boss is hanging terrible artwork, my spouse fired someone in our social network, and more

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

1. Our boss is hanging terrible artwork in our new office space

I am the office manager of a small, tight-knit consulting firm of 15 employees. We recently relocated our offices to a larger, more modern location. The new space is very nice and I, along with two other admin staff (all ladies), have been tasked with hanging artwork in the new space. Boss (the owner and president) has brought in some paintings his sister painted. Some of these pieces are large and disproportionate, and none of them relate to the very specific work we do. To be blunt, they are really terrible! This morning, Boss hung the largest (and arguably the ugliest) piece on the wall that faces our main entrance. It is way too large for this wall and looks awful!

How can we talk to him about this without hurting his feelings? Or do we just suck it up since his name is on the door and he can put up anything he wants? He is a very reasonable person and a great boss, but we don’t know how to gently tell him this artwork is truly heinous. Help!

Especially because they’re painted by his sister, I think you probably have to just suck it up unless (a) it’s terrible in a way that will offend or repel clients, (b) it legitimately makes you or your coworkers uncomfortable (for example, it’s highly sexualized), or (c) you have the kind of relationship with him where you can tell him difficult things and he’s grateful you spoke up. But if neither (a) nor (b) is the case, I’d probably lean toward just telling yourself that taste in art is really personal, and that’s one of the things that makes it so interesting, and that artwork that everyone agrees on can be boring. (Of course, I haven’t seen these paintings, so that may be cold comfort.)

2. My spouse fired someone in our social network

My spouse just fired for cause a worker who is a member of our social network, although we don’t socialize with the worker, who I’ll call “Pat.” Pat’s younger than us, but Pat and spouse are former coworker/neighbor/friend to several of our friends. It’s a small universe here – everyone is intertwined by ties of family/friends/shared history.

Pat was on a PIP, but either didn’t understand what s/he needed to do to improve or wasn’t willing to – it’s not clear which. Pat is a nice person – just unable to do the job. Pat was getting coaching by my spouse and by the direct manager, but it didn’t help. Making it worse, I’m not sure Pat’s spouse knew Pat was on a PIP so this may be an enormous shock. They have various financial obligations, some new since the PIP.

I don’t want to and know I can’t talk to any mutual friends about this if they ask, but I’m afraid they might ask or (maybe even worse) silently think the worst of my spouse. My spouse feels terrible about this, but Pat really didn’t leave any choice. If a mutual friend asks, is there anything I can say – other than “I’m not at liberty to talk about it” – to make it clear my spouse feels bad about this and tried to prevent it?

You can say, “It’s tough when that happens. I know (my spouse) really regrets that it didn’t work out.”

That way you’re not revealing any details you shouldn’t reveal, but you’re acknowledging that it’s an unfortunate thing. And the “it didn’t work out” implies there was a reason for what happened, just not one you’re talking about.

3. Interviewer got angry that I called so many times while she was out sick

I had an interview last Thursday, which went well. I was told I would hear from the manager on Monday. I called her Monday around 5:30 p.m. to follow up and thank her, and was told she had another interview that was scheduled for Tuesday, and I would hear from her Tuesday. Tuesday evening came around and no call. I called the office at 6:30 p.m. and was told she had left for the day. I called twice Wednesday, was told she wasn’t in yet, left another message. Thursday I called again around noon, was told she was coming in but the receptionist wasn’t sure when. I waited until 5:40 p.m. and called back to show I am very interested, and was then finally told she was out sick the past couple of days.

The manager called me from home and left a voicemail saying “my receptionist told you four times today that I was out sick, I don’t know how many times you need to be told that. At this point, I’m not able to offer you a position with us.” My problem is, I was NEVER told she was out sick until my last phone call. How can I approach this to let her know she was misinformed and I had not been told she was out sick? I wouldn’t have continued calling to follow up if I had known.

Well, the thing is, even if she hadn’t been sick, this was way too much contact. You called her on Monday when you didn’t hear anything that day — fine, a little aggressive since they were barely past the timeline they’d given you that point, but okay. But then you kept calling. It’s okay to call once and leave a message. And then if you don’t hear back after a few days — not one day, but several — you can try one final time. But that’s really the maximum amount you can do it without looking overly pushy.

After all, there are all kinds of reasons why someone might not have gotten back to you yet — they might be out sick, or dealing with a family emergency, or dealing with a work emergency, or just dealing with higher priorities. Continuing to call over and over doesn’t show you’re very interested; it says “I think the thing I want from you is more important than anything else you’re dealing with right now.”

You can certainly send the manager an email (don’t call again) saying, “I’m so sorry — I hadn’t known you were out sick or I wouldn’t have kept trying to contact you. I really apologize, and hope you’re feeling better now.” But that’s just about leaving this in a better place; it’s not likely to change her decision. I’m sorry.

4. Changed my name, now changing it back

I’m a woman who got married a few months ago, and changed my name socially and professionally, but not legally. I took on a hyphenated last name. I’ve since decided I’m actually more comfortable going by my maiden name, and want to socially and professionally change it back. However, I’m a little concerned about colleagues thinking that going back to my maiden name on LinkedIn and on my work email signature might signal that I’m getting divorced, which isn’t true. I just want my old name back. Is there a sensible way for me to signal that I’m going back to my old name, yet not getting divorced, or would that be making a big deal about nothing? Is there a way for me to message this that doesn’t sound too weird?

I’d just be breezy about it — people probably aren’t paying that much attention or reading that much into it. I wouldn’t worry at all about people noticing on LinkedIn, but for people who you work with regularly, you could just say, “By the way, I decided not to hyphenate after all so I’m sticking with just Snorffleworth!” I think that will be fine for most people, but if you notice anyone looking particularly concerned, you could add, “I’m working on convincing Dave we should pick a brand new third name” or anything else that mentions Dave in a non-divorcey way.

{ 421 comments… read them below }

  1. MissGirl*

    OP1: The owner of my last company put up terrible artwork. We just tried not to make eye contact with the painting hanging in front of our toilet while we did our business. It’s too subjective to judge someone else’s taste, especially when it’s family.

    OP2: Could you also add the line, “This isn’t something he takes lightly?” That way they understand it was a difficult decision.

    OP4: Who would ever change the name, Snorffleworth? Of course, you’re going back.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        Anything with either 1 or 2 syllables so, Snorffleworth-Smythe or Snorffleworth-Baker.

        Snorffelworth-Cumberbatch is starting to look a little unwieldy.

      2. Mookie*

        I like Snorffleworth-on-Sea because people will think you’re a seaside resort town and will ask you in accusing tones if the weather in you is always this gloomy and wet or if you prepared it specially for their visit. Also, if you “celebrate” Halloween, you’ve got a readymade costume.

    1. Kelly L.*

      At one of my old workplaces, we had art in the bathrooms too, and the “art” was actually advertisements for the company’s product. It wasn’t so bad when I was being “watched” by a whole group of people who were talking amongst themselves in the picture and not really seeming to make eye contact with me. Then the owner switched them all around and we got, in the women’s bathroom, a picture of a roughly 11-year-old boy grinning from ear to ear at the camera. I don’t think it was intentional, just oblivious, but it was definitely awkward trying to do my business while this little twerp “watched”!

      1. MissGirl*

        That is awkward. Our bathroom art was two punk chicks, one with a bionic or something arm. We never quite figured it out.

        1. Former Invoice Girl*

          I had to move floors for my new position (same company, different role), and I almost screamed when I noticed there was a full-length mirror in one of the toilet stalls. In the stall itself. I try never to use it because it’s just awkward – fortunately the other two are mirror-free.

          1. Nanani*

            what the….

            Now I really want to hear from your building’s decorator/designer what’s up with that.

            1. Former Invoice Girl*

              Apparently that room was not originally designed to host toilets – hence the mirror. I guess they could still have taken it down before installing the toilet itself, though.

              1. Nanani*

                I’m picturing something like a department store changing room converted to a bathroom?
                Other than that, I can’t see why a work space would need full-length mirrors o.o

                1. Jadelyn*

                  Well, generally speaking it can be helpful to have one in a non-stall area of a bathroom – my workplace has an old-fashioned “lounge” anteroom between the hallway and the women’s room proper, which does have a large mirror. Makes it easier to check for wardrobe malfunctions and such. But I’d NEVER consider having a mirror IN A FREAKING STALL WHAT IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE? Of all the times I DON’T want to know what I look like…

          2. Tafadhali*

            I’ve been to one or two places — notably, the Jordan’s Furniture in Natick — that had ONE-WAY mirrors on their stall doors. So, from the inside of the stall they were windows, and from the outside they were mirrors. People would stop and fix their hair in them while you just awkwardly looked out at them, feeling very exposed. It was the most disconcerting bathroom I’ve ever been in.

            1. Stranger than fiction*

              I’ve heard there’s public toilets on busy streets in Europe somewhere that have these.

              1. Amadeo*

                I’m pretty sure that unless I was about to pee myself, I’d never be able to release my bladder in there, with all those people I’d convinced could see me.

            2. AnonAnalyst*

              I’m in Boston, so I am now hugely tempted to drive out to that store to see it in person. I am both horrified and fascinated by the fact that this exists.

            3. Rana*

              I’d find it awkward to use the mirror, too, knowing that on the other side there was someone looking at me while trying to do their business.

            4. ginger ale for all*

              The Dallas World Aquarium has a large window that is about 6 feet by 6 feet in the handicap stall of one of it’s women’s bathrooms that looks out on an alley. So if you are handicapped, it’s the only stall you can use on that floor. Awkward to say the least.

            5. I Didn’t Kill Kenny*

              Very late to this party but the Kowloon in Saugus has those mirrors too. Really freaked me out when I used the facilities. Disconcerting is not even the word! Lol

          3. Karo*

            We have one of those! It’s one of the only single bathrooms in the building, and it’s directly outside my office, so I’ve resigned myself to the full length mirror. You wind up staring at the floor a lot…and occasionally testing it to ensure it’s not a double mirror.

          4. Pixel*

            Went to see an open house on a whim. The house was a narrow three-storey with a kitchen/living/dining room on the first floor, an open concept den/family room and another bedroom on the second floor, and a master that took the entire third floor. There was a big fish tank on the second floor between the den and the bathroom, so no way to do your business without people in the other room (and the fish) watching. The third floor master bath was essentially a glass brick structure right by the stairs. There was not a single bathroom in the house that offered complete privacy. I guess their target audience did not families with teens and older kids, introverts or anyone who had people over. I realize it’s not an office (yikes), but still.

            1. Rana*

              We stayed in a hotel in NYC that was like that. The bathroom had a big window on the shower side – not frosted at all above the waist – and glass bricks separating it from the rest of the suite. It was beyond awkward if you were waiting for someone to finish up before going out together. I remember that everyone defaulted to sitting on the beds, staring at the front door, and pretending that the person using the bathroom didn’t exist behind them. What on earth was the designer thinking?!

              1. Rana*

                To clarify, the big window looked to the outside; the glass bricks were the interior wall. So you could end up flashing people both inside the room and in other nearby buildings if you were not careful.

                1. Pixel*

                  Because only Sheldon Cooper-type people want or need privacy, apparently, so if you want any chance of fitting in with the cool crowd you need to be comfortable with your shower becoming a spectacle sport?

                  I’ve seen way too many houses with no door between the master bedroom and bath. Other than the obvious TMI, there’s the issue of noise and disrupting your partner’s sleep when you have an early flight to catch and she needs her zzzs to be functional at work. This exact scenario played at my house this morning, which made me really appreciate my traditional, no-master-bath setup.

          5. seejay*

            My first condo that I bought had 3/4 of the bathroom walls done in mirrors… and that included inside the bathtub.

            So not only could you watch yourself doing your business while sitting on the can, you could also view yourself from every single possible angle while scrubbing your dainty bits in the shower.

            My mom and I had one hell of a time tearing out all those mirrors when she helped me redo the whole bathroom prior to selling the place. The previous owner had GLUED THEM DIRECTLY TO THE TILES. We covered ourselves up with full length coveralls and gloves and masks and took hammers and crowballs to the walls but it still took about 6 hours and we filled the back of the pickup truck with huge shards of broken mirror. A fun time was not had by all.

      2. BPT*

        In my last office building, the women’s locker room in the gym downstairs had artsy nude pictures of men and women (I think the lower parts were at least artfully covered). It didn’t really bother me, but it was a little weird. Especially when we mentioned it to the men, and they were really shocked, because their locker room was filled with sports pictures.

        1. Anon-time*

          Years ago, there were nude pictures of me all over the small dot com I was working for…only you couldn’t tell because the owner (who I was dating at the time unfortunately) fancied himself an artist and made the pictures all like pixelated and color washed so they looked like abstract art I guess. Imagine poor me at the front desk when potential investors were staring at this artwork and conversing about it just a few feet away! (and that was probably the least worse thing about that boss/relationship)

          1. seejay*

            When I as 19 or 20, I did an artful nude photo shoot for a friend for his class project. Fortunately this was prior to the internet so as far as I know the photos aren’t anywhere in the wild, but they *DID* wind up on the wall at the local college. I don’t know why but I felt like it wouldn’t get and around known publicly that I did that. I also had a lot of makeup on and my hair done up in a way that it wasn’t *really* obvious it was me.

            Then my sister came up to me and said “someone told me they saw a naked photo of you up on the wall at the college”.


        2. Ellie*

          There is a restaurant I’ve been to a few times that has an under-16s toilet and a 16s-and-over toilet. The under-16s one I’m told is quite a normal restaurant bathroom. The adult bathroom has orgy wallpaper. Though to be fair, it’s the most tasteful orgy wallpaper I have ever seen.

          1. Just Here for the Comments*

            Do you have basis for comparison on orgy wallpapers? I am simultaneously horrified and fascinated by the idea that there are multiple versions of this idea out there…

      3. kac*

        We once got new bathroom art–and the women’s bathroom art was all about make up and ‘being sassy’ and shoe shopping. I think the men had something like nature scenes.

        I’ll forever love on of the senior managers who went on a tear about the terrible, sexist artwork and within a week they were gone, replaced with our own nature scenes.

      4. AVP*

        My boss once put a framed portrait of himself in a room that my coworker worked from (basically her office, but it’s also a client room so a little less personal and more art-directed). He positioned it so that it looked like he was watching her work – SO creepy. She moved it to the floor and luckily he didn’t say anything although I’m sure he noticed.

      5. Windchime*

        I was at a local restaurant a couple of weeks ago and needed to visit their restroom. It was just a big room with two toilets sitting side-by-side. It looked like they had intended to put up stalls but then never got around to it. Super weird. I was really glad there was a lock on the door so I didn’t have to sit side by side with anyone.

        1. C Average*

          This reminds me of something I encountered a few years back while hiking on Mount Rainier. Near one of the campsites around the base of the mountain, there is an open-air toilet that consists of a wooden box set over (presumably) a big hole in the ground, and there are two side-by-side seats on the box. You get a breath-taking view of the mountain. I can’t fathom having the kind of relationship with any living human being that would allow for side by side doing of one’s business, but it’s definitely the most memorable restroom facility I’ve ever seen.

          1. Formica Dinette*

            The Windy Point viewpoint on the Iron Goat Trail also has a loo with a spectacular view, but it is only a one-seater.

          2. Natalie*

            The outhouse at my family’s cabin has two seats side by side. From what I understand that wasn’t uncommon for outhouses.

          3. CheeryO*

            I went to a Girl Scout camp that had a two-seater outhouse. I have an extremely vivid memory of getting sent in with my best friend and taking turns while the other person faced the wall with their eyes closed. Just one of many incredibly weird experiences that I had as a Girl Scout, but I digress…

            1. vpc*

              gee, even our girl scout camp outhouses — four seats to a bench – had partitions up between each seat for privacy.

        2. Kelly L.*

          Didn’t they have something like that at the Olympic facilities in Sochi too? I vaguely remember a pic being shared around.

          1. General Ginger*

            That’s the case for a lot of bathrooms in Russia (or at least it was, last I recall). The bathrooms in my former school (back in the 80s) were definitely like that, though the third floor had the “good” bathroom — there were stall dividers between the toilets, but still no doors.

          2. Candi*

            The specific picture being circulated the most turned out to be a storage closet where the toilets were stored prior to installation.

            But, yes, stalless toilets in general were said to abound.

            1. Rusty Shackelford*

              The specific picture being circulated the most turned out to be a storage closet where the toilets were stored prior to installation.

              Really? Ugh. I’m so disappointed.

        3. Colleen*

          In 2nd grade, I attended an elementary school in a rural area in Appalachia. The girls’ restroom had a concrete platform with 4 side-by-side toilets on it, no walls, no doors. While using the toilet, our view was the row of girls against the wall about 3 feet away from us, waiting their turn. ughhhh.

    2. Sophie Winston*

      You could try just addressing the size of the artwork. “The ship painting in the lobby is too large and overwhelms that space. Could we swap it with the currently hung in your office?

        1. Sophie Winston*

          Oops. I had put a phrase between carrots >< and didn't realize it would disappear. It was supposed to say the "smaller and less offensive painting" hung in your office.

    3. Chaordic One*

      I keep thinking of the horrible print (The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife) that Bert Cooper had in Mad Men and how Roger Sterling gave it to Peggy Olson after Bert kicked the bucket.

  2. Cynicaal Lackey*

    Glad to see you are apparently feeling better. I missed the Q’s on Friday, but I am glad you are back.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Oh no, I’m still sick! That’s why there are four letters instead of five and some other changes to today’s line-up. Hoping to be on a more normal posting schedule by Tuesday though.

      1. Drew*

        Please don’t rush your recovery! We’ll just have to make do with the archives or even (gasp, horror!) do real work for a few days.

      2. ..Kat..*

        Do you live near a Jewish deli that makes homemade chicken soup? It really does help! My husband is from the east coast and Jewish and swears nothing comes close to the food from his favorite childhood deli. Although he acknowledges that the love I put into my homemade chicken soup for him makes my soup better for him! (Smart man)

        Get well soon.

      3. Hornswoggler*

        Alison, you need to get your scarf on. It’s the middle of October! No wonder you caught a cold. Commiserations and feel better soon.

        1. Anna the Accounting Grad*

          Same here. I also miss the ability to collapse part of a comment thread. Especially on the long and/or involved threads.

  3. Rahera*

    #1 If the art has to stay, could you maybe think up secret painting titles, eg Lava Lamp with Still Life and Goldfish, just to make you smile when they catch your eye… or treat them as a daily Rorschach test. As long as you’re not the type to get random giggles and have to explain yourself (I’d be hopeless).

    My sympathies, be glad you don’t own any of them. :|

    1. Sherm*

      Yeah, maybe it can be the office joke that you can laugh about and bond over with your coworkers — out of earshot of your boss, of course!

    2. MillersSpring*

      OP#1: I find myself wondering if the painting just isn’t your taste–maybe modern, abstract, in colors you don’t like or if it’s the opposite: you appreciate quality art both modern and traditional, but this art is poorly done, the subject is trite or if it’s in outdated colors. (The mauves of the 80s come to mind.) You might try saying, “Hmm. I’m not sure about having that piece there.” And suggest an alternate piece or an alternate place for the ugly piece such as his office.

      1. Drew*

        “I have to admit, I’m not a devotee of Early American Preschool, but I’m sure it’s very nice if you’re into that sort of thing.”

      2. Artemesia*

        I think the worst are not abstractions — they tend to be decorative at least. The bad ones are attempts at realism that backfire. I have seen some really embarrassingly awful art in offices and now I know why — relatives.

        1. Jayn*

          I can think of two artists who I’m not in a position to say “this sucks”. One falls into uncanny valley territory–clearly recognizable but off enough to look weird (and not so off as to be stylized). The other just does very simplistic art with weird subject matter, so I can’t even look at it and think “nice technique” because there isn’t much there.

          Thankfully neither has asked my opinion.

        2. Rana*

          Have you ever heard of the Museum of Bad Art? They collect and curate that sort of stuff, and it is hilarious.

          1. Gene*

            And there was the Velvetaria in Portland. I think it moved to SoCal about 5 years ago. A museum dedicated to paintings on black velvet.

      3. Kiki*

        Yes, I immediately thought of one revered artist (that many many people collect!), that I think is godawful. I just don’t look at it. After all, it’s not your living room, it’s his office.

    3. Bwmn*

      I have to say – even if office art is chosen well, it’s kind of amazing how unintentionally oopsies can easily happen. The images chosen for our office art ultimately made sense, were aesthetically pleasing enough, but the framing choice that was made and the way the images are hung in our office essentially make the images totally obscured by glare and reflection. So walking by a picture of a family – and you’ll see is a large glare and your own reflection super imposed over a very faint image of a family.

      Really ugly bad art is unfortunate, but I do think that in general it’s something that can create sympathy among other coworkers/offices.

      1. Natalie*

        My old office had two Rothko prints, probably chosen because they matched the color scheme. Except they were hung sideways.

        1. Oryx*

          My cousin has a tattoo inspired by a Rothko painting. It’s basically just the rectangle outlines but watching her trying to explain it to our non-artsy family is awkward.

  4. Fox in Socks*

    #3 You’ve been given bad advice if you think that’s how to show you’re interested, which sucks royally – I’m sorry. The thing to remember is that when you keep calling, the person WILL hear about it. It sounds like maybe you didn’t know that? The person taking the calls IS going to let the interviewer know that you called over and over. So even if you think you’re just trying to follow up, calling that many times in a row looks bad. If you’ve called once and not heard back, you have to assume they know you called and wait to hear back.

    I’m sorry you had to learn this through experience. But for future reference, assume the number of times you call will always get back to the interviewer; if you’ve called once and left a message you need to wait to hear; and really you need to wait full stop and not call them at this point in the process, as hard as that is.

    1. MillersSpring*

      +1 OP, the frequent calling made you look impatient and unaware of 1) acceptable practices and 2) that Things Can Happen. You should have followed up once to say thank you then waited, even if it was a week or even three weeks. Also phoning possibly could have been a tone-deaf move, and emailing once might have been more acceptable.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        There shouldn’t have even been a call to say thank you. The time for that was after the interview and by email, not on the day they were presumably making a hiring decision.

    2. Anon for this*


      I have been the secretary in this scenario. I was honestly sympathetic to callers who were doing what they thought would get them a job, but excessive calls do come across the way Alison described. Also, usually, more than one person did this at a time…

      1. Emelle*

        Same. Sympathetic to the caller and annoyed with the manager who isn’t giving me information (like if he or she is coming in.)

          1. Jadelyn*

            Mostly just annoyed with the source of the bad behavior, yes. People are desperate and think this will help, and I can sympathize with that – I’d like to bang a couple heads on desks, though, of the people who taught them this behavior would be “helpful” in any way.

          2. Candi*

            If it helps…

            The sixteen and up kids at my kids’ high school got to have part of their classes devoted to “how to find a job! (woohoo hurray!)”

            The teacher started out with: “I have to teach you (all the outdated stuff) -but don’t actually DO it.”

            So even those required to teach, don’t always believe, and may try to sabotage/update advice.

            (Incidentally, the number of times my son’s “No!” lines up with Alison’s “Don’t do that!” is very reassuring.) :D

    3. Ashleyh*

      I’m a recruiter and was out of the office all last week. I had a candidate interview late on Friday and the hiring manager said he should head back from me “soon”. Well, I was out of cell/internet range all week on vacation so obviously I didn’t contact him last week. I came back to 12 voicemails and 6 emails from the candidate (and yup, I had an out of office email and voicemail response set up that said when is be back and that I had no access). EIGHTEEN different messages. In a week.

      1. NW Mossy*

        I think the candidates who do this are the same people who press the elevator call button repeatedly on the thinking that the elevator is capable of understanding their urgency.

        1. LawBee*

          They’re also the ones who stand in the middle of the road at the bus stop and glare down the street, huffing impatiently because doesn’t the bus driver KNOW that they are WAITING?

          A week with a dude like that at my old bus stop, and I started walking the mile to the train station. It was worth the peace of mind.

        2. Mander*

          Or stand there repeatedly punching the “door open” button on the train when the driver hasn’t even quite stopped the train, let alone unlocked the doors. Or who push the “stop” button on the bus over and over.

        3. Tequila Mockingbird*

          Or would put something in the microwave for one minute, then stand in front of it shouting, “Come ON!!”

        4. Talvi*

          To be fair, certain elevators have “sticky” buttons and just pushing it once doesn’t always mean that the signal has been sent. Especially if it’s an older elevator and no longer lights up when you push the button either… (I’m thinking of a couple specific elevators at my university. You learn pretty quickly to push the button repeatedly lest you be left waiting awkwardly because the signal didn’t go through and you have no way of knowing because the light stopped working ages ago.)

    4. Trout 'Waver*

      Yeah, LW#3 shouldn’t have called so much (or at all). But, I’m a little sympathetic because this whole situation could have been cleared up if the receptionist had just said that the boss was out sick from the get-go and that she would return the call when she was back in and caught up.

      Also, if you tell a candidate you’re going to contact them on Monday, you really should follow up and contact them on Monday. Even if it’s just a simple, “Due to unforeseen circumstances, we aren’t ready to make a decision. We’ll contact you when we are.”

      1. JoJo*

        It’s none of the callers business as to why the boss was not in the office. I wouldn’t want the receptionist to announce my sick days to the world.

        1. Kelly L.*

          This. I think the receptionist started out trying to be discreet about her boss’s personal business, and finally shared out of exasperation. I could see myself doing this.

        2. Trout 'Waver*

          Well, that’s a personal call. I wouldn’t mind in this case. But the point is the receptionist could have said something to preempt further calls, rather than playing the unprofessional “Just missed her” game.

          1. Jessie*

            But this was not an “unprofessional just missed her” game. Once, when OP called at 6:30, receptionist said the manager had left (and that can’t be a surprise, right? It was 6:30). Every other time, OP either left a message, or receptionist said she was not in. She didn’t explain why manager was not in until the last phone call. But this was *never* a case a constant stream of “oh, missed by seconds! Too bad!” The OP misjudged and misread the appropriateness of her conduct. And the receptionist was not unprofessional.

            1. Trout 'Waver*

              I read it much differently. It seems to me that the manager was out the entire M-Th, but the applicant was told that she had either just left or was coming in later that day repeatedly.

              I’m not saying the applicant should have called so many times. But everyone would have been better served if the receptionist had said, “Boss is unavailable, she’ll contact you when she has time. I’m not sure when that will be.” Rather than making excuses about why *now* isn’t a good time.

              1. AnonAnalyst*

                I had a different read. I read it as, manager was in Monday and Tuesday but OP called after she left; manager was out for part or all of Wednesday (maybe she was sick but thought she might feel well enough to come in later in the day and had told everyone she would be in later, which is why the receptionist kept saying she was “not in yet”); manager was out sick on Thursday.

                I don’t know which interpretation is correct, but it seems like the receptionist may have been conveying as much info as she had about the hiring manager’s schedule. Which would be another reason for the OP to just follow up once in the future instead of assuming she is thisclose to catching the manager on the phone.

              2. Jadelyn*

                Speaking as someone who’s been a receptionist at a few different places, you don’t always know why someone’s not there. Or you don’t know that they won’t be in later – I use “not in yet” when people ask about my boss or grandboss, which just means “I haven’t seen them yet but also haven’t been definitively told that they won’t be here today, so “not in yet” is the default response.”

                1. JB (not in Houston)*

                  Yes, exactly. Unless the receptionist said, “call back later,” the OP should not have kept calling. The OP and the manager were not playing phone tag. It was just the OP calling over and over. She didn’t know why the manager wasn’t there are wasn’t returning her calls, yet she kept calling. “Everyone would have been better served” if the OP hadn’t kept calling.

          1. EvilQueenRegina*

            Cornelia Fudge (ex-boss at Exjob who basically learned all her management skills from Cornelius Fudge, hence the name) used to tell us to actually say “Philomena is out sick” with the idea that if people knew that, they wouldn’t keep calling again and again that day asking for her, and would leave it to another day (this after Cruella, my bitch eating crackers, had complained about people ringing multiple times for the same worker). I can see both sides of that argument to be honest.

      2. Purest Green*

        I agree with your second paragraph, but the receptionist was potentially trying to respect the manager’s privacy and assumed a simple “she’s not in” would cover it.

        1. Allison*

          True, if I were out sick I might not want everyone to know, especially people who want something from me, but I’d also want people to know I am out for the whole day and unable to answer messages until at least the next day.

          1. Jadelyn*

            The receptionist won’t always know that, though. It might well be the case that all the receptionist knows is “This person is not currently in the office”. Unless the boss has said specifically that they won’t be in that day, the receptionist can’t make that claim for them – and you’d be amazed how often people forget to let a receptionist know something like that.

      3. LBK*

        I think it would be great if everyone in the hiring world could actually stick to whatever deadlines they state, but realistically, I think candidates should know to tack a minimum of an extra week on to whatever timeline they’re given, maybe two. Hiring never, ever goes as fast as the person doing the hiring thinks it will, whether it’s because of other scheduling conflicts that prevent them from getting in all the interviews they want, work that takes precedence over making hiring decisions or HR bureaucracy that slows down the process.

        Just sit tight, assume you didn’t get the job and allow yourself to be pleasantly surprised if you do get a follow up. Don’t freak out if you haven’t heard back by when they told you; it’s rarely about you.

        1. Jesmlet*

          When I was in the process of being hired at my current job, the person in charge told me I’d have a formal offer by XX and I still waited until XX + 5 business days before calling to follow up (after already having sent a thank you email). Obviously it worked out… once you’re a part of a hiring process from the inside, you realize how many things can muck up deadlines you give to people. Just try to be patient and always wait a minimum of 3 days after the deadline they give you to follow up. Leave a message the first time you call and if you don’t hear back, don’t keep calling every day, that’ll just hurt your chances.

        2. Trout 'Waver*

          Having been on the hiring side on this one, I don’t mind a simple direct e-mail asking about an applicant’s status if they’ve made it through the interview stage.

          Give how little effort it takes to give an update and how impactful it is on applicant, why not do them the courtesy of at least responding to a quick e-mail, even if it’s “We haven’t made a decision yet, we’ll let you know when we do.”

          1. Meeeeeeeee*

            I agree, but there’s a difference between receiving a simple direct e-mail and receiving a phone call, at least to me. Emails can be responded to on your own schedule. Not that I would resent a candidate who called, I know some people prefer phone to email.
            In any case, 1 email or 1 phone call is fine, I agree. Any more than that in a short timeframe is not appropriate.

      4. Natalie*

        Eh, business timelines are wrong all the time. I think most people understand that if it’s not an emergency issue, “I’ll know Monday” usually means “maybe Monday, but don’t freak out until Friday.” If I called everyone to whom I had given a timeline to update them on it, I’d spend hours each day making pointless phone calls, and end up further behind. If the boss was occupied with something of greater urgency, spending an hour contacting job candidates is foolish.

        1. Jennifer M.*

          In early/mid November I interviewed for a job 2 weeks before it actually posted. They told me they really wanted to move quickly to fill this newly created position ASAP. Hiring wasn’t finalized until mid/late February. (I did 3 in person interviews plus one phone interview with someone based out of town during that time frame, though I didn’t get the job). Timelines are an aspiration more than even a goal from what I’ve seen.

      5. Liz*

        Exactly. I will definitely call the day after I was told I’d hear back and didn’t- it’s amazing the number of times a recruiter or HR person or “key deciding manager” will suddenly get sick or overwhelmed just on the day they were supposed to decide something. I’ve been thanked many times for patience of the extra day AND being a polite reminder to get back to me.

        But that’s just the ONE call AFTER the deadline. If it’s a job I think I might really want, I’d call back again in a few days/week but that’s it!

    5. Michelle*

      I agree that the OP called too many times and that they receptionist should not reveal why the manager is not in the office (unless manager okays it). If I’m reading it correctly, the receptionist never told OP that the manager was not coming in and/or was out sick until the final call on Thursday. She certainly did not tell her four times in one day. She told her on the noon call Thursday that the manager was coming in.

      If the manager was out sick, the receptionist could have simply told the OP on the first or second call that the manager was not in the office and would contact her when she returns. Again, that does not make the excessive calling okay and it’s understandable that it cost her the job. It sort of seems like the receptionist threw OP under the bus if she (receptionist) told the manager that she told OP four times in one day that she was out sick when she didn’t, and in fact, told her Thursday at noon that was coming in.

      I field calls for our managers who are hiring all the time and if I know for sure they are not coming in, I tell the caller that the manager is not in the office and will call them when they return. If they call a second time, I repeat the information and let them know that multiple calls will not get the manager to call them any faster. So far, that has work pretty well.

      1. Kelly L.*

        She could have thrown OP under the bus, but I could also see a totally innocent conversation getting misinterpreted. “OP called four times. I told her you were out sick.” Receptionist thinks she’s saying “OP called four times, and finally I told her you were sick,” and boss hears “OP called four times, and I kept telling her you were sick.” No one at fault, just a misunderstanding.

        1. Sas*

          Receptionist still could have used more clarity though. If receptionist wasn’t clear with the caller, then yeah she probably failed to more clear with the message to the manager.

      2. Sas*

        Well, if it was all a misunderstanding and others on here could see that while the interviewer called too often but could have been given more information to potentially call less, maybe the manager should take that, “it might have been a misunderstanding that set the interviewer in *such* a negative light,” under advisement also.

        +1 for Michelle’s comment

        1. Jessie*

          ” but could have been given more information to potentially call less”

          OP did not need more information to call less. Unless the receptionist told the OP “Please call daily, and maybe even more than once a day for every single day this week,” then OP had all the information she needed to know not to call so much. If that specific misunderstanding was cleared up – that OP did not know until call 4 that manager was out sick – the fact remains that this amount of contact in such a short of amount of time is still inappropriate.

          1. Jen S. 2.0*

            Plus, OP said herself that the manager said at the end of the interview that SHE would contact OP. Manager did not encourage OP to touch base on Monday. OP should have been expecting calls, not making them.

            I agree with others that following up once after several days would have been fine, but “call less” isn’t even on the table here.

    6. Stranger than fiction*

      I don’t believe one should do that much follow up with most things in life, let alone job searching.

  5. BookCocoon*

    There is a classic story in our office from when my supervisor was new — she and the director were on a phone call with the VP, and the VP mentioned that some paintings had been taken down from a space that was being renovated. My supervisor blurted out, “Oh good, those paintings were really scary.” There was an awkward pause during which the director looked at her horrified and then the conversation continued. After the call it came out that the paintings had been done by the VP’s mother. His now-deceased mother. We still make fun of her for it (she thinks it’s hilarious now).

    1. Memyselfandi*

      This is my concern, that someone, like a client, has an unthinking reaction that puts them in an awkward position. But bottom line, it is often a matter of taste. One thing you could suggest for the painting that doesn’t fit the space is to say, “that spit doesn’t show the painting to best advantage. “

        1. SophieChotek*

          Oh thanks for the correction. I was wondering about “the spit”…I was thinking, “Okay…what am I missing here?”

      1. Lance*

        Yeah; if it’s nothing distasteful or inappropriate, there’s not really much place to say it’s ‘bad’, as such. But if it honestly doesn’t fit the wall, or takes up space that might be needed for something else, then there’s definitely grounds to say something about it.

  6. Anon-a-must*

    I worked at a company whose art was all framed photographs, some signed, of male athletes. Sorry, but I don’t want a crouched Phil Mickelson staring at me while I work. Nor do I think our conference room should have a photo of Nolan Ryan beating the crap out of someone.

    1. MK*

      But there is no “should” about it, it’s about taste. And the owner gets to decide what they think is good for their office space.

      Likewise, these paintings could be fine, just not to the OP’s taste. But I do think the OP can say something about the suitability of them objectively: I recently had some posters framed and hung and the framer gave me all sorts of advice about where and how to hang them. I think it would be fine to say “I looked it up/asked an expert and it seems that a painting this size but needs at least YxZ wall space, so maybe we should put this somewhere else”.

      Frankly, though, you will probably get used to the paintings and pay no need to them in time. I used to work is a room that was originally used as a Catholic chapel of the building; there was a huge wall painting of Jesus on the cross that could not be removed because the building was listed. At first it made me really uncomfortable to look at it every day, and I thought it was inappropriate for a public building to have such an overt religious imagery. I still think that, but no one else seemed bothered (even the significant Muslim minority) and after a while I forgot it was there, to the point that when the conservators came to inspect it I had to think for a while about which painting they meant.

      1. Emma*

        Yeah, but art can still be inappropriate regardless of its artistic merit. I’m not sure a photo of someone fighting anyone is appropriate for work.

        1. JBurr*

          Yeah, I can appreciate the artistic merit of Burt Reynolds naked on a bearskin rug, but it doesn’t need to hang in the ladies restroom, which it apparently did for many years before we got an HR department.

            1. Windchime*

              My parents have been married since 1958, but they almost didn’t make it through that first year because Mom hung a picture of a brooding, handsome Elvis Presley over the toilet in their first apartment.

              1. Gandalf the Nude*

                I’m going to tell my partner to count his blessings the next time he rolls his eyes at our nice soap dish. At least I didn’t wallpaper the bathroom in nerdy pin ups.

              2. ginger ale for all*

                My mother for her fiftieth wedding anniversary wanted my dad to create a memorial shrine with photos, candles, fake flowers to all the Catholic priests they have known in their lives in their bedroom so it would be the last thing they saw at night and the first thing they saw in the morning. My dad put the nope on that. Plus one of them had a pedophile charge against him before he ‘switched’ careers.

        2. MK*

          I had no idea who Nolan Ryan was and I assumed that male athletes+”photo of Nolan Ryan beating the crap out of someone” meant he was a boxer of some kind and the photo was from a match. I agree that a photo of a fight is not appropriate for work, but a photo of a boxing match is not exactly the same.

          However, even so, the boss gets to decide what is appropriate, unless it’s offensive. I work at a courthouse and I would find photos of sports inappropriate decor, but unless they were problematic in other ways, it’s the call of the council that runs the place, not mine.

          1. nona*

            Nolan Ryan plays baseball (pitcher). Maybe he was fighting with another player/ump?

            Okay – got curious, looked it up. Ryan hit a batter (Ventura) in the arm, which means a walk to first. Batter charged the (pitcher’s) mound and got into it with Ryan. Apparently its a famous thing?

        3. LBK*

          Pretty sure most offices wouldn’t be okay with a Mapplethorpe hanging in the conference room, as renowned as his work may be.

            1. Artemesia*

              My husband’s office suite had Maplethorps (chosen by the wife of one of the partners who was an overpriced decorator); they were flowers.

              1. Anonymonster*

                I used to snicker to myself when I walked by the very large Georgia O’Keefe “flower” painting print in an office I frequented. (No, not an OB-GYN.)

      2. One of the Annes*

        Yes, I think bringing up that the painting is too big for the space is the way to go–totally legitimate objection.

          1. Dynamic Beige*

            The real worry is when Boss decides (or is told) to sell them, like in a coffee shop.

            There is a legitimate market for corporate art, you can rent paintings and I think there’s some kind of scheme out there where the art gets swapped out every few months with something new. I was amazed one day to see that the big canvas hanging in a building I worked in was done by one of my former teachers. It was an abstract of splashy colour, decorative, but not offensive.

    2. Juli G.*

      Nolan Ryan beating the crap out of someone would certainly be something!

      (Sorry, not to be “that person” but this just caught me by surprise and made me laugh because he’s a pitcher.)

      1. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

        I had to google it. I immediately knew he was a baseball player and if I’d thought a few seconds longer, I ‘d have remembered he was a pitcher. Had no idea about the fight, although the article I read makes it sound like it was rather infamous.

    3. Anion*

      You’re a crazy person. EVERY office needs a photo of Nolan Ryan beating the crap out of someone.

    4. StellaMaris*

      While I appreciate that perhaps that is not appropriate conference room art, my husband would love to work there – Nolan Ryan was his favourite player growing up.

      (Were the athletes related to the work of the company, or was the Big Boss a sports fan?)

    5. C Average*

      Speaking of weird workplace art and Nolan Ryan, I used to work at Nike’s world headquarters and we had a bigger-than-life (at least ten feet tall) found-object sculpture of Nolan Ryan in the (what else?) Nolan Ryan Building. It was actually one of my favorite things to show friends when I took them on tours of the campus. It included a number of sports-related objects (balls, bats, pieces of glove, parts of shoes, etc.) as well as non-sports-related stuff like tools, bottles and cans, and so forth. It’s definitely an interesting piece to peruse.

    6. Blue_eyes*

      I worked in a home once where they had a large framed poster of James Dean pointing a camera at you…in the bathroom. I really do NOT want to look at someone pointing a camera at me in the bathroom of all places!

  7. Marzipan*

    #1, the only thing you could possibly say to your boss – if indeed it’s true – is that you think perhaps the large piece is too large to be seen to its best advantage on the wall it’s on; or if some other (not easily changeable) aspect of the space doesn’t work well with it. (‘Boss, I think that maybe ‘Barbie meets Pikachu’ isn’t set off well by the autumnal colours in our reception carpet…’) Otherwise, you’re pretty much stuck with it.

    I’m a bit confused by the idea that the artwork ought to ‘relate to the very specific work you do’. That sounds a bit like saying that banks should ideally display art that has to do with money, hospitals to illness and wellness, and so on. Whilst I do agree there can be an interesting interplay between the subject and themes of an artwork and the space it’s displayed in, I also think it would be rather limiting to focus too much on this. Certainly at my workplace (which is massive, and basically has its own art collection with a small department to oversee it) the most successful and well-loved pieces on display aren’t the ones with a direct link to the nature of the work we do. (Actually, most of those ones are ghastly.) But maybe you had a specific artist in mind for the space with links to what you do? That would make it particularly irritating to have something else landed on you!

    1. Mookie*

      I could kind of see certain genres of art clashing with a firm’s mission statement, like something incredibly bucolic for industrial engineering, or sending an unintended message, like Communist murals for insurance or in manufacturing.

      I would love for the LW to explain that remark, but doing so might make it too easy to identify her and her company.

    2. Sunshine*

      I got the impression that the OP meant that the “quality” of the artwork might be more acceptable if it was related to the industry. “Well, at least they’re teapots even if they’re ugly.”

    3. Uyulala*

      I think OP was just saying that it might be forgivable if it was directly related to their work.

      1. Whats In A Name*

        Interesting perspective. I couldn’t figure that line out, either, but now that you and Sunshine mention it, that could be the case.

        1. not really a lurker anymore*

          You will find lots of pictures of things on fire in Fire Dept. buildings. Or the assorted equipment and weary firefighters. They are definitely ‘on topic’ but not always cheerful or happy when you release the losses involved.

      2. Mander*

        That’s how I read it. Like sometimes you go to coffee shops, for instance, and they have awful artwork but it’s all coffee-related so you can see why someone chose it.

    4. Trig*

      My office has some extremely generic semi-abstract “business people with very broad shoulders, some obviously wearing skirt sets but really they’re just rectangles on a stripey background in pastel colours” art. It’s very 80’s (the ‘women’ figures are def wearing shoulder pads, I don’t care how abstract you think it is, there are shoulder pads) and actually kinda appropriate for our Big Huge Multinational Old Company That’s Kinda Struggling to Seem Modern But Obviously Has Some Very Outdated Heavy Software Still.

      So I mean, it’s terrible art, but it’s appropriate!

  8. Ruth (UK)*

    3. While I agree the calling was way too much, I can sort of see why op ended up doing so, based on the feedback they were being given (especially if they’re not experienced with job searching). The receptionist was giving repeated set time frames when they would supposedly be contacted back or be available which the op was taking at face value. So while the calls were too many, it’s also possible to see why the op might have thought each of those times, individually, were good times to call… So I can see why they sort of got caught in a trap of constantly calling back. It was also a bit weird that the manager believed they were told four times she was off sick but kept ringing, which would have made the calls not just too many but extra pointless…

    1. New Bee*

      I can kind of see that, but the receptionist’s response after the first call clearly indicated that the manager would call back, i.e., the ball was in her court. Playing it out to the logical conclusion, what did the OP even have to say that was so important?

      I agree with you about getting caught up–I think the OP got so focused on talking to the manager that she lost sight of time (from interview to the final call only spanned a week) and purpose (nothing she could’ve needed to follow up or thank the interviewer for merited daily contact).

      1. Aeth*

        I can see that. Sometimes people have a ‘script’ in their head of how they expect a situation to play out and when that doesn’t happen, they get caught in their ‘script’ and find it difficult to adjust to the non-script circumstance. I’ve been there myself.

        In this case, OP’s ‘script’ dictated that they either hear on Monday (per legitimate expectation), or speak to the interviewer, and when that didn’t happen, they didn’t fully adjust to the changed circumstance and tried to force the situation to comply to their ‘script’ as much as possible, without a fuller view of the surrounding circumstance. I agree that it came off as pushy and probably isn’t fixable at this stage, which is a shame, but it’s all a learning experience as long as you learn from it.

    2. nofelix*

      This is a good lesson to remember that normal business etiquette can often trump the specifics of what one is told. There was no guarantee that the secretary’s estimates for callbacks were accurate. When the hiring manager didn’t call, the fallback should have been to wait a reasonable time.

      1. Colette*

        I used to work in technical support for telephone switches. When there is an outage on a telephone switch, it is a Big Deal, and we had a hotline during business hours and a pager outside of business hours. One morning, I was on a hotline call, and a colleague form another site called my phone. And called. And called- every five minutes for about an hour and a half. It was infuriating. If I had had the option of never working with him again, I would have taken it.

        So yeah, leave a message and wait at least a few days for a reply.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        “This is a good lesson to remember that normal business etiquette can often trump the specifics of what one is told.”

        Yes, yes, this. And because many, many people, myself included, do not have this in their genes at birth, Alison has been blogging for years.

        On the surface this looks like yet another instance of business saying one thing and meaning another. “Well she said I would get a call back, so I thought that meant I would get a call back.” I really can’t shoot at OP for taking people at their word. I still bump into these types of situations. It’s hard to get an accurate read on this stuff.

        Our take-a-way here is for us to watch what we tell people. Are there any unspokens that we just assume the person would know? If we expect our boss/coworker to call back at the end of the week, do we say that or do we say something weaker and less clear? “She call you back when she has a chance!” That is not very informative.

        The perspective of person who has three minutes of contact is going to be wildly different from the person who is immersed in the situation/workplace. In order to balance things out we have to make statements of things that are obvious to us on the inside. Explaining these obvious things can get tiring.

        If I were that employee’s boss, I would be asking her what exactly she said to you, OP. The fact that you kept calling her would tell me that she MAYBE did not answer your questions clearly. I would make it clear to her that while some people will never stop calling no matter what you say, MOST people will stop if they clearly understand what the time frame is for the next step.

        Not helpful to you now, OP, except for the part about once you land a job, know and remember how important it is to speak clearly with those outside the company. They honestly cannot guess what is going on.
        I am sorry this tanked on you.

        1. fposte*

          “If I were that employee’s boss, I would be asking her what exactly she said to you, OP.” That’s pretty unlikely, though; unless the interviewer said “If I don’t get a phone call from you next week, you’re out of the running” the OP’s behavior was out of the norm. Whether it’s fair or not, applicants are expected to understand that the timetable is the employer’s and multiple contacts are an irritation, and it’s not the interviewer’s job to take steps to ensure all applicants know this. It’s certainly not the interviewer’s boss’s job to care about a few extra phone calls from somebody in the candidate pool.

          But in the broader scheme of things it’s not a big deal; it won’t hurt the OP when she applies elsewhere, and she asked here, so now she knows.

    3. MK*

      I am not sure I agree, because it should be common sense that you don’t interpret a time frame so strictly. When someone tells you they will get back to you on Monday (about a non-urgent issue), calling them at 5:30 on Monday is treating what they told you as a definite appointment, which most people would understand it wasn’t. Wednesday would be more appropriate as a call-back time.

      1. LBK*

        Agreed. Unless the person makes a specific arrangement with you to follow up by X time and date if you haven’t heard back from them, you shouldn’t assume that “I’ll let you know by X” is a set-in-stone commitment. It’s just one of those business norms that goes without saying.

      2. SarahTheEntwife*

        If you don’t have a lot of experience with this sort of thing, why would it be common sense? If I’m given a vague time frame like “within a few days” that’s one thing, but if someone says they’ll call me on Monday then I assume that means they’ll call me on Monday. I know by now that this doesn’t actually mean Monday, but I’m not sure why I should be expected to know that other than by spending a lot of time staring crankily at the phone wondering why people who expect me to show up on a given date for an interview don’t call me when they say they will.

        1. AnonAnalyst*

          But calling on Monday to follow up and leaving a message, and then continuing to call every day after that (sometimes more than once!) are two different things. If OP had just called and left the message on Monday, I doubt that would have knocked her out of the running. It may have come across as a little aggressive, but I don’t think it would seem so out of the ordinary that the hiring manager would immediately disqualify her.

          1. SarahTheEntwife*

            Oh sure, I agree that the OP was overly aggressive in following up. It just frustrates me that “Monday does not mean Monday” is supposed to be common sense when in most other business contexts being punctual and following up promptly with communication is considered basic courtesy.

            1. BPT*

              The thing is, even if it is rude to not follow up when an employer said they would, there is still nothing to be gained by calling. It won’t help the applicant’s case. It’s not like the hiring manager forgot that they were hiring for a position, and if the applicant was the front runner, it’s not like they would forget about them. It’s always best to just assume that something came up. Yes, it’s frustrating, but it does no good to dwell on it or call about it.

            2. Allison*

              Right, that bugs me too. It’s a double standard that candidates have to follow a specific schedule set forth by the employer, but the hiring manager gets to set a vague timeline and keep people waiting as long as they like. It wouldn’t hurt to send an e-mail saying “Hey, I haven’t forgotten about you! Something came up and the process has been delayed a little, I should have some news for you by end of the week, feel free to call on Friday afternoon if you don’t hear from me by then.”

              A quick update like that doesn’t take long to write, you could even save it as a template and fill in the blanks as needed, but taking a few minutes to send a quick update can make a world of difference to someone waiting on pins and needles!

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I’m someone who neurotically updates candidates when timelines change, but the reality is that not everyone does, and candidates would be much better served by understanding the norms around this stuff and mentally preparing themselves for things to take longer than whatever timeline they’re given.

                You can certainly argue that those shouldn’t be the norms (and I’d agree with you) but for candidates, it’s so much easier to just understand how it works and plan accordingly.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  And I’d add — the issue isn’t so much that she called once or twice. It’s the frequency and number of the calls, and that would an issue with other business situations outside of hiring as well.

            3. MK*

              I consider it common sense because I think it’s not just a bussiness norm, but applies more generally. If my mother told me she will call me on Monday morning and then I don’t hear from her till noon, unless we need to discuss plans to meet that afternoon (or I have some other reason to worry), I won’t call at 12:01 to ask what happened; I ‘ll just assume she got tied up with something and will call me when she can, and maybe call if she hasn’t done so by that evening.

            4. Natalie*

              “in most other business contexts being punctual and following up promptly with communication is considered basic courtesy.”

              See, this just doesn’t ring true to me at all. This is the kind of thing we tell college students and interns, and then the minute you work in actual business you realize that following up promptly is observed more in the breach than in the practice.

              1. Trout 'Waver*

                I think this varies greatly by company and industry. If I routinely didn’t answer until Friday things I said I’d have an answer for on Monday, my reputation would be garbage here.

                It also annoys me when other people do it because it makes no sense. If there’s no time pressure, you don’t need to set a deadline in the first place. If there is time pressure, then making the other party wait 4 days without an update will likely have negative consequences somewhere down the line. But, I suffer in silence (except for anonymous posts on the internet) because I know that’s how some people and some companies work and I’m not going to change it.

                1. Natalie*

                  Sure, it will definitely vary. But I don’t think most people are trying to “set a deadline” – they’re just giving their best guess as to when X will be available, without inserting a lot of caveats about how it’s an estimate and subject to change.

            5. Michelle*

              Agreed SarahTheEntwife. When I started working 28 years ago at the age of 15, I didn’t know that Monday does not mean Monday. In fact, I remember clearly that the first job I applied for Mrs. Johnson (the business owner) told me that I would hear from her on Thursday and she called on Thursday and because I already has a worker’s permit*, I started on Friday.

              *In the state I lived in, you had to have a worker’s permit if you were under age 18.

            6. LBK*

              I’m not sure I agree – it depends on the context, but generally, I think any business-related timeline that doesn’t come with an explicit discussion of urgency or a hard deadline comes with a minimum implied 2-day cushion before you’re okay to follow up without being annoying. I’m sure I would bug the hell out of most of the people I interact with if I took any casual timeline statement as a firm commitment (unless, again, we had had an explicit discussion about my needing them to complete the task by a certain date).

              1. AnonAnalyst*

                I’m sure I would bug the hell out of most of the people I interact with if I took any casual timeline statement as a firm commitment

                This was my thought too. I work in a client-facing role. While the work I’m doing for my clients is my top priority at work, it’s often not their top priority – it’s just one of many other priorities they are juggling at any given time, so it’s not unusual for something else to take precedence over the work I’m doing for them. If I started calling them on a daily basis to check in on something non-urgent, it wouldn’t go over well – particularly if I started doing this EOD on the day they told me they would have an update for me.

        2. Lily Rowan*

          Another takeaway is that starting crankily at the phone is 100% fine! And really, the one call was OK, too. But when you hear “she’ll call you back when she can,” that’s your cue to hold off, because “when she can” could be in a while for any number of reasons.

        3. Danae*

          As someone on the spectrum, I take things people tell me at face value–so if someone tells me they’ll get back to me/call me/do a task by Monday, I fully expect them to do so (or to contact me and offer a revised timeline on Monday). It took me a long time to understand that hiring just Does Not Work Like That, and if someone tells me they’ll get back to me by Monday, they’re generally speaking about what they would like to happen, not what they think will actually happen. That’s my charitable reframing of that, anyway.

          (Yes, calling so many times was a complete faux pas, but I understand why the OP did it!)

          Taking things like deadlines at face value happens to be a strength in my particular work roles, but it does mean I have to work harder to figure out when what seems like a very specific and simple thing like “I’ll get back to you on Monday” actually means “I would like to get back to you on Monday, but I need things that are outside of my control in order to complete this task, so it might be Monday or it might be Thursday.”

    4. Anon in NOVA*

      I absolutely feel bad that this person unknowingly blew their opportunity… but I would make the same call as a hiring manager. I wouldn’t want someone who doesn’t respect professional norms and doesn’t understand that YOUR priority isn’t always everyone else’s/the agency’s priority working for me.

      1. TootsNYC*

        here’s one good thing! Our OP has now learned this particular business norm. And hopefully has learned to double-check her assumptions about other business norms.

        And there will be other opportunities, at which she can demonstrate her knowledge of business norms.

        We all gotta learn sometime! If we’re lucky, we get good advice and learn stuff before we make the mistake. And sometimes we have to find out by messing up.

        In a way, the interviewer did her a favor by letting her know why she was being taken out of consideration. Think if she’d never heard that–the business norm would take longer to learn.

  9. Rando*

    OP 4 – Please don’t say you are working on picking a third name. Just be matter of fact that hypenating did not work for you, and you and spouse realized that having different names was NBD.

    1. Mookie*

      Yes, apart from the political implications, I could see that explanation backfiring. Might work to deflect a stranger’s curiosity, but with colleagues there’s a possibility of discovering that this isn’t true.

      1. hermit crab*

        Why would this be a problem? Honest question — I’m puzzled by this. Even if someone takes you seriously when you meant it in a light-hearted way, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t/couldn’t think of a third name and then just… not use it. Some friends of mine did exactly this, where they considered changing both their last names to a third name, and we all knew about it and even discussed it with them a few times, but they ultimately decided against it.

        1. MegaMoose, Esq*

          Yeah, I’m not really seeing the issue here, either. If there are “political implications” to both spouses changing their name, wouldn’t there be similar implications to the lady-half not changing her name in the first place? Besides, if anyone follows up on you not changing your name again, you can just say that you couldn’t agree on anything or whatever. Not a big deal.

          1. Snarky*

            Not sure what others meant, but my first thought was that if someone said that bit about trying to convince a spouse on a third name, I’d think there was friction between the two of them over the last name, such as she wanted it hyphenated and he wanted her to just use his name and they were trying to compromise by using a third name instead.

            If I felt compelled to give any explanation, I’d just say that I decided not to hyphenate it after I realized how long it would make my new name every time I wanted to write/type it out and/or how it’s a pain since some computer systems recognize a hyphen and others don’t.

            1. Anna*

              I don’t think many people would fill in the missing information with that particular explanation, though.

        2. ANewbie*

          Because then the OP will look kind of flaky – waffling once on what you want to be called professionally is NBD, waffling and then throwing out a possible 3rd name choice in under a year would be a bit much, not to mention the level of confusion from people who only talk to the OP a few times a month or less.

          1. Anna*

            Even if this were a thing the OP was actually contemplating (and it’s not), I don’t think it would warrant more than a shrug from most people and the ones the OP was only dealing with a few times a month should especially not be a consideration as part of the decision making process.

          2. Mookie*

            Yes, I think it’s a specific and slightly strange enough explanation that it could, in certain environments, warrant attention and interest. Since it’s a completely private matter for the OP, I don’t think an explanation beyond “I want to do this and I am doing it, just a heads-up” is necessary.

        1. Mookie*

          I’m referring to the gendered politics of negotiating surnames upon marriage and civil partnerships. For many people, this is a private matter. Under certain circumstances and depending on the prevailing customs, it’s considered detrimental to a woman’s professional career (either to change the surname, adopt a hyphenated one, or keep her surname).

    2. Naomi*

      I didn’t think that was meant to be taken seriously. As in, Alison isn’t advising OP to convince people that there really is a third name being chosen; she was just suggesting a way for OP to make a joke about the name change, and at the same time make it clear that Dave is still in the picture.

    3. Tequila Mockingbird*

      Yeah, a brand new “third” name (although it’s not unheard of – famous people have done it) is super-weird if that was never your or your spouse’s intention. Just revert to your maiden name and be simple about it.

      Luckily, it’s 2016, and people really don’t judge women anymore for not changing their names upon marriage. (I didn’t!) Unless you live in an ultraconservative area, I honestly don’t think anyone will notice much or care, certainly not your friends and colleagues!

  10. Juli G.*

    This is a little OT but in reference to #2… you have to make sure anyone on a PIP understands what they need to do, otherwise it’s just meaningless. If you say “Learn Excel” and an employee just can’t grasp formulas and formatting, then yes, part ways. But if they have formulas, formatting, and pivot tables down but what you really wanted is for them to learn macros, then the PIP was not effectively written.

    (This isn’t an attack because OP2 has no idea what the PIP issue was. I just feel very strongly about this issue!)

    1. Allison*

      I agree, if you fire someone after a super vague PIP, the person you fire could be inclined to believe the PIP was just for show – a means of going through the proper channels to fire someone you just don’t want working for you anymore.

      1. OP #2*

        As you guessed, I don’t know any details because that wouldn’t be appropriate, but I do know it was a formal process with HR and wasn’t for show.

      2. Biff*

        I realize that this is slightly off track, but I do wonder how you would write a effective PIP for one of those enchantingly dumb people that somehow get simple work that is still vastly beyond their capabilities. Plenty of companies require a PIP before terminating an employee (with very few exceptions) so a PIP has to be written for them. Do you just write pages, and pages, and PAGES? of extremely detailed job description or something?

    2. Whats In A Name*

      In my work history a PIP always meant a signed, formal document reviewed by both parties and HR/legal. Something casually talked about in annual reviews or in other developmental conversations or vaguely written didn’t qualify as a PIP. Interesting that in some places they are. That seems like it would be a set up for disaster.

    3. Rat Racer*

      Writing a PIP is SO hard though. The last one I had to write was for an employee who was just giving up too easily. I called it “There’s a hole in the bucket, Dear Liza” syndrome. How do you write a PIP for someone when the direction/change you want to see is for the employee to develop initiative, tenacity and critical thinking? Those things are hard to quantify.

      1. Sophie Winston*

        Yup. I usually see this in situations where someone was a bad hire. Not their fault, but not right for the job. What you need to communicate is that while you are giving them a chance to rise to the occasion, they need to honestly evaluate their odds of success. “If you’ve been giving me your best work or close to it, then you would be better served to use these X weeks to focus on finding another job. While you are struggling with skills a, b and c that this position requires, you do x, y and z well, and I can provide you a positive reference for jobs emphasizing those skills.”

        Though if the problem is initiative, that’s a tough one to overcome.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I really like that. It’s soooo much better than being completely negative. Having been in the PIP boat, I can also say it would motivate me far more than just saying, “You suck and you need to improve.” The latter only makes a person feel defensive and activates the okay-then-eff-you-I’m-outa-here response.

      2. Lil Lamb*

        The solution to that would probably be to bring up a specific instance where the employee did not take initiative and how you would have wanted he/she to proceed or at least attempt to address the situation.

        1. Trout 'Waver*

          Been there, done that. What happened was the employee fixed that one particular example, but didn’t apply initiative anywhere else. I think PIPs only really work for skills and not character traits.

          1. Jessie*

            Agree. Skills are fine for a PIP. For the most part, actual personality traits are just… they’re there or they’re not. (If I had a PIP that told me I had to be less fearful of confrontation, for example, and even if my boss gave me examples, I’d fail at it. I know what it means, but it’s just not who I am.)

              1. Sydney*

                I think it can be coached in some people. Some people just need to be told, “Here are the guidelines that I need you to stay within. Figure out how to make it all work/improve this process/whatever inside these boundaries.” because they’re afraid of doing the wrong thing or genuinely aren’t sure what to do due to lack of experience. They just need a little guidance about what you’re looking for.

                Other people…no. Just no. They need clear, specific instructions and won’t be able to do anything else but follow directions.

              2. Bellatrix*

                I guess it’s a mix, but yes – just getting that sort of feedback can greatly improve a worker’s behaviour. Sure, I guess there are people who wouldn’t know how to take initiative if it smacked them in the face, but for others, not taking initiative might simply be a misunderstanding of their work duties. If you’re straight out of school and have been evaluated mostly on following instructions, you may simply be unaware you have the authority to make those small decisions necessary to complete a task without prior approval. Telling the worker not to be afraid to make those decisions can fix it. For example, Lisa might be told to order office supplies from X. When she finds out X has closed, she lets her boss know she won’t be able to do that. If the boss wants her to just order from Y (and improvise similarly in other situations), that’s something Lisa needs to know.

                There’s plenty of cases where it won’t help, but where’s the harm in trying?

                Of course, you don’t need to set up a PIP to get that message. Good management starts out by giving that sort of feedback informally and if the worker doesn’t respond to that, they might not respond (well) to a PIP either. But I guess PIPs might be more of a documentation thing – to prove that feedback was in fact given and the worker failed to improve in the given time frame.

          2. Rat Racer*

            Really it comes down to a combo of initiative and tenacity. And I think you can coach that to a certain extent. You can at least give an employee a list of things they need to check off before coming to management with a hole in the bucket. But to Trout ‘Waver’s point, the employee can’t apply that same list to every problem, and will have to apply his own brain-power and creativity from time to time.

            An employee who gives up at the first sign of adversity will have problems that manifest in a whole host of different ways. I wish I could have just written on the PIP “TRY HARDER” – but that would not have been good management :)

    4. Laura*

      I was told that once that if put on a PIP it would be structured in a way that would be impossible to meet and to consider it a 60 day notice of termination. So yeah, I wouldn’t assume that a PIP indicated that the employee was really bad at the job, just assume that it didn’t work out in some way.

        1. Biff*

          Unfortunately, I find that PIPs tend to be misused.

          Obviously, the ideal scenario is that a employee is given solid training from the get go, clear expectations and action items on a daily/weekly/biweekly basis, solid feedback and retraining as needed, and then a PIP is only used when it is clear that an employee is out-of-bounds (E.g. Philatetes has all the necessary training and skills to be an admin, but he constantly pushes the envelope regarding the dress code and often gets so caught up in conversation with clients that he fails to answer phones and emails), BUT, that’s not really how most go down. From talking to people, I’ve found that most PIPs are one of the following:

          1. The first time that the employee has received clear expectations, action items, and honest feedback for their work. As an added bonus, most folks I know on a PIP have no idea that they are floundering, and might even believe that they are doing well! PIPs should NOT be a huge surprise. (E.g. Philatetes hasn’t had a review in 18 months, and often gets compliments on his unique fashion choices. He often stays late to wrap up emails he hasn’t gotten too, and tends to spend his lunch hour returning calls from his voice mail. Phil thinks he’s getting everything done while still providing the personable customer service that he thinks of us his ‘signature’ quality. Phil is shocked when his boss tells him he’s at risk of being let go.)

          2. A vague admission from the employer that they made a poor hiring choice for whatever reason, and they really needed someone with entirely different skills/personality. (E.g. Phil is a fashion-forward, chatty admin who used to work at an upscale spa. He gets hired on at a funeral parlor who only really need someone quiet, somber and unobtrusive who is not so much an admin as they are filing clerk.) I think in this case, it would actually be kinder and less hassle to let the employee know that ‘business needs have changed’ and they need to move on.

          3. Punative/used to control employees by keeping them on edge. (E.g. Phil is told that clients ‘love’ him, and he can see from the internal queue that his ‘numbers’ are very good. Phil hasn’t missed a day of work in a year, and has always scheduled vacations well in advance. But Phil is on a PIP for vague reasons, and can’t seem to get off the PIP. Phil is always on a PIP when the company announces that bonuses/raises are being decided.)

          1. Jadelyn*

            Honestly, I want to cry reading that. Because yes, you’re right, I can think of examples of all three that I’ve seen, and it’s just infuriating as a developing HR professional who feels that good management is supposed to *enrich* the workplace experience and benefit both the employee and the organization.

            And in particular, I’ve worked at places that did the #1 thing – even got fired from one because of it. I had no idea I wasn’t doing well right up until the day I got let go, because nobody had ever talked to me about their expectations for my role. I was doing well, but I was doing the wrong things well…but I didn’t know they were the wrong things. Gave me a big old case of bad-workplace-PTSD tbh.

        2. Snazzy Hat*

          Several jobs ago, my s.o. had a crappy manager who treated write-ups like memos. Sometimes they weren’t even reminder memos, but new info memos. Employees were technically being punished for being taught a new thing or reminded of an existing minor routine.

          1. Candi*

            I ran in the you-can’t-win writeup at my third job.

            I worked housekeeping at a mall. We had an old mechanical time clock. Up to 8 or 9 people would be lined up to stamp their cards at the beginning/end of shift.

            If you clocked in more than 5 minutes early, you were written up. If you clocked in more than 5 minutes late, you were written up. If you clocked out more than 5 minutes early, you were written up. If you clocked out more than five minutes late, you, yep, were written up.

            The mall had an older and newer section. Whoever had the older section had the food court bathrooms. (The only non-store bathrooms in the place.) If the housekeeper didn’t check and restock all the ladies’ room stalls at end of shift, that was a write up. But she couldn’t do it more than 20 minutes before end of shift.

            The time clock policy was mentioned in training. The bathroom one was not.

            The maintenance/housekeeping/food court cleaner supervisor had a tendency to pick someone and scold when there was a problem -you only knew there was a problem with YOU when the write up hit.

            Enter the post-Thanksgiving holidays. And the mother who spent 18 minutes locked in a stall telling her son to “go” and him telling her he couldn’t.

            Twenty-something brain that had been working crazy extended hours. (Extra holiday help? What’s that?) Decides that not cleaning the one stall might be found out -clocking out late definitely would. Supervisor is not around. Clocked out 3 minutes after end shift.

            Got a write up the next day. Even explaining I would have to kick CUSTOMERS out of the stall. I should have waited. But time clock-? Well, yes, but you should have waited- ERGH!

            And he wasn’t even looking to fire me like his later replacement was.

            1. Candi*

              I knew we had to clean the bathroom- but not about the write up if we didn’t check all the stalls.

  11. AdAgencyChick*

    OP4, there’s an option on LinkedIn to have the old name in parentheses. I did this — I tried going by my married name at work once, and very quickly realized my maiden name (which is much shorter and more memorable) was a better idea given that I want clients to remember my name. So now my LinkedIn profile says FirstName MaidenName (MarriedName).

    1. Natalie*

      The former name space on networking sites is there to help with identification, which isn’t the OP’s concern. I think having both names up would make it more likely that people would assume she got divorced, especially new contacts who didn’t know her during the temporary name change.

  12. Munchkin1*

    OP #1, do you work in the same building as me?? I have a very similar situation in that my workplace recently moved from a building it had occupied since the 60’s (and hadn’t been updated since the 80’s) into an ultra-modern building where the entire space was rebuilt from scratch with new modern furnishings, wall color, carpet, etc. Some admin ladies in my space were tasked with artwork and signs and did a great job.

    Except our Director decided he didn’t like anything (despite approving things before they went up). He removed signs, relocated artwork to hidden hallways, etc. Then he brought 60% of the artwork from the old building and hung it up. The old artwork consists mostly of colonial and WWI/WWII battle scenes, matted with faded yellowed matting paper and framed with ornate, tarnished brass frames. To say they “don’t go” with the new building would be the understatement of the century.

    Our workforce tried to push back as every other individual in the office (over 75 of them) thinks it’s hideous, but it’s fallen on deaf ears. Some even started posting passive aggressive notes next to the old/new artwork. Looks like we’re stuck with a horribly mismatched work-space, as our director has the final say.

    1. Artemesia*

      I worked in a place where an old building was renovated in a modern way that really brought it into a useable state and was very attractive — the combo of classic design with modern finish was gorgeous and the lobby area was furnished with Corbussier type furniture and a stark light fixture in the high ceiling — comfortable and elegant and just perfect in the space. Then along came a new CEO who didn’t think it cosy enough and turned over changing it to the admins in her office; we ended up with little Victorian seating areas on area rugs — hideous furniture and stupid looking. Taste is hard to fathom sometimes.

      1. Miss Betty*

        And just to show that personal taste is, well, personal – I just googled Corbussier type furniture and I find it hideous! No wonder the new CEO changed it all. As the ubiqitous “they say” – no accounting for taste. (Now if your lobby had been furnished in a Craftsman style, I’d think it sounded wonderful.)

        1. Artemesia*

          but it was super comfortable and while I love Craftsman homes — it does’t mesh well with highly contemporary spaces. A dowdy old building with Craftsman sofas would look cozy but a modern white classic space with Victorian furniture really really looks stupid -FWIW I have a Corbussier chaise myself and it is absolutely the most comfortable piece of furniture ever made. But obviously you are right since the people who ruined our space obviously thought the stuff we had there was ugly.

          1. MK*

            “a modern white classic space with Victorian furniture really really looks stupid:

            I have seen such spaces (and the opposite, modern furnishings in victorian-era buildings) look absolutely fantastic (though admitedly done by professional interior designers).

            Also, I am not sure decor can be said to have an IQ.

          2. Rat in the Sugar*

            Lol I gotta agree with MK, I would have preferred the Victorian even if it was a mismatch with the space. I’m one of those people who can’t stand those leather and metal furniture pieces. Of course, I also just bought two huge Dennis Mukai prints for my apartment! Google his name to relive the 80’s and reassure yourself that I have terrible taste!

            (Seriously, though, I got two almost-5 foot tall prints already matted and framed for only $34 at my church bazaar because they’re “dated”. Psssh.)

    2. Salyan*

      Can you make a case for at least replacing the yellowed matting and spray painting the frames a more modern color (oil rubbed bronze, or some such)? Maybe you can update the settings enough to make the artwork tolerable.

  13. boop the first*

    1. I have to wonder if these are serious paintings or if these are a family’s attempt at a pinterest DIY project. There is a reason why artwork isn’t usually free.

    4. People are certainly not paying attention to it! :D I kept my name when I got married, and still years later my immediate family members keep asking “…so what is your name again?” “How do you spell your last name?”
    Change it however you want, as few people will ever get it right.

    1. Temperance*

      My mother does this, but it’s a passive aggressive way of announcing her disapproval for me not changing my name.

    2. Jadelyn*

      My mother changed her last name a few years ago – my parents got divorced over a decade ago, she kept his name until my brother (who has the same name as my dad) was out of school, then instead of going back to her maiden name she chose a new last name for herself and got it legally changed.

      I literally went with her to see the judge and get it signed off, then did the rounds (Social Security, DMV, bank, etc) that day with her and I STILL sometimes forget that she doesn’t have the same last name as I do anymore. Names are so ingrained it can be REALLY hard to change your memory of it.

  14. Bad Candidate*

    #1 Have you seen that Farmers Insurance commercial where the person spills cocktail sauce on a piece of art? Not that I’m suggesting anything. It just reminded me of that. :)

  15. Allison*

    1) You have my sympathies, I know it’s technically your boss’s right to decorate the office however he sees fit, but it just seems rude to subject everyone to one person’s taste in art, especially if that taste is a little . . . off from center, so to speak.

    Also, to everyone who has artwork hanging in the bathroom, “staring” at them when they pee, I am so, so sorry! That sounds horribly awkward.

    3) I understand why you were frustrated. When you’re in process for a job and waiting to hear if you’re proceeding to the next step, or waiting to hear if you’re getting hired, not hearing anything can drive you batty! Especially when you either don’t have a job, or you fear being laid off at any moment, or you’re on a short timeline to give notice at your current job for whatever reason. It’s understandable to want to contact the hiring manger when you don’t hear from them when you expected to, but a quick e-mail should suffice, then maybe a call a few days later if that doesn’t get a response. Don’t call every day, and try not to call multiple times a day, because that doesn’t “demonstrate persistence,” at least not in a good way; it can actually make people feel very uncomfortable.

    And in general, when someone takes longer than expected to get back to you, try to assume there is a reason that has nothing to do with you. Assume something came up, assume they’re sick, assume they’re very busy, don’t assume they’re ignoring you on purpose. And if someone is ignoring you on purpose, calling multiple times will rarely turn that around.

  16. Former Invoice Girl*

    We have a few security posters for wall art in our office – one of them features a cheerful guy wearing a jacket with the company colour scheme, riding a forklift. The poster say “Drive safely!”. We are on the 10th floor. No-one drives a forklift here.

    And we have a mirror in one of the toilet stalls. *shivers*

    1. Lance*

      What… in one of the stalls themselves? Who could possibly think that’s a good idea? The only mirror a bathroom needs is by the sink; nowhere else, thanks.

      1. Jennifer M.*

        I once ate at a small cafe that had the single room type bathrooms. There was a full length mirror (the kind that you usually attach to a closet door) leaning against the wall directly in front of the toilet!

        1. Lil Lamb*

          I can kinda see the logic in that though. Sometimes people want to take a look at their outfit and make sure everything is back in place after doing their business.

          1. Former Invoice Girl*

            I have to admit I took advantage of this today… there is nowhere else to check whether or not I have gained any belly fat, haha.

          2. Elizabeth West*

            We have one–but it’s by the door. It faces the two stalls on that end–both of which have doors. But given the enormous gap in US toilet stalls, I suppose you might theoretically be able to see yourself in it! :\

            1. Charlotte, not NC*

              My work fixed this with foam weatherproofing tape in the gaps. Cheap, easy, and effective!

  17. TL17*

    OP 1: A colleague of mine recently moved and didn’t have room in his new home for a giant painting of a tree his relative made for him. He gave it to another person in our office who immediately put it on his office wall. It works in his space, and we all refer to it as “The Creepy Tree” in good fun. He wants to put a little sign next to it that says, “on loan from the personal collection of (co-worker’s name)” like in a museum. If your office is fun, that might be a way to handle the ugly artwork.

  18. Snarkus Aurelius*

    OP3> Yes, we interviewers already know you’re interested. You applied. You showed up for the interview. You called back. Great. That’s how we know. Your interviewer knew that the last time you saw her.

    Calling a half dozen times in a week doesn’t amplify your interest in the job. It’s only annoying.

    You clearly got some bad advice and/or misunderstood what it means to be an interested candidate. In the future, email and email no more than two times. Those two instances need to be spread over a minimum of a calendar week.

      1. TootsNYC*

        This is a good way to frame it! Maybe it’ll help people be patient, if they can think of it that way.

      2. Pari*

        what the interviewer did though is the equivalent of saying “I’ll tell you how close we are in an hour.”

    1. Jesmlet*

      I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the act of calling itself. It’s just when OP called and how many times OP called that’s the problem. There’s nothing wrong with calling once and leaving a message but only several days after the time the interviewer said they’d reach out.

    2. sssssssss*

      I reread OP3’s letter – she was told she would hear by Monday. She called on Monday, end of day, having waited all day for news. That of itself I don’t think is unreasonable. The Tuesday call is starting to get impatient and the two calls on Wednesday was past the limit. This might be a younger applicant who is not fully aware of how these things can work and it’s a hard lesson to learn.

      That said: Hiring managers should try to avoid making statements like “you’ll hear from me by XX” as in my experience, it never happens. Even the “you’ll hear from us in two weeks” doesn’t happen if you were not selected to go into the 2nd round.

      Know why some kids are so darned persistent? Because they feel that they have not been heard. So, for some applicants, if the receptionist could be coached to say to all persistent applicants that the managers has many things going on, but has not forgotten you, we’ll in touch at a later time, hang tight, most applicants will feel like they’ve been acknowledged and will stop calling.

      I did that once with a persistent fellow and he did stop…for a while…then started calling twice a day again after giving us a two-week break. Poor fellow, I had call display and simply refused to answer his call after the first three.

      1. Natalie*

        “Hiring managers should try to avoid making statements like “you’ll hear from me by XX” as in my experience, it never happens.”

        If that happens, I think job-seekers are just going to complain that they have no idea when to expect to hear back, and probably an uptick in people calling within a short time.

        1. Isabel C.*

          One of the things I really liked when I was looking was “if you don’t hear from us by X, feel free to reach out,” which a couple places did.

          1. Snazzy Hat*

            I heard this from two staffing agents at last week’s job fair. “If you don’t hear from me by thursday, call me on friday” and “I’ll call either thursday or monday, but if somehow I don’t call you by monday, you can call me.” I had an interview with the latter this morning.

    3. Christian Troy*

      I think I mentioned this before, but i read another job searching article that recommending periodically emailing links to interesting stories to your job interviewer. I don’t find it surprising someone thought calling a bunch was a positive thing or a way to stand out from other applicants, but yeah one or two emails at the most is the way to go.

      1. TootsNYC*

        Hmmm–that’s interesting! I’ve had an applicant or two do that. It didn’t strike me as contrived; usually the link was really recent, and the person was already a hot candidate, and we’d had a cordial interview, and my interviews always include some “philosophical approach to our profession” material. So sending me something that continues the conversation didn’t really seem contrived or instrusive.

  19. Temperance*

    LW#4: I’m one of those feminists, and I didn’t change my name. People can be weird about it.

    1. MadGrad*

      My mum came from a culture where women rarely change their names, so I’ve been usedoing to the idea my whole life. My name is also nice and significantly shorter than the long term boyfriend’s, so I’ve made my intentions clear. Heck, if I have kids I’ll offer mine. Easy to spell and say!

      1. JMegan*

        I have two kids – one with their father’s last name, one with mine.

        Neither my ex nor I wanted to change our names when we got married, and we each wanted to pass our own names on to the children, so this has been a perfectly good solution!

        1. Jesmlet*

          I’m curious… how did you choose who got which last name? And were you ever worried this would communicate who was which parent’s favorite? It’s an interesting idea for sure….

          1. JMegan*

            I think we just agreed that #1 would have his name, and #2 would have mine. :) Thank goodness there weren’t twins at any point, which would really have put a monkey wrench in our plans! No issues with favouritism, perceived or otherwise. But personality-wise, each child seems to be more like the parent with the same name. This is probably just a coincidence, but it is kind of interesting!

            1. Jesmlet*

              That is a nice idea, especially since it worked out well with the number of kids. And it is interesting that the kids each take after their namesake even if there was a 50% chance of that happening anyway.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        My last name is long and annoying, so if I married someone with a short easy last name, I probably would change it. Bonus points if it begins with an E, for the alliteration. :)

        1. Temperance*

          My last name is only 4 letters long and I sound like a Marvel superhero! ;) I couldn’t give that up.

    2. Mona Lisa*

      I always point out to people who ask if I changed my name that neither of us changed our names. He had a choice, too!

      And people will continue to be weird no matter what. My co-workers seem to mostly be fine with my name, but my relatives are still addressing cards to Mr. & Mrs. HisFirst HisLast two years later. No amount of mail or social media with my real name on it seems to deter their desire to call me otherwise.

      1. Mander*

        Good point!

        I didn’t bother to change mine, and people constantly call me Mrs Hisname, but I don’t really care. I don’t know what we would do if we had kids — I guess give them my name as a middle name? Tricky thing to sort out but I think the possibility of babies is pretty much completely unlikely at this point.

        1. Biff*

          I have a friend who told stodgy relatives that since she had a ‘public’ face due to her work, it made more sense that her husband be Mr. Belinda FamousPants than for her to be Mrs. Hobarth PlumberMan.

      2. Persephone Mulberry*

        I did change my name and I still hate it when people do this. Mr. & Mrs. Mulberry? Fine, I guess (I still squinch up at “Mrs” sometimes). Mr. & Mrs. Horatio Mulberry? No, I have my own name, thank you.

    3. Jubilance*

      Ditto! I wound up adding his last name to mine so I have 2 last names, no hyphen, and that also befuddles people. I also didn’t change my name at work and now that I’m having a baby, everyone is confused about what the babies last name will be.

      So basically, people are weird about last names. I just correct them and move on.

      1. Artemesia*

        I kept my own name nearly 50 years ago and people blathered about it for years and especially when we started having kids. Some people just can’t leave something untraditional alone.

      2. Former Diet Coke Addict*

        This is what I did. Two names, no hyphen, a la Ruth Bader Ginsburg. People cannot get this through their heads and constantly ask me “so what’s your last name? Your real last name?” Why can you not address me as I ask you? I extend people the courtesy of addressing them as they ask me!

        1. Jubilance*

          OMG exactly! People are so confused! Like they can’t grasp the idea of 2 last names, or that there isn’t a hyphen. I don’t get the hoopla.

          1. Puffle*

            I have two last names without a hyphen as well (though it’s my birth name, not because I got married), and SO many people get confused. To use Former Diet Coke Addict’s example, people will say things like, “So Bader’s your middle name, right? Why would you sign with your middle name?” Hmph.

      3. SimontheGreyWarden*

        My husband and I basically did this. I kept my middle name but moved my maiden name to a second middle name and he added my maiden name as a second middle name. His mom and mine had changed their maiden names to middle names both approved of that, but his mom did NOT approve at first of him adding mine as a middle name, even though we didn’t change his legal middle name. He gets annoyed sometimes that I still use both names as if they were both my last name, but I point out to him that I did take his name, and I don’t expect him to use mine as a formal address, but that my name is still a very important part of who I am.

    4. Chaordic One*

      Part of my old job at Dysfunctional Teapots, Inc. was to verify that new customers were not, in fact, old returning customers. Mostly it was things like figuring out that “Peggy Olson” was the same person as “Margaret Olson” who purchased our services a year ago. Or that “Peggy Olson” had gotten married and was now “Peggy Sterling.”

      At one point we had a customer with a hyphenated name whose paperwork came as “Mary Smith-Jones,” “Mary Smith” and “Mary Jones” all as part of the same contract and it kind of drove me crazy. Use whatever name you want, but please be consistent about it.

    5. Tequila Mockingbird*

      Really? I have only been married one year and 7 days, but thus far I’ve not received an iota of criticism or weirdness from anyone – friends, family nor strangers – about keeping my maiden name.

      1. Mona Lisa*

        Then you are very lucky to live among such enlightened people. I, on the other hand, had to contend with a lot of people forcing their expectations on me and trying to justify their own choices by arguing with me that I would change my mind once I’d gotten some sense into my head.

        1. Tequila Mockingbird*

          I’m sorry to hear that. No one’s tried to argue with me about it, at all.

          Then again, I was 38 when I married, so I was pretty set in all my ways and I’m sure everyone knew or assumed that.

      2. Temperance*

        You’re so lucky! I’m from a conservative evangelical family who feels some kind of way about me a.) not being Christian, b.) not being a Christian submissive wife, and c.) having more education than my husband. Me not taking his name is yet another show of “disrespect”.

        1. Candi*

          IME, the ones to go on about submissive crap are exactly the ones who’ve never read the Bible through and only know highly cherry picked verses out of context.

          [rant rant rant]

          I take my cue from women like the Judge Deborah (OT) and the businesswoman Lydia (NT) as to what women are expected to be.

    6. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      I had an amazing conversation with my grandmother when I told her that I wasn’t changing my name. I wish I could remember the sequence, but it went something like this: “But only educated women don’t change their names.” “Grandma, I have a graduate degree.” “No, you know what I mean. Professional women.” “??? I’m a manager?” “No, I mean women with accomplishments.” Ha! I’m pretty sure she meant doctors, but it was pretty entertaining.

      (My husband and I originally planned to make a new name together, but in the end we were lazy and each kept our own.)

    7. LadyKelvin*

      I’m one of those feminists, and I did change my name. Mostly because I hadn’t published anything yet so that was not a reason not too, and I’m not super attached to my oh-so-common maiden name that I wanted to keep it. Plus I like his family and his name has an ethnicity (Irish!) whereas mine is conventionally and generically American. But one of my good friends had published so she kept her name, and one of my other friends he took her name, because his mom walked out on their family and didn’t want his wife to be Mr. [HisName] so now he is Mr. [HerName]. I generally think its not more or less feminist to change or not change your name, what matters is that you have the option to change it if you want, and not to if you don’t want.

      1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

        I agree with this. I was firmly in “Keep My Name” camp for a long time until I … wasn’t. For very personal reasons that I didn’t expect. I hyphenated because I hadn’t made up my mind yet, and this gave me some breathing room. I now socially and professionally go by HisLast, even though legally I am MyLast-HisLast. (And my work signature is Manic Pixie MyLast HisLast, no hyphen, making it look like it’s a middle name. I like what I ended up choosing.)

      2. Temperance*

        I’m not a choice feminist, but I have to say I do a happy dance whenever a man changes his name. I love when dudes buck patriarchal standards like that.

        1. Candi*

          I know a doctor who had a very generic last name and a lot of brothers. His wife had an extremely distinctive Polish last name and was an only child. Doc changed his name -but is usually called “Dr. FirstSyllable” because no one can pronounce it!

          He gives permission to be called that, as I found out when I asked how to prounounce it.

      3. Caity*

        This is veering OT but I think in a cultural situation where women are expected to change their names it’s difficult to disentangle personal choice from traditional expectation, so to my mind it’s over simplifying to say that since many women “choose” to change their names we’ve made it equally feminist either way. Not that any given woman needs to feel responsible for all of society. I also think it’s revealing that men never see themselves making a choice about their surnames at all–it’s expected that they won’t change their names and by and large they do not.

    8. Chaordic One*

      You know, this situation sort of reminds me that, back at Dysfunctional Teapots, I had to deal with a lot of paperwork from employees from Mexico and Central and South America. As I recall, most of the people used both their mother’s and father’s last names as their full legal last name (which would appear on their passports), but sons would be known by their father’s last names, while daughter’s were known by their mother’s last names and that’s what would appear on most of the rest of their paperwork.

      A brother and sister might be Juan Cortez Lopez and Maria Cortez Lopez (no middle names), for example on their passports, but in the office they’d be known as Juan Cortez and Maria Lopez. Men always used their father’s last names passed them onto their sons and women always used their mother’s last names and passed them onto their daughters. It had a neat kind of continuity.

    9. Snazzy Hat*

      My mother adjusted her name to fit the area. My father’s father was well-known in certain circles (active in his neighborhood, worked in city hall but was not the mayor), so pre- and post-divorce she was Marge Simpson in this town. When she moved back to her hometown where the Bouvier family made a name for themselves — especially Monsignor Bouvier at the cathedral — she changed her name to Marge Bouvier-Simpson and her students called her Ms Bouvier.

    10. Printer's Devil*


      I decided early on that I would remain FirstName MyName, since I rather like the sound of it, though HisName is not horrendous. I have never been known as FirstName HisName. And yet his professional connections refer to me as FirstName HisName- and worse, my extended family either addresses things to FirstName HisName or FirstName MyName-HisName. WTF. Y’all were there.

      (on the other hand, we received an invitation addressed to FirstName and GivenName MyName, and I was very gleeful about it for a couple of days)

  20. Jules*

    #2 Did anyone else read the title for this question and thought that someone fired someone else on Facebook? It threw me off the loop for a second.

    1. LawCat*

      Yes! This is exactly what I was thinking. My mind made it into the husband firing someone over twitter or facebook. (Maybe because of the movie “The Social Network”, the term “social network” and “social media” kind of meld together in my mind. Wouldn’t have thrown me if it had been “social circle” or “social group.” I had to read the letter a few times to understand that what was happening had nothing to do with facebook.)

  21. MadGrad*

    OP3, no matter who tells you this, persistence is rarely a trait that makes a good impression. Unless you’re in a sales job, it comes off as abrasive. Interpersonally, too: nagging at someone until they’ll go out with you or pushing a topic past the point of comfort in a conversation both make people more uncomfortable than impressed, and any good you get out of it is because they gave in, not because they genuinely wanted to share. Next time someone advises you to be this way, think about how you would feel if someone acted like that while trying to get your number. If it makes you uncomfortable, don’t do it!

    I’m sorry about this job. We all believe in you!

    1. Sophie Winston*

      Even in sales it can be abrasive. There’s one company that will not leave me alone, and they manipulate the poor receptionist into letting them talk to other folks in my wing that aren’t even in my department. Ugh.

      1. SophieChotek*

        I agree. And it’s frustrating because I hate that pushiness that becomes part of sales/associated with sales.
        But there are also enough stories that “persistance” pays off…or the “Squeaky wheel get the grease” and I’ve seen that happen too.

      2. Michele*

        Can you respond by telling them that you’ll never be a customer because of your sales approach, and that to not call you again?

    2. Candi*

      Wakeen’s Teapots mentioned on another article that I read some time ago that his best salesfolks aren’t pushy. They see a need or want and politely persuade the customer that their teapots are just the hot drink servers they need for their own clients and customers.

  22. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    I feel you, OP 5!

    I’m in a same-sex marriage, but married while still establishing myself professionally. So, I didn’t want to change to Johnson-Smithers after having networked a lot as Ms. Johnson. Socially, though, I go by Ms. Johnson-Smithers.

    I don’t think changing it back should mean anything, but just explain nonchalantly that you’ve decided to go back to your maiden name. Also, be aware- some people read a hyphenated last name as “this person is LGBT.

    1. Sophie Winston*

      Huh. I’m also queer and don’t make that connection at all. I grew up (late Gen X) with many kids with hyphenated names, none with same-sex parents.

      This decision was never an issue for me – wife and I are both named Sophie, so using the same last name was not a practical option.

      1. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

        How does that work? I guess it’s a pitfall, that same-sex couples might have the same first name. But is there any issue related to having the same name? Logistics?

        1. Jayn*

          I’d say it’s a pitfall generally, given that some names are used for either gender (my SIL shares her name with her father, for example). But I’m with those who would never consider it an LGB thing–a good chunk of my freshman class had hyphenated surnames. I just assumed their mothers had kept their maiden ones.

        2. Hotel GM Guy*

          I have a buddy named Kristofer who once dated a girl named Kristina for years and years. They both went by Kris. It was pretty weird, so we just called them by their last names.

              1. vpc*

                My parents have the same initials, and listed that way in the phone book. It was great for screening junk calls.

                “Yes, may I speak with I.C. Nichols, please?”
                “Sorry, which one are you looking for?”
                “Dr. I.C. Nichols?”
                “Also not helpful. Are you trying to reach a man or a woman?”
                “I don’t know…”

            1. DragoCucina*

              I knew a Gene married to Jean. They named their son and daughter Gene and Jean. The adult children lived with their parents. I disliked phoning them.

        3. Sophie Winston*

          Folks who know us seem to navigate it without any issue. We don’t look or sound anything alike, and have different hobbies, so that eliminates most potential sources of confusion.

          The only real confusion I encounter is when talking about my wife to people who don’t know of her and think I’m talking about myself in the third person. But I see this as a benefit, as it’s a natural way to out myself before folks embarrass themselves by asking about my husband.

          1. Judy*

            I have a cousin in his 50s who is not a “junior” but has the same first name and middle initial from his father, who is in his 80s. There have been plenty of mixups with bank statements, and twice back in the day they worked at the same company in different locations. There would be pay mixups, SS reporting mixups, etc. They haven’t lived in the same city since cousin was 22.

            I had a co-worker at a past job who was a “junior” and his dad worked there. When his dad retired, HR locked down things and told IT to turn off his accounts.

          2. Hotel GM Guy*

            Of course, people that talk about themselves in the third person are generally thought of as a bit crazy, lol

        4. Charlotte, not NC*

          I knew a Patrick and Patricia years ago…Female Pat changed her nickname to Trish to make their lives easier. Their mail was always a mess, though!

          1. Snazzy Hat*

            Their mail was always a mess, though!

            My father’s first name and middle initial can be combined to form the feminine version of his first name. Think Marc Isaac -> Marci. Imagine the catalogues.

        5. Kit*

          My aunt married a man with the same first name in the nineties. They’re no longer married but it wasn’t really an issue, except of course that taking his surname was impractical.

      2. SophieChotek*

        I never would make that connection either. I know many women (all married to men) who hyphenated their last name, or now use their maiden name as a middle name (no hyphen).

        One learns new things — although I never would see a hyphenated name and think “oh that person is LGBT”…now I might though, or at least wonder…

        1. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

          I just think that way, I believe, because hyphenated names are really rare in my area; even for feminists. so if you hyphenate, it usually means “nontraditional family” of some sort.

      3. cataloger*

        My husband shares a first name with his grandfather (John), and many family members call him (my husband) by his middle name, though I do not. When we were first dating, I met many of those family members for the first time at his grandparents’ anniversary party, and people were shocked every time I introduced myself as “John’s girlfriend”!

    2. Artemesia*

      I have a fair number of friends who are recently married and gay and not one of them hyphenates; they all just kept their own name. My kids are hyphenated and I have known a couple dozen people with hyphens over the years and they are either children of parents with different names or are married hetero couples where the woman or sometimes both took a new hyphenated name. I have never heard that it was common or a sign of a LGBT relationship.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I have a friend from school whose wife took her name, but at first they hyphenated. My friend goes by her old married name (she used to be married to a guy), but she eventually decided to hyphenate her maiden name with the married name. So it was like this:

        Elizabeth Chynoweth became Elizabeth Poldark.
        Then after divorce, she’s Elizabeth Chynoweth-Poldark.
        Demelza Carne (her wife) became Demelza Carne-Poldark.
        Now she’s Demelza Chynowyth-Poldark.

        I think I have that right. It was confusing at first, but we all got used to it. I just went by what was latest on Facebook. :)

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          lizabeth Chynoweth became Elizabeth Poldark.
          Then after divorce, she’s Elizabeth Chynoweth-Poldark.
          Demelza Carne (her wife) became Demelza Carne-Poldark.
          Now she’s Demelza Chynowyth-Poldark.

          So now both of these women use the name of a man who used to be married to one of them?

    3. Tequila Mockingbird*

      ” some people read a hyphenated last name as “this person is LGBT”.

      I don’t think this is true at all. And I live in the most LGBT-friendly city in the US…

      1. H.C.*

        Ditto here, I think all the hyphenated last name couples I know are cisgender opposite sex ones (the same sex ones I know tend to retain their respective last names, but I don’t know any with kids yet.)

    4. Temperance*

      One of the men in my office recently changed his name to add a hyphenate with his husband’s last name. His email is still his name, but his signature now has the hyphen. It works pretty well. (He was out at work previously, and has photos of himself with his kids and husband on his desk. I think they just recently did the name change.)

  23. S.I. Newhouse*

    Regarding OP #3 and the answer given: Am I the only person who *hates* it when someone says “I’m *so* sorry”? To me, it almost always comes across sounding fake or sarcastic. Maybe I’m just weird. For OP #3, unfortunately, I think it’s a moot point either way; I think this one needs to be chalked up as a loss.

    1. Persephone Mulberry*

      I have been known to call outside business hours on purpose in the hopes of getting voicemail so that I could use my carefully prepared voicemail script and not have to worry about talking to an actual human…

  24. baseballfan*

    Re: #3, it’s amazing to me how people don’t realize the difference between following up/being proactive, and in borderline harassment.

    “Continuing to call over and over doesn’t show you’re very interested; it says ‘I think the thing I want from you is more important than anything else you’re dealing with right now.'”

    This is exactly what I told my sister when she mentioned how her daughter had applied for a position and she instructed her daughter to call and follow up EVERY DAY and demand to know the outcome. I said NONONO! It’s fine to call after a few days, assuming that’s at least as long as they told you the decision would take. It’s fine to follow up every week or so subsequently, unless you have reason to know the process is taking longer than that. I told her if an applicant called me daily wanting an update, I would be very disinclined to hire them, because they are so out of touch with what’s appropriate in a business context.

    1. MegaMoose, Esq*

      Even following up every week seems over the top. I have never heard of an employer who changed their mind about hiring someone because they did or didn’t follow up. I say only follow up if there’s a genuine reason that you need to know where the hiring process is at.

  25. Alex*

    #2: I’m having issues with the wife knowing the employee was on PiP. Wasn’t that a very bad breach of privacy from the husband? She should had never been pervie to that information.

    1. MK*

      Eh, it’s not clear to me that she knew before the firing. I agree that the husband shouldn’t have told her anything while it was happening, but afterwards it makes sense to give the spouse a heads-up “X, who is great friends with our pals Z and Y, has been on a PIP and was fired today”.

    2. sunny-dee*

      Aside from fields like medicine and law, I don’t know that there are strict issues with privacy. If the wife were in the same industry or worked at the same place, then definitely professional courtesy would require silence. But if the husband liked this person a lot and was feeling upset or guilty, I can see him talking issues over with his wife, just for his own emotional well-being. If she were a gossip, hopefully he’d know that and keep his mouth shut. But we all need someone we can talk things over with and process safely.

      * I know you meant “privy,” but the typo is cracking me up.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yep, I agree. People talk over work stresses with their spouses, including management dilemmas (and “this person from our social network who I hired isn’t doing well and I’m worried I might need to fire them” is certainly one of those).

      2. Natalie*

        Indeed. I’ve routinely been assured by bosses than the confidential matters I’m privy to are confidential in professional contexts, not that I could never talk them over with my spouse or family.

        1. Jadelyn*

          Honestly, I work in HR and I share all the juicy stuff with my SO – because he doesn’t know any of those people, doesn’t care beyond “Wow, that sounds complicated for you to deal with”, and I appreciate having someone unbiased I can rant to, given that I can’t exactly sit down with a work friend and go “oh my GOD you will never believe what Samantha in Accounting said to Daniel in IT yesterday! Now he’s talking about harassment and their managers have squared off over it and oh my GOD I may just quit if I end up being assigned to mediate this mess.”

          We all need a pressure relief valve for stressful situations, and since you DO want to keep stuff confidential in the professional context, it kind of by definition needs to be someone outside of that context who you go to and talk things through with.

          1. Snazzy Hat*

            When my s.o. started his current job, he would occasionally relay events about coworkers. I had to beg him to use real names so I could tell the difference between everyone involved. You can’t tell me a story about four of your male coworkers and expect me to keep track of the dialogue path when you only refer to them as “he”. I added that the likelihood of my ever meeting any of these people was slim to nil, pointing out he had never met any of my coworkers from my last job.

    3. James*

      Some organizations have official or semi-official support networks, where the person involved is allowed to share certain details of events with a small group that would otherwise not be permitted. Police, EMTs, firefighters, some soldiers (depends on the CO), etc. Jobs are stressful, and suicide rates among certain jobs are astronomical. You NEED to vent, to blow off steam, to just get stuff out of your head to someone who’s willing to listen. Spouses are assumed by such organizations to be in such a position. Don’t get me wrong, they aren’t allowed to say everything–but I’ve been flat-out told that my managers assume I tell my wife (who used to work for the company) what happens at work, and I’ve been formally asked to be a member of the support group for a few people.

  26. Annie Moose*

    #4: A minor note, but remember that you can update LinkedIn without it alerting your connections–it may be easier to just quietly update your name and let people notice it on their own, if they ever notice it.

    With coworkers, I agree with Alison that casually mentioning your spouse might be a good idea. Someone will probably make it awkward no matter what, there’s always one, but I don’t think they need any sort of extensive explanation–it’s not their business. Any reasonably polite person would be satisfied with “oh, I recently decided to go back to using my maiden name”. Anybody who tries to dig more than that is being rude and nosy, and you’re not obligated to oblige them!

  27. C Average*

    I agree with all the other posters who have urged #3 not to call repeatedly, but I’d go beyond this recommendation and urge job-seekers not to call at all, unless you have specifically been instructed by the employer to call them.

    If you’ve applied for a job at any business larger than a mom-and-pop organization and if you only have a central number, the odds that you’ll reach the person making the hiring decisions are vanishingly poor.

    If you do reach the person making the hiring decisions, the odds that he or she will have a decisive answer that can be shared with you is also vanishingly poor.

    If you must reach out, email. That way, the person on the receiving end isn’t put on the spot. He or she can reach out to the proper person, pull the relevant file, seek the appropriate answers, etc., and THEN get back to you.

    I’ve been on hiring panels before and had candidates reach out to me (I suspect because I have an unusual name that people can remember and Google), and it was awkward as all hell. I’m not HR, I’m not the hiring manager, I’m one of a six-member panel interviewing multiple people and then making a collaborative decision. When you ask me if there’s any news, I genuinely can’t tell you. I probably don’t know, and if I do know, it’s not my place to reveal information. There’s a process for that, and sometimes it can take longer than anticipated. People who try to hurry up that process through repeated contact do get remembered, but not in a good way.

  28. Sammy Hoopla*

    #3-No one should offer you any job until you have been trained otherwise. In what planet is what you did not annoying or creepy?

    1. Pari*

      I’m not sure how you got creepy from that. Creepy would be calling the interviewer at home, accosting him after work, or continuing to make contact after you’ve been rejected. Sure it’s annoying and pointless maybe, but also understandable. I know people here are creeped out by sometimes trivial things but let’s save creepy for the truly creepy.

      1. Michele*

        I also agree that OP did this too much, but in this economy, people are anxious about finding work. Op 3: take this as a learning experience, and change your response. Email; don’t call either.

        1. Kelly L.*

          Yeah–it’s too much, but it was the conventional wisdom that a lot of people were taught, and now have to unlearn. Gumption!

      2. SimontheGreyWarden*

        Creepy might have been sending flowers after learning the manager was sick. This wasn’t creepy, just a little over the top.

  29. Dave*

    #3 Not just for job interviews, but for anything involving a timeline, I’m now in the habit of always asking when is it OK to follow up, generally some X days after the initial timeline/deadline. So if they say they’ll call on Monday, I’ll ask, “if I don’t hear from you, should I follow up on Wednesday?” and then usually they’ll give me an actual date, maybe confirm that Wednesday, or push it out to a Friday.

    1. Anon 12*

      This is good advice. If I got that many follow ups from a candidate I’d start making assumptions about that person being socially tone deaf or possibly hard to manage. And although I get that the manager didn’t ask for advice, I would never be too sick to check messages and ask somebody to relay a “we’ll get back to you next week” response.

  30. Manders*

    I once knew someone whose job was painting abstract pictures for corporate offices. Clients would give her details about the color scheme they wanted and the size of the picture they needed, and she would produce an inoffensive piece of canvas that would work with their decorating scheme. There’s apparently an art to producing pictures that aren’t meaningful or eye-catching.

  31. Anon 12*

    Not exactly the same but last year we rented a house for a family vacay. There an abstract drawing in the entry way and it was several days before we looked at it closely enough to realize it was a portrait of the homeowner (there were several family photos in the house) naked and doing something unmentionable to herself. We still laugh out loud about it.

    1. Knitchic*

      We took a road trip once and decided to grab the kids some nuggets at a certain fast food chain with a clown for a spokesman. There was a painting of said clown riding a horse and roping cattle. Scariest thing I’ve seen lol. It was in the hall going to the bathroom and if it wasn’t going to be another three hours till the next stop I wouldn’t have passed it for anything. We still joke about it and every once in a while it becomes my Facebook cover photo hehehe.

  32. BBBizAnalyst*

    So for #3, I find the calling strange even if it’s just the first time. I equate it to calling before applying to gain more info or an advantage on other applicants.

    I typically send my thanks post interview via email and wait a week and half or so before reaching out again.

    The constant calling sounds like it could have come from my undergraduate career center and I wish places like that would stop giving out this terrible advice.

  33. Christine*

    2. My spouse fired someone in our social network

    I’m thinking the wife shouldn’t be answering questions in this situation at all. That the husband shouldn’t have told her, period. She shouldn’t know the woman was on PIP, etc.

    1. Whats In A Name*

      I agree 100% that the wife needs to keep up the charade of “I don’t know” and should not be answering questions. I think Alison’s “I know he hated it didn’t work out” or some version is enough and doesn’t offer the wife knows anything more than they no longer work together.

      Sometimes spouses share things like this. I probably know more than I should about my s/o work happenings and colleagues. Even if husband didn’t give her the details, chances are the wife would find out they weren’t working together and get asked anyways, esp. if they overlap friends. It just happens.

      1. Christine*

        I agree with you. This is one where you play blind and dumb. We have our sounding boards in our S/O, etc. Many times we need someone that knows us, to give us feed back especially if we feel our view of a situation is colored by past experiences. We all have a filter of past experiences, someone out of the situation but knows us can point out when we are doing it.

        Feel sorry for the husband, it’s going be quite uncomfortable for a few weeks, etc.

    2. Moonsaults*

      I think it’s fine that the husband told his wife about it, that’s what we do when we’re in intimate relationships with one another.

      However I completely agree that this is the perfect situation where you play dumb and don’t let on that you knew anything.

      It’s rare that a spouse is going to agree with a PIP in the first place or any reason for their SO to be let go, ever. Even if the person was lighting farts on fire in the VP’s office every afternoon. Still, they’ll think that they should have been given a raise and a promotion, etc. So it’s better to just not engage or discuss.

  34. Moonsaults*

    There are so many things going through my mind about calling four times in one day and not taking “I’ve taken a message, the ball is out of your court now.” as a sign.

    In the world, where things are not fair at all and not always up front, if someone isn’t calling you back, take the hint. Sure the receptionist could be terrible at giving messages but the reality is that you’re being ignored either for a legitimate reason or they just don’t want to tell you “sorry, we went in another direction.”

    I have to deflect so many people that it would be easier to just say “no, the answer is a flat no.” It’s a gross game but given how it’s a defense against having someone fly off the handle at you when you tell them that you are out of the running for a position, you have to choose your battles. You’re a stranger to these people, despite an interview, they still don’t know you and pestering them is not how you earn any of them wanting to get to know you!

  35. James*

    I’m a bit lost on the paintings.

    Large and disproportionate, sure–that’s a problem. A possible solution would be to ask his sister about it–artists know that the way the piece is displayed affects its impact.

    Not related to the work you do? How is that a problem? In fact, I’d say it may be an advantage (assuming it’s not inherently inappropriate). Looking at something completely unrelated to your work can help you relax, by getting your mind away from work for a few minutes. There’s a reason a lot of productivity websites advocate eating lunch away from your desk!

    Awful? Assuming this is an additional trait, and not an evaluation of the previous two, well, is that really a problem? I mean, yes, we’d all rather look at beautiful things. But we all end up spending a lot of our time doing it. I mean, there’s nothing very aesthetically pleasing about whitewashed cinderblock construction (my office is in a very old building just now!). Are any customers/clients complaining? If not, maybe it’s not so awful; maybe it’s merely different tastes.

    A possible option would be to ask your boss’s approval to commission a few pieces from his sister specifically for the business. Have her come in and look at the space, then work with a small committee (two or three people) to get some paintings that fit. If he’s displaying it due to the family ties, this isn’t going to hurt your relationship with him! I have a sister who’s an artist, and being able to direct folks to her is one of the ways I show I care. It’s hard making a living as an artist, and family enjoys helping out.

    #4: It’s pretty common in many fields to not take your spouse’s name. In science, for example, married folks keep their own names–because continuity is critical in looking at someone’s work, and if they change their name it makes it a real nightmare to find what they did in the past! If you explain something like that, it should be fine.

    Be aware, there are some dangers. If you travel internationally, carry a copy of your marriage license with you. I was with a couple in Romania that had a LOT of trouble convincing the Romanian equivalent of TSA that they were in fact married, and they therefore were in fact entitled to a special deal (slightly lower family rate and guaranteed seats together). The fact that they had a copy of their marriage license is what kept the situation from blowing up!

  36. SusanIvanova*

    Reading all the artwork stories – especially in the bathrooms! – wow.

    All our buildings have different naming schemes for the meeting rooms, and each room has a poster of art representing the room name. Our building was “awesome movie characters”. Problem the first: the male/female ratio was something like 4:1, and no, labelling the Wonder Woman room “Wonder Women” didn’t help. Problem the second: meeting room Ripley did not fix this in any way; instead of the awesome Ripley from Aliens, we had the much less awesome Talented Mr Ripley. Funny how the poster kept ending up off the wall and hidden behind the door. Eventually a stealth poster commando unit found a sufficiently awesome poster and corrected it.

  37. BTW*

    #3 – I’m sorry but I’m not at all surprised that you were taken out of the running. Interviewers will often tell you that they will call on X day around X time and they rarely ever do. It’s your job to roll with it. One call would have been fine or a thank you note, but calling every day and multiple times a day tells an employer a lot about you. I had an applicant like this once. Calling, emailing and even sending me responses to interview questions via email, after the fact. The even funnier part was that his new responses (ya know, after he actually had time to think about it) were terrible. He was quickly put on our no-go list based on how needy he was.

    We get it. You want the job. But you need to just sit back and let them work their stuff out. Unfortunately your behaviour here cost you this position.

  38. Catabodua*

    One more terrible art at work story –

    I work at a University. A former Chair of the department passed away and his family was aware that there is a gallery of portraits of former Chairs in a certain space and asked if they could commission the Chair’s favorite artist to do the portrait that would hang there.

    Current Chair agreed.

    Fast forward about 8 months, family contacts us to tell us the portrait is ready. They arrange a time for it to be brought in … and the artist shows up with the family with this HUGE (not kidding – 5 feet wide, 7 feet long) monstrosity. The portrait itself is just awful (but the eye of the beholder and alla that).

    It’s sort of a Cubism / Abstract mix in style, and there is simply no way you’d know it was supposed to be him by just looking at it.

    And, there is a bunch of his family, gushing on about how wonderful it is, how the artist captured him perfectly, how he would have loved it….

    The rest of us were horrified that the current Chair chose to hang it in the main lobby of our building. It’s one of the first things you see as you come in. It’s also the first topic of conversation of new people coming in. “What’s with the painting?”

    A co-worker brought her child in one day quickly to pick something up and the child didn’t want to walk by it and kept calling him “the scary man.”

  39. Jack the Accessibility Guy*

    One thing I did when I had ugly artwork at a workplace is that I brought postcards of good art to my desk to gaze at. It made me feel a lot better!

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