four updates from recent letter-writers

Here are updates from four letter-writers who had their questions answered here recently.

1. Should I temporarily live in my boss’s spare bedroom?

Thanks so much for publishing your thoughtful response to my letter. I’ll admit, I kind of wanted my boss’s offer to be an “easy solution,” so at first I didn’t want to hear your recommendation to turn it down. But after thinking about it, I realized that you were right, that the potential problems weren’t worth it. I made plans to stay with my friend who lives outside the city, and luckily, I ended up not even needing to stay with either person — it’s been a stressful month, but I’ve just signed a lease, and will move into my new place on Monday!

Funnily, my boss mentioned that she had a point in her career where she was in the same boat as me, where she needed housing and her boss at the time offered her a place to stay- which she ended up not taking. So maybe she was just offering to make me feel better? Guess I’ll never know!

2. I’m being required to sing on camera for work

Thank you everyone for your comments — it’s great to hear from people who are completely objective and I was quite surprised how many other people have been in the same position.

The singing fiasco happened yesterday. The rest of the six members of the team were all giddy and excited about it which made me feel even more awkward. I stood at the back and mimed – the song was 500 miles from The Proclaimers but they had changed the words slightly (apparently). I’m Scottish and I hate that song! The video has been emailed to everyone in our office (around 30 people) and someone commented to me that it was obvious that I didn’t want to be there. I’ve not seen it because I don’t want to relive it.

I contacted Unison, my trade union a few days ago and they replied with this earlier today: “The employer does not have the right to force you to sing…and you should inform them that you do not wish to be included but rather assist with other aspects of the event. I understand you may feel uncomfortable having that conversation but as you have stated, this does not form part of your contract.”

I’ll leave it for now and not make a scene but if they ever try and force me to do something in future that makes me uncomfortable, I’ll pull out the Unison card out of my sleeve!

3. Should I tell job candidates I’m a lesbian in case it’s an issue for them?

Thanks for your advice / reassurance on this question!

I wanted to tell candidates I’m a lesbian so they would self-select out if they had an issue with my sexuality because I didn’t want to have to deal with that particular management issue (so my comfort, not theirs). Although I do have some amazing I-can’t-believe-a-new-employee-would-put-their-foot-in-their-mouth-this-badly-in-2016 stories to share sometime for an open thread (if khakis are part of required work attire for an event, and all of your 25 coworkers are wearing khakis without complaint, it MIGHT not be appropriate to go off on how you hate wearing khakis because only lesbians wear khakis and people might think you’re a lesbian).

In my workplace, we do 1-1 phone screens and then group in-person interviews. What I ended up doing was to walk the candidate to the elevator at the end of the interview. Then, I usually just asked what they had planned that weekend, and then when they asked me, I told them my wife and I were planning to see a movie or whatever.

That approach felt more natural to me than slipping into the group interview, which tend to be really focused on professional questions and/or the candidate.

4. Asking about working remotely for a week several times a year (#5 at the link)

I want to thank you for answering my question back in April. It wasn’t a particularly juicy question/answer but the comment section proved massively helpful, as some people brought up the fact that working overseas on occasion could actually be breaking the law and potentially make getting a visa at a later point problematic. This opened up a whole new topic of research for my partner and me, but I’m happy to report that we’ve got plans in place to make this feasible for a couple of years (and also that I secured an awesome job at a significantly higher pay than I expected). So I have to thank the AAM community for their input too!

{ 54 comments… read them below }

  1. LSP*

    OP #3 – Really looking forward to some of those stories. While I am sometimes disappointed that there are still people who can’t seem to just get over who other people love, I am finding myself much more often delighted to see more and more people who just want to live their lives and let other’s live theirs.

    1. Washington*

      Seriously. To badly paraphrase, I’m barely in charge of my own life, I don’t have time to be in charge of anyone else’s.

    2. Artemesia*

      My mother who died at 92 and would be 100 now and who was conservative and a life long Republican once said ‘You know it is hard enough to find someone in the world to love and partner with — why should anyone care who someone else loves. It is just good that they have found someone.’

      1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

        It always makes me think of How I Met Your Mother, where the Proclaimers tape was stuck and they listened to the song over and over :)

        1. Anon for this :-)*

          I’m one of the few who has never seen that show. I think I may have seen the final episode inadvertently, though.

          1. disconnect*

            Be glad you didn’t see the entire run of the series only to be punched in the face by that godawful piece of shit finale.

      2. Interviewer*

        I love it, too. Although I can see “fun & campy” quickly turning into “rather lame” in the workplace.

        I had no idea that band was Scottish. Always assumed they were Australian.

    1. Mimmy*

      The song is a guilty pleasure for me, but I can only imagine the hot mess that video turned out to be! Glad the union supports your position.

      1. JMegan*

        I do love that song. :) But I only sing it when I’m really…er…happy, and when everyone around me is similarly “happy,” and when it’s too loud to hear anything anyway. I can’t imagine having to sing it for real, and at work! You have my sympathies, OP – that sounds awful.

    2. mazzy*

      I know, nothing like using a song that repeats the same lyrics a million times in a row. Must be tedious to watch as well.

  2. JessaB*

    I had to look up the song because the only 500 miles I know is by Peter Paul and Mary and I had no idea the Proclaimers had covered it. I see that it’s totally not the same song, and yeh the lyrics are problematic to me. I can see why you would A: not want to sing, and B: not want to sing THAT.

    1. Observer*

      The song is great for parodying, though. I’d never heard it but I heard a parody that works great in terms of the music and a SLIGHTLY tweaked chorus. I can’t find a link, but it was quite funny.

    2. mazzy*

      Really? You remember the older version but don’t remember the newer one being on the radio nonstop in the early 90s?

      1. auntie_cipation*

        What’s wrong with that? Some of us stopped listening to pop music at some point — for me it was the mid-to-late-80s. I know very little of any pop music after that point.

        It so happens I know this song because I saw the movie it was in (which in itself is rare as I don’t see many movies, but I happened to see that one). Otherwise I would be with JessaB thinking only of the Peter/Paul/Mary song…

  3. voyager1*

    OP3 Question, what made you pick this over the pictures on the desk suggestion from the original thread?

    1. OP*

      Because in my office job interviews are not done at your desk! (Shared office space means all job interview are in a conference room). I do have wedding pictures on my desk, but a candidate wouldn’t see them until their post-hire tour.

      1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

        I think that your solution is a great one. Aside from the logistical issue of not doing interviews in your office, I know that I’m usually pretty nervous during an interview and don’t think I could tell you anything about the pictures or other decoration in an office if I tried!

    2. Tea*

      Not OP, but you wouldn’t believe the depths to which some people will be completely and willfully blind to people being gay unless they’re told directly. I’m talking… photos of two guys on their honeymoon, hand in hand, wedding rings flashing, and getting comments like “Wow, glad you’re so close to your brother,” or seeing a movie where two girls kiss and talk about how they’d never leave each other– “No, they’re just close friends.” I think a photo would be far too subtle.

      1. Lissa*

        Yup. I have a friend whose significant other has a name that’s usually used for women these days but was once a male name, think “Shannon”, and she talked about her girlfriend a lot in the workplace, using female pronouns….and had her workplace asking after her husband Shannon!

        It’s also a problem with the word “girlfriend”. Straight girls use that word to talk about their platonic friends, so it isn’t unambiguous. So, if you aren’t married it is even harder to communicate that! I’m bi and have got “what do you mean” when I mentioned an ex girlfriend….sigh.

        1. Kate H*

          I actually flinch when straight women use “girlfriend” to talk about their friends. I’m also bi and I like to come out to people by mentioning my girlfriend, but then I always have to wonder if they “get it.”

      2. Mabel*

        I’ve gotten “are you sisters” several times – about someone who is not the same race as me. People see what they want to see sometimes.

        1. M-C*

          I’ve had the same – people can see you’re close, but they’ll go to any length to deny it’s.. that. And then there are the ones who’ll vigorously deny that my not-same-race sister is in fact my sister. Mostly the same people, actually :-).

      3. One of the Sarahs*

        In one of my old jobs, I had to ask a friend to take homophobic team mate aside and say “Do you know Sarah is gay?”, because NO amount of general talking about my partner, and naming her about my partner, etc etc was getting through. It was completely bizarre.

  4. Observer*

    #3, I don’t know whether I want to hear your stories, or hide. All I can tell you is that I must have looked like a fish with my mouth opening and closing, trying to stop the gape, when I read your snippet of an anecdote. That’s just insane!

    1. Mabel*

      Right, because being mistaken for a lesbian would be the worst thing ever (says the woman who is always – mistakenly – assumed to be straight). What a jerk.

      1. links*

        That seems rather an uncharitable take of Observer’s comment. I think she meant she is and would be horrified at the homophobia in the stories.

          1. Mabel*

            That’s right. I would never call a commenter here a jerk. But, links, I’m glad you defended Observer when you thought I was being mean to them.

      2. Artemesia*

        As a tomboy as a child and not a frilly woman who is fairly assertive, I have been mistaken for a lesbian on occasion. This is an issue on people’s mind today and ignorant people jump to conclusions.

        1. BeenThere*

          Happened to me while I was living in the south! I’m exactly like you (Tomboy not frilly at all however still very much a woman) and had moved with my defacto (boyfriend). It was common for people from my home country to refer to their live in boyfriend/girlfriend as a partner regardless of sex/gender and it was assumed that it was nobodies business where you fell on the Kinsey scale. Also boyfriend/girlfriend is a really immature phrase used by high school students. Anyway my future boss in the US (also from home country) warned me not to use partner as it confused Americans. Apparently the whole office assumed his girlfriend of six years was male for a very long time. At some point I slipped into home country english rather than American english and was using partner in a conversation with someone in the kitchen. It wasn’t until someone asked my what my girlfriend did for living that I’d realized what they’d assumed. *SIGH* I wish english was genderless.

          1. Kate H*

            “Also boyfriend/girlfriend is a really immature phrase used by high school students.”

            My girlfriend and I are both adults. I agree that it does sound a bit immature, but it’s the phrase that we prefer to use. We both dislike “partner” because it sounds like we’re in business together. I think it’s great if people prefer it but I don’t like being called immature for my choice.

            1. Typicals is a Word*

              I don’t think people necessarily mean you’re immature, it means some people (including you apparently) think the phrase is immature. In any case, I hope people haven’t actually said “you two are so immature for using that.” I have two coworkers, both in their forties, who use boyfriend/girlfriend to describe their (individual) relationships. I know what they mean, and they can use whatever phrase they’re comfortable with.

              In my experience, “partner” goes over people’s heads occasionally and I’ve gotten the confused-look “business partner?” thing. I sometimes use “life partner” which is awkward but usually people get it at that point. (I mostly use SO.)

  5. USA Election 2016 Results*

    Thank you for this page it is very helpful. I have recently been offered a job with a law firm. I am terrified that i cant pass the exams and that i am not clever enough to do it and that when i get there they will realise this and they wont keep me on and then two years studying (after a first degree) will make me old to start a new career. I dont want to do it because I am so scared of failure. I also hate still being a student and feel worthless because I dont have a proper income and am living at home. I feel like all my friends are moving on now and i am still living off my mum and dad. I feel very guilty and useless when my mum and dad go out work and i am at home studying they never say anything to make me feel like this but i do.

  6. Chaordic One*

    #3 I think the OP has found a very acceptable, effective and worthwhile way to deal with (what might potentially be) an uncomfortable situation for some job seekers.

    Well done!

  7. Jim*

    The singing thing sounds absolutely dreadful. I’m not sure I’d want to work somewhere that did that.

  8. spinetingler*

    ” I’ll pull out the Unison card out of my sleeve!”

    If that was intentional then “well-played!”

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