roles?” (Or… “In the role Agnes will be asked to perform repetitive tasks of a manual nature for eight hours a day, is this something you would recommend Agnes for? Can you see her participating effectively in a workplace where this is her primary task?”) …. and listen carefully….

          It sounds like these people are desperate and wanting whatever low qualification job they can get. If you can earn yourself a reputation of having high quality employees coming through your doors then you will get the look in more often from your client businesses, which means more commission for you.

          So weeding out the cruddy applicants is the name of the game. Reference checking. Job explaining. For particularly hard to fill/retain roles maybe ask the company for a trial period of a few days (paid) before making an offer. Look for people who have worked in similar roles before – you are looking for similar working conditions more than same type of factory work – you can teach a person to operate a machine, you can’t teach an adult to get up and to work on time day after day generally.

          Go to the people who you have placed that have worked out well and offer them an incentive / bonus to refer quality people to you – on condition that the new people stay an agreed time. Offer retention bonuses to people … whether that be pay rises, one off payments, employee of the month gift certificates, anniversary gifts… something like that.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t agree that it’s their prerogative if candidates are willing to take a job totally unrelated to their qualifications — I mean, it’s their prerogative, yes, but it’s the OP’s prerogative to instead focus on candidates who are specifically interested in the jobs she’s filling. And it’s pretty normal for employers to prefer that as well.

      It’s not about blaming job seekers who are desperate and willing to take anything, or about not understanding where they’re coming from. It’s just that there are legitimate reasons for employers not to prefer that approach — and it’s useful for job seekers to understand why that is and when that’s likely to be the case.

    3. LBK*

      It’s not really “their prerogative” if they can’t do the job because that reflects poorly on the OP, whose job it is to find good candidates for companies. I understand the desperation of being unemployed, but you’re basically asking the OP to be bad at her job.

  16. The Wall Of Creativity*

    #5 When I worked for one of the big four, we had a team building event either by the sea or in a swimming pool. I can’t remember which. We were all expected to turn up in swimming gear. I was one of many that took that day off sick.

      1. Windchime*

        I can think of very few things I would dread more than appearing in front of my coworkers in a swimsuit for a Mandatory Fun Day.

    1. T3k*

      Not to mention a swimming activity isn’t very friendly for women during certain times. I can just imagine that now “Sorry boss, I can’t do this activity based on the fact that I’m bleeding out of one end currently and I don’t wear tampons.” On second thought, that might be a good excuse to end the swimming activity and switch to something else.

    2. Charlotte Collins*

      Also, not everyone knows how to swim. This looks like a liability lawsuit waiting to happen to me.

      1. DMented Kitty*

        That would be me. I get anxiety in water, especially if it’s deep and murky. I can only be confident enough to actually swim if the water is clear and I see where I’m going. Even then, I like to be able to easily plant my feet on the bottom and get my head above the water in case something startles me, and I get very easily startled.

        Which is why I really hate people who yank my feet from underwater. It may be a harmless joke for you but you get a piece of my mind if you even make an attempt.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I love how so many called in. I would have called in also, but I would have thought I was the only one.

  17. Rae*

    OP1. If your office has an open floor plan your manager could also be seating you there so that when people come looking for him or her they reach someone knowledgable. My office has about 2 dozen such teams and our pods of four which end up with a manager usually have the most junior member of the team as well as 2 who are competent so when a person from another team needs to ask my manager a question and she’s not there they have someone to ask and someone who verifies that as correct.

    1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

      This! I sat my lead at the desk outside my offic for this exact reason. People would see I was not in my office and often decide to ask their question to the first member of my team they saw.

      It just made sense to have the person who could quickly, successfully answer their question be right there.

    2. Meg Murry*

      This is how I got seated immediately next to my boss in an open office – I was her “right hand woman” both on paper, in the org chart, and on the seating chart. It was understood that if someone had a question for her and she wasn’t there, they would immediately turn to me.

      I also was working for a Japanese company, where the distance you were seated from the boss and the size of your desk indicated your relative “rank”, or even if you were all equals on paper, how the bosses regarded you. There was drama when one of the highesr level employees really just wanted a desk in the corner by himself where he could concentrate, but it was in the area designated for the lowest employees on the totem pole, so the bosses were shocked that he was asking to sit over there, and afraid they would be sending the wrong message, whereas the highest level American bosses were trying to advocate for him, in order to keep a good employee happy and productive.

      There was a lot of drama around the seating charts at that company, because in addition to being nearer or farther from the boss’s desk, there was also a level of trust and distrust, regarding whether you were seated in the row where the big boss had a direct view of your computer screen (for employees he thought goofed off too much) vs people given the seats where the boss couldn’t see your screen from his desk. It was drama, and I don’t miss that company at all.

      For more info, see the google books results for “Doing Business with Japan” “hierarchy of seating”

      1. Rae*

        That’s interesting about Japan. I think Americans value independence tremendously, so sitting near a boss is often considered bad.

        1. copperbird*

          It can be quite an advantage to be sitting near the boss if you want to keep up with whatever is going on in your department. Who comes to see them, overhearing bits of conversations etc. Sure its a bit nosy and you shouldn’t go out of your way to earwig, but it’s a good place to sit if you are ambitious.

    3. Ordinary Worker*

      I worked in a call center once and when they rearranged seating I was placed directly outside the VP’s office. I ended up commenting on it after a few days and was told it was because the VP could hear everything the person in that seat said on the phone so they wanted someone strong sitting there.

      It’s not always a bad thing!

    4. Not So NewReader*

      I think a person in OP’s position should be near the boss. The boss should not have to hunt all over to find his second in command. Both should be able to find each other easily.

    1. OP1*

      The whole department sits in the same general area and from there we are split into the individual teams by banks of desks.

  18. Jill of All Trades*

    For #1, could it be as simple as being arranged by job function or alphabetically? Or could your manager have put the person she least wants to sit near farthest away and arranged from there?

    1. Meg Murry*

      Yes, I think this is a case where it could be on purpose, either because OP is doing well and boss wants her nearby, or because OP is doing poorly and boss wants to keep an eye on her – or just a matter of sheer coincidence, like alphabetical order or semi-random assigning.

      Rather than speculating, OP, do you have one-on-ones scheduled with your boss? Could you ask for a frank conversation on what is going well and what you need to improve on, rather than waiting to be surprised at an annual review or similar?

      1. OP1*

        Thanks for the replies – I do have a quarterly review comingg up and I will take up the advice and ask about the areas in which I am doing well/need to improve on.

  19. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*


    We do pretty well with people who don’t have a specific career track, but we don’t do well with people who are the sort to quit after one day. I don’t think those two things are connected in any way except that flighty-quit-after-one-day people might be more likely to answer your questions flightily or breeze off your concerns.

    It’s a matter of matching to your client (as I tell you how to do your job, sorry). We’re the place that our staffing agencies send the serious-but-without-specific-direction candidates. We actually prefer them, easier fit to culture. Flake quits are part of the package. If I only get them from you occasionally, you’re still aces. You can’t prevent all bad things unless you take all the jobs yourself.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      The more I think about it, the less a connection between the two makes sense. If you’re desperate enough for a job that you’ll take anything (even ones totally unrelated to your career track), something has to be seriously wrong with the job for you to quit after one day… or you’re not really that desperate and something else is wrong with you.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

        I think it’s one of those Venn Diagram things with overlapping shaded areas.

        A flaky person may be more likely to say “oh, I don’t care! I’m open to anything”, insincerely, IDK, but someone who is open to many paths isn’t necessarily flaky.

  20. Liane*

    #3: A few commentors, as well as OP, have stated/implied that job seekers shouldn’t be searching for “just any job.” Another factor besides Paying Bills, causing people to do that in the USA is unemployment laws. While these are state-specific for the most part, a very common requirement for keeping UI payments is that you cannot refuse ANY offer of work. I doubt there are “Bad Fit” or “Off Career Path” exceptions.
    Related to this is that most states require you to have -and and be able to produce a list of them on request – a certain number of job contacts/week. If your field is fairly niche or doesn’t have a lot of openings in the area, and you need the UI payments, you may have to apply to some jobs that aren’t ideal to make your quota.

    1. Xarcady*

      This does play into things. My state does allow you to *not* apply for something that is unrelated to your main job skills, or that you can’t physically do, or that is more than 25 miles from where you live, but there is a requirement to show that you’ve applied for at least 4-5 jobs per week, more as your time on unemployment lengthens.

      I applied to some jobs that were clearly out of my field at times, just because I needed to make that quota. But I also knew they would never contact me for an interview, so getting a job offer was not on the table.

      1. Could be anyone*

        My state has something similar. But I just don’t understand how you can find enough jobs that satisfy the requirements for continuing UI after awhile without applying to the same places over and over again. Although you can turn down a job that wouldn’t be a good fit if the employer doesn’t give you all the pertinent info up front. Know a guy who applied for a job that would be perfect (pay, benefits, hours). Then when he went for the interview they told him there was mandatory overtime due to a backlog. This was after telling him it was regular hours (and he asked specifically)

        1. De Minimis*

          It’s better for people to apply to things in their field that they are unlikely to get [apply to a federal job located far away, for example] if they are worried about jeopardizing UI benefits. That’s better than applying to something that you know is a poor fit but might give you an offer.

          I’m lucky that there are plenty of positions here, and my state allows you to put someone you’ve applied to before if the second contact is an interview.

        2. Liane*

          Fortunately, my state is liberal about what constitutes a “job contact.” Per the staffer that I saw after I made my initial online claim, if I called or visited an employer and all they did was refer me to their website, that was a job contact.

          For the record, NewJob, as I implied earlier, is way out of my field, or any other job experience I have. I didn’t actually apply to it. I’d answered and ad for something else through the same agency but didn’t get hired on – and the agency just put me in for this job — and I took it because 1-Bills and 2-UI rules. *Of course,* I am still looking for something closer to my interests/experience &/or that pays more. However,it is more than UI benefits, the agency offers insurance and my coworkers and management are great people.

  21. OP#5*

    I want to thank Alison for picking my question. Just to add some follow-up information, we were told to bring comfortable walking shoes and we knew we’d be out for 90 minutes but no distance was mentioned. One person who has mobility issues did opt out and I don’t think anyone else asked any questions.
    Apparently the person who set the route took about 2 hours to do so and did come back with blisters, but I don’t think any attempt was made to judge the actual distance. I think if more than one person had walked the route beforehand, questions may have been raised about the suitability. But the planners were attempting to keep everything quite secret so as not to give any of the participants an advantage.
    The intended goal of the day was to have fun and to get to know each other, so this event did fit in. We have had goal setting away days in the past. My team is currently slammed so we were all at our desks by 8 am typing away desperately trying to get some work done before this all started. It’s not as much fun when it’s just causing more stress due to looming deadlines.

    1. Ad Astra*

      Instead of “comfortable walking shoes,” the person setting this up probably should have advised you to bring “sneakers” or “trainers” or the like. I take “comfortable walking shoes” to mean Sperrys, Toms, Converse, etc. For a 4-mile walk, I’d want my Nikes.

      1. Chinook*

        “Instead of “comfortable walking shoes,” the person setting this up probably should have advised you to bring “sneakers” or “trainers” or the like”

        I disagree but it might a cultural difference. If someone told me “comfortable walking shoes,” I would have brought hiking boots or proper walking shoes, not sneakers or running shoes as they wouldn’t have the same type of support. But, around here, “comfortable walking shoes” implies you will be walking for a long period of time over varied terrain whereas running shoes implies some type of sport activity on a gym floor or track.

        1. Ad Astra*

          I bet it is cultural. My office dress code is business professional, and we live in a community where you pretty much have to drive everywhere. So to me, “comfortable walking shoes” means “not heels, and maybe not your pointy-toed dress shoes.” It makes me think we’re going to walk a block or two to lunch, not 4 miles through the city. Shoes are a real sticking point in my office, so I doubt anyone would wear tennis shoes unless expressly instructed because it’s just so far out of our norm.

    2. neverjaunty*

      Wow, whoever set this up was incredibly clueless. Dragging people on deadlines away from work and springing an intense physical activity on them unprepared? I guess that is team-building, in the sense of uniting you all as a team against whatever nitwit came up with this.

    3. Turtle Candle*

      Yikes–the timing makes it particularly bad. My team could do a 4 mile walk without problems, but not in an hour and a half, especially if some of the time was eaten up trying to figure out scavenger hunt clues. a 4 mile walk in 3-4 hours with freedom to pause and get a snack and a drink and sit for a bit would be very different than a 4 mile walk where it was ‘supposed’ to take under two hours.

  22. TotesMaGoats*

    #5-Honestly the only problem I have with this one is if they didn’t warn you that it was 4 miles. All the rest sounds like fun. With the normal caveats of being able to opt out, it sounds like a low pressure way to get to know your team and your (new) work environment. Aside from that much walking, if it was a nice day out, I don’t see much worth complaining about. But we all know I enjoy these sorts of things. My old boss at OldJob did this once as a local outdoor waterside shopping area. It was near Christmas and we had to find or obtain objects (like a random receipt) or find sculptures. It was a lot of fun and culminated in a really nice lunch and going home early.

    1. OP#5*

      I would say we all enjoyed the first 2 miles. It was after that it started to get a bit grim.
      Also it was a miracle we got a good day. Sunny and 20C. In the north of England. In September.

  23. Dot Warner*

    OP #3, have you tried looking at all your quit after 1 day cases and seeing if there’s a common thread, either for the candidates or the employers? Maybe Bob’s Teapots has an abusive manager or wasn’t clear about the job description. Maybe a lot of these one-and-done employees were inexperienced, under qualified, or didn’t have a clear grasp of how good a fit they’d be for the job. Maybe, as someone upthread suggested, it was just lousy timing and they were offered a permanent opportunity on their first day at the temp assignment. Maybe they thought they were there on a trial basis and didn’t realize that it was Not Okay to quit after one day.

    Also, speaking as someone who’s out of work right now, have a little compassion. I’m applying for any job I’m reasonably qualified for, even if it doesn’t fit with what I imagined for my career path. It would be lovely to stay in my niche, but I don’t think I’ll be able to do that and still pay the rent.

      1. Dot Warner*

        Good point, and that’s something else the OP should investigate: did any of these people fail or refuse to take a drug test? If that’s what happened, the blame is on the employers for a) not making it clear that a drug test was required and b) not waiting until the drug test came back clean before allowing these people to start work.

        1. Meg Murry*

          Or was there something else that came out once the employees were placed? Perhaps the employer painted a much rosier view of the job to the recruiter, who then passed this information on to the new employee – and once the person was actually on the job, the other employees clued the newbie in to the realities of the situation. For instance, I worked at a place where the recruiter advertised the job as “temp to hire” and first shift and that everyone would get hired in after 90 successful days, and a lot of people were willing to take the chance on that. But the reality was very different. Very few people were actually hired after 90 days, especially if they didn’t have a particular in demand skill like being certified as not just a forklift operator but trainer – people often languished there for 6-9 months before they were even considered to be hired in as an employee, not a temp – and some people were stuck in a permatemp situation. The other detail that often wasn’t mentioned was that training was usually done on first shift, but after the initial training period, almost everyone would go to second or third shift, and it could be years before there was a first shift opening. It was a really crappy bait and switch they pulled, and I don’t think the recruiters ever got the full story of how much of what they were selling wasn’t the reality – because there was an occasional unicorn story of a highly in demand position with a specific skill where someone was hired in after 90 days onto first shift – but it almost never happened that way.

          1. Liane*

            Thankfully, the agency I got NewJob through makes sure people know what they are getting into.* For both job they put me in for, the interview/information sessions were at the actual jobsite and included a tour and frank discussions about what was involved – by mangers of the company in the case of NewJob. In the case of NewJob we were also asked which shift(s) we wanted and there were openings in all. Also, I have been assured that temp-to-perm in 90 actually happens most of the time, unless you really screw up or violate their surprisingly liberal attendance policy. (Five occurrences before a verbal warning and 1 occurrence drops off for every 30 days you have zero.)

            *and any drug testing is done before hire.

  24. Workfromhome*

    #2 Sally is definitely a problem and needs to be dealt with. Its tempting to guess at her motives(If she asks enough you will cave in, she thinks the policy is wrong and if enough other departments ask you for the information it will get changed) but in the end her motives don’t matter.

    The policies and laws are clear. That information can’t be given out. If you have something in writing that can be forwarded I’d certainly use that. Depending on the environment you could maybe giving sally one more chance before this escalates. Make sure this is done in email so you have a record.

    “Sally as we have discussed many times (last on XXX date) that information on students cannot be give out by the XXX department. This is contained in our polices guide in section Y ( have attached a copy) that states “blah blah blah”. We have also been receiving requests from other departments who claim to have been directed by you to seek the restricted information. For any inquires from other departments going forward please feel free to forward them the copy of section Y regarding why I cannot give out this information and suggest they seek their manager’s assistance in getting the information they need.

    I understand that it may be difficult to deal with requests such as this from other departments and hopefully this documentation will make it simpler for you to direct people in a direction other than my department.

    In the event that that the requests continue to come to “my department” I can forward this explanation and documentation to Joe (her manager) so he can assist you in properly directing the requests.

    So in other words words:
    I told you I can’t give this to you.
    Here is the proof.
    If you think about sending someone to me DON’T ,give them this document that says why they can’t.

    This is your last warning and you’ve been told in an email and if you do it again I’ll send this email to your boss ,let him know you are ignoring policy and let him deal with it..I’m done with you ;-)

  25. MsM*

    #2: Maybe if you start copying Sally on your replies to these people explaining why you can’t do it, it’ll stick.

    1. LBK*

      Oh, I kinda like that. Just CC her back on it and say “Hi Sally, Can you clarify here? It sounds like this request is for List X, which as I’m sure you’re aware can’t be distributed to other departments – was there another list you had in mind that would apply here?”

      1. snuck*

        “Hi Eugene & Sally, Sorry, as discussed with Sally, I can’t help, I am not permitted to share this list for marketing purposes. Sally have you confused me with someone else?”

  26. MJ*

    #1 As manager, the person I would put next to me would be the most helpful person, and after that, the least distracting person. There are lots of good reasons for this placement.

  27. AndersonDarling*

    #3 The last time I went to a staffing firm, I was an administrative assistant. I remember being asked what kind of position I was looking for and I remember replying something along the lines of “Whatever may be available.”
    I didn’t want to peg myself into an administrative assistant hole when I could also do secretary, legal secretary, receptionist work. In the end I got a gig cleaning up someone’s SAP database-> way outside the scope of an admin asst, but I had the experience and skills.
    I assumed the staffing firm would compare my skills with the availabilities and find a good fit. I didn’t mean to imply that I would dig ditches.

    1. Charby*

      That’s definitely a valid approach. If you’re dealing with someone like the OP/her agency though, it might be better to lead with your preferences and then acknowledge that you would be willing to explore opportunities that use your skills and experience. It’s not necessarily a bad thing to acknowledge that you have specific preferences (such as a career as an office admin) and that doesn’t mean that you can’t be a legal secretary or an analyst or something.

      For her the problem seems to be that people are saying, “I’ll do anything, I will take any job,” because they’re desperate, and then flaking out once they realize that they actually won’t or can’t do literally *any* job… Someone might genuinely think that they would be equally happy as an office admin, a forklift operator, a bank loan officer, a dental hygienist, and a short order cook but once the cold hard reality of the first day at work hits them they will likely change their mind and that seems to be her fear.

  28. ACA*

    One day I arrived at work to discover that the whole office was signed up to do a “health awareness” walk at lunchtime and no one had remembered to tell me ahead of time…so I ended up doing my first 5K in a pencil skirt and ballet flats. So hey, OP5, at least they gave you a little bit of warning. :)

    1. Jane, the world's worst employee*

      That’s terrible! I can’t even imagine running in ballet flats, let alone wearing a pencil skirt. :(

      Not the same thing, but in Former Job, my supervisor at the time decided to sign up our entire team for a team-building event…without telling/asking any of us. About 30 minutes before the event was scheduled to start, the supervisor said, “Oh by the way – I signed up you all up for Team Building Event. Good luck!” I was still new on the job and wanted to make a good impression, so I participated. But it was beyond aggravating.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      The irony here is having the wrong clothes and footwear could cause injury. This sounds like health UNawareness.

  29. Naomi*

    OP #3, it’s unclear from your letter: are the people applying for any and all jobs the same people quitting after one day? If so, I think maybe they didn’t understand the actual requirements of the position and quit because the job wasn’t what they expected, or required skills that they didn’t have. I wonder if perhaps these are candidates looking for their first jobs who don’t really understand the workplace yet. The example you gave in particular struck me as naive–I don’t know anything about that person’s qualifications, but I suspect that they had neither a management degree nor experience driving a forklift, and were over-optimistic about their ability to learn on the job.

    I know you’re not setting out to be a career counselor for these people, but you can at least gently point out to them that their experience/ skill set isn’t going to qualify them for everything. They might genuinely have no particular goal for their career path, but they can still narrow down what jobs they should realistically apply for.

    1. Charby*

      Going off of this, it may be that the candidates are afraid of expressing preferences or reservations because they have it drilled into them that they need to be flexible and chase opportunities. It’s hard to be picky when you’re hard-up for work and if you have zero experience the temptation to take any job just to get over that hurdle can get overwhelming at times. It’s probably hard to get over that since it’s a psychological hurdle and the OP isn’t a career counselor. It might help to reframe the initial discussions as exploring their career interests — not necessarily discussing career paths but speaking more in terms of ideals, skillsets, past experiences, etc. I wonder if it’s feasible to only present jobs to candidates that are tailored in that way, so that they don’t see the opportunity to just shotgun applications to every position?

  30. Allison*

    OP #1, been there! I never actually sussed out whether there was a reason for being there, but I can tell you it’s very unnerving to have the boss that close to you. I mean, someone has to sit there, but it does seem like it’s either someone the boss works closely with, or someone the boss wants to keep an eye on, but sometimes it can just be random. It might be worth asking, “out of curiosity, was this totally random or did you put me here on purpose?” At least that way you’re acknowledging that it could be random, and you don’t seem to be jumping to any specific conclusions about the boss’s motive.

  31. Bend & Snap*

    #1 early in my career my employer shuffled desks and I got the corner one next to the window by my manager. I was stoked about the prime real estate until she said, “We put you there because everyone knows you like to chit chat.”

    Okay thanks, you never addressed this with me and now I’m getting what’s essentially a babysitter because you think I talk too much. Cool.

    A good manager will raise concerns. Hopefully this isn’t based in any kind of issue you need to be thinking about.

    It is disconcerting though. By chance right now, my manager sits about 5 feet away and can see my screen from his desk (someone on another team left, there were no other seats and he got her desk). Blerg.

    1. OP1*

      In my previous role I moved to the corner desk next to the manager too! I must admit I was a very chatty Cathy when I was in that role – however I definitely don’t talk anywhere near as much in my current role. This current office is a near silent one!

  32. M.*

    #3. I’ve had to quit from a staffing agency recently and was chewed out by one of the recruiters. There was no on site tour or even real scope of the job. It was document processing and I was simply told, you get to sit, the mail is opened and you scan documents. No one mentioned that I had to make a high rate of documents scanned per hour, nor did they mention that I would have to scan/read these documents for specific things before I sent them to be scanned into the data base and sorted. If they had mentioned this, I would have mentioned that I was dyslexic and that while I’m good with detail there was no way I could do that in a fast paced manner (I screwed up a lot and scanned a lot of things that I shouldn’t have). I tried to quit after the first week where I was on the machine only two days (was assigned to other tasks the other days). One of the recruiters (never got the same person when I called even when I asked for a specific person) told me to try for another week, if it didn’t work she’d try to find me something else. So I called the next week, got another person, told her again the situation, what the other recruiter said, and that I needed to be done with this job. I was told I was ungrateful, and that I was making them look bad, and that I should try harder, and that they weren’t going to find me something else. I quit. Pretty sure I burned that bridge in the process, but I was baffled by the inconsistency in the information I was given.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      With “help” like that you are better off on your own. There are so many things wrong with what happened, I don’t even know where to begin.

  33. Kadee*

    #2 – Perhaps this isn’t the case here, but I’ve seen scenarios where “Sally” continually asks for the data because she is continually getting asked. Maybe Sally isn’t as good as articulating the reasons in communications within her department and that’s leading to people pushing her to ask again or it at least it permits Sally to say “I’ve asked OP again and she reiterated that we can’t have it.” Or maybe all those times she’s asked, she was asking on behalf of the other departments who want it and is now directly sending people to the OP in order to get out of the middle of it thinking, “Let OP explain it to them. I’ve told them and they’re still asking (or complaining) and it’s her data anyhow.” So, perhaps it’s less that Sally is actually saying “Oh, OP can give you that data, just ask!” and more “You’ll need to talk to OP as she’s the one with the data” and they then contact OP with statements like “Sally said you’re the one to contact about getting this data.”

    OP might see about drafting a short, succinct document that states what data is shareable (if there is any) and what isn’t (such as what Sally has been asking for) and the reasons why. OP can then just send a link or a copy of the document to anyone who asks instead of repeating the same thing over and over. OP can also just tell Sally to send people that link or document if she gets asked for the data rather than having those people contact OP directly.

    1. collegeemployee*

      Since I have had to take on-line FERPA training at every college I have worked for, I am surprised that Sally has not already received this training. If she has received this training, it looks like she could use a refresher course.

      But, despite the training I have received, I would not feel comfortable drafting a document explaining FERPA. I would be concerned about opening up my institution to lawsuits if I made a mistake. Instead, I would check with my college to see if they have an official link or document that they want employees to use as a reference.

  34. Drew*

    I’m a little late to the party, but I have a different perspective for OP1. We chose the person seated nearest our senior management by who had to most discretion. A team member we trusted was assigned that spot while a more gossipy team member was seated further away.

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