interviewer stole my ideas, holiday bonus angst, and more

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

1. The company I interviewed with stole my ideas

What do you think of a company that interviews you, asks you to list specific ways to improve things, but doesn’t hire you — yet implements your suggestions anyway?

I interviewed with a publication several months ago and suggested posting its covers on Instagram. Now they’re doing it. Also, they’re posting tweets in the publication, something else I suggested. I suppose it’s possible that they came up with this on their own. But do companies pick interviewees’ brains for ideas, even when they don’t hire them? Seems pretty crappy if they do.

Most companies don’t. Some companies do. More often than not, it’s unintentional — a candidate says “it would be great to do X,” and the employer thinks, “Hmmm, it would be great to do X.” At that point, it’s a tough situation — because they can’t hire the wrong candidate just because the person suggested something they ended up wanting to do (and you could make great suggestions and still not be the best candidate, for multiple reasons). Also, often the idea is the least of the work, and the real work is in figuring out a strategy and plan and implementing it.

That said, if the idea is a particularly complicated one and the candidate contributed a lot of time and brain power walking the employer through it, they should really pay that person a consulting fee, to avoid bad feelings if nothing else. But suggesting posting publication covers to Instagram is the kind of thing that was going to occur to them at some point anyway … so with that one I think you’ve got to just write it off as not really stolen or something you took a loss on.

2. How to tell an employee not to expose her midriff

How do I talk to an employee who is wearing shirts that are not long enough to cover her midriff? I do not want the conversation to be about her weight (as she is overweight) and clothes not fitting properly but just about general office attire (even though we are business casual) and that your stomach should never be showing under any circumstances.

This one should actually be pretty straightforward: No employee regardless of body type should be wearing shirts that expose their stomach, so you can simply explain that. For example: “Jane, please make sure that your midriff isn’t exposed while you’re in the office. Our dress code requires that midriffs be covered. Thank you!”

3. People keep thinking my last name is my first name

I work in a job where I am responsible for building 1:1 relationships with my company’s field representatives and supporting the work they do for high net worth clients.

I have a last name that sounds like a first name. Let’s say, for example, my name is Kaye (first name) Miranda (last name). It never fails, people in the field erroneously call me Miranda as my first name, although it’s my last name. The curse of two first names. I get it.

Any suggestions on the best way to redirect? I’m not in the military and I’m sure that it’s unintentional when it happens. I’m looking for a suggestion that won’t make people feel bad for calling me the wrong first name, but will nip it in the bud, too.

Just correct people cheerfully, matter-of-factly, and quickly. Cheerfully because you don’t want to be surly about (even if it gets old), matter-of-factly because it’ll make it less awkward, and quickly because it gets more awkward if you let it go on for a while before correcting it.

Just a quick, “Oh, it’s actually Kaye! Miranda’s my last name. So let me show you the document you were asking about…”

4. Part-time former employee asked about a holiday bonus

One of my full-time employees quit last March and went to work for one of my competitors. However, she made arrangements to continue working for me on an on-call, as-needed basis. It is not ideal for me, but it has worked okay (not great, but okay) so far. Recently, she wrote to me asking if she would be receiving a bonus this holiday season. I was rather shocked and thought it was just plain rude. In the past, I have not always been able to do bonuses, but have done them if I could.

For this particular employee, she quit. Granted, she made arrangements to continue working for me, thereby negating the need for me to hire someone else full-time and instead paying only when I need her specific skills. But it is also a way for her to put extra money in her pocket, which I am sure was her main reason, as opposed to loyalty to me and my company. What is the etiquette regarding bonuses for on-call folks?

It’s very, very normal to only do bonuses for full-time staff, and you can simply explain to her that that’s your practice.

For what it’s worth, it sounds like you’re taking this pretty personally, and I’d try not to. She may be naive or inexperienced with how this normally works, or she may figure she has nothing to lose by asking. I doubt she means it as an F-you, and you shouldn’t take it that way.

(All that said, bonuses are fundamentally retention strategies. If you’re strongly motivated to retain her, there’s no reason you can’t consider one.)

5. Should we cross-train so we can take time off without interruption?

I work full-time as an administrator for an accounting firm. One of my coworkers and I each took over for people who retired after being here for many years.

It has become increasingly apparent to me that the administrators before us had gone above and beyond their job duties and somewhat “spoiled” the partners in the office we work in, even as far as being called back from holiday to take care of tasks the partners considered emergencies, but which could have been handled with a little forethought.

The problem is that there is nobody to cover our positions when we are gone. Would it be in our interest to teach each other the basics of our jobs so we can be free to have a vacation without an “emergency,” or would it be best to bring this up to our supervisor and see what happens? Is cross-training on the sly a good idea?

If you have the time to cross-train and your managers don’t object for some reason, then yes, definitely, it’s a great idea. But I don’t see any reason to do it on the down-low; presumably it’s going to come out eventually, and it’s even in your best interest to make it known that you’re able to cover for each other.

{ 284 comments… read them below }

  1. Middleman*

    Not to be rude, but LW 1’s “ideas” hardly sound unique, ground-breaking or difficult to come up with. If that was the extent of my “original” ideas on how to improve a publication, I’d just attribute the later implementation to someone else having the same ideas simultaneously. They are standard industry practices that I guess that publication was just late to the game on.

    1. Shannon*

      To be honest, when interviewing for a company, the first thing I look for when doing my research on them is all social media on them I can dig up. I imagine this is fairly normal these days. Even as a consumer, I do tend to look up businesses on the net. Given that a web presence is becoming standard for most industries, it was probably only a matter of time before this company cottoned on to the idea of more aggressively using social media.

      Posting tweets in the publication, I’m a little more iffy on, because that is more specific advice.

      1. Ani*

        Tweets in the publication, though, is also really just cross-promotion/posting of content already generated by the publications or its readers in response to its content. Also, both are more marketing – type suggestions, which might be what the OP was asked for, but are not really at all specific to improving the content itself.

    2. katamia*

      Yeah, lots of companies post things on social media and include quotes from social media in their materials. It is possible that no one had thought of it before the OP said something (if those were the specific ideas), but these ideas aren’t demonstrably specific enough to the OP that we can really fault the company. If those were the ideas, how do we know other people didn’t provide similar suggestions in their interviews?

      OP1, the best thing you can do is let it go.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        Yeah, all the magazines that I read pull quotes from social media and publish them as reader responses to the content. I don’t think that pointing out what all the other magazines are doing is a specific enough idea to consider it “stolen”.

    3. Valar M.*

      Right, but its still going to to come across as suspicious if they suddenly cop to the idea right after you suggested it to them. You can’t take legal action or anything but you can give them some silent side eye

      1. Amberly*

        Well, it’s not like anyone can stop you! But there’s really no point. And that’s the point here.

        Maybe they stole the idea from you. Maybe 7 of the 9 people they interviewed offered exactly the same ideas (especially if the ideas were as common as these ones seem to have been). Maybe the idea was already in development behind the scenes, and your mention of it in the interview just affirmed to them that they were on the right path. Maybe it’s a total coincidence and the person implementing these ideas on their side came up with them independently, and has no clue who you are or what you said in an interview they had nothing to do with. Who knows?

        But sitting around stewing over how they clearly stole it from you and side-eyeing them for it isn’t going to accomplish anything good. It just breeds negativity and resentment.

      2. Ama*

        Several years ago, I was one of the editors for a group blog — no one was getting paid, but we were pretty popular among fans of our subject area for a while and when we put out calls for new writers we got a lot of interest. A few weeks after one such call was completed, we started a Book Club feature, which was something we’d been planning for a while (it took time to read the book, especially since we were all volunteers with full time jobs). One of the writer applicants that we hadn’t selected emailed us very upset because she had suggested a Book Club in her application. Even though it was the truth that our Book Club was in process before she sent in her application, I knew while I was writing it to her that it didn’t sound particularly convincing — without sending her the dated email where we started planning it, which seemed like overkill.

        1. Artemesia*

          I was pretty stunned after the buildup of the OP’s complaint that the ‘ideas’ were so bog standard in the industry. I expected some nifty new product or complicated process or unique PR idea. These are perfectly good ideas that most everyone is already doing.

          1. AnonInSC*

            Agreed – covers on instagram is a no-brainer. They may or may not have really thought about it prior to the interview, but it’s such a basic concept that I don’t think OP can really feel they stole her idea.

    4. Not The Droid You Are Looking For*

      I’ve had a lot of candidates also give similar answers when it comes to increasing/ improving social media strategy for clients.

      During one interview a candidate brought up a very detailed example about using Pinterest that was almost identical to a candidate the day before.

      After candidate one was hired I found out they did not know each other, so they didn’t prep together. It was just a coincidence.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        If they’re reading up on trends and best practices in social media, it’s not surprising that they have the same suggestions. Even ideas that don’t seem obvious or intuitive tend to trend very quickly just because it’s the Internet.

        1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

          Absolutely! The candidate I hired was the one who explained where he had seen the strategy and why he thought it was something that could be capitalized on by other institutions.

      2. Shan*

        Exactly, I came here to say this. Those are pretty basic strategies, so it wouldn’t surprise me at all if the candidate they actually did hire had the same ideas.

        1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

          Yup! When preparing social media strategies for potential clients, I often found myself cutting and pasting the same “strategies” over and over:
          * Create Twitter account
          * Create Instagram account
          * Create a scheduled calendar of Facebook posts

    5. LQ*

      Yeah, I would be surprised if this didn’t happen. You hire a person to manage social media, social media suddenly becomes better managed. Isn’t that what’s supposed to happen?

      I once did a writing example for an organization I was interviewing for. They didn’t end up hiring me. But about a month later a page showed up on their site that was addressing exactly what my writing example addressed. They took a few points from my example and brought in some other points. I never felt like they stole something from me. It was one short writing example. It was clearly a topic they needed to cover. I guess I would have been a little crabbier if they weren’t a nonprofit that I actually supported. But it was an hour or less of time, it wasn’t like they’d made me actually do the job and then didn’t pay me.

      Ideas that take 5 minutes to talk about in an interview or even an hour to write up outside are things that someone else could have thought of too. I’m way more awesome than a 5 minute idea or an hour of one article. If they’d have hired me they’d have gotten more, they didn’t so they didn’t. It’s an odd sort of thing to me. The 5 minutes of talking isn’t actually what they’d hire me to do. It’s the hundreds of hours of work to figure it out and make it happen that really matter.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        The 5 minutes of talking isn’t actually what they’d hire me to do. It’s the hundreds of hours of work to figure it out and make it happen that really matter.

        Yes. That’s exactly it.

    6. Ad Astra*

      Yeah, these are good ideas but they’re common enough practices that I don’t think anyone can claim them as their own original suggestions after 2013. I can understand the OP’s annoyance, but I wouldn’t lose sleep over this one.

    7. madge*

      My thought exactly. Sometimes someone (and I’ve done this, too) can become so excited about a project that it’s hard to objective about ideas. I once had an employee who claimed to have invented Open Mic Night. In 2009.

    8. Regina 2*

      This conversation is interesting to me. I don’t like interview questions liek “How would you improve this project?” or “How would you innovate here?” or something to that effect. One, it’s really hard to address the problems of a company you don’t know. Two, it’s not my strong suit to be an ideas person. I just prefer doing things in a routine way (even though I lie and say I like to innovate because that’s all employers want to hear). Whenever I do research to see what the latest trends are, I see the same things over and over again. I work in a tech-adjacent field, and I STILL see the same general advice I saw 10 years ago. Clearly, it’s not that easy to implement if people still struggle with it. But it seems so basic, and unimpressive. What is impressive? What is the benchmark?

      This whole thread was a bunch of people saying the ideas was unimpressive. That’s fair, but I guess as someone who doesn’t excel in this area, I don’t understand how so many people could have ground-breaking and revolutionary ideas all the time.

    9. Erin*

      I have to agree. Suggesting you use social media is a far leap from an actual time consuming, well thought out, marketing strategy.

  2. Bend & Snap*

    #4 should this woman be working for you at all is she’s formally employed by a competitor? Thay seems risky.

    1. Anon Accountant*

      Agreed. Is she violating an employment agreement at her other job to not work at a competitor/OP’s business at the same time?

      OP aren’t you worried about her working for both you and a competitor?

      1. sunny-dee*

        Not really — noncompetes generally only apply to business critical skills. If she’s, say, a retail clerk, it wouldn’t apply, or something more general, like a bookkeeper or web designer. Those are support services that don’t relate to the core business of the company.

        1. Hlyssande*

          But it could run afoul of antitrust laws. Price fixing, that sort of thing. Even the appearance of that conflict of interest could be a problem legally.

          1. Anna*

            It would still need to be someone in a high profile position to even raise an eyebrow. Sunny-dee’s point still stands.

          1. Anon Accountant*

            My friend did also. She was a fast food worker/cook in college. Caught working at another fast food restaurant and you either had the option to quit that job, quit your other fast food job, or be fired. Work at that restaurant and a job bartending? Sure no problem. Another fast food job? Risk being out of 1 of those jobs.

            1. Kelly L.*

              We weren’t even supposed to work in another restaurant until like 6 months after leaving, though in practice nobody did anything about it–the restaurant scene in ThatTown was really incestuous and people switched restaurants all the time.

        2. Anon Accountant*

          Interesting. When I was a grocery store cashier we couldn’t work for a rival grocery store. If you did and were caught you would be fired. What seemed a little odd (to me at least) was that our union stood behind management 100% on this. We didn’t have access to important business information other than how to run the register, weekly sales, when the nightly stock was delivered, etc. This was back in 2001-2006 for reference.

          1. AW*

            weekly sales, when the nightly stock

            This. This is must be why they do it. At first I was just going to leave a comment about this being bonkers but retail/grocery stores do care a great deal about not giving competitors their pricing and stock information. I know at least some places will get mad at you if they see you photographing prices in the store so it actually does make a kind of sense that they don’t want someone who’s familiar with their product prices and when/whether they’ll have certain items in stock working at a competitor.

            I still think it’s a jerk move but I think that’s the motive behind it.

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

          I worked for Target in college, and wasn’t allowed to work for a competitor…

    2. JL*

      Came here to say the same. This sounds odd to me. Most employers would have a no-compete clause in the contract for second jobs.

      1. Natalie*

        Eh, contracts in general aren’t that common in the US, much less non-competes. There are plenty of industries with competition (retail and restaurants spring immediately to mind) that wouldn’t use a contract.

    3. JGray*

      This was my thought exactly. Why are you keeping someone for their so called “specific skills” if you had to replace her with someone full time. It seems odd to me that you wouldn’t be able to find someone with the same skills or that could fill the persons spot. I am also confused by the reaction to the person asking about bonuses. I think that Alison is spot on- just explain that they are only for full time employees and then make sure that they are! If you give bonuses to everyone (full & part time) she could claim any number of things (retaliation, discrimination, hostle work environment) on the reason why she didn’t get one.

      1. Minion*

        Also, I don’t think it’s unreasonable at all for the employee to ask about a bonus. I think if I got a bonus when I was a full-time employee, then I went to part-time I might wonder if the bonus was still something I could look forward to or not, so I might ask. Especially if there’s nothing written down to the contrary, such as in a personnel handbook. OP strikes me as unreasonably offended by the question.

        1. themmases*

          I agree, it’s far from universal to only give bonuses to full time staff. The last place I worked that gave out bonuses prorated them for anyone who didn’t work full time the full year, regardless of the reason. People hired mid-year and people who worked part time were affected.

      2. Frustrated ENTJ*

        My read is that the LW didn’t have to replace her with a full-time employee by keeping her on-call for the special skills. It could be odd, given specifics, but it could also work out well for both employers and the employee (thinking bookkeeping, some web maintenance, etc.).

    4. Mike C.*

      This could be a more localized, non-competitive environment. Something like running a food pantry.

      Or maybe we are talking about industrial espionage. If that’s the case, then damn straight you’re giving her a bonus!

  3. Anon Accountant*

    #5 Cross training is great. No one should have to rush back from their vacation for something that another employee should be/can be trained to do.

    1. Ama*

      Yeah, I have been in a couple situations where a sudden termination or illness resulted in me and my coworkers having to scramble to figure out how to do a process the absent employee had sole responsibility for. It sucks, even if there’s reasonably good documentation — because a lot of times the documentation says things like “put this data on the spreadsheet” without telling you where the spreadsheet can be found.

      OP 5, go to your bosses and point out that cross-training will make sure the office can keep running in the unfortunate “hit by a bus” scenario, and I bet they will be happy to approve it. The vacation coverage can just be a happy side effect.

    2. Artemesia*

      When I used to consult with highly dysfunctional operations, one of the first things we usually did was cross train. It was common to find small offices where one person’s busiest time was a bit slack for someone else, whose busiest time was yet someone else’s slack time. Cross training evened out the workload in those settings and also provided the cushion for people to take days off and such. And it also made each person less critical to the operation and thus gave management more freedom to manage if there was a seriously disruptive employee. Had one place where Larry couldn’t be let go because he was the only one who could gild teapots; cross trained and goodbye Larry.

    3. Sadsack*

      Yes, most companies want cross training, especially if they may need to consider workforce reductions at some point. I think some people try to avoid cross training because they think it makes for job security, which is probably rarely the case.

    4. michelenyc*

      I totally agree. That is why when I managed a team of people the first couple of weeks in my new position I would sit with each of my team members to learn about how they did their job and managed their desk. At first, they thought I was being nosy (they were all really young) but when I explained that I wanted to know so if something ever happened to them that at least one member of the team would know where to find information and take care of our customers.

    5. Nom d' Pixel*

      I have never understood an employer’s resistance to cross training. I had to fight to be able to cross train someone to do my job. A few years ago I took a vacation in a place with no phones and they freaked out. What will we do?!?! I told them that they would have to figure it out or wait until I got back, but they still didn’t let me train anyone. They said it would take too long and there wasn’t anyone to spare.
      Finally I pointed out that I have some dangerous hobbies and I would not come to work if I had a serious injury. That reality jolt was what it took. It is irresponsible for places to only have one person who can do any job.

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

        On the flip side of that, I used to work as a (underpaid) receptionist to a podiatrist (foot doctor) with one (underpaid, untrained) medical assistant, and he wanted us to cross train. I’m sorry, but there is a very large distance from signing on to be a medical assistant and learning how to check people in for their appointments, and being a receptionist and having to cross train to touch people’s feet to get them ready for their appointment (and these are mostly people who just can’t physically reach their feet, so there were some DOOZEY’S)!

    6. Stachington*

      Agreed! Plus it’s a solid internal control measure to have a different person work in a position for a short length of time (especially if the position involves handling money).

  4. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

    #2 – I rather suspect that this person knows their clothes are ill fitting (and it can happy regardless of weight – any body shape which doesn’t conform to industry norms will struggle to find clothes that fit) so I think the key thing is for you not to be embarrassed about talking about this, or that will make an embarrassing situation for her worse. Also, don’t necessarily expect things to change overnight; you wear those clothes when you have no others, so give it a couple of weeks for her to acquire a few new items before you bring it up again.

      1. Caroline*

        This helps a lot. I have a super long torso, so many shirts get a bit midriff or midback exposing on me, especially if I lift my arms or lean over. A long camisole or tank top tucked into the pants or skirt makes most shirts decent. (I think if the shirt shows your midriff all the time, a tank top under is not enough to look professional, but if the tank top is just there to cover you when you raise your arms or bend over, that’s fine.)

        1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

          Definitely agree. I’m an elementary school teacher, which involves lots of sitting on the floor. Given that pants styles are often cut a bit low, and shirts not always so long, that resulted in a frequent struggle to keep my lower back covered until I discovered thin cotton camisoles.

        2. Ezri*

          I’m in the same boat – in my experience it’s less a weight problem and more of a body shape problem. I’m above-average height for a woman of my weight, so like you blouses that fit across the chest often aren’t long enough. Most of the time they hit my pants line standing, but if I stretch or bend over they don’t. I can second the tucked-in cami / tank top under your blouse, and I also recommend looking into long sweaters if the workplace allows it.

      2. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

        Yes, this is always a good trick – I have to do it if I’m going to wear a blouse.

      3. Zillah*

        Is this a crop top, though? I’m getting the impression that it’s just a normal shirt that isn’t long enough – I’ve had issues with normal shirts showing my stomach because they’re not long enough to fit over my chest. It’s tough bc sometimes one size up will mean you’re swimming in it. If that’s the problem, a cami wouldn’t necessarily help.

        I agree that the employee needs to cover her stomach, but I do think it’s worth pointing out that it may not be a really simple fix for her. If it’s just a shirt that rides up as opposed to a crop top, I agree that the OP should give her a couple weeks to buy new clothes.

        1. Adaire*

          My life has been so much better since I started having my clothes tailored. Buy the item, keep the receipt, take it to a seamstress, and get a cost estimate for the desired alterations. Return if altering won’t work out.

        2. Kelly L.*

          Oh yeah, I remember LOLing at one of the fashion magazines’ swimsuit articles when it said “Big bust? Just wear one of the long torso suits! It’ll have extra material for the bust.” Except I have both the bust and the long torso…the early 00’s were hell with the short shirts and low-slung jeans. At least tunics are easier to find now, and I’ve hoarded a bunch.

          Especially if she’s just gained a little weight, her old shirts might not fit her quite right anymore if she has to reach up or whatever. The long-term solution is to buy new shirts or long tank tops, but it takes time and money to replace a wardrobe.

      4. A. Thrope*

        If you can find one that fits. I’m currently looking for one. I have a long torso and a big gut. Finding a camisole or tank that will fit and will be long enough can be a challenge.

        1. Hlyssande*

          Yeah, really.

          For one season, Target had these extremely long ribbed thin cotton tanks in the plus section and I still kick myself for not buying at least 10 of them. They didn’t come in a ton of colors (I have black, white, and purple), but they’re amazing.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I found a bunch of non-ribbed ones at Primark and was mad that I didn’t bring an extra suitcase. They were perfect for layering. I did get a few in black, white, and aqua.

        2. RVA Cat*

          Hate to say, but maternity camisoles may be your friend. I have one or two I kept in rotation even though I lost the weight and my child is a toddler.

          1. Kelly L.*

            Oh yes, maternity! One of my favorite shirts is from the Liz Lange line at Target. It doesn’t look twee at all, just like a longer normal shirt, and it covers all my everything.

          2. AnonInSC*

            Absolutely. Many of them are made of a nice stretchy material, but are longer. So they fit non-maternity bodies as well. One of the only things I didn’t pack up when I didn’t need maternity clothes anymore.

        3. Meg Murry*

          Yes, I have a very long torso and finding long enough shirts has always been a challenge for me – especially when low rise pants were also a trend (not that I was wearing them, but it meant that finding pants that came up high enough to meet my shirts that were barely long enough was tricky). Even adding a long camisole doesn’t always work – I also have large hips, so camisoles tend come untucked and roll up toward narrowest point on my waist, no matter what I do. And now, the trend is for higher waist pants (yay) but boxier and shorter cut shirts (boo!) so now I have to double check shirts from brands I used to previously trust to be long enough.

          If she is wearing shirts that show her midriff even when just standing around – yes, you should definitely say something. If her shirts and pants regularly shift when she is sitting or moving around to expose her midriff, yes, probably say something. But if this “exposed midriff” is an issue only on very rare occasions, like when she reaches up to the very top shelf or crawls under her desk to retrieve a dropped pencil, and neither of those things happen regularly, I don’t think you need to point it out to her – she knows, especially if she pulls her shirt back down as soon as she has the opportunity. I do my best to avoid showing my love handles at work, but over the course of a day, even my long tank tops

          This is something my sister and I have been struggling with our whole lives, and was a never ending circular battle with my father, especially when we were teens living at home and sharing a washing machine with he-who-must-wash-and-dry-everything-on-warm.
          Him: “Pull your shirt down. Why can’t you and your sister buy shirts that fit?”
          Us: “We try, but we inherited our freakishly long torsos from you. And this shirt and pants did fit properly with the appropriate couple inch overlap when we bought them. But after you washed and dried them on warm, despite the tags saying ‘cold wash’ and either ‘dry flat’ or ‘cool dry’, they shrunk. Would you like to increase our clothing budget to replace them?”
          Him: “Grumble, grumble, put on an undershirt”
          Us: “Oh, you shrunk those too ….”

          and so on.

          Trust me, if it’s an occasional flash of skin, she probably knows, and doubly so if she recently gained some weight. I think you can point it out gently, especially if you do it in a kind way, but only if you would also pointing it out on a slim woman in the same situations.

          And I’m not exaggerating on the “freakishly long torsos”. I am 5’6″, but my torso measurements are almost too long for women’s talls, and my legs are short enough to wear petites if I’m not wearing heels (except petites aren’t long enough in the rise). My father and his brothers are even more this problem – my father is over 6 feet tall, but 30 inch inseams are too long for him – he seriously has the torso of a 7 foot man and the legs of a 5 foot man.

          1. Meg Murry*

            Oh, and I forgot to add – after we also told him ‘leave our clothes alone, we will handle our laundry ourselves, please don’t touch it’. This is not a case of whiny teens not being grateful for parents doing chores for them – this is a case of ‘I asked you not to do my laundry because its hurting more than helping, now stop it already”

            and even now, after having been married for 10+ years, my husband and I still don’t touch either other’s laundry. He shrinks my shirts and pants, I shrink his wool socks or don’t take his buttondowns out of the dryer fast enough for them not to wrinkle. Our secret to a happy marriage is to not touch the other’s laundry :-)

            1. Kelly L.*

              Those feels, I know them.

              Are you me? I’m 5’6″ and all my 5’2″ friends have longer legs than I do. So you can guess where the height is lurking.

              1. Former Diet Coke Addict*

                Yes! I am 5’6 and wear a 28″ inseam. Every pair of pants I own either puddles around my feet or I’ve had to have hemmed. No exceptions. I can wear “ankle pants” or even some capris as regular pants if I want to.

                Don’t even get me started on one piece bathing suits. Nightmarish.

                1. Chinook*

                  “No exceptions. I can wear “ankle pants” or even some capris as regular pants if I want to. ”

                  My happiest day was when I discovered low rider jeans because I was finally able to wear jeans that fit my legs and actually stopped at my waistline (regular jeans in the 80’s and 90’s would come up to just under my ribs, which is where my height starts). I also didn’t understand the big deal about capris because they just meant no hemming.

              2. Ad Astra*

                I’m 5’6″ and most “regular” length pants are a bit too long for me, but I will continue blaming the pants rather than admit that my legs might be short. (My legs are almost definitely short.)

              3. AnotherAlison*

                I find this whole thread on torsos very interesting. I’m short-waisted, but my sister is a half-inch shorter than me and has a long torso with short arms. I’m wondering if that’s part of the fit problem — shorter people with long torsos would likely have short arms (short limbs all around, right?). Get a shirt long enough to tuck in, and the sleeves cover up your hands. : (

                (My sister also wears 2 full shoe sizes smaller than me, despite our close heights. Body types are so weirdly variable.)

                1. Meg Murry*

                  Yup, exactly. I hated 3/4 sleeves when they first started becoming a thing, because with my short arms and long torso they basically hit a few inches above my wristbones (I think now they call that “bracelet length”), and the overall shirt length was always a little on the short side, so overall it just look like I was wearing a long sleeved shirt that shrunk in the wash.

                  I’m now on board with 3/4 or elbow length sleeves for shirts, because at least then they aren’t covering more than half my hand (tall sizes often cover my entire hand). Not a fan of less than full length sleeves on blazers or jackets though, it just looks off to me.

                  I’d love to see some actual dimension on “average” body sizes to see what on me is so far from standard. I think it’s my elbow to wrist length and knee to ankle length that is especially short, and my rib cage length that is especially long, but I’m not sure.

                2. Kelly L.*

                  I think for me it’s the area between rib cage and hipbones–there’s a pretty long swath of non-bony me between the two.

          2. Biff*

            So, on the matter of the long torso — Though I’m a foot shorter than the coworker who sits next to me, when we’re sitting down, I appear to be only about 4-5 inches shorter. My inseam, however, is all of 26-27 inches. And I have the same problem with pants — if the inseam is anywhere near workable, the rise is too short. But then, given the articles I see on the internet, everyone is having trouble with pants fit (it’s terrible.)

          3. Hlyssande*

            My dad always did the same thing! I was grateful that he’d do my laundry, but he never sorted by color and never, ever looked a tags. He washed everything on hot even when the machines were in good enough repair to have other options.

            That’s how a vividly purple cotton handwash only shirt ruined my favorite sweater.

          4. Koko*

            I have the opposite body type. Super short torso, big hips, and long legs. Long shirts look awful on me because the extra fabric length bunches up around my waist, and since there’s only a few inches between my hips and ribs, all the extra fabric fills up the space and makes look like I have no waist at all. I typically wear a S on top and a L on the bottoms. Shopping for coordinated sets or one-piece items is a nightmare.

            Wish I could just afford to have everything I own tailored! We have so many varied bodies and clothes are all cut like there’s one body type that changes every couple of years.

          5. Chinook*

            ” I am 5’6″, but my torso measurements are almost too long for women’s talls, and my legs are short enough to wear petites if I’m not wearing heels ”

            Meg, you are the first person I have met with those same dimensions (plus DD breasts) as me and I am glad to know I am not the only woman who gets side eyed for walking into the petite section to buy pants. I gave up on buying one piece swim suits because they cause me to hunch over to fit or risk them slipping off my shoulders.

            Eshakti has been mentioned before and I can’t praise them enough for the fact that I can buy dresses and shirts (and pants but I haven’t tried that yet) that fit my freakishly weird measurements.

            1. Meg Murry*

              Oh, I have DDs as well, or at least I did when I was nursing, I might only be into single D now, depending on what band I buy.

              As for swimsuits, I don’t do one piece anymore, but I do get tankini’s from Land’s End because they offer all the “special” sizes – so I can buy tall, DD with underwire or firm cups and sewn down straps and then a different size bottom for my extra weight there. So you might be able to actually find a 1 piece there to fit your tall torso without a wedgie.

              I can’t actually wear petites pants anymore, because the cr0tch rise isn’t high enough of a rise, and I need them to come up higher on my waist in order to
              1) make up some of the difference in case I can’t get tops as long as I would like
              2) lock in the muffin top I got thanks to my 2 pregnancies

              so I buy regular (or sometimes even tall) and hem them from a lot of places. Or wear 1″ wedges.

              AND I am right on the borderline between straight sizes and plus sizes, so when I make a big order from Lands End, I will have a mismash of regular, tall, plus size and petite all in one order – it probably confuses the heck out of whatever kind of “big data” tracking they are trying to do on me.

          6. CheeryO*

            Wow, my people! There are dozens of us! I’m 5’7″, but I am the same height as my 6’2″ boyfriend when we’re sitting next to each other. My legs are only a little longer than my tiny (5’0″) best friend and (5’1″) mom.

        4. Anonicorn*

          I’m sure the sleeves would be an issue, but I’ll throw this out there anyway. Have you tried tall sizes?

            1. Kelly L.*

              Me neither. Pants, yeah, sometimes. Not shirts.

              Lane Bryant used to have Longer Length camis. I don’t know if they do anymore, because they were indestructible; I stocked up years ago and haven’t needed to buy camis in ages. I know they changed the fabric content at some point.

            2. Moly*

              You usually have to go online but I’ve seen them at Banana Republic/Gap/Old Navy and Jcrew. Lands End has them. I’m guessing Eddie Bauer and LL Bean probably do too.

              They totally exist.

              1. ginger ale for all*

                J Jill has a tall size line.

                Does anyone remember the as seen on tv thing that was out a few years ago when the layered t-shirt look was a thing? They had a tube of fabric that you could wear under your shirts to peek out from your shirts to look like you were wearing a long camisole underneath. You could pull them as low as you wanted. I think you might be able to find these by googling around.

                1. Daisy Steiner*

                  I was looking to see if anyone had mentioned these! They were called t-shirt extenders, I think. I used to have a black one that I wore under everything. I just couldn’t understand why low jeans and high tops were in fashion at the SAME TIME.

                2. Biff*

                  They are also stupid, stupid easy to make. Anyone with access to a sewing machine and Jo-Anns should be able to make 3-4 in a weekend. (Tip, use rib knit, not t-shirt knit.)

                  I’ve seen them on some ‘Christian” clothing websites, but that was years ago.

              2. Anonicorn*

                In addition to those, Loft & Ann Taylor offer tall-size blouses & tops. If not for these retailers, I’d have no clothes.

              1. N.J.*

                Grace and Lace has tank tops with a lace panel on the bottom that they refer to as tank top extenders in a decent range of sizes (up to 2XL) and basic colors. They fall towards the medium to higher end of the price range at around $36/top, they may be a good option.

            3. Ama*

              They don’t have a lot of full business dress options (more business casual), but Uniqlo’s women’s tops tend to run big/long (I wear a S top at Uniqlo with plenty of room and I am decidedly a M at every other store). Lots of their merchandise is available on their website now if there isn’t a store near you. It’s good value for the price, too.

            4. GreenEye*

              Check out Long Tall Sally – a bit pricey, but their stuff lasts forever (and the sales are decent too).

            5. Elizabeth West*

              I have, but they’re usually expensive. The retailers who carry them are also expensive overall.

              I’m proportionate in dimension and not obese. But everything is just bigger. Wider shoulders, longer arms and legs. Nothing is ever long enough.

        5. JGray*

          If you have a Costco nearby they have a good cotton camisoles. I have a bunch from there and I have a normal torso but a large gut so I want to make sure that I am covered at all time.

          1. A. Thrope*

            I’ll have to look, thanks. The problem is that I’m very plus sized, so even regular plus size stores don’t often carry my size.

            1. Helka*

              I’ve found some sellers on Amazon that sell extremely long plus-size camisoles — I’ve got a couple that, pulled down as far as they’ll go, pass the fingertip test on me, and I’m a very tall and large lady with long arms! They’re tight-fitting so they’re not good to wear on their own or under an open blouse, but they’re great to use for modesty under a too-short shirt. (Actually, I also use mine as slips under sweater-dresses — they even out the lumps a bit and make sure that the knit doesn’t show off my bra when stretched.)

        6. Wehaf*

          I know a lot of people who wear men’s “A-shirt” undershirts, the ribbed ones. They’re long enough for pretty much everyone (if not, the tall sizes are very easy to find, both online and in stores), and the ribbing means you can size up without a boxy fit. They’re cheap, too!

        7. Squirrel*

          Try Maurice’s! They have adjustable-length light camisoles that come in all kinds of great colors. I have probably 7 or 8 of them and I love them.

        8. INTP*

          And those are just possible issues with the fit of the tops. Pants that aren’t very high rise create midriff problems for me because of body shape (I’m long waisted and my thighs are much ampler than my hips or waist, so things are pretty low rise to start with and then they just ride down further whenever I move). I wear jeggings because AE sky high jeggings are the only cheap jeans that are high enough for me. Before I found them, I tried to wear tunics (unflattering on my shape) but occasionally near laundry day I’d have a muffin top show when I stretched or sat down.

        9. WorkingFromCafeInCA*

          I found this long tank that also has a bit of ‘smoothing’ (not tight like spanx, just holds me in nicely). It’s the Helena long tank by Yummie:
          It’s a great everyday tank, long enough to tuck into my pants, comfortable enough to wear under a blouse or shirt.

      5. Not The Droid You Are Looking For*

        I don’t think the person in question is wearing a crop top, it’s more that as she moves and stretches the shirt rides up and her stomach is exposed.

        I agree that tank tops and camisoles under sweaters and blouses are a great solution.

      6. Anx*

        Yes, but it may take some time to find and acquire a tank top or camisole that’s suitable. Even then, she’d need more than one.

    1. BananaPants*

      As a larger woman who’s blessed with a long torso, I often have a problem of normal length shirts being too short. I know that certain brands and styles are more likely to work well for me than others. Even for something like a tank or cami underneath, I have to usually buy ones that are billed as “long” in order to get them to hit me at hip length.

    2. Ihmmy*

      as a person with a large tummy, I definitely know when my shirts are riding up while I’m at work. I try to remember to put them into a donate pile after I get home but if I’m stuck at the office with it, that’s life. I’ve found having a longish cardigan can really help, assuming it’s not too warm in the office to wear one. I also can’t exactly afford to replace my entire wardrobe or even all the almost-too-short-shirts right now so it’s a slow process that I’m working on. Thankfully my employer hasn’t ever said anything to me about it but it doesn’t feel good having your gut hang out unintentionally.

    3. Artemesia*

      No — no excuse for a bare midrift; this is not really a fit issue, it is a choice. A tshirt or a tank or a camisole takes care of it overnight if the wardrobe is full of crop tops and short jackets.

        1. Kelly L.*

          Yup. And “a” camisole takes care of one top overnight, and then that one’s dirty, and then what does she wear the next day when that shirt doesn’t fit anymore either. She has to buy lots. Which takes money and time. Or wash one damn camisole every night, which also takes time.

      1. INTP*

        For some of us, it happens with normal length tshirts and camisoles. A longer one might not even solve the problem if the issue is that things ride up on your shape. It can take a lot of experimentation (read, time and money) to figure out which shapes and fabrics work.

      2. Koko*

        I’m about 98% certain this woman is not buying crop tops and short jackets. Her extra girth is causing standard length shirts to ride up more than they would on a slimmer/flatter-chested person, and longer shirts are often cut so narrow they may not fit her.

        I have a big booty and skirts that look totally fine on my flatter-butted sister look positively scandalous on me because my butt’s extra girth raises the skirt hem in the back by a couple inches.

    4. madge*

      I wonder if Bella Bands would work for her? When I was pregnant, I bought sets of off-brand ones from eBay or Amazon for about $2 each. I still use them for layering (another long torso person here).

    5. Borders Refugee*

      Eshakti, Eshakti, Eshakti. Well-made, affordable, CUSTOM SIZED FOR $7.50 dresses, skirts tops, jackets, coats and they recently started doing pants. They are ALWAYS running some form of sale, so you don’t ever have to pay full price if you don’t want to. I own like, 13 dresses (I’m wearing one right now!) and several tops and both my midseason and winter coat are from there.

  5. Erik*

    #1 – I’ve had some amusing experiences lately for product manager positions. Part of the interview involves developing a product roadmap for one of their products and make a presentation out of it.

    When I was reading between the lines of what they wanted I was thinking “Wait a minute – I’m doing YOUR job and I don’t get paid or otherwise compensated for this?” It’s a scam , nothing more than getting free consulting services where they benefit from your work while you get nothing in return.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      While it’s possible that’s what they’re doing, it can be hard to tell (and I sometimes see people assume that’s happening when it doesn’t look like it to me). Good hiring processes do include opportunities to see candidates in action. Employers should be thoughtful about how they do that, of course, and absolutely shouldn’t have candidates do work they plan to use, but sometimes it can be hard to tell from the candidate’s side if that’s the case or not.

      I actually recently wrote a piece for The Management Center about how employers should navigate this:

      1. Erik*

        Thanks for answering and for the link.

        I know that it can be hard to tell if they’re just trying to get free consulting (I know a lot of people who have had this exact experience) or if it’s just a generic exercise. I would definitely appreciate some generic exercise that’s clearly not something that would be used internally because of the ethical issues involved.

        My last PM interview was a generic exercise which was a much better experience than another which was CLEARLY something they would be using internally.

    2. hbc*

      Chances are, you don’t have nearly enough details to put together a roadmap that will actually work for them. We had sales candidates come in and talk about how they would sell our product. Even candidates who were our current customers (so knew our company and product pretty well) would come up with reasonable on paper plans that would never, ever work here. It wasn’t disqualifying or anything, just as useful exercise to see how they would approach an issue.

      I mean, I suppose they could just poach it and adapt it, but roadmaps are a lot like presentation slides–it theoretically saves you a lot of work to take someone else’s work, but if the person executing doesn’t have a good grasp of the thoughts behind each step, it’s going to be a disaster.

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        Agree. I’ve never had to do this in an interview situation, but agencies have to do it all the time when pitching new business. Yes, it can be a way for clients to score free ideas, but more likely it’s a way to see whether your thought process is compatible with their needs.

        Most likely you’re not going to come up with anything stunningly original, and certainly nothing deeply thought out, during the course of an interview (that is, the kind of idea they’re likely to want from you if you’re employed). But they will get to see whether you miss anything that should be obvious, what direction you take to attack the problem, etc., that’s a better way to assess your strengths and weaknesses as a candidate than just asking about your prior experience.

        1. SCR*

          Yeah I was gonna say, I’ve done this from a presentation basis with a dummy scenario but this is de rigeur for agency pitching. Clients get free ideas sometimes. You have to roll with it.

    3. LBK*

      If they ultimately end up hiring someone, I don’t see how you could consider that a scam. Presumably they’ll always want to interview multiple candidates and that means they’ll want to see work examples from each one. Someone does get something in return – the candidate who gets hired gets a job – but as with any hiring process where you invest hours of your time, sometimes you don’t get anything out of it.

      I do think that it’s better to use a fictional/generalized example or use a problem your business has already solved rather than an ongoing project, though, since that makes it easier to avoid the appearance of impropriety.

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        This happened to me when I interviewed with an importer/exporter. During an interview with the CEO I suggested they focus more on the importing rather than the exporting. I wasn’t hired, but sure enough, six months later that’s what happened.

        1. LBK*

          But like the OP’s situation, that doesn’t mean it was a scam where the whole point was just to get free consulting work out of people and that they were never intending to hire anyone, which is what Erik was asserting.

            1. LBK*

              Wait, I’m confused now, was your point that it is or is not a scam to make candidates do work exercises?

        2. Beth*

          But if you were able to make that recommendation based on the information you had from outside why isn’t it also likely that people inside the organization had the same idea?

    4. Lily in NYC*

      We do something similar in our interviews but the idea that we would actually receive anything good enough to use is unthinkable. And the projects we give them to work on is always something that has gone inactive or is already completed internally and we really just want to see their strategy skills and how they present their ideas.

  6. Cristina in England*

    #4: “But it is also a way for her to put extra money in her pocket, which I am sure was her main reason, as opposed to loyalty to me and my company. ”
    I am not sure if you meant it this way, but it sounds as if you are offended she should be interested in money. If you stopped paying her for her work, you would see rather quickly how she calculated putting money in her pocket versus “loyalty” to you and your company. People work for money, even people who love their jobs and employers. Not fair to penalize her for that.

    1. Kat A.*

      I was thinking this too. The OP seems to think it’s a privilege to work for him and counts it as a strike against his employee that she wants to earn money for her work.

    2. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

      Yes – it doesn’t sound as if the OP offered the opportunity to be “loyal” to her. This is a relationship of give and take, and you both benefit. In her case with money.

    3. LBK*

      I didn’t read it that way – I think the OP was trying to say “this is already a mutually beneficial arrangement for us because I get her skills when I need them and she gets extra money without having to work here full-time, ergo I didn’t feel a bonus was necessary.” I don’t think she was trying to say that she should be continuing to work there out of the goodness of her heart.

      That being said, I agree this seems like an extreme reaction. I’d want to know how the employee’s email/text was worded, because I’m reading it more like a request for clarification – “Am I still able to get the bonus I used to get now that I’m on-call only?” – than some kind of entitled demand that she’s worth more than the OP is paying. The fact that she quit may have just meant she’d weighed it out and without the bonus, it wasn’t worth the time to keep working there (or, frankly, if the OP’s response was as affronted as it is here, she may have just gotten fed up).

      1. Sadsack*

        I can see this being the case. Maybe it isn’t worth it to the employee to work two jobs if she is no longer getting the bonus. Who can blame her for that?

        1. LBK*

          Yep, that’s essentially why I quit my second job – I generally liked doing it, but I got a raise at my main job so it wasn’t worth giving up part of my free time for the extra money anymore.

    4. anonanonanon*

      Completely agree. That line gave me such a knee-jerk reaction, mostly because I’ve found that the businesses that talk the most about employee loyalty are the ones that usually don’t give bonuses.

      1. themmases*

        Also, continuing to consult for your employer after you’ve moved on *is* loyalty. I know I certainly wouldn’t do it for just any place I used to work.

        This employee saved OP4 the time and expense of hiring and training someone else, and of having to employ someone full time in that job. Not only should they not be offended by this, they should probably be grateful.

        1. Charityb*

          Yeah, but she’s not working for free! If she really loved them she wouldn’t ask for something as tawdry as money.

    5. Ezri*

      Maybe the employee is just confused by the change in status – OP says that full-time employees have the option for bonuses. Since this employee went from full-time to part-time, she probably doesn’t know whether she’s part of that anymore. She may be trying to plan her holiday finances in advance, and knowing whether it’s on or off the table could be useful information.

    6. themmases*

      Yeah, OP 4 needs to take a pill. Everyone works for money.

      Even people who love their company and their work have to make rent. OP 4 probably has bills themself– how mercenary!

    7. KH*

      Yes, I agree with all these comments.

      And also if the employee worked full time through March before moving to part time/on call, it wouldn’t be unusual to get a pr0-rated bonus based on the 3 months of full time work. Heck, I started my job in a December and still got a pro-rated bonus the following March for the 18 days of work I did the previous year.

      OP#4 seems to have quite a bit of an attitude towards people who work for her – as tho she’s doing them some kind of huge favor and they should be grateful to take what they get?

  7. Quirk*

    With regard to #1:

    A while ago I interviewed at a tech start-up who had an unusual technology. In the interview, I suggested an application for the technology, which was largely shrugged off by the programmers. I still ended up getting the role as the company’s software lead, managing those programmers.

    Once I had a chance to understand the technology’s limitations more intimately, I realised that the original suggestion I had made was not viable, and internal discussion on it had occurred previously. However, some time later, a customer asked about that application with regard to a specific circumstance, and the CEO, who didn’t like to say No, insisted that we run some tests to see if we could do it. We couldn’t, but if we’d had a breakthrough we’d doubtless have ended up doing what I’d originally suggested in the interview.

    This is all a bit of a long-winded way to say that suggestions made in interviews may or may not reflect previous internal discussion, and may or may not be appropriate at the time they’re made, and that it’s rarely a suggestion made in an interview that decides the course of a company’s strategy.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Excellent point. This might not be transferrable, but in my job, the ideas are easy and plentiful, the real value is getting it to work on the production servers without breaking anything else, a process that is often harder than originally estimated.

      1. hbc*

        That sounds transferable to a lot of life. My uncle is convinced he should be rich because he came up with the idea for tons of things. Ideas don’t count unless you could actually get a patent on them. Being the first person in your circle to mention how awesome a fully electric car would be does not make you an inventor or innovator, sorry.

        1. ginger ale for all*

          Yes to this. I have a friend who thinks up overly broad movie ideas, talks about them in his circle, and then gets upset that his ideas were stolen by Hollywood. One such idea was ‘wouldn’t it be great if they could have a movie that was both a western and a sci-fi movie at the same time?’

            1. Oryx*

              Or Firefly/Serenity!

              But yes to the copyright thing. Even if the company did take the ideas the OP presented and actually used them, those ideas aren’t protected under intellectual property law.

  8. Alpha*

    In regaurds to #1, I also had an interview several months ago where I was asked to come up with a solution to a specific problem.

    I have since found out that the candidate who got the job has pretty much put in place most of the ideas I suggested in my interview. People will tend to generate the same ideas around an issue or topic.

  9. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

    Good news, cross training is necessary to a functional organization above and beyond “could I please take a freakin’ vacation without working at the same time” reasons.

    A supervisor should applaud the initiative. Your pitch is not just vacations, it’s also illness and unexpected turnover. Cross training is insurance. Saying “no” would be odd, especially if you guys are willing to do the organization work to make the cross training happen.

    1. F.*

      You never know when someone will be hit by the proverbial bus or win the lotto. We are not cross trained (shortsightedness on management’s part). I am the only one in our company who knows our HR systems, and our accountant is the only one who knows how to do payroll or knows all the intricacies of our complicated billing system. If anything every happened to one of us, the company would come to a screeching halt in very short order. This lack of cross training is one of the (many) things I am trying to change, but the wheels here grind v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y.

    2. One of the Sarahs*

      #5 – many apologies if of course you do this, but last year I had a long run of temping, and I was pretty much amazed that nothing in the organisation was written down. They’d had a ton of long-term employees leave/move jobs in a restructure, and it was pretty much like starting from scratch, with no staff manuals. So I’d write down the process for each job, and present it as a “hey, can I just confirm this is how you’d like me to do this task?”, and when I was PAing, preparing it as the hand-over for the permanent person being recruited for, and running it past my boss in a “Is this ok for how I hand over?”.

      It doesn’t take very much time at all, and it makes taking leave a lot less stressful. I worked closely with a team of 4 admins who often answered each others’ phones and shared a OneNote.

      It might also be a good opportunity to use this as an opportunity to re-draw boundaries with the managers too…

  10. JL*

    For #1, I had to do a case study when I interviewed for my current job. When I started the job, I found out the suggestions I made where actually already underway when they first talked to me – just not public yet. If I hadn’t had the offer, I wouldn’t have known – and maybe would feel a bit annoyed like you. These things just happen. Very few ideas are truly uniquely original.

    1. Not The Droid You Are Looking For*

      I had a similar situation only it was a campaign and I didn’t get the job. They had been incredibly enthusiastic about my work but I bombed the interview.

      Turns out the reason that they were enthusiastic about my work was that I had basically come up with a campaign that fit their new direction and branding (that hadn’t been announced) and had actually used one of the three themes they were deciding amongst.

      I knew the creative director who got the position, so we were able to chat…but it would have been weird to see the new rollout without the heads up.

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

    #3 (Two First Names) can you include a middle initial in written communications and the company directory, or anywhere else people might see your name in print before they meet you face to face? That may help alleviate some confusion as people will see it as a full name instead of wondering if it’s written First, Last, or Last, First.

    1. Ad Astra*

      How have I never thought of this before? I grew up with two first names and then married into yet another first name and it’s so annoying to be called Miranda all the time. My name is Kaye, gosh darnit!

    2. Paige Turner*

      Yeah, as another person with a last name that is a fairly common first name and a very uncommon last name, I like this suggestion!

    3. ZSD*

      Unfortunately, I’m not sure this will work. My name is now
      First Name [relatively uncommon women’s name] Maiden Name [sounds nothing like a first name] Married Name [sounds like common women’s name], and even with the presence of my maiden name in the middle, people still latch onto my husband’s last name and call me by that. I pretty much do what Alison suggested and correct them cheerfully.

    4. Koko*

      I was coming to say something similar – you might want to check your sender name on email envelopes. I work with a vendor who has an unusual/non-Anglican first name and a common Anglican first name as his last name. In his email signature he’s “Firstname Lastname” but for some reason the “From:” information on the email header is “Lastname Firstname” with no comma. My whole team is constantly forgetting and trying to remember/look up which name is the first name because all we can remember is that we’ve seen both variants and we sometimes get it wrong.

      Other people at his company also have “Lastname Firstname” in the from header so it’s probably something that was set up that way by their IT department by default.

      1. Chinook*

        “I work with a vendor who has an unusual/non-Anglican first name and a common Anglican first name as his last name. ”

        It wasn’t an unusual Anglican name, just a common Catholic one. (rim shot).

        Sorry, I know you meant Anglo but couldn’t resist.

  12. Katie the Fed*

    So many problems can be solved with a simple, unemotional conversation:

    “Suzie, you need to find some longer shirts that cover up your midriff when you’re at work.”
    “Oh, actually my name is Jane. Sarah is my last name.”
    “No, I’m sorry, as an on-call employee you won’t get getting a bonus this year.”

    It doesn’t need to be a big thing. Just a simple conversation.

    1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

      I did this so much when I was younger. I’d spin things around and around and around in my mind instead of just dealing with them straightforwardly, for weeks or longer! Easily my worst management sin of days old. It was unhealthy for me and the people around me.

      1. Sunshine*

        I still find myself doing this, after many years. It gets hard when you’re mired in the daily BS. Usually a quick dose of AAM helps me get over myself and handle my business.

        1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

          Ha. Yep, I’m not 100% recovered. And I concur on the AAM “shape up!” slap in the face.

      2. Katie the Fed*

        Me too. Yesterday I stressed all day over delivering a performance appraisal to someone who doesn’t take any hint of negative well. But it went fine.

      3. Cucumberzucchini*

        I wonder if people who struggle with having simple, unemotional conversations tend to struggle because of inexperience or if because in their formative years they were around people that made big tadoos over nothing. I ask because it took me a while to understand why I do some of the things I do. Growing up there was no rhyme or reason to why or if my dad would blow up over something. It trained me to worry about every possible outcome of even simple conversations and made me more defensive than I’d like. It’s something I’ve made a lot of progress on, but I still struggle with it. I feel like I’m hardwired to be on alert which can be good in some scenarios but in other ways it means I’m frequently unnecessarily stressed out . So I wonder if other people have the same reasons for stressing over what should be a no big deal conversation.

        1. Biff*

          I know for certain that this is an element for me. I’ve also had two really dysfunctional bosses, and it does train you to be almost exquisite in your planning. I felt, in my previous job, like many, many, many normal things were complete deathmatches. It’s only been in the last week or so that I’ve finally intellectually and emotional realized how bizarre it was.

        2. Marketing Girl*

          Yes Yes Yes! Between parents that could blow up suddenly (from their own stress), to previous bosses in my early years not knowing how to properly have a conversation or manage – this has all REALLY affected how I process situations. All situations can seem heightened and stressful, when actually it shouldn’t be that big of a deal. I am a self-proclaimed over-thinker from all of this. “If I say this in the email will he blow up?” “If I do some straight talk will she get emotional?” It’s all a big mind mess.

          1. Biff*

            The trouble I run into is when I predict that something will touch someone off, and it does, the overthinking/anxiety gets reinforced.

        3. Katie the Fed*

          Oh yes. It took me years to master the art of the direct-but-unemotional conversation. I still hate it.

      4. Elizabeth West*

        I always think of this as the Three’s Company effect (yes, I’m old), where people see one thing and lose their minds thinking it means something entirely different. Instead of just assuming, ASK.

    2. Evie*

      Katie the fed- it might just be that I’m tiered but I read those comments as a Monty-Python esque conversation the first two times.

        1. Chinook*

          I have to admit, the first two lines made sense for a conversation but I couldn’t figure out what the bonus had to do with it.

    3. LBK*


      One of the hardest things to learn as a manager is how to speak like a normal person again. It’s the same thing my voice coach used to say about singing – half the battle is just learning how to breath normally again, because as soon as you start thinking about it you mess up all the natural stuff your body does right.

      1. Biff*

        Isn’t it kind of telling that we expect people to not behave like normal, but they are supposed to also show their ability to do a job that requires really normal behavior? That seems screwed up to me.

        Also, really astute way of putting that.

    4. Three Thousand*

      I think a lot of people just need to be told they’re not wrong to feel like they do and they won’t be totally screwing themselves by speaking up. Sometimes we all just need some encouragement.

    5. Lily Rowan*

      Yeah, this is a great thing to learn, because it doesn’t come naturally a lot of the time! Just say the thing and it will be fine. (And same to yesterday’s LW with anxiety who didn’t want to go to work happy hours. “Sorry, I have a standing commitment after work!” The end.)

    6. BRR*

      This is one of the key things I have gotten from AAM. It’s amazing how being direct has made things so much simpler. Also learning how to phrase the direct conversations such as “No, I’m sorry, as an on-call employee you won’t get getting a bonus this year,” and not “why should you get a bonus?”

  13. Allison*

    #2, a lot of people have a hard time finding tops that are long enough, so when you do talk to her, try to approach it with the understanding that she’s just having trouble, rather than the assumption she’s being lazy or showing her body on purpose. There are some great suggestions in this thread you can pass along to her!

    my first job had us wear jeans on Fridays, it wasn’t mandatory but since most people wore them you risked being “not a team player” if you didn’t wear jeans, but I had trouble with this because I too find it hard to find tops that are long enough. Even if my sweater was long enough standing up, I’d show back skin when I sat down unless I had a cami or long shirt under it. I definitely prefer wearing a dress, or a high-waisted pair or pants or a skirt I can tuck a shirt into.

    1. folklorist*

      Yeah, and to add: it’s she making enough money for new clothes? When I was temping, I was struggling to get by. I was super depressed and stressed all the time, and started gaining weight like no tomorrow. I couldn’t afford a doctor or a gym, and suddenly a bunch of clothes that had been perfectly fine were Not Appropriate. Which did not help in the self esteem department! Things are better now all around, but this letter immediately had me flashing back/cringing in sympathy.

      1. Folklorist*

        PS: That’s not to say that boss shouldn’t say something, but kindness and giving the benefit of the doubt (as well as some low-cost options) are the way to go when she does so.

      2. Ad Astra*

        Yes, I am thankful nobody said anything about my clothes when I was barely scraping by financially and gaining weight at an alarming pace. I don’t think my belly ever showed (I have relatively narrow hips so normal rise jeans hit me around the belly button anyway) but I knew I looked frumpy and there wasn’t much I could do about it.

        It’s still worth bringing up; just know that it may not be something she can remedy immediately.

      3. Artemesia*

        A tank top worn under a crop top takes care of the problem. You can pick up a couple of tank tops for almost nothing and at a thrift store for pennies. Exposure is not a financial issue.

        1. Hlyssande*

          Not necessarily if you’re plus sized. Most of what I see is super fancy camis that aren’t any longer than the shirts. And they unfortunately aren’t all that cheap. If you’re on that tight of a budget you might not be able to even afford that.

    2. anonanonanon*

      I ALWAYS have this problem with dresses. I have to do the “bend over” and “sit down” test to make sure I won’t be flashing anyone or that my dress won’t ride up when I sit down. For whatever reason, it just seems like all of the dresses for my body type are really short. I’m lucky if I can even find one that reaches a little above my knees.

      1. Emily, admin extraordinaire* is awesome– you specify your height, and they adjust the dress to it for free. If you want to get even fancier, for less than $10 you can customize a length (you can also add or change sleeves and change necklines). I love being able to get dresses in mid-calf length!

          1. Chinook*

            I learned about from this site a few years back and have since spent enough there to become a gold plated customer (which just means they know they found a sucker worth sending all their coupons too). I am slowly changing both my summer and winter wardrobes over to them and have happily taken to wearing tights and nylons in winter because I now have dresses that fit and are warm.

            1. anonanonanon*

              I’m SUPER excited to use the site for my winter wardrobe. I have a really hard time finding dresses with sleeves that fit, so I end up wearing sleeveless dresses with jackets over them, but that’s not ideal during snowstorm weather. Learning about this site has just made my day!

              Question, though. If you get a custom dress, can you return it if it ends up not fitting or being something you like? I know some custom sites don’t allow full refunds, so that would be my only hesitation.

              1. Chinook*

                “Question, though. If you get a custom dress, can you return it if it ends up not fitting or being something you like? ”

                As always, check the fine print on the website but my understanding is that they do take returns regardless of reason (they always have paperwork in the box stating such but I have never had to return anything). Their return policy is different for the US than for Canada, but only because there are duties involved on the Canadian side.

              2. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

                I haven’t had to do a custom return, but my sister did, and got a full refund.

  14. Some2*

    OP #1- I interviewed with an organization once that required me to write a detailed analysis as part of the application. I didn’t get the job but they wound up changing their website word for word according to my analysis and recommendation. THAT sucked because in my mind I had just given away the milk for free without them having to buy the cow.

      1. Biff*

        Personally, I really like that metaphor. But if you prefer, how about:

        Getting bacon without slopping the hogs?
        Getting to town without treatin’ the horse?
        Getting the sweater without shearing the sheep?

      2. lulu*

        What? there’s nothing ugly in the way Some2 used it, that’s one of the cases where I have zero objections to it.

      3. Ad Astra*

        I don’t want to contribute to a derail about word/phrase choice, but FWIW this use of the metaphor is apt. I agree that it’s ugly when people use it to mean “He’ll never marry you if you’re putting out already,” but I’d argue that the sentiment is what’s ugly — not the metaphor itself. Your point about connotation does make me wonder if the metaphor is inextricably linked to the slut-shaming message that often comes with it, though.

      4. CheeryO*

        At the risk of going way off topic, John Mulaney has a great bit about that metaphor in his new Netflix special.

  15. xarcady*

    #5. I think the real problem here is that the partners expect the OP and her colleague to come into the office–while they are on vacation. That stinks.

    And, unless it would get the OP labeled a slacker (I don’t know what their office culture is like), that’s the issue I’d address with my supervisor. Ideally, the conversation would run–OP and colleague bring up issue of wanting uninterrupted vacation time, and present the possible solution of cross-training. Their supervisor agrees, and cross-training commences. It doesn’t sound as if coming into the office while on vacation is the norm in their workplace, so a good supervisor will find a way to keep that from happening.

    Although I’d also consider cross-training a 3rd person. If the partners become aware that the OP and her colleague are cross-trained, the demands on one of them when the other is out of the office might increase to an uncomfortable point. Having a third person able to do complete at least some of their responsibilities sounds like it would be a big help.

    And if the supervisor does nothing, I would start taking vacations that would not allow me to come back to the office–either through distance, or other commitments for that time. (I’ve spent many a vacation caring for nieces and nephews while one of their parents or siblings was in the hospital, or the like.)

    1. Ad Astra*

      Good idea about cross-training a third person. I would bet good money that the partners won’t insist on employees coming in while they’re on vacation; they just insist that the work gets done one way or another. Cross-training could have saved me so much angst at OldJob. Truly, it could have been the difference between loving that job and hating it.

    2. SCR*

      Most leave for people I know and work with doesn’t accommodate coming into the office. Isn’t that 75% of leave? You’re gone and out of town? So this should be a no-brainer.

      1. SCR*

        Like I live in Dubai and I was in the US most recently and Spain and Portugal before that for leave. Yes, sure, I’ll just pop in to handle any issues as needed. From a 8 hr flight away.

        IDK this question made me feel really annoyed for the OP.

    3. Meg Murry*

      Yes, I agree with the part about training a 3rd person. I’ve worked at a place where Person B was officially Person A’s backup, and Person A had 6 weeks of leave a year (at least). However, Person B pretty much ONLY did Person A’s job when A was out of the office, so it took her 3-4 times as long as A to do the task, and Person B had plenty of work of her own to do.

      The work involved purchasing, credit cards and specific account access, so it wasn’t something where the requestor could just do it themselves (unless they wanted to place orders on their own credit cards, not getting the corporate discount and then submit expense reports, which people did from time to time but not often).

      The problem was that since “B was covering for A”, a lot of people didn’t bother to make sure to get things done when A was there, thinking, “oh, A is on vacation next week, but that’s ok, I’ll just ask B.” It became a major stress, because B had to stumble her way through it, and then go over what happened with A when she came back, and was overall ugly.

      The next year, the policy changed. B was backup for A – for emergencies only. People were given plenty of warning that A was going to be out for the following days, and to get all requests to her with plenty of time to spare. And then if someone had an “emergency” that they needed B to do since A was out, they needed to go ask B’s boss if B could do the task, and the boss would decide if it was an emergency. Poof, 95% of the “emergencies” got dealt with in the week before A went on vacation the next year.

  16. OriginalEmma*

    Re: OP#2. Please have the conversation with compassion but do so quickly. I had a coworker whose shirts did not cover her lower torso. The first thing you saw as you walked towards her office, whose door was kept open, was her entire side profile with skin exposed. It didn’t help that she slouched at her computer, which caused the shirt to ride up her back. We had clients coming into the office daily, so it looked very unprofessional. Other women in the office, several taller or larger than her, did not experience this problem.

  17. videogame Princess*

    To #4: people as for money for themselves and for their families, not because of company loyalty or some other, more “ethical” reason. Also, it sounds like you are gaining from this as well, if her work has kept you from needing to hire a full-time employee. Is it possible that she is asking for it because she is being worked more hours or doing more things than she originally arranged? In that case, she might consider leaving if you don’t give her a little more money. You might want to look at the situation from an economic standpoint first, and set aside what it means to you personally.

    1. Three Thousand*

      Yes. Please let go of the idea that it’s uncouth to work for money. You expect to get paid for the work you do, and so does everyone else. Resenting employees for expecting to be paid is a great way to ensure good people won’t want to work for you.

    2. videogame Princess*

      Also, why are you upset because she quit? People quit a lot, and it isn’t a personal slight. It just means that they found something that suited them better. And offering to work part-time actually seems fairly generous.
      That being said, if you need a full-time employee, find a full-time employee. You aren’t required to keep her on, the same way she wasn’t required to stay. If you find yourself protesting that she isn’t replaceable, then she isn’t. Consider giving her a bonus.

  18. KK*

    #3: I am in the exact same boat. When I got married a few years ago, I took my husband’s last name, which is a VERY common female first name. I get called by that name pretty often now… I’d say at least once a week.

    The best thing you can do is say something cheery, like AAM suggested. “And just a reminder, my first name is actually _____. _____ is my last name. Happens all the time!” and then move on. The only reason I throw in the second line is to further solidify and give them the visual that _____ IS MY LAST NAME. (FWIW, in my situation, this most commonly happens over email).

    Some people will apologize and get it right from then on, some people won’t respond/won’t care (there’s a shocking amount who do this), and some people will just continue to get it wrong even though they’ll say “oops, sorry!” I had to correct one person face-to-face once and she just gave me radio silence which was really awkward. But most people just feel silly once they realize they’ve gotten your name wrong and will work to get it right from then on.

    1. KK*

      Ooh, wanted to add one more thing. I try to only correct people who I know I will have continual interaction with. If it’s a one-time thing and I know I’ll never email this person again, I usually don’t take the time to correct them, but I just sign my email with the right name. If it’s someone I know I’ll be emailing with frequently, I definitely make sure to correct them.

      1. Ad Astra*

        I’ve learned to let it go with one-time interactions, but I am sometimes guilty of taking my sweet time with requests from people who couldn’t be bothered to check my name before emailing me. It’s right there in the “to” field, and it’s even formatted Firstname Lastname. You didn’t even really have to greet me by name, but you chose to, and you messed it up. smh

        1. AnotherAlison*

          I can see that within your company, but if I’m an outsider how do I know that yours isn’t just an oddball company email convention with lastname.firstname (because honestly, this would be much more useful in the Outlook directory).

          1. Ad Astra*

            Yes, I agree — though I rarely see people outside my company calling me by the wrong name, funny enough. At OldJob, the “From” was formatted Lasname, Firstname, so I was a bit more forgiving there. (I was also a lot more likely to be dealing with the public in that position, whereas my current job involves mostly internal communication).

    2. MashaKasha*

      There does indeed seem to be a shocking amount of people who don’t give a crap what their coworkers’ real names are. It’s mindboggling. No curse of two first names here, but I have a name like Diana, and at each job, there are always people who continue calling me “Diane”. What’s more surprising, there’d be a Diane working in the same office, and people would continually call her Diana. No amount of correcting helps. Like, why?

      On the bright side, this resolves the problem of worrying what people think about you… They don’t. They don’t even are what your name is, they’ll just call you the first thing that pops into their head. As long as it doesn’t say “Diane” on my bonus checks or my W2s, I’m fine.

      1. Ezri*

        My MIL is a Diana who continually gets called Diane as well, even by extended family members. Maybe there’s some sort of mental block that prevents certain people from hearing that last syllable.

      2. fposte*

        It’s really not that they don’t give a crap, though, any more than any other error people make is automatically because they don’t give a crap. It’s just that there are a lot of Diana/Diane situations in the world and they don’t successfully police every one.

        1. MashaKasha*

          I dunno. Would they still call Diana “Diane” day in, day out, if Diana was their boss? Would they still type an email to Diana that says “Hi Diane, here are the TPS reports you assigned me last week”? Would they call her Diane when asking for a raise or a promotion?…

          1. fposte*

            I think you’re right that it’s less likely, but I also think that’s not just about not giving a crap–it’s about the degree of attention you take. You probably were more careful with your teacher’s name than your classmates in school, too.

        2. Ad Astra*

          I have a feeling it’s a mixture of both. After a while, you can start to suss out who got mixed up and who simply doesn’t bother to learn.

          1. MashaKasha*

            Yup, that’s why I used the word “continually”. One time is fine, three times is ok, 21342357 strikes – you’re out.

      3. xarcady*

        One workplace had a Megan, who pronounced her name Meg-han, and a Meghan, who pronounced her name Mee-gan. I was always getting their names wrong when I said them out loud, and having to apologize. Writing them, I was okay.

        I am now so thoroughly confused on these two names that I try not to say them at all.

      4. KK*

        It’s amazing how many people are just on total, 100% autopilot. Like the Diane/Diana thing, continuing to call me the wrong name even when they’ve acknowledged my correction and said “oops,” etc. It’s like some people just don’t absorb anything. I had a CEO once who mispronounced one of his employee’s last names for years, even after she’d corrected him multiple times. She gave up on correcting him eventually, but this was NOT a hard last name… it was actually fairly common so I don’t know what his mental block was. But it was just like he hit a wall where he couldn’t absorb the correction.

        Another anecdote: I used to work at a place where I interacted with graphic designers pretty much daily. One of these designers I worked with extensively before I got married, and she had no problem getting my first name right then because my maiden name was very clearly not a first name. Once I got married though, LITERALLY the following Monday, she started calling me by my new last name. She clearly just had no memory or …something… of who I was, how we’d interacted numerous times, etc. and it was infuriating. I think I even had some mild snark with her where I said something like “you know, people don’t usually get married and change their first names, you had it right before.”

        I also made the case that if she was careless enough to not even be able to remember my first name after multiple corrections that she probably wasn’t a good candidate for further work with us, but I got laughed off. She actually was one of our crappier designers though so there was some truth to that.

        Sigh. This will be a lifelong battle, #3… godspeed.

        1. Ad Astra*

          I once had a boss who frequently mispronounced last names, almost the way young children will encounter a word (“chameleon”) in print and internalize the wrong pronunciation (“cham-uh-LEE-on”) because they’ve never heard anyone say it out loud. Relatively easy names, too, like Ramos or Ferentz or Nguyen.

          1. MashaKasha*

            A Ferentz would certainly be a challenge for most of my coworkers present or past.
            Back in my married days, I had my husband’s last name, which was long and ethnic. Everyone at work always introduced me to the new hires as “Masha I’m-not-even-trying-her-last-name”.

      5. Kelly L.*

        I’ve got a boss who just will not figure out the spelling of my last name, even though it’s in my email, which she uses a lot. Like, even in situations where it’s not autofill. She’ll write someone an email:

        “Please contact Kelly Johnson at kjonson(at)”

        1. hbc*

          I had a Stanford that I knew was a Stanford, but my fingers automatically put in the extra D to make it Standford at least 80% of the time. I’m not even sure why I have that particular bit of muscle memory because I don’t think I’ve even associated with a Standford before. It’s like my lizard brain added it without me even being aware.

      6. L Veen*

        I have a somewhat unusual first name. A few of my coworkers will articulate it v e r y s l o w l y with exaggerated, ostentatious care and it’s really starting to annoy me. Imagine if instead of calling you “Diana” those people made sure to always call you “Di-aaaah-naaaaaaaaaah” like “look at how much effort I’m putting into using the right name, aren’t I great?”

    3. AnotherAlison*

      The biggest problem we have with this in my department is caused by one guy having a first name-sounding last name that IS the first name of another guy. They look nothing alike, but they are similar ages and have similar professional backgrounds.

      One is James Anthony and the other is Anthony Smith, and someone will say isn’t “Anthony” working on that? A lot of times they mean James, but they can’t get their mind around it right. They both do stuff in the mechanical space, so context doesn’t keep it straight. It also doesn’t help that there are a few guys who go by their last names in a “bro” kind of way. . .or that there is a James, Jared, Jason, John, Jean, Jeana, and two Jeffs.

      1. Kelly L.*

        We have that too! There’s a slight difference (say Michael and Michaels), but if somebody’s mumbling, you can’t always tell.

    4. Chinook*

      “When I got married a few years ago, I took my husband’s last name, which is a VERY common female first name. I get called by that name pretty often now… I’d say at least once a week. ”

      Could be worse – I once had a teacher, Mr. Carol, who married a woman named Carole who voluntarily changed her last name to his.

  19. Christian Troy*

    LW #1 – I’ve run into this on different job interviews and in different ways and I don’t have a ton of advice except to echo other comments that you probably aren’t the only one with these ideas. It’s definitely tough to digest that you didn’t get a job but yet your ideas were clearly worth implementing, but (personally) I think there are a lot of similar, strong candidates out there are all competing for the same position. Sorry, I’m not sure if that helps, but I would mentally move on with other positions.

  20. ThatGirl*

    Re: two first names.

    My boss is named something similar to Bob Stephen. To confuse things further, our e-mails show our names as “Stephen, Bob”. People read right over the comma all the time and call him Stephen. He tries to gently correct them.

    And me, I have an unusual first name and a last name that is a (typically male) first name in some other parts of the world, so people have been very confused by that sometimes.

    But my favorite thing was I once saw a woman in our company jokingly reply to a group e-mail with the original guy’s last name to make her point. He got it right away.

  21. MaggiePi*

    Interesting to read the suggestions for #3. I don’t have the same problem, but related.
    I have a first name that has a few common nicknames, and I don’t use any of them. I sign everything with my full first name. Yet people respond to my emails with “Hi Nickname” and it really aggravates me (probably more than it should, but I have negative connotations for the most common nickname). Why would people just assume I go by a name other than what I signed my email with?

    1. AnotherAlison*

      Because many people do just that. But I’m with you, I think it’s kind of annoying – sign it what you want to be called. Don’t sign your email Timothy and then flinch whenever someone calls you Timothy. : )

      1. Elsajeni*

        This drives me crazy! There are a bunch of people I work with almost exclusively through email who, say, have a signature that says “Timothy” but are “T.J.” in the online directory, or sign Timothy most of the time but Tim when they email from their phone, or whatever. Throw me a bone here, T(im)(othy)(.J.), I just want to get it right.

    2. Margaret*

      I want to give one explanation of this – they may have heard someone else refer to you by the nickname, and so think they’re using your preferred name! (Until it sinks in that you’re not using it to sign your emails…)

      Embarrassing on my part: We were outsourcing a particular project, and so had this contractor that had a main point of contact within the office, but any of us were also contacting her directly if she was working with our clients. That main contact continually called her “Jenn”, so I emailed her multiple times addressing her “Jenn”, until it gradually sunk in that she was signing her emails and leaving voicemails as “Jennifer”. I didn’t bring it up to her, but I felt bad, and immediately switched to addressing her as Jennifer. I have no idea why my colleague was calling her Jenn, there was nothing in my correspondence from her to indicate that she ever used it, but once someone in the office used it, it stuck.

      1. MaggiePi*

        I can understand that happening in certain situations. For me, no one calls me this nickname and the people who do (incorrectly) are not interacting with each other at all. It’s happened for years (because rarely do people with my given name actually use the whole thing) and yet never ceases to amaze me.
        All the more because my given name has multiple common nicknames, and they are just guessing one at random and using it. Odd!

  22. Moonstone*

    OP #3 — I have the exact same problem, compounded by the fact that my two names share lots of “K” sounds and vowels so people easily mix them up. After many years, I have switched to introducing myself only by first name and job title, even though I know it’s not as professional. On second reference (and of course in e-mail), I use my full name. I structure the in-person intro like this: “Hi, my name is Moonstone. I am the product owner for this project. ” After they have gotten my name right once, I can switch to using both names more easily. Also, sometimes I say: “You can reach me at”

  23. Anonymous Tummy*

    Wow, I hope #2 isn’t about me, but it’s definitely the nudge I need to retire that one shirt I’m always tugging on…eek.

  24. Nervous Accountant*

    Letter writer #4 sounds similar to the wife in yesterday’s letter. Not nearly as batshit insane, but I can’t understand why employers take questions of compensation so emotionally.

  25. Marketing Girl*

    #1- Yeah, I’ve been in that boat. But as others have said above, it very well could be that they were already planning to implement those ideas. My specific example was also very common, it was targeted social media ads- super common in social media management, right? Sure it is, but when the guy I was interviewing with said he refused to pay money for these targeted ads and asked what I gained from them in my current position I answered him and explained how I thought it could benefit his company as well -you know, trying to showcase I knew my stuff. End of the story, I didn’t get the job, but the next week I was a target of one of that company’s first targeted ads…. *sigh*

    1. Biff*

      It’s really quite possible that you weren’t the only person to convincingly pitch idea. He might have been under enormous internal pressure as well. Please don’t take this so personally. It feels sucky, I know, but even if they did just get your work for free, there is absolutely nothing you can do about it.

      1. CMT*

        Except vent anonymously on an internet forum, which can be cathartic. Marketing Girl doesn’t say she’s looking for any kind of retribution, so I don’t think you need to assume that’s what she’s after.

  26. brownblack*

    The problem of last name/first name makes me think about how silly some organizations’ email programs are – I work with many government agencies, and it’s always odd when I get an email from “MIRANDA Kaye” or “” and I always have to remind myself that this particular office has a weird email protocol and the person’s name is Kaye Miranda. I can imagine if I had to deal with this, it would be annoying!

  27. Diane*

    1. happened to me, but it was an event idea. Bizarrely, I was called by an employee of a theater I applied to work for in the event management field. I was in the middle of moving, but they called late afternoon and asked if I could do a phone interview NOW. This should have been a red flag, but I literally graduated from college the day before and was excited. They posed a question of what I would do for a educational program an upcoming Japanese Drumming performance for children ages 5-10. I told them my excellent idea. They used my excellent idea, and I never heard from them again.
    I later took a position at a museum. My director there told me she worked for the theater in the past, but had to quit. She said that “surprise” interviews are a test to see how you will handle the request. If you try to re-schedule, they will eliminate you from the candidate pool immediately, but won’t tell you directly. I told her about my program that they used, and she said she wasn’t surprised and countered with an ever crazier story about how the director of the theater hired a private detective to track certain employees he felt were disloyal. The PI apparently followed my Director’s husband at one point, which led her, amongst other things, to quit.

  28. Janet*

    LW 2- Sorry, was it absolutely necessary for you to mention this employee is overweight? The point is, don’t expose your middriff at work. Weight is irrelevant.

    1. LBK*

      I took that to mean the OP was trying to be cautious about phrasing since clothing might be a sensitive subject for someone who’s probably already subject to a lot of undue criticism about their appearance. As others have mentioned, weight can also make finding clothes that fit a challenge, which makes essentially telling the employee to buy new clothes a potentially big ask.

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