my work friends are being weird about me resigning, pushy recruiters want “salary confirmation,” and more

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

1. My work friends are being weird about me resigning

My question is about leaving my current (non-dream) job. I was hired at my current company at the same time as three other people. We are all just out of grad school with the same degree and around the same age, so we immediately hit it off. They become my “group” at work: I’ve become close friends with one of the women, and while I don’t often see the other two outside of work, we stick together at work events and go out for lunch. You know, work friends. The company that we work for is dysfunctional on a lot of levels (hence the job search), so that collegiality was one of the few bright spots of coming to work for the past six years.

I didn’t expect wailing and gnashing of teeth when I told my friends I was leaving, but I did expect…something. Congratulations, at least. Instead, I got a bunch of sour comments about my new company (“I’ve heard they’re really disorganized,” etc.). My last day is fast approaching, so I finally texted everyone suggesting a goodbye lunch or happy hour. They all agreed, but we can’t settle on a date because everyone’s too “busy.” I put that in quotation marks because some of the reasons they’ve offered for not being able to make a certain date or time are laughably bad.

I’m getting paranoid (maybe I’m annoying and people only pretended to like me!), but rationally, I know I haven’t imagined our friendship. So what gives? Is this a normal way to act when someone leaves? Should I say something, or brush it off and focus on my new job?

It sounds like the behavior of people who are unhappy with their jobs and frustrated that you’re escaping and they’re not. It’s an immature way to handle that situation, but that’s what sounds most likely.

It’s also true that it’s pretty common for work friendships not to last once you change jobs. Sometimes they do, but frequently it will turn out that the thing that bonded you together was work, and once you no longer have that in common, the bond fades, often quite quickly (not usually ahead of your last day though, so that may or may not be what’s happening here).

Still, though, if it’s really bothering you and you’re having trouble brushing it off, why not ask the person you’re closest to? Explain what you’ve said here and see what her take is on it. (She’s actually the one I’d expect more of a reaction from since you’re genuinely close outside of work, so it’ll be interesting to hear her perspective.)

2. Recruiters being pushy about “salary confirmation”

I have been dealing with IT recruiters lately, and they have mostly started conversations with “what are your salary requirements?” immediately after just giving me the name and location of the job! I make it a point to ask follow-up questions, have them send me the job description, and make sure they understand I will have several considerations to take into account, before addressing the range with which I’m comfortable. I usually throw out a high number just to see what they come back with.

Recently during this conversation, the recruiter asked if I would be interested in a $10 less per hour figure than I had thrown out — much to my surprise. I said it’s close enough to start an application process. But here’s the thing — she immediately sent an email asking for a “salary confirmation agreement” and has called me repeatedly to get me to respond “I agree” to an email doc that says “I agree to this salary for this position.” She called me three times within two hours, and re-sent the email another time. This kind of rushing rings many alarm bells for me, so I’ve paused completely.

Several other recruiters have also sent, or wanted to send similar emails — “So, are you saying for $x/hour you are interested? Can I send you a salary confirmation email?”

Is this…normal? I don’t know what about it worries me so much, but I just don’t trust anyone that hurries me!

Nooooo, not normal. Run away, run away. Someone who tries to get you to sign away your standing to negotiate — to commit to a salary before you’ve been to an interview and had a chance to learn about the job and the company and before you’ve had a chance to look at the full package of an offer (like benefits, which matter greatly) — is someone who wants to lock you into acting against your own self-interest. That is a huge danger sign, and those are not recruiters you want to work with.

3. Running into students’ parents at the gym

I’m a school teacher. I’m committing myself to a daily workout at the gym once the school year starts to keep up my strong summer momentum.

Should I be at all concerned or embarrassed about running into parents of my students at the gym? I don’t think it should be an issue, as I have a right to life my life, but the gym can be an awkward place — more awkward than, say, running into a parent at the grocery store or a restaurant.

Nah. I mean, I wouldn’t hang out naked chatting with them in the locker room, but beyond that I wouldn’t worry at all.

4. Putting a vegan mentorship volunteer role on my resume

I’m vegan. I’m happy and proud of that fact, but I’m also aware that it rubs some people the wrong way. A lot of people have never met a vegan before, and so their only impressions of vegans are negative stereotypes. When I tell them that I’m vegan, some people even start arguments trying to prove me wrong. This is why I like to get to know people a bit before I tell them that I’m vegan. Once they get to know me as a person, they can’t dismiss me as irrational, extreme, or whatever other image they have built of vegans in their head.

Should I include my experience mentoring new vegans on my resume? The mentorship program is a 22-day vegan challenge, with a preparation period and a graduate group. My role as a mentor/admin is to post the daily challenges, encourage participants, monitor the group to make sure that participants and other mentors follow the rules, speak one-on-one to participants and mentors who are struggling with the rules, refer health-related questions to the challenge’s dieticians, and to provide reliable, positive advice both from a practical and emotional perspective. It’s an international group, and so I often have to do research to find out what products are available in a different country or to translate my advice into French or Spanish. Going vegan is difficult not just because it involves changing habits, but also because friends and family are not always supportive. I think that providing emotional support in this area is the most important part of my position.

I’ve been volunteering with the online mentorship group for nearly a year and feel that it has greatly improved my skills in communication and leadership, and is evidence of my initiative and willingness to give back to the community. All of these skills are important in my field, but I worry that potential employers will read the word “vegan” and my resume will get thrown in the trash. Do you have any advice?

It would be fine to include it a Volunteer or Community Service section, but I wouldn’t devote more than a line to it, unless you’re light on professional experience that demonstrates these same abilities. (I also wouldn’t play up the emotional support piece, unless you’re applying for jobs where that’s especially relevant.)

For what it’s worth, few employers are going to trash your resume because it includes the word “vegan.” I have firsthand experience with people’s weirdness about veganism, but it generally doesn’t extend to rejecting job candidates over it. So that’s less the issue here and more that it’s not going to read as substantial work experience in the way you’d want something to if you’re giving it serious resume real estate.

5. Is it weird to say “my staff”?

At home I’ll tell my girlfriend something about how my day was at work and I’ll say, “Oh yes, a bunch of my staff said to watch Stranger Things” or “I met with my staff about our website” or “My Queen of Teapots, Ele, said … about what we’re doing.” My girlfriend says that it sounds pretty terrible to say things like “my staff” since it sounds like I own them and that it’s weirdly hierarchical, but I’m terribly confused as to what I should say then! I’m the head of a department and have several direct reports and almost 20 people in the department.

“My staff” — and “my team,” “my group,” and “my department” — are normal things to say, especially when you’re talking to someone outside of your team. If you’re talking to your staff themselves, I’d generally go with “our team” or something like that … but “my staff” when explaining who you’re talking about isn’t all that different from the “my” in “my family,” “my friends,” or “my hairdresser.”

{ 358 comments… read them below }

  1. Sami*

    OP#3- I wouldn’t stress over this very much. Just be pleasant and polite. Quick whilst changing in the locker room.
    If any seem to want to specifically talk about their child or the school, just say something like while you’re at the gym you keep your focus on your workout routine and that you’ve got to get going. And they can call or email you to set up a time to talk.

    1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      I’m a teacher and I agree 100%. OP, you might be worrying it’d be odd to see a parent when you’re in workout clothes and sweaty – but if you do run into a parent at the gym they are likely to be instead thinking about how THEY are in workout clothes and sweaty! Going to the gym is a totally normal thing to do. I’ve even run into my students (who are elementary schoolers) at my gym because it’s a rock-climbing gym and kid-friendly. Just be friendly but with an air of wanting to stay focused on your workout.

      And Sami is totally right about redirecting parents to call or email you to set up a meeting if they want to talk about their kid… Fortunately I’ve never had that happen to me at the gym/store/etc. (though I have been cornered in the hallway at school, where some parents feel it’s fair game because I’m at work…)

      1. AstroDeco*

        Alison, Sami and Elizabeth the Ginger have my agreement.
        To Sami’s comment I’d add that you might want to be mentally prepared with a response if a parent approaches you with a Teacher/Parent comment or question so you’re not trying to think through the fog of adrenaline/endorphin/oh-my-God-do-I-look-as-sweaty-as-they-do.
        eg: “Oh, hi Mr Fergus! Yes, Fergusette is smart and if you want to discuss [whatever] please contact me later so we can set up a time. Do you have my contact infos?”

        That said, to EtG’s comment I’d add that it’s possible a parent might not even recognise you when you aren’t in your regular work clothes!

      2. Liana*

        I ran into my therapist once at the gym! I was really afraid it would be awkward, but it wasn’t bad at all. I think (hope) a lot of people see gyms as this sort of sacred place, where everyone minds their own business and just tries their best not to see a colleague’s/teacher’s/parent’s naked body.

        1. Lemon Zinger*

          I worked at a gym for my first job. When I went in to see my PA for my annual appointment, she said brightly “Hey, I saw you at XXX gym! Do you work there? My husband and I will have to come say hi to you sometime!”

          I found a new doctor.

          1. Master Bean Counter*

            Interesting. I danced (two-stepped) with my GP when I saw him out at a local bar. I loved that doc though and was sad when I moved away from him.

    2. Doodle*

      My advice is to PRACTICE your response if you get a parent trying to talk to you in the locker room. I taught in a small-to-medium size town (one gym) and a mother started quizzing me about her son’s English grades… Completely naked. (Her, not me.) I was so caught off guard that I didn’t disengage and instead had a detailed conversation (all the time being VERY conscious of keeping my eyes UP). She seemed totally unfazed and was very nice about the whole thing, but yeah, I worked on saying, “Gosh, I’d need to look that up to be sure. Can you send me an email and I’ll reply from work?” so that it never happened again.

      1. shep*

        This is hilarious and mortifying.

        I was the assistant director at a tutoring center during grad school and the worst I ever got was a very nice but long-winded parent corner me at Barnes and Nobel and prattle at me for about fifteen minutes. Which I realize is not long in the grand scheme of things, but I was frantically looking for ways to politely disengage that entire time and it was exhausting.

        But at least he wasn’t naked!

      2. Lemon Zinger*

        Some people are just totally, 100% comfortable being naked around others. I admire them, but I am not among their ranks.

      3. Narise*

        My best friend is a teacher and made polite conversation once with a parent. The woman followed her into the bathroom and asked questions through the door.

    3. Stan*

      I stopped changing at the gym after one horrifying incident in my first year of teaching. My local Y has separate locker rooms for adults and families. Everyone under 18 is supposed to use the family lockers, but no one really enforced that particular rule, so you’d occasionally have younger kids with a parent or (more often) a group of teenagers in the adult locker room. I didn’t really think anything about it until one day when I was changing after swimming. I had just pulled my suit off when I heard, “Hey Ms. Stan! How’s it going?” followed by a chorus of snickers. The students kept moving, but I immediately changed my routine to have time to swing home and change instead of using the locker rooms.

        1. Ann Furthermore*

          Yep, me too. I walk on my lunch hour and change into and out of workout clothes either in the bathroom or shower stalls. My manager also works out over lunch sometimes, and there’s just no scenario I can think of that will end well when your boss seeing you in your underwear is involved.

      1. Pearl*

        I’ve had that happen too, although my students are older. It was MORTIFYING. I was so relieved when the students in question graduated. I never use the gym changing rooms now.

      2. Noah*

        You went to a gym that required teenage boys and girls to use the same locker room? I wonder how much the lawsuit settlement cost them.

        1. just another librarian*

          My Y has 5(!!!) different locker rooms. One is a family locker room with separate rooms for each family, two are your typical men’s and women’s rooms, and the other pair is teenage boys and teenage girls.

        2. Stan*

          Sorry, I realize I didn’t describe the locker room situation thoroughly enough. It’s as @just another librarian described, 5 different locker rooms.

    4. Pam Adams*

      I am a university advisor- it’s not the parents I run into at the campus gym, but students. In fact, when I’ve used trainers, they have often been my students. Luckily, they are willing to take quick answers or email me later with questions.

    5. Emelle*

      The one awkward experience I had in the gym with parents of students was mom bringing her kid by the class she knew I was in. It was a dance class and we happened to be doing a dance with a more seductive slant. I was horrified the mom and the kid were just standing there waving- while we’re are shimmying and acting like burlesque dancers- the instructor about died laughing (he is a friend and had no idea how to handle this giant ball of awkward) and my other friends (and other parents of students taking the class) were all doing that awkward laugh and trying to hide me.

      I see my students at the gym all the time and that was the only super uncomfortable thing that has happened. And really, if we had been doing a different song I wouldn’t have cared…

      (I did take a yoga class with my kids principal’s wife. I stayed on my very best behavior and did nothing to draw attention to myself. Because I was going to get in trouble with her?)

    6. TootsNYC*

      Schoolkids are often freaked out a bit when they see their teachers at the grocery store, etc. I think we aren’t old enough to visualize people as fully 3-D. I know my mom has laughed at every one of her kids when they did this. (“Mom! It’s Mrs. McFarland! In the grocery store!” It’s a small town–where else would she shop?)

      But by the time people get old enough to be parents, they don’t find it as weird.

      1. KTB*

        My mother was the assistant librarian at my rival high school, and I had a bunch of friends who attended that school. Not all of them knew that she was my mom, and she loved freaking them out when they’d come over to visit. We still tell stories about some of my friends’ reactions at holiday dinners and such.

        Even funnier–my BFF was the yearbook editor her senior year, and she and my mom DID NOT get along, mainly because my mom kept harassing my BFF about why she wasn’t in class. My BFF and I didn’t meet until after college, so it was pretty funny when she made the connection about my mom. They get along great when they see each other now, and had a great laugh about it when they first realized the connection.

      2. Cath in Canada*

        Heh, my parents are both teachers and every single student they ran into while out and about would just stand there and stare with their mouth wide open. My Mum always said “what, did you think I lived in the stationery cupboard?”. When my sister and I were around the same age as the kids my parents were teaching, the students would always scrutinise us veeeeeeeery closely!

  2. Artemesia*

    #2 ” I am willing to be put into consideration for a position paying X but of course whether the offer is acceptable will depend on a number of things including the benefits package, the nature of the work and whether I feel I would be a good fit.”

    But first, lose these recruiters.

    1. Bob*

      I get where OP is coming from by saying the salary is at least in the ballpark to start negotiating but that’s not how I would take it. If I need $30/hr and they say $20/hr, my only answer is “no, that’s not high enough”. It’s very common with IT recruiters to get the money out of the way before either party invests any time (which I love) so I would take this to mean they are negotiating the final rate right now. From the recruiters point of view, they threw out a number which you said was in the ballpark so they want to lock it down.

      Having said that, I also agree with AAM that this is not the sign of a quality recruiter. But it is expected that you will sign an agreement to be represented by them before they will present you to the client. Most jobs are not exclusive to one recruiter so they don’t want to do all of the work and then have another recruiter submit you for the same job but maybe at a slightly higher salary (because they’re taking a smaller cut).

      It’s important that the paper you sign only says you are represented by them for this particular job. A lot of shady recruiters try to get you to sign an exclusive agreement with them which is bad news. They have probably placed at least one person at all of the huge local companies (hospital systems, colleges, etc) which means they are technical considered clients. If you get offered a great direct hire job from any one of them, you must now give the recruiter a cut. I fell for this when I first started working with recruiters. I signed an exclusive 6 month contract after they lured me in with a fake job listing. They sign me up and then said that job was already filled but they would start looking for something else. The next week they posted the same job again.

      Good recruiters treat like you’re important to them and not like they’re doing you a favor. I’ve had recruiters call me about a job (often at 8-9 PM), I say I might be interested and they immediately say they’re emailing me a form to sign (all within 2-3 minutes). I go with my gut now and don’t move forward if the recruiter seems shady.

      1. OP#2*

        Thanks for the heads up~ that was def. something I paid specific attention to– that it was “for job X, at compensation Y, for client Z” and I knew I only wanted the compensation figure not to be fixed!
        What you refer to in the last paragraph– this is exactly that person… and I’ve had since quite a few more, often calling for the same posting (from different recruiting agencies).
        Luckily, I’m in the position that I can at this point just say a blanket “thanks, but no thanks” to all the recruiters of this ilk.

  3. Library Director*

    OP#5, thank you for asking this. I use “my staff” and recently have had some one question it. Glad to know that I’m not way out of the norm.

    1. Legalchef*

      Yes! I’m not sure what else to call them, anyway – “The group of people I supervise” is way too wordy.

      1. Hal*

        “Someone at work” would probably do fine if you’re just talking to someone outside the company.

      2. Jen RO*

        I generally go with “my team” if I want to be clear that I am the supervisor. However, most times this is not the important information, so I go with “my coworkers”.

        1. Karo*

          I think that’s fine if you’re telling a story to a group of friends or something, but when you’re talking to an SO, or someone equally important in your life, I’d probably use the “my staff” phrasing – mostly because I know that my husband’s staff consists of houses Hufflepuff and Slytherin, while his colleagues are Ron and Hermione. So if he started saying that his colleague did XYZ, it’d be confusing if he ever clarified that it was Draco, not Ron.

        2. Jadelyn*

          It’s funny, I use “my team” when talking to people outside of work but am the youngest and most junior member of said team. I just would never think that “my team” connotes supervisory responsibility, so it’s interesting to hear alternate interpretations of the phrase.

        3. Mallory Janis Ian*

          To me, “my team” can mean either I am a member of a team or that I am the supervisor, whereas “my staff” implies that I am the supervisor.

      3. Lily in NYC*

        Team just sounds less “I’m the king of my workplace” to me. I have no idea why. It just does.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Interestingly, I can use “team” when writing, but cannot bring myself to say it in real life. It sounds … cheesy or something to me. Too rah-rah, somehow.

          Which I guess goes to show that we all bring our own weirdnesses to this stuff.

          1. Jadelyn*

            I struggled to get past that and be able to use the term IRL, too. And for basically the same reason. I felt like a motivational speaker or something. Like a Tony Robbins-esque vibe.

          2. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

            I say “team” meaning the Senior Management Team I sit on, and I say “staff” when referring to the people I manage.

          3. Clever Name*

            We totally use “team” in the rah rah sense on purpose at my company because that just goes with our culture, I guess. We also high-five each other. We know it’s silly.

    2. Go Team*

      I think “my team” is pretty innocuous – Allison’s other examples of “my” is, as always, very on point.

      But I definitely have known some people to bristle at the “my staff/my team” phrasing; in those cases, they were people who either had bad experiences with terrible bosses or who had some other reason to be particularly sensitive to controlling behaviour. For talking with them, I usually have used “the team/the crew at work” or the like when I could remember to, and that worked well enough.

      1. LQ*

        I agree that it seems completely not a thing to me. But it also depends on the tone. So if it is said with exasperation that might be raising eyebrows. I think it is less likely to raise eyebrows if you say, I was telling my boss about how awesome my team is because they made 700 teapots this week with no errors.

      2. Sparrow*

        I agree that it’s pretty situational. My old boss referred to us as “her” team, and it didn’t bother me at all because she was great and we all felt respected in our roles. I currently have a superior (not a direct supervisor but someone I have to report to on certain things) who’s condescending and rather controlling, and I bristle every single time he uses the word “my” in relation to me/my position. I personally think it’s better to default to something that sounds less possessive, like “our staff” or “the team.”

      3. anonymouse*

        I have to admit I’m one of those people, but in my case, there’s a Senior PM who uses “my PM” when he writes emails. Things like, “My PM, anonymouse, will do this” when 1. he is not my boss, he is just senior to me and 2. the way he says it sounds proprietary and I am not his anything so I’m always immediately annoyed when he uses that term because it sounds like he supervises me and he doesn’t.

        1. ec*

          The best term used is based on its context. I started a role as head of my department about three months ago and while I have general training in the department’s work, my staff have much more experience than myself. Recently I bought them a cake saying “thank you my minions” and verbally expressed my appreciation for their putting up with my technical ignorance. They loved it and noted it was the first time one of their bosses had done something like that for them. Outside the department I refer to them as my staff which is appropriate.

        2. Mabel*

          This was the one example that sounded odd to me. “My team,” “my staff” – fine, but “my project manager” (or other reference to one person vs. a group) sounds weird. Why not “the project manager” or “the project manager on my team” if there’s any possibility of confusion with another project manager?

    3. C Average*

      My husband says “my minions,” but he says it in a way that makes it clear that he doesn’t literally regard his team as his minions.

      1. Lily in NYC*

        Mort Zuckerman (owns the Daily News and US News & World report) used to call us “the overhead” when I worked for him. He was such an ass. He smokes cigars in early morning meetings (in a non-smoking office) and it’s puke-worthy.

          1. LQ*

            This one is just…weird. I’ve hear “human capital” a lot and every time I hear it my brain jumps to “human trafficking” ever single time. It seems to be rising in popularity right now and I hate it.

            1. Jadelyn*

              Yeah, that one makes me twitchy as well. It seems super skeevy and dehumanizing to refer to “human capital” as a type of commodity basically.

        1. C Average*


          I am going to borrow that usage–“the overhead”–for a jerky character in my novel.

          How about “the talent?”

          1. CMart*

            “The talent” is what I called myself and my fellow bartenders when I was working in that capacity. As in, “I don’t know what to tell you about how expensive the martinis are, man. I’m just the talent.”

            1. LQ*

              “The talent” is what I call whoever I need to get to do voice over’s for our elearnings. Someone comes over to comment about them standing at the “studio” at my desk and I’m like “Jane’s the talent for this.” or “Will you be the talent?” The guy who grabbed the mic and burst into a song will stand out, especially when the rest of the call center around us turned silent.

            1. LQ*

              This is exactly why I use it. It stands out so much when I’m asking people to be “the talent” against the background of the least entertaining work ever. (Though voice over is an industry where you could refer to the narrators as “the talent” so I think it works well.) It’s better than saying “Will you please come read this painfully dull and complex law into a microphone for me, I need a different voice to change it up.”

        2. Ann Furthermore*

          Ugh, that is awful. One of the most infuriating corporate buzzwords of the last few years that makes me want to scream every time I hear it is “right-sourcing.” No, no, it’s not outsourcing, according to the executive talking heads, it’s “making sure the right people are doing the right work in the right place.” Shut up. It’s outsourcing, and making up some other word to try and convince people you obviously think are stupid that it’s really something else doesn’t change the fact that it’s outsourcing.

          1. Mike C.*

            This is something I absolutely hate about business culture. Don’t lie to me like that, we’re not stupid and it’s insulting as all hell.

            1. AFT123*

              Yes. Another one that a large company uses when they do re-orgs and lay people off is “surplussing”. As in “You’re being surplussed. Pack your bags and go.”

              1. Pennalynn Lott*

                This comment reminded me of that time during the mortgage crisis, circa 2009, when I was refinancing my home. I was initially denied by a Bank of America [who got my mortgage from Countrywide] representative because I had a “negative surplus”. I could never get her to define what, exactly, that was.

          2. Wendy Darling*

            My employer will literally never use terms like ‘fired’ or ‘laid off’ or even ‘let go’. Layoffs are referred to as “right-sizing” and there’s a very gentle internal euphemism for terminating someone’s employment due to poor performance. I’ve gotten a lot of side-eye for referring to those people as having been fired (not even, like, in front of them or anything!).

            It was actually one of the factors that nudged me toward seeking other employment. If you’re so uncomfortable with the way you treat the people in your employ that you have to make up cute nicey-nice terms for the unpleasant things you’re doing to them (which is totally what’s going on at my employer — if we fired someone we might feel guilt!) you’re doing something wrong.

          3. Jadelyn*

            “Right-sourcing” and “right-sizing” as a euphemism for downsizing are unbelievably patronizing terms. No, we know exactly what this is, and no amount of morphological massage is going to make laying people off any less crappy for them.

          4. Unegen*

            Right up there with “right-sizing,” which means you’re going to be doing the jobs of three people soon.

          1. Lily in NYC*

            Same dude. Everyone hated him. His former assistant used to work for Leona Helmsley – aka “The Queen of Mean” and said she would take Leona over Mort any day. Oh, and his #2 there at the time used to drive a motorcycle and had a bumper sticker on the back of his helmet that said “The Bitch Fell Off”. It was a great job, though (luckily we rarely had to see those two d-bags).

      2. beachlover*

        my boss calls us her “peeps” as in short for people. Not sure how it started,but none of us have an issue with it.

        1. Lily in NYC*

          I like it! But I love marshmallow peeps so it’s possible I would try to eat my coworkers.

      3. Cath in Canada*

        A friend of mine has been officially barred from introducing herself as “John’s minion” at conferences. She and her manager John both think it’s hilarious, but then someone took offense, so she has to say PM instead.

    4. Artemesia*

      I have always felt that ‘my staff’ sounds pretentious where ‘my team’ doesn’t because you are part of your team, but your staff are your minions.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        Yeah, anyone on the team, including the manager, can say “my team”, but only the boss can say “my staff”. I don’t find the difference inherently pretentious (that, to me, is situational depending on the speaker’s tone), but “my staff” does make it more clear that the boss is separate from the rest of the team.

    5. Jbean*

      At OldJob, upper management decided to move from a flat organizational structure to one more hierarchical in nature. Ostensibly, that is, because the culture of how things got done didn’t really change. Assistants became known as “junior staff” and only one or two people actually used that term to describe the assistants, often while in meetings with them. “We’ll have the junior staff work on this.” “The junior staff will have to provide support.” The assistants felt demeaned and demoralized. One of the folks who did this also liked to talk about her one report as “her staff.” It was always cringeworthy.

      I want to say, though, that if you want to take leadership of a group, and to let others know you are in charge, then “my staff” or “my team” is a good way to go.

      (Apologies for any typos. There’s a huge lag between typing and it appearing on the screen. I also can’t insert the cursor anywhere in this text box. I have to rely on the backspace key.)

    6. Anna N. Mousse*

      Here is where it gets problematic: if your library is like my library, 90% of the workers are women but 90% of the management are men. “My staff” just has a very gendered and hierarchical sound to it that “my team” does not.

      1. Library Director*

        Actually the opposite in mine. One reason was the previous director refused to interview any men. If they had a library degree she came up with lots of convoluted reasons why they shouldn’t be considered for an interview. She actually told the architect for our new library that because he was the same as her son she didn’t see him as a professional.

        I hired the first man in a full time position. We now have two. Only one is a department head.

        Others have commented on tone. It’s important. As is the willingness to do the icky jobs. I shifted my clerical assistant to an out front position because that was best for everyone. I can make my own copies. I also go to bat for them for benefits, pay, etc. So, yeah, they are my staff because ultimately I’m responsible. We’re a team, but I’m the team captain.

          1. Anna N. Mousse*

            Bit of a non sequitur re: willingness to do “the icky jobs.” There are plenty of people who think the term “my staff” is fine. But if you genuinely want to know why some folks feel icky about it – and the OP who originally posed the question sounds like she does – the commentariat has responded that that term can have weird connotations of being possessive/or pretentious/or sexist/etc. The term doesn’t inherently mean any of those things, but that is the background and context for why some people find it off-putting.

    7. stevenz*

      Super super overly-sensitive people are everywhere. I wish we could stop re-engineering the language just to coddle them in their pettiness.

    8. ECHM*

      I managed a group I loved, and referred to them as “my” affectionately. “My people,” “my three.”

  4. Brooke*

    OP 1: I agree with AAM; they’re a bit thrown and quite possibly jealous. A lot of people don’t have the guts it takes to make big, positive changes, so congrats to you on multiple levels (seeking a better opportunity AND getting it!)

    OP4: Though I’m sure it’s a minority of vegans, those that are especially militant (aka, unapologetically shaming non-vegans, talking about little other than veganism) tend to translate into uncomfortable situations, whether at work or elsewhere. Assuming you’re more level headed, don’t go in expecting your veganism and related work to be an issue, otherwise you have a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy on your hands. It’s a part of you, but it’s not the whole of you, and future employers want to see you as a multidimensional human being :)

    1. misspiggy*

      Re OP1: yes indeed. Also they may see the move as a reflection on their friendship – ‘she doesn’t think we’re good enough to stick with’. Might be worth explicitly saying she’ll miss them and wants to keep in touch.

    2. MarketingGirl*

      Yes, I completely agree with you about OP4, especially the last line!! I have an acquaintance who often causes disruptions at her job about not offering vegan meals to clients (who aren’t vegan, mind you). She has a tough time separating her beliefs from her job’s operations, and because of this, many of her coworkers look down on her for simply being vegan. She doesn’t understand that there is a time and a place for everything, and most importantly, not everyone shares the same values. She takes it as her veganism being the problem, when in reality, it’s the inappropriate delivery of her message. The deli meat sandwich isn’t the issue- it’s her inability to be accepting and to not preach down at her coworkers and bosses.

      Being vegan is often very personal with strong convictions behind it. You have a right to live the way you want and I applaud you for your decision. It’s not always easy to be surrounded by those who don’t share your beliefs. But an office setting isn’t always the place to express those ideas and this goes for many strong ideals, passions, and lifestyle choices.

      1. Lemon Zinger*

        Thank you for saying this. Your acquaintance sounds… exhausting. What people do and don’t eat isn’t relevant in the workplace unless a meal is being planned that might conflict with those restrictions.

        I don’t eat gluten, but you don’t see me announcing it to the workplace every morning. Because it’s nobody’s business what I do and don’t eat.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          But the OP hasn’t said anything to indicate that’s an issue with her. I mean, there are proselytizing Christians too, but it would be wrong to assume all Christians are proselytizers.

          1. LadyKelvin*

            Sure, but it wouldn’t be wrong to assume someone is a proselytizing Christian when they list on their resume that they lead a group who teach methods of proselytizers. I agree with the commenter who suggested listing it without mentioning its a group for vegans. Its the same advice they give about listing involvement in a religious group when you are applying for your first jobs. It’s good to include that you have leadership experience, bad to out which religion you are in. If I was hiring someone and on their resume was a group that supports vegans I would wonder if they are someone who is a militant vegan because one of the first things I know about them is that they are vegan and it was important for them to tell me that. It might not mean that I pass over the applicant, but I certainly would be more cautious about interviewing them to see if that suspicion holds true. No one enjoys working with/being around someone who thinks their lifestyle is better morally/ethically/health-ily/ etc than everyone else’s.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Except that this isn’t about teaching methods of proselytizers. It’s more akin to teaching bible study or something.

              (I wouldn’t put bible study on a resume so that’s a bad example, but now my analogy has gotten away from me.)

          2. Jadelyn*

            I feel like the exposure and ratio have something to do with the difference in perception. There are proselytizing Christians for sure, but there are *so many* Christians in total and most of them aren’t like that, so most people’s experiences with Christians will be heavier on the normal people than the zealots. There are not nearly so many vegans, though, and simply speaking from my own experience it seems like a higher proportion of vegans are preachy than the proportion of Christians who proselytize, so it’s a lot more likely that people will only have experienced a vegangelical and not have other examples of normal vegans to counterbalance that, leading to the perception of all vegans as pushy and rude about it.

    3. Mike C.*

      I agree with AAM; they’re a bit thrown and quite possibly jealous. A lot of people don’t have the guts it takes to make big, positive changes,

      I need to stop you right there. Being in a toxic job really, really screws up how you see the world, so don’t blame others for “not having the guts to make changes”. That’s akin to blaming someone for not leaving an abusive relationship. Also, you can’t know that the OP’s coworkers aren’t trying their hardest to get out and are simply not succeeding.

      Congrats to the OP just the same, but there’s no need to cast aspersions on her coworkers in the same breath.

      1. Chaordic One*

        I have to agree with Mike C. The OP’s coworkers may very well be trying to get out and are not succeeding. I certainly looked for, applied for, and interviewed for other jobs before I was ultimately fired from my toxic job.

        The strange thing about it is that the workplace does mostly great work for their customers and gets mostly glowing reviews on “Glass Door” and in other employer surveys, although it has an extremely high rate of turnover. One person’s toxic workplace is another person’s dream job?

    4. Leigh*

      OP#1 here. Thanks for the congratulations, everyone. I’m quite excited about the new job. I think Mike C. makes a good point. We work in a really toxic environment (habitual disrespect of employees by management; some borderline illegal practices company-wide), and everyone I know is trying to get out. My knee-jerk reaction after working here for years is to approach any change at work with skepticism. I just didn’t expect that skepticism to be directed at me, since my work friends and I have traditionally be allies.

      1. themmases*

        A toxic workplace can make your relationships so complicated. You may want to support each other and know it’s the right thing to do, but if an environment is also tearing you down it’s easy to start feeling like you are in competition on some level. That is even more true when you’re all trying to leave. Not only does no one want to be left behind in a terrible job without even the friends who made it bearable; in an environment where you are denied any validation for your efforts the job search can feel like a referendum on who is better.

        My relationship with a good friend got quite weird when I left our job. I wanted to be supportive but it was also hard for me to always hear about the drama going on at my old job when I was trying to move on. It got better when my friend got out too. Not perfect, because we were and are in different places processing everything that happened… But better.

      2. Bwmn*

        In addition to what everyone has said about being in a toxic workplace akin to being in a toxic relationship – I think it’s also relevant to mention that you’re leaving may possibly create an upheaval at work that they’re not looking forward to. Whether it’s something specific like workload or something more vague like management shifts, these changes – though entirely not your fault or something to feel bad about – can make your coworkers situation worse.

        Depending on where you work and exactly what the toxic issues are, changes can often make bad situations worse. So it may also be a case where you presently are the physical embodiment of something they’re dreading. If the group goodbye lunch/happy hour never quite works – if it’s possible it may also make sense to return to this group of people a month or two after you leave about getting drinks. Let your absence be less of a new thing, and reach out again.

      3. Jane Gloriana Villanueva*

        Leigh, many congratulations on the new opportunity! I am glad that you are getting out of the toxic environment and I hope blue skies are ahead!

        I’m prompted to respond to you because I recognized myself in your coworkers’ shoes, actually. Two years ago, I was looking at a couple of opportunities that had come up to leave my then (and still current) job. I shared these with a coworker whom I was getting to be friendly with in- and out-side of work. We were connecting on many friendship levels, and I was really happy to count her as an ally in the workplace and as an encouraging friend who was wiser in the ways of the world :) . I did not end up leaving, but a couple of months later she received an offer she could not refuse from the company she’d left to join us. It was absolutely the right thing for her and her family for her to seize this new opportunity. But the day she announced it and for the next two weeks as she prepped to leave, I must not have been able to erase a tortured look from my face. I felt so betrayed, mostly because I had shared all these things with her and was “sucker-punched” with the news of her departure at the same time as everyone else. I didn’t try to deliberately sabotage her leaving (and she left things in excellent order, she was such a stellar coworker from start to finish) but I was not. interested. in. helping. at. all. I was so hurt. Even (especially?) in doing nothing, I was unkind to her, and she didn’t deserve it at all.

        It only took a few days and some office shakeups for me to wake up and realize she had done nothing to me. But my chance to explain this behavior and apologize for my rudeness and immaturity had its moment and it was not accepted. While I’ve been able to maintain past-coworker friendships to various degrees of success and closeness, she and I are not in touch, and I know it is because of my attitude during those crucial two weeks. I have apologized to her electronically, but she has not furthered the conversation and I have had to accept she won’t. In a way, this makes me admire her even more, because she conducts herself well. She hasn’t been rude to me in return, and she decided she wasn’t going to take crap from someone who disrespected her. I just don’t exist to her any more.

        You’d be magnanimous to reach out to your coworkers after you get settled into your new position, but it isn’t required in the least. They are stuck in their own heads and can’t celebrate you right now and that’s a shame, but it unfortunately happens more often than not. If any of them reach out to you with kinder overtures, it’s up to you whether you feel they are genuine and whether these are relationships worth salvaging.

        I am incredibly close friends with some people I have previously worked with, and others started out strong and have faded a bit with personal priorities. It is indeed possible to deepen these friendships after you’re gone, but I would suggest you accept no less than better treatment than you’ve been receiving.

        1. Leigh*

          Wow, thanks so much for sharing this. Kudos to you for being so perceptive about your reaction and emailing your former coworker to apologize. Even if she didn’t continue the relationship, not everyone is capable of that level of self-reflection.

  5. Seal*

    #1 – When I got my MLIS a decade or so ago and left my longtime paraprofessional staff position for a librarian position elsewhere, I was very surprised by how the people I’d worked with for years reacted. The least likely people – mostly librarians who were usually indifferent at best towards the staff in general – went out of their way to congratulate me and wish me well. On the other hand, a number of staff members who had always been friendly to me were snarky and rude to my face about my new job, which was very disappointing. In retrospect, those were people who had been unhappy with their jobs for years, but for whatever reason felt that they couldn’t leave for something better. Even after all these years it’s still painful to think that people who were supposed to be my friends and knew how hard I worked to get that degree couldn’t find it in themselves to at least pretend to be happy for me when it finally paid off.

    1. Cambridge Comma*

      I found the same thing when I was in #1’s position. People who stay in a dysfunctional workplace have often convinced themselves that they can’t leave or that they won’t find something else. When you leave and get a job that is just as good or better, you prove to them that they could have done it years ago, especially if you have something more in common with them such as age or qualifications, and that they could do it now. They are confronted with an uncomfortable truth and they have to readjust the story they are telling themselves.
      You also might find that once you actually leave, curiosity about what you do next prompts them to keep in touch. I find the notice period can be quite awkward (although where I live, it’s 3-6 months, so it does drag on) and it’s easier to get on with people once you’ve actually left.
      However, I’ve found that my work friends from the two dysfunctional places I’ve worked have become very good friends once we have all left those jobs, so perhaps keep in loose contact until then and after that see what happens.

      1. Artemesia*

        In a similar note, some of the people who are most ugly towards people getting divorces are people who stayed with a terrible marriage for years or perhaps forever and hate noticing that other people manage to escape and lead a better life. Life is short and reminders that you have spent a lot of yours in misery is not a happy reminder for people who didn’t make the decision to better their lot.

        1. SMiaVS*

          My mother had that issue with her supposed best friend. They both had unsupportive, unfaithful husbands who were prone to (non-physically violent) bouts of anger. My dad wasn’t great, but if anything, the friend’s husband was even worse. He once showed up at our house while my dad was at work carrying a bottle of wine, and preceded to hit on my pregnant mother. Mom left Dad when I was almost seven and took me and my younger sister out of state. It meant leaving a comfortable, upper-middle class lifestyle and struggling financially for the rest of her life, but she wasn’t emotionally miserable, at least. Her friend didn’t have that courage.

          Her lifestyle became more and more opulent, (we’re talking closets that were bigger than the bedrooms in our house) but her personal life sucked. Even though she had the time (she didn’t work ) and finances to drive to the next state to visit my mother, it was always my mother who made the effort. She never once reciprocated. Not even when Mom was diagnosed with cancer. Not even a decade later when that cancer was killing her. I’m Facebook friends with her daughter, but I’ll never forgive that woman for how she treated my mother. It was clear that she was uncomfortable around someone who had the courage to do what she should have done but didn’t. I feel sorry for her, but I can’t excuse the way she treated Mom.

    2. themmases*

      These relationships can be surprisingly complicated. I think it’s hard for a lot of people early in their careers to transition to seeing themselves as professionals who can decide for themselves when they are ready for more… I know it was for me. Coming out of school you are used to the evaluation and progress being granted by someone else.

      If there was any reason for work friends to feel competitive at all– even something they knew was misplaced and kept to themselves, but still felt– a friend moving onward and upward can really poke at that and make it hard to be gracious.

      I met one of my best friends at an early career job that was pretty dysfunctional. It brought us closer together but IMO it’s made some things weird for us to talk about even years later.

      1. Leigh*

        What makes things more complicated is that one of the friends I was talking about interviewed at the same company at about the same time and wasn’t hired. We weren’t up for the same position, but it’s still awkward. I’ve tried be sensitive about it, but yeah, it’s weird. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that she’s not thrilled for me–the reaction of the others is a bit harder to understand.

    3. Leigh*

      OP #1 here. That’s been my experience exactly! I’m sorry it happened to you too. People I’m not close to at all have been coming up to me to wish me well or to say they’ll miss me. The people I’ve considered friends (and still do, despite this strangeness) are the ones avoiding me or making negative predictions about my new job. I think it will blow over with the person I’m closest with, even though she’s been the most negative. I would certainly be envious and sad if she were the one leaving (I haven’t broached that I’m hurt by her reaction, but perhaps should, as Alison suggested). The other two, perhaps we were just work buddies and won’t really be friends after this. It just kind of sucks that they can’t even pretend to be happy for me.

  6. Seianus*

    This is my favourite jobs related site. I’m glad to learn I can say it without implying I am owning it.

    1. Random Citizen*

      Which is a shame. I’d be delighted to imply ownership every time I talked about how much I love it.

  7. MK*

    #5, I don’t get what “wierdly hierarchical” is supposed to mean. There is a hierarchy, you are the lead, they are your staff.

    The only possibility I can think of for your girlfriend’s comment is that maybe the OP is saying it in every other sentence and it’s coming off as pretentious. Or that their work conversation in general smacks of bragging about being the boss.

    1. Panda Bandit*

      It’s either the reasons from your second paragraph or she is expressing her discomfort with the idea of hierarchies in general. I understand the latter because it relates to a particular quirk of mine, but I think it’s asking too much if she wants him to change his wording.

    2. Jen RO*

      I have 3 direct reports, but I feel like everything we do is a team effort, not just me saying “do this” and “do that”, so I *do* find “my staff” to sound odd in a way that “my team” doesn’t. “Team” makes it sound like the boss and the employees are working towards a common goal; “staff” makes it sound like I have house servants.

      Most people probably won’t feel the same, but maybe OP can get some insight in what his/her girlfriend is thinking.

      1. Blurgle*

        That’s my take on it. “Staff” is simply not a straight synonym for “employees” or “team”; the word can carry a strong whiff of servility.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          That’s interesting — I find “staff” less formal than “employees” and often say it for that reason (particularly when writing for a nonprofit audience, I’m realizing now that I think about it). It doesn’t sound servile to me.

          1. ElizabethWest*

            Me either.

            Merriam-Webster online says a staff is “a group of people who work for an organization or business.” Also “the personnel who assist a director in carrying out an assigned task.”

            I see nothing servile or demeaning in that. So perhaps it’s a matter of tone.

          2. Rusty Shackelford*

            I think “staff” can have a servile feeling because it actually is used in that context sometimes. (Think of Lady Dalrymple at her summer home discussing “the staff.”) That doesn’t mean anyone involved in this conversation means it that way at all, but it’s out there. “Team,” on the other hand, is literally used in the context of everyone working together.

      2. Tommy*

        Agreed. When I hear “my staff,” it makes me think of someone like the president of the United States, whose staff is really there for him. Or perhaps Alison or a talk show host, who are in a similar situation. But if you are simply their designated leader (thought experiment: if you were to quit, would they naturally be out of the job?), I think it sounds more accurate in connotation to refer to them as “the staff.”

        As a few data points, I’ve never heard any of my bosses refer to me and my coworkers as his/her anything. It’s always been “the,” as in “the team” or “the department.”

        1. vpc*

          Yes, there is a difference between “the staff” and “my staff”. “The staff” are the invisible but essential people in rambling manor houses, that cook and clean and empty the trash and do the laundry. “My staff” are the people who directly report to me and we have a professional relationship founded on mutual respect and striving for the same work goals.

      3. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

        Some people have staff. The President of the United States has staff.

        I don’t have staff. I have “my team”, “my folks”, “my group” , “my peeps” (I’m old. Old people have a license on “peeps” for the next 20 years while the youngsters have moved on).

        I don’t think there’s anything wrong with “my staff”, if you have staff. It’s a little pretentious if you don’t.

        1. Rat in the Sugar*

          I’m not sure what “the President has staff” means? I’ve always heard the word “staff” used to mean just “employees”, and therfore it wouldn’t be presumptuous at all for OP to use it this way.

          Perhaps there is some kind of regional language difference? I’m living in Florida and around my city the word is used very casually; I’ll use it myself to describe the people working at the Burger King down the street.

          1. Rat in the Sugar*

            Oh! It just occurred to me that this might be from me working in restaurants a lot until a few years ago? The word “staffing” to refer to scheduling employees is very common, so the word “staff” becomes very common by extension, as both verb and noun.
            “I heard some new staff is starting this weekend, are you training any?”
            “I hate the way our RM is nice to guests but mean to staff.”
            “That manager better start being nicer to the servers or they won’t be able to staff this place soon.”
            Managers would often say “my staff” and it never felt different from “my team”.

            1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

              Right, that’s kind of another use of it.

              We “staff the phones”, but we don’t staff the phones with “my staff”. :p

              I don’t think it’s regional so much as industry or corporate culture specific. I think “my staff” sounds kinda pretentious or possibly old fashioned unless you are wayyyyy up the food chain. (There’s probably another use of “my staff” that isn’t any of that but I can’t think of one at the moment.”

              1. the gold digger*

                If I had children, they would be staff. That is, if I had kids, I would never mow another lawn or shovel another sidewalk again. Nor would I wash dishes or clean bathrooms. The Household Staff would do it.

                1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

                  I have children. I have adult children who live at home. I have a husband. And dogs.

                  And yet, I have no staff!

                2. Library Director*

                  This is a running joke with my oldest son. It came from his second grade paper about his family in which he stated, “I don’t like it when my parents slave me.” When I inquired what that meant his list of complaints included making his bed and clearing dishes after supper. I explained that that was why I had children. He rolled his eyes. This first day of his senior year of high school he came home and proclaimed he was now an indentured servant. He encourages me to tell the story.

        2. Gaia*

          This may be unique to my industry but “staff” is often used to refer to professional level employees whereas “crew” or “employees” is used for more labor/service/support level positions. I tend towards “staff” because of that but I also use “team” a lot. It really depends on whether or not it is important to the story that the listener knows I manage the group.

          1. Marisol*

            I see the terms similarly–“staff” sounds more white-collar; “employees” sound more blue-collar.

      4. Anonhippopotamus*

        To me, someone is your staff if you pay their salary. So unless you own the business, a direct report is a team member or coworker. If you must be hierarchical about it, I would say subordinate.

        1. LQ*

          See to me subordinate sounds way stranger than staff.

          If a friend said my staff (and I’ve got a friend who does sometimes, usually when she’s saying how awesome they are so this may color my view) I wouldn’t assume she pays them personally. And subordinate sounds really distasteful to me.

          I wonder if this isn’t really a regional or cultural/work culture kind of thing.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Yeah, “subordinate” sounds pretty off to me — like you’re making a point of emphasizing your control over them. (And I’m seconding that maybe this is a work culture thing since so many people are having “no, obviously X is correct/incorrect” reactions.)

        2. SarahTheEntwife*

          Interesting; I would only use “coworker” to describe someone who was on roughly the same level on the org chart as me. I guess technically my boss is also my coworker in that she is also someone who works in the same organization, but it would feel really weird to me to call her that.

      5. Anonymousse*

        That’s interesting and I think it points to personal preference and association. I find the phrase “my staff” to be completely neutral. They are staff, and I’m the one who supervises them, rather than someone else supervising them (when they would be “her staff”). The word “staff” is the one I’d use when writing grant proposals or other official correspondence (rather than “employees” which is correct but focused more on the fact that they are people paid to work somewhere than on the fact that they’re professional people working towards common goals). OTOH, I find “my team,” while totally acceptable, shades towards pretentious to me, maybe because it’s lingo that came along later in my business career and will always have a slight tone of jargon. I feel the same about people who say “I reached out to her” rather than “I emailed her,” etc.

        1. Sparrow*

          …it never would have occurred to me that someone would find “reach out to” jargony and stiff. I’m curious about whether that’s a common impression.

          1. Kelly L.*

            I do think it’s kind of jargony, yeah. It’s becoming common enough that it might lose that feeling eventually, but yeah.

          2. the gold digger*

            I hate “reached out” with the heat of a thousand white suns. My husband’s mother claimed that she had “reached out” to me by writing me a letter in which she said, basically, that she had had to suck up to her in-laws to earn their approval and I would need to do the same.

          3. Anonymousse*

            I don’t find “reach out” to be stiff, just jargony and pretentious. Seriously people, if you emailed or called someone, call it emailing or calling. That’s in the context of work. I can imagine someone saying “I heard my friend is grieving and I wanted to reach out to her in some way…” and that would make sense. But at work? I feel like it’s just trying to make pedestrian actions sound like something special.

            I do recognize that in some agencies it’s just part of how people talk. My adult son says this every time he talks about contacting someone at his job and I love him anyway. :)

            To further digress, the fictional detective Nero Wolfe despised anyone using the word “contact” as a verb, as I just did. English evolves, jargon become standard usage, and hackles will rise in successive waves. :)

          4. Stranger than fiction*

            Didn’t it come from the commercial (waaaaay back) “reach out and touch someone”?

        2. Library Director*

          This. This. This. Thank you for summing it up so well. I’m with you on “I reached out…” It has a touchy feely connotation that usually isn’t appropriate in a work environment. There might be a rare occasion, but it’s not how I contacted the person.

    3. Meg Murry*

      Along with the points others have made, it’s possible the girlfriend has a BEC relationship with someone that used the term “my staff” in a hierarchical/pretentious/obnoxious way, so every time OP says it it, it grates on her.

      To me “my staff” could also seem really de-personal, like the staff is just an amorphous, interchangeable group of peons/underlings that OP can’t be bothered to learn all the names of. *Note that I don’t think OP feels that from the letter, but I could see how always saying “my staff” and never saying people’s names or titles could come off that way. Saying “Oh yeah, during the team meeting some of the technician suggested we check out “Stranger Things” ” or “Oh yeah, Jane mentioned “Stranger Things” and a lot of the staff agreed it’s worth watching” – that might come off better.

      That said, if the “My Queen of Teapots” is an out of date title, you might want to consider that too.For instance, my husband still uses the term “secretary” a lot, even though most of the people in the org use the title of Administrative Assistant (shorthand “Admin”) and I’ve tried to explain to him that he needs to stop doing that – especially referring to someone as “Joe’s secretary” instead of “the department Admin, Jane”. Along hte same lines, if Ele is the only “Queen of Teapots” at the company, using “Our Queen of Teapots” or just “Ele, the Queen of Teapots at XYZ” might sound a little better than “my Queen of Teapots, Ele”

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        I think you touched on something there: why not just use their names? I (good or bad) know the names and titles of all my bf’s coworkers, managers, etc. and he knows mine. Once in a while I’ll forget a lesser known one and have to ask “who’s Amy gain?” but other than that, we can just tell stories using their names.

    4. designbot*

      I think the girlfriend considers it weird because he’s bringing hierarchy into a conversation where it’s irrelevant. What’s the difference between “My staff has been saying we should watch Stranger Things,” and “A bunch of people at work have been saying we should watch Stranger Things”? One of them reminds the person you’re speaking with that you’re the top dog, and the other sounds like you’re just talking about people, whom you happen to work with. If he does this a lot, I could see how it might drive her bananas feeling like he always has to reassert his status at random times.

  8. Betty (the other Betty)*

    #5 Maybe it’s the specific word “staff” that sounds off. “My team,” “my group” or “my department” all seem to include you, while “my staff” seems to separate you from everyone else.

    Now that I think about it, I can see it sounding a little off to refer to people in a proprietary sense especially when you are talking about non-work things or individuals.

    Maybe mix it up with other wording such as:
    “Oh yes, a bunch of my coworkers said to watch Stranger Things”
    “Our Queen of Teapots, Ele, said … about what we’re doing.” (or “The Queen of Teapots”)
    but feel free to stick with “my staff” when referring to projects on which you manage your staff.

    1. Mephisto*

      There is an old (maybe true) story about when Mick Jagger called Charlie Watts’ hotel room and asked “Is my drummer there?” Watts stormed over to Jagger’s hotel room and said “Don’t you ever call me your drummer again. You’re MY f$#@ singer!” And then punched him in the face.

    2. LQ*

      See I think the same thing. If I say “my team” and am including myself it feels braggy and weird to say “my team is awesome”, but it wouldn’t sound weird and braggy to say “my staff is awesome!” And “my department would be a different thing around here. So because my staff excludes me I’d feel more comfortable saying it in a lot of cases.

    3. ElizabethWest*

      But if you’re the boss, you kind of ARE separate. When I hear “my team,” I think of a team lead, which isn’t a boss or supervisor, but a member of the team who keeps projects organized and can assign work.

    1. Panda Bandit*

      Then give everyone uniforms: a long sleeved black shirt that says Minion or Hench, a la the 1960s Batman tv series. ;)

    2. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

      I actually used “my flying monkeys” the other day but I SWEAR it was okay in the context. I swear it was. (One on one with another manager and in context, I swear it was okay. The joke was about me, referring back to who would have flying monkeys.) :-)

      1. Marzipan*

        I do occasionally refer to my team members as either minions or flying monkeys, so I’m not judging!

        1. Meg Murry*

          Heck, I refer to myself and my other (non-manager) co-workers as “us peons” or “us worker bees” or “us drones” jokingly – but everyone knows I’m not saying it in a derogatory way. There just isn’t really a good collective word for us base level do-ers other than non-managers/non-management now that we have a spread of job titles (that aren’t just Senior Teapot Engineer, Teapot Enigneeer and Junior Teapot Engineer).

      2. Noble*

        I can see your hands up as you explain this here “no really, I wasn’t calling anyone in particular a monkey, I swear. You know Wizard of Oz? You get it right? Omg this can come off wrong. I really really mean it was okay in context. Oh god, don’t tell anyone. Just never mind. Forget it.” lmao

        1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

          Right? I mean it completely worked in context but out of context?

          I wasn’t calling anybody a monkey, your honor.

          1. Judy*

            A former co-worker and I joked once that we needed bangle bracelets that said “Don’t make me call my flying monkeys” that we could use to signal to each other that things were going to get tense. We were discussing owning the concept that men can be assertive while women had flying monkeys.

          2. Meg Murry*

            Just don’t put it in an email :-)

            As I saw floating around social media the other day: “Dance like nobody’s watching, write emails like one day they may be read aloud in a deposition”

            1. Random Citizen*

              I saw that one too. Some jury would have a most amusing time if they had to read all my emails…

    3. Lady Blerd*

      I use minions and underlings on the regular. But I also say that I’m an office drone so there’s that.

    4. MashaKasha*

      A coworker at OldJob, who’d been there 30 years, referred to all of her teammates (us) as “my kids”.

      We “the kids” were in our thirties.

    5. Dr. Doll*

      I was really disgusted once when an associate dean (not at my current institution) referred to the office staff as “peasants.” Fortunately I didn’t have to work with her much… academia, I swear, has some unique dysfunctions.

    6. Oranges*

      I actually DO call my staff “minions”. But we’re in a rather accepting and eccentric company/field.

  9. LeisureSuitLarry*

    #2 – I feel your pain. I had a recruiter call me and ask my salary requirements first thing. I gave him a number that’s reasonable for where I live. Then he told me that the job is in Silicon Valley, which made the salary not even close to reasonable. I said it was too little and I wasn’t interested. He offered more. I said no. He offered more. We went from @60k to 90k in 5k increments before he finally disappointedly said “ok, thank you.”

    I have another tech recruiter that I had to eventually block his number. If I didn’t answer his first call, he would call back 5 minutes later and send 3 emails. Everything about the organization sounded shady, and I decided that I wasn’t going to go to an interview even though I was desperate for a job.

    1. A Girl Has No Name*

      Having a conversation about salary going from 60k to 90k in 5k increments sounds excruciating. I don’t know if I could have held on to that call past 75k…

    2. Noble*

      Holey mole. No way. 5k increments? Lmao. I think the only way I could have stayed on that conversation is if I made a game out of it in my head and was laughing about it the entire way through. Sheesh.

    3. Eric*

      I’m in tech too, and I’ve just reached the point where I flat out work with agency recruiters because of stuff like that.

      I don’t reply to them saying that, but even sending a polite “thank you, but I’m not looking/that’d be much too far for me to commute every day/I’m too risk averse to work at a pre-revenue startup” has a decent chance of getting them to call me back to bug me to change my mind. Which does get me to change my mind, but to not work with them!

    4. Mike C.*

      We’ve had several days of stories like these in letters and comments, maybe folks better understand why I’d prefer just to be straight with folks like these instead.

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        I know, right? I work in non-profits working tech, and I don’t even make that little. SF just recently surpassed NYC as the most expensive rents, and Santa Clara/San Jose isn’t much cheaper.

        1. MashaKasha*

          My son worked there straight out of college, two years ago. He paid $1600/month for a (pretty shabby) one-bedroom in Mountain View, and it was an amazing deal that it had taken him a while to find!

          1. MashaKasha*

            Oh and his starting salary was far more than 60K. There is no way to make ends meet there on 60K.

    5. OP#2*

      As A Girl Has No Name mentioned below– that’s literally funny. I have actually had a couple of these conversations now, and have taken to practicing various lines with them such as:
      “I would love to show the Company how I can be useful to them with my skills, and I’m sure they will be happy to compensate me appropriately”
      “I have been making $Xk for several years now, so clearly I would expect a higher rate for my next position”
      “What I would like– well, I would prefer about X thousand dollars” Actual Response: “Jeesus! I have not seen a salary like that…” (It was about 25k more than I currently make –not THAT wildly out of the ballpark!)

      Basically, I decided that since they aren’t taking me fully seriously, I will reciprocate by using them to get comfortable saying the things that are difficult to say!

  10. AstroDeco*

    OP#1: +1 to Alison’s reply, especially about how office friendships often don’t carry over when one leaves their company. I’m sorry that your colleagues and work friends are being weird; that can be tough. It might help if you decide in advance if you want to try to maintain these office friendships. It’s okay if you decide that you don’t. If you do, worst-case is everyone tries to stay in touch then that fades away… Best case is that you might indeed cultivate a lasting friendship.
    Good luck with your new job!

    OP#2: Yes, run. Also beware if any recruiter tries to obtain a verbal agreement. In some states a verbal agreement is legally binding ( I think!). And never sign or initial anything even if one claims “Oh, these never mean anything. It’s just so I have something to work with” (or a myriad of other dismissive phrases)

    OP#4: You said “A lot of people have never met a vegan before…”
    I disagree. People have met vegans, they just didn’t know it! :-)

    OP#5: Not weird. “My staff” is a normal thing to say, though I do like the suggestion of henchmen.

    1. ThatGirl*

      How do you know if someone’s a vegan?

      Don’t worry, they’ll tell you.

      Sorry, couldn’t resist the bad joke — but there seem to be two main kinds of vegans out there, and I’ve encountered both. A lot of them can’t resist evangelizing.

      1. Closet Vegan*

        I am vegan for primarily health reasons and environment concerns second. There have been many times that I had no choice in a restaurant or what food was brought in for a meeting. I just selected carefully and kept quiet to not be a disruption. But, then, I’m an introvert too.

  11. Joseph*

    #2: Your real warning sign came when this recruiter came back at $10 per hour LESS than your target salary. Assuming you work a typical 40 hour week, that’s about $20,000 annually – no small chunk of change. And now he wants you to lock in that lower salary before seeing anything else – the quality of other benefits, the number of ‘exempt’ overtime hours, out of pocket expenses which may eat into your salary, and so on. So dump this guy.
    As for the other recruiters, it’s still not a common practice. I wouldn’t give them a straight confirmation. You could instead say something along the lines of “I view compensation as more than just salary, so a proposed salary cannot be evaluated as a stand-alone item without consideration of the other quality of benefits. Can you provide me with a summary of other benefits which are included, so I can evaluate whether the proposed salary of $X would be satisfactory?” It’s not a complete “hell no”, but it pushes the ball back in their court and allows you to better evaluate if $X is really a fair number.
    Though I guess the other way would be to say “Well, I don’t have any benefits information now, so if you want me to lock in a set number, I’m going to have to increase it to $Y in order to compensate for the missing benefits that I may have to handle myself out-of-pocket”. This seems a bit more aggressive though, so not sure if I’d really recommend it.

  12. JHS*

    With regard to #4, I unfortunately have seen someone nix a candidate for putting vegan lifestyle on their resume as an interest (not exactly what is proposed here I understand). I just wanted to say I’ve seen it. The reason given was that they felt if the person felt so strongly about veganism that he/she put something on his/her resume, then it was going to end up being a problem at work. Right or wrong, that is what I saw, so I just wanted to pass that along as a possibility. I would leave it off the resume.

    1. Elkay*

      I agree, especially as it’s a mentorship for being becoming vegan (if I understood correctly). If people already hold the negative stereotypes of a vegan that this could just reinforce those ideas and work against you i.e. “Is she going to try and mentor us all into being vegan?”

      1. Artemesia*

        Bingo. If I saw that I would see an evangelical vegan. I don’t care what people eat and I am happy to order a kosher, vegan or gluten free meal when managing a group event and have done so. But I so don’t want to hear about it, be hectored, be ‘mentored’, be looked down on for eating tasty animals.

        Perhaps indicating mentoring people for nutritional needs (that is awkward but something about being a nutritional coach) which is more neutral might remove that stigma while acknowledging the coaching experience if it might be relevant to the job.

    2. Snowglobe*

      Did they reject the resume because of veganism, or because they put personal lifestyle stuff on a resume where it doesn’t belong? I wouldn’t reject someone for it, but I’ve often rolled my eyes at people who include a section about hobbies and interests that have absolutely nothing to do with the job. I think a short bullet under “volunteer activities” that focuses on skills and accomplishments is a very different thing; and if the hiring manager was so anti-vegan that they’d toss the resume for that, OP probably wouldn’t want to work for that person anyway.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Yeah, this is what I’m really seeing. Focus on the job skills you were exercising, not on the theme of the org!

    3. Rusty Shackelford*

      I think there’s a difference between “I feel it’s important to tell you, right away, that I’m a vegan” and “My relevant experience includes a mentorship program whose members happened to be vegans.”

      1. LQ*

        Yes, I totally agree. If the “Interests” section just said “Vegan” I’d raise all my eyebrows at it. Good for you… But a mentorship program for vegans wouldn’t raise them.

      2. Joseph*

        I think a good way to evaluate is to just treat “vegan” the same as any other personal hobby/preference/interest and see how it reads. You wouldn’t even think about listing “Chicago Cubs fan” or “allergic to peanuts” on your resume, because it’s totally irrelevant…but you would likely want to list your experience as volunteer director of the local Cubs Fan Club or Peanut Awareness Campaign.

      3. East of Nowhere south of Lost*

        For a while i was including my degree black belt on my resume under ‘Accomplisments’. I thought it was a very special accomplishment that showed maybe my tenacity or leadership or something. Was that a good idea?

        1. ElizabethWest*

          Well, if you were applying to be a martial arts instructor or a personal trainer, then I’d think it was relevant. It’s certainly a very cool thing, but if it doesn’t have anything to do with the job, I’d leave it off.

          1. Happy Lurker*

            I would leave it off too and maybe put “Mentor at local Kung Fu Gym”.
            Funny story, my brother is an Eagle Scout (it is really quite an accomplishment akin to the black belt in that it takes a long time and dedication). He doesn’t put it on his resume per se, but when his references are checked it tends to come up. He has had the balance tip in his favor because of it. Specifically, with his first apartment. The landlord said to the reference “I don’t take people under 30. They are slobs and are loud. ” Reference replies “He’s an Eagle Scout” (and not a crack addict like yesterday!!). He got the apartment that same day.

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          Honestly, if I were on the hiring end, it would be neutral-to-questionable. Neutral because no, it really wouldn’t show anything related to what I’d be hiring you to do (it’s easy to be very dedicated to something you love, but it doesn’t mean you’re going to be dedicated to your job). Questionable because, as others have mentioned, listing something not work-related makes me wonder if (a) you have issues with work/personal boundaries, or (b) you’re going to be an annoying evangelist about it. It would be something to mention in an interview if it comes up naturally, because it’s interesting, and it is an accomplishment. But I wouldn’t recommend putting it on a resume.

          On the other hand, someone hiring you for a different job might consider it a plus.

        3. designbot*

          It would make me think you were either trying to be threatening (“I’m a black belt!”) or that you simply didn’t have enough work-related accomplishments and were using it as filler.

        4. Lissa*

          The other problem with that is that you’re absolutely right that it’s a special accomplishment — but a lot of people have gone to places that are not so reputable and will almost give people out black belts for money, and most people looking at resumes wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. I know a loooot of people with questionable black belts, unfortunately.

    4. Temperance*

      I actually had this thought – I wouldn’t disqualify someone, but it would be a mark against them because I would question their judgment in putting that on a resume unless it was very relevant.

  13. Roscoe*

    #1 WHo knows, there could be a lot of reasons. In your situation, I would just pick a date/time with the person you are closest with and invite the other 2. If they can make it, great. If not, thats fine too. I do question you saying their excuses are laughably bad. Even if its just wanting to watch the Olympics, that’s their right. But yeah, just kind of come to terms that you may not stay friends with them, and thats not a big deal in the grand scheme of things.

    ON a side note, I really wish we would stop with the “They must be jealous” thing. Parents say it to their kids to make them feel better. As adults sometimes people say this. But I don’t find it to be true very often. Maybe the “victim” is doing something to make others not like them (not saying thats true in this case). Maybe they have other things going on in their lives. But to reduce everything down to jealousy is just a weird thing

    1. Aim away from face*

      Absolutely. I DESPISE the who response of “Oh, they’re just jealous.”

      Um, no. Just because Mommy told you this when you were getting teased at 8 years old, doesn’t mean it’s true.

      1. Chriama*

        But sometimes it’s true. If someone’s immediate response to something good happening to you is to make rude or snide comments, why is jealously a less likely culprit than that they’re having a bad day or dealing with a tough situation in their own life? It’s not like you need to get them to admit they’re jealous — unexpectedly hostile behaviour can have all sorts of reasons but it’s more likely to be their problem than yours so labeling it can be a way to give yourself some peace of mind.

        1. Roscoe*

          My issue with that is that it causes you to find external reasons for this as opposed to looking inward. Like did you come across supper braggy when you shard your good news when you know things haven’t been going good for someone else? Maybe it helps you cope and get peace of mind, but I don’t think its necessarily a good thing

          1. LQ*

            Sometimes they spilled their coffee and they found out that the medication for their cat is going to cost ten times what they thought and they forgot their lunch at home and have no cash. If it is a one time thing I think it is always better to let it go because sometimes it isn’t about you. (Not disagreeing about your reasons, just suggesting that there is a wide range.)

          2. LBK*

            Okay, but…sometimes there are also just external reasons. Not every situation where someone treats you badly is your fault somehow. I mean sure, be introspective, but it’s perfectly valid to go through that introspection and come to the conclusion that nope, wasn’t anything you did, other people are just being jerks.

            I agree that jealousy is sometimes misapplied as a reason for someone’s behavior, but there are also a lot of times where jealousy does present itself in unusual and unpredictable ways. I’m 50/50 on whether I agree that jealousy is the reason in this case, but I don’t think we can apply any kind of blanket rule that jealousy doesn’t ever motivate people to act poorly.

            1. Roscoe*

              And thats fair. There may be any type of external reason. I’m also not saying its NEVER jealously, but I think that is actually far more rare than people like to believe. I just don’t think having that assumption is really good in general.

            2. MashaKasha*

              +100 to LBK. Most of us are already conditioned to find fault in ourselves anytime anyone’s being a jerk to us. The advice to stop and look even deeper inside yourself, and not stop looking until we finally find something we did wrong that caused the jerk to be a jerk, isn’t exactly helpful. Sometimes people treat you badly through no fault of your own. The way to handle it is to shrug and move on. I agree that looking for their hidden motives, like jealousy and whatnot, isn’t terribly productive either. Who cares why they did what they did, the important part is, what they did sucked. Just write them off as someone who was never really your friend, and move on.

              In OP1’s case, the irony is that OP1 could be these “friends”‘ ticket out of their toxic job. But nope, they decided to go for the short-term satisfaction of putting OP1 down, instead of keeping her on as a valuable connection. Their loss.

        2. Anonymousse*

          +1. Sometimes it’s true, and I don’t see why the fact that some people use it as a knee-jerk response to too many things means it’s never true.

      2. Roscoe*

        Yep. Like I get that its an easy way to make your crying child feel better at the time. But perpetuating that MYTH isn’t healthy. Then people start actually believing everyone is jealous of them. Believing that will just make people dislike you more

        1. MashaKasha*

          Have to agree with this one. IME, no one’s jealous of us, as a general rule. 99% of the time, people just don’t care about us one way or another. And that’s exactly the way I like it.

    2. Mike C.*

      Yeah, I wouldn’t chalk it up to jealousy, I would chalk it up to being in a bad work environment. It sucks, but those sorts of places cause lots of normally decent people to act in messed up ways.

      1. ElizabethWest*

        And it may be frustration and not necessarily jealousy. Like, “Dammit, I wanted to be the one to leave!” They’re not mad because you’re leaving; they’re mad because they’re still there.

    3. Larina*

      +1 to making a date and inviting others.

      In my department, whenever anyone leaves, we have a tradition of going out to eat on someone’s last day. Not everyone does it, and more often than not we go pick up something from across the street and then eat in the break room so that everyone can be involved even if they can’t afford to eat out. But it’s easier to say “Hey, we’re going to Jim’s favorite place for lunch his last day. Come join us if you want to” than to try and corral people.

    4. Leigh*

      Believe me, I have looked inward. That was my first reaction, but I really can’t think of anything I’ve said or done that would all of a sudden make people suddenly dislike me. I don’t think I was super braggy about the new job (they knew I was interviewing, and it was more like, “Hey, the teapot painting job actually came through!”). I’m going to set a date and time with the one I’m closest to, as suggested, and if she blows me off, I’m going to ask why she and the others have been so negative about this. As for the other two, if they can’t make it, we’re clearly not the friends I thought we were. Sure, it’s their right to stay home and watch the Olympics, but if they choose that over saying bye to someone they’ve worked with for years, yeah, it sends a message.

    5. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I do question you saying their excuses are laughably bad. Even if its just wanting to watch the Olympics, that’s their right.

      I think this is nitpicking a bit. The OP isn’t disputing their right to do that; she’s saying that the particular reasons they’ve given her make it clear that they’re not interested in seeing her off. There are plenty of situations where one could reasonably draw that conclusion from the particular excuse someone gives, especially against a backdrop of knowing that person and how they generally operate.

  14. Workfromhome*

    #2 This seems super shady to me asking to sign something before even interviewing. No way is this in your best interest or frankly even in the best interest of the hiring company. This is clearly a recruiter looking out for him/herself. Trying to get a commission by bringing in a qualified but cheap candidate . The employer hires them long enough to get the commission and then a year or so down the road when they realized they have been hosed on salary the candidate gets fed up an leaves. Candidate suffers, employer suffers *because they have to hire again) and only recruiter “wins” short term.

    If someone sent me a salary confirmation agreement I’d simply say…so is this a job offer? I’m happy to agree to “a salary” if and when I’m offered the job. I’m not signing anything except a binding job offer.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      I’ve worked in recruiting but not tech recruiting. How do commissions work in tech recruiting? The niche recruiting industry I was in had us make commissions based on a percentage of the hiring salary, so it was actually in our best interests to have the candidate get hired for a higher salary.

    2. OP#2*

      Am totally going to use that line — “so is this a job offer”– makes a lot of sense!

      Thank you,

  15. AnonNurse*

    OP #3 – from the parent perspective, it’s not a big deal at all. I run in to my kiddos teachers at the grocery store, at Target, and other random places around town. We know you’re human too and unless it’s just a really awkward person that has some social issues or something, it’s just another interaction with an acquaintance.

    And as an aside – thanks for being a teacher! I can’t imagine doing your job and really appreciate all that teachers do for our kiddos.

  16. Trout 'Waver*

    OP#4 seems quite defensive about veganism. I know some people are jerks about it, but some vegans are jerks about it too. I’m not in the habit of talking about my diet. I’m surprised that it comes up so often with you.

    This line: “monitor the group to make sure that participants and other mentors follow the rules” set off some alarms to me. I hate to be quick to judge, but you get in arguments over veganism, believe that friends and family are often unsupportive of vegans, and monitor other vegans to make sure they follow the rules. These show you’re quite passionate about veganism. Keep in mind that if you proclaim that you’re vegan because it’s ethical or more healthy, you’re implying that non-vegans are not ethical or healthy. And that can certainly rub people the wrong way. In all reality, the only time someone’s diet should come up in a professional setting is to figure out logistics of a group meal.

    Also, I’d be careful with statements like, “I’ve been volunteering with the online mentorship group for nearly a year and feel that it has greatly improved my skills in communication and leadership” Leadership is a skill that is developed by leading a team, not by online mentoring for less than a year. It comes across as rather naive, imho.

    1. N.J.*

      My impression was that the OP was monitoring an online or face-to-face support group or interest group related to veganism. Monitoring the group to make sure individuals are following the rules would usually center around making sure members follow community etiquette and conduct rules, rules about using resources or physical facilities etc. I was interpreting the role as you would with an online community moderator, for example.

    2. Mreasy*

      Hm. I think I understand where you’re coming from, but I believe this comes off as more condescending as you realize.

      It sounds like OP is involved in an online community that helps people complete a structured vegan “challenge” that involves rules and other online mentors – so if OP is monitoring these activities as part of the challenges, that doesn’t mean OP is arguing or starting fights. That means OP is helping the community members with the challenge, as described. And yes, to be involved so deeply in helping people commit to the vegan lifestyle implies OP is quite passionate – but I know several very passionate, active vegans who nevertheless manage to avoid bullying or proselytizing to their colleagues and friends. In fact, that describes all the vegans I know, and they are many. I’m sure there are plenty of annoying ones out there, and the stereotype certainly exists, but as a professional living in a major city and in a liberal profession, I’ve had shockingly few interactions with annoying vegans.

      As for the “leadership” comment: it didn’t sound like OP was trying to say “I’m now qualified to be a manager” or “I now have leadership skills equivalent to years of on the job experience.” Of course either of those claims would be absurd. But to say, as OP did, that their leadership ability had improved after a year in an online mentorship program seems totally reasonable and likely.

      1. AMT*

        I agree. For entry-level jobs, this sounds like a perfectly appropriate type of leadership experience. I wouldn’t want to see it on the resume of an experienced manager, but it sounds like OP is early in his/her career. I don’t see any evidence that OP intends to bring it up in the workplace. The letter actually makes OP sound very conscientious about this.

      2. Trout 'Waver*

        I guess if the OP is around here they could provide more clarification. But the next phrase after the one I quoted is, “speak one-on-one to participants and mentors who are struggling with the rules” which to me indicates that it’s more than just a moderator position.

        As for the leadership comment, the phrase the OP used was “greatly improved” which to me kinda hints at great leadership skills. I guess it’s like claiming to be excellent at communication on a resume. It’s something you have to show. You demonstrate you’re good at communicating by communicating well, not by telling people you’re good at communication. Likewise, leadership skills are something to be shown, not told about. I don’t know anyone I consider a good leader who makes claims about their own leadership skills.

        I guess the whole letter just rubbed me the wrong way. The first paragraph is defensive for no need, imho. And the rest of the letter reads more like a cover letter or sales pitch than an inquiry for advice.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          If it changes anything about your read, the whole second paragraph of the letter (minus that paragraph’s opening sentence) wasn’t in the OP’s original email to me. I wrote back and asked for more information about the role so I could better understand it, and that was the reply.

        2. AMT*

          I read “greatly improved” as OP being young/inexperienced and having needing more skills in this area, not as OP bragging about great leadership skills. Regardless, I feel like we’re needlessly picking the wording of the letter apart. We have no idea how OP presents in person when s/he’s not writing to an advice column, and we have no idea whether OP is actually “defensive” about veganism (or whether OP actually does need to be somewhat defensive—which is highly possible depending on OP’s area of the country/culture/whatever).

        3. Mreasy*

          I read “greatly improved” as a comparison to the OP’s previous level of skill. The baseline could be zero, if the previous leadership experience is zero. I don’t at all get the sense that OP is engaging in any kind of self-aggrandizement, and I think that the activities described in this volunteer mentorship role are the kind that would serve to enhance a new-to-the-career-world candidate’s resume above another candidate with no such leadership role, however modest. I wonder if the specifically veganism-oriented nature of the role makes it seem to you particularly trifling?

          1. AMT*

            Right, it’s like saying you were the president of the debate team or the chorus club. It DOES demonstrate leadership skills if you’re fresh out of college and it’s one of only a few leadership experiences. It’s certainly not self-aggrandizing to say that something enhanced your skills!

      3. Analyze All The Data*

        “but I know several very passionate, active vegans who nevertheless manage to avoid bullying or proselytizing to their colleagues and friends.”

        As someone who is a passionate vegan but refuses to proselytize about it, I appreciate that others are aware of this. I don’t go out of my way to tell people I’m vegan unless it’s in the context of a conversation like this, or it’s because I’m trying to make meal arrangements with someone who needs to know my dietary restrictions. In fact, I’m usually apologetic when I tell people I’m vegan because I know extra effort has to be made to accommodate me. I don’t even like telling people then because I hate the inevitable questions/scorn/aggression about my diet.

        The problem is that the proselytizing vegans are just so vocal, they give the rest of us a bad rep.

    3. Judy*

      I read “monitor the group to make sure that participants and other mentors follow the rules” to mean OP is a moderator of the group and handling that type of role.

    4. Sarianna*

      I actually read the “monitor the group” line as more of a forum moderator role–deal with spam, stop bad-behavior threads, and report technical issues to forum owners.

  17. Anononon*

    Re #5, I’m at a law firm that is very bottom heavy with non attorney employees, so we basically have “the staff” and the attorneys. Sometimes I feel a bit weird using “staff” because there is a pretty strong class system in effect. Attorneys get a lot of perks that the staff don’t.

    1. AMT*

      I used to work in public defense and we had a similar issue with “my social worker” (who invariably had a graduate degree and was often paid more than the attorney) vs. “the social worker.”

      1. AMT*

        (If it wasn’t clear from the comment, the social workers did not work under the attorneys. We had our own department.)

    2. OES*

      I’m in academia and we distinguish between faculty & staff with a very similar status distinction as you’ve laid out. The staff tend to be quite resentful of the faculty, who are not typically in a position to talk about “my” staff; but I’ll bet some older male faculty use it & are disliked even more for it. What the phrase does is reinforce the hierarchy: who’s in charge is emphasized every time the phrase occurs. It seems pretty clear from the postings here that the word is freighted enough that the OP (& other folks here who are commonly using the phrase “my staff”) might want to think about using less hierarchical terminology. Why generate resentment unnecessarily?

  18. Allison*

    5) I strongly disagree with the idea that the word “my” inherently implies ownership. It can, if you really stress it (“No, kitty, this is MY pot pie!”), but it usually implies a relationship. When I talk about my sister, my friends, my family, my coworkers, or my boyfriend, does it sound like I own them? When I say “my company,” most reasonable people know I mean the company I work for, not a company I own. My workspace isn’t technically mine, the company owns it, but I still call it my workspace. Same goes for my apartment, no one thinks I’m implying that I own the place, I rent it and share it with a roommate! But to say “the guy I’m dating” or “the place where I work” or “the apartment I’m living in” can feel awkward and clunky. “My” is a shortcut.

    1. BRR*

      I’m with you on this. I’m part of a team of four. There’s one supervisor and I’m one of three direct reports. I say “my team” which sounds correct and there’s definitely no ownership.

      1. Anonhippopotamus*

        Team doesn’t imply hierarchy or ownership by definition, saying ‘my staff’ definitely does.

        1. Anonymousse*

          I don’t see the difference, myself. I find “staff” to be a completely neutral term. If I heard my supervisor say that I’m on her staff, or on her team, either would be correct and neither would bother me.

          1. Michaela T*

            I’m not seeing the difference either, and after reading the comments here I’m starting to think this is just one of those things that differs regionally or culturally or something.

            1. Meg Murry*

              I think it might differ from office to office or industry to industry as well, so in OP’s case, if everyone else at his company says “my staff” or “my department” it sounds fine/normal, whereas at his girlfriend’s company/industry if no one does, or only that one really obnoxious guy that tries to take credit for everyone’s work does, it will grate on the girlfriend.

              I could also see the girlfriend having a problem with it if it’s been used as a subtle (perhaps not intentional) form of sexism/keeping her down in the past – especially if the “my” was paired with another not-so-great term, like a jerk-boss would would say “Oh yeah, I’ll have my girls get right on that” when referring to an all female team, or “oh, I’ll have my secretary/assistant/admin email you that” when she wasn’t hired as his assistant by rather as an ABC professional, but somehow got slotted into the role of being his assistant. I don’t think “my staff” vs “our team” or “the Teapot Engineers” is anywhere near the level of waiter/waitress vs server, or secretary vs Administrative Assistant/Coordinator, but I could see it as seeming old fashioned or hierarchical/patriarchal in some settings/circles/industries.

              But overall, no, I don’t think OP needs to stop saying “my staff” – although if his girlfriend knows perfectly well who “My Queen of Teapots, Ele” is, he probably can just drop the title as say “Ele” or “Ele from the teapot department” if they know a lot of other “Ele”s in their work and social life.

              1. OP #5*

                Yeah, I’m trying to illustrate my connection to them since she doesn’t know any of them, not trying to be braggy or anything. Also, I don’t know if it makes a difference, but I’m also a lady.

            2. LBK*

              Agreed. I can the arguments people are making about why staff is different, but to my ear they don’t sound any different. I think the condescension/ownership element of referring to “my” vs “the”/”our” is influenced much more heavily by tone and the actual nature of the relationship between the boss and her employees than the word choice. I wouldn’t care about a good manager referring to me as “my employee” and I might even take a sense of pride in that, but it might rub me the wrong way if a bad manager did it because I wouldn’t want to be associated with them in that way.

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          I agree – “my team” implies we are all equals*, “my staff” implies I am their supervisor. I guess this isn’t universal?

          *Unless one actually owns a sports team

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      I agree with this for the most part, but since a staff *can* kind of “belong” to someone, it does smack of ownership, rather than relationship in the way “my sister” or “my family” do.

      For example, it feels wrong to call our department’s admin “my admin,” because it implies she works for ME, and not the department. And yet “my boss” doesn’t have the same wrongness.

      1. Michaela T*

        Once my sister was taking a bite of a taco and her cat simultaneously jumped up and started licking the other end. Cats don’t give a f–k.

      2. Manders*

        Mine have developed a habit of trying to taste any food they see me eating even if it’s not something cats normally eat. I had to fight them for a plain mini bagel yesterday.

        Food on the stove: totally safe from kitties. Food I’m holding in my hand while sitting on the couch: basically cat food.

      3. Unegen*

        My cat would sidle up to me when I was eating something he wanted, and would lay his head in the crook of my elbow (preventing me from moving the food to my mouth) and give me this flirty, come-hither, Pepe La Pew look. “You know you want to give me that food, hoomin.” He did it once at a dinner party and it instantly halted conversation and made everyone start laughing.
        Gosh I miss my boy.

    3. LQ*

      “the guy I’m dating” sounds very distant and remote, like eh maybe you don’t want to be dating him anymore. All very passive ways of saying “my boyfriend” or “my apartment”. I think it is kind of the same if you said, “the staff who work for me” mmm maybe you’re checking out of that job and don’t really care about it and are distancing yourself.

      When my nephew was little we had lots of conversations about how his mom was MY sister, or his grandma was MY mom. It was fun to watch him go from believing that his mom was only his mom and that was the only relationship to realizing that she could be my sister and his mom and his grandma’s daughter and all of that at the same time.

      1. Meg Murry*

        Bringing up this phrasing makes me wonder if the girlfriend is involved with advocacy that is centered around “People First Language” and is sensitive to that. For instance, saying “children with disabilities” or “people with Down’s Syndrome” or “children who recieve special ed services” instead of “handicapped/disabled children” or “mentally retarded people” or “SpEd Kids”. I could see someone who spends a lot of time being hypersensitive about language (or being attuned to others who are hypersensitive about language) bristling at “my staff”.

        I don’t think OP is wrong about using the term “my staff” if he isn’t pompous about it, and there may be times when he should consider whether it comes across that way or contexts where it wouldn’t read well (like at the above hypothetical girlfriend’s company holiday dinner with an entire table full of people even more sensitive to language than the girlfriend, or making a pitch to a client that makes a huge deal about their flat hierarchy where everyone is equal). But overall, I don’t think it’s wrong or something s/he needs to abolish.

        1. LQ*

          Yes, this could be a part of it.

          I think finding out about why. And maybe reading the comments here (possibly even with the girlfriend) can spark some understanding, is it coming off as dehumanizing? Is it the tone? Is it previous uses of it? Industry? Culture? So many things. I’m surprised at how many people are really opposed to it, but it does seem to be very interesting.
          I know I’m listening to everyone for those kinds of my/our/staff/team/etc now with a much more keen ear.

  19. DCompliance*

    #1- Sometimes in life we think people who are our friends turn out to be situational friends. Once the situation we have in common is over (the job), the friendship is over. I have been there and it sucks. I would, however, follow Alison’s advice and talk to the person you feel closest to and give them a chance to prove themselves.

      1. Leigh*

        I didn’t know that was a thing. Knowing about it actually helps (at least it makes me feel better).

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      The funny thing is, I do the exact opposite. While we’re working, I’m pretty much never your friend. I like to have a work/personal life separation. But some of my closest friends now are former co-workers.

  20. shep*

    #1: How rude and disappointing! I’m sorry they’re having trouble being gracious about your moving on. My first long-term job, which allowed me the flexibility to work during graduate school, was toxic in many ways, and my boss was a substantial part of the problem (flaky, forgetful, moody, a compulsive liar, etc.) despite us having a good working relationship (and despite the fact that we were, for better or worse, friends outside of work).

    That said, despite the awfulness, she still went out of her way to encourage me to leave–not to push me away, but she knew there were many issues with the way the company was being operated [independent of her own issues] and knew I wouldn’t be happy there forever. In retrospect, it was really nice to have someone rooting for me at my workplace, and I’m sorry your work-friends aren’t supporting you the way one would expect friends to support each other.

  21. Nancy Raygun*

    #2: I honestly don’t even know why recruiters do this crap. A lot of them (if not most) get a cut that’s based on your starting salary. Wouldn’t they prefer to shoot for a higher number? I can see how they don’t want to overshoot and lose you the job to someone who’s asking for less though. I had a similar experience with a recruiter where I said I was looking for an amount close to the local average and I had plenty of good reason for asking for that amount. She refused to put that on my form and asked for my current salary which I explained was $20k below average. ($20K y’all! That’s why I needed to leave!) So I left, and contacted the firm’s in-house recruiter on LinkedIn, and had a phone interview 4 days later. When I said the average salary she said “Oh, we should be able to do much better than that.” Moral of the story: Do your research and don’t let these people sell you short.

    1. Mike C.*

      Wouldn’t they prefer to shoot for a higher number?

      Put it in terms of opportunity cost or fees over time. If it’s much, much faster to place people who are cheaper it could easily make up for a single, more expensive hire.

      1. Happy Lurker*

        Yes, this. I was trying to place a position once, we ended up looking a 3rd or 4th time in a year-18months. So, I asked the recruiter to go higher on the pay scale; hoping to get a better candidate. It didn’t make any difference as the next person was a loon! Then I got the head recruiter on the line for the next placement she backed the pay back down and said we were overpaying for the position and would do just fine at the original rate. We finally got a decent candidate at that rate. A lot of our issue had to do with the entry level recruiter, which sounds like it maybe some of the OP’s issues along with a crappy recruiter. A crappy recruiter makes everyone a bad “deal”.

  22. PG*

    #5 – I abhor “my” for exactly the same reasons your girlfriend is giving you. I belong to no one, especially at work! “Our” is much more inclusive and psychologically important, IMO.

    It’s a hard habit to get into – but once you do – the potential of accidentally using “my” in front of the group (I work with “management” who ADORE using “my” because they’re aware of the ownership connotation) goes poof. :)

    Disclaimer: I work in HR and am a linguist so I’m much more sensitive to language than the average bear.

    1. Manders*

      But I’m not so sure that “my” is commonly understood to have that connotation. When I say, “I was talking to my friend” or “I had an argument with my mom,” the person I’m speaking with understands that I don’t own those people, but I have a relationship with them. And it’s also common to use “my” to talk about someone who actually has authority over you: my teacher, my boss, my parole officer, my parents.

      1. anonymouse*

        Eh, it depends. As I wrote above, I have a coworker who is slightly senior than me, but not my boss who loooooves using “my PM” when I don’t report to him and he’s only CC’d on emails because he talks to our sales team and I have no contact with them.

        So I get a lot of, “Hi Jane, my PM, anonymouse, will make this change” when he has no authority to tell me that and I don’t belong to him in any hierarchical sense. I’d have no problem with my actual boss using the term or anyone else, but in cases where it’s clearly a display of ownership and authority that’s misplaced. Yeah, I have a problem with that.

        1. Emma*

          But that’s context more than the actual meaning of the word “my.” I’d be annoyed by the scenario you’re talking about, too, but there’s a lot more going into that than pronoun choice.

          Basically, it’s not that using “my” is never used to suggest ownership; it’s that “my ___” doesn’t mean ownership or hierarchy by default. It can mean other relationships or even belonging (“my people”).

      2. Emma*

        This. There’s a difference between something being a possessive and it actually literally meaning you legally own something. The “my friend” example is actually perfect – you aren’t remotely suggesting you own your friend, or that you have some kind of exclusive control over or access to them. There are ways to suggest that, by things like tone, emphasis, and context, but it’s not the default meaning, and friendships in general are assumed to be non-hierarchical.

    2. Library Director*

      To me “our staff” sounds like the “royal we”. I think I would feel even more pretentious.

  23. SouthernBelle*

    #2 – This is actually VERY common when you’re being contacted for contract or contract to perm positions, which I think is the key distinction between what everyone else is used to seeing in the world of recruiting. It basically gets your foot in the door as an active candidate and doesn’t actually limit negotiations down the road (example: I worked with one recruiter who retained me with an agreement for $35 per hour and then, after the interview and negotiations on his side, raised it to $40 at the offer).

    1. Recruit-o-Rama*

      I was coming to say this. Contract to hire firms like to send candidates over with a brief blurb “Ozzie has 12 years of experience in x,y and z, can start right away and has a rate of $x”. Having your agreed upon rate makes it easier for them to place you in their database.

      However, when an individual signs up with an agency like this the process is normally much more transparent and up front. My company recently contracted a team from an agency for a specific IT implementation, a total of 5 contractors from an agency and we used an agency because we wanted them to be able to start within a week. At the end of the project, we interviewed all of them and offered one of them a permanent position which included the normal salary negotion.

      Regardless, it sounds like the recruiters you are talking about are acting weird so I would run.

      Many agencies hire “recruiters” with zero experience and treat them more like disposable sales people so you end up with a lot of ham handed sales approaches to recruiting and it frustrates me because it makes the rest of us look like tools.

  24. Cookie*

    “My Staff”

    The two main issues are context and tone. I worked for someone who never used any of our names (with her superiors or our clients), it was insulting. It was an easy way to take credit for everything.

    I don’t think the OP is the same but I understand why many people don’t like it. If “everybody at work is talking about Game of Thrones” than say that or use their names…. “Amber, Amy and Jennifer keep telling me to watch The Walking Dead”.

    When talking to the boss or higher ups “our team” works but talking up your great employees makes you look much better than saying, “my staff will fix it”.

  25. I'm Not Phyllis*

    People do act weird when you resign … when I resigned from my last job, my boss (who I promise you wasn’t sad to see me go) didn’t talk to me for a week. I’ve worked hard at maintaining friendships with those I want to remain friends with – though I’ll be honest, it hasn’t always worked out – but it wasn’t without initial awkwardness. I’m sure they’re just sad to see you go, and likely jealous that you’re “getting out” and they’re staying. But, you know, that’s on them.

    1. Manders*

      This happened to me too! In that case, it was totally a symptom of the dysfunction I was escaping.

      Also: if the LW and her colleagues are fresh out of grad school, dealing gracefully with a work friend leaving may be a skill they haven’t yet mastered. Grad school programs, especially ones with no set time frame like PhDs, are often big into loyalty and don’t always teach students about how to tell when it’s time to move on professionally.

      1. Leigh*

        OP #1 here: Yep, we were all hired straight out of grad school, although we’ve worked here for almost six years. So we’re not super young (early 30s), but this is the first professional job most of us have had, and I’m the first to leave. This is new for everyone.

  26. C Average*

    I have a lot of people in my friends-and-acquaintances circle for whom diet is a defining characteristic–that is, in the first five minutes you know them, you learn that they are vegan, gluten-free, paleo, lactose intolerant, etc. If I’m throwing a dinner party, this is good information to have, but I have to admit that I’m tired of hearing so much about everyone’s food preferences all the damned time in the course of everyday conversation.

    If I saw “vegan mentor” on someone’s resume, I would try really hard to focus on the rest of their resume and take the details of the “vegan mentorship” subject at face value–skills gained, tasks performed, etc. But I’d also think, in the part of my mind that I’m not particularly proud of, “Great. Here’s another person in my life with a high-maintenance diet that they consider central to their identity and that I’m going to have to hear about all the time.”

    Again, I’m not proud of this. Just being honest here.

    1. ElizabethWest*

      I think OP could mitigate that somewhat by the way she words it–rather than putting vegan first, just do it like Alison suggested–“mentorship of an online vegan community,” or something of the sort. Then if asked about it, she can discuss the challenges and the skills she learned without even referring to the purpose of the group.

    2. Brogrammer*

      I feel pretty much the same way. Not proud either, but it’s a conditioned response at this point. And as you point out, this behavior is definitely not limited to vegans.

    3. Random Lurker*

      +1. Society has rewarded people for being special snowflakes, and dietary restrictions are seen as being special. People can’t help but bring it up. I’m very sensitive to this, because I’m paleo. I never talk about it (unless someone brings it up with a genuine curiosity), because 1) who cares, and 2) I find that most people want to tell me why they think it’s crazy/stupid/not healthy. And I see why the people in the latter reason exist: most of my acquaintances who are paleo can’t wait for an opportunity to evangelize it. Are they representative of the whole? Probably not, but I know that’s the perception out there.

      My advice, if you’re paleo, gluten free, vegan, only eat cheerios between the hours of 12 and 2: nobody wants to hear about your diet shit. Period. It isn’t interesting. It doesn’t make you special. Stop annoying the rest of us about it.

      Back to C Average’s point, if I saw it on a resume, it would make me think in a way I maybe would not have if it was just listed as “volunteer mentorship”. I would never discriminate against someone over their diet, but “vegan mentorship” would have me asking myself some questions. That sounds like something more than a diet, but rather, a full on commitment to a lifestyle that has some perceptions that may cause problems in the workplace. Will this person come in and raise a fuss when another team orders a pepperoni pizza for lunch, and leaves the extras in the break room? Will they be upset when someone wears a leather coat? Like C Average, I’m not proud that this is what I’d think, but there it is.

  27. Allison*

    From a hiring perspective, when someone puts something very personal pertaining to their beliefs of lifestyle on their resume, it’s not an automatic reject but it does raise questions about that person’s personal vs. professional boundaries, and whether it’s going to bleed into how they interact with others in the office. If you list being a vegan mentor, people might see leadership abilities, but they may also be concerned that you’re going to “mentor” your colleagues to make changes to their diets. Not that you will, of course, but it’s often a cause for concern. And again, concern isn’t rejection, but it’s still something t think about.

    1. Emma*

      Honestly, I’d have the same concern if someone put down something like “fitness coach” (for a non-fitness position) or anything religious for a secular workplace – especially if it was volunteer, and especially if they aren’t including it to emphasize specific important skills they can’t show in another way. I’m kind of getting there with political campaign stuff too, especially something like “petition canvasser.”

      Like, I get that these are all legit jobs or volunteer groups, but they could very easily bring a kind of bleedthrough I wouldn’t really want to be subjected to. (I am, fairly or not, especially wary of religious volunteer stuff.) Especially for minor, could-easily-omit-from-resume positions, I wonder why you feel it’s so important that I know about this personal belief or lifestyle habit of yours.

        1. LadyKelvin*

          Yeah and then I would even be vague about how I listed it. For example I was involved in a young adult religious group when in college and planned events, meetings, and fundraisers among other things where I had a lot of responsibility and gained a lot of leadership experience among my peers. But I wouldn’t list is as the name of the religious group, I would list that it was a Young Adult Interest Group or something so that I could explain where I got my leadership experience but not turn off people who don’t like religions.

  28. Employment Lawyer*

    OP3: No problem. I live in a small community and we constantly run into school staff–not just in the gym, but on the beach, out on the town, etc. Just act like it’s no big deal and it will be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Why on earth should it matter if the person who talks to you in the shower is the parent of a kid you teach?

    OP4: Nobody cares what you eat–vegan or otherwise. But vegans have a bad rap because many people who are publicly vegans present a quasi-cultish and quasi-proselytising and lecturing and incessant focus on food and animals. I’ve met more than a few.

    This is not needed. You assume people will care, or should care, about what you eat. But in normal society people don’t really give a hoot about what other people eat. And there’s no reason for them to care, or even KNOW–unless you’re one of those folks who wears your veganism on your sleeve and waves it like a badge of challenge.

    Everyone has foods that they don’t eat but nobody knows about it, because nobody cares. Were it me, I would take that route: leave the vegan monitoring and enforcing and mentoring out of the job context, and out of the job entirely. Treat it as unimportant and irrelevant, and you will demonstrate you’re not one of “those” vegans.

    1. burnout*

      #4: Exactly. Nobody cares. It reads to me as if you are looking for a way to somehow put it on your resume. It has no place there, just as you would not think twice about listing your religion or sexual preference. It’s your lifestyle choice. Has nothing to do with work.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I’m really confused by this take! It’s like saying “you’re just looking for a way to put on your resume that you’re LGBT” when someone lists LGBT-related volunteer work. It’s about the volunteer work, not the issue they’re working on.

        1. Employment Lawyer*

          “It’s about the volunteer work, not the issue they’re working on.”

          I disagree. Most such things are actually an attempt at signalling. Even if they are relevant to the job, the volume of the political signal is usually much greater than the volume of the “relevant work experience.”

          That is often true for LGBT stuff as well. The inclusion of “chairperson of LGBTS Alliance” or “chair of College Republicans” is something I see all the time on a resume. It rarely conveys much worthwhile information about your job skills. It’s mostly used as a signal, to (a) reduce the possibility that you’ll inadvertently end up working for someone you think is a jerk; and (b) increase the possibility of being hired by like-minded folks.

          Admittedly I am opposed to what seems to be an increasing modern trend: First folks choose to do their favorite thing. Then they want a benefit from doing their favorite thing, so they attempt to recast it as some sort of “community service.” Windsurfing…. to save dolphins! Pokemon… to help the indigent! Enforcing rules on a vegan bulletin board… to help the community! Which, well, no.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Honestly, it is very often not an attempt at signaling. It’s true that with LGBT stuff in particular, it can be a great way to screen out bigoted bosses, but there are loads of interests that one might do professionally-relevant volunteer work for (or paid work, for that matter) and it’s not inherently an attempt at signaling to include it on a resume.

            1. Employment Lawyer*

              OK, I concede that was too generic. Let me rephrase:

              1) The more that that an interest is based on belief (religion, veganism, political lobbying) the more likely it is to be a signal, and the less appropriate it is to include on a resume (other than for signalling purposes.)

              2) The more that an interest is based on the activity (playing the bongos, coaching youth soccer, planting trees, building, cleaning) the less likely it is to be a signal, and the more appropriate it is for a resume.

              3) #1 overrides #2. If you coach a church youth soccer team because you’re a church deacon, then you need to genericize it (“youth soccer coach”) or otherwise it’s a signal.

              compare “members of College Student Against Homelessness” (signal) to “spent 10 hours/week for the past three months running a roofing squad at some Habitat for humanity build sites” (relevant.)

              Or, compare “moderates a vegan hangout site populated by like-minded people and enforces online comments about veganism” (signal) to “personally responsible for initiating and staffing a ‘gleaning’ program which provided 40 tons of fresh vegetables, at no cost, to my local homeless shelters” (relevant.)

              This is important because signals work in both ways. I probably wouldn’t hire the vegan OP if I read this post, for example: I could care less about what they eat or wear, but I have minimal tolerance for people who make “eating/wearing” a focus, and someone who moderstes a vegan discussion/training group is likely to be in that category.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I think you’re reading too conclusively into stuff that just isn’t always intended as signaling (and assuming that people are much more confident about what should and shouldn’t go on a resume, and how to present it there, than they actually are)!

                1. Employment Lawyer*

                  I think I’m just being realistic.

                  When faced with a lot of resumes, everyone gets overly conclusive. They know they may be missing something which could be teased out through a lot of detailed interviews, but they don’t care.

                  In the end, it’s all about screening. And screening is all about signalling. Whether it’s lingo or fonts or spelling, we know that you can’t sum up a person in a single sheet of paper. All the paper does is to signal the likelihood that they’re worth spending time talking to. And even a 30 minute interview doesn’t tell you enough to really know; it mostly gives you better signals.

                  If I were going to write a chapter of a resume/employment guide, I would title it “Everything is a Signal.”

                  I have to admit that I think some of your answers are too accepting w/r/t including activities. Whether or not people are consciously aware that they are signalling (or responding to signals,) they are. Activities are usually Exhibit A.

          2. Library Director*

            “Windsuring…to save dolphins!”
            I now have to clean my monitor. Thanks for the afternoon laugh.

    2. NaoNao*

      I think a possible reason it could matter is that often a teacher has to deliver bad news to a parent, ask for co operation, or firmly argue that yes, Baby Snookums is indeed in need of____ (extra help, more discipline, whatever).
      It’s hard to maintain professional distance and an air of authority when said parent has seen your ill-advised Tazmanian Devil tattoo or whatever!
      When you’re working out or chatting in the shower, it’s friendly and casual. Sometimes a teacher may need to be a mentor to the parents, advocate for the child, or opposing party telling the parents something they don’t want to hear, which is the opposite of friendly and casual.

  29. OP #5*

    Thank you to Alison for answering my question! I’m totally fascinated by the discussion. I’m thinking this must be a culture thing. I’ve mostly worked in academia (super hierarchical) and my girlfriend currently works in a field that has a very different structure. She’s also done a ton more food service/customer service than me. I don’t think I’m better than those who I supervise and generally like to be inclusive of everyone for a project (e.g. not just including those with advanced degrees, which is typical). However, the buck does stop with me and there is a power dynamic whether or not I like/want that. I’d prefer less hierarchy, but I’m trying to do my best to recognize its existence while trying to disrupt how I have seen things done in past work places. I suppose that’s why I wrote in, because I don’t naturally like hierarchy but it’s absolutely a large part of my work experience. I’ve never felt weird when someone has called me a part of their staff, so I’m grateful to hear all the responses.

    1. Awkward Interviewee*

      Do you happen to work in res life or some other area of student affairs? When I hear “my staff” I immediately think of a few res life/student affairs friends who have used the term when talking about their group of supervisees.

  30. Tommy*

    When I was a kid, I’d interact with older (than me) men at church a lot. At some point in my teens I joined a group of young adult men that had a disproportionate number of married young men (it was a city with a medical, dental, and law school, so we had a lot of young couples move in just out of undergrad). All of a sudden I started hearing the phrase “my wife” a lot more often and it honestly bothered me a bit.

    At the time, it seemed strange to me for a man to always refer to his wife as “my wife” rather than by her name, like he wanted to keep emphasizing that she was his wife rather than just refer to her in conversation. I can’t say it seemed “possessive,” but it did seem kind of dehumanizing to always refer to someone by their role and not by their name.

    Now that I have a wife, I know I often refer to her as “my wife” in casual conversation because it makes it clearer who I’m talking about when the listener doesn’t know her. I’m certainly not trying to dehumanize her. But I can see why someone might be a bit weirded out by it because I was.

    My advice to the OP, is to maybe read these comments, find out why some people might be sensitive to this form of speaking, and then try to refer to your staff by their first names with your girlfriend. Not because you’ve done anything wrong, but because it really doesn’t hurt.

    1. Brogrammer*

      I can totally understand where the initial “bristling” instinct comes from, as well as why using “my _____” really is a practical thing to do. My wife (see what I did there) has a habit of referring to people who aren’t present by their names rather than by her relationship to them, and it can get quite confusing if she’s talking about someone I don’t know or have only met once! I’ll often have to stop her and say, “Wait, who’s Fergus again?”

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        I know someone who does that – she’ll say “That sounds like something Betty would say,” as if Betty were like Oprah or Madonna and needed no last name or clue to her relationship status, and if I bother to question it (I don’t bother any more) it turns out that Betty is a friend she had when she lived in another state, so there’s no reason I’d even know who she’s talking about. It is frustrating.

  31. Mental Health Day*

    OP, I think when you announce you are leaving a job is also when you find out who your real friends at work are. What is happening to you is pretty common overall I think, and it has certainly been my experience in job after job. The people that are supportive of your decision to leave, wish you the best, and make a reasonable effort to keep in touch are much closer to real friends than those that give you a hard time. Everybody else you really shouldn’t worry about.
    Also, you really shouldn’t be planning your own going away party. If nobody else steps up to do it, then that is a pretty good indication of where you really stood with these people. And, honestly, that’s OK. I think, and as AAM stated, very few work friendships make the transition to real friendships. And, really, we shouldn’t expect them to.
    At the end of the day, don’t take it personally. I know it’s hard not to. I’m a pretty gregarious person and tend to make a lot of “friends” at work. But, like clockwork, every time I leave a job, it’s really only a handful of people that stick around as real friends. The rest are more like acquaintances. Which is perfectly fine.
    You may feel a bit hurt or disappointed right now, but keep in mind it is you that are moving on to greener pastures. Best of luck to you!

    1. MashaKasha*

      Agree, and this is true for any life change, and for any type of friends, not just work ones. And I say it as someone who once DATED a former coworker and stayed friends after things ended. So real work friendships (and more) do exist. They are just very rare; just like any close friendships in general are very rare.

      I used to be very social and have several large groups of friends. With work friends, we’d get together outside of work, our kids would become friends, we’d come to each other’s weddings and other milestone celebrations etc, i.e. clearly a closer relationship than just chatting by a water cooler. When those groups, or parts of them, would stop communicating or inviting me to their gatherings after a life change, job change etc., I used to take it as losing friends, which was a painful way to look at it. But this isn’t losing friends at all. It’s falling out of touch with casual acquaintances. Nothing bad about that!

    2. CMT*

      Yeah, OP 1, I’d let go of the going away get together. It’s clear nobody really wants to do it, and that’s perfectly fine because work friends are friends at work. I have work friends and I really don’t have any desire to spend time with them outside of working hours. All we have in common is work, so that’s what our conversations are about, and it’s just not how I want to spend my non-working hours. Again, this is totally fine. It doesn’t make the coworkers jerks. The rude comments do, though. It’s a bummer they can’t at least pretend to be polite for the remaining time you have.

  32. IT_Guy*

    OP #2 Don’t trust this recruiter!!

    They are doing a bait and switch and hope you don’t notice. When somebody asks me this (recruiter/interviewer/etc), I say my salary requirement are based on the whole compensation package, not just the money. If they press and ask how much I want to make, I just say “Based on average benefits and environment I would like to make a minimum of $$$$, but that number can change. ” That number is the absolute minimum I can survive on.

    I have lost several jobs because after we talk and I get more information (lots of overtime/excessive commute/no 401K), I revise the number upwards. And always, always get everything spelled out as far as cost, such as insurance cost and benefits.

  33. FCJ*

    #5, I think that regardless of what strangers on the internet tell you about normal/not normal, if your usage bugs your girlfriend you need to take that into consideration. It’s hard to tell from your letter how this is playing out between you two, but I hope that you don’t use Alison’s answer to win an argument. “Ask A Manager says it’s normal, so you’re being irrational” would be a crappy way to treat your girlfriend. Take it as confirmation that you’re not generally out of line, and find different ways to refer to your workplace in your girlfriend’s presence, for her sake.

    If that’s not what’s going on, and it’s totally a friendly disagreement where she’s waiting for the answer as much as you are, awesome. But just in case it’s not, avoid being a jerk.

  34. NP Admin*

    OP #1, I had a similar situation when I left my previous job for my current one about a year ago. Upon reflection, I think there were a couple of different explanations for the behavior. For one work friend, she was legitimately very sad that I was leaving so she took some time to herself before saying anything to me about it. I understood, but was still taken aback. For some others…I think that they perceived my leaving as an indication that I felt I was somehow “too good” for our position or organization, and that I felt I was superior to them. I am still Facebook “friends” with some of them, and one in particular posts stuff all the time about how she loves her position and organization, like over-the-top gushing. In reality it just wasn’t a good cultural fit for me. Another contributing factor is that I left at the same time as someone else in my department, so those who were remaining had to pick up the slack. That really wasn’t my fault (if anything, poor management was to blame) but I did feel guilty about that.

  35. Aimless*

    As an agency IT recruiter, I want to push back a little on Alison’s response to #2 and offer an explanation, if not exactly a defense, of the recruiter’s process in this instance.

    Alison’s answer makes total sense in the context of a full-time role which may include benefits, bonuses, etc. However, based on the OP’s comment about an hourly rate, my guess is that this is for the type of role most IT agencies specialize in: a temporary, contract hourly role in which the only benefits are the ones the agency itself may offer. In the vast majority of cases, the clients we work with have a fairly strict cap on their bill rate. This, along with our agency’s requirements for gross profit margins, give me a pretty set range for the pay rates I can offer potential consultants. It is standard in our industry, and expected by the clients we work with, that we will present candidates at a specific, agreed-upon bill rate, While I wouldn’t go so far as to say that rate is “set in stone”, it is only in rare cases (such as if the interview reveals the position to be wildly different than originally described) that the rate can be changed after the fact.

    This isn’t as problematic as it may seem – the roles we work on are typically quite niche-specific, and the candidates we work with are experienced contractors who know exactly what they charge per hour, and what the market rate range is for their skills. While I can’t defend recruiters who use a “bull in the china shop” method to discuss the rate, I do get dozens of replies a day to my carefully crafted and detailed job descriptions with “whats the rate?” It’s abrupt and not my favorite type of email to receive, but I understand the instinct – neither the recruiter not the candidates wants to waste time if the compensation is wildly off.

    We push for email confirmation for two reasons. One is obvious – to mitigate misunderstandings down the road in the hiring process. The other is, in most cases we are competing for the same small pool of niche talent with many other recruiters working on the same position. Having an email confirmation proves to the client that the candidate did, indeed, consent to being submitted by my agency to a specific role at a certain rate, and can protect both parties.

    Look, a good recruiter needs to have some finesse. I have no desire to have a lengthy conversation about a role where the salary is way off, but instead of saying “this is for Chocolate Teapots, what’s your rate?” I might instead say “I think your resume looks like a great match for Chocolate Teapots, I just want to make sure that we are on the same page when it comes to compensation” and continue the conversation from there. By the same token, as much as we are pressured to cover our positions quickly and get ahead of the competition, it is just bad form and manners to pester the candidate multiple times an hour, particularly when the candidate is probably working for another employer. Moreover, a good recruiter should have the ability to “read” the candidate – if I can tell someone is uncomfortable with the rate discussion or the speed at which the process is progressing, I address that with them and don’t move forward until I truly have their buy-in.

    That said, I don’t think the basic premise of confirming a rate prior to submittal, in this context, warrants a “run from this recruiter!”

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      In the vast majority of cases, the clients we work with have a fairly strict cap on their bill rate. This, along with our agency’s requirements for gross profit margins, give me a pretty set range for the pay rates I can offer potential consultants.

      But what you’re describing is different from what the OP describes. You’re saying there’s a strict cap, which presumably you’re up front about with candidates.

      I have been dealing with IT recruiters lately, and they have mostly started conversations with “what are your salary requirements?” immediately after just giving me the name and location of the job! I make it a point to ask follow-up questions, have them send me the job description, and make sure they understand I will have several considerations to take into account, before addressing the range with which I’m comfortable. I usually throw out a high number just to see what they come back with.

      Recently during this conversation, the recruiter asked if I would be interested in a $10 less per hour figure than I had thrown out — much to my surprise. I said it’s close enough to start an application process.

      They already having a discussion about what the OP’s salary requirements were and then the recruiter asked her if she’d be interested in $X/hour.

      If there’s a cap, don’t even have a discussion. Just say “I have a job for $X/hour. That number is non-negotiable. This is what I can tell you about the position. Are you still interested, even if I have to have you sign to agree for this amount?”

      1. Aimless*

        It actually does sound like the same situation. I do have a max rate I can pay, but I don’t necessarily want to offer that right up front. If I can pay a max of $50 per hour, and the candidate is asking for $45, I can offer the candidate to the client at a lower rate than my competitors and they may have a leg up because of this. If they ask for much less or much more, I know they position is not at the right level.

        Again, this situation sounds more like a lack of finesse/recruiting experience than anything else. I have had similar conversations to this:

        Me: You look like a very experienced Teapot Engineer, can you give me a sense of what your hourly rate is?
        Consultant: Well, on my last contract I made $80 per hour
        Me: Okay, the max I can pay for this role is $70 per hour. Is that worth considering, or should I wait until we get an opportunity that is closer to your going rate?

        As Alison says, their answer to this may vary depending on the job, the company, the commute, if/how long they’ve been out of work, and any number of other factors – but it doesn’t necessarily mean I’m trying to lowball them, or that I was disregarding the salary quote they gave me in the first place.

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          But that’s exactly what I’m talking about. Sounds as if you’re very straightforward with what the candidate can expect and why. In the OP’s description, it sounded as if the recruiter was being very underhanded and dodgy about the whole thing.

          1. Aimless*

            Yeah, I guess you’re right that, if you have a gut instinct that a recruiter is being less than straightforward with you, it is best not to continue.

            However, the basics of the transaction – getting the candidate to commit to an agreed-upon hourly rate in writing, prior to being submitted for the role – are standard operating procedure for contract IT recruiting, and shouldn’t be considered a red flag (unless, as you said, there are other concerns with the particular recruiter or agency).

            1. OP#2*

              ^ This , exactly, gets to the crux of my original qundary– that ” getting the candidate to commit to an agreed-upon hourly rate in writing, prior to being submitted for the role – are standard operating procedure for contract IT recruiting, and shouldn’t be considered a red flag”

              Aimless, thank you for providing the recruiting perspective/rationale in this and previous posts. I’ve had a similar (if somewhat less pushy) approach from various recruiters since, so this makes sense.

  36. Mr Mike*

    OP#4: I can relate. I’m vegan & never talked about it at work. The only reason co-workers knew about it was that I lost 100# in a year & they thought I had cancer! Biggest mistake I EVER MADE. I never talked about my diet unless someone else brought it up. People I barely knew would walk-up & rant unprovoked, about PETA to my face, not caring if I was a member or not!

    The worst came when my department of six got a new out-of-state manager who would come by every month & take us out to lunch. My co-workers thought it would be funny to arrange to go to restaurants with NO veg options. Thus trying to force me to eat meat or not eat anything. This wasn’t a problem since I simply ordered the salad WITHOUT chicken. After the fourth business lunch, our new boss quit taking us out when he came every month. My co-workers blamed me because because they claimed he was uncomfortable dining with a vegan. I pointed-out that I never told him I was vegan!

    A year later he sent us an e-mail saying he was going to take us to Smashburger when he came the next week. Since they have a veggie burger, I thought ‘Great!’ I should have seen it coming. Two hours before our lunchdate, I was called into HR & told I was being laid-off…

    1. Mr Mike*

      The receptionist called me the next day & asked if I wanted to meet my co-workers at a local bar to say goodbye & I told her they had their celebration at lunch yesterday…

  37. Analyze All The Data*

    OP#4 – I wonder if you’d be able to call it a whole-food, plant-base, or just plant-based community instead. It tends to get around the knee-jerk, anti-vegan sentiment while still accurately describing the type of community it is. Plant-based is really a broader term for veganism that doesn’t have the moral connotations, which I think is what gets peoples’ goats.

    1. anonymousveganforthis*

      I like this suggestion, I suspect the word “vegan” might be what’s triggering the majority of the reaction / connotation and overshadowing the actual work experience you want to share. (FWIW I’m vegan and even I have some negative connotations with the word vegan.) Based on the responses here, on a site where the comments are generally very reasonable and thoughtful, I’m willing to bet that bringing up veganism at all is going to be a risky move and more likely to hurt your candidacy than help it.

      On the other hand, in my experience your coworkers *are* likely to eventually find out that you’re vegan, because it’s just kinda hard to hide it without being awkward. I make a point of never bringing it up until / unless I’m asked about it directly, but there are only so many times I can politely decline to eat the office cupcakes before that happens. So if you wouldn’t want to work in an environment where people do feel that strongly anti-veganism, it might be a useful screening tool. I work in a great office where most people are not weird about it and often go above and beyond to accommodate me, but there was also that one guy who got very aggressive about tracking me down at least once a week to tell me that he WOULD MAKE ME eat meat before the end of the year. If he had been my boss, or even just representative of the company’s attitude in general, it would’ve been a really miserable work environment.

  38. Rachel*

    1. They sound jealous. It’s unfortunate, but try to not let it bother you too much.

    2. I feel that this is pretty common. They don’t want to waste their time with a candidate who doesn’t fit their strict client’s salary guidelines.

  39. Kimberly*

    #3 as long as the locker rooms are adult only, it shouldn’t be an issue. I did quit a gym, when I found out that parents would be bringing my students (5th grade both genders) into the women’s changing room for a swimming program. I lived 45min to 1.5 hours from my school the gym was near to my school. I couldn’t go before school and get to campus in time for early duty (I had to be there at 6:30 am). So after school was the only practical time and it that was the same time as the swim program. The gym worked with me and allowed me to transfer to a gym in the same group near my house but still get my district discount.

    If I taught teenagers I would not use a gym they had access to. I would not want to put myself in a situation where a upset or disturbed student/parent could take something innocent like passing in the locker room and twist it to seem inappropriate.

  40. OP#2 Ridwan A.*

    Thank you, Alison, for responding to my question.
    Thanks to so many others for a great discussion!

    To clarify something– yes, I am in a very niche “subject matter expert” kind of position, and many of these calls have been for contract/to-perm positions. As such, there’s less nebulous “benefits” to speak of– and I’m perfectly comfortable discussing a “salary range.” It’s the subsequent pushiness to submit I found really off-putting, and thanks to some of your comments I have a better understanding of how the whole recruiting process works in the background.

    Luckily I’m not desperate (yet! haha) in my job-search, so I’ve been able to keep a good humor about some of the more ridiculous propositions!

    Thanks again,

  41. Chris*

    Related, on a forum I used to post on, there was an enormous, weeks-long, 5-alarm fire of a flame war over this topic in reference to one’s significant other.

    That “My Wife” or “My Boyfriend” was somehow dehumanizing. I was never quite clear on how they would refer to them, then… their usual answer was “by their names, obviously”, but then, who is this “Bob”? “Oh, he is the person to whom I am married,” I guess? No human being would ever say that.

    1. 2*

      Going on 40 years of marriage, my mom has never referred to my dad by his first name– “your Mr A”, “your dad” , “R’s father”, “the Doctor” (serious!) — all kinds of torturous (I think!) ways to avoid being “disrespectful.”

      Something I will never understand– but really talks about how peoples perspectives on titles/names differ!

      #5 I don’t think it’s weird– “my staff” are the people that work under me, which may also be “my team” but who may also refer to each other as “my team” including, or not including me. But my staff cannot refer to me as my staff!

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