our personality types are hung on a wall, anonymously paying customers’ bills, and more

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

1. Our personality types are hung on a wall and being shared outside our division

Every year over the last five years, the head of my division has conducted an off-site retreat for my team of 15. The primary focus of the retreat is to take personality tests and figure out how our different work styles mesh. Even five years later, I actually enjoy this exercise as it gives me much to think about in how I approach members of my team with different personality types.

This year at our offsite, a chart was drawn up and everyone’s personality types and corresponding initials were dotted on a spectrum. The problem vis-a-vis other years is that now this chart is hung in our office for everyone to see, even colleagues who are not in our division. A colleague also asked to have copies made so everyone could have one in their offices. I feel uncomfortable with both of these situations and have voiced my concerns as such, saying that I feel like I’m being pigeon-holed into a certain type and this isn’t anyone else in our organization’s business. Am I being overly sensitive (which according to the test, could be a personality trait of mine)?

I’d be pretty put off by it too, and I don’t think that’s unreasonable. It’s not the biggest workplace invasion of privacy ever, but it’s still taking fairly personal information about you and making it more public than you signed up for.

I’d say this: “I find the personality information useful and interesting, but I’d rather our types not be circulated around the broader office or hung on the wall. It feels too much like being reduced to a type, especially with people who weren’t part of the initial exercise. I’d like to remove it from the wall, if that’s okay.”

2. I anonymously paid some customers’ bills — and my company told me not to do it again

I’ve worked at a company for four years. We provide recurring services to customers. In that time, I’ve come to know certain customers fairly well. I recently decided to anonymously pay two customers’ account balances, as I know they had fallen on hard times. I didn’t want them receiving any extra collection calls on top of their already tough times. I’ve done this before, on an anonymous basis, with other companies to help friends in need and have never been denied paying by those companies. I’ve also had some of my various bills paid anonymously.

Nobody at my company asked me to pay the bill, but when managers caught wind of what I’d done, they asked that I don’t do it again. I wasn’t trying to keep it secret from my employer, I just didn’t think to ask their permission.

I will not pay a balance again, but my employer seemed oddly upset, to the point where I feel I did something wrong. Could my paying off collection accounts hurt my employer?

I’m interested to hear other opinions on this, but I can see where they’re coming from. While you see this as something you did as a private individual, your employer sees you as a representative of the company (which is fair, especially since you knew the account information because of the work you do). So it’s not really as simple as “I paid a stranger’s bill.” To your company, it’s more like “a company rep — therefore, sort of the company — paid the bill.”

That can cause problems because it’s possible that other customers will ask for the same assistance (not realizing that it didn’t come from the company but from an individual person) or that the same customers may ask for help again in the future. They could also be worried about unfairness — that “the company” helped out Customer X but not Customer Y who’s in a bad situation too (maybe even a worse one). That could even lead to bad PR at some point — for example, imagine if the story got reported as “Teapots Inc. zeroed out the bill of a well-off customer who fell on hard times, but refused to help a low-income widow.”

Basically, your company has to think about this from a broader perspective that can make things more complicated. But what you did was really nice, and I doubt your company is going to hold it against you as long as you comply with their request in the future.

3. I know my interviewer from high school

Your cover letter and resume tips have landed me a phone interview next week with a great company! The only problem is, the person I will be speaking with is someone I went to high school with and vaguely know, but am not sure if they are also aware that we went to high school together. For reference, we graduated in 2009, had one class together, and I don’t think ever spoke with one another. I’m exceptionally good with names and faces, which is why I recognized their unique name. Since I was very quiet in high school, I doubt I stood out to them.

If this was an in-person interview, I would probably mention it, but since this will be on the phone, do I bring it up? Do you think this connection will harm or help me?

You’ll get different advice from different people on this because there’s no one right answer, but personally, I wouldn’t bring it up. Unlike some interviewers, I’m actually less likely to want to hire someone I know — even someone I know only a little bit — because I think it brings a bunch of potential complications (like the awkwardness if they get hired and then don’t work out). So if I were interviewing someone I went to high school with, I’d be extra rigorous about ensuring that they met a really, really high bar before I moved them forward in the process. I am almost certainly in the minority on this though.

4. How should I handle this post-pregnancy policy that will ask about past drug use?

When I was in college (specifically, this was around 2010-2011), I smoked marijuana a couple of times (literally, two). When I overslept for an 11 a.m. work shift, I figured I’d probably had enough of that. Although I don’t think it should be illegal, I have not used it since.

Fast forward to now. I’m a chemistry degree holder in a rural area where the job opportunities for chemists are few and far between. I am currently employed as an admin with my state government. Let’s just say it’s not California and it’s not terribly marijuana-friendly. I saw a job posting for our State Highway Patrol for a criminalist position, for which I appear qualified according to the job posting. It’s a significant pay increase with similar hours and benefits to my current position. I think I have a real chance at the job.

However, after I submitted my application, I read another posting with more details about the position. Turns out, they do a polygraph test as a matter of routine, and they list the areas covered, which includes “past and current illegal drug usage.” I’m not considering lying on the polygraph, as that’s a matter of integrity, not to mention I’m not a great liar and would certainly be caught due to my stress level.

Here’s the rub: I’m five months pregnant, and the posting explicitly states that pregnant candidates will not be tested until after the birth of the baby (that’s around July for me). So in theory, I could be hired in the position without this ever coming up; but then they would come back and do the test later, and of course I could be fired. I feel like I should bring this up proactively, probably at the offer stage, but I’m not sure how to go about it. Or should I just pull out of the hiring process altogether? I don’t necessarily want this information to get back to my state agency either.

My understanding of how this works — at least for security clearances — is that you can get in trouble if you lie about it and they find out about it later, but that you’re very, very unlikely to be denied the job for just telling the truth and admitting that you smoked pot twice years ago. (Otherwise far fewer people would be able to get a security clearance.)

I’d say this at the offer stage: “Since my polygraph won’t be until after July because of my pregnancy and I don’t want this to cause problems down the road, I want to be up-front with you about the fact that I used marijuana twice in college, and it’s something I imagine will come up on the polygraph. Obviously, I shouldn’t accept the job if that will end up being an issue. What’s the best way to proceed?”

Read an update to this letter here.

5. Update: Minimizing the impact of my medical condition on coworkers

I wrote in recently asking about talking to my employer about a chronic medical condition. I thought my boss was concerned with me calling off sick so much, but he actually said it’s fine for me to call in and the main thing causing problems was the days I come in unable do an acceptable job. From now on, I’ll be quicker to call in sick when I actually need to. I also talked to a doctor about symptom management, and started a medication that’s really improved my quality of life and work. Thanks to you and the commenters for the good advice!

{ 317 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous Educator*

    #3, I’m going to go a bit in the opposite direction as Alison but give the same advice—don’t mention anything about going to the same high school.

    I think the fact that you didn’t know each other very well actually would make mentioning it… weird. I mean, you’d have a minute or two of “Oh, yeah, you had Ms. so-and-so for math junior year? I had her senior year. Wasn’t prom crazy?” But then it’s not really that relevant to the job at hand, and you ultimately aren’t even sure this person remembers you, so it actually could be a little awkward (“Oh, you graduated in ’09, too? I don’t really remember you…”).

    Incidentally, I got a job once with someone I knew from my high school days, and it worked in my favor (I got the job), but we were very good friends who drifted apart and then the job gave us a chance to reconnect. I didn’t bring it up, though. She (as hiring manager) did when trying to schedule the phone screen (“I think I might know you, but I don’t want to assume, based on your name…”).

    1. Shannon*

      Honestly, yes, let the other person bring up any high school connection. The LW had one class with one person seven years ago. I barely remember which teachers I had last semester, nevermind who was in the class.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        I suppose it might be picked up by the interviewer if your school is on your CV. (“Oh I see you attended St Trinian’s as well?”

          1. LeRainDrop*

            Would you say the same even for prep schools? Some have alumni networks that are as strong as or better than college. I’ve definitely seen those connections open up doors to great opportunities.

              1. blackcat*

                There is at least one exception! If you are young and applying to *work* at a prep school (or other independent, or religious school) and you went to a similar school, it’s good to list it. If you’ve been working in the private school world for a while, don’t do it. But if you are looking to break into working at private schools, it can be a significant plus.

                (When I got hired to work at a private school, the headmaster called the former headmistress of the school I went to and asked about me. I was 22 at the time, and, thankfully, the headmistress knew me well while I was there. It helped me get the job with WAY less experience than the normal hires.)

              2. Ponytail*

                Really, you don’t mention your school on your CV ? I always HAVE to put my school down on application forms, because they want to know where I got my certificates from – it’s not enough to say that I have passes in English, Geography etc, I have to put the year taken and where. As I then did further school equivalency exams elsewhere, I end up having three different schools down before I get to my university qualifications.
                Another US/UK difference, I guess.

                1. Natalie*

                  In the US we don’t have the same system of A levels, etc. You either have a high school diploma or you don’t. If you leave school at 16, you’re a dropout. We don’t have GCSE. (though there is an equivalency exam you can do for the high school diploma) Some students may take Advanced Placement subjects their last two years of high school and receive a jump start on their college credits for it, but no job will ever ask how you did on your AP Calculus exam.

                2. Oryx*

                  On an application, yes, if it’s asked. But on the resume I send in? No.

                  Plus, as Natalie says, we don’t have the same system of educational certificates here in the US. Even if it’s asked, all they want to know is if you graduated and/or have an equivalent, like the GED.

                3. Tau*

                  I totally did not put my high school on my UK CV due to Alison’s advice and then had basically every single place where I got through even the first application stage ask me to send my A-Level details. I’ve decided it’s a UK/US difference, and am tempted to add not just my high school but a “German Abitur to English A-Levels” translation key to my CV next go round*.

                  *I won’t actually do it, but oh, it’s tempting.

                4. Amy UK*

                  The nesting broke, but this is to Tau…

                  You’re saying it like it’s a funny joke, but I actually would include the conversion key. UK employers just aren’t likely to know what a German qualification means, so converting it for them makes sense. Even if they’re literally identical (same difficulty and an A is 80% for both, say) it still makes sense to point that out in case they don’t know. I’ve done it for my Italian qualifications, and it’s always been appreciated.

              3. F.*

                I would not say never. Perhaps for professional and white-collar jobs. When I am hiring construction inspectors, I do want to see high school on their resume if the applicant did not graduate from college. Many of our clients also want a copy of their high school diploma (or college, if they graduated) along with their other industry-based certifications.

              4. Jay*

                I still think as a general rule for most positions you are correct, but as an absolute statement (“never”) you are sounding like one of those out-of-touch career counselors you regularly (and correctly) criticize. From my understanding, you have never hired for academic positions, and LeRainDrop’s comment about some prep schools is spot on, especially in K-12. For instance, Carney Sandoe, the largest headhunter for independent school jobs, not only lists prep schools but PUTS THE IN CAPS in their candidate profiles because they know the schools who are hiring care about this information.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Fair enough. Really, the whole blog should have a giant asterisk saying “may not apply to academia, government, or outside the U.S.” and it’s true that I get lazy about saying that every time.

              5. BananaPants*

                For white collar professionals who are expected to have at least an associate’s degree if not a bachelor’s, no. For blue collar fields where high school is often the only educational attainment? Yes, there may be a good reason to put one’s high school on a resume.

                If I’m hiring an entry level machinist, I may well care if a candidate finished high school versus dropping out, and if so what high school she attended – if she went to one of our state’s technical high schools, that indicates a substantial amount of education and some hands-on experience in the field which is very relevant to her candidacy.

              6. Rusty Shackelford*

                Sadly, I worked with someone who was convinced an applicant never graduated from high school because he didn’t list it on his resume. (Why, yes, he did list his undergrad and graduate degrees, now that you ask.)

                1. Lynn Whitehat*

                  What difference would it make if he hadn’t, if he has a master’s? This is actually my husband’s situation. He went to college after junior year in a special program. So he has an MBA but technically, no high school diploma.

                2. Rusty Shackelford*

                  @Lynn Whitehat, it would make absolutely no difference. Which is half of why it was so ridiculous.

        1. KR*

          I could see this being a factor if you belong to an alumni association for a particularly prestigious school like Phillips Exeter or Sidwell Friends. Then again, people who go to these schools tend to get into very prestigious colleges and universities that would be more likely to catch your eye on a resume.

          1. LeRainDrop*

            Yup, those couple belong to the caliber of prep schools I was talking about. It’s true that they often lead to other prestigious educational points on the resume, but the high school network itself can be gold, platinum, diamond, you get the point. I think, though, that taking that and Alison’s point into consideration, it may be better to limit use for networking after all. I guess unless the resume screener/interviewer also happened to be part of that network, it would look rather weird to them.

    2. Colette*

      Yeah, if I were the interviewer, I probably wouldn’t remember the OP but I’d be distracted trying to remember during the interview while trying to focus, which is not what the OP presumably wants.

  2. Tamsin*

    No. 2 — The first thing that cross my mind when reading that OP paid the balances of two customers was the mechanics of it. That is: Like with the accounts of friends OP paid off at other companies, did OP call in anonymously and pay them off? Or did OP pull up the records on his/her computer — either by OP’s self, or when taking a call from one of the customers OP helped — and then pay of the balances with OP’s own checking account while the account was still on the screen? I don’t even know where I”m going with this line of questioning, but for some reason (as someone who worked in a call center) it seems it like this type of mechanics to it also might make a difference to the company. (But it was a super-nice thing to do.)

    1. Bleu*

      In addition to the reasons outlined by Alison, how would certain companies even explain how the balance was suddenly paid down? Accounts for Phone Internet and cable service have federal communications act protections (I forget the details) about personally identifiable information — I don’t know if it would even be possible for me to call the cable company and say I want to pay off my cousin’s balance and have them do it if I didn’t already have the account number or all the other identifying information they require for me to get into my own account. Also, the customers almost certainly asked what happened (and maybe wanted to know why the company would let someone not on the acvount know their balance).

      1. Shannon*

        It used to be doable. A boyfriend I dated for less than 4 months once called and paid off my delinquent cell phone bill, all he had was my name and address. Granted, this was about 15 years ago, but, still, it creeped me out.

      2. Jade*

        For some reason I get the impression this isn’t some faceless utility company, but rather that OP works for a smaller company that has more personal contact with clients. In any case, I could see the company hesitations with it. Maybe it’s as simple as them finding it crosses an ethical barrier for OP to be paying off clients’ bills. It could also be that they don’t want OP accessing clients’ accounts if that’s not directly a part of OP’s job. There’s also the matter of confidentiality. If OP’s bosses found out they paid off some balances, that means either OP has been sharing that information with people, or the company was able to see through their accounting network that OP’s name is listed as a payer for some. After all, if OP was truly doing this anonymously, this wouldn’t be an issue right now cause *no one would know*. The company might be concerned about word of this getting out tot he clients that one of their employees paid their account.

        As far as how the customers take it, I think the company could simply say “Your account balance was paid off by an anonymous donor,” therefore dispelling any theories that the company itself did them a favor.

      3. Mookie*

        I don’t know if it would even be possible for me to call the cable company and say I want to pay off my cousin’s balance and have them do it if I didn’t already have the account number or all the other identifying information they require for me to get into my own account.

        This is the issue that makes me hesitant to wholly endorse what the LW did, generous though it was, because doing so required private information she’d only have access to on the job. Separate her from her relationship with the company, and it’s not ethically ambiguous at all to offer a contribution towards an acquaintance’s bill (or to do so anonymously or as surprise gift). As far as her company’s concerned, though, the default position is that employees do not have permission to use a customer’s information for anything beyond a limited set of function and even then should only ever be accessing that information when directly assisting the customer. There’s a weird conflict of interest here that’s not readily reconciled, I think, but it would be interesting to see what comes of this.

        1. Bend & Snap*

          I agree with all of this. As a customer I would be completely freaked out by an anonymous payment–because I don’t share my financial situation with anyone, ever.

          This act by the OP was well intentioned but not something I’d be comfortable with as an employer or customer.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            But apparently these people *did* share their financial situations with the OP. (Though I’m with you, I’d still be weirded out if someone at the company paid my bill.)

        2. Viva L*

          +1 I’m sure the company is thinking about liability of him/her accessing information that they only have because of the job and utilizing that information in a way that is not authorized.

          I bet it would be slightly different if she/he called in from home one day and offered to pay the account and had some other rep process it. (odd, but different). That said, it’s still a weird thing all around for the company and the client (even if well intentioned)

      4. Melissa*

        I can’t even pay my cable bill because my name isn’t on the account. (And my husband has tried repeatedly to add me but it doesn’t stick, because cable company. It is now a running joke at our house. They will accept a check I sign, my credit card, but not my voice.) So I am totally mystified about how people can pay others bills.

        1. Kimberlee, Esq*

          Ugh, companies are so weird about all of this! In an old job, I used to successfully impersonate my (male) boss to pay bills all the time, or access accounts or whatever. Super easy to do when you just need to type a credit card number and SSN, not as easy when they can hear my voice and determine that I am probably not a dude. Though I did have one transaction where it worked, because the person on the other end just kept calling me a feminized version of my boss’ name, even though that clearly wasn’t the name on the account.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I’ve always wondered about this. Some men have feminine-sounding voices (not to mention people who are transgender). Would a CSR really risk offending a customer and insisting that the person couldn’t be a man?

            1. Rusty Shackelford*

              I’ve pretended to be my spouse when someone calls. No one has ever called me on it.

              1. Mallory Janis Ian*

                That’s what I do for accounts that are only in my husband’s name. I used to tell them my name, and then I’d get the old “you’re not on the account” rigamarole. So now if I need to take care of business, I just use his name and my regular voice and nobody says anything about it. I can see where that would be a problem if I were a spouse-gone-wild doing unethical things with his account, but I’m just trying to manage my legitimate household expenses for one bill that happens to be only in his name.

            2. TheLazyB*

              Not entirely relevant, but I was on equality and diversity training last week, and they told a story about a woman from my organisation who’d done the course before me. She had had her credit card refused at a supermarket because it said Dr and apparently the cashier was adamant that the card must belong to’her husband’ .

              I have so many question s about that but unfortunately I don’t know who it was too ask!

            3. Treena*

              When I call and impersonate my husband, they ask for the name, and then like 30 seconds later, they say something like, “And this is Joe Shmo I’m talking to?” I’m super assertive and no-nonesense so I don’t let it intimidate me, but plenty of trans people have a lot of anxiety over these calls because of the risk of a rogue CSR.

            4. dawbs*

              When I was a CSR, I noted it on the account and took their word for it.
              “Suzy has an apparently male sounding voice-verified X, Y, and Z”

              SO I would NEVER say “you’re a liar, there’s no way you are Suzy”, but next month, when the female Suzy, with her normal voice, called in, the CSR would be able to say “Well, On February 2, Someone identifying as Suzy, with a deep, possibly male voice, who knew your ss#, DOB, address, phone number, and mother’s maiden name called to move your service to the new address” (and 99% of the time, she’d start swearing at her husband).

              It was not required, but I kept a running list of ‘problem’ accounts, if I took a feminine sounding call from Steve and it felt hinky, next week, I’d check the account, and if a masculine Steve had called and things didn’t feel right, I’d send an email to our fraud people, as a head’s up.
              (full disclosure, our fraud people were not excessively helpful with this and my company was not especially good about any of this. )

              But I didn’t risk offending people. I did tell people who tried to change their identity mid-call (someone who had said he was Steve who wanted to switch to Sally) that they couldn’t change it in the middle of the phone call (they had to hag up and call back), but, beyond that, I would verify everything I could get verified, notate the hell out of it, and do my job and assume I couldn’t know everyone’s gender and voice tones.

            5. SusanIvanova*

              Judging from how often it turns up on sites like “notalwaysworking”, yes, CSRs make assumptions like that about customers all the time.

              I’ve got a double first name and the first half is more typically male; I get stuff sent to “Mr [first half of name]” all the time. Possibly the only reason I’ve never had that happen on the phone is that I avoid dealing with companies on the phone if at all possible.

            6. Amy UK*

              I once worked in a bank call centre and had someone with a distinctly male voice call up for a female account name. They answered all the security questions fine so we processed the transaction. Oftentimes, there is a copy of some kind of paperwork regarding a sex change on file, or at least their name change, if the customer is transgender.

              When there’s no notes on file, we just put a call into their local branch for them to investigate further. That would have just involved something simple and unlikely to cause offence. Like they might have known the customer in person and could confirm straight away that they were transgender and the transaction was fine. Or they would have called the details on the customer’s account to see if the same voice answered the phone, and investigate further if it seemed fraudulent.

      5. Construction Safety*

        As recently as two years ago, my wife paid utility bills for a couple of her co-workers. All she needed was the name & service address to get it done. She didn’t get any information back from the utility to compromise their personal information.

          1. TootsNYC*

            She probably didn’t so much “pay the bill” as “make a payment that was roughly equivalent to a month’s charges.” She probably guessed about how much that would be, and sent it in.

            1. Construction Safety*

              As I recall, she just put $100 on the account. She didn’t know if that left a balance or a credit.

          2. TheVet*

            I’ve paid a friend’s cell phone bill (I think I was given the options to pay the past due amount, full amount, or other amount) over the phone in the last 2 years. All I needed was her phone number and zip code. We shared the same carrier, so I don’t know how it would have worked if we didn’t. I’m sure it works the same way at the kiosks, IIRC.

            When I paid my friend’s power bill last month (because she was on her way out of town) I just walked in, gave the address, and gave the cash. They gave me a receipt and that was that

            I could make deposits at the bank (had a roomie, bank was right by my job) as long as I had the name and account number. They’d give me a receipt.

            I’m currently able to call the power and oil companies for a friend who is ill with just the phone number or address on the account. No one ever asks who I am.

        1. INTP*

          But the amount of the utility bill alone could reveal sensitive personal information, in that it could reveal that the person is months behind on their utilities. Then you’ve just revealed that a person is in tough financial circumstances to someone who might not have known they were late on the utility bill at all. No harm done if the person was calling in the first place because they knew about the customer’s problems, but it could also be someone just trying to pay a month as a random gift.

          1. TootsNYC*

            They may not have told her any details. She could have called and said, “I want to pay a friend’s utility bill–is there a way to do that?” And the company said, “Yes, you only need their name and the service address, like if it’s their home, their home address will do.”

            And she said, “Thanks!” and went off and looked at her own bill and said, “well, that’s probably about right, they have the same number of kids I do. But their house is older, and maybe not as well insulated, so I’ll add $10.”

          2. Ad Astra*

            The amount of the bill might make it easier to infer that someone is behind in their utilities, but simple saying “The bill is $325” doesn’t confirm or deny anything about delinquency status or overall financial situation. But I guess I would still have mixed feelings about my mom or coworker or whoever being able to call and find out the balance of my electric bill or whatever.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I would be very surprised if they can — I suspect anyone doing this is sending in an amount they’ve guessed at, and that companies won’t reveal the actual amount to non-account-holders (at least large utilities, cable companies, etc.).

          3. BuildMeUp*

            When I worked at a bank, if Person A came in to make a deposit into Person B’s account, they had to have the account number. We could not look up someone else’s account number using name, address, etc., because it would confirm to A that B had an account with us. I’m sure it’s different for other types of companies, but many places probably have privacy rules in effect.

            1. Mallory Janis Ian*

              My last job at a small design firm was still doing paper checks as recently as last July, and payday came while one of the guys was already several states away on a family vacation. I sent him an email asking him if he wanted me to deposit his check for him, and texted me the bank location and his account number (just in case). I was able to deposit the check, but they did need the account number and wouldn’t have made the deposit without it.

        2. Rachael*

          For the most part, you can call and make a payment on most bills. You just need certain information and an amount you want to pay. Unless an account is in collections I’ve never had the exact amount of the overdue account (that is private) and I had to give the amount that I was paying.

      6. Sunflower*

        My guess is most reps can probably see limited info on payments made. I’m sure the rep can say your payment was processed via online CC, mailed in check, paid at customer service location but they probably can’t tell who wrote the check. If it was paid with a CC, they can give you the last 4 digits probably.

      7. INTP*

        That’s a really good point. The way I see it, they can either let the customer think a random person was made aware of their bill amount, or let the customer know it was an internal customer service act. The former risks making the company look bad in terms of customer confidentiality. If I were so far past due on my utilities that the balance made it clear I was past due, I would NOT want any person in my life to be able to figure that out. The latter risks the customer telling people “Hey, I didn’t pay my cable bill for like six months and they just canceled it out. Hold out and maybe they’ll cancel yours.” So I see the company’s point of view here too. (Not bashing the OP, I think it was 100% well-intentioned and I don’t think it’s a bad thing to perform acts of kindness without running business scenarios in your head.)

        1. Artemesia*

          This I would assume any deadbeat consumer would have cousins and uncles and aunts all of whom would be lining up to have their accounts ‘taken care of.’ This is rightly a firing offense if it were to continue.

    2. MK*

      Yes, it was a very nice thing to do. But it was also a major boundary violation from my point of view. I an adult and responsible for my own life and finances; it’s not the place of my friends, much less people who work at a company I do business with, to unilaterally decide there are things I shouldn’t be bothered with and pay bills for me.

      Look, I don’t want to be stringent about this. I can understand that, if say the OP knew a person who was in the hospital dying was about to get a call about owing money for the cell bill, they felt they should do something. But don’t assume these people will be unequivocally grateful about this, when they find out; they might feel humiliated and resentful, or even (in extreme cases) that their trust was violated.

      And if I got “your account balance was paid off by an anonymous donor” from a company I would seriously freak out and consult the police.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        Agreed. I’d be SO uncomfortable with this I don’t even know where to start. What can be meant as a random act of kindness can come across as a random act of creepiness.

      2. Anna*

        But that happens all the time around the holidays with the “lay-away angels” and I don’t think anyone is freaking out and calling the police.

        Having said that, I wouldn’t do it again, OP. Many of the reasons mentioned here are reasons enough.

        1. MK*

          I had never heard of the initiative you mention, but I looked it up and it seems to me it’s about people in need buying certain items and then others pay for them as a charity. It’s not the same as having an amount of money suddenly credited to your account with no explanation.

          1. MsChandandlerBong*

            I believe Anna was talking about people who randomly pay off other people’s store layaway accounts. It’s not a charity thing; it’s literally a random stranger going to K-mart or wherever and asking to pay off one or more accounts.

            1. MK*

              Even so, the existence of the account means people have signed up for this, no? If not, it’s pretty invasive for some random stranger to decide to give me a gift I cannot refuse and might not need.

              1. Three Thousand*

                They definitely haven’t signed up to have strangers pay off their accounts; they’re paying them off gradually themselves. I’ve definitely heard of the “anonymous layaway Santa” phenomenon, and very few people seem creeped out by it at all. That might just be an effect of it being Christmas.

              2. doreen*

                Well , no , not exactly. People ( who aren’t necessarily in need) put the items they want on layaway, but intend to pay for the items themselves. They make regular payments and once the items are fully paid for , they bring them home. When the lay-away angels pay, it’s like a bigger version of paying for the person behind you in the drive through and it’s as anonymous. Some of people/groups pay off all the lay-a- ways in a particular store ( to the tune of as much 50K) and others pay randomly selected balances However, Anna, there is a big difference between this and what is described in the OP. First, lay-away angels are a known thing- there are many of them, paying for many layaways across the country. Second, it’s as random as getting your order free because you are the 10,000 the customer. No one is specifically choosing to pay Anna’s lay away – either the person pays off all the layaways, or the layaway register pulls up a random layaway, or they give a sum of money and have the store allocate it or. . . Whatever it is , the “angel” doesn’t need to know anything about the recipient. It’s the difference between random and personal- and in the OP’s case, it was personal. That one customer’s bill was paid because of information the OP had about that person , and that makes it creepy.

          2. Not So NewReader*

            It seems like every year there is someone who walks into a Toys R Us and pays off everyone’s layaways to the tune of $20k. Puts a tear in my eye…

            1. Katie the Fed*

              That’s different than paying off one specific person’s account though. That’s the part that’s a little weird.

            2. Grace*

              I’ve paid off peoples’ bills who were facing hard times. I bought money orders and sent them in with their name & home address. I’ve also sent people cash in the mail, like $200, folded in a couple of very thick pieces of paper, printed envelope with their return address and not mine. I’ve sent pre-paid credit cards and grocery cards to people facing hard times. I was raised in a small farming community and we always let people save face. (My hairdresser even got in on the action and asked me not to pay him but give the money to neighbors who were laid off and had young kids.)

    3. Irishgal*

      Not sure how it works in US (I’m presuming that’s where OP is) but in Europe this would be a huge legal beach of data protection law (you used data collected by your employer for a specific purpose for your own personal purpose) could get employer in serious trouble. That would be immediate gross misconduct and dismissal in my part of the world.

      1. IrishGirl*

        I was thinking something similar, data protection is a major thing here. If you used your position as an employee to view someone’s personal data for a purpose unconnected to your work, you would be very lucky to avoid dismissal.

      2. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Unfortunately, here in the US private companies can do pretty much whatever they want with our private data. Remember, we only enacted protection for medical records ten years ago. But OP’s company may have been afraid of lawsuits.

    4. Jeanne*

      I was curious how it worked. Obviously, it was not as anonymous as OP thought or how would her boss have traced it to her. I understand the thought. Kindness and compassion are good. But I understand the company has concerns, too. I’m sure you can find other meaningful ways to direct your charity dollars.

      1. Randi*

        If I were going to do this, assuming your company accepted mail payments, I’d get a money order and mail it in. And definitely NOT tell anyone.

        If later, the customer asked about it, I’d reference any one of those stories from around Christmas, of the anonymous donors paying off layaway balances.

    5. TootsNYC*

      That made me wonder as well. That the mechanics of it created a problem. Like, the OP checked their balances and then paid it, and you’re not really supposed to pry into the balances of people you know IRL.

      If she’d just mailed a check from home for a “ought to be close enough” amount, the way she would with a company she didn’t work for, it might not have been as big an issue.

  3. Mando Diao*

    OP3: I wouldn’t mention it. However, I’d caution you against assuming that your interviewer doesn’t remember you. Memory is weird, especially when it comes to our formative years. I still live somewhat close to my hometown, and you’d be surprised by how many people come up to me and recognize me out of the blue. I wasn’t popular by any means. Humorously, I only remember about 50% of these people. There’s good chance it won’t come up, but you don’t want to be caught off guard if it does.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      Memory IS weird. I work with only 1 person I knew from high school (elementary actually) and we have crossed paths many times and remember each other, even though it’s been 20 years.

      But, I remember running into people (not in a professional setting) when I was 5-6 years out of high school who didn’t remember or recognize me. Sometimes people you lived on the same street as, had multiple classes, etc. Then you feel kind of stupid for bringing it up.

      1. TootsNYC*

        I found when I returned to my hometown, people remembered me. I didn’t remember them at all.

        I think it’s because they had a continuous context for me (parents, siblings, etc.). Plus, it’s a small town, and not that many new people show up. Whereas I had moved away and they didn’t cross my mind in the meantime.

    2. LiveAndLetDie*

      This is a great point. At my 10-year reunion, I was approached by people I never really crossed paths with at my high school who remembered my name, were exceptionally friendly, and some who even spoke to me fondly about some small interaction that I had long since forgotten. It may not come up at all, but I think *assuming* that it won’t would be a mistake. There’s no reason that if it does come up, it cannot be handled with a graceful acknowledgment before steering conversation back to the job in question.

      1. Sunflower*

        Yea I wouldn’t bring it up but I would be prepared in case the interviewer brings it up. If she says something, I would reply back you ‘You know, I thought your name looked familiar and yes, we did go to high school together- I remember you’ and then just laugh about what a strange coincidence it is. Keep it short and simple to keep the interview on track.

      2. Artemesia*

        I ran into someone 25 years after high school graduation who gushed to her companion that I had been one of her best friends. So not so. And then I looked at some old snapshots from a couple of events in HS including our graduation party and a time when I received a major awared and there hovering at my elbow just sort of behind me in every picture was this girl that I remembered but didn’t remember as a particular friend. Life is strange.

        1. Anna*

          I think it’s probably an indication that you were kind to others in high school and made people feel good about themselves. You probably have some other “friends” you don’t know about!

          Once, when I was around 38, I went back to my hometown and went to church with my step-mom. She introduced me to this older couple I had never met before. They told me that their daughter knew me (she wasn’t there), and explained that she had been a freshman when I was a senior. They said that she thought I was one of the nicest girls in the high school. I vaguely remembered their daughter from high school chorus, but hadn’t seen her in 20 years. I don’t recall going out of my way to be nice to be nice to the freshmen, but then again, a lot of the girls in my high school were absolutely horrible so I probably looked like an angel in comparison. I was a little weirded out by the whole thing–not by them or their daughter, but because I couldn’t remember being that wonderful person they spoke of. It was like finding out that I had led a double life, 20 years after the fact!

        2. Mallory Janis Ian*

          That sounds like it could be the plot of a creepy suspense movie. I got a little shiver from reading it.

    3. Jay*

      When I have a legit connection with a candidate and they don’t mention it, it seems strange to me. It makes me think they have a really bad memory or don’t care enough to remember people from their past. Maybe that’s just me but when I get “Dear Mr….” from someone I used to be on a first-name basis (with any mention of our past connection), it turns me off.

      1. Chalupa Batman*

        I dunno, I think the “I remember you, but I don’t know if you’d remember me” game is common enough to give people a pass, especially before we’re face to face, when they could be unsure it’s even me (my name is oddly spelled, but not unusual). I tend to remember people for odd reasons, so occasionally I’ll remember someone well when I have no reason to think would find me similarly memorable, even though we spoke a few times. I often let the other person make the first move unless I can tell they’re doing the same thing. It’s awkward for a minute if they do remember me, but it passes quickly once we’ve established that yes, we know each other, and no, I don’t expect them to reminisce with me.

      2. Mando Diao*

        I think it’s different in this particular instance, since OP didn’t put high school info on her resume, which means that her interviewer doesn’t have that easy clue tho their connection. OP recognized the interviewer’s name, but if OP has married or changed her name for other reasons, the interviewer might never make the connection. A lot also depends on the pure luck of how any given person ages. If you’re going to judge people for not recognizing you, you better still have your hair and not have gained a single pound since the age of 18. Otherwise, LOL.

    4. Joline*

      I was once recognized at a job by my middle school principal probably six years or so after I left that school. I don’t ever remember actually interacting with him. Now I was admittedly wearing a nametag which would help – but it was only first name and I was in a city about 100km away from where I went to middle school. So it was rather disconcerting.

  4. Krystal*

    #4 IME, when I went through that same process (though it was in CA) during the polygraph they asked if you had used marijuana more than 5 times. Other drugs like meth and heroin were immediate disqualifiers but marijuana (and maybe even cocaine if I remember correctly) was not!

    1. LeRainDrop*

      Agree. OP4 should just be honest during the polygraph and she should be fine. Even the FBI’s employment drug policy would not rule her out. https://www.fbijobs.gov/information-center/faqs/employment-eligibility

      You can easily determine whether you meet the FBI’s illegal drug policy by answering the following questions:
      1. Have you used marijuana at all within the last three years?
      2. Have you used any other illegal drug (including anabolic steroids) at all in the past 10 years?
      3. Have you ever sold, distributed, manufactured, or transported any illegal drug?
      4. Have you ever used any prescription drug or used a legally obtainable substance in a manner for which it was not intended within the past three years (36 months)?
      If you answered Yes to any of these questions, you are not eligible for employment with the FBI.

      1. hermit crab*

        I’m intrigued by item #4 here. Not that I ever plan to work for the FBI, but I routinely (for example) take Benadryl to treat nausea rather than allergies. Would off-label uses like that count as “a manner for which it was not intended”?

        1. Clouds in My Coffee*

          No. Benadryl isn’t prescription and they’re looking for things like abusing pain meds.

        2. Turanga Leela*

          If you’re not using it to get high, I think you’re okay. They mean abuse rather than off-label use. So for example, I’d say “yes” to #4 if I’d used Robitussin to make me hallucinate, but not if I took it to help me sleep when I had insomnia.

            1. KR*

              Had to buy cough medicine once when I was too young to have a drivers license. The poor clerk who had to refuse the sale as I hacked up a lung looked so sorry for me.

        3. TootsNYC*

          But if Benadryl works for nausea, isn’t that actually something doctors might intend it for? It may not be -marketed- that way, but a doctor would find it appropriate.

          1. Charlotte Collins*

            Yes, some insurance companies even have policies for when they’ll cover off-label use of a prescription med. (Just because the FDA hasn’t approved the use doesn’t mean that the AMA isn’t aware that it exists.)

            1. Rater Z*

              More drugs have been developed now for rheumatoid arthritis but for years, the aggressive treatment for RA has been methotrexate, which was developed in the 1940s to treat childhood cancers and is approved by the FDA as an off-label use.

              A lot of the cold medicines now are being held behind pharmacy counters because they are used to make meth, or methamphetamine, which is highly addictive.

        4. BananaPants*

          No. First, it’s an OTC product and the question is about prescription drugs. Second, doctors prescribe medications or recommend OTC products for off-label use all the time. If it would be directed by a physician who is aware of your medical history, then it’s totally fine.

          My OBGYN had me combining a half of a Unisom (OTC sleep aid) with vitamin B6 as an off-label treatment for severe nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. This combination has been prescribed in other countries for years but wasn’t approved by the FDA until late 2013. It didn’t work well enough for me and I needed Zofran, but the off-label/OTC combo helps many women with more mild morning sickness.

        5. Amy G. Golly*

          Yeah, “legally obtainable substance” is not very helpful as a descriptor. I’ve used mayonnaise as hair conditioner, does that count???

          It’s one of those questions where everybody knows what sorts of activities it’s meant to weed out, and they’re probably relying on most people to common sense it. (Good luck!)

    2. INTP*

      I haven’t been through it myself but I know from acquaintances that when it’s for the purposes of a government secret clearance, what they care about is whether you have something to hide that might make you vulnerable to blackmail. You can have five mistresses and a past as a heroin addict as long as everyone knows about it. Having a secret, even if the behavior itself is pretty innocuous – like being gay and in the closet, or having an affair – is a dealbreaker. Current drug use, on the other hand, would be a problem since you would be vulnerable to arrest, financial difficulties due to addiction, etc.

      I’m not sure of the differences with state and local government hiring, though.

    3. S*

      In my experience (I have never been through the process myself but work with many students who do go through the process, and have been to workshops with the NSA and FBI), you should be filling out an SF 86 questionnaire when hired. They should ask you about that use on the SF 86 and they will give you an opportunity to give an explanation on the form as well. For most federal agencies, marijuana use is only a problem if used within the last 12 months (or 36 months for the FBI or more for DEA or other agencies).

      And if you are going through a full clearance process, it usually takes between 22-24 weeks at minimum anyway.

      Hope this helps!

      1. OP #4*

        I think someone mentioned below about filling out some sort of a disclosure before actually starting work. It wouldn’t bother me nearly as much to be denied the job on that basis as for it to come up after I’ve been working in an “oops!” sort of way and then be out of a job. So I hope you’re correct!

        I’m pretty sure it’s not the full clearance process as they mentioned they wanted the person to start in early April.

        1. Fluffer Nutter*

          Just be honest and you’ll be fine, based on my past in criminal justice and the polygraphs I’ve had to take. They’re not looking for perfect people, just honest people who don’t have current blackmail/ethical risks like noted by other commenters. Don’t be put off by the process, it’s long an annoying but so worth it!

  5. justcourt*

    I’m originally from CA, but I live in New England now. Maybe it’s my CA upbringing, but NE seems a bit puritanical when it comes to drugs. That said, I am friends with several current and former cops here, and the cop who never tried pot was way more heavily scrutinized after his polygraph because they couldn’t believe an adult had never tried pot.

    It’s possible having smoked pot is a disqualifier, in which case they are probably seriously narrowing the field, but it’s more likely they are just trying to screen for current drug users, people with substance abuse issues, or people who used more serious drugs.

    1. matcha123*

      Well, I’m an adult who has never done pot, so you can add another name to the list!

      1. F.*

        Trust me, there are a lot of us out there who have never done pot or other illegal drugs.

      2. CADMonkey007*

        Same here! I’m aware that a large percentage of adults have likely tried pot at some point, but that’s just bizarre to assume that “everyone” has.

        1. Myrin*

          Right? I have never even tried a cigarette, much less pot, because neither appeals to me in the slightest. People are so weird in their assumptions sometimes!

        2. Chalupa Batman*

          Yes! I’ve had people literally refuse to believe that I’ve never smoked pot, even once. I don’t smoke cigarettes either, why is it so unbelievable that I just don’t smoke in general?

        3. Sarah*

          Apparently it’s over 40%, which is not “everyone”, but is a relatively large portion. I don’t think it’s bizarre to be skeptical, especially since it’s a topic where many people may not want to be candid.

          1. Observer*

            Considering that it IS less than half the population, yes, it’s bizarre to be skeptical.

      3. Rater Z*

        I’ve never tried pot either or any of the other drugs. I never had a desire, but I just say that I spent 38 years in the trucking industry subject to random drug testing. That takes care of any questions about that. I have also been a regular blood donor since 1980 and the use of drugs is on all the questionnaires for that. I never wound up being testing though except during regular testing when starting a new job. My big worry was always about false positive results as the stories were that companies would not check the accuracy of the tests, just fire the person on the initial report.

      1. BananaPants*

        I can attest to this – I’ve lived in New England for nearly 30 years – we’re not the Puritans anymore, and we haven’t been for a long time. Relatively few people are very conservative on social issues, including this one.

        The agency in question for the OP is looking for current use – tell the truth in the polygraph about it being twice during college (years ago) and you should be fine. Many federal agents and those in the military experimented in their youth and as long as they’re truthful it’s almost never a problem.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Yep. I will attest to this also. I would say 75% of the people I knew were either drug addicts or drinkers. Middle class, blue collar town.

    2. Felicia*

      People don’t believe me when I tell them I’ve never tried pot, but I haven’t. I have nothing against it, and no judgement against those who do, but I do judge the people who tell me, at 26 “Cmon, you have to try pot” and try to pressure me into trying it. I just don’t want to and those peer pressure tactics are far too high school

      1. Lisa*

        I’m 27, grew up in Colorado, live in California, and I’ve never tried it. You don’t have to if you don’t want to. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. I would certainly use it over opiods for pain control if I had no choice but to take SOMETHING for pain relief due to a chronic illness, but as a recreational drug, I’m just not interested. I also don’t drink… if you think you get peer pressure NOW, give up alcohol too and try hanging out in social situations!

        Protip: I’ve found the best thing to defuse the peer pressure is to know a fair amount about my friends’ drugs of choice and drop knowledge/ask questions about strain, grower, etc., so they don’t feel judged. I think some of the “you have to try it!” is actually rephrased fear that you’re a prude who will reject them for using marijuana. You can SAY “no judgment” all you want but they’ll still feel possibly judged as a result of the high correlation between people who don’t use marijuana and people who judge those who do.

        I’ve pretty much gotten rid of all peer pressure in my life since I added being actively accepting of other people’s recreational use to my social-situations script–not just not judging, but offering to hold their bag while they go outside to smoke, knowing enough about weed to notice when they switch from their usual strain, asking after the well-being of their plants if they grow, etc…. the last straw that knocked down the peer pressure camel with one friend group is when I brought a weed brownie to share with them even though I didn’t want any myself. I think they’ve finally accepted that I’m fully educated about all the ways I could choose to partake of drugs and have made a genuine personal choice not to, and that I really am NOT going to judge them or gossip or call them lazy stoners if they get high around me and I decline to share.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          The one that worked for me was offering a deal: You don’t nag me about smoking pot and I don’t nag you about quitting. Most of them quickly agreed to this deal. Interestingly, I had no further problems, as people would say to others “Leave NSNR alone, she said she doesn’t want any.” My friends talked about drugs and did drugs in front of me, but they did not ask me to join them. I felt really fortunate.

    3. The Cosmic Avenger*

      My experience and reading of political trends also begs to differ; it’s usually the more midwestern or central states that are more conservative in general, and while Alison is right that for Federal jobs, casual pot use that is years in the past would not be a barrier to a security clearance, I wouldn’t be confident that this would hold in, say, Kansas or Oklahoma. Many governors and state legislators like to make political points off of being “tough” on something, whether it’s good policy or not.

      1. Turanga Leela*

        I’ve passed a background check in the Kansas/Oklahoma part of the country despite minor past drug use. I think you’re right that they’re stricter—this office wanted to know if I had EVER used illegal drugs, while equivalent offices on the East Coast just wanted to know about the past few years. But at least in my case, it didn’t turn out to be a problem. As people said above, it’s really, really common for people to smoke pot in high school or college.

        1. OP #4*

          That’s really comforting to hear! I hope my situation turns out similarly, if indeed I get that far in the process.

          1. Turanga Leela*

            I had to write a statement (as part of a larger background check), and my statement basically took the following form:
            I smoked marijuana X times Y years ago. It was a dumb thing to do,* I haven’t done it since then, and I don’t plan to do it again. I have never used drugs other than marijuana, never sold or distributed drugs, and never had a substance abuse problem.

            *Regardless of whether you actually feel this way, I think it’s helpful to act like you’re sorry about it, especially if you’re worried that the audience is very anti-drug. Since I didn’t have anything to express serious remorse about, “It was a dumb thing to do” seemed like a good formulation.

      2. OP #4*

        I am unfortunately in a Midwestern state. We have a track record of being notoriously conservative on issues-based voting (if not with candidates).

    4. Sparky*

      I likve on Colorado, which recently approved medical marijuana use. I take the bus to work, and there are signs on the bus indicating that they need more drivers. One day the bus driver was talking to another bus co. employee, and they were discussing the fact that 70% of the bus driver applicants are flunking the actual drug test, not even a polygraph. And I think driving a bus is one job where the driver can’t be using marijuana. But this is one side effect of legalizing m.j. here.

    5. Mike C.*

      I’ve heard very similar stories in for federal jobs to be quite honest.

      Frankly though this whole “past use” thing is bullshit. It’s one thing if you’re intoxicated now, but who cares what you did 20 years ago.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        It’s been quite a few years, but when I went through the clearance process, they only asked about the last 10 years. Which worked out quite well for me, because I was over 10 years out of college and my partying days, which ended shortly thereafter. :D

      2. Kyrielle*

        Agreed, but when you are going to have a clearance, I think part of it is they want you to have told them – so that if someone tries to blackmail with it, you can shrug and not do what they want, because you *don’t care* if they tell your employer that (gasp!) you used this drug in college. Your employer found out when you told them, didn’t give a crap about it because you were honest and not currently doing drugs, and no one cares except the idiot trying (and failing) to blackmail you.

      3. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

        One of my friends who works for large aeronautical engineering company did not get the next level of clearance he needed to be able to accept his promotion and he swears it’s because of the pot question.

    6. Liana*

      I’m not sure where in New England you live (I live in Boston, and was born and raised in MA), but I certainly wouldn’t call us puritanical – I’m not sure where you’re getting that. MA was one of the first states to decriminalize marijuana, and I know plenty of places in New Hampshire and Vermont where law enforcement turns a blind eye to casual drug use. We do take a pretty hard line on harder drugs like heroin, but that’s because our region has a history of heroin addiction and higher-than-average rates of drug overdoses, so it’s less “puritanical sensibilities” and more “we’d like our residents to stop dying”.

      1. KR*

        +2 I live in New England, about an hour’s drive north from you and I agree with everything you said.

      2. BananaPants*

        We have several friends who are cops and I recently had to speak to several local police chiefs about community issues as part of a church-related program. Here in southern New England, the exploding opiate/heroin epidemic is the biggest drug-related concern for local and state LEOs. College kids occasionally smoking weed in their dorm room is not much of a priority when in some towns cops are responding to 1-2 ODs every day.

        1. BananaPants*

          +3 – south of you in Connecticut the opiate/heroin epidemic is terrifying. In the course of 2 years, the state-run methadone clinic in our small city has gone from having a handful of cars in the parking lot every morning to vehicles waiting in lines on the main road to get a parking space. Our state troopers and many local cops are carrying Narcan now, in hopes of reducing the OD deaths.

          1. Liana*

            That’s awful. It’s my understanding that heroin use has really picked up in recent years, and my hometown (which is known for having drug-related issues) has a methodone clinic that’s been getting busier and busier lately. I’m not entirely sure what’s causing it, although I know that Portsmouth, NH was a major hub for smuggling drugs at one point.

            To the OP of question #4 (so I don’t get completely off-topic), I really, really don’t think it’ll be an issue. If the federal government disqualified anyone who had ever smoked a joint while in college, they’d have some serious issues finding applicants. As long as you’re honest with them, it should be completely fine. My ex-boyfriend works for the federal government and has always said that as long as you tell them what you did, it’s not going to be an issue.

  6. Middleman*

    #4 – Smoking marijuana twice five years ago will not be a bar to a security clearance or employment.

    It’s also very likely that you would fill out a disclosure form earlier in the process and the polygraph would happen later to “verify” (using quotes because I don’t intend to apply that the polygraph actually works for its stated purpose) the information you provided.

    Just disclose the marijuana at the time you are directly asked. There is no need to bring this up until it is asked of you, and it will not adversely affect you if you disclose it at the time you are asked.

    You are over-complicating this.

    1. Buffay the Vampire Layer*

      Yeah, this is one of the rare times I disagree with Alison. Do not bring this up on your own. Wait until you’re asked and be truthful.

      1. Middleman*

        Agreed, her advice is usually spot on but she is clearly not familiar with these processes. You don’t bring that information up outside of when they explicitly ask for it, which they will.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          The issue in this case is that the OP is concerned about having to accept the job now but not having the polygraph until months down the road (once she’s no longer pregnant). For her peace of mind, I don’t see any reason she can’t just address it now so she doesn’t have to spend months with even a bit of uncertainty about it. Given that very specific circumstance, do you still disagree? (Totally open to hearing I’m wrong! Just seems like this is an unusual situation because of the pregnancy delay.)

          1. Middleman*

            Like I mentioned, it’s extraordinarily unlikely that the polygraph interview will be the very first time they have her disclose the information. It’s far more likely they will have her fill out a disclosure form at an earlier state and the polygraph will only serve to review and verify the information she already provided.

            Additionally, it’s also extraordinary unlikely that will receive a job offer without doing any form of disclosure prior to that. I’m familiar with military, law enforcement and intelligence agency hiring practices and I’ve never heard of an agency hiring anyone before some form of initial disclosure. There may be a polygraph or background check after an offer is extended in some cases, but those are to verify the information already obtained prior to extending an offer.

            It makes no sense to bring this up outside of the time and place they provide specifically for bringing it up.

          2. Middleman*

            So to clarify, what I’m 95% sure is the case here is that the polygraph examination will be postponed (so that the pregnancy does not interview with the physiological responses being measured) but she will still be given the opportunity to disclose the information at the appropriate time and that disclosure itself will not be delayed due to her pregnancy.

              1. Middleman*

                No problem; sorry if I was unclear! Thanks as always for your content; just today I recommended your site to a job-hunting friend trying to do a career change after graduating with a new degree.

            1. Kyrielle*

              So if the OP gets to the offer stage before being asked to fill out a disclosure form, what should they do? It sounds like that would be unlikely in your experience – but if they do, would Alison’s advice still stand? I don’t think OP wants to take the job and then lose it at the polygraph stage, and would be nervous about it.

              1. OP #4*

                Kyrielle is right about my mindset! If anyone has insight on that, I would love to hear it.

                1. Not So NewReader*

                  I can be very confrontational, especially when the stakes are high like a new job. I would just ask them if they do not ask me. I’d frame it as, “I have a job now. I don’t want to give up this job to find out in months to come that you folks have to fire me. I don’t think you want to have to go through all this to hire another person in a few months, either. So I need an straightforward answer.”

                2. myswtghst*

                  I think it might be worth (either in an interview or in the offer stage) asking for clarification about their process. Along the lines of what Not So NewReader said, you can express your interest in the job and willingness to leave your current job while still wanting to learn more about how the whole process works so you can make the right decision for you.

                  For example, if I was in the interview stage, I might ask for more information about the polygraph – maybe an open-ended question about the intent of the test – and what steps they would take prior to making an offer since you won’t be taking the polygraph now based on your pregnancy.

                  Personally, I would frame my questions to the employer less around “Am I going to be fired because of x which happened y years ago?” and more around understanding the process. Best case scenario, they let me know I’ll be filling out a disclosure of some sort and have nothing to worry about. Worst case scenario, I ask additional questions (Is there a disclosure? Will x be an issue on the polygraph?) or consider whether not knowing is an acceptable risk.

          3. Katie the Fed*

            The odds of this disqualifying here are infinitesimally small. And she’ll probably have to fill out paperwork in advance – the polygraph comes after that. There’s no reason to volunteer it now.

            1. Florida*

              I agree. Dishonesty will disqualify her. Trying marijuana twice several years ago will not. I would draw attention to it at all. Trying marijuana as a teen or young adult is not a big deal at all. But once you bring it up, now it’s a big deal.

            2. Florida*

              Agree. Dishonesty will disqualify you. Trying marijuana will not.

              I would bring it up at all. Trying marijuana twice when you are young is not a big deal at all. But once you draw attention to it, now it’s a big deal.

              1. Brooke*

                Disagree! I hate to be a broken record here but as someone’s who gone through the DoD-linked security process, NON-disclosure is what they’re going to worry about! I implore you, OP, please don’t take well-meaning advice that will steer you wrong.

          4. Buffay the Vampire Layer*

            I still disagree. Just because it’s so weird to mention it.

            Say she were starting a job that required a routine physical prior to beginning work. No one’s ever really failed at this stage, it’s mostly just a formality. And you don’t take your manager with you to the physical or anything, you just show up at the doctor’s with a form that they fill out and then you take the form back to HR. I don’t think you’d advise someone in that situation to tell their manager about their endometriosis at the offer stage. Even if she were worried about not passing the physical, it’s just kind of weird to tell your manager that when that manager 1) has no control over the separate physical process and 2) doesn’t care that you have endometriosis because 3) that’s going to have no effect on your passing the physical in the first place.

            Same for a poly. The manager’s not involved. You’re not going to fail for truthfully reporting you smoked weed a few times a long time ago. So if you tell the manager your concerns she’s just going to look at you like “ok … so tell them the truth when they ask. What do you want me to do about it?”

    2. Nobody*

      I work in a job that requires a security clearance, and I agree — don’t bring this up proactively. I’m not in law enforcement, so the OP’s experience could be different, but in my experience, personal information uncovered in the security clearance process is not generally shared with one’s manager. If/when you do have to disclose your past marijuana usage, your manager may not even see this information. If, however, you bring it up at the offer stage, it would unnecessarily call attention to it and could permanently color your manager’s opinion of you.

        1. Nobody*

          That’s probably true, but there’s still no reason to bring it up if you don’t have to. The way security clearance investigations work, at least in my industry, the hiring manager only finds out whether the employee passed or failed. The people conducting the security clearance investigation most likely will NOT go to the hiring manager and say, “Jane passed, but FYI, she smoked pot a couple of times in college.” They will just say she passed. The manager probably has no idea which employees smoked pot in college or are being treated for depression or have declared bankruptcy — which are all things that would probably be uncovered during the security clearance investigation but don’t need to be disclosed to the manager (as long as they don’t preclude granting the clearance). Even if the manager doesn’t think poorly of you for having smoked pot in college, she might just find it weird and awkward for you to bring it up.

          1. Brooke*

            I do think we need to clarify what we mean by “security clearance.” A Federal (US) clearance has absolutely nothing to do with your manager whatsoever.

    3. CM*

      I agree with the advice in this thread (Middleman, Buffay, Katie the Fed). The job requirement isn’t to never have used drugs in your entire life, it’s to be tested and take the polygraph, after which they will determine whether you’re disqualified. As was pointed out above, even the FBI’s guidelines wouldn’t disqualify someone who smoked pot a few times 5 years ago. A friend of mine had to do a similar polygraph when interviewing with the CIA and they were very suspicious when he truthfully answered “no” to the question “have you ever used illegal drugs.” And I’m not sure how common this is, but I once talked to someone who runs this type of test, and they said they use the “have you used illegal drugs” question as a baseline because they assume that people will say no and lie. Anyway, I think Middleman gives good advice — when asked about this, be honest, but otherwise there’s no need to proactively disclose this tiny amount of drug use.

      1. Kyrielle*

        Well, that bites. Add me to the list of folks who’s never used illegal drugs…I’m not too fond of the legal ones either. Given that I tend to be a nervous person, I hesitate to think what the polygraph would decide I was lying about – probably half of everything.

        Then again, I have no desire for a job that requires a polygraph, so I can file this under “well, that’s really silly, but luckily not my problem”.

        It is really silly tho.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          You should go try some illegal drugs, then, so you can answer honestly without nervousness. ;-)

        2. the gold digger*

          Me, neither, Kyrielle. Legal drugs cause me enough hassles – weight gain, hair falling out, dizziness, double vision, vomiting. I don’t need to find additional nasty side effects from illegal drugs.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Likewise, I saw legal drugs, taken as the doctor prescribed, mess up my parents lives beyond repair. I have no interest.

        3. katamia*

          I’ve never used (and don’t plan to use) any illegal drugs either. It’s like those retail questionnaires that assume that everybody’s stolen from the workplace and assume you’re lying if you say you never have.

          I also don’t want any jobs that require polygraphs, though, so I doubt it’ll come up for me.

          1. Brooke*

            I’ve had a secret clearance for 4+ years. Polygraphs are nearly unheard of, even for TS.

    4. Chris*

      Agreed. When I joined the Navy, I disclosed marijuana use in college. I said I did it less than five times for experimental reasons, they filed a waiver, and processed it without any issue. They actually prompted me in the interview to say the word “experimental,” and later I realized it was the key word they are looking for. Simply say you were curious, and you realized it wasn’t for you.

      1. KR*

        When the SO was applying for his high security clearance job in the military, he had similar experiences. He was honest that his girlfriend was/is a heavy user, and that he had done it two or three times to try it out but decided it wasn’t for him. They had no issues.

          1. Brooke*

            Also worth noting – the DoD doesn’t care what laws apply for your state. They care about federal law.

    5. OP #4*

      My husband agrees with you that I am making this more complicated than it needs to be, Middleman. I didn’t think of having to possibly fill out a disclosure beforehand, but that makes sense.

      My major issue was that I already have good employment, so getting fired would put me in a MUCH worse situation than simply not getting the job in the first place. But the consensus here seems to be that this isn’t likely.

    6. Brooke*

      The key here is talking about a security clearance vs. security/background questions.

      I have a security clearance – aka, with the Department of Defense. If this is what you’re planning on getting, you MUST, 100%, No Question tell them in advance. It’s far worse to lie about something than have them find it out.

      By the way, polygraphs are incredibly rare during this process. Usually it’s just a multi-month process and you submit 60+ pages of paperwork. It’s a bear but you must disclose your skeletons.

      1. Brooke*

        Edited to add – an example was given to me when I was going through the clearance process.

        Person A: Gets DUI, tells employer immediately, keeps job.
        Person B: Gets DUI, keeps it from employer, loses job upon employer finding out.

        It’s about character. They want to screen out people who willingly hide information.

  7. Dan*

    #4 I can’t speak for a state that isn’t mentioned, but I’ve applied for a few fed jobs. The ones that care make you fill out paperwork at the application stage, asking about the stuff that could become an issue.

    I can’t imagine why they’d send you for a polygraph without giving you a heads up on what are disqualifying factors long before hand.

    1. Middleman*

      This is correct. Candidates would be given disclosure forms earlier and they would be rejected without being given a polygraph if they already disclosed something that disqualified them.

    2. Julie Noted*

      Different country’s federal government, but in mine the main concern with security clearances it’s how open you are to blackmail. If you try to hide something as common as marijuana use, what lengths might you go to hiding more serious transgressions that someone might know about?
      A mate of mine failed his security clearance because he’s such a ckeanskin they thought he must be lying :)

      1. Brooke*

        Yep. You have to be willing to be an open book. The thinking is “if candidate hides this, what else will they hide?”

        As someone who’s been through the DoD clearance process, disclose.

        And like I mentioned before, your state’s laws don’t apply if it’s a DoD clearance; they care about federal law.

    3. OP #4*

      I asked Alison to keep my state out of my letter as I comment here fairly often saying things like “as an employee of X state…” It is in the Midwest, though.

      I hope you’re right that they will let me know what sorts of things are disqualifying.

  8. Tau*

    #1 upsets me. Either personality tests don’t contain useful information, in which case it’s pointless to engage in them to this level, or personality tests do contain useful information, in which case that’s private information for the employees which shouldn’t just be disseminated willy-nilly. I don’t think you’re overly sensitive at all, OP, and I admit it sits badly with you watching you ready to dismiss your own concerns because of the result of one of these tests.

    1. Grumpy*

      My employer does this too, it’s horrid. Alison’s script is far better than what I actually said at the time, which was that what they were doing was not okay and it seemed to be an unethical and immoral use of the test, and the test website states they could have their license to use the test revoked if they were reported.
      They seemed shocked that anyone wouldn’t want to share their results and have them entered into the company database and insisted it was voluntary and that they had told everyone so upfront (so not true). Ug.

    2. Jeanne*

      Good point. If it’s as personal as a Buzzfeed survey, then tell everyone. According to the recent 2 minute survey going around FB, I am 50% left brained and 50% right brained. Very useful. Not. If the test truly shows results that could affect what assignments I get, projects I work on, opportunities for advancement, why is it public knowledge? Maybe it shows I have depression. That’s not for everyone to know. Also, if the bosses show certain test results are prized by management, you could get more unnecessary drama.

      1. RVA Cat*

        If people figure out what results the bosses want, they will “cheat” on the test to get them.

        1. pope suburban*

          As indeed they do, for those abominable personality tests that it seems like every retail position requires. People circulate cheat sheets in the internet, and they make new ones as fast as the test-makers try to make new tests. It’s silly and I think we’d all be better off without it, honestly.

    3. Laura*

      My employer does a riff on this. Management and above all eventually go to a big training, where you are given your personality elements, in order. I forget the names but it’s things like decisiveness, analytical, creative, feeling. Then the give you a stack of blocks and you stack the blocks in the order you score and display it on your desk.

      I think it’s dumb, but don’t see it as offensive. Every once in a while its a conversation starter “oh ha, you got analytical? That explains a lot.” More times than not, people use the blocks as stress balls (which they are). I think it’s supposed to give people a heads up on how to work with you (tread carefully on someone who is predominantly feeling, bring tons of data to someone who is analytical, bust out the whiteboard for the visual/creatives, get all your facts out front for the fast decision maker…).

      The company is called Insights, I think.

      1. Laura*

        Perhaps why it doesn’t bother me is my test told me I was. Straightforward, analytical person and people should show up “prepared to argue their case.” And not at all creative or emotional. This is 100% true and something people that work with me all know. So it’s not like big secrets are on display there on my desk…

      2. TootsNYC*

        “More times than not, people use the blocks as stress balls (which they are)”

        So that means, when they put them back, they’re in a different order? That’s hysterical.

        It would be a hoot to flip them around and really confuse the person who is actually relying on them.

        I don’t know about you guys, but once I’ve worked with someone for a little while, I probably know as much about their personality as you would ever find out from those tests. More, in fact.

        1. Laura*

          Yeah you can flip them around. They are just like Legos. I have never met anyone that actually relies on them…

      3. neverjaunty*

        It’s offensive when you’re forcing people to take personality tests and then share the results with co-workers.

        You may be talking about the StrengthsFinder test that Gallup does, which I think is actually pretty helpful – but I don’t pass on my report to my co-workers, precisely because it turns into putting people into boxes.

    4. Ann Furthermore*

      What I’d find bothersome is people assuming that the sun rises and sets on these personality tests, and they don’t. I’ve taken several over the years, both formal ones and unscientific ones you find on the internet. The results are always generally similar, but there have been differences. For example, in the Myers Briggs tests, I’m always, always an “I” but the other indicators have changed a few times. I’d be thoroughly annoyed if people made assumptions about my personality based on my mindset on one particular day.

      1. A1*

        That was my issue with my boss posting the test- while I feel like the results were accurate to a degree, it’s also somewhat of a horoscope in that we can read into anything. Following the group discussion of the results, I realized in hindsight that I played into the stereotypes when the group moderator asked us to react to certain scenarios. And since then, I’ve regretted this. In response to voicing concern over broadcasting our types on the public wall, my manager responded asking me if I’d like to take the test again to see if I score differently.

        1. CM*

          So… I guess that’s a no to taking down the list of types on the wall.
          I think it’s good that you brought it up, but at this point it sounds like you’ll have to live with it. That would make me really uncomfortable too.
          I forget what company, but I’ve heard of a company where they take a personality test where everyone is assigned a certain color representing a personality type, and then everyone’s ID badge has their color on it.

        2. neverjaunty*

          ….so your manager thinks these tests are helpful, but that if you don’t like the result you should do it over again to get a different result? How does your manager keep both those thoughts in their head at once?

        3. Calliope*

          Another thing something like this has in common with horoscopes: serious preconceived notions. “Oh, because you’re XYZ, you must have traits ABC. And I bet you like JKL and hate it when people QRS!”


        4. One of the Sarahs*

          Re the results being accurate, I am always interested in the Barnum/Forer Effect, described on wiki as “the observation that individuals will give high accuracy ratings to descriptions of their personality that supposedly are tailored specifically for them, but are in fact vague and general enough to apply to a wide range of people.” – the Forer questions on wiki are fascinating:

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Yeah, they can change over time. When we did one here, the instructor explained she had an employee take the class and score one way. Then a year later, he came back and took it again and his results were completely different. The first time, he had been under tremendous personal stress, and it totally changed his answers. The only real value is to make people aware of different communication styles.

        I put about as much stock in them as I do in horoscopes. Which isn’t much.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I so totally agree, I am dismayed by how much conversation/weight/importance is put into these tests. Now we have charts on walls and color-coded name tags? When is there time for actual work? And what happened to just trying to understand the other person by talking things over with them?
          I am less inclined to think of this as an invasion of privacy, because we are all fairly transparent to each. I think of it more as a waste of resources.

    5. Vicki*

      For the MBTI (which this may not be, especially as you mentioned a “spectrum”), the ethical guidelines for administrating the assessment include: your Type is your own and will not be shared with anyone else without your express approval.

      You may want to look into whatever “personality test” you have been taking every year and see if it has similar ethical guidelines. If so, you may be able to take that information to your management. Make it about general ethics, not just your own personal comfort level.

  9. ginger ale for all*

    I graduated in a class of about a thousand in the eighties. I look at the facebook page for my class and honestly cannot remember more than a handful of people who post there. If the interviewer remembers you, then nice, but don’t expect it. I only recently found out that someone who I have known for a few years was in a class behind me in school and we both live about a seven hour drive away from our old hometown. Focus on what you can bring to the job during the interview.

    1. KR*

      I graduated high school in 2012 and it’s crazy how quickly you forget people’s names. I went to a small school where I knew what almost everyone’s name was and a little bit about them. I was talking with someone at work yesterday who went to the same school and I couldn’t remember the names of half the people I graduated with.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        There were 73 people in my graduating class. I remember the majority of them, but not all their names. But we did go through most of primary, middle, and high school together as well, which does tend to cement them into your head.

        1. KR*

          That’s what was crazy. I graduated in a class about the same size, second grade up to twelfth. I think it was hard for me too because I wasn’t very sociable in school so I really had very little interaction with many of the people I graduated with.

    2. Florida*

      I still live in my hometown. Occasionally, someone will run into me and saying, “I’m John Smith. We went to high school together. Remember me?”
      It’s embarrassing when you don’t remember the person. You don’t want your interviewer to have that embarrassment. Wait until after you start the job.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        OP, if you decide you must tell the interviewer up front, carry the expectation that she does not remember you. This makes it less awkward and easier for her to say, “I’m sorry, you’re right, I truly do not remember you.” I hate it when I have to answer “remember me?” with a NO.

    3. Chinook*

      “I graduated in a class of about a thousand in the eighties”

      But as has been stated often here, not everyone’s experience is the same. I graduated in the 90’s with a class of 7. I now work with someone who’s brother spent grade 8 and 9 with me (in a total group of 60 – everyone else transferred to the public school as they got closer to graduating) and I do remember her brother (not her – she was younger) and all it took to trigger that memory was for her to say “we were the black family in the school” and I immediately remembered Lyndon.

      This means that it would be totally reasonable for a interviewer from where I am from to ask if I remembered then. Then again, I come from a place where, when you learn that someone is from the same region as you, you start playing the “do you know…” game and odds are good that you will have someone in common as at least a nodding acquaintance. The down side is that they may have heard rumours about you and/or your family that may or may not be true which could colour the experience. That is why I like AAM’s advice of waiting for the interviewer to bring it up.

  10. Sue Wilson*

    I get the theory of paying it forward, but in reality I think you need to have a degree of familiarity with the person involved for it to be doable. I too would be freaked out if someone paid my bills anonymously, or if it was someone’s who name I didn’t recognize. I am simply not a fan of gifts I cannot reject.

    Furthermore, depending on how your company collects debts, whatever collection agency or law firm your company uses can inadvertently get sued under the FDCPA, because it is illegal for collection agencies to talk to anyone but the owner about their debt, and the customer might not know how someone anonymously found out. Your company may not know they are (probably) not considered a collection agency and may not want to do anything to violate that law. They may have promised privacy to customers. There are just a lot of reasons your company would be wary of doing this and if a customers asks, it can definitely complicate matters.

    I will say that this may have impacted how they see your foresight, so make sure to carefully consider any decisions for a while.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      FDCPA does not apply to creditors, only third-party debt collectors, and the OP made it clear that they worked for the company providing the service, the original creditor. However, it still could make for bad publicity to have an employee tinkering with customers’ balances, even if the way they did it was beneficial to the customer.

      In fact, that’s probably what the OP’s employer is worried about — if she’s so worried about customers, she might violate company policies to help them, for example, credit them when she shouldn’t.

      But the part that really bugs me about that letter? The “anonymous” part. Obviously it wasn’t anonymous, or the employer would have never known it was her! If she had just approached this as if keeping her identity secret was crucial, her employer never would have known! (Mail in a cashier’s check, boom, done.)

      1. Charityb*

        I think she meant “anonymous” as in ‘concealed from the person whose bills she was paying’, not “anonymous” as in secret from everyone in the world.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          I know, and I’m not trying to nitpick words, but anonymous really does mean “not named or identified”…it doesn’t mean limited people know your identity, it means no one except you knows. If the OP had gone to the trouble to remain truly anonymous, say by getting a cashier’s check (with cash, not drawn off their account) and mailing it in (with no return address), it could have saved them this grief. As it is, even if they couldn’t have foreseen this issue with their employer, if the customer wanted to know who made the payment, apparently they could have found out by asking the company, because the company found out.

          That even may (or may not) be how they were actually outed, but my point is, protecting one’s anonymity doesn’t mean hiding it behind one layer of people who know, it means not letting anyone know, so if they realized they were not going to be truly anonymous, they might have been more careful, and maybe avoided all this trouble.

      2. Sue Wilson*

        FDCPA does not apply to creditors, only third-party debt collectors,

        Yes, that’s what the first sentence of my second paragraph says. My point is that if the debt has already gone to, say, a law firm that sends out late notices (and they are considered debt collectors under FDCPA rules), then the FDCPA applies to that law firm, and the debtor might think that the law firm gave the information out.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Some companies have an issue with even opening your wallet near a cash register. They just do not want your money mixed with their money for any reason at all. So I can see where OP might have caused raised eyebrows. Even if it is done electronically, they paid you and now you are putting what was once their money back into their kitty. ugh.

      You know, OP, I have thought what if I won the lottery, how would I play Santa? After thinking about it for a bit, I decided that I would either use a lawyer or ask a well-respected pastor to deliver the funds where they needed to go. But I would pick someone who could keep my identity private. One day I opened my mail box and found an envelop addressed to me with money in it. Someone felt they owed me money, I guess. But there are times where you do not do the delivery yourself.

  11. Seianus*

    Polygraph is so unreliable and discredited, in many countries it’s measurements do not stand even in courts. It’s really puzzling they use it for job applicants. I’d run away from such company without a second thought, unless it’s a normal practice in your country, in which case I’d run away from your country without a second thought.

    1. LisaLee*

      I was told by a cop once that they’re only used for the psychological effect–I think very few people put much stock in the data. They’re not admissible in U.S. courts either.

      State governments are also just really slow to change their procedures.

    2. Middleman*

      In North America the use of the polygraph on candidates is extremely common in the law enforcement and intelligence fields.

      The agencies and their polygraph examiners will claim otherwise, but even they know it doesn’t work as a “lie detector.” They still use it because it serves two purposes:

      1.) It encourages honest disclosure from applicants.
      2.) It scares off shady applicants who might otherwise try to BS their way through the disclosure.

      It’s also extremely common for the polygraph examiners to claim that the polygraph indicated deception, regardless of the actual results, in an attempt to solicit admissions that information was withheld during the earlier disclosure (and if candidates admit to lying in the initial disclosure at this point, they are rejected even if what they were withholding wouldn’t have been grounds for rejection if it was admitted up front).

      This is why, like I was saying earlier, the initial disclosure would occur earlier and the polygraph would be used to further investigate that disclosure at a later date.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        Exactly. The polygraph is an interrogation technique. It gets people to confess. It doesn’t really catch lies.

        1. Mike C.*

          So what happens if you walk in and tell the operator that you know this whole thing is BS?

          1. Katie the Fed*

            It’s just not a good idea, especially if they have leverage over your career.

            I play the game as they want. I don’t sweat it when they’re all “oh, you’re moving a lot on that question – something you want to explain?”

            I did get into a weird philosophical debate with one of them once though. He asked if I ever lied. I said yes. I explained that white lies are part of a civilized society. He told me “I’m really troubled to hear that. It sounds like you’re a dishonest person.” And I said “well, is the fact that I’ve told my husband the dinner he made was good going to factor into my employment? If not, let’s move on.” I don’t think much of their pseudo-science but I’ll play their little game, as long as they’re not being ridiculous.

            1. Tau*


              I admit that if I were ever asked to take a lie-detector test, I’d try to get out of it on disability grounds. I have a speech disorder that, besides from making talking sufficiently stressful on its own, is AFAIK likely to cause lots and lots of false positives on a polygraph. (So, even more than usual.) Like hell am I putting myself through that if I can help it. Luckily, it’s pretty unlikely I’ll be asked given my career path!

              1. Rusty Shackelford*

                But if I understand correctly, the way they detect a “lie” is by comparing the amount of stress to a known/control truthful answer. So if you were stressed during the control questions, you wouldn’t be any more stressed during the other questions you answer truthfully, and they wouldn’t register as lies. Isn’t that how it works?

                1. Tau*

                  Basically, the amount I stutter and hence the amount of stress I’m under due to the stutter can vary tremendously even between sentences and there’s no guarantee they’d get a decent average from the control questions. And even if they did, I’m not sure how much good it would do them.

                  I mean, let’s assume that fluent people will experience measurable stress when speaking if they’re lying. (This is a big assumption.) Great. I’m going to be experiencing measurable stress when lying OR when stuttering OR when trying to trick my way around stuttering OR when attempting to reword a sentence on the fly so I don’t stutter… even if polygraphs gave reliable data for fluent people, I have no idea how you’d even begin untangling which bits of stress are due to lying and which are “red alert! red alert! word starting with a hard ‘g’ sound spotted on the horizon! prepare evasive maneuvers!” Simple averages won’t do it.

                  I will admit I don’t know the details of how this stuff works and have not been able to find much good information online. But I’ve seen polygraphs talked about as a problem a lot by people who stutter, and it makes sense to me that they would be.

                2. Tara R.*

                  I was told in psychology class they have 54% success rate. So… You might as well flip a coin.

    3. babblemouth*

      I was wondering the same thing – it feels like such a strange feature for a recruitment process, as well as probably extremely expensive for very unreliable results.

    4. On the Phone*

      Yeah, I was very surprised Alison didn’t mention that. They’re not even as reliable as coin flips. Personally I would not bother to worry about “failing” a coin flip; it’s utterly meaningless and I personally find it shameful that the government and law enforcement still use it. It’s like asking a damn ouija board or magic 8 ball who you should hire. It’s ridiculous and unprofessional even if you are only using it for the psychological effect.

      1. Charityb*

        Like in a lot of situations, it’s a lot easier to say that than to actually walk away from a career path that you otherwise love. If you’re not willing to obtain a security clearance there are a lot of employers and job opportunities that you simply aren’t eligible for. I agree that lie detectors are untrustworthy and I wish that they weren’t as popular as they are, but it’s tough for someone in this career path to just give up on it without being at least a little upset.

          1. Brooke*

            Where? I’m totally flummoxed by this and a lot of the “don’t disclose” advice here! I’ve done the whole shebang (secret clearance, federal contractor, etc) and I disagree with so much of what I’m reading!

            1. Brooke*

              The last time I heard of a defense contractor using a polygraph was sometime in the 80’s, and only for Top Secret!

      2. Elizabeth West*

        “Should I hire the qualified candidate who might have smoked pot in high school ten years ago?”

        “Ask again later.”

        For some reason, this is cracking me up. XD

    5. OP #4*

      Ohh, the so-called “science” of the polygraph infuriates me. But I have a feeling getting into that with the person administering the test won’t do me any favors…

    6. Lee*

      The Polygraph is known to be unreliable by the FBI/Government etc…it’s used to make naive people confess or be more apt to telling the truth in a situation they may normally lie. Nervously answering a question, sweating, increased heart rate or feeling stressed from giving an answer do not actually indicate whether someone is telling the truth or not.
      The “truth” isn’t actually some infallible explanation of a event, it actually varies according to the eyewitnesses/point of view/etc.. so their could never be a machine that 100% accurately tests a “truth”.
      Sadly many sociopaths and skilled liars can pass the polygraph with flying colors….they even have classes for beating polygraphs.

    7. Talvi*

      Not to mention if you’re like me and have (thankfully mild) hyperhidrosis, that’ll mess up any polygraph readings in and of itself.

  12. Mookie*

    This is probably hyperbolic, but the situation LW 1 describes reminds me of teachers pinning up our mid- and final-term grades in the front of the classroom. While I was lucky enough to belong to a generation where school-sponsored humiliation was not quite so public (grades were sorted and identified by student ID numbers rather than initials or surnames), I still find this practice unsettling. I’ve no idea the scientific and methodological rigor of personality testing (meaning is it soppy, fraudulent bullshit or not), but if it helps certain people to work out how they might address their own weaknesses or limitations or assist teams in navigating conflicting personalities, that’s not too objectionable. Given, however, that not all personality types are equal (apparently the LW has been told she’s too “sensitive”) and are probably more or less unchangeable, I don’t see the point in letting others know, unless management intends for the results to be later used against colleagues when they fail to cooperate with, acquiesce to, or sufficiently please one another. “You’re only saying that because you’re a LEO [or whatever Myers-Briggs acronym], you left/right-brained egotist/altruist,” &c.

    1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

      but if it helps certain people to work out how they might address their own weaknesses or limitations or assist teams in navigating conflicting personalities, that’s not too objectionable.

      I have done these as part of a retreat day with my small team and I can find them helpful for looking at inter-team dynamics. Not because the test results are the immediate answer to why Jane is bothered by Ferguson’s interruptions, but more in getting people to think about who other people think and giving people a platform to say, “I work better when you send pre-work before the meeting” or “I feel like we rush to a decision too quickly, I’d like 5 -10 minutes of quite time to think.”

      I would never think about sharing these answers outside my team.

    2. Artemesia*

      The idea that different people have different strengths and styles is useful when helping people learn to manage adults or work with others. BUT the idea that these things are 100% valid and should pigeon hole you forever is absurd. I have used a quick and dirty problem solving style test that has 4 categories and had people take it and then stand in 4 corners while we talked about the value that each approach brings to a team. One of my instructions is always ‘this is a quick and dirty instrument and it may not capture your style at all — if you feel that you are in the wrong category here, just join the one that feels right. And if your score (and subsequent diagram) puts you in the middle, pick the one that feels closest.’ On rare occasion someone switches over which is fine because what we are exploring is common team behaviors and how people with different inclinations or styles make important contributions e.g. the very action focused person who plans and work and works the plan is vital in getting things done — they also can go off half cocked in the wrong direction so the more analytic style can be a brake on that. The person who is a great idea generator is important to creative problem solving and can also slow the process down by never committing to a direction etc etc. The point is that, that annoying person may have something to offer the team that is different from what you have to offer — it does take a variety of strengths to make a strong team. It is fun to play with and even fling labels around playfully –but posting them on your desk or permanently on the wall? Ick.

      1. One of the Sarahs*

        I had to do the “test & 4 corners” thing, and there were big groups in other 3, and my corner had me & 2 grumpy ppl whp (like me) thought this was nonsense – it was hilarious!

    3. Deanna*

      We did these tests with my whole organization in my first job. I don’t know how the older people felt about it, but I (in my mid-twenties at the time) found it helpful. It caused me to realize that I tended to disrespect some personality types–mainly the more social ones that thrived at making personal connections. I viewed them as people who were going around chatting and scheduling meetings to avoid doing actual work, rather than as people who could potentially generate business and improve morale within the company. In our case, we had to post our test results on our office doors.

      Bu, there was something strange and unforeseen that happened in regard to that test. After taking it, we had to score our own exams. One man received inconclusive results. I even helped him add up the scores, and they didn’t fall within any particular range. When he told the tester (a woman who worked with us as a technical writer, but who also had a PhD in organizational psychology) about this , she told him that it was impossible–the authors of the test had built in several fail-safes to prevent that from happening. In front of the whole group, she suggested that he hadn’t been truthful in his answers. Later on, she came up to me in the hall and insisted that he must have lied on the test. She hardly knew me, so I imagine that she went around telling other people this too. I can only guess that she felt like he was trying to undermine her by mis-scoring his test. Anyhow, I don’t think it’s a good idea to have a staff member administer the test to other staff members. She obviously had a lot invested in it.

      (As for the man, it’s entirely possible that he could have lied. I knew that he often struggled with paranoia and would have to talk himself down. That test was probably a nightmare for him.)

  13. Rebecca*

    #2 – I was involved with collections for small customers back in the day. We had problem accounts who always paid late, whined and literally cried about not having enough money, etc etc. One memorable time I called to follow up on an invoice that was already 2 months past due, after promise of payment was made, and asked for the owner. The person who answered the phone said “Oh, you’ll have to call back in 2 weeks, they’re on vacation in Greece”. Yep. Got that invoice paid pretty quickly when they returned.

    OP, I’m glad you’re not going to do this again, and please, don’t even think about trying to do it anonymously or through a friend, for instance. This is business, not personal. Please donate to a local charity or donate your time, but don’t directly help your customers.

    1. No name for this*

      This is the type of thing that always has me shaking my head at the anonymous benefactors who pay off certain people’s lay-away accounts during the holidays. My next-door neighbors put their holiday gifts on lay-away to the tune of hundreds of dollars just hoping someone will do this. They also do not pay their natural gas and electric bills at all, knowing that they will get an energy assistance grant to pay it off as soon as it is turned off. They always miraculously find money for cigarettes, Pepsi, new clothes, nails, and cable TV, and they drive a new car and eat out 4-5 times a week, though.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Yep, that’s why (with occasional exceptions for friends-of-a-friend) I prefer to give money to a charity whose business it is to distribute assistance to those who need it most. They have lots of people who do that full time, how can I hope to know better than them?

        1. Chinook*

          ” I prefer to give money to a charity whose business it is to distribute assistance to those who need it most. ”

          This is a great thing to do and there are charities out there (St. Vincent de Paul Society’s are one of them) who do use part of their donations to help someone cover an electrical or water bill. Because they are part of an official system that refer people to each other, they very quickly see patterns that could signal abuse. Luckily, they also don’t always do a means test because, around here, just because you were making big bucks a few months ago doesn’t mean you have a job or job prospects today (“though you should have saved some your money, silly grasshoppers,” mumbles the ant).

          1. F.*

            I patronize St. Vinny thrift stores for this reason. I think they do a better job of weeding out the scammers and grifters than the government does. YMMV, of course.

    2. TowerofJoy*

      How do you know the trip wasn’t gifted to them? Family members used to gift me trips and other things when I was younger but they weren’t going to pay my utility bills or give me cash. I wouldn’t assume that people are purposefully not paying bills and using the money on other things.

    3. Oryx*

      This line of thinking starts to veer dangerously close to the old “How dare people on food stamps have iPhones and are eating steak while I can’t afford to upgrade my 5 year old flip-phone.” I suggest that unless you actually know the circumstances surrounding any sort of “luxury” it’s probably not a good idea to comment on whether or not someone is able to afford something seemingly beyond their means.

      1. Rebecca*

        When you deal with customers over and over, you get to know the ones who are the perpetual past due payers and who always have some excuse not to pay. This was one of those cases. And if you run a business, and expect suppliers to foot the bill for your product, and can’t pay your invoices in a timely manner, it’s time to rethink your business model. We expect payment within 30 days, not 60, or 90, or whenever the spirit moves. Suppliers have financial obligations as well.

        1. F.*

          Some people fall for the fallacy that poverty conveys a certain nobility upon people who are poor. Nothing could be further from the truth. Honest people will be honest whether they are poor or millionaires. Dishonest people (scammers, grifters, etc.) will be dishonest regardless of their financial situation.

    4. neverjaunty*

      Since we’re supposed to take LWs at their word, perhaps we could trust the LW when she says that she knows these customers fell on hard times, instead of assuming they’re all cheats based on ‘this one time I knew somebody who gamed the system’?

      1. F.*

        My comment was not intended to be specific to the OP, but a commentary on the practice of paying for other’s bills in general.

  14. NDQ*

    #1, The unit I now work with did the Gallup strengths workshop before I joined. Everyone has listed their five strengths in their email signature. Ewx5.


      1. Anony-turtle in a half shell!*

        I recently took the DiSC profile for work, too. Luckily, we didn’t have ours posted about the office, but we all learned our own group’s types and all of our bosses’ types. One of the higher ups in our office has issues figuring people out (this person is definitely not a people person), so he often uses these types of tests (we’ve done others in past years) to pin us down into a type in an attempt to “converse with you on your level.” It’s annoying to be distilled into a few letters, but it also made my interactions with the big boss less painful. Somehow my type said I just want to get into the meat of the matter and not have chitchat…

        (In reality, I don’t mind chitchat with people I actually like, which includes the majority of my coworkers, but for the big boss I’m okay having business-only discussions and having him get out of my hair. For those whose indicators said they did like to be approached with outside discussion, it’s been rather painful. Talking to other humans is not his strong suit, so it’s a lot of awkward chatter and weird pauses and then, “All right, now here’s the project I need you to work on.” At least I just get, “Here’s the project. Thank you. Good-bye.” I like that…with him.)

      2. Elizabeth West*

        We did that one too. I had my profile on my name thing in my cube, but I didn’t put it where it would show in my online profile. Honestly, I don’t even remember what the silly letters are for now anyway.

  15. KR*

    #4 – my SO had to go through some pretty rigorous background testing for his military job. A lot of the time it’s not the fact that you used drugs (though smoking pot twice in college hardly counts as past drug use) but how open you are with it. As long as you’re up front, they don’t mind. They just don’t want to find out as they’re doing the test or after the fact.

    1. YOLO*

      That has been my experience as well – it’s seeing how honest you are, as much or more than seeing how frequently you use drugs. I was surprised at the level of grilling I got over my twice in a lifetime drug use (pot brownie in Amsterdam when I was 15, half a joint when I was in Amsterdam in my 30s), but in retrospect I think it was just that he was slightly in disbelief I’d only ingested that small amount of marijuana (I come from a region of the US that is known for it’s use of marijuana both pre- & post – legalization) and also because he found it amusing that this was my “big” illegality. When I talked with my managers about it, as I was concerned, they laughed and laughed – having gone through similar clearances, they assured me it was not going to be a problem. Unless I’d lied about it. So just don’t lie, that’s the moral of the story. :)

      1. Not So NewReader*

        My husband applied at a job at a for profit. The interviewer said, “Okay, next, all you have to do is pass the drug test.” My husband could not contain himself , his words fell out of his mouth, “OH, good. That means I got the job.” The interviewer was amused by my husband’s uncensored expression of joy and his total lack of concern over the test.

    2. JessaB*

      Yeh, anything you hide up front can be used to influence you later “you didn’t tell them about the time you got stoned at that kegger in Uni? Well I’mma tell your boss and you’re going to get fired for non disclosure and will never get another job in your industry, unless you x.”

      Because anything you hide is potential blackmail material. They don’t care if you did it, they care if you tell em because otherwise secrets HURT. This is how bad things happen.

    3. OP #4*

      That’s great to hear! I mean, if I were on the other end, I would care exactly zero whether or not someone used marijuana – or were still using it, for that matter. But I know how bureaucracy can be…

  16. Z*

    Is #1 Tumblr leeching out into real life in your office? Just asking.

    Dave. 23. Bachelor of Marketing. INTJ. Asian heteroromantic demisexual factkin. Neurotypical. Just a boy trying to create clear, easy-to-read invoices for customers :) he/him/himself pronouns only please!

  17. Teapot Coordinator*

    OP4, I worked for a county police dept and also had to take a polygraph- at our dept it was done by internal affairs, which is also really weird because IA purposefully steers clear of interacting with dept members to keep from becoming biased so I never saw the polygrapher again – anyway, mine asked not only if I ever used illegal drugs but if anyone I knew had. Just be honest, they truly care more about the lies than the act itself!

  18. The Cosmic Avenger*

    FYI, apparently WordPress doesn’t like the “MJ” word for pot. It held my comment about drug testing, and now a follow-up/test comment using the word.

  19. TotesMaGoats*

    #1-It’s a personality test not your credit score. And added to that it’s the results of a test that a lot of people consider as valuable as a dating test in Cosmo. I doubt anyone is going to really care all that much what your type was or have that much impact on your relationships. I would let this go.

    #3-I actually did have to interview someone (internal position) I that went to high school with and knew VERY well. We were both in marching band together. She graduated two years behind me with my sister. Let’s just say we’d seen each other in various states of undress during the years of getting into uniforms. I didn’t realize when I started OldJob that she worked there. But she was in a colleagues chain of command so no big deal. Until she applied for a promotion to an open position and I was on the interview panel for. I did hold her to a higher standard and the interview went fine until the very end when she told me I had skin like a porcelain doll. Now, I’m not one to turn down a compliment but it showed a real lack of judgement in what was appropriate. She didn’t get the job, not because of that alone but it was a consideration. I wouldn’t mention it for the phone screen but might for the in person. It’s possible they won’t remember you at all. Just don’t be awkward about it.

    #4-I would do what Alison suggests. Be up front. It’s not about catching someone who has used illegal drugs. It’s about catching someone lying about it. Hubby gets a poly every 5 years. Even though he’s never so much as hurt a fly he still spills his guts like it’s the world’s worst confessional.

    1. Bowserkitty*

      Hubby gets a poly every 5 years. Even though he’s never so much as hurt a fly he still spills his guts like it’s the world’s worst confessional.

      I’m sure this would be me! I’d probably be an oversharer in these situations, but hey, they ask so they’d be getting the full answer.

    1. One of the Sarahs*

      I saw it being demonstrated on daytime TV, while procrastinating! You can only leave hot water in for 30 seconds, but put water in, pour out straight away and it’s apparently a “not bad” hot chocolate!

  20. Queen Anne of Cleves*

    #2 I want to emphasize how generous and kind I think doing this is and how highly it speaks of your character and the type of person you are. I don’t think you realized the unfortunate ramifications of your kindness. I hope you find other ways to continue your good deeds as I know your heart is in the right place.

    1. neverjaunty*

      Yes, so much this.

      OP #2, some companies have programs to assist customers who are struggling to pay their bills – payment plans, bonuses for paying early or ahead, or partnerships with community groups that provide assistance. If this is something your company could do, perhaps that would be a way to help those customers without causing problems for you at work?

  21. Ann Furthermore*

    #3: I would go ahead and just mention this right up front and get it out of the way. I think intentionally not mentioning it has the potential to cause much more weirdness later than just addressing it.

    As you’re exchanging pleasantries, you could say, “You know, I think we might have gone to high school together. You attended Kings Landing High, right?” If she doesn’t place you, say, “Oh, I think we might have had one class together. I’m pretty sure we ran in different circles. When this interview was scheduled I was wracking my brain because your name sounded so familiar to me.” And then move on.

    If you don’t mention it and they bring you in for an interview, and it comes up then, she might wonder why you didn’t just say something at first. Or maybe you’ll look familiar to her and she’ll be distracted the whole time, trying to place you. Plus if you get it out in the open, she can pass that information along if she needs to, and perhaps say, “I really like this candidate, but full disclosure, we attended high school together. We didn’t really know each other though.” That allows her to be up front and avoids weirdness on her part too.

    1. MK*

      There is nothing weird about not immediately recalling the name of someone you knew not very well ages ago.
      Why not go into the scipt you used if they bring you for an interview? One is much more likely to recall a past aquaintance when they have both a name and a face to make a connection.

      1. Ann Furthermore*

        That could be true too. The OP said the person had a unique name, which is what sparked the memory. For me personally, that would definitely ring a bell too, because that’s just the kind of thing I would remember. Maybe it’s because in 48 years I’ve never met another person with my maiden name. My married name is more common, and I do meet people with that name from time to time.

        So I wouldn’t find it odd if someone didn’t remember me as “Jane Johnson,” (to use an example of my married name) but maybe I would if I was still “Jane Snufflebottom.” But I don’t know…I’m an over-thinker, it’s quite possible I’m doing that here too.

  22. Allison*

    #2, I applaud your kindness and generosity, but AAM is right, there’s just too much of a risk that you (or the company itself) will be expected to continue doing that good deed. No one wants to get a call asking to have their bill paid or waived, and then hear them insist that you’ve done it for others, and they need the help even more! And you don’t want those same people testing the limits of your generosity, and then getting belligerent with you and/or the company if they don’t get what they want.

  23. Alis*


    When I disclosed marijuana usage 2x in college, the polygrapher laughed and we moved on. He also laughed when I told him I got fired from a coffee shop on my first day at 16 years old (I was too slow).

    I can assure you that few police applicants are squeaky clean. Honesty is most of what matters (within reason). I once worked with an officer who, at 17, was arrested resisting arrest while naked on a lawn at a house party. It is accepted that teens can be incredibly stupid, yet become responsible adults.

    1. OP #4*

      That “naked on the lawn” story made me laugh!

      I worked at Big Box Store and left on my own because it sucked, but if I hadn’t, I was probably on my way to being fired because I was waaayyyy too slow.

  24. Zelenu*

    regarding OP#2
    Having managed collections departments before, here are some big reasons I know that paying customers bills is problematic. As a team and individually, we received incentive pay based on how our delinquency ended for the month-if we posted, say $10, to move an account out of the severe delinquency category, our overall percentage would decrease and our bonus would increase (and not by a small amount-sometimes hundreds of dollars could be earned based on hitting a certain percentage mark). Paying customers accounts artificially lowered the delinquency numbers which meant people were paid more money, annual reviews were more favorable, our office would appear to be doing better than other offices in the rankings when those other offices were playing by the rules so to speak.
    In addition, if our delinquency was above a certain level, we were expected to stay late at the end of the month to try and get it down-paying customers accounts would mean we all got to go home while again, other offices playing by the rules, would be stuck working late if their numbers were not met.

    1. newworldofwork*

      This is a very good point. I had not thought about the possibility of self-advancement with what sounds like an honest desire to be helpful.

  25. Fawnling*

    OP #4:

    I grew up in a SHP family and I just asked my family’s advice. They said they have never seen someone get denied entry to basic training (cadet school) if they smoked *some* marijuana in the past. Denials were people still getting baked or had marijuana affect their life in a huge way (fired from job for excessive use, etc.)

    1. newworldofwork*

      me either. People get security clearances all the time despite some past drug use. The important thing is honesty and not using now.

    2. OP #4*

      That is great to hear, thank you!! Hearing from people who know about the process is a huge relief.

  26. Fawnling*

    OP #1, I wouldn’t stress it too much. We are required to take the Gallup Strengths Finder test after our probation period is over and hang the results outside of our office/cube. Most people can’t make sense of it without carrying the book around to look up each terminology and the only people that really care are the ones wanting you to take the test.

  27. Big McLargeHuge*

    #2: I can understand why the organization asked you not to do this again on top of the reasons Alison outlined. It may raise some questions if you’re the one posting the payment as well. Looking at it from an internal controls aspect, your organization may be concerned if it is you posting the payment that you “claim” to have made to accounts with folks that you’re fond of. This is a good sign of a write off that may not have been authorized masked as a payment. Thankfully, everything is legitimate on your end, but this would likely raise flags to an auditor because one person is handling too many pieces of the process.

  28. TT*

    OP #4 – The whole conversation is making me impatient for the inevitable federal legalization of mj. What a ridiculous thing to have to worry about – whether past or current use. I agree with previous posters though – don’t mention it until you get to the disclosure statements.

    1. KR*

      With you there. A friend of a friend was recently turned down for an entry level customer service job. He had criminal record for possession, noted it in the appropriate spot on the application, and when they called him to turn him down the women told him quite nasitly that they don’t want “pot heads” working there, even though he didn’t take a drug test with them and they really had no way of knowing if he was currently using.

    2. OP #4*

      Me too!! Many of my college friends still smoke and I hate that they would have to worry about that. They’re successful, intelligent adults who shouldn’t have that as a barrier.

  29. newworldofwork*

    #1 I am having a hard time understanding the level of concern expressed in the OP and some of the comments. is there any evidence that the results are impacting promotions or work assignments or raises?

    I think these can be useful at a basic level. We spend a lot of time trying to understand how to work best with other people, and there is some evidence that understanding how different personality types like to receive information or interact can be helpful. . However, it’s important that they are administered by a qualified professional and that people understand that they are a broad brush look at tendencies and preferences, not written in stone.

    1. neverjaunty*

      If the results aren’t impacting promotions or work assignments or raises, then they’re useless.

      1. catsAreCool*

        Most of the time the results are related to how people communicate and work, to make it easier for people to understand each other. The results shouldn’t be used for promotions or work assignments or raises,

        1. One of the Sarahs*

          Yes, but even then, they are still indications – having something on the wall saying I’m emotional but you’re logical could really impact my career because of how people treat me as a results – equally, I’m creative but you’re not and so on.

    2. Elsajeni*

      I think it’s mostly, as the OP said, about being pigeonholed. Even if you feel like your personality test results are pretty accurate, it can be uncomfortable to feel like people are basing their interactions with you on what they know about INTJs (or whatever) instead of on what they know about you, an individual; it’s much worse if you don’t feel like your profile is that accurate, so people are actually ignoring what they know about you as an individual in favor of treating you as a representative of INTJ-kind.

      1. Florida*

        It is about pigeon-holed. What if you had to post your nationality on your cubicle and everyone made assumptions based on that? “Oh, she’s from East Utea and you know how rude those Uteans can be.” Or “he’s from North Croygo. North Croygians are so stupid. The Southern Corygians are a little better, but North Croygians are awful.”

        That’s what these silly personality tests do. Now that I know you are a purple on the four-color personality spectrum, that gives me as much information about you as if I know you are from Utea. It is a shortcut for people who think everyone fits a stereotype, but is otherwise quite useless.

    3. Clever Name*

      We do this at my office, right down to it being posted on a wall, and I actually find it helpful. If I’m having some trouble communicating with a coworker, I’ll go look at where they are at on the board, and it will help me to tailor how I communicate with them. Some people in my office are very indirect, and they literally don’t understand that what comes across as loud and clear to them is missed by the more direct folks. Conversely, folks that are more direct can soften their message if they know they are talking to someone less up front.

    4. A1*

      I agree, as stated in my original letter, I think it’s helpful to understand how best to communicate with other personality types and it really puts things in perspective. It’s not affecting promotions or work assignments, as far as I’m concerned. Where I have concern is that this exercise which was done in the privacy of an offsite retreat with our team is now being broadcast throughout our building or to whomever walks by our workplace.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Why wouldn’t it affect promotions or work assignments? “This role really calls for somebody with strong skills in building consensus. Wakeen’s personality test shows he’s a Striver, so he’d be a poor fit even though he has more experience and is interested in the job. We’ll groom Fergus instead.”

        1. catsAreCool*

          It’s usually not quite that simple. For example, I’m an INTJ, and I worked successfully on Support for quite a while. Support involves a lot of working with people (not always an introvert thing) and having to go from one project to another quickly (not something judge types are always comfortable with). Different types can do jobs well, even jobs that don’t look like they’d fit that job. Usually there are more dimentions to a job than there appear to be.

    5. Mando Diao*

      I don’t think it’s a big deal, but I also get it. If you’re a little weird or nerdy or quirky, you don’t want your boss to put up posters pointing out that 70% of your coworkers have roughly the same personality types, but there you are, with your weirdness spelled out for everyone to see. It’s especially hard if you maybe don’t fully fit in as it is.

      On top of that, it’s just an odd idea. Are we in preschool? Do we really need to do projects and hang our coloring pages up on the bulletin board?

    6. Observer*

      Given how poor the test – retest consistency is, even when “properly” administered, I don’t think that the results are worth anything.

  30. WhiskeyTango*

    #1 – my former employer did this also, but we had to affirmatively opt-in to having our profiles included in the “Big Book” that went to management. (We did exercises during the team building day where we would line up according to certain things… it was fun and while I remember where I was on the spectrum, I rarely remembered where others were.) We were encouraged, but not required, to hang our profiles in our offices or cubes so that others would know “how to best communicate” with you. I declined to post it (but was ok with being in the Big Book) and never heard two words about it.

    However, we found out later that despite people opting out of the Big Book, everyone was included. Big blow to the integrity of the program… and management. After that, I think the only way to guarantee it won’t be used inappropriately is to opt out. That had more of an impact on me than the information in the profile.

    1. A1*

      I had actually purposefully left my initials off my corresponding marker on the chart and they were added in last week (about a month after the initial test) against my wishes.

  31. OP #4*

    Thank you, Alison and commenters, for your insight! I am glad to see that most people think I am making a mountain out of a molehill.

  32. MoinMoin*

    #2 Sorry I missed if this viewpoint has already been shared, but my first thought was that the company doesn’t want to get into a position in which it may be perceived that their employees feel pressured to use their own money to help customers. Kind of the same principle as employees not being allowed to skip breaks or work off the clock, even if they want to.

  33. ro*

    #2- What you are doing is incredibly admirable, but given the issues that others have brought up, maybe you can re-direct that effort? I know in my community there are a number of charitable agencies that specifically help people with certain bills if they have fallen on hard times. Why not take that same money and donate it there? You won’t be helping the specific clients you’ve gotten to know personally, but you know your money will help someone in that same situation.

  34. jaxon*

    I don’t exactly agree with the advice to the woman who had smoked marijuana. I simply would not bring it up. Fumbling around and awkwardly saying “ummm just so you know, I’ve smoked marijuana before! It was just twice! What should I do about this polygraph??” is super weird. Better to wait and see if the question comes up, and then answer truthfully. Have you ever smoked marijuana? Yes. Have you smoked marijuana more than a few times? No. Have you smoked marijuana in the past five years? No. I doubt it will cause any further problems.

  35. OP #3*

    Thanks for everyone’s advice! I decided not to bring it up, and had a response prepared in case she did–but she didn’t. If she’s present at further interviews, I might use Ann Furthermore’s script (thanks, Ann!).

  36. Joe from Fort Detrick*

    Re: Drugs – You nailed it, at least on the federal side. There are mitigating factors for almost any behavior in the past, and being in the past is one of the mitigating factors. There’s no way to mitigate something they bring up that you didn’t, so share early and share often.

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