former coworkers keep gossiping to me about my old job, new hire taking vacation during most sought-after week, and more

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

1. Former coworkers keep gossiping to me about my old job

I left my long-time employer about a year ago to take a new job. I loved the old place and envisioned a career there. But the job and workplace had changed so much, with several reorganizations and management changes, that I no longer felt respected or valued, and I didn’t see my career progressing. I realized I wanted to move on and I found a new job I love.

I was close to many colleagues and they were shocked that I left. It was very painful for me to leave, and I had plenty of sleepness nights and teary good-byes. I have stayed in touch with a few closest colleagues, I am LinkedIn and Facebook connections with many more, and I see a few around town in person on occasion.

The problem is that a few former colleagues contact me from time to time to tell me bits of gossip about my old workplace. They even pass along unkind things people have said about me or other news about the current management’s controversial decisions that undo a lot of our hard work. It’s painful for me to hear about this, or to see pictures on Facebook of ex-coworkers, who I thought were my friends and colleagues, having fun at work events. Some ex-colleagues ask for advice on how to handle various situations, and I don’t want to get involved.

I thought about un-friending people but I am worried it would look strange if I suddenly disappeared from 100-plus peoples’ Facebook and LinkedIn connections. I also want to remain friends with the people I was closest to, but I don’t see how I can do that and make our old workplace off the table for discussion.

You can indeed make your old workplace off the table for discussion. It’s perfectly reasonable to want a clean break and not to want to hear unkind things people said about you (!). Do the following:

A. Change your Facebook settings to hide posts from your former coworkers. That way you won’t be unfriending them, but you won’t see their posts.
B. When former coworkers try to talk to you about your old employer, say this: “It’s been stressing me out to keep hearing what’s going on at Teapots Inc. and I’m trying to make a clean break. Can we avoid Teapots talk for a while?” (You may have to remind them of this a couple of times before it sinks in. They’re used to seeing you in a work context.)
C. When necessary, say directly, “I really don’t want to hear stuff like this. I have a ban on Teapots talk for at least six months. Tell me about ___ (non-work-related topic) instead.”

Be aware, though, that once work is removed as a topic of conversation, there might not be a whole lot left to the friendships. It’s really common to discover after you leave a job that work was the basis of your bond; it’s no reflection on you if that happens.

Also, make a point of throwing yourself into building relationships at your new job. It’s normal to have some initial trouble cutting the ties to an old workplace, but you don’t want it to be painful to see photos of them doing normal things like attending work events. That’s a sign that you probably need to be very deliberate about turning your attention to other, more current things.

Read an update to this letter here.

2. Should I give up a spacious office with a window for a window-less office closer to my team?

I recently started a new job. I am in a senior position at a mid-sized company. On my first day, I was given a very nice office with a window outside of my department. There is no room for me to sit with the rest of my department. My counterpart with the same title who does sit in the department has an office the size of mine plus a conference table. I really like my office, but I feel like I’m missing out because I am not sitting in my department. I think listening to water cooler chat about what others are working on would help me assimilate and be more successful in my position faster.

The other senior members of the department have gone out of their way to drop by my office for friendly chats. Also, my boss and I are definitely on our way to a great working relationship, but since I work independently, I have not had an occasion to have much interaction with the rest of the department. I have participated in every office lunch, baby shower, and happy hour that I have been invited to since I joined, but that often includes people from all departments and work is rarely discussed.

Here is my dilemma – my boss has been trying to figure out how to integrate me into the department more and she mentioned that there is a chance one of the smaller, windowless offices will open up in the department. The office barely contains a desk and two chairs and you have to move one of the chairs to close the door. I do have to close my door regularly for conference calls and when I need to focus on detailed work. If I were to move, I believe that would be my office for the rest of my career with this company (or at least until my counterpart with the same title chose to leave). Is it better to keep my great office outside of the department or accept the lesser office within the department?

Based on what you’ve said, I’d take the smaller office. (And get rid of one of those chairs so that it’s not so cramped and you can more easily close the door!) But that’s just me — I could work in a underground cavern with no sunlight and wouldn’t ever care. More normal people seem to like sunlight. You need to balance what’s important to you in deciding this.

Alternately, you could look for other ways to boost your opportunity for interaction with people. There might be things you could do that would be just as effective as sitting in their same area, or even more, like inviting people to lunch or coffee, walking over there to talk to people in person instead of calling or emailing (when reasonable, not in an annoying way), etc.

3. New hire taking vacation during most sought-after week

I’m the newest hire at my company, and it’s my first job out of college. My parents, who live on the opposite side of the country, really wanted me to come home for Christmas, so during my first month (in July), I spoke to my supervisor and my department head and requested the time off with HR. My request was approved. However, several of my coworkers, who are more senior, have been complaining. They do not think it is fair that the newest hire got approved for time off during the most popular holiday season.

I followed all of HR’s rules for requesting time off, and all my superiors gave me the go-ahead and support to do this, but now I’m feeling sort of crummy for asking for it in the first place. Was it inappropriate for me to request a Christmas vacation so early and when I was still really new, or are my coworkers being unnecessarily hostile?

No, it wasn’t unreasonable of you. It’s possible that there are existing conventions in your office that you didn’t know about, like that people generally don’t put in holiday requests until after Labor Day or something, but you obviously wouldn’t know that as a new person, and if they were formal rules, you would have been told when you submitted your request.

If it will give you peace of mind, you could ask your manager if you did anything wrong, but given that they approved the request, it’s pretty likely that you’re going to be told you didn’t. But having that conversation might make you feel better and might give you more insight into why people are complaining.

4. Can I tell colleagues that I really want a different job?

I am in a field with few jobs. As a result, my first job will likely be related to what I want to do but outside my field. Is there a way to tactfully express that this is a “starter” job and that my goal is actually to be in another position? I am thinking about conversations with colleagues and potential networking opportunities, not my manager or coworkers. I want to keep doors open and not imply that I have changed direction from my initial goal.

My plan is to be a public librarian, but I am applying for positions like research analyst, grants writer, records manager, and community resource specialist. I have experience as a library assistant but I can’t afford to live on the paraprofessional salary any longer and need benefits and full-time, stable work.

Well, definitely don’t call it a “starter job.” That risks conveying that you don’t take it seriously or think you’re better than other people in similar roles. But you can certainly share with colleagues that your ultimate goal is to be a librarian (just don’t make it sound to current coworkers like you’re actively looking and could leave any day, especially when you’ve been there less than a year, since that would make you look really unreliable and could get back to your boss and cause problems).

5. Building an online presence when you have a very common name

I have a very generic, run-of-the-mill name. I also don’t have much of a social media presence. I can’t even find myself using Google! How much effort should I put into cleaning up my online presence?

It doesn’t sound like you have anything to clean up (i.e., problematic things that you want to remove or push down in search results) but rather than you’re wondering if you need to proactively build an online presence. The answer is: In most fields, it doesn’t matter. There are a few where it does, but you’d probably know if you’re in one of them (for example, if you worked in social media). It’s not a basic that you need to have for job hunting the way a resume or professional shoes are; for most people, it’s truly optional.

Plus, if you have a very common name, the work you’d need to put into building an online presence that jumped out above everyone else with you name is probably pretty significant, and not worth doing unless you truly need to.

{ 202 comments… read them below }

  1. Stellaaaaa*

    OP3: You didn’t do anything wrong. You requested the time off and it was approved. I agree that you should speak to your manager about this though. It does seem like there’s some office norm that you might have inadvertently stepped on.

    “My parents, who live on the opposite side of the country, really wanted me to come home for Christmas.”

    I’d stop with this type of language though. I know you probably think it’s a way of softening the blow, like it wasn’t even your idea to take the vacation time, but invoking your parents’ authority over you isn’t a good move at your first professional job. You’re going on vacation because you want to.

    1. Jeanne*

      How do the others know you asked for the week off? If you’re talking about it, it’s way too early to be bringing up Christmas vacation. If they found out separately, there’s a possibility someone else asked and was told no because you asked first. That could cause resentment. You need to talk to the boss and find out what’s going on.

      1. Christopher Tracy*

        Or there’s a public calendar with people’s names and PTO dates listed. My last division had one for the entire year posted, so it would be really easy for someone to go out on our business unit intranet page and find out who’s out when.

      2. Joseph*

        “If they found out separately, there’s a possibility someone else asked and was told no because you asked first.”
        This may be the case, but that still isn’t really OP’s fault. Let’s break it down:
        1.) OP didn’t ask until July – not like she rushed in there January 3rd before anybody else had the chance to think about taking off.
        2.) Christmas comes at the same time every year – it’s not like (for example) a wedding where you might only get a few months’ notice.
        3.) In many (though not all) industries, it’s common to allow more people off around the holidays than you would at other times since many of your clients will also be on vacation.
        If you really, desperately needed the time off, you schedule it well in advance. Scheduling a cross-country trip six months in advance, like OP is doing, isn’t really unreasonable.

    2. Sarah Gross*

      Good point! This line struck me as “young” and not the most professional way to frame things, but it wouldn’t have occurred to me to point that out, probably just because it’s not *that* big of deal, but it definitely makes a certain impression. Good call to leave that out!

      1. Lemon Zinger*

        100% this! It’s so important as a young person to get over that hurdle as much as you can. I’m 23 and many of my also-young colleagues talk about their parents a lot. It makes it feel very high school, and I don’t like it. Keeping a bit more rigidly professional early in your career is important for your image. There’s no need to talk about mom and dad at work.

        1. CMT*

          I’m not fresh-out-college and neither are my coworkers and we all occasionally talk about our parents (we all happen to live in the same city as our parents). It’s not an inherently unprofessional topic.

    3. Daisy*

      Maybe not said that way, but parents on other side of the country is a fine reason to give. Personally I think it’s nice to give dibs on Christmas time off to people who don’t have family locally.

      1. Dan*

        It’s the framing. “I want to visit family on the opposite coast” is one thing, “my parents really want me to…” is a different thing.

        1. JOTeepe*

          Yeah, I see what you are saying, and I don’t disagree with you, but I agree with Daisy above. I don’t think giving preference to either parents with young children and/or people who have to travel more than a couple hours by car to see family should be an official rule by any means, but I know that I would feel pretty rotten personally if a new hire out of college was spending the holiday by herself because I wanted to putz around the house in my pjs all week.

          1. Temperance*

            I would feel even worse if I was forced to go in to work while a brand new hire was taking the week off.

            1. Alton*

              That’s a very individual thing, though. I wouldn’t have a problem with a new hire in my department taking time off unless I felt like I wasn’t given a similar level of consideration when it came to requests that were imortant to me.

              I don’t celebrate Christmas, so I wouldn’t want someone else’s vacation denied just in case I wanted time off for a holiday I don’t observe.

              1. JOTeepe*

                Exactly. Also, if I wasn’t clear, I certainly wasn’t trying to assume other’s priorities. People have traditions that they enjoy celebrating as well which of course are important considerations. I just feel bad for the OP that she’s getting the cold shoulder from colleagues over this. Obviously we don’t know what their needs or priorities are, but I find it hard to believe that, if the manager so willingly approved the time off that they were not given consideration. If I am wrong on that front, I stand corrected.

            2. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

              Isn’t the proper person to be upset with the manager then for approving it and not the new person who simply put in a request for something important to them?

              1. Temperance*

                Yes, although I would be annoyed with the new person if they had violated some unwritten rule (like no one puts in requests until after school starts, or something like that) that my org had in place.

                My last job did it in terms of seniority, so the people who were there the longest had priority for holiday requests.

                1. Oryx*

                  But if they are new and it’s an unwritten rule it’s possible they had no idea they were violating some unspoken agreement.

                2. Jadelyn*

                  I guess that raises the question of how soon you can reasonably expect a new person to have picked up on the unwritten/unspoken rules or conventions of your specific workplace – if this person worked for 2 weeks prior to their request, that’s a bit different than if they’d been there for 6 months and then made the request.

                3. Christopher Tracy*

                  Exactly, Oryx. How in the world would the new person know about departmental unwritten rules if no one told them ahead of time?

                4. Rana*

                  That’s the logical way to look at it, but my experience is that when you have cohorts that have been doing things one way for a long time, without much new blood coming in, their ability to understand that what’s obvious to them is something that actually needs to be explained to the newcomer diminishes substantially as time goes on.

            3. BeautifulVoid*

              Why? If you wanted that time off, you had January – June to ask for it. If you didn’t care if you got that time off or not, then what difference does it make if the most senior person or the most junior person or anyone in between takes off?

              1. Temperance*

                I’m responding to the point that people who need to travel or have young children should get priority. I disagree.

                If I somehow messed up and forgot to put a request in, that would be very, very different.

            4. Ineloquent*

              Why would you feel bad about some one else’s good fortune, particularly when you could have gotten that benefit simply by asking early?

              1. Temperance*

                I was responding to the points about time off being granted to people who have long distances to travel or young children. I have no problem with the “you snooze, you lose” method of determining coverage. It’s most fair, IMO.

        2. Alton*

          I agree that it’s a framing thing. It sounds better to frame it as something that’s a priority for you, I think, rather than something your family expects of you.

      2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Agreed — though I’m probably biased, considering my family lives a full day’s travel away.

      3. BRR*

        I don’t like rating people’s situations. It’s nice if you can accommodate people without impacting others but if 5 people are asking for Christmas off but 2 need to be there for coverage you shouldn’t be approving requests based on who might be traveling farther. I (and many others) would not be happy if we never were able to have Christmas off because certain colleagues have dibs.

        1. Murphy*

          This. It doesn’t matter the reason someone wants time off. If it’s approved, it’s approved. My right to Christmas off because I have a toddler at home and no parents in the area is no more pressing or “real” than my colleague who has all her family close, is single with no kids, and wants to sit in her jammies watching the Dr. Who Christmas special on a loop for a week. I dislike placing value judgements on someone’s out-of-work life (and I say this as someone who is in one of the privileged positions).

      4. Oryx*

        I disagree. Things like vacation and holidays shouldn’t be determined by a person’s family status. Just like promotions, perks, bonuses, shouldn’t be determined by a person’s family status. It would be unfair to other employees to constantly allow those who have to travel further to have “dibs” on holidays and I for one would be a little annoyed if my requests were continually declined because my family is local.

        1. One of the Sarahs*

          Especially as having family far away doesn’t mean they can’t come to visit either! Imagine, you give Cersei time off because her parents live in Castely Rock, then find out they’ve come to Kings Landing as it’s easier to see her, Jaime and Tyrion all together!

        2. Always Anon*

          I agree. My family lives in another country. I go home every single year for Xmas. As a result, I try and rotate my vacation dates based on my other co-workers requests (leaving Xmas eve, or coming home on the 27th), and I make sure that I never put time off requests over the other big holidays. I try to be as flexible because my holiday isn’t more important than anyone else’s, but at the same time, it’s a 24 hour trip by plane to see my family, and so unlike people who have family locally I don’t have the option to just be gone for a day or two. That is why I ask my immediate team which dates they want and then try and schedule my plans around their dates as best I can.

      5. Temperance*

        I vehemently disagree. My time on holidays is just as important and valuable as my coworkers who are traveling or have children.

      6. Mike C.*

        That’s absolutely terrible policy. Your family isn’t more important than mine simply because your family happens to live farther away.

      7. Gaia*

        Nope. I think that is a terrible setup. And I have family that I would have to travel a full day to see. Instead, it should be approved based on when it was requested and people should observe office norms as much as possible when requesting it.

      8. Rusty Shackelford*

        Personally I think it’s nice to give dibs on Christmas time off to people who don’t have family locally.

        Really? So I’d never get to take that time off, just because my family lives locally? What if we wanted to visit my inlaws, who don’t live locally? What if we wanted to travel with our school-age children, and that was the only time everyone’s schedule was free? What if my spouse is a teacher who gets that week off and I’d like to spend it with him? I really don’t like the idea of giving people preferred vacation status based on that factor.

        1. Temperance*

          What if I wanted to sit in my underwear, drinking beer and watching Bojack Horseman episodes on repeat? That’s actually how I spent Christmas, and it was glorious.

        2. Whats In A Name*

          I don’t think he meant it quite that literally. I think he was writing it more as a personal preference not a blanket “this should be policy”. Like if it were between him and a co-worker who would be alone he personally would be ok with working they could be off – not that others should be the same.

      9. Nervous Accountant*

        lol what? No…no. how would this be any different than giving parents preferential treatment over single/childless workers? Family situations should have no bearing on promotions, vacations, salaries etc!

      10. Chairs*

        It’s not my company’s problem (or my coworkers’ problems) that my family is far away though. I took this job knowing that I probably wouldn’t be able to go home on three day weekends. It would be pretty unfair to my coworkers if I got time off priority because I didn’t look at a map before taking the job.

        Now, the fact that I took this job with the understanding that it didn’t have the draconian fourth-quarter vacation rules as the rest of the industry and that there were no limits to take time off for Christmas, and then finding out that I had to be in the office at 8am on Dec. 26, *that* was the company’s fault. It got better though.

      11. EmmaLou*

        I don’t think it is nice actually. Just because my parents live in the same town as I do, doesn’t mean I’d not still like time off at Christmas like everyone else. Why should someone else get dibs based on geography? (My parents and I haven’t lived in the same town since I moved out actually.)

  2. Goats*

    “It’s painful for me to hear about this, or to see pictures on Facebook of ex-coworkers, who I thought were my friends and colleagues, having fun at work events.”

    OP, this reaction seems a little disproportionate given that it has been a year since you left. Are your former coworkers supposed to stop having fun at work events in your absence? I’m not intending to be snotty here, this just stuck out to me when I read your question.

    And now for something more helpful: I left a job with people I really cared about almost 8 months ago. On my therapist’s advice I made a super clean cut. (I didn’t even answer a work question the one time someone texted me to ask, because I knew I left behind adequate documentation for them to figure out the answer, and I didn’t want to teach them to continue to depend on me.) I highly recommend going the “clean cut” route now, especially since some time has passed and you’re still feeling tied up in their junk.

    1. Dot Warner*

      Yeah, I was wondering that myself. I get that it’s a bummer to see your friends having fun without you, but – no offense, OP – you don’t work there anymore. It’s not appropriate for them to invite you to a strictly work function. (Or involve you in work drama, for that matter.)

      I left a workplace with people I considered friends about a year ago and those friendships haven’t really lasted; partly because I moved away and partly because I’ve come to realize I didn’t have a lot in common with those people other than that we were stuck at a crappy employer run by jerks. It makes me sad, but that’s the way it is.

    2. chickabiddy*

      I understand that you left because you didn’t feel valued, and it’s probably hard for you to see people being happy at a place that made you unhappy. It’s kind of like a breakup, though. Some of your friends will still be friends with your ex, even though your ex made you unhappy. They have their own relationships with each other and with the workplace, and those relationships continue even though yours didn’t. It’s not taking sides.

      1. Goats*

        (Is the first sentence of your reply directed at me? That actually wasn’t what happened in my case – I left because of mismanagement and lack of room for advancement.)

        I did stay friends with selected people (my BFF is actually from that job and we hang out all the time.) But I told them really clearly that I didn’t want to talk about my old job AT ALL. We didn’t talk about it for a while. Now when we do talk about work, it’s just like listening to anyone tell a story about a place that I don’t work.

        Even if she wants to maintain the friendships, it sounds like she needs some space from that workplace to resolve whatever lingering feelings she has about it.

        1. chickabiddy*

          No, sorry, that part of it wasn’t meant to be a direct reply to you, though I see how the nesting made it look that way. The OP includes “I no longer felt respected or valued”.

    3. babblemouth*

      I second the recommendation for a clean break. That’s what I did when leaving my previous job , and it made it a lot easier to get perspective when talking to my former colleagues later on. I still hear gossip, but what I hear doesn’t hurt at all – my reaction tends to be more “oh, well, imagine that”. I’m in a better place for it.

    4. Required Name*

      I got the impression that line was about the people who had been saying negative things since the LW left. It does sting to find out that someone you thought was a friend is in fact saying negative things. Add to that the fact that other people are obviously talking about it (enough for it to get back to the LW, at any rate), I could see looking at pictures of everyone having fun together at work and thinking no one was defending against the negative comments. (Not that that’s necessarily actually true – Facebook is a curated medium, and I suspect most people aren’t going to post pictures of most coworkers having fun while the negative ones are shunned in a corner. Plus, in a professional environment, I don’t think you’re really supposed to leave people out anyway. But outside looking in and all.)

      I totally agree with a clean cut though. There’s nothing to be gained from looking at those photos. I totally get the urge to know what’s happening, especially since it sounds like there’s was a lot of connection there, but there’s nothing you can do to actually change them. It might be hard at first, but once you’re away from it for a while, you should feel better.

      1. Goats*

        Ah, I see how you could read it that way. That makes a bit more sense. In my experience getting away from it for a while helped immensely!

      2. One of the Sarahs*

        OP needs to bear in mind she hasn’t heard these people saying bad things about her directly, she’s only having the info second hand, which could mean anything from misunderstandings, to trouble-making in the delivery. She needs to step right back

        1. Stranger than fiction*

          That’s an excellent point. Some people are just pot stirrers. Also though, I’ve noticed throughout my career it’s very common for people to bitch about excoworkers. It’s an easy target and scapegoat. I’ve even seen it, just recently actually, where the person was a superstar, then suddenly whatever went wrong with a client or account was suddenly their fault, months or even years later. It’s not personal, Op, just move on and try not to let it get to you.

    5. shep*

      Yes, I had the same thought here. It does seem it a bit out of proportion to the situation. (Unless perhaps OP intended to add that these colleagues were some of the ones saying negative things about her; I could see how that would be upsetting.)

    6. 2 Cents*

      If you’re on LinkedIn, you can change your profile’s URL — this might help if you want to be found on there more easily. I changed mine from the goobledegook they assigned me to one that’s “/profile/2-cents/.” Adding your picture can help, too, if you’re concerned about HR people or former coworkers, etc. finding you after meeting in person.

      As for the rest, I wouldn’t worry about it, unless you’re working in a social media job or something else that requires you to have a higher-than-normal profile in search.

  3. Anymouse*

    OP5: My boss uses a middle initial to distinguish himself in his field, since he’s got a somewhat common name. If you’re that worried about building an online reputation, maybe that’ll help you out?

    1. Jeanne*

      I say online anonymity is great. Employers can assume you’ve done nothing bad since you don’t show up. And weirdos can’t hassle you.

      1. T3k*

        Second this. I have a very unique last name, and while nothing embarrassing shows up in searches, there’s things I’d rather an employer not see anyways (like apparently my grade school STILL has a page, deep in the internet, about the school team I was on at the time).

        1. shep*

          Yes! Both my first and last names are extremely distinctive, and for the longest time, an ancient article a friend wrote for our HIGH SCHOOL paper kept pinging when I searched myself. She’d just paired my name to a particularly inelegant quote about new standardized tests–a quote I’d NEVER said–simply because she couldn’t remember who said what in her notes.

          I was angry on multiple levels, not in the least because she should know I’m far more well spoken than the quote she assigned me.

          (That was well over ten years ago, btw, and I am still angry about that particular incident.)

          But! As a writer, I do need a social media presence, and luckily I’ve built that brand up enough to push that quote (and any other relics from middle school and high school) deep into the search results.

          1. ancolie*

            AFAICT, I am the only person on the planet with my first name + last name. Searching my name still brings up — ON THE FIRST PAGE — a post I made about the Thundercats (nitpicking canon, even!) in 1997 in high school.


      2. Joseph*

        Yeah. There are a few fields where your online reputation can make a positive impact (social media, journalism, etc).
        But in most fields, anonymity is really ideal. I mean, what’s the best case scenario? Even if the information about you is all universally positive (unlikely!), a potential employer’s reaction would be no more than a brief “oh, that’s nice”, then immediately disregard it in favor of more relevant information, like your qualifications. And if there’s really something on social media that would be worth highlighting (e.g., the fact you spend your free time volunteering or whatever), you can easily bring that up when an interviewer asks about your hobbies/outside interests.

      3. Temperance*

        Yep. There is a woman with my exact first and last name who is apparently a neglectful parent and drug addict in Florida. I wish for online anonymity.

      4. Jayn*

        The grass is always greener, isn’t it? I had a conversation once with a guy who was worried about what came up in Google searches because of a possible very ugly mix-up. Meanwhile I WISH I could get mistaken for someone else in a Google search, I don’t like the idea that I’m that easily found online.

      5. Blue_eyes*

        Agreed. I’m the only person in the world with my first and last name combo (there was one other but she got married and changed her last name). And my first name has not been popular as a baby name for almost 30 years, so I may always be the only one. It does make me a little nervous about online security since all the results for my name are me.

      6. Alton*

        I agree. I have a unique first and last name combo, and it makes me a little uncomfortable that it’s so easy to Google me. It’s not like I’m tempted to post pictures of myself doing drugs, or write abusive tweets or anything. But I feel like I’m under a microscope, even with my Facebook page locked down. I’m thinking of actually changing my last name on Facebook so it’s not as obvious.

      7. Kore*

        Agreed. My surname is very unusual and my first name has an unusual spelling. I’m the only person with my name I’ve been able to find. While I haven’t done anything bad, anyone searching about me for a job would see all the nerd stuff I do.

    2. blackcat*

      This is what I do. I am one of several hundred (at least! maybe more) FirstName LastNames. I am the only living FirstName MiddleName LastName. Googling my full name leads people to me, or several fascinating blurb about one of my ancestors (who I am named after) on various historical websites.

      BUT, through careful use of appropriate tags & text on a GoogleSites personal website (which doesn’t have all that much), I have made it so that if you Google FirstName LastName + previous workplace, FirstName LastName + current university, or FirstName LastName + previous university, you find me. My LinkedIn also appears. So people can find me without knowing my middle name, as long as they have one other piece of information.

      For a while, my biggest worry was that I was a teacher, and one of the top hits on Google for FirstName LastName was an “adult” blogger. BUT if anyone clicked on that, they would figure out that she and I couldn’t possibly be the same person–she talked about her city. These days the top hits are more innocuous (a barrister in the UK, a chiropractor, a D-list actor). I figure anyone trying to Google me can figure out that they are not me. I also trust they can figure out that those people are also not FirstName LastName in Minnesota who just bought all new appliances for her kitchen (her receipt got misdirected to my email), or FirstName LastName in Texas who runs a church daycare (also misdirected email).

      The upshot of all of this is that it’s actually FAR easier for me to have a curated online presence. I have to take certain steps to make things about me Google-able, and I think this is worth the hassle. Plus, I have random connections to some lovely people from all over the US and the UK (my name is English, think Elizabeth Jones).

    3. JOTeepe*

      Yup. I did this myself before I was married (and even with the initial, it was very common, but it still helped a bit). I mostly dropped use of my middle initial once I stared using my married name* (which is much much much less common).

      *Over a year after I got married. I had (and still do have) a lot of Feels about changing names *in general*, and almost didn’t. Husband didn’t pressure me one way or the other, either, but I digress. I have very few regrets about how I handled my name change overall, though, in the end.

    4. Smith*

      You can try… I have an extremely common name and wasn’t even the only First M. Last at my small elementary school! I share a name with dozens of sorta-famous-in-their-fields people, as well as a very famous performing artist if you go by nickname. Which I often do. I would have to be the actual president, I think, even to rank on Google results. Better to embrace the built in privacy, I say. Or use a pseudonym. It hasn’t mattered in my life/career anyway because most social networks function on connectivity, so it’s likely I’ll be found on places like LinkedIn because I probably have connections or common interests with the searcher.

    5. Kimberlee, Esq*

      One tip for OP and whoever else: I would recommend making it as easy as possible for others to find your LinkedIn. I am constantly looking up people on LinkedIn, and that’s usually because I’m interested in them as a candidate for a job, or something professional-related. You can definitely lose out on opportunities if your LinkedIn is hard to pin down.

    6. RunsOnSugar*

      Op5 here: thanks for all the great responses everyone, and thanks to Alison for answering my question! To reply to some things that have come up: I’ve done extensive googling :) I’ve tried my full name plus old schools, old usernames, former workplaces, etc. Nada. My lack of online presence does concern me, especially considering I’m right in the target market of social media users and it looks a bit odd. But I guess it’s better to build my name from the ground up than to dig myself out of a hole!

  4. Newsie*

    OP3: You didn’t technically do anything wrong, but I’m guessing you didn’t play by the well-established order of things at your office. When I was a reporter, we all had to work one major holiday. My first year there as a fresh-out-of-college 22-year-old, I got stuck working Christmas because the sign-up list got posted before I started there. So in my second year, the day the list went up, I put my name next to Labor Day. Later that day, one of the guys who’s been there forever went up to the list, paused, and said, “*I* take Labor Day.” I kept quiet and he signed up for something else, but it quickly became apparent to me that the oldsters had days that were theirs, and I was just supposed to figure it out. I had obeyed the letter of the law but not the spirit. Management didn’t want to acknowledge that there were these unspoken rules because they had a system they felt was fair on the surface. I ended up leaving the job before Labor Day, so maybe he got to switch with someone.
    TL:DR – You played by the official rules, but I’m guessing you didn’t play by the unofficial rules.

    1. Newsie*

      Similarly, my mom was worked in factories her whole life. She certainly could have requested time off around Christmas whenever she wanted and would have been granted it if she’d been among the first requesters, but it was just accepted that that time was reserved for those with younger kids because Christmas was for children, not adults. That was just the culture there. Not an official rule or anything, it was just understood.

      1. Newsie*

        So, before she had me, she didn’t take time off at Christmas. Then I was born, and age took time off until I was about 13. Then it was back to working that week. I understand this is unfair to those without kids, but as I mentioned above, most everyone there (and in my family/hometown) felt Christmas wasn’t a big thing unless you had kids or (my dad to this day thinks it’s ridiculous that my husband and I celebrate Christmas hardcore when we have no kids).

        1. Dan*

          In my broker days, I’d sometimes travel the week before or the week after because tickets were so much cheaper. My family is really small, so there aren’t really holiday-related bashes where my absence would be noted.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I always tried to do this, but they HAD to have it on the EXACT DAY, no matter what. If Christmas was on a weekday, I would have to skip a visit because I usually had to work the next day.

        2. chickabiddy*

          I didn’t mind when my ex or I worked Christmas when my daughter was really little. Babies and young toddlers won’t notice or care if they get to rip open packages on the 25th or the 27th. If everybody was happy enough with the system then great, but if it was based on “for the kids” I’d say that it should probably start around age 3.

        3. Chinook*

          “I understand this is unfair to those without kids, but as I mentioned above, most everyone there (and in my family/hometown) felt Christmas wasn’t a big thing unless you had kids ”

          Normally I would agree with this but, after 11 years of marriage, I have never been able to celebrate Christmas or Thanksgiving with my husband and my parents at the same time because he has worked every single on of them. His parents have come to visit because it is just them, but my larger family all live near each other and we could never host all 15 of them here (though they have all visited in dribs and drabs over time, but the 8 hours drive is difficult when the kids are all under 10). I have left DH at home to visit them for the holiday and we have celebrated as a larger family in January, but it is very frustrating to hear, yet again, that his coworkers will get that date off but not him because they all have kids. I am not asking f0r it every year, but once a decade would be kind of nice.

          1. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

            Has your husband mentioned in performance reviews or one-on-ones with his boss that this is important to him and the policy creates very low morale in those without kids but that still have family?

            Geez, what about people who CANNOT have kids but want them badly and struggle with that every day? Not only do you have the emotional pain of not being able to have children, you are being punished for it at the holidays!

            What a terrible, terrible policy.

          2. Temperance*

            I personally don’t think that people who have kids should get priority, FWIW. It really stinks that you have to abandon your husband in order to spend holidays with your extended family.

            A system where each person works one holiday is much more fair than punishing someone for not having children. I think your husband should fight back this year.

      2. Katniss*

        I would run screaming from that. I am never having kids but Christmas is important to me and my chosen family. I would be incredibly resentful if I was constantly missing the holiday because apparently people with young kids are more important than me and my family.

      3. The IT Manager*

        I can’t help but thinking (and I could be totally wrong) that factory workers are less likely to have distant family to travel to for holidays than office workers that are often the focus of this blog. The factory workers have less discretionary income for plane travel and are less likely to have moved a long way away from home for the job. IDK for sure but I think it might be a different dynamic.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          That’s quite a stereotyped generalization. And even if it were true that factory workers tended to stay near their home towns, they might want to travel for the holidays anyway – to take vacations, or to visit family members who did move away.

        2. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

          You only wish that were true. I just found out that the factory a friend of mine works for publishes the rate for every position in the building (union jobs) and the starting pay for the lowest position is 10k more than I make in my office job.

    2. Typicals is a Word*

      Oldsters? Oh, oldsters these days! The irony of using an ageist term when you’re a youngster is that although oldsters will never again be youngsters, youngsters will someday be oldsters (provided they live past thirty).

        1. Typicals is a Word*

          So a thirty year old who has been there 12 years is an oldster. I’m sure they would love to be called that. Maybe they meant “old timer” (not better) or “people who have worked here longer” (better. It at least takes the “old” descriptor from the people to the length of time worked.) Oldster is still dismissive and ageist as a term.

            1. Typicals is a Word*

              Calling out an ageist term is nitpicky? As an avid reader for many years it seemed pretty clear that calling out sexist or ageist terms was a thing here, making for quite lively conversations in the comments (lady, Millennials, gendered language, amongst many others). And rightfully so.

              Disappointed to find out “oldster” is on the nitpicky side of the dismissive/acceptable line. Who would appreciate being called what is basically a diminutive of “old” especially when age intolerance and discrimination is a real thing up and down the age spectrum.

              Except for horses who either didn’t care or didn’t notice (although Mr. Ed might have something to say). (See Victoria Nonprofit’s comment adjacent.)

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                What I’ve said in the past is that it’s fine to call out truly problematic language once, but then I ask that people leave it there and not harp on it because it becomes derailing and discourages people from commenting. There’s also a higher bar for calling it out with another commenter versus when it’s a key thing in a letter, because I don’t want people to feel they’ll be jumped on if they comment here.

                In the interest of transparency, I don’t think the usage in question here was particularly problematic as it’s clearly being used to refer to tenure in the organization, not age. But I also don’t want to derail the thread further by debating that, so I ask that we move on.

      1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        Hee. Perhaps because when I worked as a barn manager we referred to our favorite old horses — the ones that got some much-deserved extra TLC — as “oldsters,” that term registers for me as friendly.

    3. Sparrow*

      Yeah, I think this is definitely about unofficial rules. September is my office’s busiest month, and yet I have s coworker on a two week vacation. Thee has been a LOT of grumbling about it. Maybe there shouldn’t be, because these dates aren’t technically blacked out and his supervisor did approve it. Doesn’t stop people from being annoyed, though.

      As for what OP should do about it – I don’t think they should change their plans, but they should make an effort to find out office conventions to see if they can reasonably work around them in the future.

      1. Non-Prophet*

        Yes, I agree that OP3 likely broke an unspoken rule/convention in her office…which is easy to do as a new hire! If she followed the official policy, but didn’t follow convention that could create resentment from her colleagues. I work in a small team (just three of us, all reporting to the EVP), and at least two of us need to be in the office at all times. The official policy per the handbook is that we just need to ask the EVP to approve time off. But because of coverage requirements, the three of us always check with each other before requesting time off, to be sure we’re not infringing on someone else’s plans or going to be out at an especially busy time. Is this strictly necessary? Perhaps not. But I think it demonstrates cooperation and consideration for coworkers.

    4. SystemsLady*

      Yeah, I have to admit I was kind of miffed that two new hires took Christmas (one also New Year’s) week off as PTO last year, while a more senior colleague and I negotiated who got Christmas and New Year’s (working one, getting comp time for long hours the other).

      If only because I covered almost all of the major holidays for my more senior colleagues my first year. This client probably wouldn’t have accepted the new hires anyway, so it made sense, though.

    5. Elsie*

      There could be logic behind the manager’s approval, though, that neither the OP nor her team are aware of. It really depends how the office is run over the holidays. In my industry, we don’t typically produce new work over the holidays, but we do need to be available for our clients, so I don’t necessarily need my most junior people who make reports and do research, but I do need my mid-level people who are client facing and able to independently handle issues.

  5. Sarah Gross*

    OP3 – I agree that checking in with your manager is a good idea. You might even mention to her that other co-workers seem put off by it.
    Assuming that your holiday time off is potentially keeping someone else from getting time they’d like, you may want to offer a compromise; Christmas is on a Sunday this yr, so maybe you could offer to start your trip a little earlier — maybe the 20th — and then return to work the 27th rather than take all of Christmas week (most offices are closed Mon 12/26).
    Alternatively, you could take the time this year but commit to not taking Christmas off next year. Regardless, I think I would address it with the co-workers who seem miffed, as long as they are generally reasonable. Let them know you didn’t intend to overstep, and if you make a plan for compromise in terms of dates, etc., you can also mention that. Good luck!

      1. Gaara*

        I’d be tempted to just ask the upset coworkers directly if they think you did something wrong. See what they say. It’s done, but you want to know what they think and why.

      2. One of the Sarahs*

        I would very, very much recommend starting to manage your parents’ expectations about future years as early as possible. A lot of workplaces will try to be fair, so that if one person couldn’t get the holidays off this year, they can next year, so I would personally start making it clear that you won’t be able to go back every year.

        1. SpaceySteph*

          Hear hear! Best to set boundaries and manage expectations early. It’s too late to not go home this year, but it’s not too early to start hinting that it wont happen every year.

          I have rarely gone home for holidays since moving away 8 years ago and starting in a 24/7/365 job. My husband on the other hand went home for Christmas every year until the year before our wedding when he had to save vacation time. It did not go well. They called nearly every day begging him to come, offering to pay, just fly in for one day, etc. Last year we didn’t go to them again (went 2 years in between) and they took it much better, but that first time was rough.

          Not traveling for the holidays was lonely at first but it helped me find my own traditions and friends to celebrate with and helped me feel more at home in my new city. There may come a time that you actually prefer to stay with your friends, instead of traveling across the country to visit your family… in the most expensive, crowded, and bad-weather-filled travel season of the year.

  6. EGdub*

    Re: Google results, I have an uncommon name that unfortunately for me is shared with a writer of online erotica. Some/most Google results will be me–both professional and not but nothing embarrassing–, and a couple will be her story listings (and I think hers is a pen name!) . I just have to hope anyone searching for me in a work context doesn’t assume I’m the writer…

    1. Garrett*

      Luckily, my namesake is a dentist so he is all over the Google search professionally, which leaves my stuff to page 2 and beyond. Not that I have anything to hide, but to me it’s a little weird to see all this stuff about you pop up when you Google your name. I know it’s all on me for putting it out there, but to see it condensed like that is jarring a little.

    2. Temperance*

      I commented upthread – one of the women who shares my pretty uncommon first and last names is a drug addict and abusive/neglectful parent. Not great.

    3. Anon7*

      Now you’ve just made me feel incredibly bad for anyone who shares a name with Chuck Tingle. I can’t imagine trying to explain to an interviewer why searching for that name is a bad idea.

  7. Cat Steals Keyboard*

    #4 Just bear in mind that whatever you say may get back to your manager. And that whether or not you’re in a job you view as a starter role/just for now, you do need to focus on actually doing that well.

  8. Not a librarian*

    #4 I’m not from the US, so take this with an entire bucket of salt, but you’ve already experienced difficulties getting a job as a librarian, and bear in mind that might continue for some time. I graduated in 2009 and since then have been mostly in various record and information management jobs, whereas the initial idea was to work in an academic or special library. I remember at university they talked up the age profile of the profession and how all these jobs were about to open up due to retirements, but it seems more like people retire and are not replaced.

    All that not to depress you, but just to say that while it’s great to have goals, it might also be good to readjust your thinking so that you make sure you get the most out of role you end up in. Keep an open mind about opportunities in public libraries but also in related fields. And you might find out you love wherever you end up (I don’t, but hey.)

    1. Dodobird*

      I am a public librarian from the U.S. and concur: librarian jobs are still very difficult to get, *especially* your first one, and many MLIS grads end up doing something different.

      You might consider these other jobs as “starter” jobs, but switching to the public librarian career track might be prohibitively hard, if not impossible.

      This is just food for thought and not meant to be a downer, just realistic.

    2. I Am A Librarian*

      Seconded! In my country library jobs are very hard to come by so qualified grads usually end up in related fields. I don’t think it’s odd to mention that you hope to work in libraries someday, all my colleagues are aware of the limitations of vacancies so most people I have worked with are actively gathering skills throughout their career.

    3. brightstar*

      I work in records and information management in the US, but it’s my passion. I have friends who are librarians and they frequently complain about how tight the market is and even waiting for a chance to transfer from one branch to the other can take ages.

      I agree with Not a Librarian, keep an eye out for public library positions but also try to fully explore whichever position you end up getting. People’s career paths often veer in unexpected directions and is rarely linear.

      1. LPBB*

        I realized after I graduated with my MLIS that what I really wanted to do was records and info management. Unfortunately, almost all the positions in my area require 2+ years experience and NARA certification. Right now I can’t see a way to get that experience short of working as a file clerk for several years, which I can’t afford to do.

        For the OP, I wouldn’t necessarily go around trumpeting the fact that this would be a stop-gap role to your boss and co-workers, but I think most people in the library world know how tight the job market is and how hard it is for new grads to break in.

        1. brightstar*

          In my area, some people prefer the MLIS to actual experience. I was turned down for a position with six years experience in RIM at the time and the hiring manager hired ONLY those with an MLIS. We both belong to the local ARMA chapter and she recently admitted this wasn’t the best hiring strategy since her staff tends to have the same strengths and weaknesses.

          I never got NARA certification, I took several courses as a federal employee but then left that job and by the time I got around to trying, my log in had expired. I’m currently trying to study for the ICRM certification.

          1. JMegan*

            brightstar, do you mind if I meet you on the open thread on Friday? I’m thinking about studying for the ICRM as well, or else the CIP, or else the CIPP…or some other combination of letters. I’d love to ask about your experience here, if you don’t mind!

        2. OP #4*

          Thank you all above. I am glad to hear that the perception of someone in my position in the field is not abnormal, although I am not happy about the job prospects at the moment! I will definitely keep an open mind and see a lot of possibilities with the nonlinear path.

      2. JMegan*

        Me too. I’m one of the few people I know who is a records manager on purpose! Unlike LPBB, I actually figured that out partway through my MLIS in time to switch streams and get some RM courses. I’ve been working in the field for 16 (eep!) years, and it’s pretty rare that I work with anyone who actually has a degree in library, archives, or anything IM related.

        OP, I agree with LPBB and brightstar, that you probably don’t want to go around telling people that it’s a starter job for you. If it’s an entry level job, most people will assume that anyway, but it’s not considered good form to announce it all the time. And in the meantime, definitely keep your eyes on other related fields – you never know what you’ll discover, that you may end up liking just as much as librarianship.

    4. irritable vowel*

      Volunteering or working evenings/weekends part-time in a library is a great way to get your foot in the door and keep your skills fresh while you’re working in a different field or working in a library job where you don’t want to stay long-term.

    5. Nunya*

      Yeah, wow. Don’t dis what is a full time permanent job for some folks, and don’t take an opportunity away from someone who plans to dedicate themselves to the role. I’ve been on hiring committees for paraprofessional library positions, and we tried as best we could to filter out MLIS (or equivalent) folks that expressed desire to claw their way into librarianship. Our institution, as far as I know, has never promoted a classified staffer into a librarian (and tenure track) position, so people end up with the job for a year or so then leave for other jobs. The market for newly-minted librarians is extremely tight, as others have said, but that doesn’t make it right to treat ‘lesser’ positions as place holders.

      1. BranchManager*

        Really? No movement from paraprofessional to librarian? I have worked in four systems in two states and have seen lots of movement from within.

        1. OhNo*

          Yeah, that’s… really weird. Every library (system, school/uni, or solo) that I’ve ever worked in, had connections to, or even heard details of, at least tries to promote from within. Most of the people I went through my MLIS program with were paraprofessionals who were encouraged by their bosses to get the degree so they could be promoted at some future date.

    6. Lils*

      Good advice from all: don’t call it a starter job, don’t treat it like a throwaway job, work hard, keep an open mind. I would add: keep up your memberships in library professional organizations and stay up to date with listservs and literature. Everyone knows you will probably wventually want a job that requires the degree you earned and that’s ok. We hire people in your shoes knowing that fact.

      BUT it isn’t true that there are no jobs or few jobs in our field. There are plenty of jobs for new grads if A) you are willing/able to relocate, and/or B) you are flexible about the exact work you’re willing to do. We hire new grads all the time. We promote from paraprofessional frequently. Some jobs get a tiny number of applicants, this in an area with a huge number of LIS graduates. Why? People aren’t willing to do work slightly different from what they envisioned. Be flexible, be knowledgable, and follow application directions, and you will outcompete many of your classmates.

      1. OP #4*

        I should have clarified there are few jobs in my area. I got my degree knowing I wasn’t in the best area for this degree BUT planned to apply across the country. Then, my husband and I welcomed an unexpected baby. Combined with a few other factors, moving is no longer an option right now.

        I am very flexible about what I’m willing to do! You should see my saved searches, my info seeking professor would be proud. I am willing to commute a ways as well.

        Thank you for the advice. It is good to know some positions do not get many applicants – although I wonder if it is true for my area. It is like nirvana for librarians here – they never leave, new ones flock here, super liberal, and we have a library school here – all in a small city. I applied to a library assistant position that had over 500 applicants. Yeppp.

        1. BettyD*

          Yeah, it’s really tough to break into librarianship in a small city with a library school, especially a city that’s a good cultural fit for young professionals. Most of my I-school classmates (including me) had to move away to get a job in the field.

        2. Lils*

          That’s a tough situation. If you want to stick with the library field, I think you can still do it and stay where you are. We have trouble attracting tech services candidates in particular but also have trouble with filling innovative new positions LIS grads haven’t heard of before. Read job descriptions carefully and be creative in your consideration of whether you’d like the work. Make a case to the hiring committee about why the job interests you and why your skills would apply–don’t make me think you’re applying for any and every librarian job in the city. If you have the opportunity, take some further coursework or read books/articles about emerging areas of librarianship. Some areas I would suggest for public library folks are assessment and electronic resources acquisitions and management. There will always be a huge number of people applying for public-facing jobs. Working behind the scenes and supporting your public services colleagues can be hugely rewarding too! Good luck, OP!

  9. Ruth (UK)*

    3. I did the exact same thing at a previous job. My parents American though we live in England (and I am English) and we had all planned to spend Xmas in America. The tickets were already booked at the time applied for the job and I asked for 2 weeks off at Xmas (as unpaid leave) during my interview, which was approved (though I was told I’d be unlikely to get Xmas off the next year if I was still there). I was hired in November as well, so this holiday came up very soon!

    It was a retail/food job and I learned that Xmas is very hard to get time off during and highly sought after. And wowwww people were mad. How could I, who had only been there a month, got time off when apparently people were denied it when asking months ago!

    Ok but the bright side is everyone forgot by February or so… So yeah, the moral of the story is, your coworkers will get over it cause in the scheme of things, your holiday dates aren’t a huge thing in their lives.

    1. Mander*

      That seems so weird on the part of your co-workers. If I was working with someone new who then went on a holiday right after starting I’d assume that it was negotiated when you started. After all you probably made those plans at a time when you were not planning on having the new job, so you most likely had a completely different set of obligations and rules in mind at the time.

  10. Lucy*

    OP#2, there’s a bunch of stuff you can do to build relationships with this group that wouldn’t involve moving offices. As you’re the senior person, people will most likely be waiting to take their cues from you rather than actively reaching out, which means you can set the tone for the relationship-building.

    Take people out to lunch, or invite them for coffee (either one on one or in small groups) as part of an explicit “getting to know you campaign”. When you go to social events like baby showers and birthday cake, make sure you spend most of your time talking to the people in your area. Doesn’t matter if it’s not about work – the relationship is more important than the work content right now.

    Or if you want to get to know them better on a work level, make a point of having a 1:1 with everyone in the group to find out more about them, how their roles work, their career aspirations, frustrations and anything you can do to either help or not get in their way.

    Could you hotdesk a day a week (/month/whatever makes sense) in that area, on a day when you don’t have a ton of meetings or concentration-heavy work? Or even just drop by with a box of donuts and chat to everyone for an hour even so often? (Or do the same but host it in your office or your colleague’s office with the conference room?). You could also hold office hours with snacks periodically and encourage people to come talk to you about work stuff they care about or have questions about.

    Part of my role is increasing the visibility of our directors (powerful bunch of introverts, so it’s challenging at times), and I think the most important thing to remember is that you can basically train people to interact with you however you prefer as the senior person, as long as you do it respectfully and with genuine interest in getting to know people.

    1. Garrett*

      Yeah I agree that you shouldn’t give up the office. Not because of the window, but because of the space. Chances are you will have meetings with multiple people and, if your office is anything like mine, conference rooms are hard to get so the space will be nice to have for both scheduled and unscheduled meetings.

    2. Whats In A Name*

      I agree with not giving up the space, too. Mainly because the water cooler chit-chat you’d like to hear might come to a grinding halt if the supervisor sits right in the group. The ways suggested are all great!

        1. OP2*

          Alison is correct. I do not have any direct reports. Which is why I feel like I’m having a hard time bonding. When I am at social occasions, people with less tenure in the department make an effort to talk to me. People with more tenure do not. I recently sat next to a woman from my department at lunch who has 20 years with the company and she talked to the person on her other side the entire meal. I will start asking those who are friendlier to me to coffee and lunch. Suggestions for how to start these conversations will be appreciated.

          My boss hasn’t mentioned the office change since that first conversation a few weeks ago, so I think it’s off the table.

          1. Whats In A Name*

            Got it – totally misunderstood the position and can see your side of things. Sorry about the woman who completely ignored you – that’s poopy no matter what!

    3. Camellia*

      These are all great and I would definitely try these first before moving to a smaller office.

      “Real estate” means something in a business setting; whether we like it or not, it affects people’s perceptions. If everyone at your level has a certain size office and you have a smaller office, people will subconsciously think you are at a lower lever. If you were at a lower level and had the same size office of those at a higher level, people would think you are at that higher level. Heck, this even applies to size of cubicles!

    4. Stranger than fiction*

      This is great. And I had a similar thought that Op simply stop by people’s desks occasionally in stead of replying to an email or chat, or just to convey a thought. For example, on the way back from a meeting stop by Janes desk and say “hey Jane, I saw your email update on the X project and I think it’s looking great”. Or something along thise lines. At one job we had a greatly respected CEO and that was one of the reasons, he spent time out on the floor, so to speak.

    5. Vera*

      I have a similar problem to the OP, except the space different is actually floors of a building! I have had a lot of difficulty building relationships with the people that are not on the same floor as me. I am copy/pasting all of these suggestions into a Word doc for future reference, and would love if commenter Lucy has any resources (websites, books) for additional thoughts on this.

      What has worked the best for me so far has been hotdesking, as Lucy describes above. When I was at my “second” desk people were dropping by and asking for help or questions that never would have reached out to me otherwise. Also, they got a glimpse of what my day-to-day looks like. Assuming no one will take the windowless office, that would be a great place to use once a week or so.

      I have also figured out when that group goes to lunch in our cafeteria, and I occasionally time my lunchtime so I know I will run into them. I generally invite myself to sit at their table, which is maybe a power play on my part, but I think it would be more weird for all of us if I sat at a table alone.

      Good luck OP!

  11. M from NY*

    OP1 I’m all about clean breaks. Unfriend those you are no longer interested in being in touch with and do not friend up your new/current coworkers. Why give gossiping people access to your life? Most won’t even notice.

    OP2 You are a new employee of course you’re not going to be as close to the rest of the team. Building relationships take time and deliberately taking a smaller office just to be in proximity of others is not the professional move you want to make. The optics will imply you did something wrong and need watching. Putting so much emphasis on being in the mix will imply you care more about the social aspects than the work that needs doing. If your title requires meetings then taking a much smaller office also prevents you from doing so as your workload increases. Be patient & give it time to let your work friendships develop.

    OP3 Stop worrying about your coworkers who will only be satisfied if you don’t take vacation. Your boss gave approval. If there’s an issue let boss deal with it. Don’t apologize or feel guilty for asking for what you needed and don’t offer to change your dates. Some people take last hired too literal and get mad when one has the “nerve” to ask for things they didn’t. Still not your problem. Even if a mistake was made its up to boss to find solution. Don’t bend over backwards for coworkers who are only looking out for themselves. Remember their ideal solution has you not seeing your family over the holidays. You have nothing to feel guilty about.

    1. Sarah My Starbucks Name*

      Yeah, I was a little surprised by Allison’s advice on this. If OP requested the vacation through all the proper channels, notified the appropriate management/HR, and got approval from the boss, then OP should not have to go to boss and ask if OP has done anything to upset the coworkers. If anything, OP should go to the boss with the tone of “Coworkers are complaining about my properly requested and granted vacation, what can you do about it?” The *coworkers* are behaving inappropriately. If they have an issue with OP’s vacation they should have either let OP know of the unspoken norms (in the spirit of training a new colleague) or gone to the boss with their complaints. Allison’s response legitimizes their behavior and implies that OP is the one who erred.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        She doesn’t have to. That’s why I said, “If it will give you peace of mind, you could ask your manager if you did anything wrong, but given that they approved the request, it’s pretty likely that you’re going to be told you didn’t. But having that conversation might make you feel better and might give you more insight into why people are complaining.” (Emphasis added here.)

      2. Whats In A Name*

        I think going to the boss with “Coworkers are complaining about my properly requested and granted vacation, what can you do about it?” is going to make her come off a bit tattle-telly, especially if she is new. I think talking about it to gain peace of mind is good advice, or just rolling with it are better ways to address this particular instance.

        Now, if gossip/passive-aggressive grumbling continues in a way that impacts her actual performance, that calls for a trip to manager in the tone you described.

        1. Newton*

          We have a public company calendar. Every year on Jan 2nd the same few people put their names in to be out the week between the next Christmas and New Years. Sheeesh!

          1. Michelle*

            In my office, one of my official duties is to be the keeper of the staff calendar, which includes adding vacations, sick leave, etc. It’s so hilarious at the beginning of the year because I come back to 50+ requests for vacation time for the upcoming year, and I have to send them all back and say “You know you have to get your supervisor’s approval. Have them cc me on the approval email”. They know it has to be done but they still try every year to get around the approval process, including trying to “bribe” me with expensive coffee drinks, chocolate, etc. I always say “Thank you but you know you have to get supervisor approval before I can add it to the calendar, right?”

      3. Persephone Mulberry*

        This seems weirdly adversarial. As a new employee, I think it’s totally fine to go to your boss and say, “by the way, I’ve been overhearing some grumbling about my upcoming time off over Christmas. Did I inadvertently step on some toes?” It’s not tattle-telling and it’s not volunteering to give up your approved time off, it’s just asking for some context in a new environment.

        1. EddieSherbert*


          I wouldn’t think I did something wrong… but I would be curious what people are thinking. You’re new, you want to figure things out, and apparently this is a thing that needs figuring. That’s what your manager is there for!

        2. Whats In A Name*

          Yes! This is more what I was trying to say in my response. I think going and saying “hey, did I do something wrong here and can you help me understand it?” is much different than saying “I did nothing wrong, handle these co-workers. Thanks.”

        3. motherofdragons*

          +2. I’d be annoyed if, as a new staff person, people were complaining about *me* regarding a decision that my *manager* reviewed and approved through all the proper channels. But this approach is a much softer way of finding out what norm I’d violated.

    2. Judy*

      I would say that it’s probably in your best interest to keep your contacts in LinkedIn. I usually don’t friend people I work with in Facebook, only after I’ve left a company. But I will connect on LinkedIn with pretty much everyone I have met. I generally don’t invite people to connect, but I will accept invitations. (I will turn down recruiters.) That’s why I have about 100 Facebook friends and >600 LinkedIn connections.

      I find LinkedIn to be a good way to manage my network. It’s like an online rolodex.

      1. EddieSherbert*


        This is how I filter my social media – I don’t think of Linkedin as social media so much, but a work tool.

        Facebook is social media (still within appropriate boundaries though – I dare you to friend your grandparents and then even consider posting drunk or inappropriate photos).

  12. BranchManager*

    For OP#4, rather than communicating in words that you still want to become a public librarian, it would be better to find ways to stay involved in work more directly related. Consider substitute work you could do on weekends or evenings, volunteer work, or working on projects with the library from a related partner group. Also, while you may not be able to afford to continue on a paraprofessional salary, keeping a very part time job in the system you want to work in really helps to apply, when most openings go to internal candidates. Also, if you might consider relocating you could have a better chance. I also graduated in 2009 with my MLIS and after moving across the country from my library program, I have been continuously employed as a librarian/manager.

    The point is, saying you want to stay in public libraries is less helpful than finding ways to stay involved. Also if you are willing to relocate, my system should be hiring several positions in the next six months!

      1. Branch Manager*

        I work in the Mountain West, so if that is an area that appeals to you let me know! The openings should be coming up in a few months, with some movement in the system. Though they could fill most from internally!

        1. Libby Chessler*

          If only a cross-country move was an option for me right now! Good luck to you and your system in the search!

    1. OhNo*

      Definitely suggest keeping a part-time/substitute role if it’s at all possible. I know a someone in the field who works in a corporate environment right now, but she’s had the same 4-hr monthly shift with the public library system for (I’m told) at least six years now, just to keep her foot in the door if she decides to move back to public. It seems like well-accepted common practice, at least in my area.

      (Side note: I would also be very curious about the positions. If you felt comfortable sharing the link/info when they open up, I’d love to check them out.)

  13. lamuella*

    #4 as a librarian who has worked in the US and worked in non-library roles, you may get some odd looks or questions but people are aware of how few library jobs there are at the moment.

    If I can offer some specific advice:

    1) While I’m sure you already know this, you will need a specific librarianship qualification to be a librarian. Everything else I say is assuming you already have it, but I thought it was worth mentioning.
    2) Librarians are found in all sorts of odd corners. I was a public librarian for six years. I’m currently a health librarian. If you broaden your search a little you may find more library jobs in the odder corners (in my experience law and corporate libraries have less competition for jobs than public and academic, although I’m absolutely willing to be told I’m wrong about this). The skills transfer over, especially in reference librarian roles.
    3) Not to put too fine a point on it… do your coworkers really need to know your ultimate career goals? Will they or you benefit from them knowing this? If not, probably fine to keep it off the table.
    4) As there are somewhat scarce jobs in your field, be realistic with yourself about how far you’d be willing to travel to get a job. Are you chained to your current city? Your current state? Set your parameters geographically. Once you have a secure enough job you can keep a passive search going on in the background.

    1. Christopher Tracy*

      Law libraries in my area look for librarians with both a MLS and a JD. I’m seriously considering going this route myself in a few years.

      1. J*

        I wonder what kind of qualifications you would need to be an in-house librarian at a law firm? Or if that position is going by the wayside in the current economy.

        Well, that’s clearly my web goal for the day.

        1. Temperance*

          My firm prefers folks with a JD and an MLS, as do most large firms, but if you have a technical specialization, you should be fine.

        2. lamuella*

          I think it depends job to job, but at minimum for a professional librarian position within a law firm you would need a master’s degree or postgraduate qualification in a library related field or substantial experience in working in such a field. If you’re in the UK then chartership with CILIP would also work.

          Lots of law libraries within colleges want a qualification in law, but private firms may be less strict. I spotted a Chicago firm looking for a position where they wanted someone with an MLS but would settle for someone with 3 years law library experience:

          Funnily enough the Library of Congress is looking for someone to run its law library at the moment:

  14. TL17*

    #3 – Ah! The rule of unwritten rules! I work somewhere full of them. You don’t know what they are until you’ve broken one and get either a) the cold shoulder or b) threatened with being fired. All for being wrong for not knowing what you weren’t told but magically should have known.

    I need a new job.

    1. Beezus*

      Ha! I worked somewhere once where the rules were written, but no one would show them to you and no one followed them, they were just there to trot out when someone felt like yelling at you.

      “Beezus, I’m writing you up for not logging that membership card you just gave someone.”
      “There’s a LOG??”
      “Yes, of course, I’m sure this was covered in your training. You’re supposed to log the name and address of everyone you give them to.”
      *reviews log* “You didn’t log the one you gave out yesterday, or the one from last week. Jodi, no one has logged anything since April.”
      “I’m also writing you up for insubordination.”

      1. EddieSherbert*

        Hahaha, I’m so sorry. That’s incredibly frustrating, but it made me just about fall over laughing (at my desk).

  15. Pucci Mane*

    I am still friendly with people who I worked with at my last job, which I was honestly not a great fit for, much to the consternation of both myself and my anxious, chatty manager. I still see my ex-coworkers socially sometimes and right after I left several of them, when they’d see me out, would try to tell me about things said ex-manager had to say about me, my leaving the company, etc. and I would imperiously paraphrase that RuPaul quote – “what other people think about you is none of your business. “

  16. Trout 'Waver*

    OP#2. Keep the bigger office. As a senior person, a big part of your job is providing cover for your team to do the things they were hired to do. You provide that cover by taking care of things at the senior level by working with the others at your level.

    Don’t spend most of your time in the office though. Go be visible to your team.

    1. OP2*

      I don’t have direct reports. I am in a corporate support role. I spend most of my time working with senior people in other departments. The only time I hear what other people in my department are working on is during staff meetings.

      1. JMegan*

        I’m on team Take the Smaller Office. You’re right that proximity to your team can make a big difference! And especially given what you’ve described about your role, it sounds like the office itself isn’t critical to your job – if you meet with senior people, you’re more likely going to their offices, correct? Also it doesn’t sound like the optics are particularly important to you, or at least not when compared to being near the people you work with. I think the smaller-but-closer one is the way to go.

      2. SusanIvanova*

        After one office move, some genius decided that all the Product Managers (they manage products, not people) should sit together, regardless of whether their products were related. Before that, they sat with the team who worked on their product. There was no line of reporting between us, but it was so much easier to just lean out of my office, see that he was there, and ask his opinion on how a feature should work, than to go upstairs to the opposite corner of the building only to find he’d had to run off to yet another unscheduled meeting.

        So I’m on the side of sitting nearer the people you need to keep up with, wherever that would be.

  17. the gold digger*

    like inviting people to lunch or coffee

    At my former job, I had moved from one department to another. In the old department, a few co-coworkers and I would walk across the street to get coffee once or twice a week.

    At the new department, I would ask my new boss, who would come into work, go straight to his office, and not talk to anyone, if he wanted to go get coffee. His answer was always, “I don’t drink coffee.”

    One day, I finally said, in exasperation, “Sid! It’s not about the coffee!”

    He finally got it. (He was not that great at picking up social cues. We implemented weekly meetings in our office. He was not the boss of the other 12 people there, but he was the director and the most senior person. After the first meeting, where two people sat against the wall instead of at the table, where there was plenty of room, and where three people sat with their arms crossed across their chests and said that their work was “fine,” he said, “I think that went really well!”

    I laughed and said, “Sid! We had two people who were literally not at the table. And others who would not make eye contact, crossed their arms, and gave one-word answers to your questions about their work. That meeting did not go well.”)

    My boss here has an office separate from the three of us who report to him. Every single morning, he comes over to say hi and for us all to walk down to the cafeteria together for coffee/tea/whatever. He is very good at developing and maintaining personal relationships.

    1. SJ*

      “Sid! It’s not about the coffee!”

      Reminds me of that Seinfeld episode where George’s date invites him up for “coffee” and he says that he can’t drink coffee late at night because it keeps him up. Later, he realizes: “Coffee’s not coffee, coffee is sex!”

  18. TotesMaGoats*

    #1-I understand how you are feeling. I left OldJob a year and change ago for exactly the reasons you listed. Word for word, almost. Sadly I don’t love NewJob but that’s not relevant. My former colleagues and staff still keep in touch through FB and texting. I spent almost a decade there and built really strong relationships. I don’t hear gossip about me but I do hear the teary tales of how management is undoing all our hard work and making life miserable for people and generally it’s not the awesome place it was when I was there and in charge. It hurts to hear that because I really cared for my staff. They were my people and I don’t like knowing that others have come in and are hurting my people. Including one person who would have worked well past her retirement date just because she loved her job but now is bolting as soon as the date rolls around. That’s a sad statement of how far things have fallen. I hate hearing it mostly because I can’t do anything but listen. So, because these people are my friends, I try to be a good listener. For the people higher up that I know well, I offer the advice that I can on dealing with them. Alison has good advice and I don’t really disagree but this is how I’m handling a similar situation.

    1. Audiophile*

      As someone with two middle initials, I’ve wondered about adding them to my resume.

      Only one of them is on my driver’s license, so I could technically use

  19. The Other Dawn*

    RE: #1

    “It’s normal to have some initial trouble cutting the ties to an old workplace, but you don’t want it to be painful to see photos of them doing normal things like attending work events. That’s a sign that you probably need to be very deliberate about turning your attention to other, more current things.”

    This is so, so true. The bank I worked for from the day it opened until the day it closed (12 years), shut down three years ago this week. The first year it was really tough. We all kept in touch fairly well and saw each other a couple times. It was really hard for me to not see these people all the time. People who laughed with me, cared about the goings on in my life, even my cats, and made chit chat with weren’t there anymore. This group of people that were like family just weren’t there everyday. The second year we kept in touch here and there, but didn’t see each other. I still made attempts to contact a couple of other people I hadn’t heard from in awhile, but never heard back; that was tough, but I finally accepted it. This year there’s one person I keep in touch with and it’s very sporadic. It took me until this year to realize, and accept, that they were just work friends and there wasn’t anything to hold us together beyond that, except for the one person I still talk to.

    I’m betting that once the old job is off the table for discussion, OP will find there’s really nothing else to talk about and people will drift away. It’s sad because you spent so much time with these people day in and day out, but in the end most of them are just people you worked with for awhile and bonded over broken Excel formulas.

  20. Libby Chessler*

    OP #4, are you me? After undergrad, I started applying for library/research jobs, knowing full well my ultimate goal was full time public library service but recognizing that without the MLIS, that was going to be pretty much impossible. I ended up at a special government library (via a contract). During the interview with the on-site folks, I was asked what my goals were within five years. I told them up-front that I wanted to be a public librarian but saw this job as a way to gain skills I didn’t currently have while putting to use the administrative skills I did have (this particular position is a bit admin-heavy but also has moments of reference and technical service work).

    They hired me. I don’t know if you have your MLIS yet. If you don’t (or, I suppose, even if you do but need experience), I can attest to there being jobs out there designed for folks like us. I’ve been told a few times that this position is designed for MLIS students to get experience and get out, basically (in nicer terms, of course). It’s obviously not something posted in the job description, so it may take some hunting and some crafty questions that get at the nature of the job from that angle, but there are such jobs out there. My aspirations are not something I bring up frequently because, of course, you don’t want them to feel like you’re going to leave right away, but that they’re aware of it and you occasionally mention it in some side-way can be enough to get connections if you’re with the right people.

    Meanwhile (and you didn’t really ask for this but –), I’d recommend joining your state library association, volunteering within the association or in other orgs (like reviewing for Library Journal), and getting specific experience with the particular demographic you’re interested in working with. For example, if you have a special interest in working with the immigrant community in your public library, find other non-library opportunities to do so.

  21. BeezLouise*

    OP2 — I beg you not to change your office! The new office you described sounds awfully similar to my current office, and it is soul killing to have to come trap myself in my “closet” every day.

  22. JOTeepe*

    #3: I definitely agree just running it by your manager would be fine. Another commenter suggested offering flexibility of dates, which of course if tickets aren’t booked already is an option. If they are, you could say something like, “Hey, I think I committed a major faux pas without knowing it and I really want to apologize. I would have gone about that in a much different way had I known. Unfortunately, my tickets are already purchased and are non-refundable otherwise I would offer to modify this, but next Christmas I’ll be here, working.” And, then, tell your parents that you really bungled and you’re making amends, and if they want to see you next Christmas see if they can come to you.

    The last couple of years I’ve taken quite a bit of time off surrounding Christmas because my mother in law was very ill and not local. She passed away in February, so I had already resolved to work most of Christmas week this year. I also work in an office that is open on Black Friday so, since I rarely travel for Thanksgiving I almost always volunteer to work that day. (It’s the best. I can usually plow through about 2 days worth of work in a few short hours at most.) This isn’t an unspoken rule of any kind, just my own personal code of ethics. I’ve been fortunate that most of the places I’ve worked I have not had an issue with holiday time off, but mostly because we’ve all tried to be considerate of other’s situations.

      1. JOTeepe*

        Thank you. I’ve been really fortunate to work for some wonderful people who were very accommodating during that time … I feel like I want to pay it back (or forward, as it is) now. My mom is local and we don’t have kids, so I’m happy to come into the office on those “prime” days!

  23. Amber Rose*

    OP2: Consider space needs also. I actually moved away from my department to a bigger area because the amount of files and stuff I generate outgrew my places to put them.

  24. Always Anon*

    #2 — You indicate that you in a senior position, do you direct reports have offices? Is there any room to meet in your new office? Is the new office a step-down from your direct reports offices (if they have them)?

    Typically, I’d say that moving to a smaller office so that you can have proximity to your team is the best bet, but as part of a senior leadership team (which I’m assuming is the case based on your letter), I think keeping the larger office may be important. You may need to meet with direct reports where having room is needed. Additionally, I know where I work, we often meet in one of the senior leadership teams offices if the conference rooms are booked during the day.

    Plus, I think there is a perception issue to deal with. If the new office that you are moving into really isn’t suitable for your work, and it’s smaller than your direct reports offices, then I think it can cause a perception issue that perhaps you are not valuable appropriately (although I think this is far less of an issue in a functional office versus a dysfunctional office).

    So the big question I would have, is would the smaller office make it more difficult to do your work (aside from having to move a chair to close the door). If the answer is yes, then I would stay in the office that you are.

    1. OP2*

      I do not have direct reports. The smaller office would not currently affect my work, but there is nowhere to store anything. I assume I will accumulate files and records that I will want to keep at hand as I spend time in this job.

      None of my day to day work involves anyone in my department. If I walk into my department at all, it is to ask my boss a question, or to join her on a conference call. Otherwise, I truly have no reason to be there.

      1. Mander*

        Since you have a nice big office with extra space, would it make any sense to invite some of your colleagues in to work with you on joint projects once in a while or something like that?

        Personally I think your office sounds awesome and I wouldn’t give it up, especially if you have any possibility of actually being the boss one day and yet being stuck with the small office if that happens. But then I really like having a window.

  25. Sam*

    OP#4 Maybe give some thought to why you want to give this message to your (potential future) colleagues. Are you interested in what they would rather be doing than this job? It might come off a little condescending if you’re just getting up to speed as a grant writer and you’re already telling them you’d rather be a librarian. They might want to be librarians, too, or dentists or astronauts, or they could be really awesome grant writers and proud of that and want you to focus on being good at it too and not just be looking at it as a stepping stone to something “better” than what they take pride in every day. It’s that, too, of course, but while you’re writing the grants or analyzing the research or managing the records, take that (and your potential future colleagues) seriously enough to focus on that while you’re there and not worry too much about how to tell them you’d rather be doing something else.

  26. Meredith*

    #4 I also have an Master’s degree in Library and Information Studies, and specialized in archives. I graduated right when the economy tanked in 2008, and the already tight archives job market got even tighter. I moved into an outreach and education position at a LIS graduate program, and I have really grown to love my job. I had anticipated that it would be a hold-over position until I got my “real job,” but I would never move back into archives now. I was able to find a lot of joy and satisfaction in my current position (which I have held since 2009, steadily moving up the ranks), identifying projects that have given me a lot of experience. I have a lot of autonomy, flexibility, and responsibility, and those are things I find very valuable. I do acknowledge that this is just my case; I have almost always had good luck with growing where I’m planted. Not everyone would be content with changing course like I did.

    You should not consider this your “starter” job (which implies that it is lesser, even if you don’t intend that), but as a position where you resolve to get experience that will further your skill set. If you’re going into records management, for example, you will have to do a lot of outreach and education within the organization you’re operating, and those are great skill sets to have. If you’re a prospect researcher, you’re developing reference skills. Learn to identify those opportunities and projects for gaining transferable skills. Get involved in your local/state/regional library associations and have a lot of conversations with public librarians, if that’s the field you want to get into. Volunteer to serve on committees and within library organizations. I have found that this is a small enough profession where your reputation really does count for a lot on the job market.

    Best wishes!

  27. motherofdragons*

    Regarding #3, how is it that this OP and others before are finding out that people are complaining about them? Are co-workers doing it openly? Or is someone “helpfully” passing this gossip along?

  28. Chaordic One*

    OP #1. After I left my old dysfunctional job I rather enjoyed hearing the office gossip from former co-workers. I liked being told that I was missed. I experienced schadenfreude when I was told that things didn’t get done or get done as well as when I worked there.

    But I guess I’m the only one.

  29. Harvey the Grammar and Diction Policeman*

    “Alternately, you could look for other ways to boost your opportunity for interaction with people.”


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