I got drunk and flipped out at a company dinner, talking about weaknesses in a job interview, and more

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

1. I got drunk and flipped out at a company dinner

Friday night, we had my company’s annual dinner, which includes all management. My husband works for the same company and we are both at the same level. I drank entirely too much, and didn’t eat at all (food was terrible). I was fine during dinner, having fun and laughing, nothing out of control. After dinner, some coworkers decided to go to the bar, so my husband and I agreed to go also. Before heading to the bar, I told my husband I needed to use the restroom.

From this point on, everything is a blur. I came out of the restroom looking for my husband, and thought he had ditched me. I looked and looked for him and finally found him at the bar, with two guys from work, one of them who I REALLY don’t like. I went ballistic. I lost it. My husband tells me I flipped out on him and apparently also said a few things (very mean things) to the two guys. I don’t remember most of this or why I was so angry. My husband got me out of there eventually.

I’m currently dealing with a lot of personal things, so maybe not finding my husband was a huge trigger for me. I think I felt abandoned. I’m filled with shame and embarrassment. I really feel like I should send an email to the two guys and apologize for my behavior, but my husband says I shouldn’t. We work for a big company, I don’t work directly with them, but I do see them every now and then. I don’t want to get in trouble either. I don’t know what to do.

It’s hard to imagine that you shouldn’t apologize if you flipped out and said mean things to these guys, so I’m curious to know what your husband’s reasoning is for that. Does he just want to not deal with this any further and worries that apologizing will drag it out? If it’s just that, I’d overrule him and apologize — it’s your name and reputation that’s on the line here.

If possible, I wouldn’t use email. Email can feel like a cowardly way out in this kind of situation, so I would talk to them face to face. (And actually, same for anyone else who may have witnessed it, not just these two guys.)

2. Talking about weaknesses in a job interview

I am graduating from college soon and am nervously anticipating interview questions. Specifically, the dreaded “what’s your greatest weakness?”

I know what my greatest weakness is. I can be very judgmental of people and it takes me a while to get over a bad impression. Since I want to answer this question honestly, my practice answer is, “My greatest weakness is my tendency to over-judge people. I realize how harmful this mindset can be, and I try and challenge my perceptions and overcompensate by trying to be as empathetic and understanding of others as possible.”

Do you think it would be shooting myself in the foot to admit this weakness during an interview, or do you think my explanation of my improvement plan can help?

I wouldn’t use that weakness. It makes you sound potentially like you’re going to be difficult to work with or that you’ll have trouble in your relationships with coworkers.

I know I say you should be honest about your weaknesses, but when you’re just kind of going fishing for one to use, I’d pick something different. If you worked during college, where did you feel like you had the most room for improvement? What kind of feedback did you get from managers? That might point out in the right direction, but if it doesn’t, pick something that’s more about work skills than interpersonal skills.

Frankly, though, I think this question is going out of style and you’re a lot less likely to encounter it than you used to be, and that’s especially true when you’re interviewing as a new grad since people know that you’re unlikely to have a good sense of your work-related weaknesses yet. It’s still good to prepare for it because some interviewers do still ask it, but good ones will cut new grads a lot of slack for not being able to accurately assess their own skills.

3. How do we get out of a company softball league?

A colleague of mine recently organized a co-ed softball team that our company has chosen to sponsor. This co-ed league requires a team of five women and five men to play each game. If there are not enough women, the team is forced to forfeit. I work in a male-dominated industry and there are very few women who work at our company. After asking about everyone he could, the organizer was able to gather four hesitant female coworkers who said, “yes, I would be interested in playing softball.” The other player is the girlfriend of organizer and is not an employee at our company. The team organizer had very few details about the games and schedule when he sent the interest email.

About a week after the original email went out, the organizer sent out a second email that said he had signed up our teams and thanked us for all committing to playing. I did make the organizer aware of my hesitation with playing in the first place, but I did “commit” verbally after the original interest email went out. I have spoken with two female coworkers who feel that they did not actually ever say they were “committed” to playing and now feel trapped.

It has now been almost a month, and we just received the softball schedule. Many of us leave work at 5:30 p.m., and we were told the games would be no later than 6:30 p.m. Six of the 10 games don’t even start until 7:30 or 8:30 p.m. Our company is at the halfway point between where I live and the field where we’ll play. From my house, it is about 45-50 minutes to the field. From work, it is still about a 25-minute drive for everyone. When I originally said I’d be interested, I really hadn’t realized I would be committing all day, every Monday, until July to this softball league. I have other after work commitments I really enjoy and must rearrange to make these games, which has made me lose all interest in actually playing.

I would love to be able to say I cannot make the games that are later than 6:30 p.m., but that may mean that they don’t have enough women to play at all. At least two other female team mates would also like to back out, but because it is a company-sponsored team we feel that it would reflect poorly on us and put the organizer in an awkward position. Is there anything I can do here to save my colleagues and I or do we have to suck it up and play?

You absolutely don’t need suck it up and play, nor should you. He’s asking for a pretty big commitment, and he didn’t even give you all the relevant information at first; in fact, he gave you wrong info. It’s perfectly reasonable to say, “Sorry, when I said I’d be interested, I based that on your initial email saying that no game would be later than 6:30. This schedule won’t work for me, so I need to withdraw.”

And even if the scheduling mix-up hadn’t happened, it would still be reasonable for any of you to say, “I’ve given this more thought and realized it’s a bigger time commitment than I can make,” or for your coworkers to say, “Hey, wait, I said I’d potentially be interested, but I didn’t commit — please don’t count me as a definite yes.”

You don’t need to worry about it reflecting poorly on your company; the organizer is the one who messed this up, and while it’s nice to help people out of jams when you can, losing all your Monday evenings for months on end is far beyond the call of duty.

4. Can I redo my application for a job I applied for recently?

I saw a great job posting that I felt qualified for. It recommended applying within a month of the posting going up, but had zero indication of when that actually was. Not wanting the opportunity to pass me by, I decided to apply as quickly as I could.

It’s now been over a month since I applied, and certainly over a month since the posting went up (whenever the heck that was). So obviously, time was not as big an issue as I thought. I don’t think my application was bad at all, but after a month of dwelling on it (it really is a dream job for me), I do think I could have gone an entirely different direction on my cover letter — one that would have more specifically tied my experiences to their needs. Not to mention, I’ve accomplished some things in the past few weeks that would boost my qualifications. I’m trying to be positive and say that this is all stuff I can use to wow them in an interview, if I get there.

But still, a question lingers … if there’s been an opening for months and you feel like you can make a notably better application, is it acceptable to re-submit for a job you’ve already applied to? Obviously the quality of an application is different when I have two days to think about it, versus two months. But it still seems like something that comes off as naive and unprofessional. If a friend were asking me for advice, I’d say to just keep their fingers crossed and trust their initial application. But what’s the hiring manager perspective on this?

Yeah, don’t do it. You’re expected to basically put your best foot forward when you apply, and it’s annoying to be asked to read a second application for the same person because they want to take another stab at it. I totally understand the impulse, but resist it!

5. New hire has weird boundaries

I had an employee start today, and he’s already showing signs of being “inappropriately” uncomfortable. It’s little things: picking things up off other other people’s desks, leaning against doorframes, walking into another department’s office to “explore” while on his 10-minute break.

I don’t want to sound uptight, but it feels something akin to someone visiting your house for the first time and opening your fridge without asking. It’s like, “hey, boundaries.”

How to I politely nip this in bud to let him know I expect him have a more professional/respectful demeanor? (He’s also not new to working. He’s 27 and has been in the workforce for eight years, including two years as a manager in a corporate department.)

Start with this: “Hey, it seems like we might have somewhat more formal boundaries than you may be used to from past jobs. Picking up things off other people’s desks or going exploring in other departments without a reason for being there will come across strangely here. Since it seems like it might be a different culture than what you’re used to, it might help to be deliberate about watching how others on our team do things here, and I’m happy to answer any questions you have too. I know it can be tough to adjust to a new culture.”

If it continues after that, you’ll have to decide how big of a deal it is. If it’s not just the stuff you named but bigger things too (interrupting in meetings, being relaxed to the point of unprofessionalism in his work, etc.), it may be that he’s just not the right match for your office (although it’s still worth naming that stuff explicitly for him and seeing if some feedback gets you anywhere).

{ 521 comments… read them below }

  1. neverjaunty*

    OP #3 – AAM was very diplomatic about your organizer here. He signed people up without making sure they really wanted to join, and then didn’t give you any details about the (pretty onerous!) schedule for a month?

    He is almost certainly counting on you and the other women not wanting to be rude and rock the boat at this point. Do not follow his script. You are absolutely entitled to have a life that isn’t devoted to playing company softball, especially when the option wasn’t presented to you honestly.

    1. Casuan*

      An emphatic agreement!!
      Decline & be guilt-free. If anyone does try to press or guilt you to change your mind, once you’ve explained why you can’t do this revert to a simple “I’m sorry, no” & repeat as necessary.

    2. AcademiaNut*

      I agree that the organizer is counting on you not wanting to disappoint the other players, and that you don’t have to play along.

      And it wasn’t even a particularly stable situation to begin with. If you need 5 women on the field or you forfeit, you need more than 5 women on the team – people will get sick, be on vacation, have other things come up, or even change jobs, and that’s a lot of pressure on the women, knowing that if they can’t make a game, the team forfeits. I’d bet money that even if you all were reasonably enthusiastic, you’d still end up forfeiting at least 1/3 of the games.

      I’d talk to the other two women to coordinate your efforts a bit, and then you can each individually email the organizer. It’s better to make it clear before the games start that this isn’t going to work, rather than starting play and having it fail slowly.

      1. snorkellingfish*

        I’d say forfeiting 1/3 is an understatement if anything.

        I play soccer on the weekend, with people who’ve freely and willingly signed up while knowing the rough level of commitment involved and the sort of scheduling we’ll end up with. It’s really common to start the season with a full roster of reserves, and still end up playing a bunch of games short players because people drop out, or have other commitments one weekend or other, or are sick, or get injured, etc. etc. And that’s not in a work situation, where people were non-committal about signing up in the first place and felt roped into it.

        For a situation like that, the bare minimum players isn’t really enough. So don’t feel like you’re letting the team down if you pull out now. Because when things are that close to the limit, I can’t imagine that things would go smoothly anyway.

        1. Summer's Always Full*

          snorkellingfish is absolutely right that the minimum number of players is NOT enough. I play volleyball on a team in the fall/winter and it’s a big commitment. And every single player on our team has a rough idea of at least two people to ask when someone can’t make it because it’s inevitable.

          If it doesn’t work for you and you don’t get excited, don’t do it. It will be a drag, I promise. Besides, he can keep you on his official roster and recruit his family/friends as substitutes. The league won’t pay that much attention to monitor your attendance. The refs only care about number of women in my experience – not their personal details. You don’t have to feel guilty and he’s got plenty of options if he wishes to explore them. If he doesn’t, that’s not your fault.

          1. Antilles*

            The refs only care about number of women in my experience – not their personal details.
            This is 100% accurate. Teams struggle so much with trying to meet these rules that I can guarantee you that not only will the ref not care, odds are you won’t be the only team who can’t meet the rule. Despite the written rule requiring a forfeit, they’ll have an unwritten alternative on how to handle it. Common alternatives include:
            1.) You play down one man and down one woman (so 4/4).
            2.) You play down one woman (5/4), but you automatically get an out when your ‘ghost woman’ is batting.
            3.) The ref borrows a woman from another team to sub in.
            Or heck, worst case, they mark it down as a forfeit in the standings, but you still play the game for fun, because seriously, it’s a game you’re playing in your spare time.

          2. Synonymous*

            Uh, it depends. I used to play on a soccer league and the refs compared our licenses to the roster.

            I also don’t think you should participate if you don’t want to. We had a ton of women on our roster, but I stilled played almost every second of every game. People have lives.

            1. Joshua*

              As a referee, I care only as much as the league cares. If the league is come one and all, no registration necessary, then I’ll be super lax about it. But some leagues are very particular that all players must be registered/sign the waivers/pay their dues or they can’t play (often for insurance or liability reasons).

              But don’t play if you don’t want to! In 6 months your boss won’t care at all whether or not you played on the softball team.

        2. Aurion*

          Amen. I play in a recreational volleyball league. It’s really common for a team of 8 to drop suddenly down to a team of 3-4 some nights, and these were all people who voluntarily signed up with full knowledge of the schedule.

      2. Antilles*

        1/3? You’re optimistic. If you’re going with only 5 people for 5 spots, I’d guess you’re probably going to be short on 75%+ of games.
        I have a friend who runs one of these softball teams for a church league with a similar “5 women required” rule. Knowing this rule in advance, he usually has somewhere around 8-10 women on the team every single year. These women each pay the $60 per-season fee so they’ve got a clear incentive to show up. Yet, without fail, every single week except Week 1, he’s scrambling to make sure he has enough of them show up or borrowing players from other teams or cajoling non-softball friends to come out for a week.

    3. Student*

      Agreed! Not playing softball outside of work isn’t going to “reflect badly on you” if there is any sanity at your company. Most of your co-workers are not playing softball.

      If the organizer really wants to play softball, he can look for a different team, find a different league, or actually develop a friendship with 5 women who would want to spend free time with him voluntarily.

    4. Observer*

      Yup yup yup.

      Bet on it that he’s going to try to guilt you and make it sound like you are not being “team players” and that it would reflect badly on you. But it’s not true.

    5. Stellaaaaa*

      It sounds like a personal/hobby thing for him that he couldn’t get his friends to commit to so now he’s trying to pressure his coworkers into it. Dude got a company sponsorship, reserved a practice space, and registered the team before he even had a team. This isn’t about company morale. This is something he wants to do for himself.

    6. Blossom*

      I’m not sure why the gender split has to be 50/50? Is that a rule of the league, or just something he thought would be nice?

      1. Turtle Candle*

        An enforced percentage split is not uncommon in coed leagues in my experience (although it isn’t always as rigid as “exactly fifty-fifty.”)

      2. Al Lo*

        That’s a pretty common requirement for lots of rec leagues — softball, dodgeball, ultimate frisbee, etc.

      3. AcademiaNut*

        I’ve run into this with university recreational leagues, although if I remember correctly it was a requirement to have at least two of each gender in play at all times. As a physics major, this was sometimes hard to achieve.

      4. Jax*

        It’s a common rule. In the league I played in, the batting order alternated male and female. If there wasn’t enough of one gender, then the team would take an out when the missing person was supposed to bat. That way you could theoretically get by with less woman playing.

      5. Bookworm*

        I’ve never heard of a 50/50 split, but it’s a common rule. I know in the recreational soccer league my friend played in, they originally skipped that rule and then wound up with a lot of teams where the women would rarely be tapped into play. The women got frustrated and started dropping out and it became a not-co-ed league quickly…and a pretty competitive one at that.

        So the rule was meant to circumvent that.

        Not sure if that’s the reason why it’s in place elsewhere.

      6. Kimberlee, Esq*

        I live in DC, and the general rule in work softball leagues (which are SUPER common here) is that each team has to have at least 1 woman on the field at all times. It does encourage people to recruit more women to their teams, which is important here because otherwise it just becomes a perpetuation of the existing old boys clubs.

      7. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        It’s higher than what I’ve seen for coed leagues, but still common. Most of the coed rec leagues I’ve played in require 25-30% women on the roster and at least one woman on the field.

        But I agree with everyone that OP’s coworker under-recruited and that it’s not her or her coworkers’ fault if folks now want to step back. Also, it’s rec league. It’s be different if she’d signed up for a competitive adult club team, but that doesn’t sound like what this is.

      8. NLMC*

        Every league (work and rec) I’ve played in has a 50/50 split. You alternate batting famle/male; 2 male/2 female infielders, same for the outfield, and pitcher/catcher had to be one male, 1 female.

      9. DataQueen*

        Yup, and that’s not the only rule about women playing either. The batting order has to be M/F/M/F. The infield and outfield need to be split. If you walk a man, it’s two bases, if you walk a woman, it’s only one. If you walk a man with two outs, the next woman up gets to go straight to first. A man can’t throw a woman out on a base from first, but it’s fine to do that for a man. A woman can use a fill-in runner, but a man has to prove he’s injured to do it. It’s essentially overly sexist rules to stop people who are trying to be fair from getting beaten, which as a woman is super annoying, but since all the teams do it, you just suck it up! This year, they switched it so you’re allowed to play with 4 girls/6 guys, and I tried to do the lineup with 5 and 5 anyway, to stay fair – and every other team had the 6 guys on the field. Alas.

    7. blackcat*

      OP3, feel you. I really do. My grad school does softball by department during the summer. Teams must have 4 women. My department is both relatively small and 90% male.

      For my first two years, the guy who organized it definitely 1) expected me to play all games (without asking!), 2) expected me to not rock the boat and 3), if I did rock the boat, REALLY guilt tripped me.

      The gendered aspect of it was bad… like there was no pressure for men to play, but every woman HAD TO PLAY. The women were harassed to play. It was terrible, and I eventually had a chat with the organizer to say “You can’t harass women to participate like this. It’s not cool, and I suspect it violates university rules.”

      My department has ceased playing softball. I am okay with that being my “fault.”

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Seriously. If he’s concerned about the gender skew, then advocate for better pipeline programs and more inclusive admission policies. Don’t browbeat the women into extra service through your “mandatory fun” hobby.

        1. Nephron*

          Thank you!
          If he wanted more women to play then he should have showed up at every recruitment/interview day and talked up the softball league to every women he found to try to convince them. Or, get a professor that really is supportive of the team to do something similar. Graduate school is not a random sample, you can target who applies, and who wants to go to your program if you want and current students making a big deal of one of the activities will attract people interested in that activity.

        2. blackcat*


          I mean, I’m already given a bunch of extra service stuff because I’m a woman. But 95% of the time, it comes with free food or additional networking opportunities, so I’m up for it.

          My department has actually been really awesome compared to most other male-dominated spaces I’ve been in. The damn softball tournament was really the only exception.

        3. Bee*

          Right? The fact that they have to guilt reluctant women into playing doesn’t reflect badly on the women who back out, it reflects badly on the company.

      2. shep*

        Oh my goodness, blackcat, that’s terrible! I would pitch a fit at being coerced to participate.

        I’m in the gym 3-5 days a week, am small and presumably look pretty fast on my feet, so people tend to assume I play sports. NOPE. I have only basic hand-eye coordination, and less foot-eye coordination. Give me a squat rack or a bench, or maybe some weighted cables. I’m all over that.

        But no way am I taking time out of my schedule to do something I hate just so you meet your female quota.

    8. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

      You weren’t given all the information needed to make an informed decision at that time. He took your soft yes for a hard yes and you are well within your rights to withdraw at this point. Slightly related, our coed team lost two players for the summer because they were getting married and didn’t want to risk an injury. But you don’t have to say anything beyond, “Now that I’ve seen the schedule, I cannot make that level of commitment”.

      1. Newby*

        He outright lied about the time involved. Saying “I’m sorry but when I agreed to be on the team it was with the understanding that the games start no later than 6:30. That does not appear to be the case and I cannot commit the time required so I will have to back out” does not seem unreasonable or unprofessional. You made a commitment and he tried to change the terms.

    9. Roscoe*

      As a captain of some of these leagues, you typically don’t get the schedule for a while. You don’t have it when you are siging people up. You have a day and a general time frame (which in my experience can and often does change)

      1. Alucius*

        Which makes the “oh, games will start by 6:30” claim look like a case of serious wishful thinking on the organizer guy’s part

        1. Roscoe*

          Possibly. Or maybe they changed it on him. I ran a work bowling league last year. There were basically 2 times, an early one and a late one. I asked if we could get the early ones because of scheduling, they said sure, they would do that. Come to find out, they didn’t despite what they told me. Also, I’ve done leagues where it said on the sign up games would start between 6 and 8. But they had more teams sign up than planned, so in order to accomodate those teams, they made later games. So it could be wishful thinking, or it could be he was misled.

          1. Sarah*

            Regardless, though, the OP isn’t obligated to give up her evenings for this. Ultimately it doesn’t really matter whether the organizer is being a giant jerk or whether it’s the league’s fault for being disorganized/taking too long to get people information. The point is, unless the OP works for a softball league, she isn’t obligated to play softball for work.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Agreed. You might not have the schedule, but you usually know the potential days and the various start times. Suggesting that all games start at 6:30 when they could start as late as 8:30 is disingenuous. The captain may not have known better when he was recruiting, but regardless of his intentions/knowledge he shouldn’t be surprised if it no longer works for people.

          1. Newby*

            When he found out that some games start later he should have double checked with his team that they were still interested/available, not just assumed that it would be fine.

      2. neverjaunty*

        If he actually didn’t know the schedule it was actually misled, then that makes it even easier for the OP to step back. He can hardly claim that she knew what she was signing up for if he didn’t.

    10. Purest Green*

      Vigorous nodding, two thumbs up, 100% agreement with this comment.

      If anyone should feel guilty about the situation, it’s the organizer – not you!

      1. yasmara*

        I can totally see the enthusiastic organizer taking all the tentative yes’s as definitive yes’s. I have trained myself to deploy, “I need to check my schedule and get back to you.”

    11. Ama*

      The one time I played an organized softball game was when my dad’s employer had a similar co-ed team. They actually did usually have six enthusiastic women players, and my mom could usually serve as back up (aside from myself my family are super into softball), but one week when I was home from college they were missing three of their six usual women (I think someone got sick the morning of and they were expecting the other two to be gone) so I got drafted in along with my mom at literally the last minute before the game. For a one off it was okay, (as manager my dad tried to take as much of the pressure off me as he could) but I wouldn’t care to repeat the experience.

      However, just from listening to my dad talk about the team, I think he tried to recruit more women than the number required (he was also in a male-dominated industry) because he expected work softball to be low on most people’s priority lists and knew not everyone would be able to come every game. I don’t think OP should feel bad about saying “I can play only the games that start at 6:30, unfortunately,” or whatever she feels comfortable with.

    12. Menacia*

      Why in the hell didn’t the organizer, before committing the company to this softball league, determine if there would be enough interest to even put a team together? I hate, hate, hate people who just assume that *everyone* wants to play softball, dodgeball, whatever. He was probably vague about the schedule because he knew it would turn people off… You get what you give.

      I would NOT feel obligated to play in this league at all, and would certainly be honest about that.

      1. Jadelyn*

        Thank you! Seriously, I hate sports, I’m really out of shape, and I have chronic pain and low energy problems that would make trying to play a spur-of-the-moment softball game absolutely miserable for me. Even if I didn’t have the pain/energy problems, I just really am not a sports person, and would have zero interest in playing any kind of organized team sports. Why do people assume that everyone would be into that?

      2. many bells down*

        Where my husband works, HR keeps trying to put together golfing events. 75% of the company is pasty programmers who hate the sun and have never been on a golf course that didn’t have a miniature castle. HR is continually baffled why the turnout at these events is so low.

    13. OP #3*

      The organizer is very persistent and does not have a lot of actual work to do at work so the league is his main focus. He has thanked me multiple times for “putting my life on hold and rearranging my schedule.” I am 1 of 3 people who have played softball before this so maybe it’s me feeling “needed” that’s holding me back from dropping out.
      My job requires I watch an incoming phone queue and I need coverage for that queue when I take lunch. The organizer of the team is my lunch coverage and I feel he’d be less willing to cooperate if I drop out of the league. It’s not that he could say no, it would just be a very unpleasant interaction to have every day when I have to ask him to cover and he’s one of those unavoidable, friendly coworkers that just make you feel bad when you don’t want to talk to them.

      The organizer had so much interest from the men of our company they ended up making two teams. A Sunday night men’s team and Monday night coed team. Both teams played their first game this week and got mercied. The games did not end until 10PM! I chose not to attend “due to another commitment.”

      1. Turtle Candle*

        Oh geez, I’m sorry to hear this–it’s a major red flag to me that showing interest in an ‘extracurricular’ is being referred to as ‘putting your life on hold.’ That’s concerning. And it’s even more concerning that you’re worried he’s going to make your actual work duties unpleasant if you don’t cooperate with an after-work thing (an after-work thing that’s supposed to be fun, no less!). I agree with Alison’s suggestions, but I also wanted to add that you have my sympathies.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        If you think he might make your work life difficult, the most expedient thing might be to have a reason for saying no that he can’t take personally — like a back problem where your doctor said you shouldn’t play.

        To be clear, you shouldn’t have to do that. Ideally someone would talk to this guy about not pressuring women to play just because there are fewer of them, and how crappy and sexist the impact of that is. But if you don’t want to take that on and you’re worried about the work impact, go with an easy cover story.

    14. DataQueen*

      I am Coach of my company’s co-ed softball league, and it’s the exact same schedule as this. I do make sure I recruit at least 8 girls to fill the 5 spots we need, but we do frequently have to call so-and-so’s wife and make her put on a team jersey for the day.

      But devils advocate here – I don’t think he’s trying to give anyone the wrong info, i think he just wants people to play softball with him. And if he keeps pushing past the “no, thank you,” that’s not cool, but I think your friend just genuinely is pumped about softball season and wants to fill the team. I’m thinking about what I would do in this situation – So i ask the league for 6:30 slots, but I find out that softball happens to be at 8:30 this year… i’m not going to cancel the league – i’m going to cheerfully tell everyone the new info, frame it in a good way (“time to eat dinner in between!” “you can get the kids to bed!” “No rushing from work!’) because I want people to join me – I’m the kind of person that would go to softball at midnight if that’s when it loves, because I’m a After Work person. But I’m not going to not invite people because maybe they wouldn’t want to come, or frame it in a way that makes it sound yucky… say no if you want, but I’m going to try to sell you on my Super Awesome Softball Team. And then i’ll back off, and he should too, but I don’t think he’s trying to mislead anyone.

      1. OP #3*

        I completely agree the organizer probably only had the information he was provided and probably doesn’t realize he’s making some of us feel trapped. He definitely is very excite to play softball and I appreciate his optimism even with the first two games being awful loses.

    15. Personal Best in Consecutive Days Lived*

      Yeah the organizer made some mistakes here. My husband and I run a co-ed softball team that started (before we joined) as a company team.
      We play in a league that requires 4 women minimum on the field. Our team has 20 players; 8 women and 12 men. We actively recruited players to boost our numbers. 11 people showed up for the first game so good thing we did. Some thoughts:
      1. If you don’t want to play anymore, then drop out. People are allowed to change their minds
      2. If you do want to play, but only in the games that start at 6:30, then tell him that and stick to it (don’t let him pressure you into playing more than you want). This is a perfectly reasonable commitment
      3. Not your problem but the organizer should get his crap together recruit players from outside the company so there are enough people on the team
      Best of luck OP! If you decide to play I hope you have fun!

      1. Personal Best in Consecutive Days Lived*

        Oops I should have read all the comments first. The way you bowed out was very polite OP3. I hope it works out well.

  2. Eric*

    #5, It is worth keeping in mind that it sounds like your offices normal boundaries are different than most I have experienced. Leaning on door frames doesn’t seem abnormal to me, and neither does walking around to learn where things in the office are. Of the examples you gave, only picking things up off people’s desk strikes me as something that is generally unacceptable. So, I’d definitely try to keep the perspective of “this is how things work around here” not “I expect you to have known this automatically”.

    1. Casuan*

      I had the same thoughts. Picking up things from another’s desk is verboten. Leaning on door frames is negligible; if NewGuy leans with a BMOC attitude then no, although if he leans whilst taking about work in general, I can see that. And there could be a medical reason for leaning, such as balance issues.
      Wandering about seems kind of practical to me, however if he’s disrupting work or picking up things from desks whatever… these behaviours should be stopped.
      If he is genuinely curious, perhaps you could arrange a tour.

      1. Zip Silver*

        Like they always told us in retail, if you have time to lean, you have time to clean.

        1. Sadsack*

          That’s funny, but I don’t think that really applies here. He is probably leaning on doorframes while talking to coworkers about work.

          1. CMart*

            I’m trying to envision acceptable vs. unacceptable leaning and it’s so nuanced that I’m chuckling to myself at my desk thinking about trying to describe when it is and is not okay to lean on a door frame (or on a wall, or whatever).

            There’s “I don’t respect you enough to stand straight or look alert because I’m a Cool Guy” leaning. There’s “my back is really bad and it’s the end of the day” leaning. There’s “I just have bad posture and don’t pay attention to what I’m doing and hey look, a wall!” leaning, which is close kin to “I’m spatially oblivious and kind of sloppy and can’t stand up straight to save my life and don’t realize how lazy this looks” leaning. And on and on.

            1. Arduino*

              There is also I am much taller than you so leaning brings me closer to your face without the awkward hunch or looking down the nose

            2. justsomeone*

              There’s also, the “I’m trying to make this conversation a little more casual because it’s a touchy subject” lean where you’re trying to avoid coming across as aggressive.

            3. many bells down*

              My volunteer gig has a line in the handbook that specifically prohibits us from leaning against “walls, doorways, or exhibits” while on the floor. It’s all about looking “friendly and approachable” because it’s very public-facing.

              But in an office, with people you see every day, I can’t imagine a little lean is unacceptable. When I’m NOT on the floor no one tells me not to lean on a wall!

            4. Winger*

              Perhaps he was called in to a quick meeting with his boss and his boss’s boss and he leaned on the doorframe while he was talking. Not super inappropriate, but I can imagine someone like his boss viewing that as a minor, puzzling etiquette breach (“too casual”?) and being concerned about what boss’s boss thinks.

            5. Annonymouse*

              It could be the WHERE he is leaning (door frames) and blocking other people from moving about instead of just standing near people’s desks.

              I can also see how wandering about can be found inconvenient and strange – presumably they were given a tour when they started about where he needs to be/know.

              So walking into areas where he isn’t supposed to be (like c suite offices, different departments where people are working, into a meeting in progress) would be disruptive and unnecessary.

      2. Jessesgirl72*

        “wandering around” might even have been “took a wrong turn on the way back from the restroom”

        1. CMart*

          Oh lord. I’m a month in to a new job and unfamiliarity with the campus + tired new mom brain has resulted in a lot of aimless wanderings on my part. I’ve gotten off on the wrong floor and not realized it until I noticed people’s cubicle decorations looked more festive than usual. I’ve taken fifteen extra minutes to get to my desk because I parked in a different spot in the parking garage and couldn’t figure out how to actually get in the building. I’ve gotten into elevators not realizing they don’t actually go to my floor, and then have to find one that does.

          The good news is, I’ve started gaining some knowledge about where the other departments sit!

          1. many bells down*

            I’ve been at my volunteer position for 2 years now and I still sometimes get lost in the back-of-house hallways. “Oh, wait, the bathrooms aren’t THIS way!”

          2. Elizabeth West*

            Whoever designed the building Exjob was in must have done it to deliberately make it hard to access certain areas, but they also had locks keyed to your badge, and if you weren’t authorized, you couldn’t badge in. So I have no explanation for the rabbit warren. I actually had to take visitors to the bathroom on certain floors and wait on them because it was easier than trying to explain how to get there and back!

    2. Gen*

      I’ve mostly worked banking and government settings and would never think of walking into any other department without invitation or an express reason to be there, you don’t know what confidential data you’re not authorised to see might be out. That’d be suspicious generally and disruptive for the other managers.

      Doorframe leaning would look unprofessional if it’s a sort of casual hands in pockets loitering rather than a support issue, but it’s certainly less severe than the other two examples

        1. Hankie Enlightenment (formerly Sarahnova)*

          Now I’m all, ‘Is this guy’s name Jordan Catalano?’

          1. Jessica*

            Yeah, it would likely be a more substantive problem with his job qualifications if he can’t read.

      1. LBK*

        Yeah, definitely weird to be wandering around different departments for no apparent reason. If at some point you need something over there, you can learn where things are then – you don’t need to preemptively figure out the locations of stuff or staff with whom you don’t have a reason to interact.

        1. Newby*

          Exploring an office that you have not reason to be in is really weird. It would make me very uncomfortable.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yeah, I don’t think the door leaning in and of itself is a concern, but that it’s part of an overall picture that the OP is trying to paint of an unusual level of casualness/lack of boundaries.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*


        The other thing is that this sounds like a situation where it’s ok to trust OP to know their company’s culture, particularly because the constellation of behaviors is what worries OP. What might sound innocuous at one organization could be a major overstep at another, and OP’s description isn’t inherently unreasonable.

    4. Ramona Flowers*

      Leaning on doorframes sounds a bit unprofessional to me.

      Randomly walking through other offices is something I’d ask about before doing, as it might be okay or it might not.

      The point is: someone in a new job needs to stop, look, listen and notice the norms.

      1. Lily in NYC*

        I just find this view so bizarre – I cannot see how leaning on a doorframe is remotely unprofessional. I lean on things all the time at work because of vertigo – and very few people know I have it. My professionalism has never come into question. But I sure hope people aren’t judging me silently for it.

        1. Lance*

          I imagine it’s that there’s a level of perceived casualness to it; that you’re pursuing some comfort when really lots of people probably expect you to stand upright, be ready to move, and focus on the person you’re talking to. That’s how I see it, at least, though even then, for me, it would go at best into the ‘slightly unprofessional and I won’t do it, but it won’t bother me much if others do occasionally’ category.

          1. Lablizard*

            In Lily’s case, since she has vertigo, it is probably better to lean an look a tiny bit casual, than risk getting dizzy or falling.

          2. Malibu Stacey*

            Or the fact that he could be blocking the path for people trying to walk somewhere, depending on how wide of a doorway we are talking about. It’s like people who stand in front of escalator entrances and text.

        2. Temperance*

          I think leaning is fine, but the casual sort of “I’m too cool for school” type of lean is a different thing altogether. I’m clumsy, and for a period of time last year, I was physically weak and in terrible shape after an illness, so I needed the support. I didn’t look like I was pulling off a Ferris Bueller impression, though, which is the difference. I’m sure that you don’t, either.

        3. Koko*

          That part gave me pause too. (I even hit Ctrl+F in the comments to find “door frame” first to see what others thought!)

          I don’t think it’s unprofessional perse, but it’s definitely casual, and there are some offices where being casual is unprofessional, while in others it’s not. Like how nice, clean jeans are perfectly acceptable in a casual office but would be unprofessional for a bank teller to wear.

          My office is very casual, people lean on doorframes while chatting to someone in their office, slouch in their chairs in meetings, hop up to sit on the climate control unit when there aren’t anymore chairs, etc.

          1. Newby*

            I think it is only on the list because she is already viewing him as unprofessional. It reinforces that opinion rather than causing it.

        4. Kathleen Adams*

          I am also trying to imagine a workplace so formal (I guess?) that leaning on door frames is frowned upon. And I’m failing. I can see why some of the other behaviors might be of some small concern, but I must caution the OP to be very that these things truly do bother others, too – not just him or herself. Because most of this stuff sounds really, really minor to me.

            1. Kathleen Adams*

              Good point. But even so, it would be very good for the boss to be clear in his/her own mind whether this is personal preference or company culture. The OP shouldn’t say “That isn’t how we do things around here” if what is really meant is “That isn’t how I want you to do things.”

              1. fposte*

                While I agree with you generally, I think the OP is likely to be aware of how they do things around her office, and she’s talking about stuff that would be out of bounds at some other offices, too, so I don’t think there’s any reason to suspect she’s wrong.

                1. Kathleen Adams*

                  That has not always been my experience. My experience is that many people – and I of course have no way of knowing if the OP is one of them – consider their own quirks and preferences to be “the norm.” Now it could very well be that the OP is absolutely right that these things just aren’t done in this particular office, and if that’s the case, she needs to communicate that to the new guy. And if they are things that just personally bother her, she needs to communicate that, too. But if she says “We don’t do those things around here” and the guy can look around and see that, in fact, “we” do, the OP will lose credibility. So she just needs to be clear in her own mind. That’s all I’m saying.

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Yes. That thing that I’ve been talking about lately re: the comment section being too quick to jump on letter writers and get really focused on something that we don’t even know is true, which sometimes makes it a shitty experience for people who write in? That’s happening right now, here in this post (largely below this comment, for anyone reading from top to bottom later on).

                  So y’all, please stop. I don’t know how else to say it.

                3. LBK*

                  Whether the OP has an accurate read or not, it’s much more likely that she does than a bunch of us random outside observers do, so I think it’s better to just take her at her word that this is out of sync.

                  I also think that if this were normal in her office, it wouldn’t have stood out to her, so that’s a point in her favor.

        5. LBK*

          I do it too, especially when I’m talking to my boss (I’ll lean along the opening of his cube while we’re chatting). But we have a level of rapport and comfort between us because we’ve worked together for two years. I wouldn’t do that when I’d just been hired since I think for at least the first month or so, your body language should still be communicating “I am the new person here and I’m respecting everyone’s space until I’ve gotten the lay of the land and earned the right to be more casual.”

      2. Banana Sandwich*

        In any office setting that I’ve been in, leaning on door frames is pretty normal once you feel comfortable at a job, but not this early on. In itself it doesn’t raise flags for me but combined with a pattern of behaviors, I can see how it would come off.

        1. Not A Morning Person*

          Yes, good point. It’s often not a single behavior that’s the issue but a combination of things that make it rise to a level that comes across as “just not done around here” or too casual for the workplace. So one of the behaviors mentioned all by itself, maybe not a big deal, but all of them together in a new employee who needs to create a reputation, then those behaviors come across as unprofessional.

    5. MommyMD*

      I didn’t find his behavior egregious either. Checking out his new surroundings and leaning on door frames do not seem out of the ordinary. I’d be interested to know what he picked up off the desk. If it’s a post it or a paper clip, so what? And was it only once?

    6. Amber*

      As someone who works in the games industry, this is all 100% normal. All of us have collectibles and toys on our desks, it would be perfectly normal for someone to pick one up and look at it. Leaning on doorfames, this completely boggles my mind how this could be abnormal. Wandering into other departments, also perfectly normal and imo the best way to learn your way around a new office. If I did these things at a new company and they complained to me, I’d have to reconsider if the company was a cultural fit because that all sounds completely normal.

      1. Mimi*


        I sometimes lean on door frames (no hands on pockets) in a popping my head in trying to be unobtrusive this will genuinely only be a 20 second thing. Though if my coworkers leaned on a door I would write it off as they were tired or whatever.

        I dont think any of these offenses are particularly bad. However, I think the OP is concerned as new starters are usually more reserved and professional in new environments while they scope out the norm so to be casual from the beginning may be the concern. Like a “what will he do when comfortable here?” type concern.

        1. Chloe Silverado*

          I think the leaning-on-door-frames scenario that you outlined is totally normal – you’re an existing employee visiting the office of a colleague trying to get info. I may have misinterpreted the OP, but in the context of wandering around the office, I was imagining the new employee leaning on the door frame of a breakroom or a specific department’s area just checking out the scene. That could look odd and overly casual. I now realize I’m reading into it though!

      2. Thlayli*

        I’m with you. Loads of times people have “fun” items on their desk and I’ve picked them up and asked about them. If you don’t want coworkers looking at your statue of yoda, keep it at home!

        I also think it’s a necessary part of getting to know your workplace to go exploring and this has been actively encouraged in every job I’ve ever worked in. Sounds like it’s departmental office from the letter not a private one.

        Now if he went into an individuals private office without asking, and picked up a confidential document, that’s a different thing entirely. That’s totally out of order.

        Leaning on door frames is such a weird thing to pick on. I can see that happening like if you are walking past an office and stick your head in to ask a quick question and then it turns into a lengthy conversation you might end up leaning on the doorway. And I don’t see how that’s weird at all.

        If you are leaning on the door of an office randomly staring into the office and not talking to anyone or randomly blocking doorways then that’s a problem, but in that case it’s still not the leaning that’s a problem.

        1. Oryx*

          I work in an office where there are a million Funko Pops! around. LOOKING at them is fine but I’d never be so presumptuous as to pick one up off of a co-workers desk.

          1. Thlayli*

            If someone picked up your funko pop would it warrant an intervention from their manager? That’s the thing, OP isn’t just saying “I don’t really like how this guy behaves but that’s my personal preference” she’s saying “i think these actions are so bad they warrant an actual talking to from a manager”.

            And they just aren’t that bad unless there is a lot more stuff OP hasn’t mentioned. Why would OP choose the most benign examples of “unusual” behaviour?

            1. Oryx*

              No, I wouldn’t take it to the level of talking to my manager unless they continued to do it after I told them to stop.

            2. Temperance*

              I actually find his behavior to be really strange and borderline problematic, FWIW. He’s a brand new employee walking around like he owns the place, touching other people’s stuff and slouching. I would probably mention to his manager if some strange dude showed up in my office, stood there, and messed with Rey or Riker. (Especially Rey.)

            3. Ask a Manager* Post author

              There’s nothing to indicate he’s picking up figurines as opposed to actual work papers; I’m not sure why people are assuming that.

              1. Thlayli*

                I am assuming that because it’s the sort of thing people tend to pick up. I’ve never ever seen anyone pick up someone’s work unasked and look at it, but lots of times I have seen (or done myself) someone pick up a “fun” item like a figurine or a funny coffee cup or something and ask about it. In fact I always thought that was one of the reasons people had stuff like that – as a conversation starter.

                Also I assumed if he was interfering in people’s work by moving their work around that OP would mention it. Interfering in people’s work by moving their files around would be a massive big deal and you wouldn’t really refer to it as “picking things up off a desk” you would say “moving people’s work around” or something.

                1. Synonymous*

                  I’ve seen it, and it is SUPER weird. My co-worker will walk into our grandboss’s office (for a meeting he was invited to), sit down at his conference table, and just start looking through all the presentations laying around on the table.

                2. Thlayli*

                  I’m not understanding what’s weird here. If I got to a meeting early and the presentation was lying there then it’s just getting a head start to look through it isn’t it?

                  I chaired a meeting yesterday and as people came in I handed them their copies and everyone started reading while we waited for the latecomers. It definitely cuts down on the number of times you have to say “I’ve addressed that later on” or whatever.

                3. fposte*

                  @Thayli–I can get that there are workplaces where this is acceptable, and that yours is one. I’m not getting why you’re finding it hard to credit that there are workplaces where it isn’t, and that other commenters work in those.

                4. Thlayli*

                  I honestly don’t think I’ve said anywhere that there aren’t workplaces where this sort of thing is considered weird.

                  I’ve basically been agreeing with the people who are saying “this isn’t weird everywhere”. And in this particular comment thread I’m asking what is weird about reading a presentation in advance of a meeting. I’m not saying it’s impossible that workplaces exist where reading presentations ahead of time is considered wrong, I’m genuinely asking for clarification here because I thought I might have misunderstood synonymous. I really don’t see what’s weird about going into a meeting you are supposed to be in, and reading the meeting materials. Synonymous seems to think that what her coworker did was “super weird”, so I’m asking is there more to that story that I’ve missed. In every workplace I’ve been in reading material for a meeting you are attending is kind of expected if you get there early.

              2. Shiara*

                At a guess it’s an industry thing. I work in software and, at least in my office, we don’t really have actual work papers that people could pick up off the desk. What we have out on the desk is figurines, mini puzzles, jackets, and coffee cups.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Yeah, that’s the thing — this is hugely office-specific and culture-specific. In some offices, this wouldn’t be a big deal. In others, it would come across as really odd. The OP is the only one who knows what her office culture is and isn’t, but it’s perfectly plausible (to me and to others with experience in that type of culture, I guess) that this guy is indeed out of sync with how the office operates.

                2. Shiara*

                  Oh, definitely! I was just responding with why some people might be responding to “he’s picking stuff up off the desk” with “it’s just figurines, isn’t that kind of the point?”

                  I agree it’s plausible that he’s out of sync. I’ve had some experience with similar mismatches where it was partially just a he’s too casual/familiar vibe, but it was hard to articulate exactly what it was, because it was just an accumulation of tiny habits, any one of which there were examples of other people doing it without it being a problem, but in aggregate it was just… off.

              3. Amy*

                Probably because to most people, picking up even non-work things like figurines from a coworker’s desk is already pretty weird; going around grabbing work papers and the like, which might be sensitive or confidential, is really hard to imagine. So people assume the weird-but-plausible scenario.

                1. Sarah*

                  I agree, it’s very dependent on the office, but I would be pretty weirded out if someone randomly walked into my office and started playing with my plant/cat figurine/cute mug/etc. A longer-term coworker I know well and have some context for/relationship with? That’s fine. A brand new person I don’t yet know — I agree with OP that it would feel very boundary-crossing (especially if combined with other behaviors in that category).

        2. Chocolate lover*

          I have mixed feelings on picking up items off someone’s desk, I think looking at an item and picking it up are two different things. I don’t like people touching personal items on my desk (photos, plants), but paper clips or basic office materials, I don’t care.
          But depending on the specific interaction, I could see how a new employee might do that as a way of initiating a conversation and getting to know people.

          Leaning on a door wouldn’t phase me, and neither would learning where things were in a new office, even another department, as long as he wasn’t walking into individual offices.

          1. Thlayli*

            I totally agree that whether it’s in any way strange or not depends entirely on what was picked up and when. Like I said, walking into an individuals office and picking up a confidential document is way out of line, buy picking up a statue of yoda as a “getting to know you” conversation prop when you’re already having a conversation is a totally different thing.

            Picking up personal photos or living things is a bit of a grey area I suppose and would depend on how comfortable the two people concerned are with each other. I wouldn’t do something like that unless I already knew the person pretty well.

            1. Fifty-Foot Commute*

              You said “living things” and my first thought was, “Who has a pile of kittens on their desk?”

          2. Allison*

            My feelings are less mixed, if I had personal items in my cubicle, even Funk Pop stuff, I would not like it if someone touched them. I wouldn’t make a scene or anything, but it would feel like a boundary being crossed. Then again, my cubicle is set up so that it would be easy to set things out of most people’s reach. In an open office, I’d set them far enough away from the edge of the desk that people would probably have to reach if they wanted to pick something up.

            Also, picking stuff up while I’m there, and using it to converse with me is one thing (annoying), but someone coming by my desk while I’m not there, picking things up and examining them because they’re curious about me, to me that seems a lot worse.

            1. Thlayli*

              Oh yeah if he’s poking through people’s stuff when they aren’t there that is creepy. But it’s hard to judge that sort of thing in an open plan office. If he’s just absentmindedly picking something up that happens to be right next to him and fiddling with it while talking that’s not so bad, but actually looking through someones stuff intentionally is really creepy.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I think what you’re coming to is that there are many situations where this would be out of line, no? :)

                So I think we need to give the letter writer the benefit of the doubt.

                Per the site rules, in fact. Ahem.

                1. Thlayli*

                  Sorry, I didn’t mean to imply that I thought the LW was lying. originally I was just agreeing with Eric and ambers comments that the culture on OPs office seems to be pretty unusual, then I got sucked into replying to other people’s specific replies.

                  It is of course possible that an office exists where it is considered weird to lean against a door or to look at people’s “pieces of flair” or whatever. I don’t think OP is lying and I didn’t mean to imply that at all.

                  I’m glad I don’t work in an office like that though!

        3. Myrin*

          I think people are getting too hung up on these three specific things as if they were the full extent of his “off” behaviour when they are almost surely just examples to, like Alison says, paint an overall picture of his demeanour for us. It happens often with letter writers that they don’t just want to say stuff like “Tony is behaving in a more casual manner than is appropriate for our office” because then people will immediately go “Okay but HOW is he behaving casually?”, so they choose a handful of examples they think are illustrative only for commenters to doubt the whole situation because they aren’t sufficiently convinced by the chosen examples (which, again, are very often two or three out of twenty things that happened).

          Also, OP no doubt has a better understanding of her department’s boundaries than we do and seems to be in a supervisory role, so she gets to call the shots in any case.

          1. Thlayli*

            I would assume that when writing in about someone’s unusual behaviour you would choose the most unusual examples. If these are the three most unusual things he is doing then it seems to me like it’s the workplace that has unusual norms and not the employee having unusual behaviour.

            1. Myrin*

              Of course, but experience has shown that different people view different things as “worst” or “weirdest”. I can remember several letters where the OP provided two or three examples of something and the commentariat was mostly “meh” about them but then in a comment, OP says as almost an afterthought “Oh, he also does X” and then everyone goes “WHOA that’s completely unacceptable!”. Doesn’t have to be the case here, of course, but I can well imagine that it is.

              Also, like MegaMoose and others said below, it seems to be the accumulation of little things which in and of themselves wouldn’t ping your radar that make the OP uncomfortable, not one big thing that she can definitely point at.

              Lastly, “it seems […] like it’s the workplace that has unusual norms” is exactly the kind of sentiment Alison’s answer builds upon – “you are probably used to things being X but in this workplace, we all do Y”.

              1. Thlayli*

                I agree with that. If OP comes on here and says he was picking up people’s work or going into empty offices and poking through stuff I will absolutely say he should be spoken to! But I would also wonder why that wasn’t mentioned in the letter. The way it’s written makes it sound like OP believes leaning against doors in and of itself is an issue.

                I also agree Alison’s answer is totally spot on. If OP’s workplace has an extremely formal culture then they can absolutely tell the new guy that. And if the culture is really that bad that he’s going to be judged by multiple people for leaning against a door then it’s only fair to let him know the sort of place he’s working in so he has a chance to get out before he gets an undeserved reputation as a really unprofessional person.

                1. fposte*

                  Thlayli, there are places where that *is* an issue. Same as wearing ripped jeans or putting your feet up on the conference table can be an issue. It doesn’t make it a bad culture, just one that some people aren’t used to.

                2. Thlayli*

                  I don’t think I said it wasn’t an issue. I said OP thinks it’s an issue. If everyone else in her office thinks the same way then it is obviously an issue for that office, and she should absolutely let the new guy know that so he can choose whether he wants to work in an office like that or not.

                3. Thlayli*

                  Although actually further down i referred to leaning against doors as a “non-issue” I forgot that.

                  So yeah, good catch.

                  I think OPs office sounds pretty stringent and I would hate to work there, but that doesn’t mean op is in the wrong or anything. If the culture is that unusual then a heads up would be appreciated.

                4. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  A lot of us are saying it’s really not that unusual. There’s something sort of pejorative about painting it as incredibly weird, when it’s not.

                5. Turtle Candle*

                  I mean, I can’t imagine I’d want to write in with a problem if I was going to then end up with a lengthy thread going, “Wow, your workplace sounds really uptight and I’m super glad I don’t have to work for you!” Especially when I wasn’t asking “are my workplace norms too stringent?” but “my workplace norms are X, how can I express that to a hire?”

                  (Plus, workplace norms vary so much by location and industry that it’s impossible to even say whether this is stringent in that context. Super formal for a Seattle tech company might be way, way, way relaxed for a New York law office, or something.)

                6. Thlayli*

                  So it’s pejorative to call OPs unusual office norms “weird” but it’s ok to refer to her coworkers behaviour as weird?

                  Having just looked at the story again I now realise it wasn’t OP who referred to the coworker as weird, it was the headline. I guess people are just responding to that headline by saying “well actually he’s not the weird one”.

                  If the headline was more like “my coworker is used to a less formal office culture” maybe the reactions wouldn’t be as strong.

                  I now realise maybe I’ve been so active on this post because I was personally offended by the implication that stuff I have done plenty of times is “weird”. So maybe that’s something for me to work on. I need to stop getting so bothered by random strangers opinions of behaviour that is similar to mine.

                  Hmm, I will think on this.

            2. Jesmlet*

              Yes, this. But this also doesn’t mean that he’s not doing anything wrong. You have to be able to read the room and assimilate to the culture. If no one stands around so casually, touches anyone else’s stuff or wanders around, then you shouldn’t be doing those things either. Some of those are fairly casual things to be doing when you’re new anyway. Better to be overly formal to start and then gradually adjust to how the workplace actually operates than the other way around.

          2. Katie the Fed*

            This exactly.

            I’m struggling with a new hire right now who is also weirdly casual in a way that’s well out-of-whack with office norms/culture. There have been a lot of small issues/oddities, but no Big Red Flag that I can easily pinpoint. I’m finding this a harder management challenge than almost anything I’ve dealt with, to be honest.

            1. Thlayli*

              The best way to deal with it IMO is to frame it as giving him advice for how to get ahead. Like a “dress for the job you want not the job you have” kind of advice. I always dressed as casually as I could within the dress code at my last job until someone told me that I would have a higher chance of promotion if I dressed more professionally. Straight away I went out and bought fancy new work clothes. If someone had told me I had to dress more professionally just because they said so I would have pointed to the dress code and told them to sod off. But a little whiff of a carrot instead of a stick and I was off spending my hard earned money on the offchance I might get a promotion.

              How easy it is to manipulate people lol.

              1. Katie the Fed*

                She’s not interested in getting ahead. I have yet to figure out what motivates her at all.

                1. Darren*

                  Some people just are honestly happy where they are. Work just isn’t their number 1 priority.

                  – They don’t need more pay (apart from regular COL increases) as they have enough to cover their needs, and the modicum of luxuries they enjoy.
                  – They don’t want more challenging work (they are perfectly happy doing good work on the projects they have but don’t want the stress of more challenging work)
                  – They don’t want promotion or management responsibilities (see the previous more stress)

                  I am managing one of them myself, and I came to this realisation pretty quickly that he was mostly concerned with putting in his hours (professionally and competently he doesn’t want to be fired after all) but his main priority in life is his family. I think the reason it wasn’t a difficult realisation for me to come to because work isn’t my number 1 priority either (although I do like getting more money, and I love more challenging work because I find it interesting) unlike his previous manager who was still baffled the last time I tried to explain to him what was going on.

                  In the end I’ve just settled for making it clear when my comments are areas he would need to improve on if he wanted to move up at the company (and thus optional), and those that are areas that “actually no you actually have to do this otherwise your job here is at risk” (and are thus mandatory). Haven’t had a problem since then he has taken on all mandatory feedback quickly and enthusiastically and ignored all the optional feedback.

                2. Anna*

                  That is an excellent point, Darren. We typically have a very narrow idea of what should motivate people and there’s loads of advice about how to manage that person. I feel like there’s less available on how to manage the person who is happy where they are and maybe derives life’s satisfaction somewhere outside the office.


            2. Thlayli*

              If she doesn’t care about getting ahead then why does it even matter if she’s a bit casual? If she isn’t doing the work to the standard it should be then you address that, but a personal preference for clothing or form of address isn’t a managerial issue surely? If she is so casual that it offends people then you can address the insulting behaviour (e.g. You have to call the CEO Mr smith instead of John because he will be offended) but “being casual” isn’t offensive in and of itself.

              I guess my advice to you and OP would be the same – if it’s something that actually affects their work (including offending other people) then deal with the work issue, if it’s something that you think may hinder their progress then let them know that is the case, if it’s just a personality / personal preference thing and is not actually offensive then just get over it and accept not everyone has the same personality.

              1. Katie the Fed*

                It does affect her work. The examples you provided (dress and addressing management) aren’t the issues in my situation at all. I was echoing Myrin’s point that the examples might not tell the whole story – if it’s an issue of being really out-of-whack with company norms, then that’s sometimes a hard thing to quantify and really pin down. That doesn’t mean it not an issue.

                But this thread isn’t actually about this situation and I don’t want to derail it further.

                1. Thlayli*

                  If it affects her work then you can address the effects specifically and talk to her about them.

                  But I agree let’s not get bogged down in side issues.

                2. Marisol*

                  I’d be interested in reading about this on Friday. I am having a similar problem with a new coworker who I frankly…hate. And part of the problem is there is no sense of urgency, seemingly no desire to do a job well just for the satisfaction of performing, no apparent fear of consequences; she’s just totally cavalier about the ways she screws thing up with no real sense of accountability, but without actually denying anything either. There’s just no “there” there. And her screw ups are small enough not to have serious repercussions, but somehow the sum total of her performance and her casual attitude just…makes me very uncomfortable. Dunno if this is similar to your situation at all, but it sounded somewhat similar to me.

            3. Jesmlet*

              We have a new hire that’s never had an office job before who is a little too casual for my liking, but the things she does are such little things that I just scratch my head but they aren’t really worth saying things over yet.

              I’ve had her coworker (different office) complain that she’s not professional on the phone, and in emails she’s just really casual with me, but I don’t know if it’s because she feels comfortable or if she does it with everyone.

              The most annoying thing… responding to emails with “Kk” Don’t know why that grates me so much but it does.

              1. Janice in Accounting*

                I’d suspect it grates on you because it’s super-casual textspeak, not professional office communication. I reply “Kk” via text to my husband and kids, and that’s it. I would never use it in a work email! And if this is the type of thing she does regularly, I can definitely see why it would become a problem.

          3. Lily in NYC*

            But it those are the “worst” examples OP could come up with, it may be that OP is the only one in the office who feels this way. Sometimes it’s good for the letter writer to think about why something bugs them and if it’s really something that egregious or not. I know I have lots of pet peeves that aren’t exactly rational and I have to remind myself of that often (like when I’m annoyed with my coworker for taking my stapler out of my desk drawer when I’m not around – it’s really not that big a deal, I don’t own my work supplies, and I have the only decent stapler in my dept).

            1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

              But sometimes it’s not about any one single “worst” behavior, but a bunch of otherwise normal but slightly off stuff that adds together to become a problem. I think Alison’s script works fine for that.

              1. Katie the Fed*

                Yes! I could give a list of 20 things my new hire does that are tiny issues, and each one could be shut down easily. But the sum is greater than the parts.

              2. Turtle Candle*

                And sometimes those little things can be the hardest to address–the LW might have no difficulty figuring out what to say if it was one or two big obvious things, but when it’s a bunch of small things it’s more tricky because each one does sound small (and in fact it opens the door to exactly the kind of nitpicky pushback that this thread is an example of). But small things can have a cumulative effect that’s important to manage. The death-of-a-thousand-paper-cuts effect of a coworker who does a bunch of small but irritating things can have a genuine effect on group morale. Ignoring it because none of the individual things are ‘that bad’ can bring down the whole team.

            2. Myrin*

              I understand what you’re saying and agree in general, but I stand by my observation that different people view different things as “the worst” and may find it hard to tell what is objectively “the worst”. OP might be reacting strongly to someone leaning in a doorway because she’s reminded of a horrible person in her life who used to do just that and BAM, the leaning becomes the thing she focuses on the most whereas someone else has a much bigger problem with something else the new employee does.

              It’s also often about the general “vibe” someone gives off – two people can do virtually the same thing and one of them can come across as not standing out at all while the other one seems overly casual and familiar. I find that it’s usually more than just observable facts that add to a general feeling about someone.

          4. MegaMoose, Esq.*

            Agreed, I also I think it’s fair to assume the context needed to make these behaviors inappropriate even if the oP didn’t provide all the details. Yes, it’s possible that the OP is the out of touch one, but it’s entirely possible that she’s not, and this isn’t the a more conservative setting than some people are used to.

          5. aebhel*

            I don’t particularly have an issue with the OP saying these things are inappropriately casual for that specific office; I just think it’s odd that she thinks they’re in egregious violation of broad workplace norms that every working professional would agree on, when that’s clearly not the case.

          6. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Exactly what Myrin says. It’s hard as hell for letter writers to come up with examples that satisfy this group; please cut some slack.

        4. Dust Bunny*

          My coworkers all have fun little things on their desks and, sure, I’d ask, but there is no way I’d touch them. The only time I’ve ever touched their knickknacks was the time I parked a Matchbox tractor in my boss’ miniature sand garden :-). Otherwise–yes, definitely an overreach in my office. And we’re not really very formal. (But I was raised to never touch other peoples’ stuff without asking in general. My mother hates it when people wander around other peoples’ houses handling everything.)

          I don’t think anyone would notice the leaning, but then we don’t stand in doorways around here unless we’re talking to somebody. Nobody is lurking when they should be working, or when the office’s occupant is on the phone, or whatever.

          1. Beancounter Eric*

            I can see an exception to the “do not touch” rule for that…hope boss took it an a good way.

            1. Dust Bunny*

              He thought it was hilarious. But I wouldn’t have done it unless I had known for sure he would have appreciated it.

          2. Nolan*

            Yeah I’m really baffled by the folks saying that taking something off a desk without asking is normal in some places. I worked in a casual open plan office and can’t remember a single time something left my desk without me handing it to the person who asked for it. Even the owner of the company would ask and wait for a hand-off. And that was usually for things like a pen or paper clip. Touching something that doesn’t belong to me is such a foreign concept that I can’t fathom it not being weird.

            I would love the details of that one though, there are so many ways that can go sideways that depend on the circumstances, and depending on what exactly happened he may have annoyed more people than OP.

          3. Anna*

            I think I’m coming down on the side of it being weird not to ask. I have a cool figurine on my desk and a pretty art piece that some students made for me. Yesterday a coworker admired the figurine and I was imagining what it would have been like if he had picked it up to look at it. It would have been a little weird. Not outrageous, but I definitely would have been taken aback.

          4. PiggyStardust*

            In my office we leave stuff on each others’ desks all the time as jokes — random fruit like whole oranges, little tchotchkes, etc. My most recent “gift” to somebody was a little rubber hot dog eraser.

            As a rule, though, we won’t TAKE things off somebody else’s desks.

        5. Kate*

          This is when my mom’s voice pops into my head and I hear “We look with our eyes, not with our hands.” Unless (general) you are blind of course.

      3. Kimberlee, Esq*

        I agree, and came to use the same phrasing you did Amber: it boggles my mind that door leaning is even something people notice! I can’t recall noticing it happening ever, and it’s not that I’ve never seen it, it’s that leaning on something while you’re talking to a colleague or observing what’s happening in a room or checking your email on your phone seem so profoundly *normal* to me that it would never even occur to me that others might find it abnormal.

        Same with wandering the office; in my experience, more businesses have issues with departments being too siloed and not communicating/exploring enough, not that exploring is so common as to be disruptive and discouraged! I’m trying to imagine where I could go in my current office that would be considered weird to go, and I can’t think of anything, short of actually walking into someone elses’ meeting that I wasn’t invited it. Wanting to know more about how the rest of your company works should be encouraged!!! If there are confidentiality issues or something, i would definitely approach with “I love that you want to know more, here are better ways of going about that” rather than “it’s weird that you explore the office on your break.”

      4. aebhel*

        Same. I can see if it’s an extremely formal environment, or there’s potentially confidential material out that he’s not allowed to access, but nothing here strikes me as egregiously unprofessional, and I’m a little weirded out that the OP thinks his behavior is so out of bounds. Out of sync with the office culture, sure, but everything he’s doing would be pretty normal in every place I’ve ever worked.

        Also, an office where you work is not the same thing as a house where you’re a guest.

      5. Koko*

        The wandering into other department offices I think could be perceived differently depending on how the office is laid out. If it’s a fairly open area and the employee was just passing through to familiarize himself with where everyone is located in the office layout, that doesn’t seem that bad. But if it’s like, an enclosed room with a door on it, and nothing inside the room but the people who work in that department doing their work, then yeah, it would seem weird for him to walk around and explore the inside of a room that he will never work in.

        1. aebhel*

          That’s true. I think I was reading it as a more open area because that’s been how most of the offices I’ve worked in are, but if it’s an enclosed room, it is a little weird.

      6. LBK*

        Wandering into other departments, also perfectly normal and imo the best way to learn your way around a new office.

        Why do you need to know your way around departments where you don’t work? If you have colleagues over there, you can be shown around and introduced at an appropriate time. You don’t need to go all Magellan and explore uncharted territories of your own volition, especially if you work around people who might be handling sensitive info and wouldn’t take kindly to a person they don’t recognize skulking around.

        1. CMart*

          It probably depends on both the office and your department. I’m part of an extremely large finance department that has a dozen different groups/teams in it. My first day I was introduced to the people on other teams who I’d likely be working most closely with, but it’s not unheard of to need to drop by the desk of random other people within finance. I’ve already had to do this once in the month I’ve been here.

          Obviously the straightforward thing to do is ask someone who’s been here a while “Hey, where’s Waukeen in Tax’s desk?” but it definitely helped to know where Tax sits in general (on a different floor in a different building, for some reason) before asking for directions to Waukeen in particular. I’d learned that by taking unobtrusive walks around our very large campus during my lunch breaks.

          1. LBK*

            But your example doesn’t require wandering around aimlessly just trying to see what the office looks like. You go over to those areas when you have a person you need to speak to that sits over there, not just because you want to see what the cube layout looks like.

            I collaborate with a ton of other people in our building so I’m in other departments and on other floors regularly, but I don’t just stroll through other areas where I have no reason to be.

            1. CMart*

              Well, the point of my example was that I’d already wandered aimlessly around to get a feel for the layout of the office, so that when I did need to find Waukeen I already knew the general area he’d be in.

        2. CMart*

          I also know people in finance at large will also need to occasionally go see folks in complete separate departments. Engineering, sales, etc… Sometimes an in-person chat is easier to gather information about X issue than ten e-mails back and forth.

          So that’s just my experience in my particular context.

        3. Thlayli*

          “Why do you need to”

          Humans do things we don’t need to do all the time. Why do you assume it was a need he had? Don’t you do anything ever just because you want to?

          Also – I think it’s a definite benefit in any workplace to know your way around and get to know people in each department. I also think it’s friendly to get to know your coworkers. I don’t need to know people – I want to know people.

          Your comment reminds me of a conversation I had once with a colleague of a friend if mine where I said oh we should all go out for a drink while I’m in town and he replied “I don’t need to drink”. Lol

          1. JB (not in Houston)*

            There are lots and lots of things you might do because you want to and not because of some particular need. Many of those things aren’t appropriate for the office. When considering whether or not doing something is professional or appropriate for the office, “need to” is a better place to start than “just wanted to.”

    7. dr_silverware*

      I didn’t get the impression that these things are completely off-limits for arbitrary reasons, just that they’re tiny examples of a a guy who’s starting off way too close and casual. As the OP says, like a stranger who goes straight over to open the fridge. Or a friend-of-a-friend who goes straight for a lingering hug. It’s not like your fridge and hugs are always off limits, but that’s way way too fast.

      It’s also pretty unusual to touch other people’s stuff without asking when you first meet them. That one’s pretty standardly a no-go.

      It’s all adding up to the hairs on the back of OP’s neck standing up, and it’s really a question of, is this new guy going to be just an Annoying Coworker or a genuinely bad fit?

      1. Myrin*

        Ha, you said what I was trying to say much more succinctly and clearly! I, for one, could immediately understand perfectly what OP meant because my father shows that exact same behaviour; he’s the type to interact with you as if he’s been your best friend for ten years when in actuality, he’s been in the general vicinity of your office for three months. It’s not so much all the little stunts he pulls that make you think of him as Annoying Coworker but rather that he generally behaves in such a way that, crouched in his overall demeanour, these little things come off as much more irritating than they are in isolation.

      2. Anon today...and tomorrow*

        The description of the new guy had me immediately thinking of Marcus on Superstore. He’s that employee who tries too hard to have these bonds with people (forced inside jokes, too many attempts for after hours socializing, jumping in on conversations that he’s not part of) when he’s the brand new guy.

    8. LadyL*

      Even picking things up from desks depends. I work in an office in a kid focused environment, most of us have little toys and trinkets on our desks meant to be played and fiddled with by others. I’m kind of offended when people *don’t* swing by my desk to play.

    9. Purest Green*

      Yes, these things seem more like symptoms of inexperience than deliberate disrespect.

      1. Purest Green*

        I totally glossed over the last paragraph in OP’s letter that explain’s the new hire’s experience, so scratch the inexperience comment. But I do still think this guy isn’t attempting to be deliberately disrespectful, and Alison’s advice is spot on.

    10. Beancounter Eric*

      As far as I’m concerned, leaning on doorframes is a sign of a very casual attitude. Stand up straight, no slouching!!
      Exploring on break…it depends. Is it going by to say “HI” and introduce themselves? Ok. If it’s to duck in and explore when the other department is away – no.

      Picking things up from other people’s desks:


      In fact, unless you are my manager, if you are entering my office without me being there, it should only be to drop off paperwork….deliver your materials, and leave. Immediately. Better yet, why aren’t you emailing work???

      Want to look at my rocket pen, ask. Want to use my HP-17, ask. Want to read the math on my Rocket Science coffee mug – ask. Want to pick up my Galileo Thermometer, ask…although if you break it, you get to deal with my wife. She’s a chef – very good with knives.

      They are there for me, not for you. And unless you have business, I would rather you leave me alone so I can work. Thank you, have a good day, now go away.

    11. Dzhymm, BfD*

      I wonder if the “leaning on doorframes” complaint is a little bit of a “Bitch Eating Crackers” kind of thing: it’s nothing by itself but in the context of all the other oddness it becomes irritating…

  3. Casuan*

    OP1: Please do apologise to whomever you were rude or offended. It might help to type your apology as if you were going to send it. Then enlist a friend or trusted colleague for to review & to rehearse what you want to say (not rehearse, precisely; the idea is so you’re a bit more comfortable than if you were to wing it). Simple is better & whilst you want to address your behaviour, you don’t need to dwell on it.
    oh, I didn’t suggest your husband because he’s a bit too close to the situation.

    Apologising in person will help recoup some professionalism here. However if you’re really too embarrassed to apologise in person, then consider a handwritten note or email.

    We’ve all done really stupid embarrassing things & we’ll always cringe when we remember them… for me the keywords are, no time to eat that day, retirement party, very thirsty, wine, quite sober to quite smashed with no room for tipsy, guest of honour & a colleague drove me home…

    Welcome to the club!!

    1. Blue eagle*

      Yikes, don’t reply in e-mail – that creates a written record of what you did. Better to apologize in person so that the apology is the end of the situation.

      1. Beezus*

        I think Casuan was suggesting typing the script out before trying to make a face-to-face apology. That’s a strategy I use for difficult conversations as well. I don’t usually enlist another person to rehearse with – I tend to rehearse on my own in the car (or mutter to myself at my desk, but that’s a habit I’m trying to break.)

        1. Casuan*

          Yes, thanks Beezus, that’s what I meant.
          I also said that if the OP truly can’t bring herself to apologise in person, her last resort is email, which would be better than no apology at all. She could word it to minimise the written record.
          No question [at least to me], apologising in person is the best way to go here- especially because she can’t avoid seeing these colleagues around the office.

    2. Annonymouse*

      Are you sure your husband just doesn’t mean “Don’t apologise via email” instead of “don’t apologise at all”?

      In any case apologise to those people you shouted at (and anyone who saw it) face to face.

      Something along the lines of

      “I’m really sorry I said those things to you. I’m going through some personal things and I took it out on you. That’s not an excuse and no one deserves what I did to you. I am deeply mortified and apologetic for how I acted.

  4. nnn*

    It comes across as a bad joke to say so, but the real dog-honest truth is that my greatest weakness is interviewing. I’m far, far better at doing the job than at convincing people I can do the job.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s not really an answer you can use though, because they’re asking about weaknesses on the job. (Sorry if you already know that and were joking; I couldn’t tell.)

      1. KHB*

        It’s been ten years since I’ve had a job interview, but at that time, I thought a reasonable answer to the weakness question was something like “My biggest weakness is X, which is why I’m looking for positions where X isn’t a big part of the role.” In my case, I have trouble structuring my time when everything is “important but not urgent” (so I was terrible at academic research, for example). I do my best work when I have well-defined projects with well-defined deadlines, which is what I have now, and it’s great.

        For nnn, maybe she could think about what specifically she doesn’t like about interviewing and try to frame it more broadly? So maybe something like “I sometimes have trouble advocating for myself, and while I know a certain amount of that is always going to be necessary, I’d ideally like to be in an environment where my achievements speak for themselves as much as possible. Can you tell me what the culture here is like in that respect?” (But I’m not 100% happy with that phrasing, because it’s just half a step away from “My biggest weakness is that I’m just too modest about how awesome I am.”)

        1. Lily in NYC*

          We had a candidate here on Monday who sat silently for over a minute after he was asked that question, and finally said “I can’t answer that because I don’t think I have any weaknesses”. He’s not getting a second interview (that’s not the only reason – they’d probably let it go if he were stellar in other ways).

          1. Bibliovore*

            My greatest weakness is attention to detail. I am pretty sure un-hireable in most job positions. I have other gifts. What I do about it is get another set of eyes on anything that has to be seen by others whether it is an email or a set of numbers. I have horribly funny/sad stories of the consequences of this deficit. Most recently a committee action. I read aloud the numbers and totals to Mr. Bibliovore and the committee members’ individual votes to make sure they were correct. Posted it. Hah! one of the 5 titles was totally wrong. I didn’t even think to check that.

            1. the gold digger*

              Me, too! And the way I frame it (or would, if anyone asked), is, “I am not very good with very precise details, such as ticking and tying numbers in financial reporting. To get around that, I build in redundant systems to check my work, like adding the rows and adding the columns.” (Or however I do it – I made sure to get a job where this kind of work is not necessary after being tricked into it in my last job!)

            2. Lily in NYC*

              I have the same weakness. But I don’t think we should ever admit it in a job interview!

                1. Lily in NYC*

                  I’m an executive assistant, and my life would be so much easier if I were type-A! My job is the exact opposite of my nature and I have to constantly force myself to be more organized. My former career (journalism) was a much better fit for me.

            3. Anna*

              I’m fortunate in that I realized what my biggest weakness is and can answer honestly. I’m disorganized. Or at least I appear VERY disorganized but generally have things in order. When I’ve been asked that question, I answer honestly and follow up with the things I do to mitigate my scattered “filing process.”

          2. Venus Supreme*

            At my first real-life-adult-job interview, I told the manager that my biggest weakness was folding fitted sheets… Oof.

            1. Lily in NYC*

              hahaha! I once said I was “anally prompt” in an interview. It was a group interview and they all busted out laughing. I cannot believe they made an offer (ended up being the best job ever).
              I suck at folding fitted sheets too! I end up rolling them into an untidy pile.

      2. Owen Bytheway*

        Whenever an interviewer asks my biggest weakness, I always say “chocolate chip cookies.” I follow that up with something work related, but it always gets a laugh

        1. Annonymouse*

          I always go with technical stuff.

          I’m not the most tech savvy at certain applications like Power Point, Photoshop or graphic design stuff.

          Since I’m an admin/reception/sales/customer service person in a niche industry with other valuable skills it’s not an issue but a nice to have.

    2. Koko*

      My greatest weakness is that my greatest strength is test-taking, a skill that is utterly useless after graduation.

      1. Bibliovore*

        not so my friend. Test taking competency means that you retain random information. Seriously helpful on trivia night fundraisers and staff appreciation events.

        1. TootsNYC*

          OMG, that explains why I’m a good copyeditor!

          I always say that the ability to retain and call up obscure grammar rules, and information about the world, is essential to being a good copyeditor. I marvel that I can remember all the stuff I do.

          And I used to lament that “taking standardized tests” wasn’t a professional job, because I am ACE at it.

      2. Blue Anne*

        That’s my greatest strength too, and it got me in the door at a Big 4 audit firm. They only progressed applications from people who scored in the top third of their (already self-selected) very tough online math test and apparently I hit 95th percentile. I’m no great shakes as a mathematician, but I’m an amazing test strategist.

        So you never know. :)

        1. Consultant*

          I’m exactly the opposite. I’ve been working as a consultant for some time now and get excellent reviews. I see that my pragmatic way of thinking and predicting problems, also using maths, works really good at my company. Also, clients love me. I have recently applied at the management consulting unit of a Big 4 firm. And failed the maths test.

    3. Vicki*

      I love what Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton say about weaknesses in their book (Now, Discover Your Strengths): A weakness is anything that gets in the way of excellent performance. It is not “an area where you lack proficiency”.

      Clifton and Buckingham “urge you to steer clear of this [latter] definition for one very practical reason: Like all of us, you have countless areas where you lack proficiency, but most of them are simply not worth bothering about.”

      If your weaknesses interfere with your strengths, that is, if something is getting in the way of near excellent performance, then you need to develop strategies to manage around those weaknesses. Note, however, that this doesn’t necessarily imply you will fix them, but only to manage around them.

      Once you know you have a weakness to deal with, determine whether it is a knowledge weakness, a skills weakness, or a talent weakness. If you have a weakness in knowledge or skills, you will need to acquire the skills or knowledge you lack. Or, change what you’re doing.

      If you’ve identified a talent weakness, the authors recommend five creative strategies, ranging from “Get a little better at it”, to “Design a support system”, to “Just stop doing it”. Seriously.

  5. KarenT*

    #2 I’m surprised to hear this question is going out of style, though I can see why. I’ve never used it much with new grads as it never yields anything useful (they are almost all either perfectionists or not punctual) but I do like asking experienced candidates where their areas for improvement or what the things they struggle with are. It usually leads to a pretty good conversation about their fit in the role.

    1. KarenT*

      And I think I’ve been asked it in every interview I’ve ever had, though admittedly it’s been a while.

    2. The RO-Cat*

      I might be word-picker here (plus ESL), but for me “area of improvement” and “weakness” are not at all the same thing. The former, as you say, has the potential to spark interesting conversations; the latter brings out defences in most cases, so it’s a dead end. And of course, as usual, it’s not what you say as much as how you say it.

      1. KarenT*

        I agree! They are different, which is why I ask about improvement. Mine, for example, is presenting. I have to do a lot of high stakes presentations and I need to be better at it. It’s not really a weakness because I’m decent at it, but I really need to be excellent so I’m trying to improve.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yeah, I think people have finally started recognizing it as such a tired question that it doesn’t yield much useful info.

      But I’ll often ask what kind of feedback the person has had from managers in the past (both things they were told they excelled at and areas where they were urged to work on improving), which is really a version of “strengths and weaknesses” but couched differently and in a way I find gets better info.

      And I won’t ask any version of it with entry-level candidates; they just rarely have useful insights into it at that stage.

      1. Lablizard*

        Not to sound all that, but I have never had a manager mention an area where I need to improve on an evaluation in my 10+ years working post-graduate (pre-graduate it was my accent that they mentioned and it is much lighter now). Closest I came was when they asked me what I think I needed to improve. I’m not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, I just have never had feedback from a manager on any weaknesses. In my case, should I just mention what I think needs improvement and attribute it to a manager?

        1. Lablizard*

          Come to think of it, I have never had anyone mention anything outside of an evaluation either. Personally, I think that in my industry managers only feel comfortable correcting hard job skills, so never mention anything if you are doing fine

          1. TL -*

            Labs are known for their excellent management. It would be highly unusual, for example, to have someone who does nothing hang around for 3+ years with no repercussions or a boss who is moody and yells randomly or to be told that the success of the project depends solely on how much effort you want to put into it.

            1. Anna*

              I think it really depends on the overall culture of the organization. A friend of mine worked as a lab manager for many years for a company that respected her contribution and process improvements. She then went to a company that placed more emphasis on degrees than ability so her contributions were seen as less than because she “only” had an MS and not a PhD. Their processes sucked, which is a reflection on their sucky attitude. She’s now with a company that again appreciates what she brings to the table.

              1. TL -*

                I was being sarcastic :) And my current lab is wonderful and wonderfully managed, but I think it’s an exception to the rule. Though, I was talking about academic labs – industry labs tend to be much more in lines with other businesses.

        2. Collie*

          Same here (though I’ve only been officially in the workforce for about three years). Ignore if this is too off-topic, but do you have any recommendations for this situation, Alison?

        3. aebhel*

          Same here. The only thing I’ve really been dinged on in a professional job was wearing jeans when I wasn’t supposed to, which is a pretty easy ‘weakness’ to solve. Of course, I’ve also not had a lot of managers who did performance evaluations, so there’s that…

          1. Lablizard*

            That is interesting because my go to on that type of question is to say I have never had a manager tell me I needed to improve anything, but that I feel that I need to work on my patience with others when they are working more slowly or more sloppily than I would like, because hiding my impatience is tiring. Good to know that I might be answering 2 questions in one.

            As a follow-up, do you think I should wait to see if they ask me what I want to improve or is my standard response OK? I now wonder if jumping the gun might be annoying

        4. Consultant*

          Lucky you!

          It’s about the company you work for. At our company everybody gets some areas to work on. Even if they have to be made up. Last year I got feedback that I don’t socialize with my colleagues often enough.

          This was after I spent a year working at my client’s site Monday morning till Friday late evening every week. I was the only person from my company there.

          Not kidding. If anything this diminished my motivation instead of giving me some to work on my “weaknesses”.

      2. Elemeno P.*

        I was once asked for an example of a time I tried my best and failed. It was a good question since a circumstance immediately came to mind, and it was a natural transition to what I’d learned from the experience.

      3. TotesMaGoats*

        I ask “What would you not want your supervisor or coworkers to say about you”. Their answer shows if they are actually listening and gives good information on what they consider their strengths. I like it, begrudgingly, because it was an exboss who I couldn’t stand that gave it to me.

        1. neverjaunty*

          That’s a little confusing – is it “what faults would you not want them to share” or “what things would you not want to become true”?

          1. Anonymous Educator*

            I’m taking it to mean that latter, which would explain what’s important for the candidate in terms of job performance and perception by others.

      4. Anna*

        I was asked the weakness question four years ago at the interview for the job I have now. Having sat in on other interviews for this company, we don’t have the best interview process. It’s all situational/emotional questions and we’re not allowed to ask anything that we don’t ask EVERY OTHER CANDIDATE. Our HR person, while very good in many areas, is not so good with breaking down how to remove implicit bias. He tends to think if anyone is asked a question that isn’t asked of anyone else, it immediately means you’re not being fair to everyone.

        I’ll end that right here. Or it could be a long discussion on a frustrating part of my job.

    4. Ramona Flowers*

      I’ve only ever been asked this once in 12 years of post-graduate interviews/jobs. I’m not sure I quite understand why asking for an area of improvement, or in which you struggle, is actually any different (apart from the semantics).

      My thought is: what does the interviewer want to know? Whatever it is, ask that! For example, do you want to know what training they might need to do well in this job? Do you want to know about a time when they identified a weakness or challenge and how they improved on it? Do you want to know if they’ll need to change their working style in this job?

      Not that I’m a recruiter. But I think the problem with the weakness question is that people don’t think about what they want from the answer.

      1. KarenT*

        I think with that question (weaknesses) though, interviews do know exactly what they want to know. Knowing what a candidates weaknesses are is incredibly valuable information. The issue is that most people know not to tell the truth. If you’re a terrible team player, or can’t handle deadlines, you’re not going to tell me that. So I have to ask other questions to get that information.

        1. Ramona Flowers*

          Well, sure. But what are you going to do? Pick the person with the least egregious weakness or the person who’s most aware of what they need to do to improve? I think that’s the part you need to know before asking.

          1. hbc*

            Well, you don’t usually select people because of this question, but you can eliminate them or adjust your approach if you do hire them. I don’t usually ask anything quite this vague, but sometimes a similar question will show troubling qualities. For example, if a person says, “I don’t like interruptions, but I set up office hours so I’m expecting it certain times and close my door when I need to focus” and this job is all about interruptions and 100% availability, they’ll probably be miserable or unsuccessful or both. That weakness would be a great fit for other jobs, though.

        2. Ramona Flowers*

          Also, there are better ways to get that information anyway.

          Tell me about a time you worked as a team?

          How do you organise and manage your time?

          Tell me about a time when you missed a deadline?


          1. Lablizard*

            I hate the deadline question because I have never missed one. Come damned close, of course, but have managed to squeak through. I have no idea what I would do. Probably work like hell to make it less late?

            1. Darren*

              I work in IT using Agile development methodologies it is literally impossible to *miss* a deadline, since you have three buckets of tasks for each deadline those you have to do (should take no more than 30-50% of the time allotted), those you should do (should fill up the rest of the time bucket but doesn’t matter if you do them or not), and those we aren’t going to do yet (you can pull from here if for some reason you are a little early, if you are a lot early you call this version and redo the sorting again for a new deadline).

              The only way you can miss a deadline with that is that you don’t have enough resources to do the job period which actually gets established quite quickly in the process thanks to the task sorting (too many must do tasks means the project is doomed and you know that from like day 2).

            2. Koko*

              If I were interviewing you I would respond with a hypothetical situation about competing priorities with an impending deadline that you can’t make, and ask you how you would handle it.

              I used to ask a similar question when I was hiring an office manager – something like, you have visitors coming to the office today and need to prep for the meeting, but you get a call from the bookkeeper saying they need the board members to sign a filing by COB tomorrow to avoid having your state registration revoked, and you discover the printer isn’t working. What would you do?

              (There was no right answer to this question. It’s a crappy situation where something is almost undoubtedly going to have to suffer. But that was a job where crappy situations like that happened fairly regularly, and no matter what the candidate ended up prioritizing in their answer, I was more paying attention to how flustered the idea of that scenario made the candidate and if they could support their choices with plausibly sound reasoning, to make sure we could get someone in the role who could handle crappy situations without having a nervous breakdown.)

      2. TootsNYC*

        I used to ask that question, long ago, because I thought I was supposed to.

        Now I sometimes ask, “what the mistake from your past that still bugs you?” And then I tell them mine, to break the ice.

        What I’m looking for, in my case, is just to get them talking about their values (like, does it still bug them because they let their colleagues down, or because it should have been easy to do it right, or because it cost X, or because it hurt their own opinion of their skills?), and our profession in some detail.

        There’s no wrong answer. It’s just a way to get to know them, and to get them to expand a little.

        1. Not A Morning Person*

          I really like the framing of your question and how it gets at what you want to know!

      3. Annonymouse*

        For me I ask it for two reasons:

        1) What do you actually struggle with and will it be a big deal at this job?

        2) As a candidate do you have the ability to be honest and have self reflection?

        For the first one if I’m hiring for a customer service role and a person “doesn’t like dealing with people” or “doesn’t do confrontations.” I’ll think
        “Then why did you apply? Have you never done customer service before? Or even stood in line in a busy food court?”

        Their weakness is incompatible with the job.

        For the other part if I get the generic “I’m a perfectionist/work too hard.” Answers I’ll probe more. If I can’t get any further then I’m not going to move much further forward with them.

        Admitting a weakness isn’t a problem. Not being able to reflect on yourself or recognise you have flaws is a big deal in my niche industry. (Martial Arts. The whole point is to become self aware.)

    5. Narrator for bad mimes*

      I was getting it every other interview when I was job seeking. My go to response was that English isn’t my first language (Scandinavian in London), which I thought was brilliant as they could obviously figure out my proficiency for themselves during the interview. Got a bit trickier for jobs required copywriter skills though.

    6. Frances*

      I actually use this question a lot when interviewing candidates. I change the wording so it includes how they address the area of improvement so it isn’t geared negatively. It seems to bring out an honesty and self-awareness from some candidates and humblebragging from others.

      1. Lablizard*

        My preferred phrasing would be among the lines of, “What areas of yourself​ would you like to improve?” (but phrased more elegantly). For me it is my tendency to get impatient with people that I think are working too slowly or too sloppily. I have learned not to show it, but it really does make work harder when I am constantly trying not to show it.

    7. TAM*

      I read a jobsearching book once that gave I though very useful advice on this question – don’t reply with a personality flaw (or ‘flaw’ – perfectionism, caring too much, whatever) but with a skill (not one that is super critical for the job, obviously.) In my most recent interview (got the job) I said I hadn’t had much practical experience with a useful but not common skill that is easily taught/learned on the job (and that not everyone has any experience with). It was a legit answer (I would eventually have to do some training on this skill) but also making it about a skill (which can be learned) rather than a personality thing (hard to come up w a sensible answer and also if you identified a real weakness, how could it be addressed?) made it a less tedious question for everyone, I think.

    8. Interviewer*

      Instead of asking about weaknesses, I ask candidates to tell me about a time they made a mistake, and what happened.

      In the answer, I’m looking for certain details – how the mistake was uncovered, who found the error, how they communicated about the error, and how they found the solution. People who find the error themselves and fixed it before anyone else noticed – great job, but it’s kind of like the tree falling in the forest with no one around – does it make a sound? People who made a mistake that got noticed by a supervisor or a client, went above & beyond to make it right, then tweaked the core process so that mistake never happens again? That’s someone to consider adding to the team.

      Asking about weaknesses, candidates are generally prepared to answer that question, and there’s usually some crazy spin about how the weakness could actually be a strength (ugh). Asking about past mistakes can highlight actual weaknesses (proofreading, attention to detail, process knowledge, training, etc.) and provide insight on how candidates feel about making mistakes.

      1. Bibliovore*

        this is what I do. I want to know that they can identify and error. Admit that they were responsible. Take action to fix it. Not do it again.

      2. KTZee*

        Same here – I ask about a situation, not about an overarching feature of their performance/personality. I think it removes a lot of the fraught nature of the question, since it’s far less risky to admit to a mistake or challenge than to a general weakness.

      3. Annonymouse*

        I do both.

        To be fair if I’m hiring for a reception/customer service position both of these are important.

        Mistakes can be dang costly (a previous receptionist didn’t cancel a student so we owe them a lot of money) and having a shy/abrasive/conflict avoiding person in this role will make everyone miserable.

    9. Katie*

      Back in college, I was told to pick something I’ve tended to struggle with and talk about how I’ve worked on it. So my standard answer is that I struggle with self-confidence, which is true, and talk about how I’ve improved in that area. That answer has worked for me. The one thing I was told not to say is “I’m a perfectionist.” Even if that’s true, it sounds like it’s not.

      1. SebbyGrrl*

        Someone above said their biggest weakness is chocolate chip cookies, then went on to a work task challenge from there.

        I would be tempted to say “I look forward to office treats and can get distracted wondering if there will be any today/this week. So now, I am the person who brings donuts once a week, to do something fun/nice for my co-workers and I can adjust the snack to the culture.

        Then I can focus on my tendency to want to ‘do’/produce a result quickly. When I find myself acting/thinking “I just have to do this really quick so I can move on to next task…” that’s cue/trigger to stop what I’m doing, check in on priorities for the day/week and rank them simply so I can acknowledge and allocate proper resources for best results.

  6. Casuan*

    OP2: Everyone judges. It’s what we do with those judgments that define us. One of my weaknesses is also a strength, at least it is to me: my first impression of someone is often a bit off. Knowing this makes me a better person because it keeps my mind open for new possibilities that might not have occurred otherwise.
    That said, go by Alison’s suggestion. :)

  7. LW4 - Redo*

    LW4 (Redo) here. Thanks for posting my question, Alison! Not surprised at all by your answer, and my instinct was to just swallow it, hope for the best, and move on. Had I any clue the posting would be up so long, I’d have sat on my application a little longer, but… Shoulda, coulda, woulda, right?
    I’m very young in the professional world but doing pretty well, resume-wise, for a kid just a couple years out of college. Still, it’s rare that an opportunity comes by that matches my experience (and aspirations) so specifically.

    I think I’d benefit from installing some software on all my electronics so that whenever I hit “Send” it goes “YOU SURE ABOUT THAT, BUDDY??” and makes me wait an hour.

    1. Leah*

      If you have gmail, there’s an option where you can take back an email in the seconds after you send it. :)

      1. LW4 - Redo*

        Hah, unfortunately I’m extremely confident for at least 30 seconds after sending anything.

      2. Panda Bandit*

        How do you get that option? I’m not likely to use it but it’s nice to know about.

        1. Al Lo*

          Enable it under settings. It used to be a Gmail Labs feature, but moved into the main settings a year or two ago. You can choose the length of time you want the “undo send” to be available, up to 30 seconds.

        1. LBK*

          Yeah, all it does is delay the email sending process so that it doesn’t actually initiate until a few seconds after you click the send button, allowing you some time to click cancel before it pushes the email out. Outlook can do the same thing.

    2. LW4 - Redo*

      And, to pre-empt a comment I’m anticipating– Yes, I am cringing at my youthful use of the phrase “dream job.”
      But, it’s a job that I could have much more responsibility at than most at my age, since it matches my niche expertise so neatly.

    3. So Very Anonymous*

      Your story is exactly why, if there’s a deadline, I apply closer to the deadline — I’m usually doing a lot and that way my resume is closest to being up-to-date. I do have to sit on myself sometimes to wait a bit if it’s a job I’m really interested, though, so I know how you feel — I just saw a posting for something in the part of the country I want to live in, but the deadline is a month away and I’m waiting (with no patience whatsoever) to hear if something that would make me a stronger candidate is going to come through.

      Maybe tell yourself that you’ll have great new stuff to talk about if you get an interview?

      1. Someone*

        It seems to me that one month is rarely going to produce the thing that is a make or break on your resume. Sure, if the industry award you put in for comes through in that month, you will look better, but even that’s just one line on your resume, and being nominated/considered is still something you can put on. And for job duties and titles, you can spin it so something you’ve done for a month looks impressive, but when you go to the interview, you won’t have a lot of experience in that thing, and it could potentially backfire at that point.

        1. ForgotMyNameAgain*

          My field is actually an exception to this. It’s pretty typical for PhDs to graduate with one to three publications, so one additional publication can make a crucial difference. Because of that, it’s normal for entry-level applicants to send updates to their resumes or CVs any time they get an additional paper published. But I think if you were in one of those fields, you’d know it.

    4. Kat*

      Find somebody’s contact info (LinkedIn​ is great!) who might be in charge of hiring or the department the job is in, and send them a friendly email along the lines of “I wanted to check in about the position” and that you’re very interested. Use it as an opportunity to mention your qualifications again (or those you left out the first time!), maybe give it the spin of “I’ve been doing X lately and it made me realize that I’d really enjoy this position.”

      Finding somebody to reach out to as a follow-up is totally acceptable, especially after a month, and you don’t look like you’re trying to game the system by resubmitting​.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        Sorry but no, it’s not acceptable to follow up after applying. Especially if it’s still open. OP needs to leave it.

        1. BRR*

          I feel like this needs to be seconded. The only exception might be if something happened when you were submitting your materials and you’re concerned it didn’t go through. While it doesn’t look like trying to game the system by resubmitting it does look like trying to game the system by going around the hiring process.

          1. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

            This is so weird. I’m unemployed at the moment and whenever I go to any job seeking info lecture thing, they always stress how it’s really really important to always call after sending the application. The last one I went to seemed to consider this follow-up call to be the situation where I would make the employer interested in me. (That guy also wanted us to contact 40 potential employers per week when unemployed, which in my opinion is ridiculously unrealistic, so maybe I shouldn’t listen to him.) Maybe it’s a cultural thing and I should only care about advice from people in the same country as me… but still it doesn’t seem to make sense to contact the employer unless there’s a real and important question. Last time I called it was because my computer was acting weird with that particular application website and I wanted to know if I had been able to update my info in their database.

            1. Serin*

              Wow, this guy sounds a bit out of touch. I suppose you might research 40 potential employers a week, if you only devoted an hour to each one, but if to actually contact that many, you’d have to be ridiculously un-selective.

            2. Koko*

              This honestly sounds like the kind of requirements that you’d come up with if you really wanted to blame unemployed people for being unemployed even a short time. It’s not that there are far more job-seekers than jobs out there, or there aren’t many jobs in your area that fit your skills and pay enough to make your mortgage payment, or that all the companies in your area are shuttering and laying off people in your field. It’s that you’re not following up enough or you’re not applying to enough jobs. The fault is always with the job-seeker, not the economy. (It’s not always the economy, but it is a lot of the time.)

              1. Starbuck*

                Yeah, it’s understandable I suppose- people want to blame unemployed people for their situations (whether it’s their fault or not) so that they can keep believing that *they* won’t ever be unemployed, or at least not for long anyway, because of course the process is under their control and they’d do all the *right* things, so they have nothing to worry about.

                1. TootsNYC*

                  well, it may be less that they want to blame the unemployed people, and more that the unemployed people are the ones they’re talking to right now.

                  Alison does a version of this–the real solution is for your manager to stop being an ass, but the manager hasn’t written in for advice. So her advice focuses on what YOU can do.

                  The job-hunt coach can’t do anything about employers or the economy–the only person they have in front of them is the job seeker. So all the advice focuses on the job seeker, and not the immovable reality.

                2. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

                  I think this is true. There is advice they could give where they wouldn’t need to first suppose that people are unemployed because they’re not trying hard enough and are lazy. Of course there are many kinds of people and situations and there probably are people who need someone to tell them to try harder. For most unemployed people that’s not the case.

            3. BRR*

              That’s actually why I wanted to second Ramona’s comment. I think the most common piece of job hunting advice out there is to reach out to the hiring manager/hr/company either to submit your materials to a person or after submitting your application to stick out and in most instance it’s bad advice. But the sheer volume of sites that suggest it is huge so I wanted to add weight to the other side :).

        2. MegaMoose, Esq.*

          Wouldn’t there be a difference here because the closing date is fuzzy? Like, could you send an email asking if they have any specifics on when the position might be closing? My instinct is no, but the wording is so odd and vague I’m curious what people think.

            1. MegaMoose, Esq*

              That makes sense. My experience is largely with the public sector where (in my state at least) deadlines are hard and firm and clearly stated up-front. Open-ended deadlines make me anxious. Hey look, a greatest weakness!

      2. Lablizard*

        NOOOOOOO! I get the intention, but NOOOOOOO! People do this to me a lot and all it does is annoy. If I am hiring, you just lost any chance, and if the job is not one I am in charge of, you probably just got described as “some random was bugging me on LinkedIn” to the hiring manager.

      3. SheLooksFamiliar*

        Oh, no – please do not message or email possible hiring managers on LinkedIn. You absolutely DO look like you’re trying to game the system, and no amount of ‘interest’ will change that. Even if the HM is generous, they’re not likely to re-engage with someone who didn’t make the first cut.

        This tactic just doesn’t advance the jobseeker’s cause.

    5. GermanGirl*

      Well, if the job ad is for teapot coloring and you’ve applied with “I’m a teapot delivery boy but would love to get into coloring” and your new application would look like “I’ve completed the teapot coloring certification and have been successfully coloring teapots for the last two months” I think that’s a significant enough change that you could drop them an email about it.

      1. Whats In A Name*

        Yes, this is my thought. When I worked in HR as a recruiter repeat resumes didn’t get a 2nd glance. Repeat resumes with added information/skills DID. And usually it took about 8-18 months to get the new information added to the resume – generally a certification or more specific experience. We didn’t require a lot but we did require some.

    6. Mimi*

      The posting being up for a long time might not mean they are hiring for it.

      I have worked at companies that left some roles continuously open/refreshed monthly to get cvs in to keep on file. A these people might be interested if the job opens up type thing.

      We once had a situation where we were taking applications for a role and there was a hiring freeze while the new CFO was on-boarded. And so the advert stayed up even though we knew who we were going to hire.

      It also could just be that they left the posting up. My point is that just because its still listed online somewhere doesnt mean they are still taking applocations.

      1. fposte*

        That was my thought–that this is an old posting and the position was filled before the OP even sent her application in the first time, so it really doesn’t make sense to do a second (aside from the other reasons not to do it).

      2. Lily in NYC*

        We leave ours up until the person who is hired for the job is here for a few weeks. We have quite a few people who pull out of the job after accepting it because they get a higher-paying offer (and we allow for long periods of time before an employee starts – we just hired someone who isn’t going to show up until July – so that’s plenty of time for him to get a better offer).

    7. New Bee*

      I think you have a great attitude, and I hope something else just as great comes along if this one doesn’t work out.

    8. Parenthetically*

      This made me laugh so hard, because IT ME. I often say that my first response to everything that involves an emotion — from enthusiasm to grief — is at least 30% off from where it should be. Best of luck and all sympathy from this internet stranger!

    9. Mongoose*

      I think I’d benefit from installing some software on all my electronics so that whenever I hit “Send” it goes “YOU SURE ABOUT THAT, BUDDY??” and makes me wait an hour.

      I am in the same boat. As a work around, I set up a folder in my personal and work inboxes for holding any email I pen while excited, angry, frustrated, etc. I save any email written while in one of those states to the folder and then reread it after waiting at least an hour. It took awhile to train myself into not sending immediately and it’s not perfect, but has saved me from sending out some real doozies.
      Good luck in the job search!

      1. Jillociraptor*

        Gmail has a feature that lets you “unsend” for about ten seconds. It’s been useful more often than I’d care to admit…

    10. Genevieve*

      To be honest, I learned so much from reading askamanager that I re-did my entire application for a job I’d applied to about a month ago and re-submitted it. Obviously I now see why that was a mistake but I HIGHLY doubt I would’ve gotten a response from my original, terrible application so… I guess either way it’s going to be a no go :/. Of course I won’t be doing that again in the future but I think in this one particular circumstance, I felt like I had to. At least I’m getting good practice? (Total job search baby here…)

  8. Leah*

    OP 2: This is probably a little nitpicky, but I wouldn’t say in an answer that you try to fix problems by “overcompensating”. That word makes it seem like you’re compounding the weakness.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      I had this thought too. Particularly that it’s really hard to do with this particular weakness – you may be as understanding as possible but you’ve just admitted/implied that it’s not actually very possible.

  9. Ramona Flowers*

    #1 I’m struck by the fact that you don’t remember what happened, so this is based on your husband’s account – and he says not to apologise. In other words, you’re thinking of apologising for something you don’t remember – and the person who does remember is telling you not to.

    Are you sure it definitely happened in the way he says? Do you have any reason to believe that he might have lied or embellished – even just got a bit carried away – and be telling you not to apologise because of this? It’s just a thought, but seemed worth mentioning.

    I don’t think I’d put this in an email because you’d be creating written proof of something you might not want work to have proof of.

    I’m sorry things have been rough. I hope things get easier for you.

    1. Leah*

      Yeah- not to speculate too much but I wonder if the husband did something that he should be embarrassed about as well but wants to put all the blame of the OP without revealing his behavior. Or maybe he thinks that if word gets out around the company about the incident his job could be on the line as well.

    2. paul*

      I mean, I’ve literally never seen a person get blackout drunk and *not* make a bit of a fool of themselves (even if it’s just crying and passing out in a bad place) so I’d lean strongly towards the OP having done at least something even if he’s over dramatizing.

      1. Observer*

        Sure. But the question is did she make a fool of herself, which does not require an apology so much, or did she get nasty which generally most definitely does.

    3. Stellaaaaa*

      It’s possible that the two other guys didn’t act so respectably either or that the conflict was actually with the husband so it would be odd if the OP were the only one to issue an apology. Maybe it’s just a case of everyone behaving badly, especially if the drinks were that strong and the food really was inedible.

    4. ginger ale for all*

      I wouldn’t necessarily leap to a Girl on the Train scenario but I suppose it might be a possibility.

      1. ladydisdain*

        My mind did go to Girl on the Train, I admit.

        I’m not saying she didn’t behave badly, but him not wanting her to apologize strikes me as odd.

        1. caledonia*

          Is it a spoiler when the book was published more than 2 yrs ago? The comment wasn’t really a spoiler either although maybe it was to ward off any actual spoilers/off topic comments.

          1. Anon today...and tomorrow*

            It’s a spoiler even when the book was published more than 2 years ago. There’s still a waiting list for it at my library. :)

            1. Lily in NYC*

              But I should have said I think it’s polite not to ruin endings for people who haven’t seen something yet.

          2. MegaMoose, Esq.*

            I think this might be one of those situation so Alison’s been talking about where the second or third level of nesting is off-topic. Although I do find spoiler etiquette fascinating.

          3. Parenthetically*

            One of my dear friends is just now getting around to reading Harry Potter and she STILL gets miffed about spoilers! Bless.

        2. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

          Glad I saw this! I almost said too much. I’ll just say, that I also thought Girl on the Train, but I’d hesitate to jump there.

          1. anon for this*

            As someone married to a functional alcoholic, the whole Girl on a Train thing is, um, a lot less likely than the most obvious one — the OP said / did something embarrassing or offensive or both to the two guys. It’s entirely likely that the husband apologized at the time and the guys blew it off because she was obviously intoxicated and the husband just doesn’t want her to bring up unpleasant things that have already passed over.

            The thing here is whether the husband told her what she actually did. I generally don’t tell my husband the details; if she doesn’t know what she said or did, she may not be able to apologize effectively (if that makes sense). Or, as someone pointed out, it may be that she said horrible things *in front of* those guys, but it was all directed to her husband, which would make the apology more awkward.

            I’m getting a sleeping dogs vibe from the husband. That may not be the best response; I’m just saying that’s what the husband is going for.

            Also, um, OP #1 — if you don’t eat and get blackout drunk, you may want to consider that you have some problem drinking patterns. My husband is convinced he’s “just fine” it’s just that he had a stressful day at work / decided not to eat because he didn’t like what I cooked for dinner / had a good day and wanted to celebrate / other excuse. But … just consider. Whatever issues you have (believe me!) will only be worse from drinking.

            1. Squeeble*

              Your first paragraph exactly–I doubt anything suspicious is going on here. The husband likely just doesn’t want her to do anything that will bring the whole situation to the fore again. I’d still recommend she go and apologize, though.

            2. paul*

              agreed. I’m not an alcoholic, and I’m not married to one, but I’m…passingly familiar with the behaviors intoxicated people can display.

              It is absolutely *possible* that he’s doing something weird but I have a hard time thinking of that as being the most likely option barring information we don’t have.

            3. OP#1*

              OP #1 here… So I ended up apologizing to the two guys and to my surprise they were very understanding and forgiving. Actually, one of them claims he didn’t know that I had said mean things, and the other one just told me not to worry about it and that he understands. I was so nervous and embarrassed, they could probably tell, but I think at least they saw that my apology was sincere.

              In all honesty, I don’t know if the story my husband is telling is 100% accurate, I just feel bad that I was so mean to him. I’m working on making it up to him. This is the first time that something like this has happened to me, but I assure you it won’t happen again. I recognize that I lost control and my behavior was unacceptable.

    5. LBK*

      I wonder if the husband specifically meant no to sending an email but not to apologizing in general. The way it’s phrased in the letter is a little ambiguous:

      I really feel like I should send an email to the two guys and apologize for my behavior, but my husband says I shouldn’t.

      Could be the OP said “I feel like I should send them an email to apologize” and the husband said “No, don’t do that” but didn’t explicitly say “I don’t think you should/need to apologize at all”.

  10. Nobody Here By That Name*

    OP #3: I believe it is a universal truth of company softball that rare is the company that can get a full team together at all, let alone every week. Sure some companies get really competitive with it but at my company and at my friends’ companies around the country the norm is much more that games are forfeited due to lack of players, or folks hustle each week to find friends, family, or significant others to fill the roster.

    So I wouldn’t worry about how lack of participation or you bowing out reflects on your company at all.

    1. Willis*

      Yes to this. I organized a kickball team (among friends) for a few seasons and it was not unusual to bring along other friends, family members, etc. to fill out the team, or to borrow members from other teams, when our actual members couldn’t make it to the game.

      Just be honest about if you want to play or what games you could make it to so they can make other arrangements. If enough people back out, you probably won’t have this problem next season!

  11. Ramona Flowers*

    #4 I think many people here will identify with how you’re feeling. But you can’t do that, as Alison says. It will look strange. It could make you seem forgetful, or like you can’t stop when a project ends but will try to change things after the fact, or like you don’t understand that the same person might read them both and notice.

    I know those aren’t your reasons, but they don’t.

    It’s often best to apply quickly as you never know how long a job will be open. Even if a date is listed, it could close before that. And I bet your application is better than you think.

    Also, you might want to look out the AAM post on how there’s no such thing as a dream job. Good luck and do update us on how it goes.

    1. LW4 - Redo*

      Yeah, as I said in a comment above, I cringed at the fact that I said “dream job.” But it *is* so unusually close to my expertise that I can hardly imagine getting a job with more depth at my age.

      And you’re right, there are too many unknowns involved to risk doing something that might be a total dealbreaker, just to make my application 10% better.

  12. Ramona Flowers*

    #5 Yikes. Personally, I found picking things up off people’s desks particularly egregious and can’t imagine working in a place where that’s acceptable (though I’m sure they must exist).

    I like AAM’s script, but it does strike me that it assumes what the reason is. Is this from his last workplace? Or are his boundaries poor for other reasons and he never even noticed norms in his past workplaces?

    I think I’d describe the behaviour and ask why he’s doing it, possibly one behaviour at a time e.g. “I noticed that you walked round the caramel spouts department. Exploring in other departments without a reason for being there will come across strangely here. Can you tell me why you went there?” Side note: do you offer new hires a walkaround, was he expecting one and would that help?

    “I’ve noticed you picking up items from people’s desks, such as Jane’s rice sculpture and Wakeen’s teapot. It’s understood here that people don’t remove items from other people’s desks – can you tell me why you did that? I need you to ask in future, and only when there’s a work-related reason. If you’re curious, you need to ask instead of touching. Can you do that?” Etc.

    Thing is, if you have good boundaries you’ll get why this is one issue. If you don’t, you might not so it could be worth separating them.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      PS I meant to say that people with poor boundaries – as opposed to someone coming from a more relaxed workplace who need to learn new habits – tend to suck at watching what other people do and following it, in my personal anecdotal experience, and need to be told more explicitly what they need to stop doing.

      1. KarenT*

        Agreed. I suspect the employee in question is the type of person who would open someone’s fridge!

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I wouldn’t go straight there; I’d use the softer approach I suggested in the post first, because it lets him save face. If that doesn’t work, then yes, you can get more serious about it, but I think a new person is going to be pretty mortified by this conversation and so it’s good to be kinder about it. You always have the option of adjusting your approach if that proves not to work.

    3. MommyMD*

      If she’s not his boss he doesn’t really have to answer about why he is doing things that do not involve her. Sounds a bit pushy imo.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        Well, arguably they do involve her if they’re happening at work and aggravating people there.

        1. MommyMD*

          They are aggravating her for sure. I like the AAM script. Asking him to explain himself to someone who is not a superior is too much. He’s brand new. Give him a chance to adapt.

        1. MommyMD*

          If she is his manager by all means she can question him. But I think the bulldog attack style will backfire. I like the “norms” kinder approach much better.

    4. Jeanne*

      There could be such innocuous reasons that the conversation will feel silly and probably embarrass him. “Why did you go walk in that area? I had a 10 min break and I was sleepy so I walked around a little. Why did you pick up stuff from Jane’s desk? Unfortunately, I’m a bit of a fidgeter and I picked up the paperclip without really thinking about it. Are you telling me she complained about that?” It just sets a difficult tone for the beginning of his employment and really creates antagonism. It’s so hard to tell from the letter what is happening. Is he acting like he owns the place after one week? Or is this company quite formal? Either way, you should all try to get to know each other without too much judgment for a few weeks.

    5. Jessica*

      “can you tell me why you did that? I need you to ask in future, and only when there’s a work-related reason. If you’re curious, you need to ask instead of touching. Can you do that?”

      This part comes across to me as condescending, like he’s five. I’d rather just say “please don’t touch stuff on other people’s desks” and expect him to respond like a grownup.

      1. Had Matter's Pea Tarty*

        Yeah, I remember my child psychologist talking very much like that back when I was nine or so.

      2. Thlayli*

        If someone said something that condescending to me over a non-issue like leaning on a door I would start job-hunting straight away.

        1. FDCA In Canada*

          Yes, for sure. It’s a thousand times easier to swallow a straightforward request like “Here our desks are pretty much private property, so please don’t pick up things off someone’s desk without asking. Thanks,” rather than a condescending “can you do that?” Same for door-frame leaning, which I do alllll the time–if it was a big deal I’d rather hear “We’re fairly formal here. Do you mind not leaning on door frames and furniture?” than “Is that something you think you can do?”

    6. BRR*

      I don’t see why the op needs to ask for a reason. I don’t think it matters because there’s probably not a great answer. The behavior needs to stop anyways.

      1. fposte*

        Yeah, it’s not like there’s an answer that will make the manager say “Oh, never mind, then; continue to pick up stuff from people’s desks without asking.”

    7. Duck Duck Møøse*

      This reminds me of a team we had in here recently, doing some computer hardware installs. Four person team. #1 was the lead, with #2 competent enough to do some things on her own. #3 and #4 were trainees. #3 was leaning over the lead’s shoulder,watching everything he did. #4? She had some sort of animal figurine, and was flying it around #3’s head, pecking him on the ear with it, generally being an annoyance to him, and not paying any attention at all to what the lead was doing. And she didn’t do it once, haha and move on – she was at it for a couple of minutes, and he would just wave his hand like he was chasing gnats. What the?? Yeah, I’m so glad I’ve been kicked out of my cube for this install, and I can sit here and watch this 10 year old little girl behave like this. It *really* irritated me. I didn’t say anything to her, but spoke with my teammate later (he was the one who got this team to help out in the first place) He said that he already had a talk with her, because on one of the other installs, she was taking things off people’s desks and playing with them. So now I’m wondering if that toy was even hers! Ugh. Can’t wait to see if she’s still on the team when they come back to do more installs.

      The kicker? They were US Navy.

    8. aebhel*

      TBH, I really hate the ‘can you tell me why you did that?’ approach to issues like this, and being asked that by a manager about something like this would really put my back up. ‘Can you tell me why you did that?’ when it’s about, say, my particular approach to a project that didn’t work out makes sense; it’s gathering information that my manager can actually use to suggest a more productive approach. ‘Can you tell me why you did that?’ when the obvious answer is ‘I didn’t realize it was a problem’ is not a useful question to ask. It’s patronizing.

      Just tell him to knock it off if it’s a problem. You don’t need to treat him like a five-year-old. An adult will understand ‘We have a more formal environment here, and it’s not appropriate to go exploring other departments unless you have a reason to be there’ or ‘Please don’t pick up items off of other people’s desks without asking.’

    9. Mazzy*

      Mmmm this seems harsh picking up stuff off of people’s desks isn’t a big deal unless they are papers or files or food. And in my job, I don’t like to frame things as criticisms or nitpicking. I need people to think big picture and be motivated to come up with big ideas.

      I can’t expect big ideas if I’m policing whether someone picked up a snow globe off a desk

      1. fposte*

        I think you absolutely can :-). And speaking from the other side, it’s hard for me to make big ideas if the office fiddler is juggling my personal possessions.

        But it’s also not simply that this guy touched the stapler, it’s that he’s interacting in a way that’s out of step with the culture.

      2. chomps*

        For some people it is a big deal though. Plus, what fposte said. If I’m working and someone comes over and starts picking up stuff from my desk, I will be distracted. Also, it’s an invasion of personal space.

    10. caligirl*

      Culture is so specific… where I work, we have “hot desks” and nothing can be left behind at all, even a pencil or notebook.
      So I have (unfortunately) disassociated completely and lost that sense of “my desk with my stuff” which was really driven home to me last week when I tried a new feature on the phone on the desk I was using by waltzing over and picked up the phone on the other desk in the room without even asking the coworker sitting there! It was so rude and I couldn’t believe that I had done it – didn’t even think twice. Ugh, so uncool. I know this coworker really well, we are on the same team and they were more amused than anything, but that doesn’t excuse it. Back in the good ole’ days, I would see red when someone used my stapler and set it back in the wrong place! It’s so fascinating how much my core personality trait has been changed by just 2 years of this nomadic desk situation.

  13. MommyMD*

    I would definitely apologize to everyone who observed you. If you don’t you’ll be forever known as the out of control drunken employee who just skated over her atrocious behavior. Wouldn’t you rather be known as humble and ashamed? Apologizing shows you care about them as human beings. Good luck.

    1. Whats In A Name*

      Yes, I think I agree with this. A simple “I’m sorry for my behavior” across the board is probably a good idea. Not just to the 2 guys and not overly specific – OP doesn’t need to relive the night, just apologize for it and recognize it was unacceptable behavior at a work event.

  14. MommyMD*

    Regretful softball player: never be afraid to say no to any optional request. Softball enthusiast will survive if the league doesn’t pan out. It’s not your job to make sure his teams are staffed.

  15. Ask a Manager* Post author

    I removed a thread about whether OP #1 has a drinking problem or not. Maybe she has a drinking problem or maybe she doesn’t, but we can’t diagnose that based on what’s in the letter, so I’ll ask that we not go down that path and instead focus on the question she’s asking. Thank you!

  16. Had Matter's Pea Tarty*

    “What’s your greatest weakness?”
    “Literally who I am as a person.”

    Seriously, though, I think my greatest weaknesses are actually… perfectionism and punctuality. Shocking, I know. Punctuality here meaning I have trouble keeping track of time (I put the ‘fun’ in ‘executive dysfunction’, don’tchaknow) and, like the White Rabbit, I often find myself rushing around saying “Oh my ears and whiskers, I’m late! I’m late for a very important date!”. Thank goodness that my lecturers at uni accepted late essays, or I’d have been chucked out halfway through my first year.

    Perfectionism here meaning I expect myself to be great at something when it’s the first time I’ve ever done it, beat myself up if I’m not, and would rather fail from not trying than try my best but fail anyway. In other words, I’m so afraid of doing something badly that I end up not doing it at all. I’m an awful procrastinator for that reason.

    1. Mimi*

      That last paragraph could have been written by me.

      I have the reverse for punctuality. I hate hate hate being late. I will always be early for something and get frustrated with colleagues who are always late. I used to be worse and would call in sick if I was going to be more than like 10 or 15 minutes late because it would stress me out too much.
      Except when I stop caring about things or my depression gets worse. Then I hate being late but am sometimes anyway cause going places is hard.

      1. Oryx*

        Being late makes my day-to-day anxiety so much worse. I’ve never called in sick but in the past I have skipped events if I realized I was going to be late and it was too much. I’ve had entire conversations with my therapist unpacking this part of my anxiety.

      2. kavm*

        I’ve never called in to work sick because I was late, but I have definitely skipped a couple classes and events because I was going to be 10-15 minutes late and couldn’t handle the embarrassment/stress.

        Luckily my current workplace is very lax with start times (technically we all start at 8am but my last manager was ALWAYS at least 30 minutes late every day) so if I’m running behind I don’t stress about it anymore.

        1. Decima Dewey*

          I’m physically uncomfortable being late. Friends meeting me for dinner or a movie would worry if I weren’t there 10 minutes or so early.

    2. Pontoon Pirate*

      Co-signing that last paragraph. I have struggled with, as Carol Dweck would put it, a fixed mindset since childhood, compounded by serious anxiety. I am a failure-averse awkward penguin, indeed. But none of that is gonna get relayed in an interview!

    3. MegaMoose, Esq.*

      I am so with you on that first part. I’m in a bad place right now where I just can’t close the deal at the interview level (but I’m good enough that I get called back multiple times!), and I definitely get those frantic periods where I figure it’s just being an unlikable person. It’s so easy to obsess over questions like “greatest weakness” but I’ve got to believe that there’s no perfect, magical answer to make an employer hire you on the spot. And conversely, probably no single question to make them decide not to hire you if they were otherwise so inclined.

    4. Analysis Paralysis*

      Had Matter’s Pea Tarty: Are we the same person?? :-) I am almost always sqeaking in at the last minute, and totally understand the paralyzing fear of failure/ridicule/censure.

      I know perfectionism is supposed to be avoided as a ‘weakness’ during a job interview, but it is a big problem for me because it can block / slow me down if I don’t fight to control it. I developed techniques that work for me (define what is “good enough” for the task / situation up front, then hold myself accountable to stop reworking it when “good enough” is achieved) but I still have to be very self-aware every day, every task. I have come up with more skills/experience -based responses to the Weakness Question but still, TBH, skills and experience can be acquired… fighting your internal demons takes a lot of self-awareness, self-evaluation and self-discipline!

      Case in point: after over a year of following this blog daily, this is the first time I’ve commented because I rewrote my comments on other posts so many times that my input was redundant/superfluous by the time I was ready to hit Submit. So now I’m going to stop revising this comment, hit Submit & then pat myself on the back for accomplishing *something* today!

  17. Kowalski! Options!*

    Re #4: What if it’s possible to withdraw the application before submitting a new one? (Our online hiring platform at the Ministry of Teapots allows us to do that, and I’ve often thought about doing it, especially for jobs where you’re just pre-qualifying for a pool, rather than a specific position.)

    1. Mimi*

      What do you mean prequalifying for a pool rather than a specific position? Do you mean like applying for management training rather than a specific management position or??

      1. DaisyGrrl*

        Can’t speak for Kowalski! above, but I’m in a government org and the hiring process is so rule-bound and cumbersome that departments will often assess many people for whether they are generally qualified to be a junior teapot analyst, even if there is only one post open at the time. They will then create a pool of qualified analysts who can be hired without going through the full process again. Then, if a manager needs a junior teapot analyst, there is a list of people who have undergone the full assessment and are pre-qualified. These people can be hired on to other equivalent positions with a minimum of fuss.

        1. Kowalski! Options!*

          What Daisy said. Our government will often post internal and external jobs, some of which are “we have to have someone, like, five minutes ago!!”, and some of which are, “Meh, at some point, we’re gonna have to find people with these qualifications…how many and when, we’ll figure out later”. It has its good points and its bad points, not least of which is that you can be in the running, to various degrees, for a really large number of jobs at any point (one guy in our division is in for nearly two dozen jobs, none of which seem to have a firm hiring deadline). My significant other’s brother-in-law was once in a hiring process that went on for so long that when he got the call for an interview, he had completely forgotten that he’d applied in the first place and said to the HR rep, “I don’t remember applying for this job. Did I apply for this job?” (By which time he’d already been working somewhere else for a year and a half.)
          The other thing is that the closing date for these jobs can often be faaaar ahead in the future (I’m in for two jobs that close on — no kidding – June 30th, 2017), and with the ability to withdraw from the hiring process, I sometimes wonder if it’s worth withdrawing the application I made ages ago (no kidding – July of last year) and putting in a new one. Wondering, though. Not sure I’d actually do it.

    2. LW4 - Redo*

      I didn’t notice a way to retract the application on their platform, but even if I could, I’d be nervous about the risk/reward involved this far in. Who knows, maybe they’re about to send out interview requests tomorrow and stopped looking at new applications five days ago. They did strongly suggest that applying in the first month was somehow important to them, after all.

  18. strawberries and raspberries*

    For #5, I do think you should say something at least within the first week, and keep it soft, as others have advised. It could be nothing, but it could also be the beginning of a pattern. A cautionary tale: last year my supervisor at the time hired someone who she said was “a little weird,” but really qualified and experienced for the role he was in. On day #1, the guy was interrupting peoples’ conversations and lingering at desks long after the conversation was over. It was weird, but I wasn’t his supervisor, so I said nothing. On day #7, he was making what sounded like biased but totally stupid-sounding comments as related to our work (we’re client-facing); when I called him on it gently to see if he even realized what he had said (because the way he articulated them was just so asinine), he got defensive and sputtery. Over time, he continued ramping up “weird” behaviors that were noticeable but not necessarily in violation of anything (such that it would be fruitless and exhausting to continue pointing out every little thing), and by day 100 he was arguing with everyone (and attempting to prolong the arguments by not leaving anyone’s desk or taking cues that the conversation was over, as on day #1), alienating clients, and seriously dropping the ball on essential functions of his job. Shortly after that we got a new department head who had a much more direct management style, and after observing his nonsense for just a couple of weeks (and verifying with existing staffers that he had been doing this to the detriment of the work being done for some months) she fired his ass. Even if it’s not something formal, I’d honor your instincts and address it somehow.

  19. emma2*

    Re weaknesses: I have never been asked this question, and I have done over 40 interviews at this point. Not once.

    But while you should not give a cliché answer, don’t give a really honest one either. Just give a professional weakness where you needed improvement, and be sure to mention the steps you took to improve on this weakness.

    I will also be so bold as to say that this is not the question that’s going to make or break your interview provided you don’t give a really off-putting answer. It’s more important in an interview to explain well how you are a good fit for the role and what you can bring to the table. I imagine very few companies would base their hiring decision on this one question (except when, like I said, you give a disturbing answer or something) – esp if you end up being one of the strongest candidates.

    Honestly, I never really understood the point of this interview question.

  20. Roscoe*

    #3 I’m going to disagree with Alison (and I’m sure a lot of commenters will pile on against me too). But as someone who has been the organizer of these teams both at work and in my social group, what you are doing is crappy. I’ve totally done leagues where I was informed prior to signing up that the games wouldn’t be before or after a certain time, and they were. It’s very likely not his fault. As far as people who claim they didn’t really commit, I’d question that. If I ask you “are you interested in doing X”, and you say “Yes, I’m interested” to me that is committing. Sure you can argue semantics that expressing interest isn’t exactly committing, but lets be real here. If asked a co-worker “Are you interested in getting lunch today? and they said “Yes, I’m interested”, but then I didn’t grab them when the group left, people would say that they committed to going and I was mean for not grabbing them. If they wanted to change their mind, they should have done it then. Basically what you are doing is letting a team of people, not just the organizer, down because you changed your mind. I’ve had girls do that a ton, and its annoying (I say girls because for co-ed teams there is always a requirement for the amount of women playing, so it tends to be an issue when they don’t show more than when guys don’t show). There are definitely a couple of female co-workers who signed up to play and never showed up, and it absolutely affected my opinion of them. Again, its just about keeping a committment.

    However, if all of you are basically just going to refuse to do it, then tell him now. Maybe he can just cancel the team. Because it also sucks to have to scramble every week to find someone because at the “last minute” Jane can’t make it (even though Jane knew she wasn’t going)

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      How can you say it’s crappy for them to back out when they discover the times are totally different than what they were originally told? That doesn’t make sense to me.

      1. Roscoe*

        Because it sounds to me (and maybe I’m misinterpreting) that she wants to back out completely, as opposed to just not going to the later games. That is where I think its crappy.

        1. neverjaunty*

          It’s hardy “crappy” to back out of a deal that got radically changed on you in a way that causes you serious inconvenience.

      2. Roscoe*

        On a 2nd reading, I see she was just wanting to not go to the later games, and it seems she still would go to the earlier ones. So I take back calling it crappy. It is definitely understandable

        1. OP #3*

          Going to any of the games at this point would require me to move my paid commitment (usually on Mondays)to another night. I attend a class that I very much enjoy on the day my other commitment has to be moved to, but it can be missed. I started that class the same week I expressed “interest” in playing softball. So at this point I would really prefer to not play at all so I can continue to do all of fitness classes I enjoy, but I would hate to let my team down when I know they are expecting my skills help carry them. I have been told that I should be all in or all out by other colleagues. The organizer already handed out nice t-shirts and a hat the company purchased with my name on it and I really don’t know how to just not play at all now.

    2. FDCA In Canada*

      There’s a fairly big difference between keeping a commitment that you were fully on board for, and giving a mild “I’m interested if the timings aren’t too late” and then bailing because hey, yeah, the timings are way too late. Even if it’s not the organizer’s fault about when the games are scheduled for, the fact remains that the time just isn’t going to work for everyone, and frankly softball just isn’t that important to most people. How is it lousy for them to back out when they realize the schedule won’t work for them?

    3. fposte*

      I think the lunch comparison is more “Hey, do you want to get lunch at 11:30?” “Sure.” “Oh, I actually can’t go until 1 pm.” It’s totally fine for somebody to then say “Oh, sorry, can’t make it at 1.”

      Sure, it may not be his fault, but it’s also not the OP’s fault; it’s not her obligation to make it work when she’s being asked for a different commitment.

      1. Roscoe*

        Maybe that part wasn’t clear. The lunch comparison was based on the the fact OP says he got 3 other women to say “yes, I would be interested in playing softball.” but them later saying that they never actually committed. To me saying you are interested is basically saying you committed.

        1. fposte*

          I would disagree with that too, but it’s also hard to tell exactly what these additional people actually said to one another from here. I would advise anybody trying to get participants, though, to clearly differentiate between “interested” and “committed” either at signup or later; for one of our volunteer projects, for instance, we explicitly take “interested” signups and then don’t consider them committed until a later stage.

        2. aebhel*

          No, it’s saying you’re interested. ‘Yes, give me the form, I will sign up for the softball team right now’ is a commitment. How can you read an expression of interest as a commitment when the schedule hadn’t even been finalized? You can’t commit to attending an event if you don’t know when it’s going to happen.

        3. Ask a Manager* Post author

          To a lot of people, “I’m interested” means “I’m interested in hearing more — keep me on your list of people who you keep talking to about this, and to who you give more info once it’s available.” Which is different from “I’m committing to play.”

          1. Roscoe*

            I guess it depends on exactly what was said, which we don’t know. Because I could totally see sending an email and saying “We are doing this thing, if you are interested in doing it with us, let me know”. To me, if someone said “Yes, I’m interested” and left it at that, I’d assume they wanted in.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              And I can understand making that assumption. But when someone points out that that’s not actually what they meant, I’d think the upshot would be you concluding, “crap, I misunderstood,” not “you are doing a crappy thing to me.”

            2. BPT*

              And I would assume that an email saying “if you’re interested, let us know” means “if you’d like more information, let us know and we’ll email the people who respond to follow up.” I would never take an “I’m interested!” to mean “I’m completely in.” Interest is not a commitment.

              1. Rachel 2: Electric Boogaloo*

                This. “I’m interested” does not equal “Yes, I’m in! Sign me up!”

          2. LBK*

            Agreed – for something that’s more of a commitment, I’d read “I’m interested” as implying “If you’re gauging the amount of people who might want to do this, you can include me as one of them; give me more information after you’ve spoken to everyone and then I’ll make a decision.”

            I think the lunch comparison isn’t really equivalent because going to lunch one day isn’t as big of a commitment as being a part of a team (but even then, I might only be interested in lunch depending when and where you want to go, and then decide to pass if the answers to those questions don’t work for me).

        4. Elsajeni*

          But at that point, nobody, including the organizer, had a lot of information about the details. It’s more like if you got a group of co-workers to agree to go out to lunch with you, then said “Great, I’m leaving right now and we’re going to Subway” and got annoyed when some of them said “Oh, actually I can’t leave right this second, catch you next time though!” or “I’m not big on Subway, so never mind”. I don’t really think that you can “commit” to something without at least knowing when and where it’s going to happen.

    4. Stop That Goat*

      The time change is absolutely enough reason to back out without question or pushback. If it doesn’t work for their schedule, it doesn’t work. That shouldn’t affect your opinion of them.

    5. JeanB*

      I’m going to use your lunch analogy: imagine you asked if your co-worker was interested in grabbing some lunch around noon – she says yes, I’m interested. Then you let her know around 11:55 that, oh, we can’t go until 2 pm for whatever reason. Now she doesn’t want to go because she’s used to eating around noon and can’t wait. Would you be annoyed at her for changing her mind?

      1. neverjaunty*

        This. And especially so if she knew that lunch might have been delayed until 2, but didn’t mention that because she knew people would bail.

    6. Serin*

      We don’t have enough information to know for sure, but I suspect that this is an issue of Wishful Thinking + Soft No.

      Organizer: “I’m putting together a coed softball team. You should totally play! We need women, and it’s tons of fun. We’ll have games at 6:30 — grab dinner after work and then have a chance to get outside and do something active — what do you say? Are you interested?”
      Employee: “Hm. Maybe. Depends on what else I have on my schedule.”

      What Employee thinks she said: “I can’t entirely rule it out, but I suspect that it won’t fit into my schedule. But I don’t want to say a flat ‘no’ and make you disappointed. Come back when you have full information, and I’ll make a final decision then.”

      What Organizer thinks he heard (through the lens of wishful thinking because it’s what he needs to hear in order to actually have a team): “Yes, I can make that commitment.”

      1. Amber Rose*

        This is precisely what happened at my company last year. I gave a tentative maybe, because we don’t even have 5 women at our company to begin with so I knew they were trying to find a way to make it work and I didn’t wanna be like “no screw you.”

        The difference is, they found people more actively excited about it (spouses of employees) and then just let me know where the sign up sheet was if I wanted in after all.

    7. BPT*

      Even if it isn’t the organizer’s fault about the times (he was told games wouldn’t be after 6:30), they were still given bad information. If someone is asked to do something, and is given a set of information about it and they say yes, that is always conditional. The yes is based on the information they were given. If the organizer said games would only be one day a week and turned out to be more, people would be totally in the right to back out. These people agreed with the information that the games would be no later than 6:30. If the time changes, they are totally in the clear for backing out.

      Also, saying you’re “interested” is not committing. It means you are interested. That could mean that you want to do it, or that you would like more information, or would be interested depending on the details. If you’re taking someone saying they’re “interested” as a commitment, then I’m not surprised that you’ve had people back out before. A commitment is someone saying, “yes, I will do it.”

    8. paul*

      Then don’t pressure people to do this crap at work. There’s a huge segment of us that *really* dislike it. it gets worse when the terms get changed on them after a very soft “maybe”!

    9. NonnyNon*

      I’ve had girls do that a ton, and its annoying (I say girls because for co-ed teams there is always a requirement for the amount of women playing, so it tends to be an issue when they don’t show more than when guys don’t show).

      Sorry for the nitpicking, but maybe don’t call adult women “girls”? It’s infantalizing, especially in this context when you’re singling their actions out for being more “annoying” than when men do the same.

        1. Thlayli*

          Honestly dude it sounds like you need to find a more fun method of bonding that doesn’t impose on people’s time so much. Go play sportsball with your local team outside of work and if you want to organise mixed gender work bonding things pick something that’s actually enjoyable for everyone and doesn’t involve extensive and onerous time commitments. Don’t get annoyed with your female coworkers because they aren’t as interested as you are in hitting balls with sticks.

    10. Observer*

      Number one, it’s just not true that in this type of case “interested” is a commitment. It’s not.

      Also, commitments are a two way street. Of you commit to one time frame and then it changes, any commitments anyone made on the basis of your commitment are basically null. Even if it wasn’t his fault – it’s still not what they signed up for.

    11. Starbuck*

      ” I’ve had girls do that a ton, and its annoying (I say girls because for co-ed teams there is always a requirement for the amount of women playing, so it tends to be an issue when they don’t show more than when guys don’t show). There are definitely a couple of female co-workers who signed up to play and never showed up, and it absolutely affected my opinion of them. Again, its just about keeping a committment.”

      Yikes, this seems really unjust. It’s not the individual women’s fault that there are fewer players of their gender on the team. They shouldn’t be facing any extra pressure to show up than the men get. I’d seriously suggest re-examining your thinking pattern here that’s causing you to judge women more harshly for behavior that men get a pass on. This added pressure and your attitude about it is probably part of the reason that you have fewer women on the team- no matter how interested and committed I was to a recreational sports league, if I knew I’d get guilt trips and judgement for not showing up occasionally, I’d opt out entirely.

      1. Turtle Candle*

        This is exactly why I went from being open to doing coed team sports to making it a hard no as soon as the topic comes up. Because it all too quickly comes to “okay, so we managed to scrape together the bare minimum number of women, so now you all must come to every game or it will be all your fault if we need to forfeit (but we have plenty of men, so they can do it when they feel like it, no pressure).” Okay, so, if that’s the deal, I’m not going to do it at all. I might’ve enjoyed playing Ultimate Frisbee and I would’ve shown up for most games, but if I get a hardcore guilt trip whenever I do have a conflict or can’t stay for a late game (but the guys don’t get that guilt trip), then nope nope nope.

    12. Jessie the First (or second)*

      Taking LW at her word, she says some of the women approached expressed interest but did not commit. She also says she said she would do it, but was clear about her hesitation. That the organizer took this to mean he had a firm commitment from all 5 women is on him. That was his wishful thinking, and his wishful thinking does not now obligate the women to behave according to his wishful thinking.

      And please. If the rules require 5 women and 5 men, you need more than 5 women and 5 men. If you don’t have more than that, then you do not actually have a team sufficient to register. It is flat-out unreasonable to expect every single person will attend every single game, even if all the people were gung-ho about it and had firmly committed to doing it. Which, again, they hadn’t.

      Backing out is not crappy. And for the women who didn’t commit, but merely expressed interest, they are not even backing out. They didn’t agree in the first place. He just misunderstood.

      1. Sarah*

        This is so true. Even if every single person involved was super excited and pumped to participate, there would still be people who get sick, someone who’s working on a major deadline and needs to stay late in the office, a wedding anniversary, vacations, someone’s mom is in town, etc. etc. etc. Life is just too unpredictable to expect 100% attendance — that doesn’t even happen at people’s actual full-time jobs, much less at optional extracurricular activities! LeBron doesn’t even play every game. :)

        Since the OP said above there are two teams (mens + coed), is it possible to just have everyone do the men’s team and have a slightly larger roster/rotating who goes which weeks?

        1. Decima Dewey*

          Yes. You need a lot more than the bare minimum number of people.

          There are also a number of ways that sports teams at work can go sideways. When I worked for an accounting firm, there was something called “client softball”, meaning playing with a client’s pickup team. And if the client’s team was not doing well at all, there was pressure for the pitcher to develop a sore arm and the team in general to not quite throw the game.

          The only thing worse was “partner softball” at the company picnic. People putting together a pickup team had to make sure that partners and the auditors/tax people who reported to them were on the same team, so that there wouldn’t be repercussions at work if a junior struck out a partner.

          1. Cath in Canada*

            Heh, I played in a softball tournament with my then-boss once. She grew up in Nebraska and played a lot of softball, and was even on her University team. I’d swung a baseball bat precisely once (although I played a lot of rounders growing up in England) and had never worn a baseball glove. The two other Brits on the team were in the same boat – one of them even held the bat like a cricket bat, which was just embarrassing. My former boss is a hilariously straightforward person with very few filters, who was not at all impressed with her teammates! The rest of us were in stitches, and she did eventually see the funny side, luckily! We even managed to win a game

  21. Kalkin*

    OP #3: This is just one more incentive for men in male-dominated industries to push harder for gender parity! If your colleague is miffed, encourage him to support efforts that get more women into the pipeline. :-D

    1. Nichole*

      Yes. Excellent. I’m going to use this the next time people try to pressure me into softball at my male-dominated company that wants to join a coed league with a 50% requirement. Fun fact, apparently the last time the company had a coed league they advertised for female softball players on craig’s list to fill out the team. This time around, the company doesn’t want to pay for non-employees to participate.

      (My initial response was ‘I think if we look around this room [which had 16 men and 2 women in it] we can see why they couldn’t get enough women for the softball team’)

      1. the gold digger*

        We had a baby shower at work yesterday. All the women were invited. Out of an office of about 250 people, there were maybe a dozen of us. (There are probably another dozen women in the office.)

        The woman we had the shower for two years ago? Quit to take a job where she could work from home and have more flexible hours.

        There is a solution, Corporate America, if you want to keep female employees. Quit being so darn inflexible.

        1. Thlayli*


          Also sort out your almost non-existent maternity/paternity leave. Learn from Canada.

        2. chomps*

          AND give that flexibility to all employees, regardless of gender or child-having-status!

    2. Parenthetically*

      Ohh, this is so good. Want enough women on your coed softball team? Well, there’s a solution, but it’s long-term.

    3. No, please*

      That was my initial thought as well. It’s unfair to expect every woman or most women to participate for appearance purposes. Because that’s how I see that. “See? We’ve got ladies too!”

    4. neverjaunty*

      While I love this comment, “the pipeline” is not the problem. There are lots of women in the pipeline and always have been. It’s hiring and on the job practices that lead to fewer women being hired and staying hired.

      1. LBK*

        Depends on the industry; in some fields the pipeline is stemmed by women being discouraged from that line of work during their education before they can make it into the pipeline.

        1. neverjaunty*

          That also happens, but bluntly, “the pipeline” is an excuse those industries use to shed blame (including liability) for their own crummy behaviors. “Golly gosh, it’s not that we quietly tolerate harassment or prefer to hire and promote dudes just like us.. The problem is that those fifth graders aren’t ready to work for us yet! But someday, right?”

          1. LBK*

            I don’t see why it can’t be a combination of both. A quick Google search gave me a study that showed that in 2015, on 20% of the college students graduating with engineering degrees were women. There’s pretty concrete evidence behind this – it’s not like we have 50/50 degree distribution and then the disparity appears between graduation and hiring.

            I’m not denying that hiring bias and hostile environments (both in the colloquial and legal sense) play a role in keep women out of some of these industries, but to say that the pipeline isn’t also a problem is just statistically false.

            1. Observer*

              What you are missing is that the pipeline problem is largely a function of the practices in those fields. Women are not stupid – why would they train for a field in which they are going to be handicapped from day one, even if they give up the idea of actually being a parent or having a life outside of their careers.

            2. neverjaunty*

              You seem to be arguing past me. Nobody, I think, is claiming that in all fields degrees are 50/50. But pointing to “the pipeline” as the source of terrible diversity numbers is something those industries use as a way of refusing to admit their own conduct is problematic (and yes, often for legal reasons). And it avoids a discussion of why people might be reluctant to jump into a “pipeline” that they can clearly see is blocked at the far end.

              1. LBK*

                And you’re arguing past me. Where did I deny that that’s the case? I didn’t say anything about why fewer women end up graduating with those degrees, just that it is genuinely the case that when it comes time to find a hiring pool, there’s fewer women to choose from, regardless of what the cause of that is. Obviously the next step in solving the problem is figuring out why that’s the case, and that’s where we get into your argument.

                You said flat out in your first comment that the pipeline isn’t a problem and I disagree with that as a categorical statement. It might be a symptom of a greater problem, but it shapes how the problem should be solved; I think the solution has to come from both ends, not just improving the working conditions for women so they can see a light at the end of the tunnel but also continuing to discourage the idea that math and science are only for boys from a young age to get more girls excited about going into those fields in the first place. Again, I’m not saying this is the sole factor, but I do think it’s part of it. It’s a multi-faceted issue that doesn’t have one single solution.

                You’d think after commenting here for 2 years and having interacted with both you and Observer pretty regularly during that time I wouldn’t have to explicitly state that I obviously don’t hold such blatantly sexist beliefs like thinking women are to blame for just not deciding to go into fields where they’re underrepresented, but I guess I do. Honestly, this site is exhausting to comment on some days.

                1. neverjaunty*

                  Nobody has accused you of being sexist, or implied that you are. I think you’re misreading my comment about how certain industries (and their faux-woke leaders) hide behind “the pipeline”.

                  And yes, it is exhausting to comment here, but perhaps not for the reasons you’re thinking.

              2. LBK*

                And in fact I literally said exactly what you’re arguing in my comment:

                is stemmed by women being discouraged from that line of work during their education

                So you’re saying that I’m not taking into account something I already explicitly indicated was a problem.

            3. Lora*

              I’m not sure if education has gotten massively better since the 1980s/1990s, but when I was in school we were discouraged from doing advanced math. The science teacher was pretty good but I think he was an anomaly – even the girls who were quite good at science and math didn’t go on to major in STEM in college. MIT wasn’t even on the guidance counselor’s radar, girls were encouraged to apply to Bryn Mawr, Wellesley, Barnard, Smith etc. and plan to major in liberal arts type fields.

              Sexism is still crummy in STEM. Some fields and some organizations are more notorious for it than others, but there’s still things that don’t even show up on my personal radar which set off all the alarm bells for others – just because I deal with sooooo much of it daily that it’s become background noise. Have lots of colleagues who, after working for a few years with their bachelor’s degrees, decided to go into nursing just to get away from the boys’ club.

              Every once in a while someone asks me one of those “what would you tell young girls wanting a STEM career” type of questions, and honestly, I answer “Don’t. These days, it’s like being a musician, the chances of doing well enough to make a career are so slim that you should have a backup plan. Plus, I would never tell anyone that they should put up with the mountain of BS that I’ve had to deal with, because it’s hard on your quality of life in a lot of ways.” They are horrified by this answer, but what else can I say?

      2. Nichole*

        It was 20% women in my engineering program. 5% in my area of concentration when we got to senior year projects. Yes, more women have decided not to stay hired once they get the workplace and that’s absolutely a big chunk of the problem but I started looking around the room and noticing I was the only women in it back in physics and computer programming classes in high school.

          1. Nichole*

            I was trying to use the same phrasing from the comment above me. My apologies if it turned out awkward.

  22. Katie the Fed*

    OP1 – I’d also make sure you don’t drink at future company events. People might be willing to overlook a one-off incident – most of us have an embarrassing alcohol-related incident in our past, but you really don’t want to get a reputation as the office drunk.

    1. Anon today...and tomorrow*

      Oh yeah…it’s too easy to get out of control with alcohol at office events. The husband of a close friend of mine won a trip to a Caribbean island a few years ago for a company retreat. Spouses were allowed, so she went with him. Her husband is a very large man (tall and heavy) and was hanging out in the pool, in the sun, drinking at the poolside bar. He got so drunk that people who were there on vacation (and not part of the company retreat) actually complained about his behavior and asked to have him removed from the pool. He was so drunk that he literally could not get out of the pool and because of his size it took several hotel employees to get him safely out of the pool. By this time, he was not only drunk but embarrassed as well so he got angry and aggressive with the on-lookers. My friend said it was not pretty. He ended up missing all the meetings he was supposed to attend as part of the retreat and when he got back to the office a few days later he was put on probation for his behavior as well as taken out of the running for the next trip. Everyone he knew, including those that didn’t go to the retreat, was aware of what he’d done and though it’s been years and it’s never happened since, he’s still known as the office drunk. He hasn’t touched a drop of alcohol at a work event since but that reputation has followed him. It’s pretty awful!

    2. Whats In A Name*

      I agree here wholeheartedly and was going to make my own comment down-thread about this. Even if it was a one-time occurrence, as Katie the Fed said, you could not have it held against you but ordering a drink at any future event could also drum of tales of “I wonder if OP is going to cause another scene?” followed by storytelling, perhaps to new people, that might lead to a constant reminder.

      FWIW, I think a general, but meaningful apology for behavior is warranted but then doing everything in OPs power to make sure it doesn’t stay, or have the opportunity, to stay a office tale is really whats in order here.

    3. ReneeB*

      After an embarrassing night or two out with fellow employees a few years ago, I made a rule for myself when drinking at company functions:

      Always stay one to two drink behind everyone else.

      It has never failed to work. I still get to have a good time, while watching the others get snockered. Provided, of course, ‘everyone else’ is not a fool’s team of knock-down drunks. But generally in a mixed crowd of co-workers, they’re not a drinking team.

      Staying at least one to two drinks behind the majority of the people in the group keeps me the most sober-ish person in the room, while not relegating me to sparkling water for the night. And I’ve never had an embarrassing night since.

  23. HannahS*

    OP #1: Yeah, I think it’s best to seek them out and give a, “Hey, I wanted to apologize for my behaviour last Friday. I was upset about something else and I took it out on you. It was unacceptable and I’m sorry.” It’s embarrassing, but I get the feeling you’ll feel better once you’ve said it.

    One thing to double-check though, is what you said. If the “very mean” stuff was like “You’re a f-ing idiot!” and other generic insults, then a generic apology is fine. But if you said anything that insulted the man’s race/orientation/etc. you’ll need to apologize more thoroughly.

  24. boop the first*

    3. I would probably back out, too. Even if backing out because of scheduling seems kind of wishy washy at this point. I get that he didn’t provide a specific schedule, but one evening a week seems pretty minimum for team sports. What was everyone expecting?

  25. The Wall of Creativity*

    After a week of jawdropping posts (raising daughters as whores, 9/11 jokes,…) I was half expecting to get to the end of OP1’s problem and find something saying “It was only the next morning when I realised I didn’t actually have a husband.”

    1. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

      I just snorted at my desk. Got a really odd look from my office-mate.

    2. MegaMoose, Esq.*

      I’m glad I’m not at work yet, because that got a snort of amusement. I was also half-expecting something absurd. As it is, I think OP1’s situation can definitely be handled.

  26. Mina*

    Amen to #3! The organizer is the one being rude and inconsiderate here. He’s counting on the women to go along with what he wants. Maybe he should find a league with less stringent rules and recruit people who actually do want to play. It’s a shame that the OP has to feel that backing out might mean a ding on her professionally. Can’t a person just go to work, do a good job and then go home and live their life? When will it ever be enough?

  27. Name (required)*

    OP 1. it looks like you messed up and you realise that however if you can’t remember what you did then I would suggest you limit any apologies to a general, oops, not sure how that happened, not my normal behaviour and leave it at that.

    At one Christmas party I attended a young employee went upstairs after throwing up downstairs at the party, knocked off a computer and the monitor, made it to the foyer where he passed out and crapped his pants (all over the computer and the monitor as it happened :). He was found by security who called an ambulance, he was so ill he had to have his stomach pumped out. it turned out later he had a medical condition that actually meant it didn’t take much to get him drunk but this wasn’t diagnosed until he was finished his punishment. (over a year)

    he wasn’t fired but was put on performance monitoring for the next year or so. The company changed it’s policy on how much alcohol was allowed at company parties (I was there and they were lining shots up at the bar and there were many many many people in a bad state) to a more responsible policy.

    I’ve also had to do a claim where a senior manager drove a minibus into a fountain because he felt like it after drinking at a company party and the damage bill was $57,000 which the company paid for. Company policy wasn’t changed after that one and a really toxic workplace.

    I’m only raising these examples to highlight that no matter what you might think you have done, someone has done it worse before and with higher impact. While what you did is totally not ideal, there are plenty of people in your position who got in their car, drove home and killed someone on the way home being drunk behind the wheel.

    Put it in context, make verbal (vague) apologies and move on. The other thing I would suggest you do is get a Drs appointment to discuss what happened. From your letter it seems this is out of character for you. This could indicate that you have some underlying health issue that needs attention (ie if alcohol normally doesn’t affect you this way, it could be a health issue you are not aware of. Or maybe someone slipped you a mickey in one of your drinks. If this is a more regular occurrence – which it doesn’t seem to be from your letter – then your Dr may have some options for you – I’m not trying to judge here)

    1. Rebecca in Dallas*

      Wow, your company parties sound wild!

      I wouldn’t jump to the conclusion that the OP has a medical issue, though. She said she didn’t end up eating at the dinner, which for most people means alcohol will hit them harder. I’ve learned that lesson the hard way (thankfully not at a work function!) and it’s generally the kind of mistake you only make once!

      1. Name (required)*

        Those were the days. And I’m grateful for the new policies (not nearly so many messes to clean up)

        I wasn’t intending to jump to a medical conclusion just pointing out it might be worth checking out seeing as OP went to the blur zone when it didn’t seem like this was her normal MO. Sure, she drank on an empty stomach (hey and we all know how that can end) but it seems like it was above and beyond the usual which can sometimes mean medical stuff you are not aware of and wanted to make sure she was aware this could be an issue that’ all. Not jumping to it but OP shouldn’t rule it out either if that’s not her norm. Have to admit to being slightly sceptical of hubbies version as well TBH.

        I remember hugging a toilet bowel one night after only 4 glasses of wine in an eight hour period including eating a full dinner and wondering how come I was so sick (I was probably still legal to drive!) Seven and a half months later my lovely daughter was born (29 years ago) which just meant my body was rejecting alcohol before I knew I was pregnant (hadn’t even realised my period was late to be honest).

        There were some comments upthread (since deleted) which seemed to point to OP being an alcoholic when there are numerous reasons this can happen (including, simply drinking too much :) and trying to put in context that’s all.

        1. Halpful*

          yeah. I had a lot of fun in my 20’s, and hugged a lot of toilets, but I’ve only blacked out twice in my life, and both incidents apparently involved hitting my head (while extremely drunk).

  28. Happy drunk*

    Re #1–does this apply if you’re a “happy” or “friendly” drunk? It’s not unusual for most ppl to drink heavily at our work events but I ALWAYS have a deep feeling of shame and regret days even weeks later. It could be 95% fun and laughter but that 5% nags me later on (when I start to remember). I feel like if I were to apologize ppl would look at me like a weirdo bc they wouldn’t remember? This is my first job, so idk what the norm is.

    1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

      If you’re feeling shame afterwards, i think the only solution is to drink less. You’re probably right that you have nothing to apologize for, but the only real way to be sure is to stay a bit more sober. Too friendly can get into boundary crossing real fast. And even if it’s normal for your workplace, it’s good to break the habit of blackout drinking ASAP.

      1. Happy drunk*

        I’m not sure if it’s black out drunk, because I still remember everything and can comprehend whats happening. I’ve been able to call an Uber a few times in this state. Is that still blacking out? I promised myself I would drink much less this time and I actually did drink less! It’ s just that it was after 6 months of being totally dry, 2 drinks was enough to do it.

        1. fposte*

          Blacking out is about memory, so calling Uber doesn’t mean you weren’t a blackout drunk; remembering calling Uber is what suggests you weren’t. But what matters more is the actual behavior anyway, so if you’re regularly drunk and regularly 5% unpleasant that might be a 5% that mounts up after a while and merits some dialing back.

          1. Malibu Stacey*

            Yup. Basically when you get to a certain alcohol level, it’s sort of like a temporary amnesia – you may be able to walk, have meaningful conversations, pay for something, find your way home, etc., but the part of your brain that forms new memories is not working correctly so you don’t remember it.

          2. neverjaunty*

            Right. If you go to twenty work events, and all of them are fine except for the one where you danced on the CEO’s table or made out with somebody’s spouse in public, literally nobody is going to say “eh, who cares, 95% of the time she’s fine.”

          3. Pommette*

            The behaviour matters. But the shame and doubt are a also a problem. Even if turned out that Happy Drunk is worrying over nothing – and it could be that they are – that worry isn’t a feeling you want to experience on a regular basis.

    2. Alex*

      I’d say if you are drinking enough to not remember parts of the evening, you are drinking too much for a work function. If you’re drinking enough that your behavior is significantly changed, you’re drinking too much for a work function.

      1. LBK*

        I’d agree. Do what you want on your personal time (certainly not in the place to judge that myself!) but at a work event, as soon as you can tell you’ve been drinking I think it’s time to stop.

    3. sunny-dee*

      I don’t drink, so my standard is zero drinks, regardless of however much anyone else is drinking. ;) That said, for my friends who do, they limit themselves to 1-2 drinks MAX. For after work drinks, it’s 1; for a bigger event like a Christmas party it’s *maybe* 2.

      There is never, ever a good time to be “buzzed” in a professional setting. The risk-reward ratio is just too big.

      1. Chicken*

        It’s totally fine to have the above rules for yourself, but there are plenty of industries and people who can have, say, 2-3 drinks, be a little buzzed, and it’s not a problem at all.

        I wouldn’t hesitate to have two drinks at happy hour, or even three if I was there for a couple hours and also eating. I might be mildly tipsy and extra chatty, but I’ve been in that state countless times over many years, and I know myself – I’m not going to do anything inappropriate or that I regret.

    4. Allison*

      Probably. Even if you’re a happy drunk that doesn’t do anything shameful, the loud talking, drunken laughter, slurring and staggering and just *being drunk* can be a turnoff to people, especially if you’re the only one in the group who’s drunk and everyone else is sober or just tipsy. Especially at a work event. You said others drink heavily, but I don’t know their tolerance levels versus yours.

    5. Halpful*

      if you feel that way even when the 5% is objectively trivial stuff you wouldn’t judge someone else for, I’d say it was anxiety. I call it an anxiety hangover; even if I don’t drink enough to have a regular hangover, if I drink enough that anxiety can’t control what I say, it tries to make me regret it in the morning. Occasionally it has a point, but it was going to harass me regardless.

    6. Pommette*

      Fellow happy drunk here.
      I used to have the same dilemma you do. It was made worse by the fact that it takes relatively little alcohol for me to black out. I have lost memories from evenings where I didn’t feel drunk, and where even close friends didn’t suspect, from my behaviour or the amount I had consumed, that I was drunk.
      I’m also terribly shy. I think that I’m legitimately more fun, and have an easier rapport with colleagues, when drunk. I used to work in a field where alcohol was endemic, and where drinking a lot was normal. I honestly don’t think that any of my colleagues thought that there was anything excessive or even noticeable about my drinking. And I don’t think that I ever did anything that outrageous.
      But I always felt worried and weirdly ashamed after events that include alcohol. Those feelings were destructive in their own right. I now have a blanket one-drink rule for work events that involve alcohol. It has eliminated the worry and doubt. Whatever solution you end up finding (no drinking at all; limited drinking; etc.), it’s worth attending to the shame and regret you feel!

  29. Enginerd*

    OP 3 you might point out to the organizer that they might want to look into a male softball league instead of the co-ed. With most leagues I’ve been apart of the male leagues allow women to play but don’t have a minimum required for a game. As long as you can field a team you can play. It sounds sexist I know but when you’re in a male dominated field it can be hard to fill enough of the women slots to play every week without people feeling like they’re being forced to play

  30. LR*

    The ‘greatest weakness’ thing sounds to me like going on a first date and asking someone “tell me the ways you’d be a bad boyfriend.” I can’t imagine getting any sort of useful info out of ‘greatest weakness’ beyond ‘has this person gone to the trouble of pre-formulating an answer to this question which is carefully balanced to provide no real information on their actual weaknesses?’

  31. Cass*

    #5 Wait, why is leaning against door frames weird? I do this. Now I’m wondering if I’m some sort of boundary violator.

    1. Whats In A Name*

      Yes, this kinda caught my attention too. maybe leaning in doorways while meetings are going on (this he is not a part of) ??

    2. misspiggy*

      It’s quite a dominant stance – particularly if other people are going to have to squeeze past you to leave or enter the room – and suggests that you’re as comfortable and informal in the office as in your own home.

      1. Cass*

        Oh I definitely agree with you on blocking passage. I hate when people stop to have a conversation in the doorway. I would never do this in the entrance to a conference room or something like that, but if I’m having a long chat in a coworker’s office (while they’re sitting) I tend to lean against the door frame.

        1. Amber Rose*

          Key words: long chat. But this guy is a new hire, it’s doubtful he’s having long chats with anyone. And since that leaning pose implies a level of comfort and familiarity, it comes off as kind of arrogant for someone you just met (and is likely quite junior in position) to do.

      2. Stop That Goat*

        That really has less to do with leaning and more to do with just standing in the doorway though.

  32. Name (required)*

    OP 5

    My personal view is your new dude had some serious boundary issues, it’s not the individual little things, it’s the combined experience which has tipped off your radar. It would tip mine too. It’s one thing to lean across a door, but combine it with snooping in other departments offices (I call absolute bullshit on the ‘exploring’ thing), playing with other peoples stuff on their desks etc and this just seems like a chap who is pushing the boundaries for all he’s worth to see what he can get away with.

    Even if, as some have said above, he is not well socialised and needs to learn the rules, I would set him firm and strict boundaries with documented consequences so he can’t try and weasel his way out. Maybe his parents didn’t teach him well but he’s in the workforce now and you are not his mother.

    Trust your instincts on this one. ‘I was exploring’ works when you are 5 years old. That’s about the time normal boundaries are set. In the workplace, totally inappropriate. He’s playing you.

    1. aebhel*

      Really? I guess I’m just reading this differently–if he’s wandering into people’s private offices, that’s out of line, but just walking through another department doesn’t strike me as ‘snooping’.

      1. fposte*

        It’s very workplace specific. For instance, you could wander through another floor in our building, but you’d be viewed as out of line just to wander through the building next door, even though that’s the same university.

        I also think the OP probably has a better read on her office norms than we do, and even if it would be fine in your office to do all the things he does, it’s worth noting that plenty of commenters are also mentioning that handling stuff on people’s desks and going into other departments needlessly would be out of step in their workplaces.

        1. Emi.*

          What do you mean by “wander through”? At my university, the students cut through whatever buildings we wanted when the weather was bad, and I can’t imagine that faculty and staff would be frowned on for doing the same. But it might be weird to wander the upper hallways.

            1. Emi.*

              I mean, if you say it’s not okay I’m convinced that it’s not okay. I was just curious about what the parameters of your local “not okay” are.

          1. Name (required)*

            OP specifically said other department’s offices. And what students do at a University is not what is necessarily acceptable in a workplace. Plus new dude is 27 and has previously been a manager. He’s not a young student and he’s not working at a campus. And even on campuses there are no go zones and it sounds like he went there or there wouldn’t be an issue.

            And seriously, a 27 year old trying ‘exploring’ when pulled up for wandering off on his break and wandering into other department’s offices? The only acceptable response to that (as an adult, formerly a manager) would have been ‘Sorry, didn’t realise not cool at this workplace, won’t happen again’. Even if he didn’t know when he did it, he should be old enough and experienced enough to understand when pulled up on it.

            I agree with fposte. OP knows her workplace and what’s ok there.

            1. Emi.*

              Oh my, I was not challenging the OP’s read of the OP’s situation. I was merely curious about fposte’s situation.

        2. Elsajeni*

          Yeah, it’s similar here — we have office suites that run parallel to the main corridor, and while there’s not anything preventing you from cutting through another department’s suite to get to the one on the other side, in practice basically everyone would go out to the main hallway and walk down to the “public” door of the department they’re going to. There’s no particularly good reason for it; it’s just one of those “this is how we do things here” things that will make you look a little out of step.

      2. Turtle Candle*

        I mean, and the LW also didn’t say “walk through,” she said “explore.” Which to me sounds a good bit more involved and potentially invasive than just passing on through from one place to another. If someone wanted to walk through my office, fine; if they wanted to explore it, uh, no.

        Either way, though, if the LW thinks it’s out of step for her organization, she’s probably got a good read on that.

    2. De Minimis*

      Ugh, this takes me back to one of the most annoying people at my former job. You basically had to get rude with him to tell him to stay on the other side of your desk. He would paw over your things while you were sitting there, try to see what you were typing, etc.

  33. Chatterby*

    For “weaknesses” don’t try to be cute or ‘smart’ because you’ll seem like a disingenuous twit who made something up.
    I recommend going with something technical that does give you trouble, and that you’ve been working on correcting.
    This will show that you know what you’re talking about, and that you’re trying to improve.
    For example, for a technical writer job, saying you tend to overuse adverbials or adjectives, but catch and delete them on your first read-through to make your writing tighter.
    Or maybe there’s a complicated task that you can’t do without a reference book, but you want to make sure it’s done correctly so you use the book.
    Or you could say “I’ve been having trouble learning ____ In fact the first time I tried it [insert funny anecdote about things going wrong before you fixed it] But I did take a class/get a reference book/practice more/ asked someone/made myself a cheat sheet, so hopefully ____ will be less of a problem in the future.”

  34. Amber Rose*

    #5: There’s a chance, however small, that new hire is just sort of awkwardly trying to get comfortable with new surroundings. Since ‘exploring’ is just kind of odd and sort of childish, would it be possible to offer him a quick tour? If he’s being guided by someone and you can explain it as showing new guy around, it won’t press on boundaries and also maybe help him feel more comfortable with where everything is.

    If that already happened during orientation (as it usually, but not always, does), then it’s completely fair to point out that he’s already been shown important locations and that he shouldn’t be disrupting work by wandering in areas he doesn’t need to be in.

    1. fposte*

      I think it’s fine to offer him a tour, but it should come in tandem with the information that his current actions are out of step and he should keep a sharp eye on office norms.

      1. Argh!*

        He would have no idea what is or is not out of step, so his previous actions are not really his fault. Rather than being accusatory and derogatory, a tour (even if it’s a 2nd one) of the place with explicit talk about boundaries in between tour stops would obviate defensiveness and make it easier to make the point.

        1. fposte*

          It’s not about fault or not fault. It’s about letting him know that his actions aren’t appropriate in this workplace. That’s more important than the tour.

  35. Amber Rose*

    On a second read through, I want to add a thing to #1: Please spend some time in introspection over your use of alcohol. You don’t have to be an alcoholic or frequent drinker to have difficulties with it. For example, although I rarely drink, my first instinct whenever I’m feeling scared or nervous is to find alcohol. It is one of the major things that led me to seeking medical attention for an anxiety disorder. If you’re using even small amounts of alcohol to cover some issue, it’s pretty understandable for that issue to suddenly burst out of control.

  36. Anon Accountant*

    Best weakness I ever read about online and I want to use “I expect competence from management and coworkers”.

    I’d love to use that but know it’s not possible.

  37. IT geek*

    OP #2

    “My biggest weakness is that I’m just graduating from college, so I don’t know every single nuance of professional life. My previous work experiences at A and B have helped me learn so much, but I’m sure that’s just the proverbial tip of the iceberg. I don’t know what I don’t know.”

  38. Delta Delta*

    #1 – Definitely apologize. I was once on the receiving end of a similar situation, only it involved the intoxicated person screaming at me when I tried to get her something to eat and ultimately locking me out of my hotel room. I was at a conference and luckily there were other people there I knew fairly well and could sleep on the couch in one of their rooms. I received an apology the next day and accepted it graciously, although after that I generally kept my distance from this person. Had I not gotten the apology, though, I probably would have gone to our higher-ups and made a complaint. The apology, although odd and strained, kept me from doing that because I recognized it was a one-off situation and although it was uncomfortable, it was also unlikely to happen again.

  39. OP #3*

    The organizer is very persistent and does not have a lot of actual work to do at work so the league is his main focus. He has thanked me multiple times for “putting my life on hold and rearranging my schedule.” I am 1 of 3 people who have played softball before this so maybe it’s me feeling “needed” that’s holding me back from dropping out.
    My job requires I was a incoming phone queue and I need coverage for that queue when I take lunch. The organizer of the team of is my lunch coverage and I feel he’d be less willing to cooperate if I drop out of the league. It’s not that he could say no, it would just be a very unpleasant interaction to have every day when I have to ask him to cover and he’s one of those unavoidable, friendly coworkers that just make you feel bad when you don’t want to talk to them.

    The organizer had so much interest from the men of our company they ended up making two teams. A Sunday night men’s team and Monday night coed team. Both teams played their first game this week and got mercied. The games did not end until 10PM! I chose not to attend “due to another commitment.”

    1. Amber Rose*

      Well, it sounds like they have a team even without you. And honestly, if he is the type to be unpleasant to work with just because you said no to something, he’s going to end up being unpleasant to work with one way or another.

      It’s fine and reasonable to go to him and apologize and say, “There are things that have come up in my life and schedule that cannot be put on hold, so I need to withdraw.”

    2. neverjaunty*

      So… when he’s pushy, persistent, and tries to guilt you into setting aside your personal life for his hobby, that doesn’t result in a “very unpleasant interaction” – but when you politely decline and establish appropriate boundaries, it does? To the point that he might even stop doing basic workplace courtesies like covering for you during lunch, even though he doesn’t have a lot of other work to do?

      That doesn’t sound friendly and kind. That sounds pretty selfish.

      1. paul*

        At that point I’d be looking at either telling him off or going to a manager about him being an ass (the first is more fun, the second is probably more professional?). My threshold for that stuff is pretty much nil at this point in my life.

      2. OP #3*

        Totally true. I think I got things twisted, trying to see this as him looking to do something for the benefit of the team. I also don’t want to be selfish or get called out for being the stereotypical “indecisive woman.” I should of known better and never committed to this without all the facts.

  40. Observer*

    OP #1 I haven’t read all of the comments, but I want to point something out.

    Getting so drunk that you don’t remember what happened is a problem. Period. Whether it’s a pattern or the first time, only you know. But, you need to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Also, skip the excuses, especially when you apologize, but also in general. You got seriously drunk and made a public scene and were nasty, and that’s on you. No one who watched this or who was the target of your ire cares about your feeling abandoned and maybe being triggered. And, they are totally justified.

    It’s not that you are a terrible person – you are not. And, I do feel bad for you. But, none of that is going to shield you from the consequences of your behavior. And, if this becomes a pattern, then it won’t matter what the reason is.

    Lots of luck.

    1. fposte*

      It doesn’t matter to the answer–if it’s not acceptable for the workplace, it’s not acceptable for the workplace.

    2. Observer*

      Could we PLEASE stop jumping in to this type of armchair diagnosis, based in the most minimal information. Even if the behavior described really sounded like aspergers, it just wouldn’t be appropriate.

  41. Marisol*

    #1 – yes, apologize. It is the only way to move forward professionally/the only way to make amends. Pretending you didn’t do wrong, when people know you did, makes you look unprofessional, amateurish, and childish. Go to the guy(s) in person and make a brief, sincere apology. If they are not immediately graceful or forgiving, listen to them offload (assuming they are not outright abusive) for a bit and agree that yes, you were wrong. In other words, don’t get defensive or justify yourself. If for some reason they don’t accept your apology, be ok with that, wrap up the conversation knowing you did your best to make amends, and leave. However the conversation goes, once you leave their office, consider the matter done and not open to relitigation. So don’t let anyone bring it up and tease you about it in the future. You screwed up, you tried to make amends, you move on.

    DO NOT USE EMAIL under any circumstances. Owning up to your screw-ups is appropriate but there’s no reason to memorialize them. What you put in email is forever. Anyone can forward what you say to anyone else, at any time. Your goal is to move forward gracefully and have everyone forget about the drama. Eventually, if your work remains good, people will forget. NO EMAIL.

    1. Manager-at-Large*

      Agree 100% with the don’t use email – especially not work email. As Marisol said, you can have no expectation of privacy there. A good rule of thumb is to never commit to email without considering if you would be comfortable reading it aloud in court. Imagine yourself, on the stand for your company, with the opposing attorney showing you a print out and asking: “Wakeen, did you send this email?” “Yes I did”. “Please read the highlighted section for the court”

  42. OP#1*

    Alison, thank you for posting my questions and giving me feedback. Thank you for everyone else’s support and feedback as well. I ended up apologizing to the two guys in person, and to my surprise they were very forgiving. One of them was not even aware that I had said mean things to him (or at least he acted like he didn’t know), and the other one just said not to worry about it and that “it happens” and it’s not a big deal. I was extremely nervous and embarrassed, but I feel it was the right choice to deliver an apology in person like you suggested. Unfortunately, I don’t know who else was around and my husband doesn’t either so I cannot apologize to anyone else. I don’t know if my husband’s version of the story is 100% accurate as far as things that were said; regardless, my behavior was unacceptable.
    As far as how much I drank this night… this is the first time that something like this has ever happened to me and it will be the last. I am still ashamed about my behavior and there is no excuse for it.

    1. Lily*

      yeah, maybe it was one of the situations where (if one had been sober) one thinks that one made a terrible awkward mistake in chosing a certain word/making a stupid comment/whatever but no one else thinks anything about it besides “oh, guess they had a brain blob” but you feel ashamed for days.
      Only this time with alcool.

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