can I block people from walking through my office, who should my reference be, and more

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

1. Would it be unreasonable to block people from walking through my office?

I’m the manager of a medium business, with 15 full-time and 6 part-time employees in addition to myself. Our building has just been renovated, and it has changed the layout a lot. Three doors now lead off the foyer: the bathroom, the hallway to the general work areas, and my office. The trouble is that our new break room is where an old storeroom used to be, with one door leading into a work area and the other directly into my office.

Staff will walk through my office on arrival to get to the break room, or will walk through to get to the bathroom in the foyer, instead of taking the longer way around. It’s distracting, and potentially presents problems when I’m working with confidential information. I’ve tried locking this door from my side, but people will simply walk through and let themselves in, leaving it unlocked behind them. Worse, it’s not uncommon for staff to simply knock on the door for me to let them through. It seems as though every time this comes with an apology, or a “this is the last time, promise!” so it’s clear the staff know that it’s a problem.

Is it unreasonable to block the doorway completely, such as pushing furniture in front of it, or am I being unreasonable in expecting the door to remain closed and asking staff to walk through a work area on breaks to use the bathroom?

It’s reasonable not to want people to use your office as a thoroughfare to get somewhere else; that’s distracting and can break your focus. It makes sense to just block off that door entirely, by putting a bookcase or desk or something in front of it so it can’t be opened — basically, turn it from a door into a wall. That’s sometimes the only way to solve this kind of thing, because the temptation otherwise does seem too great for people to resist.

2. Should my reference be my direct manager or a more senior manager?

I’m a mid-senior-level employee in the job hunting process. I’m trying to decide who I should use as a reference for my work at my current job. I worked for a firm that was acquired by another larger company, and my former team has been broken up and no one reports directly to each other any more, so I’m not worried about any gaslighting from a manager who doesn’t want to lose an employee. Here are my options:

1. Nancy: My direct boss before the merger. Her title (director) did not change as a result of the merger.

2. Simon: Nancy’s boss, formerly a VP but demoted to director level post-merger. (Almost everyone got a slight title demotion in the merger; Nancy was an exception.) I worked closely with him, and I believe he’d feel comfortable giving me a good reference.

Both Nancy and Simon know me well enough to give a well-informed (and positive!) assessment of me. I just wondered if some/most HR managers would think that a more senior person going to bat for someone would carry more weight, or if they’d prefer to hear from a candidate’s direct manager.

Good reference checkers will usually prefer to hear from your direct manager, assuming that’s the one of the two who worked most closely with you. That’s because they want to be able to get thoughtful, nuanced information, which a manager two levels above is less likely to have about your performance, at least to the degree that your direct manager has.

3. Applying for a different job only three months after starting my new job

I have been working in an entry-level job I enjoy for about three months now. The pay is low, but the hours, the work itself, and my manager are all wonderful. It is also an organization I admire with many prospects for advancing my career here.

However, I came upon a job posting at another organization (Org B) that is more focused on one of my passions (the arts), although it is a slight stretch for me experience-wise. But it is a higher-level job that I would love to be doing and is in line with my degree and ambitions. I figured it couldn’t hurt to throw my hat in the ring and see where it goes. I am not looking to change jobs, but a friend sent me this posting because she thought I’d be a fit. I don’t intend to apply to any other jobs anytime soon.

My question is whether Org B will see it as a red flag about me if they notice on my resume that I have only been in my current position for about three months. I have never stayed at a job longer than two years so far, but I have only been out of college for about five years. What if I explain to Org B (if I get interviewed) that I am happy in my current job, but was so excited about this job opportunity with them that I had to go for it? How is this going to look to this Org B? Will it reflect poorly on my as a candidate?

If you had a track record of longer stays at previous jobs, I wouldn’t be horribly alarmed to hear “I’m happy in my current job, but this role was so exciting to me that I had to give it a shot.” But against a backdrop of no long-term stays, and you thinking about leaving your current job after only three months? Yeah, I’d be concerned that the whole picture taken altogether was one of someone who wouldn’t stay long-term with me either.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give it a shot anyway, because who knows, maybe the interviewer won’t see it that way … but factor into your thinking more broadly that you’re starting to create a job-hoppy pattern, and you want to make sure you counteract that with future moves.

4. How to tell an interview-offering company that I accepted a job somewhere else

I have a question about how to turn down an interview with Company B after I’ve already accepted an offer from Company A. My job at Company A is temporary, so when it’s over I may want to apply for a position at Company B again. What should I say in my interview-declining email so that I make the best impression on the Company B? I was thinking of starting it with Dear Mr. X, and possibly telling him where I’ll be working. Is that too much information? I just like to be friendly and honest with people, but sometimes can’t tell when I’ve hit TMI territory.

Or is it even appropriate to email my decline-to-interview in the first place? Should I call?

Nope, definitely email it. It’s not so urgent that it warrants the interruption of a phone call, or any kind of back-and-forth conversation. An email like this would be totally fine: “I’ve actually just accepted a position as X at Company A so I need to withdraw from your hiring process. However, I really appreciated the chance to learn more about your work, and since my role at Company A ends in December, I may be reaching back out to you then!”

(If you’ve already had an initial interview with B, they may take note of this. If you haven’t talked with them at all yet, they’re less likely to care — but there’s still nothing wrong with saying it.)

{ 122 comments… read them below }

  1. RKB*

    Ugh, don’t open it if they knock. If they ask or make a comment, then you get the chance to pointedly say “I was busy and didn’t want to be distracted from my work.”

    Maybe your colleagues need a Fitbit Workweek Hustle challenge… Get me motivated to take the longer route!

    1. FiveByFive*

      Moving furniture to block a door? Are the OP’s reports that defiant to ignore a directive from their manager to not use her private office as a short-cut? Oy. I would never defy such a request from my boss, and if I was the boss, I would expect the same. Sliding sofas around rather than addressing a problem of respecting authority seems like an odd choice…? Or am I missing something?

      1. MK*

        I don’t know that it’s an authority issue, but it’s obvious that the OP hasn’t been firm about this. Possibly she has framed it as a preference of hers instead of a direct instruction: there is a difference in how people perceive “could you please not use this door, it’s distracting me” and “this door will not be used from now on, don’t come in this way”. The OP should state the matter clearly and then probably endure a period of enforcing this, firmly turning people away. And if people complain or think she is making too much of it, she should tackle it immediately ” you know, this is the 15th time that you used my office as a hallway for the last time. Unfortunately, I found that the issue won’t be fixed unless am strict about this”. And if they are offended, too bad; people who can’t follow a simple instruction as “don’t use this door”, deserve to be treated like children.

        1. FiveByFive*

          Agreed. It’s a shame if it has to come that, but this should be easy. The manager’s office is… the manager’s office. This is not an unreasonable request by any means.

        2. Beti*

          I think you’re right, MK. Since the OP is asking this question, s/he isn’t confident about laying down the law and hasn’t been direct. (This must be a not-uncommon issue, Joan Harris had the same issue at SCDP!) So, yes, OP, you are completely in the right here. It’s your office, not a hallway. Stop letting them through! Tell them, “This is my office, not a hallway. When people walk through, it’s distracting and I often work on confidential information. I need you to use the common areas.” (Don’t say “I need you to walk around the other way” as that suggests to them that you are asking them to do something unreasonable.) And then shut the door. If someone walks through from the other side, stop them and repeat the statement.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            It’s a lot of energy to expend when she can just magically turn the door into a wall with furniture. It’s really okay for her to save her managerial capital for other stuff, when this one is so easy to solve by other means.

            1. Shannon*

              That might be a violation of fire code – landlords and insurance companies get cranky about blocked doors. Something to check into before she starts redecorating.

              1. Decimus*

                It’s a good thing to check, but even if it is this might be solved by getting some yellow construction tape or something and basically taping the door closed – that should be enough to say ‘really I mean it don’t go this way’ while still allowing emergency access (or at least being easy to remove if the fire marshal complains).

              2. JessaB*

                This is what I came to say as well, do not block/permanently lock any door without talking to building services many areas require two exits (and if there’s cooking equipment in the break area, this may be one of them. This may, depending on the issues, require the OP to either put their foot down hard about using that door in a non emergency, or possibly move their office.

              3. Anxa*

                Having worked in a state that had a very public fire that killed several people and in safety oriented positions, the potential fire hazard kept out at me as well.

              4. Beti*

                I wondered about the fire code as well. Plus maybe she likes to have both doors open sometimes. I get what you are saying, “pick your battles” but she shouldn’t have to barricade her doors to get people to follow her reasonable directions. They should be just following her reasonable directions because she’s their manager and it’s an office not a hallway.

          2. Rebecca in Dallas*

            Haha, my first thought was Joan!

            “This is an office, not a thoroughfare! Take the extra steps, you could use them.” But you have to deliver it with that venomous voice.

      2. Colette*

        It’s not clear that everyone using the office as a hallway reports to the OP. Some of them may even outrank her.

        But ultimately, they’re doing it because it works. Making it no longer work will quickly solve the problem.

    2. fposte*

      Sounds like some of them are coming through the other way, so just not opening the break room door won’t be enough, and the OP can’t reasonably quiz everybody coming into her office if they’re passthroughs before they enter. Easiest thing is just to undoor the door.

      1. Elsajeni*

        Yup. I would even try to block it from both sides — there’s probably a table in the breakroom that could be moved in front of it, in addition to putting a bookcase or something on the office side.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Hahaha, I was going to suggest hanging a sign on the break room side. That one is great.

        Also, who thinks it’s okay to walk right through somebody else’s OFFICE?!?

      2. Pomona Sprout*

        That’s great! Gets the point across with no ambiguity yet in a humorous way thst no one (reasonable) can take offense to.

  2. Eric*

    #1, Just make sure you are in compliance with fire code if you go down that path (e.g., remove all overhead “exit” signs that point towards that door).

    1. super anon*

      I came here to say the same thing. My coworkers cube farm had open spaces on each end in place of doors. People always walk through to get to the break room or the elevator instead of using the hallway two steps away on the side of the door.

      My coworkers came up with the great solution of blocking the doors with progressively more and more things. First it was a chair, then two chairs, then two chairs and a coat rack. Finally we had to get the fire marshal to talk to them to tell them to stop because it was a fire hazard and we put up signs but they still kept playing office furniture Tetris. They started piling boxes in strategic piles to block the door but not fully but blocked enough to send a “you shall not pass” message. Their manager ended up spending $10, 000 to have doors installed because them blocking the doors became such an issue.

      1. Rubyrose*

        I remember box piling! Long ago worked in a medical lab in a former grocery store, so no internal walls. Our computer/printer/modem setup was in this area (yes, broke all of the rules concerning security, climate control). Our medical director knew he was special and repeatedly walked through our area, despite being requested by the owners not to. This was a safety hazzard – we were working with those large boxes of computer paper (not sure that is used anymore). So we started using those boxes to block access. The medical director actually tripped over a single layer of them a couple of times, before we took pity on him and piled on two more layers.

    2. snuck*

      And I’d be using break room furniture to block if I could, so it’s less obvious that it’s YOU blocking, it’s the general room in there. But if not do it in your own office.

      How annoying and rude!

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Eh, whether you agree with the blocking approach or not, the other staff could see it as OK to rearrange the break room furniture themselves, since they use it. They should not see it as OK to rearrange their boss’s furniture. (Although considering this boss can’t get them to follow instructions, I wonder about that part, too.)

        1. J*

          I really doubt that any of them are that actively determined to use this door. I think all that’s happening is that the power of habit (especially as pertains to the physical spaces you walk around) is really strong. Everyone who says “last time, I promise” probably sincerely means it, until the next moment when muscle memory leads them to this door and they make the split-second decision of “ok, can’t hurt to knock.”

          It’s like — I have an internet blocker that I sometimes turn on at work when I need to focus. I have the password, so I can disable it at any time. If I’m really desperate to procrastinate, I sometimes do. But most of the time, if I drift over to internet browsing, the popup saying “Internet is Blocked” is enough to snap me out of it and send me back to work. Someone might say that if I were a really good worker who could follow directions, I wouldn’t attempt to internet-browse in the first place. But this also works fine. It is totally fine to make this about the locations of doors, not about the OP’s authority.

          1. Engineer Girl*

            I think it would be reasonable to tape a sign saying “no entry” on the break room side. If it is merely habit then that may help.

          2. Oryx*

            Yes — it’s like how driving to lunch yesterday, I had to ask my co-workers which exit to take. Not because I didn’t know — we go to this restaurant all the time — but because up until that exit, the route takes me the same way I go to get home. Muscle memory when driving can cause a reflex to just stay on that same course out of habit. Without asking my co-workers and having that conversation en route, I could have easily “zoned out” (so to speak) and just headed home.

            1. Paquita*

              +1 to muscle memory while driving. Years ago my job, my parents and my church were all off the same exit. Was going somewhere one day and got off there. Sat at the light thinking ‘where am a going?’. Not to any of those three places. Had to get back on the highway :).

            2. Elizabeth West*

              Oh yeah. I did this the other day–I meant to take another exit because I wanted to go to the store, but I ended up driving right past it and on my regular route home. It was enough out of my way that when I found myself going up the off-ramp, I went, Well damn, I’ll go tomorrow!

    3. Vicki*

      There should be no EXIT signs over any doors that lead into another room, only over doors that lead to hallways or out of the building.

  3. LadyCop*

    #1 Make sure you are complying with fire code! Buildings of certain sizes and occupancy often need more than 1 exit from the building or certain rooms!

    1. Blurgle*

      And blocking that exit even with boxes can result in hefty, hefty fines (five figures in some places). That exit might need to be kept unblocked and unlocked.

    2. Vicki*

      If this particular problem is a fire code issue, there’s something wrong, because the door leads between a break room (former storage room) and an office. EXIT doors don’t do that.

  4. Pat*

    #4 – I’m sure some will disagree with me, but I would still interview for the job at company B, assuming it’s a permanent position and the pay is comparable.. Yes, you accepted an offer from Company A, but it’s also a temporary position. You really don’t have anything to lose except for burning a bridge at a temporary employer, which probably happens all the time. It’s not something I would make a habit of doing, but I wouldn’t feel the same sense of loyalty to a temporary/seasonal employer as I would to a company that employed me permanently. You have a great excuse if people question why you left so soon after accepting the first job. You can simply say, “The job at Company A was a temporary position, which was my only option at the time, but I couldn’t refuse the possibility/offer of permanent employment at Company B.” No hiring manager in their right mind (or at least no hiring manager you would want to work for) would fault you for leaving a temp position for a permanent position. Why would anyone put themselves in a situation where they’d be out of a job, if they could avoid it?

    You’re also assuming that Company B will have a position for you in a few months when your temp position ends. That’s a big assumption that may require a lot of luck. I wouldn’t think twice about going after the permanent position if I were in your shoes….Just my two cents, but I also realize I don’t have all the facts (i.e. salary/benefits comparison and how “temporary” the job is)

    1. MK*

      That’s assuming the OP would like to leave the temporary job if she is offered a permanent one, but there is no indication in the letter that they are even regretting having to turn the interview down. Also, the OP isn’t assuming company B will have an open position, all they said was that they might want to work for them later, so they don’t want to sour the relationship.

      1. Pat*

        Obviously, I covered this when I said that “I also realize that I don’t have all the facts” They also didn’t really give a justification for why they’d want the temporary position over the permanent one. I just want them to know that they shouldn’t feel obligated to stay in a temporary role just because they accepted it first. I don’t know if that’s the reason, but absent any other information, I wanted to throw it out there. I know people who think that they should always stick to their first offer, but there are times when it makes sense to keep looking.

    2. GC*

      Hi Pat, I’m OP #4. Thanks for your input. I had actually applied for two jobs with Company B, one was temporary and one was permanent, but the one they wanted to interview me for was the temporary position. If they wanted to interview me for the permanent job, then I may still have gone in for the interview. The temp position at Company A is actually a paid internship and certification program at an internationally known organization, so I feel my future will benefit from that more than the temp job at Company B which is just the same stuff that I’ve been doing for years, and at a lesser known organization (seasonal work is the norm in my field until you have 5+ years of experience or a grad degree.)

      Thanks for your advice. I’ll keep that in mind in the future.

  5. EJ*

    Hi, I’m the op#1. We’re only a month past the renovation date so it’s not been a problem for a long time, but I think that half the issue is that the previous manager were happy with people coming through to access the room when it was a store room.

    I can definitely block the door and still adhere to fire codes, as the door directly to the first work area is directly opposite the fire exit and staff rooms only need one point of egress here.

    The culture of this workplace has always been really casual, which is also part of the problem: I don’t necessarily want to make it more formal, but some of the comments about the disrespectful factor do hit home.

    1. Rubyrose*

      Since the fire code allows it, go for it. I think I would do the furniture rearranging on both sides of the door, to get the message sent loud and clear.
      These folks have a pattern that needs to be broken. Too bad whomever did the remodeling did not think this one through in advance.

      1. EJ*

        It’s really unfortunate. My immediate predecessor, who was only an interim while they recruited for the position had a hand in the design and I think she liked the idea of socialising as people came through. I’m happy to socialise at the right times, but there’s a time and a place. Had I arrived to take the job earlier I could have moved a secondary office (part time bookkeeper) into that space and put the staff room off the hallway where her office is. Unfortunately as plumbing was added for the staff room sink and such, I’m stuck with it.

        1. TootsNYC*

          also–that was a STORAGE room, not a BREAK room.
          And I bet you that people needed stuff from the storage room fast less frequently than then go to the break room. And fewer people, as well.

    2. Worker Bee (Germany)*

      I’d still have a firm converstation with the violatiors because just blocking it seems a bit passive aggressive to me.

      1. KR*

        Yeah, even if its just a very serious “This is really annoying me. Don’t use my office as a hallway again. Don’t make this become an issue as I’ve talked to you about it multiple times.”

        Then when they knock again and just want to walk through tell them they have to go around. Be a jerk. I think part of this is you keep letting them go around.

        1. EJ*

          I think a combination of both is a good idea, mostly because I’m not tied to my desk all day and am often away from my desk working on trainee mentoring and discussions with the bookkeeper. This means when the office is unattended people cut through anyway. (The door in question only locks from my side.)

          Again, workplace culture is part of the issue, and is a benefit in some ways. The business has to be a little casual to meet the needs of our client base and place in the community, so it’s about striking balance which hasn’t been there before, particularly when I came on board only just prior to the renovations (and was the fourth manager in a short space of time) and have been trying to boost morale while occupying the building during construction, when people were doubling up in workspaces while work was conducted in the other half of the building.

          That’s also not to say that I haven’t spoken to people. I’m trying to break previous habits about access to that room, too.

      2. Mallory Janis Ian*

        I don’t think it send passive aggressive; it send like a consequence of the workers’ repeated ignoring of multiple direct requests not to go that way. If they’re surprised, then they haven’t been paying attention.

    3. The Wall of Creativity*

      If you block the door with a cupboard, be prepared for retaliation. Don’t be surprised when you open your office door to go home in the evening and find it bricked up.

      1. J*

        Wait, seriously? I’m not understanding all the responses about how the OP should Stand Up For Herself And Be Firm. People in her office have a bad habit; there’s an easy technical fix for it that doesn’t involve her spending a lot of emotional energy training people to do something differently and putting herself in an antagonistic position (however justified). People won’t be MAD that the door is blocked, theyll be like “oh yeah, we can’t go that way anymore.” Why on earth shouldn’t she take the easy way out in this situation?

        1. TL -*

          I think it’s more like she’s their boss and should have her wishes respected. It is not a small thing if her employees won’t do as she asks.

          1. Honeybee*

            But as multiple people pointed out, people probably aren’t doing this to Stick It To The Man, they are doing it because of muscle memory/inertia/laziness. It’s probably best for the manager to take a path of least resistance first and see if that solves the problem before escalating to chest-beating if she doesn’t have to.

        2. fposte*

          Agreed. I also think that’s a pretty authoritative move in its own right to boot. The OP told people, habit meant that wasn’t enough, and now it’ll be clear that she means what she says. And it’s a lot better than giving people official reprimands for walking into the break room.

          Sure, it’s possible it could be stopped with rants or serious conversations, but this is both more effective and more efficient.

          1. Macedon*

            Honestly, I don’t think it’s Weak as much as it’s a little childish. You are, effectively, choosing not to repeat communication and believe in your coworkers’ ability to soon get the hint. Sure, it might take a few more days of asking them not to go through this space in a less than jocular manner. And what if you move the furniture back one day? Since you’ve technically only stopped entry and not the habit, they may well simply resume regular office travel.

            I’d leave door-furniture blocking as a last resort for people who can’t fence pets or earnest slasher-flick protags.

            1. fposte*

              It’s funny you mention “can’t fence pets”–I was thinking this is *why* you fence pets, because no matter how much you believe Fido will come when you call, that squirrel knows better. So you can either train, train, train, and train and hope because you believe a fence is childish, or you can put up a fence, knowing the worst case scenario is that he’s trained *and* fenced.

              And in this case the fence is free and easy, so why not fence as well as train? It seems like you think there’s something inherently better in doing this through conversation, and I’m not seeing it, especially when it takes more of the manager’s time and energy.

              It also makes me think of road construction. Sure, you can post a cop to explain to people that they should go around, or you can just block the road. Nobody seems to take it amiss that they opt for the second.

              1. Macedon*

                I think I’m simply not seeing that much effort on the manager’s part to have this convo. You just tell people, “Hey, I am doing X and this is disturbing me. Please avoid.” No sugar coating, nothing.

                The average coworker can hopefully be relied upon to summon more wit than beloved Fido.

                1. fposte*

                  She’s got 21 employees, and they’ll clearly need it more than once per because it’s already been said; she’s also needing to get her work done without interruption, so that’s an additional time loss. Or she can take five minutes to push her desk over across the door.

                2. Macedon*

                  Afraid we’ll have to disagree on this one. I think furniture blocking is addressing the symptom (entry) not the disease (the bad habit, setting the antecedent of communicating towards people respecting your boundaries).

                3. Colette*

                  @Macedon I’m not sure there’s value in trying to fix someone else’s bad habit. Generally, that is not achievable. If this were an issue affecting the way the employees do their jobs, the manager would need to work with them to improve or set boundaries – but it would still be up to the employee to make the change, the manager couldn’t impose the change. However, it really isn’t worth the effort when a simple layout change will do the trick.

                  I really don’t see a reason why the manager would choose to make someone’s habit a commentary on her authority, or why she’d take a path that’s far more disruptive to everyone when there is a simpler choice that will cost her less social capital readily available.

                4. Macedon*

                  @Colette — as I said, I don’t think it’s a matter of authority or weakness or a point to prove. It’s one of communication and relying on your co-workers to afford you basic respect, once you repeatedly indicate your boundaries. It isn’t disruptive to communicate. It’s perhaps not always effective, but it’s a given part of the work day.

              2. Q*

                I just have to say how much I loved…no matter how much you believe Fido will come when you call, that squirrel knows better. !!!

            2. Honeybee*

              Stopping entry is stopping the habit. They will no longer have a habit of going through her office and eventually people will form new habits.

    4. Meg Murry*

      Even if fire code only requires one exit, the local fire chief/codes enforcement may still not like it.

      In our area, the policy is that doorways can’t be blocked, period. So basically, you can take a door out and put in a wall, but if there is a door or doorway it can’t be blocked.

    5. Amo for This*

      My boss has a similar set up, with two doors, one from the main hallway that connects into the other offices, and no one uses it as an entry. It’s never even occurred to me.

      So I would be firm about saying it’s no longer a pass through before it gets blocked off. Keep it locked and don’t let people in when they knock. Decent employees will get the message.

    6. Kyrielle*

      Actually, instead of blocking it, what if you – possibly talking to your boss and/or office manager, if that’s not you, first – put up an “emergency exit only” sign on the door on both sides?

      Then you’d have much stronger standing to push back on people cutting through it otherwise.

      I realize it’s not required by fire code, but just blocking it as furniture might be taken as more passive-aggressive, and this would be more direct. “Yes, there’s a door here, but it’s not intended for *regular use*.”

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I don’t think just blocking it with furniture will be taken as passive aggressive though. She’s asked people to stop, they haven’t stopped, and it’ll be easy to just cheerfully say “this is obviously a hard habit to break and I can’t keep getting up to answer the door, so it’s no longer a door!” Done.

    7. Bea W*

      Since the previous manager allowed it, this is part of the problem. They are just doing it out of habit more than anything else. People have to re-learn how to get to where they are going without using your office as a pass through. I remember one major office renovation where the entrance to my cube was reconfigured in a position where people used to turn to go down the hall. People would stop short there all the time because they were on autopilot navigating their routes to and from the kitchen.

      My present team moved floors a couple years ago, on the opposite side of the building where we have somewhat of a private entrance and no longer need to go upstairs which involves passing through the security gates to the bank of elevators, but I think every one of us has at least once walked straight into the elevator and taken an unnecessary ride, even months later. We moved space 3 years ago, and I still have people stop by my desk looking for Facilities, because that is where they used to sit. At first I was able to tell them where Facilities had been relocated, but there have been so many moves since, I can’t even do that much. It baffles me anyone still walks through there looking for people who haven’t been in the building for 3 years, but then again communication around moves and our moving process in general has always been one big cluster duck.

    8. RoseTyler*

      I would designate one door to be the one that just Does Not Open, then on the other put up a sign that says “Not a Door – Please Go Around” on both sides of the door (inside your office and outside in the hallway). Place the sign right over the crack and use a decent amount of tape, so that people will have to actually rip the paper to open the door.

      1. DMented Kitty*

        I’m thinking more of a sign that says, “No passing through – please use the other door”.

  6. NJ Anon*

    Op #1 I don’t get how they are coming through if the door is locked. If it doesn’t lock, change the door handle so it does.

    1. EJ*

      It’s a twist lock. No keys. We used to have a key lock when it was a store room, but the doors were changed during the construction.

      1. Artemesia*

        If you are the manager and have confidential materials on your desk from time to time etc,it is important that you can lock up when you are out. I’d either change your office or have proper locks installed on both sides of the room so you can lock when you are out. And I do think this is a matter of asserting authority.

        1. fposte*

          Though if the fire exit thing is a concern, changing the door to a key-only is likely to be a problem too.

    2. fposte*

      I also think some people may be initially reading it as I did, that they’re coming in this door from the outside. But they’re doing that *and* they’re coming through the OP’s office door, going to the door to the breakroom, and then unlocking it to go *out*.

  7. Former Computer Professional*

    For a while I had a problem finding a new job. I’d apply for a job and this (same each time) guy would apply, too. When they would ask him why he was looking to change jobs after such a short time, he’d convince them that because he was young he was still trying to find his “dream job” and he was sure that THIS job was it, and he would stay forever and stop job hopping. And every place bought it.

    After a couple of years of this, I had to start looking for jobs outside our small city.

    And it wasn’t just the constant of him getting the jobs instead of me. Because the computer geek community was so tight-knit in the small city, I’d run into him often. It was usually right when he was getting ready to jump ship again, and he’d tell me how I should be SO glad I didn’t get his current job because that place was sooooo awful.

    1. Former Computer Professional*

      Ugh. I meant to relate this to #3. I need to stay off the computer before coffee intake.

  8. Florida*

    You could put a sign on the door that says “Emergency Exit Only. Alarm Will Sound.” Then you can set up one of those motion detector things that sounds like a pack of dogs if someone walks by.

    Seriously, I think the best thing to do is to say something when people walk through.

    “John, I know that this is an easier way to get to the lobby, but it’s also my office. When you cut through, the distraction makes it difficult for me to concentrate. I’d appreciate it if you walked around to get to the lobby from now on. Thanks.”
    I’d say that to every single person when they walked through. If they walk through a second time, I’d say, “John, was I not clear enough the first time? When you walk through my office it is a distraction. Please do not use my office as a pass through anymore.”

    1. Meg Murry*

      I know your sign idea was a joke, but I think a sign from the break room to the office that says “Manager’s office, please use other door” would be a good step before moving furniture.

      I also agree with others that if someone knocks on your door you may want to open it and say “Can I help you?” and if they say “just going to the break room” say “No, I need you to go around”. Don’t open the door and step aside, don’t let them through when they apologize, just say ” No” and shut the door again.

      Is there some kind of other issue at play, like people only get very short breaks so they are cutting through your office from the break room after lunch to hit the bathroom quickly before heading back to work? Or is there something else you could do, like put a second water cooler or coffee pot closer to the bathroom or work area?

      1. fposte*

        Maybe it’s because I’m in an office where we drag furniture around all the time, but I don’t see any reason not to move the furniture at the same time.

  9. Graciosa*

    I may be reading too much into this, but #3 had a few warning flags for me, such as the lack of any job history longer than two years, and looking for a higher level job with limited overall experience and only a three month tenure in the current (entry-level) role.

    I participate in interviewing and hiring at a range of levels, from entry level professionals to managers. The further you advance in your career, the more important your history and pattern of progression becomes.

    Understand now that ten years of experience is *not* the same thing as a year of experience ten times.

    I probably don’t care as much early on, when I’m evaluating experience and potential (with a little more emphasis on the latter for early career jobs). But after about a decade, I’m expecting to see evidence that the candidate stuck around long enough to learn and master key skills in a position in addition to progressive increases in responsibility.

    Candidates who are focused on “higher level” jobs or promotions before mastering the skills of the current role worry me. I have to wonder whether they have the maturity to understand the importance of those skills – which again, only increases as you move up.

    Failing to build a solid foundation early in your career will limit the heights to which it can reach.

    1. Kate M*

      That’s what I thought too. If OP3 has been working for 5 years, why is she still in an entry-level role? OP, maybe you’ve changed career tracks or something and that’s fine, but it still sends up red flags I think. You really need to stick with somewhere you can advance in title and responsibilities. I know this might depend on your industry too, but have you been going from job to job in a different entry level role each time? You can’t change the past obviously, but to me, you shouldn’t really move jobs unless you’re getting a step up in title/responsibilities, increase in pay, to get out of a bad/toxic work environment, or possibly if you have a compelling reason to take a lateral move (like moving fields/work environment/working with an issue that’s important to you). But lateral moves shouldn’t really happen more than once (in a row at least) if you want to keep advancing. Your history is already spotty, so I’d definitely say stick with where you are now, especially if they have room for advancement. You’re more likely to have better options in the future too if you advance to a higher level role now.

    2. fposte*

      Agreeing with the points Graciosa and Kate M are making. It’s also one thing if this is your third job after two 2+ stints, and at least one of them was a layoff or contract situation; it’s another thing if this is job #4, #5, or higher and you leave of your own accord. The second scenario says, “I have itchy feet and keep seeing greener grass,” which to me something your post suggests as well.

      And if that’s the case, you definitely are hurting yourself long-term. This is another employment/dating thing–the skills it takes to work things out in the honeymoon period aren’t the same thing as the skills it takes once it’s no longer cute that the database is ten years old and s/he makes a weird noise drinking soup,. Most of us are hiring for that longer phase, and we’re going to prioritize somebody who’s managed to be capable for longer than the initial sprint.

    3. Engineer Girl*

      I see this so often with junior people. They know how to do something well when everything lines up and then think they’ve mastered the task. A true master knows how to recover when things go wrong. They know what a pit/trap looks like so they can avoid it, they know how to get out of a pit/trap if someone pushes them in. Most junior people don’t know about all the pits/traps. They also don’t see all the tentacles reaching into other areas when they propose a solution. And of course, they don’t know what they don’t know, so get deeply offended when you tell them that they don’t know (if this makes sense).
      The only way to gain this knowledge is to work with someone with more experience and/or work in a trouble/problem solving area.

  10. grasshopper*

    #3. The only thing about leaving after a short time is that it could give the impression that you failed your probationary review. Usually probationary periods are 3 months. If I see someone with only three months experience at a position, I assume that they failed their probationary period. You’ll have to make it really clear that you are leaving because it is a much better opportunity, not because you were asked to leave your current job.

  11. GC*

    OP #4 here. Thanks for the advice, Alison. That takes the anxiety off of me, knowing that it’s okay to send an email in that situation. He emailed me yesterday morning with the interview request, while I was still waiting for confirmation from Company A that they got my acceptance message. He didn’t list a phone # in the email, and I couldn’t find one for him on their website, so I was anxious about needing to hunt that down or leave a message with the front office, which didn’t feel quite right.

    1. Artemesia*

      He emailed you so it is entirely proper to email him back even if you wanted to do a phone call, email would be appropriate.

  12. Saucy Minx*

    The manager doesn’t want people floating through her office for two very good reasons: 1. it disrupts her work, & 2. it compromises confidentiality. Anyone can understand this & would have no leg to stand on if they protested that it was inconvenient for them. Why no one consulted EJ or thought of these drawbacks themselves when drawing up the plans, I cannot imagine.

    These are very good reasons that anyone can use (if true), & not a matter of authority, or high & mightiness, or special snowflakiness. Saying “because I am your manager & I say so” would be a good way to set herself at odds w/ her staff & make herself unapproachable & resented, especially in the casual office atmosphere they have.

    In her shoes I’d be asking about having the excess door removed & a proper wall installed, & in the meantime post the sign saying Manager’s Office/Emergency Exit Only.

  13. hayling*

    I used to be in a shared office that led to a supply room. It drove me bonkers. Everyone wanted to stop and chat when they came through!

  14. Narise*

    I would tell my manager I can no longer use the office because of the constant interruption. What would be the icing on the cake is if you could switch offices with the person who has been the biggest interrupter. Let them deal with the headache.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes, in most fields it’s absolutely a problem if you want to get hired by a good manager at a good organization. “These days, we’re all perma-lancers” has been a media storyline for years, but it’s not reality.

    2. Windchime*

      We definitely worry about it where I work. I sit on a lot of interview teams, and people who job-hob are not a good risk. Their past has shown that they won’t stay here, either. We had a resume from one guy who’s history was awful; 13 months, 4 months, 6 months off, 8 months, 16 months, etc. With months-long gaps between. For whatever reason, my boss decided to do a phone screen on this guy and his only questions were regarding vacation time and whether or not he could work from home full time. Um, nope.

  15. Purple Jello*

    #1 – A couple of months ago they rearranged our cube space into an open office “collaborative” area – and what used to be a main pathway through the area is now right behind my workspace. I blocked (mostly) the pathway through with a triple-wide, low file cabinet right next to my desk which used to be in my cube – you can squeeze through, but it’s definitely a squeeze, and it’s obvious we don’t want you to walk through there anymore.

    There have been comments dropped about how we’re not accommodating and collaborative, and some people still go through there – saying “just sneaking through!” – which is more distracting than if they just snuck through. However, the person next to me even more frequently than I has confidential information on her screen and REALLY hates the new layout. I just hate people coming up behind me or reading over my shoulder. Some people are really annoyed we’ve blocked the path or don’t want people behind us, and deliberately walk through.

    If I had the option, I’d totally block it off.

    1. Windchime*

      I wonder if it would work if you just happened to buy a nice plant to put at the end of your file cabinet so people couldn’t sneak through any longer?

  16. Jack the treacle eater*

    No. 4 – “However, I really appreciated the chance to learn more about your work, and since my role at Company A ends in December, I may be reaching back out to you then!”

    Maybe it’s just me and my Englishness, but isn’t the phrase “reaching out” (1) really squirm-inducing, (b) ridiculously over-used in the US at least (and unfortunately by AAM!)?

    Reaching out seems to have gone quickly from non-existence, to meaning supporting someone in an hour of desperate (and probably deep emotional) need, to just speaking to someone. What’s wrong with ‘talk to’, ‘speak to’, ‘contact’?

    And there seems to be a lot of assumption in the last phrase that a lot of people might react negatively to; it sounds like “well, I’ve turned you down now for this job that only lasts a few months, but hey, I’m going to come back to you when it’s finished, expecting you to still have a role for me”. Would it be better to find a formula that seeks Co. B’s permission to approach them again? To be honest, if someone wrote that to me, my reaction might be “you might, but don’t expect a reply”.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Maybe it’s an American thing or a regional thing, but I hear the phrase constantly and don’t think most Americans consider it squirm-inducing, at least in a business context, but I could certainly be wrong.

      1. Jack the treacle eater*

        I’ve just realised I may have come across quite ranty in my first post! Sorry if it put your back up, didn’t mean to.

        It’s maybe an English thing. Often I find Americanisms grate anyway, and to me, using such a phrase where ‘talk to’ would do seems out of place – but if it’s in common business use over there, what I think is probably irrelevant.

        Brings up a wider point though; people from all over the world look at this and other similar sites for advice and inspiration, though I assume you’re speaking from a purely North American standpoint. To what extent do cultural differences affect or change good practice? Are hiring processes and practice radically different between countries, even between English speaking countries?

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I disagree–I’m American and I don’t like it either. In fact, I really dislike corporate speak as a rule. Just because something has become ubiquitous doesn’t mean it can’t also be annoying.

        1. So Very Anonymous*

          I hate it too. I’m old enough that I associate it with “reeeeach out, reach out and touch someone…”/soppy long-distance commercials. It’s one of the few things that really grates on me here.

        2. Pomona Sprout*

          I don’t like it, either. The first time I heard it used in a business context, I was momentarily confused until I realized the person using it was talking about calling someone on the phone. But since then, I’ve heard it it used sooooooo much that I’ve gotten desensitized to it. It used to grate on me like fingernails on a chalkboard, but now I hardly notice it anymore, lol.

    2. Cath in Canada*

      This is a pet peeve of mine, too! For me, “reach out” signifies Big Deal – you’re either offering or requesting something pretty substantial. But it seems to be increasingly used just to mean ask / contact, for every little thing.

      1. Jack the treacle eater*

        That’s what it seems to me – reach out, if it has a meaning, seems to have that context of crossing a gulf or emotional divide – it’s a major effort to overcome an obstacle, not just asking someone. I’m not American though, so maybe I’m not in a position to comment.

  17. Hop hop*

    3. I never get the deal about worrying about job hopping. If you apply for a job and they think you job hop too much, no worries…they just won’t interview or hire you. Oh well. Move on to another company who doesn’t think you are a job hopper. Or stay longer at your current job and try applying again in a few months or year later if you think your lack of success is from hopping.

    1. Honeybee*

      But what if the companies that won’t interview or hire you are the ones you really want to work for, with the good roles? And the more job-hopping you do the more companies you might put on that list.

      1. Jack the treacle eater*

        Is there a feeling about how frequent changes must be to be seen as job hopping – three months, six months, a year, two years? Someone I know who works in health seems to have changed every couple of years for his whole life and it hasn’t hurt him.

        On the other hand, I had an interview recently where the interviewer kept commenting on the fact I’d been with my previous employer 10 years – it almost seemed as though that was a big problem as well.

  18. Q*

    I would never in a million years presume to walk through my boss’s office to get to a breakroom or bathroom. And if I was that boss I would have shut it down on the very first day.

    1. Windchime*

      Maybe it’s just office culture. At my office, a closed door is a big deal and it means “I am busy, please do not disturb.” I would knock if the building were on fire or if one of my coworkers was having a serious medical emergency; otherwise, it’s considered impolite to barge in.

Comments are closed.