update: CEO’s wife ruined my job prospects

Remember the letter-writer last week who felt he’d lost a job offer because he ignored a request to give up his seat on the train — and the person asking turned out to be his CEO’s wife? Here’s the update.

Many thanks for responding to my question so swiftly and for your advice. I also read the comments from readers and was surprised about the volume of those. I see that some people were on my side, so to speak. I have to say that prior to writing, I discussed the problem with my mates and with my parents and the suggestions differed based on, well, the age. It was my neighbour who suggested I wrote to you / an expert.

I just wanted to let you know that I was a bit impatient to wait for your response (plus was not really sure if this works and how long it takes) and did complain to the HR about the whole thing. The HR person denied knowing anything about the incident and claimed it was not the actual reason for turning me down. They said the second top candidate was “a better fit” (I forgot to mention that two of us were competing for this post in the final round). They also alluded to being “over confident” during the interview and advised about “life skills” development, whatever that means. They also advised against offering to pay the dry cleaning bill or mentioning this to the CEO at all. They said I would embarrassing myself, regardless whether his decision had anything to do with it. My recruiter suggested I could speak to the CEO and thank him for the opportunity and present myself in a polite way and offer my services shall there be an opening in the future. I will do this before leaving my placement here. At the end, I want a good reference from this company so do not want to leave on a sour note.

I have since also reflected on what happened. I am still pretty sure the incident was a decisive aspect in the decision. I am also still super upset about it. However, I do acknowledge that you have a point and that some people might not want to employ those whom they perceive as jerks. I wish I had been told the receptionist/janitor/security guard story by career services at my university, which is one of those prestigious English ones. (Note from Alison: This is a reference to advice that you should be polite to receptionists/janitors/security guards when interviewing.) We get a lot of tips about how to write our resume and cover letter and how we should conduct ourselves during interviews, but not this type of real life recommendation. Overall, I think the uni career services are useless and would benefit from reading your blog. In any case, I will keep all of this in mind for the next time.

So all in all, thank you!

Since some people were speculating about the context, I can clarify that it happened on the London overground which allows you to take bicycles on board. All social classes use the public transport here, including bankers, doctors or lawyers and so do their relatives. The CEO really does make final decisions in the hires in this company. It is a special training/employment programme which costs the company quite some money. The programme is his “baby” and he is very invested in it. The HR actually never told me the final interview was a formality and maybe I read too much into their encouragement re: the recruitment prospects. I guess I might have misunderstood my chances from the discussions with the people I have been actually working with. However, my recruiter was surprised I was not selected. Also, the CEO’s wife was not yelling at me when asking for the seat and on reflection, it was a standard and legitimate ask.

I have now also posted my comment on the site. It took me a while to formulate my response as I wanted to ponder the suggestions and I found the number of comments overwhelming.

{ 836 comments… read them below }

  1. Ramona Flowers*

    You should be polite to receptionists/janitors/security guards when interviewing full stop.

    1. CityMouse*

      I mean, if being a decent human being isn’t an enough of an incentive (And it really should be), a slight motivational story: I was once behind a guy in Starbucks who berated the barista and was extremely rude. I was with the judge I worked for who was treating us to drinks. He did not like how the guy treated the barista, who regularly served us and tipped extra to make her feel better. The rude guy then appeared as an attorney in front of my judge. Now my judge is a professional and of course did not hold it against him legally. But in general, you don’t want to risk creating that negative impression right off the bat.

      1. Antilles*

        Kudos to your judge for his professionalism, because plenty of judges, police, etc who absolutely *would* hold it against him. Often, in small, unintentional, subconscious ways – your arguments get a little less traction, he’s a little harsher to nail you for mistakes, and so on.

        1. RVA Cat*

          This. I’m glad for the judge’s professionalism because the lawyer’s rudeness is not *his client’s* fault. I really hate to think there are people in prison because their lawyer did something like that.

          1. CityMouse*

            If it makes you feel better, lawyer was in house counsel for a nasty debt collection group. The clerks and interns always checked their stuff extra carefully because they had some shady practices.

        2. Emily*

          A friend recently appeared in court in order to request an extension on a restraining order for her mother. (She is her mother’s legal caretaker due to mental health issues.) She had asked for an extension in perpetuity, and received only a two-year extension. The judge told her that the reason he denied the request for an indefinite extension was because my friend’s dress was too low-cut for court.


          1. Turquoise Cow*

            A friend of mine was mugged and had to appear in court. The judge commented that he didn’t think she was truthful in her story because she was, and I quote, “a sizeable woman.”

            1. Tobias Funke*

              The intersection of fatphobia and crime is terrifying. Particularly with regard to rape and domestic violence, but really just overall.

            2. Chris*

              There was an extremely interesting set of circumstances in Canada recently that led to some quiet, but sweeping reforms in how preconceptions were handled in the legal system here – I recommend to you that if you’re interested in reading further, you look up ‘why couldn’t you keep your knees together’ (the question a sitting judge asked a rape trial victim), and the Globe and Mail’s ‘unfounded’ series of investigative reports, that found 18% on average, and in some jurisdictions, 30% or more, of sexual assault cases were dismissed as ‘no crime happened here’. Worldwide, the statistical average on false reports is in the 2-8% range. Both of these paint a stark picture of how preconceptions and personal impressions of people alter judgements, even from those who are supposed to be determinedly impartial and thorough. Both have actually sparked some very positive changes, since they came to light, as well.

            3. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

              I hope that judge falls into lava. I’m so sorry all of that happened to your friend.

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            She should complain to her state/local judicial council, if she feels comfortable doing so. It is shockingly inappropriate for him to say to anyone—particularly someone pursuing a permanent RO—that they were denied their request because of their attire.

          3. The OG Anonsie*

            I wouldn’t have known this if I wasn’t a weird voyeur into the wild and wacky world of women’s attire in the legal profession drama via Corporette and Above The Law, but oh my god apparently this is a huge thing. It’s more or less standard and accepted nonsense.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              It’s not standard/acceptable for a judge to render a legal decision and cite your wardrobe as the reason for their decision. What is more common is having a judge refuse to let an attorney appear in court unless they adhere to [arbitrary dress standards], or ordering a party to go change their clothes, or otherwise making a nasty comment about a person’s wardrobe but then issuing their ruling based on law. It’s not acceptable, but it’s often difficult for someone who has to appear in front of that judge repeatedly to make an ethics complaint.

              That said, several judges have been disrobed (in CA, FL, IA, GA, NY, AL and others) for making sexist comments about a woman’s attire as the basis for their ruling or for failing to seriously consider evidence in support of that person’s position. Most of the time, they get away with it because the people they’re beating up on are already disempowered or are attorneys who have other cases pending before the judge who don’t want to jeopardize their clients’ cases. But it’s definitely not accepted/ok, and most states with an ethics/oversight process for judges have treated complaints of this nature very seriously.

            2. LizM*

              A judge commenting on a woman’s attire is shockingly common. However, citing it as the basis for a ruling is a likely a violation of the code of ethics the judge is bound by. I hope that your friend reported this to the applicable committee/board.

              1. K*

                I has a federal judge ask me point blank while waiting for an elevator in a courthouse: “Are you fat or are you pregnant?” They weren’t joking.

                1. mrs__peel*

                  Holy Jeebus!! 0_0

                  I’m so grateful to be in administrative law where I do all my hearings over the phone…

              2. Connie-Lynne*

                My friend to whom this also happened (in fact I’m pretty sure it’s the same person) complained, but unfortunately the judge is set to retire very shortly and so the complaints aren’t being taken very seriously. There’s more of a “well, she’ll be gone soon enough” attitude.

          4. Connie-Lynne*

            Hey! You know my friend Anna!

            I’m so goddamn mad about that judge. One correction, I believe the judge was a woman.

      2. Landshark*

        That’s one thing that I think my college’s career services did a terrible job of conveying, but my professors did an awesome job with. I was taught that EVERYONE is potentially a contact and you’re never truly immune from scrutiny for your conduct unless you’re alone and at home (and even then, don’t be jerks to your neighbors or anything like that). Granted, I was in an education program (where anyone very well could be a parent/student/relative) but it needs to be told to everybody. Your public conduct absolutely matters, because you never know who is getting an impression of you. (I realize that the way I worded this makes it sound paranoid, but really it covers just not being a jerk to others and not doing anything mortifying)

        1. Justme*

          I see teachers from my kid’s school in the grocery store all the time (small town). And if they were jerks to the cashiers, it would make me wonder how they treated the kids in their class. So I totally get that.

        2. Detective Amy Santiago*

          I learned this lesson at a young age because my mom knows *everyone* and I look enough like her that I get random people walking up to me asking “Are you [mom]’s daughter?” I knew I always had to be on my best behavior because there might be someone around who knew my family!

          Plus, I was taught basic politeness.

          1. CityMouse*

            Well and I think a lot of us have been the barista or the janitor or the pizza maker or the kid bagging groceries. I do think everyone should have one of those crappy jobs at some point because no one is too good for them (Obama scooped ice cream once) and everyone should treat people with respect.

            1. Part-time Poet*

              There is a famous, lovely photograph of Obama acknowledging and
              shaking the hand of the janitor cleaning the hall in the Whitehouse. A class act.

            2. Themiscyra*

              Plus a billion! I’ve been a grocery store cashier, I’ve worked retail, and a lot of my family members have long histories in food service. I try to be as nice as I can to everyone by default. The people bringing me my food or ringing up my groceries deserve as much respect as anyone else, and I know other customers are sadly too likely to treat them like crap.

            3. mrs__peel*


              Before I went to law school, I had many poorly-paid jobs where I cleaned up after other people (e.g., cleaning toilets in hotel rooms). Considering the attitudes of many of my peers, I thought that should be mandatory before joining the legal profession.

              (Some of my fellow law students were in their mid-20s and had never held ANY paying job before, which just boggled my mind…)

      3. Joe in Frederick*

        Oh yes indeed. One time I got sued, and went to face the plaintiff in front of a judge. Things went fine, they non-suited. Later that evening, I looked next to me at my synagogue, and right there was His Honor. I shook his hand and said hello afterwards, and he commented, “Yes, you were very polite.”

        Man, I’m fine if that’s how I’m remembered in this world.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      And note that career services may not cover this because it’s expected to be either a given or already learned at home.

      1. KHB*

        And also because the whole point of asking the receptionist/janitor/security guard’s opinion is to identify candidates who act like jerks when they don’t think anybody important is watching. Teaching candidates to slightly tweak their perception of who’s included in “anybody important” doesn’t solve the underlying problem, which is jerks acting like jerks.

        1. Just J.*

          Everyone is relevant. Including and especially receptionists, janitors and security guards. Their job enables my job and for that I an grateful. Being respectful to all people is part of being a decent and productive member of society. Doing it as an “act” to make yourself look better is truly just being a jerk.

          1. Backroads*

            Something of a tangent on the situation, but in junior high there seemed to be a number of kids who gave the janitor more respect than they gave the rest of administration. I remember thinking “but it’s just the janitor!” Turned out the janitor was a local LDS bishop (lay ministry situation) and the kids who knew that weren’t going to mess with that.

            My point is that you shouldn’t bet on seemingly unimportant being important in another way, but at the same time, anyone could have connections.

            1. SignalLost*

              I was having a smoke once when the receptionist came by with a couple of others and announced she was cleaning out Siberia, did I want any old product? What I took (not a lot, tbh) paid my rent when I resold it a few years later after realizing I wasn’t going to use it. She only made that offer to people who treated her and the other woman with the same title well. I was pretty glad I’d been raised to treat everyone well till I have reason not to.

          2. TootsNYC*

            Just last week, I was in the employee kitchen at the same time as the guy with the extra cups, coffee, creamer packets, etc.

            I thanked him for taking good care of us. And told him that he’s an important cog in the wheel too!

            1. Connie-Lynne*

              I once thanked a coworker for making a fresh pot of coffee. We got to chatting. Turned out he was the CEO.

      2. London Engineer*

        The only time I remember being told to be careful of the receptionist’s opinion it was in the context of career/interview advice for 17 year-olds and it was more along the lines of making sure you were professional from the moment you walk in the door and not just slumping in a corner.

        1. Antilles*

          I heard basically the same advice – your interview starts the moment you step out of your car. From then on, anything you say or do could be part of it.

          1. Jadelyn*

            If you drive, your interview starts the moment you leave your driveway. Imagine cutting someone off and flipping them off as you speed away, only to find out that’s your hiring manager.

            1. N.J.*

              I have a cringeworthy story along those lines. I was working a junior level job st a very small place. Too long ago to remember the specifics, but I either merged into a lane a bit too snugly or the other person did. Regardless, he honked at me for doing or perceiving I did something wrong and I threw my hands up in a frustrated gesture. I didn’t see this person’s face. Turns out it was the Assustant Director where I worked. He can into my cubicle and chewed me a blue streak until I was in tears. It was complicated by the fact that he thought me throwing up my hands had included me flipping him the bird. Surprisingly, I wasn’t fired. I just gave him a wide berth the rest of my time there. Geeze, the crap you get yourself into when you are young. In my defense, I didn’t flip him off. In his defense, I was a horrible driver when I was younger, so whatever the traffic incident was seems likely that it would have been my fault.

              1. The Supreme Troll*

                Understand; still, the assistant director’s reaction was overkill. I certainly hope he showed a much more rational side later.

              2. Rebecca in Dallas*

                Haha, I went to lunch with one of my managers once. On our way back to the office, she kind of “paused” at a stop sign but then fully stopped once she realized she would be cutting off the other driver. Other driver proceeded to honk, shoot the bird and shout (I assume) obscenities. That other driver was a new-ish manager of another department. We were both so shocked, we’d been in lots of meetings with this woman and she was always so nice and composed! We saw her very differently after that incident. (And she never acknowledged it, we have no idea if she ever realized she had flipped out at a colleague or just some other random driver.)

            2. KHB*

              And similarly if you don’t drive. That’s kind of how the OP got into this mess in the first place.

                1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  I think KHB is building on Jadelyn’s point by noting that your interview behavior begins as soon as you leave your home, regardless of your mode of transportation.

            3. Ln*

              And as this post may or may not prove, that can be true of your commute even if you DON’T drive.

            4. Barney Stinson*

              Years ago, another HR blogger posted a story about driving to work and just being hounded on the road by a roadrage-y driver, who was honking, tailgating, flipping her off.

              She got to work, the jerk is parking in the same lot, and I think he even yelled at her because she was making him late for his interview.

              She goes into the office the back way, get settled and goes out to reception to greet her (oh, you knew this was coming) yes, interview and guess who it was…neither one of them said a word, but he knew it and she knew it and he did not get the job.

              Karma’s a bitch.

      3. Artemesia*

        Seriously. If someone has to be taught in college by the career office to be a decent human, they they aren’t a decent human. Be polite because someone might hurt you is not about character but about being manipulative. I am amazed that the OP took this to HR and commend HR for their cool. Note they did suggest the OP behaved badly in the interview and needed work on ‘life skills’; that is pretty strong stuff that it is not clear the OP heard. And I am betting that the primary effect of complaining to HR is that this is now an anecdote making the rounds of similar businesses in London which can’t be in his interests.

        1. Machiamellie*

          I wholeheartedly agree.

          The OP comes across in both letters as overly confident (to say it nicely – a ruder way would be “self-centered”). I really think OP would do himself a favor to step back, try to view all of his actions objectively, and look inside himself to see whether he needs to treat all people better as a general rule.

          1. SuperPoodle*

            I think also the underlying theme of both his letters is that he is requiring other people to do the emotional labor of telling him how to behave, and releasing himself from culpability. It shouldn’t take career services to tell him to behave politely (and the fact that they didn’t is not a symptom of how poorly they’re run), and it shouldn’t take HR telling him to work on “life skills” for him to examine his attitude. To be blunt: it is time for the OP to stop relying on (and then blaming) others for behavioral corrections, and take responsibility for his own actions.

            1. K.*

              Totally agree. I was really put off by the “I wish I’d heard the receptionist/janitor/security guard story” line, because again, it comes across as the OP only being nice because it might get him something, rather than being nice for its own sake. The phrase “they perceive as jerks” is telling too, because it puts the onus on the people perceiving him as a jerk, rather than on him being a jerk.

              HR’s feedback was essentially that the OP comes off as a jerk, and based on this and the last letter, he does. I’m not convinced he gets that yet.

              1. Bobbin Ufgood*

                + 1 cannot agree more

                — It REALLY bothers me that the only reason to be polite is to get a job/get what you want. OP gives no evidence that they realize that one should be polite because it’s the right thing to do.

                I also agree that the reason that people perceive OP as jerk is because OP (most likely — based on the evidence of their own writing) *is* actually a jerk. Many of us have a jerk stage in our youth, and I’m really hoping OP’s insight improves here so OP can move past that stage.

                1. tigerStripes*

                  ” It REALLY bothers me that the only reason to be polite is to get a job/get what you want.” Yeah, me too.

                  I wonder if the OP has ever been in the kind of job where people feel like they can be rude you people in that job – that’s not a fun place to be. And basic human decency implies that you treat people decently.

            2. Alex*

              Absolutely. The OP has shown a distressingly transactional view of other people – that you should be polite to people only as much as they can help or hurt you. That attitude won’t get anyone very far in life.

            3. nhb*

              I feel like this is along the “asker” vs. “guesser” line. IME, people who generally behave in a manner as this OP has described him/herself don’t tend to see it as being self-centered, but as a normal way to be, looking out for “number one”. And they don’t understand people who don’t understand that.

              1. Specialk9*

                All of this – HR actually TOLD you, OP, that you didn’t get the job because you were arrogant and rude, and not the best skilled.

                A bunch of us told you the same thing HR did, but you only seem to have heard the people who said what you wanted, i.e. defended you. Well, I mean, ok, don’t learn anything from your mistakes.

                Here’s why people didn’t run to pet you and sympathize like you expected. We had already picked up on the same arrogance and inflated ego that cost you the job, since you said that you “have been very much appreciated by all colleagues” (really ALL? Pftt) and then you said something that sounded even more unlikely about HR repeatedly promising you a job in advance, which they just don’t do, and you later admitted wasn’t true. So you are arrogant and make things up to stroke your own ego.

                So how do you take this in and actually process it? You need to think good and hard about why you are arrogant, why you lie to impress people who haven’t even met you, why you value people primarily based on what they can get you, and why you harangued the people who didn’t do anything wrong. There’s something there that will rot your life if you don’t address it.

                Or, you know, you could become president.

            4. SleepyMel*

              Agreed 100%. I would be mortified if I were told that about “life skills” following an interview, but OP doesn’t seem phased by it much. It’s nice they told OP how they really felt though- that was a kindness.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          “They also alluded to being “over confident” during the interview and advised about “life skills” development, whatever that means.”

          Whatever that means? It means consideration of others, OP. It means having an awareness at all times of how our words and actions impact other people. It’s a quality of life issue.

          1. SSS*

            I agree… The OP was given 3 valid interview-related reasons – 1) the other person was more qualified, 2) “They also alluded to being “over confident” during the interview” which is normally a polite way of saying you came off arrogant and difficult to work with, and 3) “and advised about ‘life skills’ development, whatever that means” which again is normally polite language for needing better interpersonal skills (such as tone, empathy, politeness, conversational ability versus lecturing).

            Despite being told that they were unaware of the incident and you were given 3 reasons all related to the actual interview, you are still insisting that the reason wasn’t based on your interview – “I am still pretty sure the incident was a decisive aspect in the decision”. This is an example that would support their concern of “overconfident” and “needing life-skills” by blaming some external reason rather than taking them at their word and acknowledging that you might want to work on some self improvement on how you present yourself in an interview.

        3. Jadelyn*

          Yes – I absolutely commend their HR for being able to stay calm and for their careful phrasing re “life skills”, lol. I’m not sure I’d have been able to be that euphemistic about it.

        4. Sketchee*

          I think that this is a lesson that many learn in childhood. And that others learn later.

          While I’m not sure it’s entirely career service’s, I find everyday reminders from many sources about being nice and kind. Especially in stressful and inconvenient situations.

          I know that being a jerk at one point in life makes anyone (or the OP) a jerk unchangeably forever. It’s also a nice thought to remember we all weren’t fortunate enough to have beautifully equipped parents and to be kind to those who perhaps didn’t. We’ve all been jerks and perhaps less than decent humans before.

          (One of my friendly self reminders is that all babies are focused on their own needs. We learn as we get older.)

          1. Sketchee*

            Edit: I know that being a jerk at one point in life DOESN’T make anyone (or the OP) a jerk unchangeably forever.

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I understand the intention, here, and I often say it, too (“we’re not the worst things we’ve done,” “people can change,” etc.). But many of the people who were appalled by OP’s behavior did not have “beautifully equipped parents” and still somehow learned to be decent to others.

            Additionally, if OP had been a jerk once or twice and legitimately did not know he was being a jerk, I think the comments would have been more gentle on this follow up. But instead, he gave a response that indicates that (1) he doesn’t realize/recognize his past behavior was jerk-like and wrong for reasons completely unrelated to his hireability; (2) he has no interest in changing his behavior unless it benefits him; (3) he’s unwilling to accept that his conduct could have impacted his hireability, even after HR told him directly that his conduct during his interviews informed the company’s hiring decision; (4) he’s more willing to blame others for his behavioral flaws than to accept responsibility for his lack of knowledge/care; and (5) he took action on a fairly bad idea (raising the issue with HR) because he was “impatient” that Alison had not answered his email. All of those pieces of information indicate a problem with entitlement/selfishness, which is a core characteristic of being a jerk.

            Hopefully OP will do some deep introspection in light of these comments. I would very much like my assessment to be wrong.

            1. JessaB*

              That really stood out to me, moreso than the other arguments, that the OP wrote Alison, actually looks like she answered in about the time she usually does, which is pretty darned quick, and then got up and said “I didn’t bother to wait for the expert I consulted because things” – that the OP wants to portray as Alison’s fault, since she didn’t answer within seconds of his request, never mind time of day or whatever. Even after the OP said above that, that the one piece of advice from anyone he trusted to give such, was “write Alison or someone like her.”

              That right there is kind of the whole thing in a nutshell. OP is only looking for answers that go the right way, which is the way they already decided it should be.

          3. Candi*

            Sketchee, have you been through the past 2-4 years worth of archives enough to note the user named as Temperance?

            If you have, you may have come across the comments where she speaks of her mother’s severe mental health issues, and the other problems with her family.

            Yet, the only issue I’ve seen is she can be a bit bristly at times. She has shown repeatedly that she knows and lives how to be a decent, respectful human being.

            There are others on this site with backgrounds where the users have come out of lousy to horrible backgrounds to become fully functional people. Among many there’s mental health treatments and counseling as they seek the help they know they need, but they do their best to be kind to their fellow humans.

            There’s no excuse for the LW’s arrogance.

        5. Oskiesque*

          Well said, Artemsia. I agree. It’s amazing that OP seems to have glossed over HR’s advice on needing to work on “life skills.”

        6. Djuna*

          I sort of feel like HR was very gently telling someone who believes they are a “brilliant jerk” that only the second word applies. I commend them for trying, but I’m not convinced they were heard.

          I’ve worked with people who are convinced of their own brilliance and will trot out fancy schools they’ve attended, the professions of their siblings (this is a recurring theme, are we supposed to believe brilliance is in their DNA?), and list every certification (they already include in their email signature) at the drop of a hat. I’ve worked with these types across multiple industries, and to a one they were convinced someone had it out for them because they could not progress past a certain point.

          Bluntly, they could not and cannot progress past a certain point because no-one wants to work with them. It’s both exhausting and infuriating to have to work with someone who thinks they’re above the rules of human/workplace engagement because they are smarter/better educated/ just generally “better” than everyone else.

          Added to that, they are never as brilliant as they claim, and they refuse to recognize that their overconfidence and overblown certitude of their brilliance is killing their prospects. It’s someone else’s fault instead, always.

          I was lucky, in college (a fancy one!) to have a friend who was truly, spectacularly, off-the-charts brilliant. He’s still a dear friend, and whenever I meet a “smartest guy in every room” type I think can be turned around, I introduce them to him. It sometimes works. Knowing him saved me from thinking I’m even close to being the smartest person in any room, and I’m eternally grateful for it.

          1. TL -*

            I worked in a lab full of exceptionally brilliant people, headed by an incredibly exceptionally brilliant person, and they were, to a one, all kind and respectful people because our boss prioritized kindness as much as ability.

            1. Djuna*

              Yes, that’s an important distinction. Treating people well (regardless of who you think they are) is not just a cornerstone of how to be a good human, it’s also something that is noticed and valued in any healthy org. Not to the exclusion of hard skills, but as a necessary complement to them.

              It boils down to a very strong argument for showing and not telling. Too often I’ve found that the ones who need to tell you how great they are, really aren’t that great. And these people, stuck in telling mode, intent on “their side” of things, never can step back and see the full picture. They especially tend not to be able to see the greatness in other people. It’s a recipe for unhappiness, not just for them and their thwarted ambitions, but also for everyone else who has to listen to them go on about it.

              OP can certainly learn from all of this this, but that will also mean re-calibrating his way of looking at the world, and adjusting his view of his place in it.

              1. JessaB*

                If I had a choice between supremely brilliant but awful, and pretty darned brilliant but lovely, I can teach lovely to be more brilliant, I doubt I could make awful any better. I’d rather have PDB. Brilliance isn’t an excuse to be a total berk.

                1. Candi*

                  I also wonder how much the brilliant jerk stereotype holds people back because others won’t correct them.

                  I was tested out the wazoo as a kid, but wasn’t diagnosed with Asperger’s (pre latest DSM) until I was in my twenties. (As far as I can tell, the people involved just didn’t know what they were looking at. They tried!)

                  BUT… a lot of my behavior, which combined abruptness and literalness with a dislike of anything social, was not corrected. (Unless you count my mother’s occasional attempts to bully me into being like my sister.)

                  The “brilliant” part comes in a few items:

                  1) My reading interests start with “anything that looks interesting”. History -which interweaves everything else- is a favorite.

                  2) I have an amazing ability to retain information. Being reminded of it, by reading or someone else speaking, or a test, triggers memory and I can tell you aaaaaaalllllllll about the teapots or llamas or whatever, and make connections between the craziest things. (Six degrees of separation? ALL THE TIME. It gets annoying because it rarely stops.)

                  3) I’ve been told repeatedly I am a good writer. I am certainly a better writer than a speaker. In writing especially, I can present and discuss ideas very well and with confidence -with the result I can sound smarter than I likely am. (IQ test? You mean that knowledge test originally developed to assess where students were in their education, relative to their peers? To me it’s bunk as an intelligence test.)

                  I didn’t start getting consistently, majorly corrected until I ran full stop into a coworker at my second job. She was barely older then me, but confident enough to pull the reins and say, “Hey, you don’t want to act like that. Here’s why.” Shout out to her. Even if it took a long time and several teachers to stick.

        7. AfterBurner313*

          I’m absolutely not surprise this person took it to HR, and didn’t learn anything from the big old dope karma gave him.

          The person believes he/she did absolutely nothing wrong at the end of the day. So why not burn up HR’s time? Kudos for HR not laughing in his face.

          I feel bad for the LW. Life will be a hard, bumpy, spikey road of unfair, and it wasn’t my fault.

          For HR to be offered the suggestion of “social skills/life skills” classes suggests more than just jerk.

          Because we don’t arm chair diagnosis, I’ll leave it at that.

          1. Turtledove*

            Sounds more like code for “you need to practice getting along with people and learn how not to act like a jerk”, to me. Being ‘socially awkward’, no matter what diagnosis you suspect might lurk under that, doesn’t inherently mean ‘jerk’; someone who’s socially awkward is more likely to be keenly aware of when their behaviour isn’t matching up to what’s expected and try to correct it when prompted.

            OP doesn’t seem to be aware of why their behaviour was wrong to begin with.

        8. SarahBot*

          If someone has to be taught in college by the career office to be a decent human, they they aren’t a decent human.

          While I agree with the sentiment that college careers offices are probably best suited to focus on their specific areas of expertise (such as they are) when teaching students, I do want to challenge the idea that someone can’t be a decent human if they haven’t learned those skills up to that point.

          I have an extremely dear friend who was raised by truly awful people, and she will freely admit that she has had to teach herself many of these types of skills, because they were never going to be taught to her in her family life. For example, when we go grocery shopping together, I will often be the person who says, “thank you – have a great rest of your day” to the cashier, which is something she often forgets to do because it wasn’t reinforced for her a million times a day growing up the way it was for me. The difference between my friend and what I’m perceiving of the OP is that my friend is aware of this gap, pays a lot of attention to the world around her to try to close the gap, and is very good about apologizing to people when that gap causes social tension.

      4. EA*

        Yea, Like you should treat all people well, because it is the right thing to do, not because it helps you get a job.

        1. NLMC*

          That is exactly what I was thinking while reading as well. It’s not about the interview it’s about once you have the job, or when you’re at the restaurant, or the mall or whatever. Being a good person means treating everyone with respect regardless of their job.

        2. blackcat*

          Yeah, one time when I was teaching, I spent like an hour helping a stranger in a crisis on my way home from work. I was apparently still wearing my ID badge, because a week or so later, the stranger emailed both me (to thank me) and my headmaster (to say she know had a much better impression of the school since they employed such kind teachers).

          My headmaster was mostly weirded out by the entire thing. I got a talk including “It’s good your putting a good face on the school” along with a reminder to “remember to remove your badge in public because people are weird and creepy, and the badge tells them your name and where you work.”

          You shouldn’t be kind in public because word might get back to your boss. You should be kind because that is the right thing to do.

          1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

            That is so kind of you, and I’m really weirded out by your headmaster’s response! It’s good to be concerned about safety, but this wasn’t the time for it. You should have been congratulated.

            I think there are people who Just Don’t Get why others are kind. They simply cannot fathom it. Thankfully, they seem to be in the minority.

      5. Jesmlet*

        Yeah it’s not a career center’s responsibility to teach people not to be jerks. It really should be a given. Also, I wouldn’t want to give that advice because then people who would normally behave like assholes would just fake nice to benefit themselves in the moment.

      6. Spooky*

        Exactly. It’s not your career center’s job to teach you how to be a decent human being.

        1. Trudy*

          It’s not your career center’s job to teach you how to pretend to be a decent human being

          I don’t get the impression OP has the intention of changing on a fundamental level, just enough to get a job, which is a pity really because the world could use more decent human beings.

      7. GraceW*

        Or by reading self-help books or by paying attention whilst wandering around the world.

      8. Kelly*

        Bingo. I was taken aback at his comment that it was his school’s job to teach him not to be a jerk. Is that a cultural thing? Seriously, I’m still blinking rapidly in astonishment at this update. WTF doesn’t even begin to cover it.

    3. Alli525*

      Indeed. Learning “which” people to be polite to (and “when”) entirely misses the point.

      1. Grey*

        I’m still not clear on this. I know I need to be nice to the receptionist and janitor (except on the weekend), but what about the mailman? He doesn’t technically work there, so I can be rude to them all the time, right?

        If it needed to be said, I’m not serious.

        1. Specialk9*

          No worries, you can kick the mailman in the shins if you want. No hiring manager talks to the *mailman*.

      2. Annonymouse*

        I always make a point to be polite to service people at all times because:

        1) I’ve worked/work in customer facing jobs and know exactly how crappy some people can be and the type of behaviour you have to put up with. You wouldn’t stand for it in your personal life, you’d say something or otherwise stand up for yourself.

        2) Being nicer often gets you better results. People are more willing to help if you aren’t attacking them for stuff that clearly isn’t their fault. (Of COURSE it’s the cashiers fault that the price is wrong and not the owner. Eye roll).

        3) Receptionist have more power than you think. Like an office manager they’re part of the glue that holds it all together and higher ups appreciate their judgement.

        4) I’m a human being and so are they. They deserve human decency until they prove otherwise.

        I’m glad you learned an important lesson about how all actions can impact how we are perceived at work, not just our work. (What we say/post online is another example of this. I mean in a lots of drunk Facebook photos and rants kind of way.)

        And that the toes you step in today might be connected to the ass you need to kiss tomorrow.

    4. Kiki*

      I was gonna say this. You shouldn’t need your career services center (or anyone, really) to tell you to be a decent human.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Eh, if you don’t learn it at home, schools don’t offer “decent human being 101”, so that leaves trial and error methods. And it starts with realizing we need to grow ourselves and probably always will need to grow ourselves.

    5. Miso*

      I’d even say you should be polite full stop.

      (Of course there are always exceptions where you don’t need to be polite anymore, but in general? Be polite!)

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Doctor: Patient, you are carrying to much weight. You are morbidly obese.
        Patient: Doctor you are rude! Quit calling me names!

        Yes, true story.

        There’s a lot that goes into learning how to be polite. In this example here, Patient misunderstood and assumed rude intentions.
        OP was caught by surprise realizing the story of her reactions was relayed to other people. But this is fairly normal stuff. I think most people here go home and tell their SO’s/friends/etc something about the rude driver they encountered today or the rude store clerk. People talk about other people’s poor behavior and poor choices, that is what they do.

        1. MyFakeNameIsLaura*

          I disgaree with your example but not your lesson. “Morbidly Obese” is a medical classification (one under scrutiny due to questions about the validity of using BMI for individuals in the first place but I digress), and the doctor needs to clarify that otherwise it sounds like they are making a *personal judgement* about the patient, which may cross the line into rudeness or at bare minimum be considered unprofessional.

          1. awkwardkaterpillar*

            And just because the person making the statement is a doctor doesn’t mean there is not fatphobia at play as well.

            1. Super Anon for This*

              Disagree. Morbidly obese is a factual thing, like blood type, that the medical community at large has agreed on, and has set standards for. It doesn’t matter whether your doctor likes you or not, is fatphobic or not, you can still be morbidly obese.

              1. SandrineSmiles (France)*

                Although I’ve read that “morbidly obese” only means your obesity might be a factor in other illnesses, yet doctors use the term willy nilly to scare people off because you hear “morbid” and you understand “omg I’m going to die”. I stopped caring ages ago (eff ya, fatphobic docs) , but recently someone actually explained it to me and I went : OMG.

    6. AMPG*

      THIS RIGHT HERE is the “life skills development” you were advised to acquire. Please take it to heart, OP.

      1. TootsNYC*

        Also, don’t gloss over that bit about being “over-confident” in the interview.
        You came across to us as something who thought this job was already theirs, and as someone who thought they had a right to complain about not being hired.
        Put that together with this feedback from HR, and I’d say you need to work on your expectations, your humility (which doesn’t mean being abject), and your sense of entitlement.

        They also alluded to being “over confident” during the interview and advised about “life skills” development, whatever that means.

        Don’t dismiss this (your “whatever that means”).

        1. Leatherwings*

          Yes, I agree that the whole situation in context (the HR feedback, the train, the tone of the last letter) means the OP is probably coming across as more arrogant than they intend to.

        2. Detective Amy Santiago*

          Yes, this.

          A friend at OldJob was the top candidate for an internal promotion. He was overconfident going into his interview and ended up losing the promotion because another candidate went above and beyond and really impressed the hiring committee.

          The feedback he got was essentially “we were expecting to give you this job, but you acted like you knew that and didn’t try hard enough”.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        OP, I can’t tell you how you should feel about anything.
        But if someone said that to me I would be devastated.

    7. Ramona Flowers*

      “Be nice to other people. At the universal level, they are you.” – The Humans, Matt Haig

    8. Grey*

      Yeah. That stood out to me too. It’s what’s expected of you as a human being, not just as a job applicant.

    9. Buffy*

      Yes…that’s exactly what I wanted to comment. If a career advisor needs to tell you to be polite to someone…I think the war has been lost, you know? Definitely something to reflect on.

    10. Snargulfuss*

      Exactly. While it is useful for career services offices to point out, it’s not their job to teach people to use common decency and kindness in their daily interactions.

    11. CMF*

      THIS. If you need to be told to be polite to other people, especially when interviewing (?!?) you have a problem. The whole point of an interview is to make a good impression.

    12. misplacedmidwesterner*

      Yeah I am more than a little upset that this person felt that their university should have taught them that.

      You should be polite to people. Full stop.

      Polite should be your default.

    13. LesleyC*

      Yes. The OP’s surprise at that mandate is…telling. IF the CEO’s wife happened to mention the train interaction to him, and IF the CEO had occasionally observed/heard of the OP being rude to others around the office, then the decision not to hire becomes a very easy one indeed.

    14. LKW*

      Why does anyone need to tell you this? Seriously, this confuses the hell out of me? Why are you not polite and courteous to people who cross your path and in particular who work for the same company or company you want to work for? Do you snap your fingers at waiters? Forget to say please / thank you to flight attendants? Hold open doors for people in suits but not for those in work uniforms?

      What the hell?

      1. Not So NewReader*

        We do what we see around us.
        If we do not see others around us being polite to strangers than we are less inclined to believe that kindness to strangers is of any importance.

        OTH, some people may think that it is an unrewarding waste of energy.

        Last, people who are struggling to get from one day to the next are going to have a lower awareness of others.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Last, people who are struggling to get from one day to the next are going to have a lower awareness of others.

          People often say this, but in my experience, I have not seen it borne out, with the exception of individuals with profound symptoms of mental illness that fundamentally alter their perception of reality. With that caveat, oftentimes the people I meet who are unfailingly polite, generous or kind are often people who are struggling. I’m not saying this to romanticize poverty or mental health problems, but I have not found those who have suffered/struggled to have the same empathy and politeness gap as those who have never had to do either.

          1. x*

            Cosigned. People who are jerks to people out and about (service positions, strangers on the bus, etc) are that way because they’re entitled and selfish. Full stop. Mental illness and poverty affected the way I treat others by making me hate myself and terrified of social interaction, which resulted in unfailing politeness and respect. No matter how miserable and out of touch with reality I get, I never forget how crappy a job waiting tables is.

            And furthermore, I see people treating cashiers like crap all the time, have since I was a little kid – and it’s never escaped my notice. I think it takes either a pretty self-absorbed, childish person, or a heavily indoctrinated person, to see people getting treated poorly around them and not think, “That’s bad. I wouldn’t want to be treated like that. That’s a person and people shouldn’t be treated poorly.” Like, I think this should go without saying.

            So I’d disagree with you, NSNR, in your assertion that somebody who’s having a rough go of it and/or is exposed to rudeness is going to accidentally be rude. OP is simply a rude person who not only doesn’t care how rude they are, they also don’t think being rude “means” anything. What IS rudeness? Answer: Who cares? Rudeness is perceived by the recipient of rudeness, and if OP doesn’t give a crap about that person, then the rudeness doesn’t exist.

      2. Nevertheless*

        I’ve seen this in people with social disorders. They understand structure/order and respecting things that outrank you in whatever way, but not how to behave in general social situations. What we take as “common sense” or obvious, they don’t.

        I don’t want to armchair diagnose over the internet, but the general tone of these letters has had me wondering.

        1. Just Jess*

          Without going into armchair diagnosis territory, we can say that there are people who believe that they are being assessed only on their technical job skills when they go to interviews. It’s rare to have an interview that doesn’t explore the technical aspects of the job at least somewhat, but job interviews disproportionately assess likability and ability to communicate.

        2. Elizabeth H.*

          Writing “I don’t want to armchair diagnose over the internet, but the general tone of these letters has had me wondering” conveys exactly the same thing as it would if you actually wrote “I think this person has a social disability” . . .

          1. Tau*

            Yes, and as a person with a social disability I’d appreciate it if we refrained from going down this road again. It’s not useful, insulting, and against site rules anyway.

          2. Nevertheless*

            I disagree. A lot of people are jumping to conclusions about OP being a terrible person when there could very well be explanations for this outside of s/he being a person who is purposefully cruel to people. The tone and utter disbelief/lack of understanding makes me wonder if that’s true or if there are other explanations. I was offering up a personal example of an alternative. I have family members that do stuff like this because they have social disorders – not because they’re bad people. I’m not saying this person has a social disorder. I’m saying that we should be open to other explanations other than “jerk”.

            I’m not sure how that’s insulting. I think its more insulting that we’re assuming s/he is a “jerk” and some of the other name calling that’s going on here. If we’re citing site rules, being unkind to letter writers is also one of them.

            1. Tau*

              OK, so.

              There is a real, genuine pattern of people jumping on reported incidents of rude or inappropriate behaviour going “but what if they’re autistic?” (Which, FYI, I am assuming is what ‘social disability’ is code for here.) This draws a strong connection between jerk-like behaviour and the autistic spectrum. It’s insulting to those of us on the spectrum who go to real effort to be polite and respectful, and wouldn’t dream of behaving the way reported here. It’s also stigmatising, because it means that people reading who don’t know much about the autistic spectrum will (possibly unconsciously) go “OK, so autism looks like being a jerk. Got it.” And then the rest of us have to deal with that preconception.

              I also find that armchair diagnoses tend to be short on actionable advice. Often, as here, the implication is “so we shouldn’t be so hard on the guy, he might not be able to help it.” Although it looks nice on the surface, this is actually often a very unkind thing to suggest. Especially if you’re right. Autistic people often benefit the most from having our inappropriate behaviour spelled out for us clearly, while trying to wrap the criticism up to be “nice” and “go easy on them” may make it impossible for us to actually understand what you’re trying to say. I had a number of people in my life as a teenager who either entirely refrained from or were very oblique about telling me about the many ways in which I was violating social norms in an attempt to be kind. Trust me, they did me no favours.

              1. Lynne*

                Yes, all of this. Autism or social awkwardness or (insert whatever) does not imply lack of *kindness*. A kind person who doesn’t have physical reasons for needing to keep a seat on the train would, when requested directly, give up her seat. A kind person who has autism might even be grateful that the asker was straightforward in asking rather than hinting.

                Whether or not OP is on the spectrum isn’t relevant to the real problem here. The problem seems to be a lack of kindness and consideration for others – an awareness that others’ needs are as important as his own. I do believe it’s possible to develop better empathy as an adult, if you’re mindful and work on it, and I hope you choose to do that, OP. There are resources out there for this if you do a bit of Googling.

              2. CarolynM*

                I think a lot of people like to slap a diagnosis on behaviour that goes against norms to sooth themselves. If you can give something out of presumed norms a name, you can normalize it for yourself. People go to great lengths to relieve cognitive dissonance! Most people don’t want to believe there are Bona Fide Grade A Blue Ribbon Gold Star Jerks in the world who are jerks for no other reason than they are just jerks!

                If you move through the world as a generally happy, generally nice and generally good person, you tend to believe that is true of others and when there is a difference, explaining the difference away with an armchair diagnosis lets you get right back to that belief that everyone is good and nice and if they are not, there is a diagnosis so it isn’t their fault, ergo you’re not a jerk, you are misunderstood!

                A lot of people have a very hard time actually believing that another person can just be … not such a great human being. They want a reason for it – in their perception, something has to have happened to you or you have to have some condition if you don’t stay in the same lane as the rest of society. But in their quest for THE REASON, they usually wind up making the wrong conclusion, and you are right – all too often, Autism is blamed for any jerk-like behaviour. If it means anything to you, when I read the OP and the update, autism spectrum disorder didn’t even occur to me … but something else certainly did.

                I can empathize with your frustration and I agree that it is asinine for people to armchair diagnose … but here I go, finding reasons and excuses for THEIR behaviour! LOL

                We all run into not-so-great humans – some of us accept that they are out there, keep a wary eye out for them and give them wide berth and know them for what they are. And as frustrating as generally good and nice people can be when they try to find excuses for unusual behaviour, I will always have a special place in my heart for people who refuse to believe that people can just be bad to the core. And aside from the issue of blaming jerk behaviour on autism and the like which you explained so well in your post, an armchair diagnosis which helps you explain away anything outside of your expectations makes you a sitting duck if you guessed wrong and you are trying to make excuses and find reasons for dangerous people with bad intentions.

                I truly sympathize with your frustration at the conflation that autism = jerk behaviour because I don’t find that true at all! I have a few people in my life on the spectrum and I tend to appreciate the lack of BS and manipulation! And you make an excellent point – in my experience, explaining the reason for a social hiccup clearly and directly to someone on the spectrum is usually met with appreciation … that same explanation to someone who is just a not-so-great-human will not be met the same way at all.

    15. Middle Name Jane*

      I didn’t have to be told to be polite to receptionists/janitors/security guards, etc. I was raised by my parents to be polite to others. When I became an adult and started reading various articles on job interviewing that advised being polite to those who weren’t directly interviewing you, I was kind of blown away that people had to be told that. To me, it’s a given. It’s like being told not to have typos on your resume or cover letter. Hello!

      1. PaperTowel*

        Yes, that’s the privilege of having parents who cared enough and had enough knowledge to teach you social skills like politeness. Not everybody has this!

      2. Queen of the File*

        Interestingly I met someone recently whose parents instilled in her the idea that the world is a competition and everyone will do what they need to do to win; being polite is just a tactic; scarcity etc. You need to look out for you because nobody else is going to. It’s so, so different from my parents’ outlook and it helped me have a little more empathy for why being nice/selfless/considerate seemed really really hard for her. My parents got an extra thanks from me after that conversation.

        1. PaperTowels*

          Yeah, it’s super interesting how everyone receives different messages from their parents and culture growing up! I see a lot of ‘my folks taught me politeness when I was in nappies, what’s wrong with these people?’ posts that fail to acknowledge that not everyone has that benefit or that social conditioning to set them on the right path.

          1. Candi*

            There’s only so far the ‘parents didn’t teach me’ excuse works, though. As someone gets older, even if they still need to physically live at home, they become more responsible for their own informal education. That includes social skills as much as finding out how much fun history is, or learning to use herbs/spices so food doesn’t taste bland, or (healthy) workplaces don’t begrudge you moving on.

      3. Mallory Janis Ian*

        Maybe I’m revealing how very long ago it was that I was in elementary school, but don’t schools kind of teach some social behavior, too? For example, when I was a child, my parents taught me politeness to others at home, and then their teaching was reinforced and expanded upon by my elementary school teachers. In addition to teaching us how to read, do math, etc., they continued the teaching we’d received at home about being considerate to others. They intervened in any unkindness that they saw; enforced the idea of taking turns and sharing; helped us learn how to make friends, etc. From kindergarten to grade 3, they even sat at the lunch table with us and enforced table manners, ensured polite and inclusive conversation, and made sure we ate at least a little of each thing on our trays. I wonder if the push toward more academic substance in earlier grades means that teachers have less time for such social instruction, but it was certainly a big part of my early elementary education.

        1. PaperTowels*

          I was at primary school a couple decades ago and we were never taught manners or social skills like that. I think these days teachers (here in the uk at least) are so incredibly overworked and stressed they simply don’t have the time for anything extra that isn’t on the curriculum or going to be tested, sadly.

        2. AMPG*

          I currently have a child in elementary school, and “code of conduct” – respect for others, the school as a whole, and themselves as students – is a huge part of the school’s culture. I think there’s a renewed emphasis on character development at young ages.

        3. Turquoise Cow*

          It’s been a while since elementary school, but a bunch of kids seem to learn the “be polite” or code of conduct rules when the teacher or a parent or some other authority figure is standing over them and disregard it otherwise.

          If it’s one teacher and a dozen or more kids, there’s no way the teacher knows what is happening even in the classroom. And while helping one student, they’ve no idea what’s being said the other side of the room, never mind on the playgrounds. Kids learn behavior from multiple sources.

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            That’s not my experience with my kid who is currently in elementary school. The code of conduct is consistently discussed and demonstrated by all the adults, and the kids are pretty good about following the rules.

            It helps that the rules are short, there’s not a lot of them, and most of the kids have been in this school since kindergarten, but the kids reinforce each other pretty well outside of the teacher’s view, so far.

            1. x.*

              I do feel like there was a cultural shift, though. I have a 7-years-younger cousin who grew up down the street from me, and we both went to the same elementary school. In my time, the attitude seemed to be “don’t make visible trouble” and ended there; we were certainly welcome to bring things up with teachers if we got upset, but the approach was reactive, rather than proactive. When younger cousin was there, there were codes of conduct and frequent age-appropriate discussions re: creating and enforcing social norms that make for a collectively kind and accepting environment. We’re 27 and 20, respectively. Maybe the boomerang came back around?

        4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Many schools, today, teach “lifeskills” and “character” as part of the core elementary curriculum. Of course this is not universal, but it’s more common, today, than it was when I was in elementary school.

    16. Kim*

      I’m a graduate of one of those British “prestigious universities” and somehow I know to be kind to janitors, etc. Because, well, they’re people.

        1. JTD*

          I’m just wondering which former poly scalping the overseas market he actually went to (disclaimer – I’ve also studied at a former poly, but it’s the weird phrasing of “one of those prestigious English ones” that makes me suspect it’s not that prestigious over here).

          1. min*

            I may be misinterpreting, but this comes across as though you believe the LW was an overseas student at a UK university and I’m curious as to why. The spelling and verbiage all come across to me as British, but I’ve only lived in England for 11 years so maybe there’s some nuance that I’ve missed? (Honest curiosity here, not criticism.)

            1. JTD*

              Yes, their English reads as if it has a veneer of British English and as if their first version of the language is US/International. It’s a style I’m more used to reading from my non-UK/Irish colleagues. (Londoner for 20+ years, Irish originally, editor on a publication with an international staff.)

        2. Y*

          People who phrase it like that went to Durham, and are still bitter about it (hence the massive shoulder-chip).

            1. Y*

              Ah yes, that little ‘in’ (‘I went to University in Cambridge’).

              ‘I asked you whether he had been to one of the great universities, Oxford, Cambridge, Hull …
              What you didn’t spot is that only two of those are great universities.’

      1. SignalLost*

        Same. I didn’t need classes at my British “prestigious university” on being polite, which is good because it meant I got to spend more time studying long-term conflicts.

      1. Elizabeth H.*

        I do. He realized he had been rude and that she had not (in asking for the seat). He also learned that you get better results in life when you act polite to other people. That seems fine to me. Regardless of whether you act more politely in future because you feel it’s the right thing to do or because you think it is more advantageous to you, the outcome is the same.

        1. R*

          I don’t agree, actually, because he’s still just playing Rudeness Minesweeper. He’s trying to figure out which people he’s “allowed” to treat poorly – i.e. the people less likely to affect his job prospects.

          And furthermore, HR explicitly told him he didn’t get the job because he was smug and rude, and he doesn’t seem to have grasped that that meant anything. OP’s disregarded their advice and continues to fixate on this one act of unkindness as some kind of “it turns out my childhood rival is my new client, what do?!” situation.

          In reality, this act is proof of what kind of person he is: a rude and selfish person. Not a regular guy who happened to ignore the wrong woman, but a rude person and a selfish person. You can’t cover that up with insincere behavior. I’ve been a cashier for a long time, and I can always pick out the rude people who were trained to be polite because it gets them results. That “politeness” is a thin veneer that’s prepared to evaporate the second their coupon doesn’t scan. Training his behavior won’t actually solve the real problem. He has to do some serious reflection about what kind of person he is – he has to decide to be a good person – and saying “be nice to people on the way to your interview because what if they’re the CEO’s wife” is just duct tape over a leak.

    17. Blaine_*

      I really don’t think being kind should be something you need to be taught at a university – you should just be that as a human being existing in this world.

      The response is more cringing for me then the original letter.

    18. Anon today...and tomorrow*

      Agreed. One of my first jobs was as a manager in a woman’s clothing store. We had a regular customer who would come in weekly and treat the staff like garbage. She would bring in her teenage daughter who would eat at our counters while the woman shopped. The woman would try everything on and leave piles of clothes on the floor, balled up and inside out, for us to clean up. She would talk to us like we were nothing because we worked and she didn’t have to thanks to her husband’s job. I bit my tongue because she would come in every week and buy hundreds of dollars worth of clothes. She stopped coming in for a while and then one day she came in with bags and bags of clothes (tags still on) and wanted to return them. She didn’t have a receipt and our store policy was we could issue a refund but only for the price the clothes were currently selling at. Some of the clothes were marked down as they were from the previous season. The woman’s husband had lost his job and was forcing her to return clothes and she wanted full retail. I probably could have bent the rules for her – one human being to another – and given her a full refund but all I could think about when I started unloading the bags was how she had treated us. She had actually told her daughter, in front of us, “don’t you ever work in a place like this. You’re too good to do something this small.” That was the driving force guiding me as I stuck to the store policy and only gave her what the clothes sold at. I’m older now and might make a different decision based on life experience, but I still stand by what 22 year old me did.

      1. SignalLost*

        I … don’t think you should, honestly, if you had it to do over again. Aside from being polite to people generally, we should expect that what we give other people is what we get back. I don’t have a lot of time for the person that I used to be friends with who I only hear from when he wants help moving.

      2. Floundering Mander*

        I think 22 year old you did the right thing. Why should she be rewarded for long-term jerky behaviour which might have put you at risk of losing your job for bending the rules?

      3. ashley*

        What a horrible woman. I hope her daughter decides she wants to be the opposite of her.

    19. Mockingjay*

      Dear OP, I worked my way through college as a janitor. I remember vividly the people who treated me like dirt and the others who praised my work ethic and encouraged me to complete my education.

      Now I am the manager. Which person do you think I will hire?

    20. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Yeah, this was kind of surprising. I feel like OP may have missed the point. Granted, the comments were very stern, and I understand feeling overwhelmed. But “fit,” “overconfidence,” and “life skills development” indicate, to me, that OP was not hired for reasons that go beyond his interaction with the CEO’s wife. I think it’s amazing that HR provided a pretty significant piece of feedback, but OP just brushed it off as “whatever that is.”

      OP, I think you’re being a little selective about what you’re hearing. HR’s comments indicate that you came off over-confident and possibly entitled in your interactions. And note that you, yourself, described a conversation with the CEO as a “formality” when the company did not, in any way, give you that signal. Yet you’re still convinced that the CEO’s wife tanked your employment prospects. Please take a little more time to reflect on why, even after being provided direct feedback, you are discounting or ignoring that feedback. Instead of focusing on your behavior, you’re focused on a scenario in which you think you’re less “responsible” for the outcome of this interview. Why is that?

      And even with respect to being polite, you’re focused on being polite only if it benefits you in hiring. I think that misses the point, as Ramona Flowers has identified. Why are you making that choice?

      You don’t have to answer my questions, of course. But I think there’s value in taking time to explore those questions with very frank honesty and self-awareness.

    21. Future Dev (formerly CA Admin)*

      So true. Just be nice to people. Period.

      Story time: I was working retail at a pet food shop right after college because the economy was bad and what I’d thought I wanted to do was no longer right for me. (I also made similar mistakes as the OP with my first post-college contract job and didn’t get hired permanently when they changed the position type. I cringe when I think about my behavior there.) I went to an excellent university (arguably the most prestigious public university in the world and one that regularly makes “best of” lists, it rhymes with “Lerkeley”) and had worked menial jobs before, but not without school as an excuse or without parental support. The knock on my ego was really tough at the time, but I did my work, treated my fellow employees with respect, and helped customers no matter how rude or friendly. I swallowed my pride and worked my ass off–thinking that you’re “above” certain work or certain people doesn’t pay the bills.

      One day, I’m heading up to the break room to clock out and I see someone looking at dog food with a giant mastiff mix. Rather than continue on, I stopped to help her and spent 30 min longer than I’d been scheduled to get her sorted. The next day I step into a second round interview for a Receptionist position (yes, the title was “Receptionist”, for those who found that unlikely in the other thread today) at a prestigious private equity firm and the person interviewing me was the woman I’d helped the night before. In the end, it came down to me or another person and I won because my former customer had vocally supported me, since she’d seen my work ethic, friendliness, and helpfulness at the other job.

      Now, this wasn’t what I wanted to do forever, but the pay was better, the hours were normal, and it wasn’t as emotionally draining as retail. I climbed the ladder there. I worked my ass off, I was helpful and friendly, and I used my hard skills to become invaluable. I was promoted from Receptionist to Admin Assistant with my own team and within 4 years of starting at the bottom, I was an Executive Assistant supporting a group head and his team. They paid me enough (especially with the promotions) that I could save up to go back to school. When I put in my notice, my boss said that he doesn’t know how they’ll replace me because I’m the best assistant they’ve ever had. I almost cried.

      Basically the moral of the story is that intelligence (or a good education, or excellent hard skills, etc.) don’t guarantee you the kind of life you want or the jobs you think you deserve. You need to treat people well because you never know who’ll give you the break you need to get that foot in the door. And more than that, you need to treat people well because they’re people too–you aren’t better than they are just because you’re smart, well educated, or from the “right” background.

      1. H*

        I think you’ve made an excellent point – OP seems to think that he’s a superior selection for a job position by virtue of being smart enough to attend a prestigious university. And here you were, a Lerkely grad, working a retail position. That didn’t diminish your worth as a hire, did it? No! You were just as intelligent and had just as much potential when you were selling dog food than when you were graduating from Lerkely and than you are now – though I’m sure you’re even more mature and worldly now than you were then :)

        So, kudos on being an indispensable assistant, dude. Clearly your merit’s in your instinct and work ethic – not in your degree.

    22. Sara*

      Exactly. Doesn’t need to be taught in uni. However, it is helpful to know (and teach) that many things factor into the hiring decision. Life lesson learned.

    23. constablestark*

      The fact that the letter writer complained about career services not teaching him this is pretty mindblowing. That’s basic decency and barring learning it from home, you should have learned it during your formative years? Also, being nice to receptionists/janitors/security guards just because you’re interviewing is a pretty short con. People would learn about your true character quickly.

    24. Chandler Bing*

      The allusion to LW possibly being an Oxbridge student actually means that attitude makes sense … unfortunately. Self-proclaimed superiority is inherent in the walls of the universities.

    25. Lauren*

      Yeah, I find it extremely odd that the OP Was annoyed that he had never been given the advice to be polite to people working at the place they’re interviewing at. “Being polite to people” is kinda a given; not being rude to people working at the company you’re trying to get into? No brainer.

      The fact that “be nice to people” is considered specific ADVICE for interviewing, and they “wish they had been told” this advice (meaning they never figured it out for themselves) doesn’t exactly pain the OP in a good light!

    26. Tristan Callan*

      +1 million

      I don’t think they neglected to teach OP that at his “prestigious English” uni because they’re too stuffy. They didn’t teach him because they expected that he would have learned that as a child!

  2. Rubyquartz*

    Maybe I’m in the wrong here, but OP shouldn’t need career services to tell them to be polite to outward facing roles or risk looking bad. Polite should almost always be the default.

    1. Colorado CrazyCatLady*

      It’s true, but not everyone grows up with that behavior modeled for them. It’s good that the OP is looking inward and realizing that this is something OP needs to work on.

      1. Rubyquartz*

        This is a really good point!

        I grew up in the Deep South where politeness, almost to a fault, was ingrained from a really early age. Sometimes this colors my perception that others had similar upbringings, even though I know that’s not true, even within the South.

        1. Here we go again*

          Ehh…. I don’t think being from the south makes you automatically polite. I used to work with a lot of clients from that area and overwhelmingly they were fake nice, fake polite and very passive aggressive. I’m not saying that was true of everyone, but I’ve seen enough of it that I don’t like this idea that people from the south are raised to be polite.

          1. Alli525*

            LORD yes. I lived in the south for more than a decade, and many people were genuinely polite, but many more just SEEMED polite because they knew how to smother passive-aggressiveness with a patina of politeness. (“Bless your heart” is still one of my favorite idioms.)

          2. Amy*

            Then their mamas didn’t teach them their manners very effectively. If they had, your clients would have known how to make their niceness and politeness look and sound 100% earnest. I can do that even in the face of the biggest jerks and it has served me very well.

          3. Rubyquartz*

            I doesn’t automatically make you polite, no. I personally was raised in an environment and culture that valued politeness. Not passive-aggressive politeness, but actual honest attempts at good manners. I do feel this had a lot to do with the geographic location. I did not encounter the passive-aggressive “bless her heart” kind of politeness until I was a teen.

            As an adult I understand, but often forget, that this is not the norm.

            1. JaneB*

              I’m British and attended a very well known top English University. I was raised to be a decent and polite member of society, and told repeatedly that your manners and actions towards people who were in some way “lower” on a social scale (whether because they were in a service role, because they were younger, or whatever) when no-one you needed to impress was around was the key way to judge character – my grandmother used to point out that “anyone can be polite to the Queen, but a decent person/gentleman/true lady is equally polite to the street cleaner”.

              I’d hate for any reader to think the lack of contrition and self-awareness of jerkitude displayed by this person is either a British thing or a top English university thing (although we have our fair share of upwardly mobile jerks, of course)!

              I hope the writer learns from this and finds themselves both a great job and a new approach to the people around them (London REALLY needs fewer jerks and more decent people, the poor beleagured city)

              1. London Calling*

                Yes indeed, this +1000, Jane B. Especially about London needing fewer jerks (sigh).

                1. Annoy-Mouse*

                  Just tagging on here as a fellow Brit- my undergrad degree was at Durham which, for any non-Brits reading, has a “posh” reputation second only to Oxbridge (now, you might think that is overstated, or you might think I’m selling it short- regardless, I only want to make the point that I doubt OP’s uni could have been any *more* divorced from the day-to-day grind, commuting etiquette, and so forth).

                  Even there, I can’t think of a single person who would need to have it explained to them that one ought to give up one’s seat on a crowded train to an older person (there may have been some who would be totally oblivious, but that isn’t quite the same thing, and oblivious people are ubiquitous besides). And I certainly don’t think any university can be blamed, either directly or by absence, for OP’s approach to this “real-life” situation.

                  I’m not trying to pile on (and if Alison thinks I am, do feel free to remove this post), but it doesn’t really seem like the lesson has been learnt here at all. One isn’t nice to people because it is instrumentally useful at a certain time (or at least, that is a fairly non-ideal motivation), and neither the business, nor train-conditions, nor one’s university are to blame for your actions. OP was dismissive of the “life skills development” recommendation, but it is definitely something to think about. Learning the right lessons here will save a lot of grief in the future.

              2. Kim*

                Although Londoners have a reputation for not communicating while on the public transport it is considered extremely rude to not give up your seat when requested and common decency to offer your seat to someone older, pregnant or frankly anyone who asks. As a cyclist I would never sit down in the unlikely event I took my bike on the overground, and I wouldn’t be taking it on at a busy time or if it wasn’t completely clean. I think the feedback from HR was excellent and hope it is taken to heart as from the tone of both letters I feel unsure that they have fully understood what went wrong here. However I am sure it is a valuable experience to them.

                1. London Calling*

                  I’ve come across this comment before about Londoners not communicating on public transport. Please bear in mind that the UK is a) a small crowded place and b) London is a very crowded city and c) public transport also gets pretty crowded People have evolved their coping mechanisms and rituals to keep their social distance and one of those is not making eye contact and not getting involved in chit chat. Something I read years ago compared the British with the Japanese, who also live on a small island and have a very ritualised and formal mode of social interaction

                2. Zillah*

                  @London Calling – Yes. I think this is probably pretty common in big cities overall – I’m a New Yorker, and I see striking up random conversations with people on the subway to be pretty rude and disconcerting. If I’m trying to commute to work, I’m commuting. I don’t want to chat, and that’s okay.

          4. Antilles*

            Oh yeah. It’s often that they aren’t necessarily any more ‘polite’ than anywhere else, it’s just that they’re often passive aggressive and fake politeness about it – a stark contrast to other ares of the country (e.g., Northeast) who will straight up aggressive-aggressively tell you (possibly with colorful language) when they don’t like something you’re doing.

            1. JB (not in Houston)*

              What’s fake polite, though? I’m not trying to be snarky, I just don’t know what this means. Being polite doesn’t have anything to do with feelings–I can be very polite to someone I can’t stand, so it’s not like by being polite I’m pretending to feel one way or another.

              1. LBK*

                To me it means going through the motions of politeness (saying please and thank you, referring to people as ma’am/sir, etc) without really having genuine respect or courtesy behind it. It’s very possible to passive aggressively follow the rules of proper social interaction without actually being nice.

                1. Here we go again*

                  Yeah, like rolling your eyes or having a condescending tone while interacting with someone….

                2. Not So NewReader*

                  Typically, it plays out as a sugary sweet conversation and after the person leaves the fake-polite person rips the other person from here to Tuesday with put downs, insults and criticism.

                3. JB (not in Houston)*

                  @Here we go again yeah, I can see that, although I’d say that isn’t actually being polite. @not so new reader I’d say that’s the difference between nice and polite. I always thought of polite as how you interact with another person, and being nice or professional more had to do with how you treated people in general, included whether you talked bad about them when they left. Like, if a cashier at the grocery store is polite to me, I’ll still call them polite even if I later find out from someone else that they talked about me as soon as I left the store.

                  But this is derailing into a discussion about definitions. Thanks for the examples, y’all, I see what Antilles probably meant now.

                4. EmKay*

                  A lot of it is tone, demeanor, body language. There’s a way of saying “yes, miss” that means “f*ck you, b*tch”.

                  I was a high school teacher in a private girls’ school. I know fake polite.

                5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  One shining Southernism (as an example of fake polite): “Bless your heart.”

              2. RabbitRabbit*

                Like some others said, doing it just passive-aggressively enough (backhanded compliments, anyone?) and with the barest minimum of social pleasantries such that the receiver understands that they are considered a nuisance or not otherwise worth the person’s time. Done well enough that the disher-out can exclaim that of course, they have no idea what could possibly be bothering the receiver and they must have been mistaken.

              3. kittymommy*

                I don’t like the term fake polite. I think one can be polite regardless of liking or disliking a person. The two are not mutually exclusive.

                1. Toph*

                  “Fake polite” doesn’t mean being polite despite disliking someone. It means saying words that if written and with zero other context are polite, but doing so in such a tone as to be clearly disingenuous.

                2. G*

                  Yeah, no, fake polite is being polite without respect behind it – and it is obvious. You may think you’re fooling people just by smiling and saying “please” and “thank you,” but it takes more than just words. You have to actually respect another person in order to be polite. I think that’s where a lot of behavior policing leaves many misinformed. The point of being polite isn’t “chewing with your mouth open is bad,” the point is “chewing with your mouth open is gross and the people you’re dining with deserve better than to see your nasty mouth full of food.” It’s about respect, not behavior.

              4. No, please*

                If you’re in Texas, which I suspect from your name, my family calls it the Texas “F-you smile.” They’re saying the nice words but the disapproval is obvious from the plastic smile. It’s hard to describe. My personal experience would be a knock on the door from a Local Big Church, I say we aren’t Christian, but thanks for the flyer/literature. They look shocked, with a giant smile and say “Oh, that’s okay!” Thanks? I’m okay with it too!

              5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                I think it’s similar to Countess’s “adopt impeccable professionalism as the subtle insult it can absolutely be.”

              6. Specialk9*

                It’s calling someone “nice” so all the men think you just complimented her, and all the women know you just called her a jerk. That’s fake politeness.

            2. Risha*

              I’m originally from the Northeast, but I spent 5 years living in SC, and it left me with a violent twitch whenever someone repeats that old saw about Southerners being so nice. I can speak only for SC in particular, but as you note, politeness and niceness are two entirely different things, and nobody politely loathes mere the existence of all other sentient beings as much as a South Carolinian.

              1. Dankar*

                I’ve had my eye on SC for a while now as a place where I’d like to live and work, and “politely loathes the mere existence of all other sentient beings” resonates with me like nothing I’ve ever heard before. Haha

                I spent some time in the Northeast, too, and while I met some of the nicest living humans there, I have no desire to go back. There’s a lot of tribalism there. Once you’re in, you’re IN, and that’s probably a lot more honest than the Southern way of doing things, but I’ll take fake courtesy every day of the week.

                1. Owl*

                  Basically, people are jerks everywhere, you just have to figure out which method of jerkiness suits you best.

              2. Paquita*

                I have lived in South Carolina all my life. Sorry, I don’t agree with this. We are no better or worse than anywhere else.

                1. Risha*

                  At dinner tonight here in Rhode Island, in a diner I’ve only been to once before, months ago, a waitress (who was not mine) called over to me from behind the counter to find out what to get me, because another passing waitress (still not mine, but she had seen that I had nothing on the table) had told her that I had said I placed a drink order but not what it was. The manager, horrified, called an apology over to me from his seat, and then a minutes later stopped over, clapped my shoulder, and apologized sincerely again for forgetting to grab my iced tea, and we chatted for a minute about nothing much. Twenty minutes later, my waitress was serving another table when she slipped and fell, and half a dozen people from various tables got up to check on her and get her out from midst all the shattered plates, more then a few yelled from their table to stop her from trying to get up backwards because there was broken glass immediately behind her ass, and various people stopped her during the rest of my dinner to ask how she was.

                  This is a scene I honestly cannot picture happening when I lived in Columbia. There, my waitress would have discovered the missing drink, apologized politely, and have gotten it, and it’s entirely likely that she would have arranged for it to be removed from my bill (something I did not and would not have asked for); a few people would have immediately come over and helped the waitress up and ask her if she needed to sit down and would probably grab her a chair before she could reply.

                  To be clear, there are zero things to complain about in the latter scenario. I _liked_ South Carolina, especially Columbia, and I eventually made some of the best friends of my life there. But it’s an entirely different attitude towards those not in your immediate circle of friends and family. Politer and probably more helpful, almost aggressively so, but inherently standoffish. I learned really quickly that not only was I not welcome to strike up a conversation in a grocery store, it was not even particularly welcome at work. Not that anyone would have been so gauche as to tell me that to my face. Like I said, eventual great friends, but I’m an introvert that doesn’t need a heck of a lot of social contact, but I have NEVER been lonelier or more starved for basic human interaction than my first six months there.

                2. lawyer*

                  FWIW, when I moved to the north (from the south), one of the first things my best friend told me was not to talk to random people in the grocery store “like southern people are always doing.”

          5. Artemesia*

            I lived in the south for 35 years and passive aggressive is the norm. I know of many situations where people were basically blackballed professionally for rather trivial reasons but had no feedback or way to climb that greased pole back into favor or a job. Smile to your face, agree with you, exclaim that they will do anything they can for you and stab you in the back are pretty common.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              I have no idea how you coped with that.
              I had some of that growing up and now I have NO patience for it.

            2. Detective Amy Santiago*

              Bless your heart

              (that’s about the height of southern passive aggressiveness from what I know)

              1. Specialk9*

                Well, “bless her heart” is not the mean part, it’s usually a preamble, followed by vicious gossip. The bless her heart acts as a veneer.

                1. LNZ*

                  Born and breed Southerner here and it can be both. The most common time it’s used as a stand alone insult is usually as a response to something someone you don’t like said or a response to something said about them.

          6. Buffy Summers*

            I don’t think Rubyquartz was saying being from the south makes you automatically polite.
            I also think overgeneralizing isn’t very helpful and, in fact, is quite offensive. Working with clients from that area doesn’t make you an expert on how everyone behaves there. Yes, I saw where you said you weren’t saying it was true of everyone, however there was that inevitable, “but”, which kind of says, “actually it really is.”
            Many people from the south are, indeed, raised to be polite.
            What you’re calling fake nice, fake polite and very passive aggressive may not be that at all. It’s your perception, not absolute truth.
            And your not liking an idea doesn’t make it untrue. Bless your heart.

            1. Here we go again*

              I agree that overgeneralizing isn’t helpful, but the comment from Rubyquartz started with just that… A generalization of how people from the south are by default raised to be polite. I am not pretending to be an expert in how people behave in the deep South. I am saying that my experience contradicts this stereotype. And by me saying it isn’t true of everyone means that I did have some positive experiences too not “oh, it actually is” which you are jumping to for no reason whatsoever.

              When someone is nice to your face and then goes and complains to your boss about something instead of trying to resolve the issue with you directly, it is in fact, passive aggressive. That is an absolute truth.

            2. Specialk9*

              It may not be absolute, but it would be bizarre not to notice that cultures have trends. Are all Italians fiery hand-talkers? Do all Kiwis smile a lot and hike? Do all Russians drink like crazy and scowl at strangers? Nope. But are there cultural trends there? Yup indeed.

              Noticing that the South has a cultural trend that prizes the appearance of politeness over plain talk is being observant. Knowing that every rule has of exceptions is being intelligent.

          7. Muriel Heslop*

            I’ve been teaching and working in schools in the south for 20 years – I can attest that not everyone here is polite. Not by a long shot.

          8. The Strand*

            I have to agree with you, since a classmate of mine from New Orleans explained to me his take on “Southern hospitality”, e.g. “we will speak to you with courtesy and charm, but that doesn’t mean we accept you as one of us, or equal to one of us.”

            For those of us from other parts of the country, that behavior is what ‘Here we go again’ is interpreting as fake nice, fake polite, and passive aggressive.

            For example, the stereotypical Yankee who doesn’t say, “sir” and “madam,” and says “Hey, don’t do that!”; is she automatically less polite than a Southerner who says “bless your heart” and really means, at that moment, “F you”? Politeness is not supposed to be about courtly manners alone, but about showing consideration and respect to others.

            I’m just a transplanted Midwesterner, but intent and consideration matters far, far more to me than manners alone. I’d rather someone say, “Hey lady” in a neutral tone of voice than “Ma’am” in a vicious one.

          9. Brittasaurus Rex*

            I grew up in the Northeastern US, and I was also raised to be polite and kind. I think regionality has less to do with it than good parenting.

            1. Anon today...and tomorrow*

              New England born and bred…and I am polite, kind, and respectful. I use please, thank you, ma’am and sir. My mom wouldn’t have had it any other way! And FYI, my kids are being raised the same way. My son is a mesh of myself and my husband (also a polite New England kid who was also a boy scout) and is actually even more polite than both of us. He went to a friends birthday party and met the kids grandparents for the first time. He shook their hands when they left and expressed that it was nice to have met them. My husband and I hadn’t taught him that yet…he was 8 at the time!! The boys grandmother later told me that she saw great things in my son’s future because of his kindness.

          10. memyselfandi*

            This (fake nice, fake polite) is one of the complaints about the South from my good friend who was raised (and now lives) in the South.

        2. Allison*

          Is it true that there’s a law in Louisiana that compels kids to call their teachers “sir,” and “ma’am”? I don’t mean a social rule or obligation, I mean an actual law.

          1. brightstar*

            Louisiana born, raised, and still resides here. I’ve not heard of that law, and a quick Google search didn’t pull up anything. It is common to be taught to refer to older people as sir and ma’am, though.

        3. Susanne*

          No, no, no on the “politeness ingrained in the South.” In the South, it is polite to say sir / ma’am to anyone older than you – even if your father or someone whose name you know, such as a teacher. In the North, it is considered polite to say sir / ma’am (or miss) to someone whose name you DON’T know and with whom you DON’T have or intend to have a relationship (such as “excuse me, sir, I think you dropped something”). It is considered impolite to say sir / ma’am to someone whose name you know and with whom you have a relationship; it comes across as snarky and impolite to say “yes, sir” to your father or “yes, ma’am” to your teacher Mrs. Smith. So no, it is not “more polite” in the South. It is just that the words used to express courtesy differ by region.

          1. Lora*

            Really? I mean, I’m in New England and I say Yessir or Yes’m sometimes. I don’t mean it to be snarky, although I am more likely to say it when someone higher up barks an order at me. I really use it more for emphasis, like, “hey Lora can I do (terrible bad idea)?” NO SIR YOU MAY NOT.

          2. Turquoise Cow*

            That is an excellent explanation of regional differences. I hadn’t even thought of it that way before.

          3. Zillah*


            Along those lines, as a New Yorker, I also find it really frustrating when politeness is equated with being chatty. They’re not the same thing, and too many people see the latter as being an integral part of the former.

      2. Landshark*

        Yeah, I know some people who are, by all accounts, nice people, but their models in life were the kind of person who treated others based on their importance. It’s not an excuse (in fact, it’s a bad habit that must be broken), but I’d be willing to bet that the people who need it to be taught have some role models who need to learn the same lessons.

      3. Lily Rowan*

        Yes! I actually want to applaud the OP for making as much progress on this as they have already — but also note that they aren’t all the way there yet.

      4. 12:45 pm*

        Truth. My DH is still working on developing an expletive filter because there was NO censoring of any kind in his house growing up. Mom didn’t work and Dad was a truck driver, so they didn’t have much need to learn those types of norms themselves, and definitely failed to teach them to their children.
        Politeness is something he’s picked up on his own, but I met him at age 28 and it was still kind of in the works even at that time.

        1. twig*

          My husband also grew up in a non-filtered house. He cusses without realizing it. He was rejected from a temp company because he cussed in the interview with them. He didn’t even know that he did it or that they’d rejected him until he called to follow up.

          That being said, he’s is definitely polite to people regardless of station — something he learned in spite of his parents who were prone to rudeness towards service workers of any sort.

    2. LizM*

      I agree with you, but at the same time, a lot of people get to college not knowing basic life skills.

      My career services had an etiquette class where they taught basic dining etiquette for interviews that happened over meals, networking events, business lunches and dinners, etc. It covered basic manners (no elbows on the table, don’t look at your phone, don’t get drunk), stuff that makes sense once you’re told it but may not occur to you (don’t order a really messy dish like ribs). I mostly took it because you got several free dinners and networking out of it, but my point is that basic life skills aren’t outside of what career services can teach.

      That said, it’s not career services’ fault OP didn’t know to not be rude, and I think OP is still deflecting blame for not getting the job to an external source. But you can’t assume college students get to college with consistent life skills, and it wouldn’t be out of bounds for a career counselor to comment on how a student comes across.

      1. Artemesia*

        Not knowing good table manners is not a matter of character though. Not giving your seat to an elderly person who needs is as is blaming your own failings on others.

  3. deets*

    OP, kudos for embracing this as a growth opportunity. I hope you can apply Alison’s advice going forward and find another position.

    1. MJChomper*

      I’m not too convinced that he learned anything – he seems to shrug off any suggestions about his apparently obvious lack of social skills/basic etiquette/common knowledge regarding treating everyone kindly and equally. I mean, he acts like finding out that he should treat a doorman and custodian kindly is some novel concept. I don’t want to sound too judgmental or mean, but his lack of social skills is probably as clear as crystal when dealing with him in person and I have to wonder if he grew up without guidance or general life skills taught to him him by family or friends.

      1. cyborg leg*

        As a Brit I have to say I think it’s the opposite. There’s a certain kind of kid whose parents are rich and/or from the upper classes, who have been taught that they are entitled to good service from the servant classes, that it’s their job to supervise and criticise the lower orders, and that they deserve better treatment than the poor or ordinary workers, all because they believe the myths of meritocracy and the undeserving poor. (That if you’ve made it, it’s never because of what your parents did for you, but because you’re more intelligent and harder-working, and if you’re stuck in a lower-level job it’s because you’re lazy, stupid and/or immoral, and never mind that the economy/capitalism/businesses are pyramid-shaped)

        This kid says he went to a “prestigious university”, and I’ve seen several of that sort who seemed to think that means they could walk into whatever job they want, and that the CEO and all other staff should be abjectly grateful to be graced with their presence and blessed by their genius [/sarcasm] It does eventually wear off – or they get fired – but it is a painful process.

        This LW does not seem to recognise that even a very good degree means nothing when every other interview candidate else also has a very good degree – especially when the other adults have much better social skills and teamwork. That, going for his first job out of uni, he is basically an intern, and that the job is likely to involve the sector equivalent of photocopying and filing – which he would need to be enthusiastic and professional about doing. That his job would be to do as he’s told – graciously, without arguing back.

        Of course, even if this job was a prestigious graduate fast track thing – that’s often just another way of saying it’s a multi-year interview where 15 of you will compete for 3 actual jobs. And character, teamwork, and social skills will matter more than technical skills in who gets the job. Always.

  4. LBK*

    I posted a much longer comment in response to the OP’s comment on the original post, but suffice to say I agree with others who’ve already commented here: this follow up made me question if the OP was really taking the right lesson away from this. You shouldn’t just be polite and courteous to people because they might unexpectedly have an impact on your career, you should just do it because they’re people. Yes, there’s separation between work and personal life, but your coworkers are still humans, and the office doesn’t exist in a vacuum.

    1. ByteTheBullet*

      Yes, well put.

      The update reads like, “I didn’t know I had to be nice to people. Nobody told me!” I’m left with more question now than after the original letter.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Kind of sad, because it makes me wonder how OP has been treated that she thinks this is okay.

        1. Specialk9*

          I find it fascinating how many people have defaulted to the OP being female. This read like a certain kind of guy I’ve met, so I read male. Interesting to see our biases.

          1. Leenie*

            A lot of people use female pronouns as a default on this site. I, perhaps because I’m a woman, also tend to default to thinking of the LWs as women, unless clearly indicated otherwise. In this case though, I also read this one as a man. In addition, he used the name Herbert in the comments. I’m not suggesting that is conclusive, but it’s a bit of support that the writer was male. Not that it matters in this case. There doesn’t really seem to be a gender component.

          2. Thlayli*

            It’s default on this site to call everyone female until proven otherwise. Alison has explicitly stated she does this and most commenters follow her lead. However in this case OP posted under the name Herbert on the original thread so it’s 99.9% certain OP is male. But not everyone will have read OPs comment.

            I agree though – OPs mindset comes across as totally “entitled white guy” as Americans would say. In Britain prejudice is often more about class than race (class is very much still a thing in Britain tough it’s more implicit than explicit these days) so it’s more “entitled upperclass public school boy” than “white guy”.

            (In britain public school is what they call expensive rugby playing private schools.)

          3. Magnet*

            That’s interesting because I’ve been noticing everyone referring to them as male, whereas I read them as female. I think that’s just because the attitude and some of the turns of phrase remind me of a girl who bullied me in school.

      2. VioletEMT*

        “Why didn’t Career Services tell me that being nice to the underlings would be on the test?”

      3. my two cents*

        I thought OP sounded like a dick in their response, dripping of entitlement.
        I think it’s the ‘didn’t know how long it would take to post’ stuff – just more of the ‘nobody told me so I did exactly what I wanted to do regardless’.

        Oh, and the stuff about linking it to age. I’m 32, and I think the original train debacle was incredibly rude on the OP’s part.

          1. Chinook*

            “Sorry, not sorry is my take. Entitlement.”

            Me too. I see him as a British elitist/classist who honestly believes that you only have to behave well to those at the same level or above you in the class system. This is definitely not all Brits, but I remember one coworkers when I was in Japan getting frustrated because he couldn’t figure out the class system there and where he fit in it (and, presumably, which people he could ignore). After picking my jaw off the ground, I said it was easy – as a foreigner he was lowest on totem pole and he better get used to it. The look of shock on his face was so worth it.

            1. Thlayli*


              As a non-Brit who used to work in England I concur that class is very ingrained there, but it’s quite subtle and hard to Spot if you’re not from a culture that really has classes.
              I never could figure out why English people were so interested in what my parents did for a living, until a colleague of mine from my own country explained the whole class thing to me. After that I figured out a lot of stuff about how English people feel about class.

              I don’t know your colleague and perhaps you had other reasons to think he was a jerk, but that one story doesn’t necessarily mean he would have ignored or mistreated those of lower class.

              As I understand it, the English are raised to comstantly evaluate class and know who fits in what class. It doesn’t necessarily mean they will mistreat someone of a lower class, they just have this really strong cultural need to know what box people fit into.

              It’s like how people from previous generations would feel uncomfortable talking to someone on the phone without knowing what they look like. If you’ve spent your whole life seeing people when you speak to them it can be incredibly confusing and disorienting talking to someone without seeing them. As a modern person we might think “why do you need to see them” and we could even make an assumption that tje only reason they want to see them is so they can judge them on their appearance and give them different treatment based on how good/bad they look. But actually that’s not really the case. previous generations didn’t find phone calls difficult because they wanted to be bigoted based on appearance, they found them difficult just because they were so used to having that knowledge of appearance and reacting to visual cues when talking to someone.

              In a similar way if you’ve spent your whole life evaluating class at a glance and knowing exactly what “box” people fit in when talking to them it must be incredibly confusing being thrust into a culture where you can’t figure that out. Wanting to know someone’s class when you interact with them doesn’t automatically mean he would mistreat people of lower classes just as wanting to see people when you speak to them doesn’t automatically mean you would mistreat an ugly person. It’s just so socially ingrained to have the knowledge that it’s disorienting not to have it.

              Class in Britain is so important people even use different words and body language based on their class so knowledge of class can actually aid understanding. The same way Americans might know that two people from different regions mean two totally different things when they say the same words or use the same body language, British people would understand those same subtle differences based on class as well as region. It’s all such an ingrained part of the system that they do it subconsciously and it must be so confusing to be in a system where they just can’t figure all that out. Being frustrated by that doesn’t necessarily make him a jerk.

              Of course like I said he could have been a jerk for other reasons.

        1. Elizabeth H.*

          I actually thought that he meant it the other way. Like that he realized that his friends might be an echo chamber and what would be OK/not terrible in their social context might be in a social context of more mature people. And it was on the advice of one of these older people that he actually wrote in, which to me suggests that he really did consider that.

    2. WPH*

      Someone on the original referenced the fairytale “Diamonds and Toads” one I had never heard of before so I looked it OP…yeah…OP is headed for a toad spewing life.

      1. LBK*

        I just want to ensure it’s baby steps in the right direction towards genuine respect and courtesy, not towards being better at faking it to protect your career.

        1. fposte*

          I’ll take fake politeness over honest rudeness any day, though. I’ve never been able to find the original source, but there’s supposedly an Auden quote about man being the only animal that learns through hypocrisy–we pretend to be polite and eventually become polite. Most of us do it at a lot younger age than the OP, but I am optimistic even about late bloomers.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            I am going to carry with me that you think this, fposte, because I may need it.

            Unfortunately, I go the opposite way, where life has shown me that fake politeness is not curable. There is nothing that can be done to fix it.
            I’d rather a person say what they mean than waste hours perhaps years trying to figure out what it is they actually mean. I really have had it with head games in my life.
            My boss laughs, she says she relies on me to tell her when a person is messing with her. Well, I have seen enough head games that I recognize the patterns.
            Fake politeness can totally shut down groups of people who are supposed to be working together. Little to no work gets through the pipeline.

            1. msmorlowe*

              I think there’s a difference between fake politeness to cover apathy or indifference and a kind of fake chumminess that masks dislike or hatred: the difference between saying thank you to the barista because why not, and going out of your way to be nice to someone (wow, what a lovely top!) because you were mean about them behind their back.

            2. Nevertheless*

              Same here. I trust the “rude” people in my life a lot farther than anyone else. Don’t get me wrong, it still cuts sometimes and I still find it crude. Still far better than fake politeness.

              1. Specialk9*

                The thing is, both fake polite that hides cruelty, and brutal honesty, are extremes that aren’t good or kind. Somewhere in the middle is a good path. We don’t have to choose between two bad extremes.

          2. LBK*

            Hmm, I have some thoughts on this subject on a more macro level that I think will take us in a more fraught direction, so suffice to say that I’m very wary of people who put a nice face on nasty values. There’s a lot of horror that’s been overlooked and passed by in the name of civility.

            1. fposte*

              I think you’re right that this could go too big for this comment thread :-). Lissa is talking about some of what I was thinking of, and I’m also thinking of people who take the right actions in hiring, accommodation, etc. because the law requires them to and not because of personal conviction; a ramp’s a ramp however it got there, and so’s a paycheck. I suspect you are thinking more of the people who are pleasant in face to face conversation but take detrimental actions. There are certainly plenty of those.

              1. LBK*

                That makes sense; I can agree that I would rather someone do the right thing because they feel obliged to even if it doesn’t align with their personal values.

          3. Lissa*

            Oh man, I so agree with this. There’s this point of view lately that seems to basically take the argument “At least I/they are *honest* about their rudeness/bigotry etc” as though people who might have not great feelings but hide them in most circumstances are *worse* than people who wear them loud and proud. I see it as a way for my fellow Canadians to denigrate ourselves quite frequently….

          4. Elizabeth H.*

            I 100% agree. And also that if you act polite/fair/nice it eventually becomes normalized and you are used to the standard of treating people that way. I really don’t want to know someone’s motivations for behaving in a nice way as long as they actually do it, I have no appreciation for the “refreshing bluntness” characteristic. I just don’t like having harsh interactions with people.

          5. esra (also a Canadian)*

            This is what I think karma really is. I behave well and it becomes easier and more natural to behave well. If I’m mean/a shit, that eventually becomes my default setting.

    3. Samantha*

      Totally agree with you LBK. No career center should have to tell you to be polite to people and being polite to people only because it might affect your chances on an interview is not the takeaway here. Some people aren’t overly kind, and that’s okay, but being polite and having common courtesy is usually the absence of being rude like dirtying someone’s coat with a bike and not even apologizing or not giving up your seat for an older man. I’m glad on reflection you were able to see the CEO’s wife (a person) wasn’t rude in asking you to give up your seat. I wonder why you thought she was.

      The OP’s update left a bad taste in my mouth. It reeks of entitlement. I’m saying this because I’ve had friends who were bright, ambitious, intelligent, many of the qualities the OP seems to have, who were their own worst enemy because they weren’t courteous to others or thought they deserved to get any interview they applied for. As AAM has stated in various ways on here, the job isn’t yours until its yours. I’ve had so many people tell me “the job is yours to lose” but I knew that wasn’t true. That’s saved me a lot of heartache in my career.

      We all make mistakes early in our careers, but if we don’t see where we ourselves fall short, we’ll keep making them. I read through some of the comments in the last post and I don’t think anyone was cruel, but most of the commenters offered really sound advice and feedback, including Alison’s reply to your initial letter. Take some responsibility, make an effort to be more considerate, and you will be amazed at how far you’ll go.

  5. NotoriousMCG*

    Sounds like the company recognized that OP has some immaturity issues to overcome. Which are still present in this update. Oi vey.

    1. Scott*

      Nail on the head.

      ‘They also alluded to being “over confident” during the interview and advised about “life skills” development, whatever that means.’

      OP, spend the time to figure out what they mean by this. This is important. Everything in your story can be summed up in this statement. If you don’t understand why they’re saying this, keep asking mature people you trust to be bluntly honest with you until you do. Don’t just dismiss it.

    2. designbot*

      Seriously, “and advised about “life skills” development, whatever that means” tells me that she’s still not listening.

    3. Leatherwings*

      Yep. The “life experience” stuff is a big indicator. Even just the throwaway “whatever that means” language makes me think that too.

      1. LKW*

        I can see it if you have highly specialized and in demand skills or what I like to call a Corporate Fire Jumper in which your skill is to take a failing project or company and turn it around. Then you may be in a position where they need you more than you need them… I don’t think that was the case here.

    4. Clever Name*

      This. And OP, I suggest you stop listening to your mates on stuff like this. I think your neighbor who suggested you write to Alison is someone worth learning from.

    5. CanCan*


      Also, berating Career Services for not teaching you to be polite? They’re not your mom. And at this stage in your life, nobody, not even your mom, is responsible for you not knowing how to be polite. “Life skills” includes taking responsibility for your actions.

    6. Jen S. 2.0*

      This. While the train incident might not have been 100% decisive, I feel very safe in thinking that’s what they were alluding to with the “life skills” comment (along with the “better fit” piece). The CEO might not have told HR the whole train story, and nor did they need to, but s/he may well have said some vague things to HR about maturity and life skills that were informed by a much richer picture and more information (…including, but not limited to, the train incident).

      Also, in related news, I feel that odds are very good that the train incident was not the first time OP showed some thoughtlessness in this process, and it added up to the whole picture.

      I feel OP’s pain, and I, also, had to learn the hard way that the interview begins LONG before you walk in the office, and ends LONG after you leave. At least OP got good advice from the folks s/he talked to.

      1. Amber T*

        To be honest I didn’t even connect the “life skills” and the train incident, I had assumed it was connected to their interview and the “overconfident” comment. Which may not be fair of me.

        1. Jen S. 2.0*

          I actually think it’s fair. As I said, I think OP probably showed several instances over several weeks of needing to be way more thoughtful of the people around him/her, which IS a life skill, as is not assuming you have a job until you have it. Either example (and, likely, both together) easily could have been the nail in the coffin. They aren’t mutually exclusive.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I read it the same way (i.e, “life skills” not related to the train). I suspect that—as HR noted—the train incident had nothing to do with why OP was not hired. After reading the original letter and this follow-up, I think “overconfidence” and “life skills” is an exceedingly kind way of describing the bases for rejecting OP (bases that were entirely within his own control, despite his seeming unwillingness to accept that his behavior/conduct informed his prospects).

    7. DaniCalifornia*

      I thought the same thing. The first half seemed as self important as the original letter. It comes across like he’s learned ‘I should be polite to people lower than me/different than me so I can benefit’ instead of you know, actually just being polite to other humans.

  6. ByteTheBullet*

    “I wish I had been told the receptionist/janitor/security guard story by career services at my university, which is one of those prestigious English ones.”

    Umm… isn’t it a general rule of life that you shouldn’t be a jerk to others? Is that really something that needs to be pointed out?

    It’s a step forward that you realized the wife’s request was standard/legitimate and no imposition on you. Life skills alludes to this realization, I feel.

    1. Alli525*

      I should wonder what fancy UK universities are communicating to their students about proper behavior, if not “we’re British, we’re excessively and formally polite to everyone.” Maybe he should’ve gone to uni in Canada ;)

      1. ByteTheBullet*

        Ha, true. A Canadian education could have helped.

        I would argue that class and politeness are intertwined in the UK (in certain situations it’s perfectly legitimate to ignore those ‘inferior’ to you), but we’re probably going off-topic here.

        1. Oxford Common Sense*

          As a graduate of one of those “prestigious English universities,” I really don’t think you can pin this one on them. Being polite to others is just part of the social contract, taught at home and confirmed by your life experience.

          1. fposte*

            I love your username :-).

            There’s no shortage of rude people who believe they’re better than others from Oxbridge, as with the American Ivies, though. It’s possible that this is somebody who’s been swimming in that water and is now finding it a little wetter than he realized.

            1. LKW*

              This is why I’d love to mandate that everyone is required to serve 6 months as a waiter and 6 months as a retail associate. It would really make a difference in how people treat one another.

              1. MJChomper*

                I usually say that everyone should HAVE TO work as a server for at least a year during their late teens/early twenties (or any time, really).

                Never would a server be ripped off or cheated of a fair tip again. And I truly believe our country would be a kinder, gentler one.

          2. ByteTheBullet*

            Ideally, yes. As someone with a similar educational background, I would say entitlement issues are a real problem though. And if you feel superior, that might lead you to ignore another passenger asking for a seat (because even if that passenger asks for her elderly parent, you still feel entitled to it. You still need it more.)

              1. Wendy Darling*

                If I’ve learned one thing in my life it’s that deserving rarely has anything to do with it. Getting hung up on who deserves what only leads to unhappiness.

                1. London Calling*

                  I wish people would realise that there’s no big cosmic book of who deserves what and no one in charge of it dealing out the treats or not, as the case may be. Sh1t happens, folks. Good things to bad people and bad things to good people and what they ‘deserve’ is in the eye of the beholder and no-one else.

                2. Lissa*

                  “Deserve” is one of those funny concepts, like “respect”, that can mean both “basic human dignity” and “more than other people get”, with many gradations in between and misunderstandings based on different uses.

                  “Everyone deserves love” sounds nice, but not when the underpinning is “specific person must love me or they are being unfair/mean” is the kind of thing I’m thinking of here.

      2. cyborg leg*

        Prestigious unis in Britain are the worst, especially for white public schoolboys, because they self-select for “people who are just like you” – your friends share all your blind spots and most of your prejudices, so will encourage you instead of calling you out – which means you never have to really deal with the real world in all it’s wild exuberance, until you escape the hot house and face a sudden culture shock.

        Basically, think of Oxbridge & the other Russell Group unis as like US frathouses, but based around old-public-school-ties, class, wealth, and family names instead of sports jocks, and you know what kind of unexamined entitlement you’re dealing with.

    2. MashaKasha*

      I think it doesn’t really hit home for a lot of people who go from one privileged environment to the next. They know you should be polite to the janitor, but don’t quite understand why. I remember it being a big eye-opener to me when I was OP’s age when I took a part-time job to work at a coat check at a college that was way below my own in ranking. (I did go to a pretty high-ranking school that had a great reputation.) It was winter in my home country, and coats were not allowed in classrooms, and our coat check room was understaffed, so we got a lot of traffic. The students had no idea I was a student somewhere else. To them I was a coat check girl. I was shocked and confused every day I worked there, never had I been treated like this before in my 21 years. I’d been polite to everybody that I crossed paths with, but everyone had been polite right back. All of a sudden I had these students (not all, but some of them) talk to me and my fellow coat check worker like we were beneath them; the way you see the negative characters in a movie talk to their help. (The professors were all being excellent to us though!) This experience was a powerful motivation for me to go through the rest of my life doing my best to never be to anyone the way these students were to me. Not because I have to, not because I’m at a job interview and they could be married to someone important at the company, but because it’s what humans do when they interact with each other.

      TL;DR: it’s one way to know these things in theory, but it really helps to find oneself on the receiving end of these attitudes in practice. Kind of like when people say that everyone should spend at least a year working retail.

      1. Purplesaurus*

        Yes, this! I’m guessing OP is used to succeeding and being praised academically, but doesn’t know how to perform outside of that environment (which can be a cold wake up call even for people who have developed other life skill).

      2. ByteTheBullet*

        Thanks for sharing, that sounds tough! You really only ever see privilege if you’re on the other side of it.

      3. Observer*

        You are right. But at least you started out with the theoretical understanding that you treat everyone politely, however you define that. The OP, unfortunately for him, doesn’t seem to have that. That’s a problem.

      4. AMPG*

        I honestly wish there were a way to require that everyone spend six months to a year in a service job dealing with the public before they’re able to get a white-collar job. I think we’d have a much kinder upper class.

        1. TootsNYC*

          and I -really- wish there were a way to require people to spend a year or six months living inside a different color of skin.

          Lord knows white people, even “woke” ones, would learn some important thingsby living in a black skin.

          But I think black people would learn a lot by being white. They’d probably end up even MORE pissed off when they see how truly, truly effortless it is to be treated well simply because you’re white.
          And they might see some tactics or strategies that they could take back with them; sort of like learning the other company’s industrial secrets.

          1. AMPG*

            I’m on board with this, as well. Your last paragraph reminds me of the SNL skit where Eddie Murphy goes undercover as a white man and gets treated amazingly well.

            1. Marillenbaum*

              Or the episode of “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” where Titus works as a werewolf at a dinner theatre and realizes he’s treated better as a fictional monster than as a real Black man.

            2. bridget (better screen name to follow)*

              Or on the sillier end of the spectrum, where Titus on Kimmy Schmidt wears a werewolf mask in public, and discovers he is treated better as a werewolf in NYC than as a black man.

          2. Agile Phalanges*

            There was a TV show that did this. I wanna say in the 90s? Maybe early 00s? They had EXCELLENT makeup artists do the makeup, and a white family became black and a black family became white for a few days or a week. As I remember, it was eye-opening for both families, and for us viewers.

        1. designbot*

          and also learning how to let it bounce off you, which is a valuable lesson for us all.

          1. Jadelyn*

            I was already pretty good at compartmentalizing, but working retail put a fine polish on that skill, let me tell you.

          2. Elizabeth West*

            Years ago, I was watching an episode of Cops and they were shadowing a female officer who picked up this woman for some small thing–I can’t recall what it was, but she ended up arresting her.

            She was very polite when dealing with the woman, and as she was putting her in the car, the woman cut loose with a barrage of abuse, the vast majority of which the show had to bleep out. I remember the officer just looked up and smiled delightedly at the camera, like, “Oh this happens a LOT; I’m used to it,” and probably with some amusement that it happened on camera. She didn’t shove; she didn’t give any of it back; she just laughed it off.

            I try to keep that in mind when people are being dicks. Always be that officer. You might not be able to smile or laugh in the moment, but if you look at it like “This will be a funny story later,” then it’s easier to let it roll off.

        2. Muriel Heslop*

          Sadly, I find little distinction in how I’ve been treated as a retail worker, a restaurant server, and a teacher. At their worst, all involve being treated like I work for the people I am dealing with and that I am beneath them. (At their best, I love all three jobs!)

        3. Nevertheless*

          Only thing worse than my retail experience was working customer service for an insurance company. They can’t see you, ipso facto, you are not a person, and literally anything goes.

          The beautiful thing was that most of the doctors and insurance holders who were rude didn’t realize that the call center was local, and word of mouth travels fast.

          1. tigerStripes*

            Interesting. I was in an accident not long ago and had to call my insurance a couple of times, and the people there were so nice! Maybe they appreciated that I was being nice too. I was just grateful they explained everything carefully.

            Then again, I worked in fast food for a while (and sometimes had to deal with people who were rude to fast food people for no particular reason) and was raised by parents who modeled being nice to people. I guess the OP doesn’t have these advantages.

      5. oldbiddy*

        I experienced this too when I worked in the cafeteria in college. Many of the front facing folks (cashier and servers) were students, but a few people coming through the line were downright snooty, including a friend’s girlfriend.

        1. twig*

          I experienced this too, working in the dining hall in college.

          After working the dirty end of the dishroom for a semester, I decided that all students using the dining hall should be required to work there for at least a month or two.

      6. Amber T*

        This is the reason I firmly believe everyone should work at least one service and/or retail job.

      7. Artemesia*

        I used to joke that every teen needed to be a waiter or retail clerk before going on to whatever future career they planned. It does teach you a lot about the world and about work and about how to treat other people. I still vividly remember my first job as waitress, dishwasher and soda jerk and what it was like to serve jerks who made up a small part of our customer base but still made life miserable.

        1. JulieBulie*

          Ditto that! Especially food service, because a lot of the customers are hungry. Hunger really seems to bring out the worst in some people.

          And tipping… I guess for some people, tipping is the only time they have power over anyone, and they really run with it, making a big deal out of being generous (16%, LOL) to impress someone else, or “punishing” you with a penny because there wasn’t enough ice in their water.

          It was a humbling experience, and I think it made me a better person.

          1. Applesauced*

            Have you seen the horrible new “life tip” about tipping?
            The guy puts 5 singles on the table as soon as he’s seated and takes them away for things that displease him. The bills left at the end of the meal are the tip. Just… ugh.

            1. JulieBulie*

              Well well. There’s a guy who won’t be getting a lot of second dates (this kind of behavior would certainly be a deal-breaker for me). And maybe he hasn’t considered all of the ramifications of mistreating someone who’s handling his food.

              1. tigerStripes*

                As Dave Barry once said, someone who’s nice to you but rude to the wait staff is not a nice person. Total deal breaker.

            2. Anja*

              This was also a joke on the show 3rd Rock From the Sun. Though Dick would also add money if pleased. (link to follow)

            3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              I’ve seen people advise this, and it’s almost as disgusting to me as the wife bonus (the tipping by putting things on the table is more heinous, in my book). I’ve actually seen someone do it before, and I paid the difference in tip to the waitress after he left. She shouldn’t suffer just because that guy was a smug asshole.

            4. Jadelyn*

              This kind of crap is why I try to tip borderline exorbitantly – I start at 20% whenever I can afford to, and go up from there – because I know how rough that job can be and maybe my higher than average tip can help balance out one of the jerks who uses the tip as a way to demonstrate their power over the server.

            5. SadPanda*

              That was on “Cheers” years ago! I believe Carla stuffed the bills in the guys shirt pocket and dumped his drink on his head.

            6. Candi*

              Huh. The first time I saw that, it was a ‘how to evaluate your date’ article- anyone pulling that is not worth a second shot.

              The second was a Not Always Right/Romantic. Third date, first two were fast food and a movie. There wasn’t a fourth date, and she tipped the waitress herself.

          2. Relly*

            I am a much better person for having been a waitress in high school. And it’s not just that I tip better — sometimes just saying “I heard that other table, they were very rude, I’m sorry you had to deal with that” can be powerful.

            Similarly when I call customer service lines I try to remind myself: I am frustrated with the company. It is not this random person’s fault; he or she is trying to help me.

            1. Amber T*

              A third party recognizing when someone has been incredibly rude and says something nice is awesome. When I was a new receptionist (i.e., not used to pushy sales people), I got screamed at by some cold caller informing me that he needed to speak with our IT person NOW (general rule of thumb was all calls for IT were unwanted unless they specifically told us they were expecting a call). I was so shaken, and so worried that I had messed up, that I detailed everything in an email to our IT guy, in case I had screwed up and he was expecting the call. The IT guy came up to the front immediately and apologized that I had to go through that, and that no one, even a call he was expecting, should ever speak to me like that. I had just come from a customer service roll where both customers and corporate yelling at us were common enough, so I really took his comment to heart. (I eventually learned how to play around with the ridiculous and rude sales calls and made it fun.)

            2. G*

              I still work retail, and every customer that talks loudly on their phone while I ring them up or tosses their payment onto the counter like leftover meat to a stray dog adds to the tension in my neck. And it’s like it’s only actually happening for you and maybe your coworker. As far as the rest of society is concerned, it’s not real. All it takes is one (1) customer telling me, “I saw that. That lady was rude. Sorry you had to go through that,” to restore my spoons for months. I’m still coasting on that customer. It happens so rarely. Thanks for being a ray of sunlight.

        2. Nevertheless*

          I say it all the time and I am not joking. I feel like you can usually tell the people that never worked in a service position in their life.

        3. The Other Katie*

          I learned a lot working service jobs when I was younger. How to talk to 400 people a day when my natural inclination is to use gestures and/or avoid interaction entirely. How to be friendly even to strangers, even when I don’t feel like it. How to fake confidence and assertiveness until I make it. How to persevere through pain and boredom. I wasn’t of the social class to require learning about the proles and their funny habits, but helping filthy rich women buy toilet paper was a valuable lesson too. It really is something that everyone can learn from.

      8. Recovering Adjunct*

        This is why I firmly believe everyone should work retail or food service for at least spell in their youth (if they are able.) These jobs change you for the better and those who work them should be treated with respect and that can be hard to grasp without hands on experience.

      9. The Strand*

        This is a great idea. OP, why don’t you see if you can’t spend a week pulling lager at a bar, selling fries at a takeaway, or changing beds at a hotel?

        You’ll possibly learn something about human nature you never had a chance to develop before.

        1. JoyOfMotion*

          The idea of suggesting somebody spend a week doing what people view as a menial job just seems so… uncomfortable to me. Like, people actually do those jobs as their long term sole source of income. They’re not social experiments for people who are already in a far more privileged position to play with for a week so they can then go back to their more comfortable life having ‘learned lessons’. Not to mention that it’d be taking work away from somebody who needs it to survive instead of as an experiment, and the fact that most people can tolerate almost anything for one week with an end date. Unless they’re going to actually take that job as their full time only and permanent job for months or years on end, one week thinking ‘nearly over!’ Isn’t going to be much of a learning experience.

          I get the sentiment, I have worked both retail and food service when I had no other options. And I learned a tonne. But actually suggesting somebody do it, the idea of being in that role and having somebody pop by to use it as a learning experience for a week before going back to their more comfortable position with probably greater pay and status would feel so incredibly demeaning and icky.

          This isn’t aimed just at you, The Strand, it’s a really common sentiment. I just feel like so many of these discussions come from a place of unacknowleded privilege.

          1. Recovering Adjunct*

            Yeah, I wouldn’t recommend that either. But the LW could seek out a volunteering opportunity doing something helpful but unsexy (ie, not a role that puts LW in the spotlight or gives him something to brag about.)

            1. JoyOfMotion*

              Yes. This would be far more appropriate, as long as it was for the right reasons.

          2. JulieBulie*

            I don’t think anyone was suggesting that this be undertaken as some sort of lark. Unfortunately, it is pointless if the person doesn’t have to take the job seriously. (I am thinking of a show maybe 10-15 years ago where Paris Hilton was sent to do a variety of jobs, but since she didn’t care about them, it was just a setup for antics and bad behavior.)

            It’s true that many people do these jobs for a living, but many of the food service/retail jobs are commonly taken by high school students who aren’t relying on it for food. (Maybe it is different in the UK.) As for OP, he doesn’t currently have a job, so he might need to do the pub job for a lot more than a week unless someone is supporting him.

            1. JoyOfMotion*

              Ah yes, it is a lot different here in the UK. Millions of adults who are the sole earner for their family or who live alone work at jobs that are low paid, insecure and part time or zero hours, such as food service, bar work, retail, delivery driving. It’s true that most teens with jobs will be in that type of job, but in those workplaces I’d say the majority of staff are adults working their permanent job for the foreseeable future.

              It reminds me of that MP who lived on the amount of money jobseekers get here in the UK For one week to prove it was enough to live on. While living in his fancy house with pre stocked cupboards. The soul sucking aspect of those jobs I did didn’t just come from the job, it came from the relentless poverty and lack of hope for the future.

            2. Artemesia*

              My brother was very wealthy and could certainly have afforded to educate his children at top colleges without incurring debt. He nevertheless required them to bank X$ every summer to their college fund which meant either going to work or doing their own business. There was housepainting I believe, insurance video documentation, and the normal jobs involved over the years.

              I do think every young person should work. One of mine was a waiter; one worked in a call center. Better people for it.

              1. Anion*

                Calvin Coolidge was a big believer in this, so his son spent his summers working on a farm. One year another teenager found out who he was and said to him, “If my father was President, I wouldn’t be working on a farm.”

                Cal Jr. replied, “If your father were my father, you would.”

          3. The Strand*

            I understand where you’re coming from. But I do not see it as a lark. I see this as a challenge the OP should consider, because it is incredibly hard to do those things and it will change your life, and your attitude towards the people around you. If OP was an American I’d ask him to live a year on an Americorps salary ($10k) doing Americorps work, and he might gain the self knowledge he appears to need help with.

            I have changed beds, washed toilets, cut up giant garbage cans full of vegetables, been a home health aide, run a cash register, and served fries. My husband was a barback at 14 (illegally of course), has worked construction, as a gas station attendant, oh and as an enlisted member of the military (12 to 16k a year). We have graduate degrees now but we both grew up poor, and we never forget that work. I truly believe that those who have never done this work (which I would never call menial) miss out.

            While I understand your concern about people from privilege playing with this sort of idea…I know we (my husband and close friends who grew up working class or poor) feel bad for younger people who have never experienced this kind of challenge. And I think many of us start those conversations because we believe OP would have trouble getting through just one week. We worry about how to keep our kids from gaining resourcefulness, or having our kids not realize a nice person is always kind to the waitstaff (the janitor…the receptionist…the garbageman) because you are no better than them. Not their better, no matter if you’re an Ivy or Oxbridge grad.

            This work can build character. You also realize your work is not who you are and it doesn’t convey any special points on you. Frankly I have seen too many students who are ill prepared for their first job as graduates, not able to roll with things. A big part is the American upper middle class emphasis on perfect scores and internships. Just me, but I would take a first generation college graduate who has worked tough jobs any day over a kid with the same degree who has never had to work.

            It was because of the people I worked with the 1st ten years post high school, that I never took my later education for granted. I don’t see the work as beneath me, and I truly pray the OP has an experience that changes his heart and attitude.

      10. Spooky*

        That’s the reason why my mom had a rule for me growing up: Before I graduated from college (uni), I had to work both retail and food service. I hated it at the time, but man, it certainly was eye-opening. I wish every human had that same requirement.

        1. Spooky*

          Sorry, hit reply at the top of the thread before reading all the other retail/food service comments. But I’m glad to see so many people thinking the same thing. I hope it becomes a trend.

      11. LizM*

        Very true. I took a part time customer service job in law school. I had a woman argue with me because she was trying to return an item from a brand we didn’t sell – we were fairly upscale, the brand she had was exclusively sold at WalMart. She told me, “What do you know, you’re just a cashier!”

        My first response was that I was going to be a lawyer in a year. But then I thought, even if I’m not a lawyer, it’s not okay to talk to me like that. And “just a cashier” would know better than anyone what their store sold.

        To someone in the upper middle class and above who primarily interacts with peers, it’s easy to think that politeness is common sense until you’re in a position to observe how your peers act when they don’t think anyone from their class is watching.

        1. LizM*

          (I didn’t actually tell her I was going to be a lawyer, I kept my mouth shut while she yelled at me, then told her I wasn’t authorized to accept items not in our computer, but she was welcome to talk to my manager. Because regardless of how customers treat people they see as below them, retail employees have to maintain a poker face and not react.)

      12. only acting normal*

        I’m reminded of when I worked in company pension administration. The people on the pension schemes were given our direct phone numbers, but some of them obviously thought we were a “lowly” call centre and were unbelievably rude to us, not realising that we were the people dealing directly with their case – all the paperwork, sorting problems, investments, divestments, transfers etc – i.e. we had actual power!
        In a to-do-list of 20+ cases a day, the people that were a pleasure to deal with tended to rise to the top, business-like and efficient were treated in kind, downright rude… well I was never rude back, but pointed politeness might have been involved and that *extra* mile was definitely a mile too far.

    3. Roker Moose*

      I’m a bit aghast as this attitude myself. My uni was only a former poly so we had to be nice to the admins and cleaners.

      Unfortunate, if true, that students of Oxbridge, Durham, and LSE can be really unpleasant to the ‘lesser classes’ and get away with it.

    4. Backroads*

      “I wish I had been told the receptionist/janitor/security guard story by career services at my university, which is one of those prestigious English ones.”

      Well, there you have it. He should have been handed the job on a silver platter with a doily and a chocolate-dipped strawberry because he went to a prestigious university whose only fault was not teaching basic social skills.

      1. London Calling*

        Have to say that if you don’t know that by the time you go to uni then it’s waaaay too late and *someone* has really failed in teaching important and basic life skills in childhood.

    5. Rookie Manager*

      Unfortunately there is handful of ‘prestigious’ schools and universities in the UK where students are taught they are richer and therefore more attractive and clever and important than the rest of society. They grow up expecting everything to be just handed to them but think they actually worked hard to get that proverbial silver spoon.

      OP is probably going to be a future politician or titan of industry or something.

  7. Bend & Snap*

    Hmm. I think you should take the reasons they gave you at face value. They are legitimate and frankly, that’s a lot more specific feedback than most job hunters get. They don’t gain anything by giving you that feedback, so you really should look at how you come across and investigate life skills instead of brushing it off with “whatever that means.”

    The fact that they told you to present yourself politely is also a red flag. I’m betting you are coming across in a way you don’t perceive, and they’ve told you pretty directly what that is. The issue with the CEO’s wife was probably just confirmation that you weren’t the right culture fit.

    You should look at how you’re coming off–cocky? rude? oblivious to others and the world around you? and try to correct it. This is where some advice and feedback from people who know you but aren’t over invested in you (think a friend but not a parent) can help with self awareness and correction.

    1. Artemesia*

      Amazingly he still thinks it was somehow ‘unfair’ to be judged by his awful behavior to the CEO’s wife in addition to not hearing the very clear feedback he got.

    2. Amber T*

      “Overconfident” is a polite way of saying exactly that. “Confident” is a good thing, “overconfident” is code that you acted full of yourself. And there have been countless posts regarding cultural fit and its importance at work, so “whatever that means” is showing a lot of ignorance. OP, it really sounds like you took away the wrong lesson here, and I urge you to really reconsider what happened and why.

    1. Not enough face for all this palm*

      Yep. Basically came here, like a handful of classic celebrity memes, popcorn in hand, to watch the comment mayhem :-)

  8. Mr. Rogers*

    I think the OP has gotten part of the way toward learning the right lessons from this, and I give them credit for that. With time and more experience, I think they’ll be able to reflect even more productively on this. For now they are slowly, at least, realizing that 1. their behavior in the initial incident was less than superb, and 2. they may not have had the job completely in the bag as they previously thought they did. I really think it would be to their benefit though to consider that this incident was NOT the deciding factor, at the very least as a useful exercise, and to genuinely reflect on the feedback they’ve been given as to their performance in the interview (which I don’t see happening in this letter, I’m afraid). I do see step 1 to learning from this happening, so I hope they get the rest of the way there!

    1. Colorado CrazyCatLady*

      +1 Clearly, OP isn’t all the way there, but Rome wasn’t built in a day. It took me a long time to realize how I was coming across to other people and the realizations didn’t come all at once.

    2. Formica Dinette*

      I agree completely. Frankly, I’m pleased that OP is already starting to make some headway. I wasn’t sure how they would react to the responses to their post.

  9. CM*

    This part of the update really struck me:

    They also alluded to being “over confident” during the interview and advised about “life skills” development, whatever that means.

    I get the feeling that the interaction with the CEO’s wife was not the first time that this company became aware of some attitude issues from the OP that might be a problem. Op showed the company who they were. The company chose to believe them and said “no thanks.”

    1. Trout 'Waver*

      Or “over confident” and “life skills” are in fact referring to the incident on the metro.

      1. CM*

        I get the feeling that they were aware of the incident with the CEO’s wife and that just cemented some reservations they were already having about the OP.

      2. DecorativeCacti*

        And assuming the interview was just a formality and getting defensive when they didn’t get the job.

        1. Czhorat*

          Yes, even though *there were two candidates for one job*

          Did he think the other candidate’s interview was ALSO a formality, but an inevitable “no”?

      3. Malibu Stacey*

        Based on the what I have seen of the LW, it’s entirely possible he’s not always 100% courteous at work, though. We all have coworkers that fall into that cross-section of “polite enough not to get canned but a big enough jerk to not get promoted if it’s between him and people who are respectful”

      4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Based on what OP shared (which is through his view of what happened), I don’t think that was code at all. Saying he was “overconfident” has nothing to do with the incident on the metro—it has to do with tone and demeanor. And OP also noted that he assumed the interview with the CEO was a formality, when no one from HR or otherwise gave him any such indication. He goes on to describe the other finalist as the “second top candidate,” which is a strange way to describe the person who ultimately got the job. Given how frank HR was with him, I don’t see why they would lie about whether they were aware of the train incident when they have no reason to. I suspect OP’s lack of self-awareness has more to do with HR’s feedback than the train incident.

        1. Myrin*

          To be fair, I’m pretty sure that by “the second top candidate” he meant “the other one of the two top candidates” since he goes on to say “(I forgot to mention that two of us were competing for this post in the final round)”. So there are two top candidates: OP is one and there’s a second one, the person who ultimately got the job.

          (I agree with everything else you and others are saying but I saw some people read the “second top” comment the same way you did here in the original thread as well and wanted to point out that I’m fairly sure that wasn’t how it was meant.)

    2. H.C.*

      Yeah, the dismissive “whatever that means” towards life skills is what struck me too.

      OP, I’m interpreting their life skills comment as the soft skills aspects of a job – which leans towards relationships/communications aspects of a job and can be equally (or more) important the hard skills of certifications, proficiency standards, etc.

      This article has a list of common soft skills that employers notice and value, for your reference and possible improvement upon: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/234864

    3. Been there*

      Agreed… the OP was interning, correct? The interview started and continued throughout the entire internship. There wasn’t a ‘one moment blew the whole thing’ instead there were likely smaller moments and everyday interactions that led to the decision not hire. The OP and all would do well to recognize this.

      The feedback that the HR person gave came from somewhere, right? So most likely it was the OP’s manager, coworkers, and others that he interacted with during his time there. Unfortunately this is a lesson that needs to be learned, and learned early. Your professional reputation is all you have at the end of the day.

      You can be the most skilled, the most qualified, the most deserving, but if you are someone that nobody wants to work with, all of that doesn’t mean a thing. About the only people who can get away with being jerks on the regular that I can think of is surgeons and tenured professors. The rest of us need to have the skills and the personalities to get along.

      1. Leenie*

        I would posit that once you’re an unrepentant jerk, you are no longer the most deserving.

        1. Leenie*

          Just realized I should clarify – in no way did I intend to imply that the LW is an unrepentant jerk. I was just talking about the theoretical people no one wants to work with that Been There referenced.

  10. Sharon*

    You said that they alluded to “life skills development, whatever that means.” That’s precisely what we’re talking about here. It is just a basic life skill that you are polite to people around you (until or unless there is a reason not to be so); it’s a basic life skill that you offer your seat to elderly or disabled people (best to do so unasked, but most certainly if asked) unless you yourself have a disability and require the seat, which wasn’t the case here; and it’s a basic life skill that if you inadvertently dirty someone’s clothing, you apologize and offer to pay for the dry cleaning. Someone’s failed you here, and it isn’t your university’s career services. These are life skills typically taught by parents. I’m concerned that you still don’t know what life skills development means, because it suggests you’re going to run into more circumstances like these in the future unless you really and truly self-reflect about what went on here. Best of wishes to you.

    1. Blue Anne*

      I think it might be a cultural difference. I may be reading too much into it, but it really sounds to me like the OP is a foreign student studying in the UK. Many many foreign students aim for the “prestigious English universities”. This might be something that upper class parents in the country OP is from would not teach their children, because it might not be considered important there. And then when you get to the UK, it’s considered so obvious that no one tells you.

      I have some sympathy – I had similar experiences, although mine were more along the lines of “if you say pants people will think you’re talking about your panties” and “passing starts at 40 here, 71 is an amazing grade”. But OP, you need to pick this stuff up as soon as possible! The cultural differences are going to be the most important ones!

      1. fposte*

        Oh, that’s a really interesting possibility, Blue Anne; I hadn’t thought of that, and it would make a lot of sense that he was familiar with a lot of conventions but had some holes in his experience if so.

        1. Blue Anne*

          Yeah, something about his language makes me think “highly educated foreign student” – I think the lack of contractions and generally formal tone. Add that to the cultural awareness and I can think of a number of foreign classmates who could have been this letter-writer.

          1. Sarah M*

            Yes, I was thinking the same thing, Blue Anne. If this is the case, it may also be a matter of OP needing to learn more about British (and really much of Western) culture.

      2. Fiennes*

        Very possible. Recently I traveled to the United Arab Emirates on business, and I was strongly struck with how emphatic anyone with any authority was in exercising that authority in visible ways. (For instance, there’s usually a guy whose job it is to bring coffee & tea to guests. When I attempted to get up to add my own milk to my tea, people were appalled and summoned this dude (who’d been shooed to the reception area to come back and do that. The milk was literally 2 feet from me.) You *do not* carry your own bags, etc. Most people weren’t actively rude to those serving them – most were courteous – but there was clearly no social contract about treating these people as equals. If OP grew up in similar surroundings, then yes, assuming those around you are deserving of respect *would* be something new to adapt to.

        1. Specialk9*

          Interesting. Did someone native interpret the behavior for you? I could see that being seen as you encroaching on someone’s area, or livelihood, like just hopping behind the counter at Starbucks, rather than you showing social equality. But I’m totally guessing here. I find fascinating that kind of learning about the hidden rules in cultures – which most everyone thinks is ‘the only possible way for reasonable people to think’ but varies incredibly between areas, cultures, and sub-cultures.

          1. Fiennes*

            Nobody explicitly interpreted it, no. But it was something I observed in many different contexts, with varying degrees of courtesy/brusqueness (more the former). There were other gradiations of it–like, the greater degree of deference given by hotel staff to managers, or teachers to principals, both of which I observed in multiple locations. It was definitely about authority/status. Like I said, most people were polite with those beneath them–but nobody was meant to be in any doubt as to who was above and beneath. Culturally, throughout the world/especially throughout history, this is not an especially strange way to operate.

      3. The Other Katie*

        I am not sure that’s the case, though it’s not impossible. Changing rules on post-graduation employment for foreign students and uncertainty over Brexit means it’s far less common for foreign students to stay here after they’re done now. They might work internships, but probably wouldn’t stay for a full-time job, unless they work in a few specialist fields where it’s relatively easier to get one of the very limited work visas.

        1. Blue Anne*

          Don’t I know it. I am one of the many people in my friends group who has recently been kicked out of the UK.

          It’s still very do-able in some professions and some companies, though, even if you’re non-EU. And plenty of EU people are still staying despite the uncertainty.

          1. The Other Katie*

            The rules changed halfway through my masters, with no warning at all. I know a few people who scored a work visa, but they’re mostly quants and engineers.

            1. Blue Anne*

              Sure, but as far as I’m aware, we don’t know what the OP’s subject is. I had assumed finance, engineering or law by the use of the word “firm” in the first post.

          2. PaperTowels*

            Kicked out? Woah, I’m sorry. I’m a Brit and didn’t realise people were already being kicked out, I thought the rules stayed the same as before until we completed the exit from the EU. I’m shocked to hear people are already being made to leave.

            1. Blue Anne*

              Non-EU people have been being forced out for years. Up until now, it has been the only way Theresa May has been able to make the immigration numbers look “better”. When I finished uni in 2011 I got a post-study work visa, two years non-sponsored work just for finishing a British degree – that program was cut a few months after I got mine. Sponsored work visas are becoming harder and harder to get, to the point that most companies don’t even bother applying for them and foreign workers have to leave. If you want to marry a foreign national, you have to be making a pretty high salary. If you have an immigration hearing and there’s any reason to throw you out at all, you’re gone. (I withdrew my immigration application on my lawyer’s advice – she told me about a guy who had been brought over illegally from an African country by his parents when he was a kid, and was now being forced back there even though he didn’t even speak the language.) At least one doctoral student who hadn’t yet found a job and was a few days away from his visa running out has been “preemptively detained” by the home office.

              I know at least half a dozen very highly educated Americans other than myself who were forced to leave despite wanting to be there and after years of paying taxes (and no access to benefits for us thanks!) and one Edinburgh-educated Scot who moved to South America to be with his foreign spouse because he wasn’t making enough to bring her over. She’s a math teacher and fluent in English, Spanish and Portugese. The UK definitely doesn’t need more graduates or math teachers, right?

              I’m sorry for the rant, but so many people don’t realize this, and it kills me. A couple days before my flight I was chatting with a nice old lady at the bus stop and it came up that I was leaving – she said “Oh, don’t you like Scotland?” and I burst into tears. :(

              1. Blue Anne*

                The backstory on “kicked out” vs. “withdrew my application” is pretty illustrative of the way the government is treating immigrants right now, but this is probably getting a bit too off-topic.

              2. PaperTowels*

                Yeah, I don’t think this stuff is common knowledge amongst brits at all, even those like myself who try generally to keep up to date with current events and are very pro migration. I’m so sorry you had to go through this. A huge huge number of us would love free movement and to benefit from the skills and experience of workers from other countries.

              3. Tau*

                I’m so sorry, Blue Anne. :( That’s awful, and I think this sort of thing was pretty invisible not just to British but also to EU people pre-Brexit. I definitely had no idea how tough things were.

      4. Tex*

        I doubt it. I went to a US school with a lot of international students. They would take public transportation regardless of background (shuttles, train, bus) but never bike. The richest ones had exotic cars, used car services or taxis, the poorer ones wouldn’t or couldn’t spend the money on a bike which was regarded as an optional extra.

      5. Observer*

        I don’t really think that this rally explains it. I know people from those cultures. And one thing is for sure – if they were going into a meeting with the CEO they would be VERY careful about how they behaved. In fact, if anything, I would expect the CEO to be saying “Blowhard? Why he was perfectly unassuming in the interview.” And while they may treat underlings very much as underlings, they would never act this way to peers. I also would be very surprised if someone from such a culture would think to call HR to complain about the CEO and his wife That REALLY doesn’t fly in these cultures.

        Also, the incident with the CEO’s wife happened in a context where the OP knows that that people “of all classes” ride the trains.

        But the idea of not expecting to treat all humans as equals, that I can see

        1. PaperTowels*

          Which cultures are you referring to? I didn’t see reference to any nationality in either the OP’s letter or any of the comments in this thread that you and now I are replying to?

          1. Observer*

            Well, I can’t speak to EVERY culture. But there seem to be some commonalities in cultures with very strong class consciousness, and a less than respectful attitude towards people lower on the scale.

      6. employablepotato*

        I actually just laughed out loud at the idea that someone has to be foreign to be rude at a fancy university in the UK.

        1. Blue Anne*

          They certainly don’t have to. I first thought the OP might be a foreign student more because of their way of writing. But cultural differences would also explain a lot.

    2. TootsNYC*

      another life skill:

      You don’t call up and complain that you didn’t get the job because you think you were treated unfairly.

      So yes, lots to learn still.

      If our OP wanted to not be dismissive of “life skills,” he could open up ears and heart and start watching for, or talking through with -sensible- people things like “How would you react if…”

      Reading comments here, or on CaptainAwkward.com, or EtiquetteHell.com/smf some other reasonable advice columns might help to calibrate some of these things.

    3. Agnodike*

      Yeah, when someone says you’re perfectly qualified for a position but they advise you that you need life skills development, they’re telling you that the area where you are deficient is in being able to work with other human beings. Don’t brush that off, OP – you need to know how to work with other human beings, and if you don’t, you will continue to miss opportunities like this one. Interpersonal skills are every bit as important as other job skills like computer competencies or specialized knowledge/training. You need them to succeed. They are not optional. Take this seriously, and reflect on how you be better at being a human.

  11. CityMouse*

    Yeah… It sounds like they had some serious issues with you that had nothing to do with CEO’s wife. Don’t let this atop you from taking their feedback seriously, you really need to examine their criticism and if you don’t understand the “life skills” comment (my guess is that means you came across as arrogant and by appropriate tone for the interview), go back and ask politely for more detail. This may sound harsh but this is for your own good and will help you in the future. Stop excusing this incident and take their feedback seriously.

  12. jv*

    I felt sorry for you in the first post. Not anymore. You are overthinking everything here and making some wild assumptions about the vindictiveness of someone who doesn’t know you from Adam. So you scuffed her coat. Things happen on the tube. If she were to hold this against a random stranger it would be extremely pathetic – people have more important things to worry about and coats can be cleaned.

    The bigger problem here is your attitude and unjustified air of superiority. The feedback HR gave you was VERY good. You do desperately need to work on your life skills. You do come across as especially arrogant in this post and seem to think too highly of yourself. You made a big fool of yourself and you will not be able to use that company as a reference because of this. At this stage in your life, references and faith others have in your attitude and abilities mean everything when it comes to your success later on. Regardless of educational and class background. You need to be humble and hands-on, take advantage of any opportunity thrown your way whether you believe you are above them or not. This is a VERY competitive world and if you don’t match the competition you will be a loser. There are people from all different walks of life who are just as educated as you with more to offer.

    You going back to blaming it on the CEOs wife indicates that you haven’t learnt your lesson and you continue to blame your bad behaviour on someone else.

    I went to university in the UK and I have friends who went to the more prestigious institutions and they are still humble and down-to-earth individuals. Going to a good Uni is not an excuse.

    1. Here we go again*

      I feel the same way… In the original post, it seemed like the wife had started out being rude and the situation just escalated into a series of unfortunate coincidences that cost the OP the job. I thought people were speculating too much and placing too much blame on the OP because of what was statistically likely, but not verified fact (i.e. how old the father, wife, CEO, etc. was). While I appreciate the OP has now admitted that the wife was justified in asking for the seat, I have lost the sympathy I had the last time. Hopefully the OP learns how to treat people… sooner rather than later.

      1. Artemesia*

        I never believed the CEO’s wife was rude. I cannot imagine she said ‘get up and give the old man your seat jerk.’ I am betting she said ‘My father needs that seat’ or something similarly abrupt since able bodied young people were not hopping up and offering the seat as they should. He called her rude apparently for presuming that HE with important things to do should be polite to her father.

        1. Here we go again*

          I did actually believe she was rude. I’ve seen it enough times that it wouldn’t have surprised me. (And we are told to take the OPs at their word). This simple… clarification (I guess that’s what I’ll call it…), changes my entire perspective.

    2. London Engineer*

      Yeah, the part about Uni struck me as odd… because I went to a ‘prestigious’ uni and while I hope that I’d still be polite to receptionists and others, one thing that was very clear was just how useful being friendly with the various non-managerial staff (not sure how to phrase that?) could be.

      Seriously, the porters know everything…

      1. Katie the Fed*

        One of my employees last year got mouthy with one of the senior admins in our organization – someone who is a gatekeeper to the very senior seniors. He’s smug and was used to being fawned over by the seniors because he IS really smart, but that did not go well. She called me and was livid over how he talked to her, and I told him he needed to make it right, or risk losing all the access and good favor he enjoyed with the seniors. He fortunately listened to me and I helped smooth it over too.

        1. Turtle Candle*

          My mother sat me down after I was tested as highly gifted in school and said, “You’re very smart. You also have the capacity to be very kind. I think you can be both things, and it will serve you well. But to be honest, if I had to choose between a smart daughter and a kind daughter, I’d pick kind.”

          It made an immense impact on me in a milieu where it often seemed that intelligence was the be-all end-all virtue.

          1. Bryce*

            I find this interesting because I had the reverse conversation with my dad. He kept trying to get me to realize how much smarter than “normal” people I was and I was having none of it because he kept using “smarter” in a way that sounded like “better” to me. To be fair to him, his father literally got out of the gutter only because of a photographic memory and testing highly enough to be considered deserving of an education; I can see where he’d get a bit of a hangup about making the most of your talents. Dad was always a very friendly, gracious man interacting with others, but I don’t think I’d list humility as one of his virtues.

          2. Specialk9*

            Mentally marking this: “if I had to choose between a smart kid and a kind kid, I’d pick kind.” YES.

          3. Fresh Faced*

            @Turtle candle kind of unrelated but you just explained why someone I met recently seemed “off” to me. I didn’t like him, didn’t want to see him again if I could help it and I couldn’t quite place why. They were smart, somewhat funny, seemed intrigued about my work and had much of the same interests as me. But the more time I spent with him I found out that he prioritized being seen as very smart, over being kind. Like your mother, given the choice I picked kind. So thank you for putting it into words. Had a bit of a lightbulb moment at my desk!

      2. Ceiswyn*

        I went to a ‘prestigious’ university too, and it never occurred to me NOT to be nice to the porters, scouts, servers etc.

        With the result that I got free chips on my birthday, and the head porter helped me clear out a room for a social gathering after a Fellow nicked the one I’d booked :)

        1. Specialk9*

          What’s a porter or scout? I thought porter meant one who carried bags, but outside of a hotel or train that seems strange. A scout =/= one who rides ahead for the lay of the land, either, presumably?

          1. Ninja*

            At Oxford, the porter mans the front desk – responsible for security, locking the college doors at night, sorting the mail, dealing with visitors and enquiries. Ours were lovely. They knew the names of all the college students and were a great source of support and advice.
            Scouts are the people who clean your rooms. This sounds fancy, but it mainly meant emptying your bin and cleaning the sink in your room – and not even that if you put your bin outside your door because you had a “visitor.” (At Cambridge, they’re called bedders.)
            So, nonacademic college staff, effectively.

          2. Thlayli*

            University porters are like security guards kind of, but they also have some other powers. They know everyone and can get around all sorts of stuff like for example getting rooms last minute. I believe Douglas Adams mentioned how important it is to get on the good side of the porters..

            No idea why they are called porters rather than security guards – just one of those things.

            Scouts I have no idea of.

          3. AJHall*

            A scout is the person who cleans your room and the communal areas of college, and does things like make sure the bathrooms have got loo paper. A porter is responsible for keys, mail, security, checking who’s coming in or going out, evicting non-residents, dealing with crises generally. Both Oxford terms. It’s well known that when Bill Clinton visited Oxford the person he absolutely insisted on seeing again was the porter from his old college.

      3. Tau*

        I was totally wondering about how the attitude of “what, you mean you have to be polite to custodial staff?” would fly with the porters. I’m pretty sure I was more polite to the porters than to my tutors, out of terror of what might befall me if I dared be rude.

    3. AnnaleighUK*

      I wonder if he went to the same uni I did – there is a certain… elitism… that a lot of the people who study there seem to have that carries over into the professional world until something bursts the bubble. Yeah it’s a ‘prestigious’ institution but there’s no need to be a snot about it. You’re nae better than anyone else, as my mum would say. Basic human decency is being basically decent to basically everyone. Mind you, uni certainly doesn’t prepare you for the real world. I’m glad I had a job while I was there (bookshop) so at least I got to learn something about workplace norms and being nice to people, even when you have four essays due and you’re working overtime.

      1. Blue Anne*

        Yeah. I went to a uni that some people I knew considered posh, but which my Oxbridge friends said “Oh darling, no, no” to.

        The yahs at that place, oh my goodness. It was so interesting watching them.

        1. fposte*

          This post was making me think of the Harrow kid who yelled to a bouncer “One day you’ll work for me.” (The bouncer then punched him and the kid died, which is why it hit the news.) There are those kind of people.

          1. Blue Anne*

            Yesssss. Exactly.

            There was a girl in my college prep school who thought poor people and ugly people would go to hell. (The ugly people thing was an offshoot of the poor people thing; after all, if they had any money they’d just get plastic surgery. She and myself, with my oft-operated-on disfigured face, had interesting interactions.) I didn’t see that attitude at my uni, exactly, but I certainly saw things that were close.

            Not to say OP is anything like that! But people can get so weird about resources and other humans…

            1. Elizabeth West*

              I decided if I ever mixed in those circles, I was going to keep being nice to the people who were waiting on me, no matter what the smart set might think of me. Not like I’ll ever be invited to have tea with the Queen, or Will and Kate, or Lord and Lady Muffington at Poshwell Manor, but you never know.

              Starting with saying thank you when the doorman at F&M held the door for me. Just because it’s his job to stand around all day in livery and hold the damn door doesn’t mean I should treat him like furniture.

              1. Chinook*

                ” Not like I’ll ever be invited to have tea with the Queen, or Will and Kate, …”

                Thing is, if you did, you would see that they treat other with politeness and interest. There are tons of stories of various Canadians from all walks of life meeting our royalty for some award or event being shocked and how down to earth and nice they are. That is because they were taught, from birth, that having a title doesn’t mean you get to be a jerk to those you rule (especially because on of their ancestors that did this was executed as a result and overthrowing the monarchy is always an option).

            2. Specialk9*

              Oh my gosh. How utterly cruel. I’m so sorry you had to even have that concept in your head, much less embodied near you and uttering words, while you had to deal with something difficult. Just… sending back in time a hug to the kid-you.

              1. Blue Anne*

                Kid-me was vindicated. She contacted me a few years ago to apologize – I think as part of a twelve step program, since she asked what I was doing with my life (living abroad, working in finance, great degree, lots of friends) and then said she’d just gotten out of rehab.

                I know addiction is a disease… but it couldn’t have happened to a nicer person, y’know?…

          2. serenity*

            This is very late to the party, but this comment is…not great. I know the point you were trying to make, but this almost makes it sound like you are advocating for someone who says something like that to be met with violence. Yes, he said that, and yes he was 18 (and yes, he died).

        2. AnnaleighUK*

          Oxford survivor here. I know exactly the kind of person you mean! I got grief because I’m not from ‘money’ and I got there via my brains, not cash. I didn’t have that many friends at uni because I wasn’t posh. And apparently they couldn’t understand my accent! I’m Scottish! People, honestly…

          1. fposte*

            I have a Scottish Oxonian friend who experienced exactly the same thing (though I believe they were fine understanding more genteel Scottish accents). And then she worked in public service and ran into the same people and problems.

      2. Marillenbaum*

        My sister-in-law’s gran always used to say “We are not at home to Mr. Boasty.” when she thought kids were getting too big for their britches.

        1. only acting normal*

          My grandmother’s phrase for someone overly pleased with themselves was “She thinks her arse is a cream puff.” :-D

      3. Artemesia*

        I was at a dinner party next to one of these grads the other evening. He didn’t know me and every two minutes he would stop whatever brilliant thing I was saying with ‘I don’t mean to interrupt, but (insert strident opinion different from mine). One of the topics was something I have a doctorate in — but I was clearly someone’s wife to him and thus completely of no consequence. A 30 something investment banker educated at Oxford.

  13. Wendy Anne*

    So even after all that, the OP is still convinced it’s the wife’s fault they missed out on a job? HR was right about needing “life skills”.

  14. Jesca*

    In agreement with others, many people would assume that basic niceties would be undertaken in all situations, and therefore your career services would not have mentioned it. I think you ended up getting some very important feedback here from HR on your soft skills. Do not over look those at all. Because whether this situation with the CEO’s was the actual cause, I think that receiving that feedback does show you that you obviously demonstrated these poor traits in other avenues during your time there. So yes, in a sense, you did actually lose the job for your “underdeveloped” soft skills. Take that seriously. There are many books out there (sorry can’t link) that can really help with developing self awareness. I would take advantage of those ASAP.
    Also, take this as a lesson that things happen and after they occur, some very strong self-analysis may be in order.

  15. New Bee*

    Thanks for the update OP. I can only imagine how hard it must’ve been to read an avalanche of critical comments.

    How gracious of HR to give you feedback. I think it’d be helpful to reflect on the connection between their comment about your overconfidence and your reaction to them telling you the CEO’s wife incident wasn’t the deciding factor. Can you see how deciding you know the “real” story, despite HR’s candid advice, is indeed overconfidence? And can you think of ways that thought process may have translated to sub-optimal behaviors during the interview process?

    I think you are definitely on the path to learning from this. Best of luck as you move forward!

    1. Cathryn*

      This is a great response! I was going to say this myself, but I’m glad someone else did! It’s sometimes difficult to hear this kind of feedback and not become defensive, but maybe after some reflection, you can see how this critical feedback was helpful and will do you some good in how you carry yourself professionally.

      Good luck!

    2. ThisIsNotWhoYouThinkItIs*

      Seriously, kudos for reading all of those–it must have been overwhelming.

      To me it sounds like the HR person is talking about your “soft skills”–not your ability at the job, but how you interact with the people at the job and situations you find yourself in.

      For practical advice–I’m a person that’s been raised to be polite and nice to everyone (and I usually am). However, I didn’t realize for many many years that my habit of being extremely direct and somewhat-challenging of ideas can come across as hella-rude (the “hella-rude” is used there deliberately, feel free to change it to “cringe-inducing rude” or something similar). I thought “well, this is work, and we’re here to work. Let’s get it done! I don’t mean anything to anyone personally, it’s all about the facts. They should know that–that’s why we’re here.” So the HR reps feedback to me probably would have included the phrase “life skills”–that attitude can read as condescending, rude, and forceful. Super-bad, especially if you are in an interview. As part of my life-skills, I’ve learned to tone that down–not everyone appreciates it, and not everyone responds to it positively. My default is a little more questioning, and I’ve worked on phrasing so that things don’t come off as so aggressive. For me, that was the soft-skill I had to learn–talent and aptitude can only get you so far if you are perceived as a jerk/arrogant/difficult and no one wants to work with you. I didn’t change who I am (impossible really), I just added another layer of empathy in-front: “is this going to come out without sounding rude on the other side? Does it need to be said by me? If this isn’t my call, is there a way to diplomatically disagree?”

      The best way to find out how you come across to people is to ask someone that’s always blunt with you. Sometimes friends/family will be too polite about problems like this (or too similar to you so they don’t see the problem!). If your uni does mock-interviews, do another one, then mention the feedback you got on this job interview and ask for advice on what the HR rep could mean.

      Finally, find a few books on soft skills and read them! I’m drawing a blank on ones I’ve read right now, but if I remember I’ll be sure to add to this comment.

      I’ve read stories like “Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters” (similar to “Diamonds and Toads”) and the like for a while, and this seems like a real-life example of it. Bad roll of the dice, but maybe good timing for you–if you can internalize the lesson, read a few references, and get some practice under your belt you’ll be well-poised going forward.

      Best of luck to you.

      1. ThisIsNotWhoYouThinkItIs*

        Shoot–I knew I forgot something.

        One reason not to complain the way you did is that it looks a bit unprofessional (which I think the HR person implied adequately). The other reason not to do this sort of complaining is because, depending on who’s called for your reference, they can quote this as an example of your overconfidence or their concerns about you. They can also imply a lot with a tone when the reference calls, and if they have a negative impression of you it may come out without them having to say anything.

        1. Artemesia*

          The HR guy will be dining out on it for awhile; this is the sort of thing that becomes an anecdote that circulates in a profession.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      This is so much more evolved than all of my comments/reactions. It’s extremely helpful/kind, and I hope OP reads it and absorbs it.

  16. Sara*

    I think your recruiter is doing you a disservice of leading you to believe that this was a done deal here that lead to the ‘over confident’ interview. But also, being referred to as ‘over confident’ can sometimes be code for being a blowhard. I would take a strong look at your behavior because between the seat incident and this, you may be coming off as a jerk to people.

    1. Courtney W*

      I agree that the recruiter is really not helping at all. If the final interview was between OP and one other person, I can’t imagine seeing that as a formality – generally with an interview that’s actually a formality, they aren’t interviewing another person for the same position. OP, you don’t seem to get where he overconfident/life skills criticism HR gave you came from, but they’re right here in both of your letters. Perhaps try giving them a read as if they were written by someone else. If you can do so, you’all have a better idea of why you’re being perceived this way, and really, it sounds like trying to put yourself in another person’s shoes is something you need to work on to get your life/people skills where they need to be. Admitting that the seat was not really asked for rudely is a start, but for real change you’re going to have to really challenge your instincts.

    2. sunny-dee*

      Honestly, I’m not sure how well the OP is reading the recruiter’s responses. The recruiter could be saying something like, “you’re a strong candidate” or “we generally hire interns because of X” and then took that as the recruiter saying “you already have the job, this is a formality.”

      I’ve worked with recruiters (on both sides), and I’ve never heard anything is a “formality.” The only exception was when I had a job offer already and they wanted me to go and fill out an application for their records. That was the only “formality.”

      The OP doesn’t seem to be getting the sift signals that their demeanor is off-putting. So they may be misinterpreting encouragement or optimism as a guarantee.

      1. fposte*

        Yes, I was thinking the same thing; there are some signs the OP’s lens is a little distorted.

      2. Courtney W*

        That is a fair point. I have been given a formality style of interview once, but was told that verbatim – it was a promotion that needed to happen from within my department and I was the only one with the necessary qualifications. This was likely different.

        1. Czhorat*

          Also, recruiters want to keep you as a candidate, so they’ll tend to butter you up. Recruitment is sales, to an extent.

        2. TootsNYC*

          I have hired in situations in which the interview w/ my boss was truly a formality, and have said that very explicitly ( what I said was, “I want to hire you but my boss has to sign off. She’ll follow my recommendation unless something goes wrong in the interview. Just don’t spit on her.”)

    3. Specialk9*

      The OP already admitted they lied there. First they said they had “been told repeatedly by HR that I would definitely be offered the job”. Then they said that actually nobody said that.

      “The HR actually never told me the final interview was a formality and maybe I read too much into their encouragement re: the recruitment prospects. I guess I might have misunderstood my chances from the discussions with the people I have been actually working with. However, my recruiter was surprised I was not selected.”

      BIG difference. It makes it clear this person makes up and exaggerates things that make them feel good, and ignores anything that doesn’t.

      1. Czhorat*

        The update also references a second applicant.

        As I said above, it can’t be a formality if there are two people for one position.

        1. TootsNYC*

          The update also said the CEO is very involved in hiring.

          Sometimes the hiring manager’s boss sees the final candidate only, in order to rubber-stamp it, but our OP actually said that the CEO is very involved, and that this is WHY he was so convinced it was the wife’s input that sunk him.

  17. Old Admin*

    Even in this update, the OP comes across as very elitist, classist, snobby.
    I have dealt with many Brits professionally and personally, and this is not one of the good ones.

        1. Juliecatharine*

          It’s harsh but I would call it a harsh dose of reality that, if this update is anything to go by, OP desperately needs.

          1. Observer*

            He’s getting a fairly significant dose of that, and that’s fair. But there are kinder and less kind ways of saying the same thing.

            1. Mike C.*

              What is the nice way of pointing out to someone that they are treating people poorly because of their social class?

    1. London Calling*

      I’m British and live in the UK and my jaw dropped a bit at the explanation that ‘all classes use public transport’ as if the ignorant readers of this blog can’t be expected to know that. Oh no, rlly? and by the way, OP, taking your bike on the tube? please, just RIDE the damned thing and give the rest of us a bit of much needed space!

      1. London Engineer*

        Ok I was disappointed by this update but to be fair there were a few people on the original post querying why a CEO’s wife would ever be seen on public transport (and one weird person who seemed to believe that celebrities and the wealthy shouldn’t get seats even if they were disabled/pregnant)

      2. Confused Teapot Maker*

        I thought that was a direct reaction to some of the responses in the original post. I think there was one which was along the lines of “I just can’t understand why the CEO’s wife wasn’t taking a limo”. As a Londoner, it was particularly headdesk inducing.

        1. K.*

          Ha – it’s funny how you view things through your own lens. In NYC everyone takes public transportation because it really is the fastest way to get around, so it didn’t occur to me that a CEO’s wife would be above taking public transportation.

          1. Observer*

            It wouldn’t have occurred to me either, but at least one poster made a huge deal about this.

            1. krysb*

              It must have been the poster who’s replies I studiously ignored, but were everywhere?

      3. Malibu Stacey*

        To be fair, yeah, it *would* be very unusual for an American CEO’s wife to take public transportation. There’s a stigma in the U.S. that it’s only for poor people. (Case in point, the comments here when there’s a letter about someone without a car or a license)

        1. LBK*

          Eh, to some extent it’s stigma, but there’s also pragmatism to it; usually when I take a cab vs public transit it’s because it’s wildly more convenient to just drive straight there instead of having to take 2 trains to get to somewhere less than a mile away. If I can afford that luxury of spending 1/4 of the time getting to my destination for an increased fare, why wouldn’t I? It’s not that I think the train is beneath me, there just isn’t a compelling reason for me to take it when I can afford a better option.

        2. Jessie the First (or second)*

          I do not at all recognize your comment “There’s a stigma in the U.S. that it’s only for poor people.” Back in my Big Law Firm days, lots of the attorneys (up to an including senior, rainmaking partners) took the subway in to work. I’ve personally always taken the train and subway when I’ve worked in the city. It’s not something that *anyone* I know thinks of as “just for poor people.” So, you are speaking of your perspective from your particular state, but it’s not that way in every state in the US.

          1. Malibu Stacey*

            Sure, a lot of people in NYC take the subway to work. I don’t think most wives of CEOs take their fathers on the subway to get places on Sundays in NYC, though.

            And there ARE a lot of people in this comment section who think there’s something wrong with people who don’t have cars or driver’s licenses (not to say that’s everyone who takes public transportation)

            1. K.*

              In NYC, yes they do. I mean, I don’t know everyone & their father, but it really would not be unusual at all to see a middle-aged woman and her elderly father in the subway or bus on a Sunday in NYC. My grandmother was a lifelong New Yorker and died at 83 not knowing how to drive; she took public transportation literally her entire life, into her 80s, and she’s far from the only one.

          2. Blue Anne*

            Public transit in NYC is very different from elsewhere in the country. It is really the only good option and everyone uses it. I lived there in high school, took the subway every day, and understand why you’re having this reaction.

            But it is seriously different in most of the country. I live in Cleveland now, and when I take public transport, I am usually the only white person on the bus and the only person in business wear. Same with the overground train, except when people use it to get to a baseball game. And it was the same when I was a kid living in Jersey. Having reached the age of 28 without learning to drive because I lived in NYC and the UK… I now have a car.

        3. Susanne*

          No, Malibu Stacey. That may be true in California, but not in New York or other major cities. There is no reason executives and/or their spouses wouldn’t be taking public transportation (unless there were security /safety issues, which doesn’t sound like the case here).

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            It’s not even true in parts of California (it’s quite common for fancy people to take the BART or the Transbay Bus or a “private” public transport option—who wants to drive into SF or the surrounding areas?).

        4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I think it depends significantly on the transit system (e.g., rail v. bus) and the region.

      4. Bryce*

        Does the tube not have hooks to hang bikes from? I’ve been spoiled by Portland where we have those on our traincars, and the busses have fold-out racks in the front.

        1. former foster kid*

          hooks to hang bikes on!?! that would be amazing. but our tube carriages are very small. :-(

          the overground usually has open spaces for bikes or wheelchairs though, next to the door. there will be seats adjacent to that spot (you’ll typically see a mother sitting with a hand on her pram, that sort of thing). it’s definitely reasonable to take the bike on the overground on sundays. but situational awareness is also a thing.

          1. Bryce*

            I suppose hooks are more of a luxury when you’re in a small city and don’t have the sheer number of people to move around (though we do have some crowding issues here). Also this place is full of hills so it’s not uncommon for folks to bike part of a trip and then hop on a bus for the steep/high traffic part; I’ve always imagined Londoin to be more flat.

            1. One of the Sarahs*

              London is definitely not flat!

              Lots of the Tube was built in Victorian times, so the tunnels are less tall than in cities that built their underground stations later. And to get under the Thames, and because of the hills and valleys, the tunnels go really deep underground, unlike eg in parts of NYC where the Metro is just below the road surface in a lot of places.

                1. Laura*

                  TBF, this was the overground, and it’s even faster than the tube, so even more reason she’d be taking it. Less obnoxious to bring on one’s bike but 100% not done to sit down while in charge of it. And of course, what hasn’t been mentioned it that the end seats, which you’d use if you had a bike, are generally the handicapped ones, so Herbert ought to have known that he was doubly in the wrong.

      5. Specialk9*

        Public transport is hugely varied – I’ve lived in countries and cities in which it was good, bad, and indifferent; where all classes or only lower classes took it; where it was a first or a last choice; where it was safe or where it was begging to be mugged or killed; where it didn’t even exist, or so badly it might as well not. So yeah, people who haven’t been there need to have it explained to them.

    2. my two cents*

      I agree with you, Old Admin.

      Even the line about “wishing they had heard it at uni, which was one of those prestigious ones” made my roll my eyes.

  18. sometimeswhy*

    …and advised about “life skills” development, whatever that means.

    Oh, LW. Please, please, please spend some time figuring out what that means. That’s where the lesson is.

  19. Trout 'Waver*

    After the beating OP took after the first letter, I’m honestly surprised they came back for another round. I see the bandwagon is loading up again.

        1. LBK*

          I don’t think there’s a quota of people who are allowed to give the same advice and after that people need to either take a different position or not comment.

          1. Trout 'Waver*

            It feels like bandwagoning and piling on, tbh. I can easily imagine some people reading the comments here and deciding not to write in for advice.

            1. LBK*

              Eh, I get that to some extent, but I also don’t know how you mitigate it aside from just banning all discussion that agrees with an existing comment. That seems like it would make having a comments section pretty pointless, or at least dramatically stymie conversation.

              1. Trout 'Waver*

                I think the style of moderation where Alison watches for things going off track and posts a suggestion at the top of the comments section works quite well for this site. I don’t think an all or nothing ban would be appropriate either.

                1. LBK*

                  Yeah, I think it’s just tricky to find the balance between letting people express the same opinion vs what constitutes a pile on, especially because on some level there’s value in seeing just how overwhelming a group of people come to a consensus on a topic.

              2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                When an OP is showing they’re trying to work on something, I’m all about asking people not to pile on.

                But when someone is clearly not listening to the advice and digging their heels in and defending rudeness, there’s going to be a strong response. I think that’s a normal consequence. I’ll intervene if someone is being outright unkind or uncivil, but not when it’s just lots of people pointing someone is wrong in this kind of context. There’s a reason this letter writer is getting this response.

                1. Czhorat*

                  Thank you.

                  One detail I found telling is that the OP said,

                  “”I also read the comments from readers and was surprised about the volume of those. I see that some people were on my side, so to speak.””

                  No. There might have been a handful who suggested the CEO’s wife had been abrupt, but the overall tone of the discussion was overwhelmingly negative towards the OP. There’s no other way to read it. The followup post showed not only a lack of humility, but almost a lack of awareness that the community here (rightly) overwhelming sees him in the wrong.

            2. Katie the Fed*

              commenters here are usually VERY generous if the OP shows any sign of remorse or understanding their behavior was wrong (see yesterday’s biting post, for example). Things get more tense when they double down or reject any of the advice given.

              1. LBK*

                Also really true, to the extent that there was a backlash of people saying the comment section was being TOO nice to the OP yesterday.

                1. Jessie the First (or second)*

                  “How dare you pile on!”
                  “How dare you be so nice!”

                  I mean, it might be possible that in general, commenters can’t win!

                  For this post, people seem be direct but basically kind, one or two comments aside. It is not unkind for people to recognize that a few critically important lessons have not sunk in, and to point that out. With any luck, some of these comments will resonate with OP and OP will actually begin to hear what HR has already told him/her.

              2. JamieS*

                To be fair there were also some comments yesterday where people projected far more into the situation than was indicated in the letter in ways that made the OP more sympathetic. I mostly skimmed them but IIRC there were comments about false imprisonment, a campaign of abuse specifically perpetrated against the OP, many took issue with the bitee’s reaction to being bitten, etc.

                Obviously admitting mistakes and being humble helps but IMO many people would’ve been sympathetic to yesterday’s OP regardless due to their own projections.

            3. Elizabeth H.*

              I agree, seems more like people are most interested in talking about how nice they themselves are, unlike the horrible OP

          2. Forrest*

            There’s no quota but honestly, it’s exhausting to have to wade through 600 comments with a lot of them starting with “I didn’t read the comments, but here’s my opinion that was stated by 10 different people.”

            The point is to be useful to letter writers. It stops being useful when you have to spend time digging through tons of comments that say the same thing only to find a new perspective.

            1. Jesca*

              Meh. I think that’s kind of the way it goes. Certainly nit picking threads only add to it though …

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Yeah, I don’t think there’s any way around that, other than a rule that you have to read all comments before adding your own and that you need to say something new … which is a lot more heavy handed than I want to be.

                1. LBK*

                  Not to mention unlikely to be follow and more trouble to enforce than it’s probably worth.

                2. Forrest*

                  Oh, I agree there shouldn’t be a rule. I just wish people would be more courteous I suppose.

                3. JamieS*

                  That rule sounds a bit unrealistic and impossible to enforce. A general guideline of asking people to take a few moments to skim before commenting might work if there’s not already one in place. Not necessarily read every comment but skim enough that someone would be able to realize if his thoughts had already been stated dozens, possibly hundreds, of times.

                  Another suggestion would be to make a post at the top listing already discussed ‘top comments’ if you notice an overwhelming volume essentially saying the same thing but that might not be something you want to undertake.

          1. JamieS*

            Trout’s saying one has nothing to do with the other. The number of people in agreement has nothing to do with whether they’re right or wrong in the same way a taco’s deliciousness has nothing to do with the silliness, or lack thereof, of the Pope’s hat.

            Least I’m pretty sure that’s what he was getting at. My alternative interpretation is he feels the need to randomly defend the Pope’s hat and was hungry.

        1. Jesca*

          I think for the OP, the numbers normally do matter. In their updates, its always “I was so shocked by all of the responses that made me realize I wasn’t crazy”. Writing in here obviously comes with the caveat that others are going to comment and offer their opinions and advice as well. If the OP see an overwhelming agreement/disagreement, it will matter to them. Its like asking on facebook where to eat dinner. It matters. Its called crowd sourcing. People write in to literally crowd source a response.

        2. Fictional Butt*

          Uh, so is that an example of the type of comments you’d rather see here, Trout? That doesn’t seem particularly informative or helpful to OP, JB, or anyone else…

    1. ByteTheBullet*

      It can feel like piling on when everyone agrees that the letter writer is in the wrong, so I do give the LW some kudos for confronting himself with different opinions.

    2. The Supreme Troll*

      Trout ‘Waver, I definitely am not one of those commenters who likes to follow “groupthink”. There are times that I have not agreed with the other people commenting, and even Alison’s advice (although I always read and try to understand it as carefully as possible). And I have posted comments where I knew I would be in the minority where many others, including Alison, wouldn’t agree with me.

      However, lots of times, the groupthink happens because the letter writer is wrong in how they are assessing their situation, and there really is no “correct” way of looking at things through his/her point of view. Or the LW is asking questions not in earnest, but in a way that they want to hear something that they like. In these cases, Alison’s answers will seem blunt, and so will the follow-up in the comments. But they are for constructive change, not personal attacks. And the OP here, I’m sure, deep down knows this.

  20. Parting Shot*

    Interesting how quick OP was to point out that “I see that some people were on my side, so to speak,” when the vast majority weren’t.

    1. Jesca*

      Yeah and those “on his side” were justifying it based on the assumption it was a series of bad luck events. Basically they gave him the benefit of the doubt, which he now states was in fact the opposite. I really hope OP that you can reflect on this. You basically asked for a poll by writing into an advice column, and you got the overwhelming answer. Take heed of that!

    2. Edith*

      Especially since everyone *was* on his side. Nobody here wants him to fail or have his career ruined. People saw serious flaws in his actions and interpretation of the events he described and offered advice and recontextualization. OP seems to think that “being on his side” means agreeing that he was completely in the right and only didn’t get the job because he was screwed over by a vindictive woman.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        Yep. OP one good life lesson you might try to take from this is that agreeing with you and being on your side are not the same thing. Nobody would be doing you any favours – for the short or long term – by just validating your perspective.

        1. fposte*

          “agreeing with you and being on your side are not the same thing.”

          I can’t do flashing red font here so I’ll just quote this. I’m remembering hildi, who used to post here quite often, and who was absolutely brilliant at being on people’s side while not always agreeing with them.

          1. JB (not in Houston)*

            Yes, this this this. People who are truly on your side will tell you things you really need to hear to succeed.

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Hilde had a very very specific and enviable skill. Calling it “absolutely brilliant” almost feels like an understatement. :)

  21. Stellaaaaa*

    HR gave you the company’s reasons for not hiring you but you still insist that you’re being victimized. You haven’t examined the possibility that they declined to hire you for reasons that have to do with YOU. You seem to think that the other candidate had the job in the bag from the beginning and you call the interview a formality. Again, you’re choosing to frame this as if the deck was already stacked against you and that everyone involved was acting maliciously toward you.

    Soul-searching is hard, as is admitting to yourself that you’ve acted in ways that others can read as signs of poor character. Stop blaming other people and coming up with half-conspiracy theories when things don’t go your way.

  22. Katie the Fed*

    OP, I can’t help but think you still don’t get it. And that’s unfortunate. You were given some really useful feedback here:

    “They also alluded to being ‘over confident’ during the interview and advised about ‘life skills’ development, whatever that means.”

    I can tell you exactly what that means – you came across arrogant and immature. You need to work on both of those things, badly, or you’re going to keep running into problems in your career and frankly your life.

    And really, do you need to be taught to be nice to low-ranking service employees? The theme of the thread I think you missed was that you need to treat people well, regardless of who they are. That goes to the maturity thing above.

    1. Archie Goodwin*

      I agree…you’re coming off as a bit self-unaware here. More so than you did in the original letter. Lack of self-awareness is fine, as far as it goes – Lord knows I had plenty of that when I was just starting out (I still do, and I’ve been in the working world for just over a decade now.) But until you find a way to counteract that you’re going to end up getting in your own way, which isn’t going to help a bit.

      A little humility can go a long way in an office setting…trust me.

    2. The Bill Murray Disagreement*

      Agreed, Katie the Fed. And I’d go even further in this, OP to ask you about how you’ve behaved in the confines of your internship.
      Some Life Skills things that might have arisen in your internship:
      1. Have you ever been asked to do something that wasn’t strictly in the job description of your internship and then ignored it because you were busy doing something else you found more important? (Like how you ignored a request to give up your seat because your reading was more important to you.)
      2. Did you ever react with disdain when someone who didn’t have immediate authority over your internship asked you something?
      3. Did you ever brag about your prestigious university education, or at least frequently allude to where you went to school?
      4. Did you ever change the way you spoke / behaved with people you knew had higher authority/power in the organization vs. people whose authority was below management (or whose authority you didn’t know)?
      5. Did you have a hard time forging connections with people in the company outside of being asked to perform work (or asking people to do things for you)?

      Any or all of the above could be legitimate examples of not showing necessary “life skills” for the role you were seeking – and you exhibited similar behaviors to all of the above in your interactions with the CEO’s wife (per your original description of the incident).

  23. Cathleen*

    As someone who has worked in receptionist-type positions, the idea that your university’s career services department should have to tell you to be polite and treat them like human beings is kind of appalling. That’s not something that one should have to be taught, it’s common decency.

    1. Stellaaaaa*

      OP is peeved that their uni didn’t give them the “hack” of being nice to the receptionist to get the job. It’s still not about basic kindness in OP’s mind. Like I was annoyed when I learned what a post-interview follow-up letter was, and that I’d never learned about it over the course of my education and career counseling. OP is putting “be nice to people” in that category of shoo-in job-getters, something to be turned on and off when you want something.

      1. DecorativeCacti*

        Lifehack! Don’t be a jerk and people will be nice to you and give you jobs!

    2. arn*

      Yeah, you not knowing that you should be polite to public-facing or service personnel isn’t your university’s fault, it’s your parent’s fault. This isn’t a “help me in my job hunt” issue, this is a character issue. This is the “life skills” the HR rep was talking about

    3. Edith*

      Re: treating support staff like human beings–
      A doctor friend of mine has a hard and fast policy: you yell at her staff, you are no longer her patient. It’s alarming how many of them are shocked and say “It was just the receptionist!!” as if medical school is what entitles you to not be screamed at while at work.

      /faith in humanity

      1. the gold digger*

        The owner of a local restaurant wrote on her facebook page (4,000 fans) that if the customer who had been so rude to the 15 year old waitress did not return to the restaurant by the next day to apologize in person, the owner would put his name on the page along with complete detail of his rude behavior.

        1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

          Did he come back? Did he get his name published? I honestly want to know. Good on the owner to state that.

          1. the gold digger*

            Yes, he did come back! Here’s her post:

            Final update of Mr Important: Well, a sobbing apparently contrite grown man accompanied with his wife apologized profusely to my young staff and said to be seeking professional counseling for prior violence issues they were victim themselves to stop this cycle. They said he has signed up for anger management and will get more educated on Bodyshaming and LGBT rights. He will support and donate anonymously to LGBT Advocacy group , Boys &Girls club and Alice’s Garden.
            We consider this matter closed but have made sure to record it so evidences can be used in the future for any relevant matter of law.
            Love is everything -No one is above the Law and the biggest law is human common sense of treating people how you want to be treated . Don’t mess with my staff!!!!
            Compassion, Dignity, Respect are basic human expectation. We accept apologies and move on. For those who even remotely think about misbehaving in my establishments, You are warned, I WILL NOT TOLERATE any DISRESPECT of my staff and when you visit us bring along good manners or feel free to patronize elsewhere. We are committed to go above and beyond to serve you but NEVER at the Expense of our dignity.
            Our youth especially young girls needs advocacy and roles models not bullies.
            If you offend my staff or a vulnerable person around me I will not spare any energy in making sure you are accountable.
            Have a fabulous weekend to you all!

          2. the gold digger*

            And here is Yollande’s original post calling him out:

            Public ultimatum to Mr Important!
            This message is for you, the mature Mr public Servant, Mr
            Important who is my Facebook friend, who read my updates religiously and decided to order African food on a Jamaican night. My helper that I adore told you politely that you are expected to order from the menu or come back another night. You decided to push your drink on her, to verbally bully and bodyshame a 16 year old girl MPS student in training who could be your daughter or granddaughter . You called her fat and Lesbian on your way out as if she has no human dignity.
            If you are a Man , a straight Man with the right amount of
            Testosterone that you claim to be come talk to ME instead of bullying a kid and playing friendly hypocrite with me. My staff is an extension of me. I will protect their dignity with my last energy.
            Nothing upsets me more than people who disrespect my loved ones , my staff or prey on the vulnerables as if they have no humanhood and dignity.
            I know who you are and all is captured on Camera.
            YOU HAVE 24 hrs to properly apologize to this young lady and in my presence. I’m not Playing or else!
            If you don’t execute, I will make sure personally and publicly that this never happens again to any other girl and you can forget your public service ambitions. Trust me, i come from an African tribe of warriors, I never pick a fight to lose… Never…. and I fight with the same energy as I love …very hard for causes that matter to me like protecting my love ones.., I
            Don’t quit, I never quit until the job is done . Consider yourself on notice.
            Don’t mess with my staff!

            1. Kiki*

              >i come from an African tribe of warriors, I never pick a fight to lose… Never

              I want to be this woman. Holy crap.

            2. Old Admin*

              I love how this owner is handling disrespect to her employees.
              Even more importantly, I am hoping this will become a movement in the US, and spread in the retail/food and other service world.

              I have so frequently seen that treating every and any employee/helper etc. makes everybody feel better, and yes, can result in service above and beyond.
              An example: I have been polite and patient with local government employees when I really messed up regulations, explained I was new to this, how I could fix it. Kept it together, and got lots of information, and once even a fine waived.
              All this needs to be the new normal, be it Walmart or the tax guys.


              1. Observer*

                Unfortunately, I think a lot of employees would settle for just having their bosses not add to the jerkitude. I’ll post the link in a reply, but I just read an article about a kid who was almost fired for having the temerity to buy a cop a cookie. The problem? Another customer objected, got violent and then complained to corporate headquarters. His immediate boss did stand up for him, but it took a bit of an internet shaming to get them to back off from punishing him.

        2. Agree with the message, but not the method*

          Wow – after reading both of the FB posts you shared below, the owner’s response seems out-of-scale and way too ready to destroy. I applaud the restaurant owner for protecting her employees, but posting his identity could have started a social media mob and ruined both his and his family’s life. She could have messaged him instead and told him that he would be banned if he didn’t apologize and make things right. Then, after his apology (or lack thereof), she could have posted the story (w/o identifying details) on her FB as a lesson to others.

          I fully agree with the owner’s comments (on the FB posts you shared below) regarding compassion, dignity, respect, and no bullying. But Twitter/FB/tv news mobs can make someone’s life a living hell; and I can only imagine the terror his family must feel, not knowing if she’ll ever change her mind and release the video. It feels so good to act on our righteous rage, but it often causes more harm then healing, and moves us into the bully category as well.

          1. caryatis*

            Right. I would never go to a restaurant whose owner would go out of their way to publicly shame a random customer having a bad day.

    4. Steve*

      Still, if people are polite for selfish reasons, they are still being polite. Some people lack empathy and can only fake it. Nothing wrong with schools teaching politeness works.

  24. Tuesday*

    “I just wanted to let you know that I was a bit impatient to wait for your response (plus was not really sure if this works and how long it takes) and did complain to the HR about the whole thing.”

    Literally just said, “Oh, no” out loud when I got to this part. Good to hear that HR basically said what Alison and the commenters here said on the original letter, though.

    Based on the context, “life skills” here might mean simply just being a nice person. Or at least not a rude person. Trying to get through the day without making anyone else’s worse. That sort of thing.

    And it’s already been said and will be said many times, but you should be courteous to janitors and receptionists and strangers on the train because they are human beings with thoughts, feelings, hopes and dreams of their own, and none of us are inherently better or more important than anyone else.

    1. Not Allison*

      Yep. OP has proven that they are not really worthy of this job, time and time again. They wrote in asking for advice, then impulsively did what they wanted anyway. That’s another red flag. Another red flag, they gave you constructive criticism on specific skills you lack. You refuse to listen and instead blame this incident. A final red flag, when they told you you lacked the life skills, you refused to listen and are dismissive “whatever that means.”

      Life Skills Lacking:
      -basic politeness in not responding to a question on the tube
      -courteousness/respect of elders
      -accountability – no offer re the coat
      -listening to feedback
      -patience to take advice
      -no ability to heed the advice

      You can be the smartest candidate but you will have a failed career if you do not work on the above “life skills” OP

    2. Humble Schoolmarm*

      I said ‘Oh no’ too. LW, here, I suspect, is one of those life-skills HR mentioned. Sometimes people, for whatever reason, won’t get back to you as quickly as you want or need and you’ll have to go ahead without their advice. When this goes wrong for you (and it sometimes will, 100% guaranteed) the response is not to turn to original person and say anything that comes off as “Well, if you had gotten back to me faster, I wouldn’t have messed up”. The Alisons of the world do not stand eagerly in the wings of your life waiting to be of service to you.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Annnd that impatience is not helping you, OP. It is causing you to follow your emotions rather than follow rules of decency.
      People will not jump when you snap your fingers. This company did not jump to hire you and Alison did not jump to respond to you. This is normal life stuff, OP. We can expect to wait when we ask things of others.

  25. DaniD*

    OP, I think you still have a lot of work to do.

    This update really showcases that you haven’t really digested the comments that people left for you on your original post. You present yourself as alarmingly classist in this update, and I’m particularly shocked that you state that you wish someone had taught you “the receptionist/janitor/security guard story by career services.” No one should have to teach you to be nice to other people. You should be nice and courteous to others because being respectful of other humans is the right thing to do. How would you like to be treated by others? With courtesy, respect and kindness? Then please treat other people that way as well. You are not more special, more important or better than anyone else, and if you continue to look down your nose at others you’re going to hit a lot of road blocks in life. NOBODY wants to hire or work with people they think are jerks (this can also be a factor in cultural fit for an organization.)

    I also think it might be helpful for you to research the concept of givers versus takers.

  26. Observer*

    OP, you’ve gotten tons of feedback between the original comments, the response you posted on the original thread, and this separate update.

    I wrote a couple of comments in response to your original response in the first post, and I’m not going to repeat that. But, I noticed that you got different responses from your mates as from your parents – which you differentiated by age. I’m guessing that you didn’t like what your parents had to say to you, which is why your neighbor suggested writing to a professional.

    You need to realize that while parents who are in a very different field from you may not be able to give you good advice when it’s purely career based (eg a teacher is going to look at things much differently than someone who does call center work vs someone who is in IT), when it comes to life skills that affect your career, if they are functional people with a solid work history, their advice is something you should not dismiss because they are “old”.

    1. TootsNYC*


      My mom was who I turned to for advice. She was always clear that she didn’t know my field. But she would tell me some basic truths that are true everywhere, and I listened to her.

      Like: You aren’t owed the job just because you think you’re the best; other people may not agree with you
      -Acting like a decent human being is a reasonable thing for your employer to demand of you.
      Especially since you all will probably spend MORE time, and more concentrated time, with one another than with your spouses and children.

      -Employers are absolutely entitled to make their decision based on stuff that happens outside the workplace. In fact, they are always entitled to make their decision based on how you ACT (protected classes are about what you “are”–you “are” a race, you “are” a disabled person).

      -Employers don’t owe you any explanation.

      -It’s a really bad idea to call up and argue and complain that you weren’t hired–it’s going to make you look bad.

      1. Observer*

        That last one really blew me away. I still can’t figure out what made him think this would be helpful in any way whatsoever.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I also want to know who in their right mind would egg him on or encourage him to do so. That person is not your friend.

          1. Observer*

            It doesn’t say that someone egged him on, but I’m betting that his mates didn’t give hum very good advice.

  27. LeisureSuitLarry*

    Wheaton’s Law: Don’t be a dick.

    It’s a shame that there are so many people that don’t know it or don’t follow it automatically. We’d all be in a better place if everyone remembered that dickishness has a way of coming back on you.

    1. LostCause*

      Part of me hopes that some day this person, and the intern that organized the dress code petition, end up working together. It would generate some epic letters.

      Yeah, I am being a smart alec. I dont want to pile on, the update just reaffirmed the OP doesnt have a grasp on basic manners and is seriously lacking emotional awareness and self awareness.

    2. hbc*

      I’m reminded that the estimates on sociopaths put them at 3-5% of the population. Which is huge and scary if you’re thinking of horror movies and crime dramas and whatnot, but most of them (us?) learn pretty early that it’s a personal benefit to treat people well, regardless of whether or not you feel empathy for them.

      You may not feel guilt or empathy when you take the cookie your brother was saving, but are those few bites tasty enough to offset the fact that he won’t be sharing his toys with you anymore, nevermind the risk of getting caught and punished and having future cookies withheld from you? Is pointing out the fact that your teacher is objectively bad at her job worth the bias you’ll end up facing in the classroom? Hopefully the good choice becomes a habit so in later years you’re not consciously making calculations about saliva chances when you interact with the barista.

      1. Thlayli*

        Do you have a source for that 3-5% claim? I have heard much lower estimates (<1%) and I'd love to see the research you refer to.

  28. Oryx*

    So, OP, at my old job I worked as a librarian at a career college. All of the classes focused on hard skills. These are things that can be taught and measured, like drawing blood or CPR or learning a particular software. This was the majority of their classwork.

    Near the end of their time at our school they would take a class with our career counselors who would teach them how to write a resume and cover letter and all of that but they would also spend a lot of time on soft skills. These are things that are less able to be measured and quantified like hard skills but are just — if not more so — important. Soft skills are things like etiquette and personal relationships and listening (not just waiting for your turn to speak) and small talk and being nice to people for no other reason than to be nice to people.

    You seem to think that your hard skills are the only thing that matters when it comes to getting a job. They aren’t. In some cases, your poor soft skills will cost you a job and it seems like that’s what happened here. When the company talked about “life skills” I suspect they mean working on your soft skills so take this as a time to reflect on that and make changes going forward.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      I’ve actually started going over this with new hires when I talk about their performance objectives. I differentiate between the “what” of the job and the “how” of the job, and explain that getting the basics of your job done isn’t enough – you also need to be a good team player, treat people with respect, communicate well, etc.

      It’s actually helped a little, since we get a lot of rock-star recent grads who have never worked an actual job before. I’m glad to hear there are classes out there too on this!

      1. Em Too*

        We have almost exactly this in our performance system. You have to do the ‘what’ *and* the ‘how’ – you’re scored on the lower of the two (not sure I agree with that last bit but definitely good to recognise both sides).

    2. Volunteer Coordinator in NOVA*

      There really needs to be more of this taught to students as I’ve had so many interns who have been great at their work but have had issues with soft skills. I feel like when people have issues at work, it’s not always centered around their actual work but their interpersonal skills and how they affect the workplace.

    3. LavaLamp*

      To put it bluntly a good example of soft skills would be: When you see your coworker coming back from the supply cabinet loaded down with pens and stuff you help them carry the stuff back to wherever. Or when you’re at the clinic and an elderly gentleman in a wheelchair and his helper need help leaving, you get off your ass and say ‘let me help you’ and you help them out the door.

      You know what you’re acting like? The kiosk guy at the mall who screamed at me through the atrium that I was a bitch because I wouldn’t let him cheat and use my already straight hair to sell his overpriced hair straighteners.

      Yes. It takes time. And energy. But who do you want to be? Jerky Kiosk guy who had a fit when he didn’t get what he wanted, or the person that the war veteran will remember and tell his grandchildren about how to treat others? Because right now, your really leaning toward Kiosk guy. No one wants to be Kiosk guy.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      My husband is in the hard sciences, and a decisive factor the last few times he had to hire someone was whether they would be good at teaching others what they do. So the company didn’t wind up with “Malificent was hit by a bus, and no one else knows how to test the third generation teapot spouts!”

      Technical skills count, but they usually had several applicants with solid technical skills. At that level you assume that you can teach someone Mathematica, but not that you can teach them to be good at explaining the essential functions of that program to the next new hires. Where “good at” includes things like being approachable, easy to work with, concise yet thorough, detail oriented yet able to explain the big picture, etc.

      1. Fictional Butt*

        I think this is a really important point, and something I didn’t realize as a new grad. Hard skills are valuable, but they are also pretty straightforward to teach. Plenty of people will hire someone with the assumption that they will learn hard skills on the job. But your potential boss is not going to want to teach you how to be nice to people, nor is she going to assume that you’ll pick that up on the job.

        1. Tedious Cat*

          My old boss used to say “There are three things I can’t teach an employee: work ethic, enthusiasm, and good judgment.”

      2. TootsNYC*

        I give people a copyediting test. But I don’t give them a style sheet. I tell them, “Just write ‘style?’ or ‘cap?’ or ‘spell out?’ Next to it. When you’ve working here, you can look it up or ask me. I can teach you the style. But I don’t have time to teach you when you should stop and look it up. “

  29. Katie the Fed*

    Alison, you obviously need an emergency/crisis line so people like OP don’t dig themselves in deeper while waiting for you to post their letters!

      1. Katie the Fed*

        It’s 3am. Alison groggily answers.

        “Uh huh. Uh HUH. I’m sorry, did you just say you BIT someone?”

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      “Press 1 if your boss sucks.”
      [Presses 1]
      “Your boss sucks and isn’t going to change.”

      1. The Bill Murray Disagreement*

        “Press 2 if you want to know how to interpret what your interviewer said or did and whether that means you’re definitely getting the job.”
        [Presses 2]
        “There’s no good, reliable way to interpret how your job interview went and the only way to know if you’re offered the job is by getting the job offer.”

      2. TootsNYC*

        Press 3 if you’ve been rejected for a job and want to call and argue with them, complain, or ask for a second chance.
        Aluson: "DON'T DO IT!"

  30. Bored and Confused*

    I believe the main life skill you are missing here is respect. You should show everyone at least a baseline of respect even if they can’t give you a leg up in life because they are human and deserve to be treated as such. You are only doing yourself a disservice if you continue to act like you deserve to be given the world when in reality the world owes you nothing. You not only have to work hard, you also have to learn how to interact with others in a positive way. From the sounds of it HR did not see that skill during your interview and the incident on the subway merely confirmed their opinions.

      1. WPH*

        I agree but I don’t know if some people can be taught kindness but everyone can be taught to show respect because on some level everyone wants to be respected. OP wanted respect for his prestigious degree and work. OP – the same respect you want give it to others and you may get it in return.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Definitely past a certain mindset kindness cannot be taught.

            I am thinking of old people I know, who once they hear that we no longer say/do X for Y reason, quickly adapt. Those folks are out there.

            OP, don’t put yourself in a place where you are not teachable. For one thing it makes you look older faster. Yes, that is a stereotype but it’s good to be aware that it exists. People who are not teachable are less employable and less promotable. And this does not even start to address what is going on in their personal lives. I’d suggest reading the Sunday open forum to find stories from people who are dealing with unteachable family and friends. Some of the stories are disasters.

            I have been doing life on my own for a while now and I firmly believe that my quality of life is directly connected to how well I listen to others. Overall, people are fantastic. Most people want others to succeed and most people give advice to steer the other person toward success.

  31. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

    Yikes. I think this post could benefit from a reminder not to pile on the OP.

  32. Health Insurance Nerd*

    I’m sorry, I know it’s already been mentioned, but I really take issue with “I wish I had been told the receptionist/janitor/security guard story by career services at my university, which is one of those prestigious English ones.” You really need someone tell/teach you this? That, to me, speaks of a larger issue altogether if being polite to those you encounter, regardless of their professional/economical stature is something you need to be told/taught.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      It falls squarely under the umbrella of things people may be naive about because they are new to adulthood, as well as new to work. Some people are not taught by their parents things that other people find obvious, whether that’s “Be nice to the people you perceive to have no power over you, because you might be wrong” or “Do not wear a bustier to your big 5 accounting interview” or “Do not send a video of the office’s electric stapler in action to your colleagues–they already know about it.”

      It’s nice if your parents passed on all the soft skills you would need to succeed in life, but very often not the case.

      1. Archie Goodwin*

        Yes…I think it’s naivete as much as anything else, often enough.

        I mean, I’ve always been super-polite to security guards at my offices (I always tell people that it’s a good idea to be on friendly terms with the people with guns who will be protecting you in the event of an incident.) And that’s not because I worked in retail, or anything like that…it’s because my parents, for as long as I can remember, have always modeled similar behavior in all their transactions. So it was never a thing for me NOT to do.

        But I can understand that it might not be immediately obvious to a recent graduate to think in those terms, if it’s just not something they’re used to seeing. And I’m not even from the South.

        (Well, OK, I am, but that has nothing to do with it. At least not this time. If we’re talking dialect, that’s different. :-) )

      2. Dankar*

        As a new professional, I just cannot get behind this idea that somehow rudeness comes from a place of not knowing any better. It comes from ego and a lack of empathy. There’s a huge difference between dressing appropriately and behaving appropriately in that dress codes vary from workplace to workplace and occasion to occasion. Anglo-cultural norms for behavior are standard for the most part, no matter where you are.

        Sure, not all of my similarly-aged colleagues had soft skills transmitted to them by their parents. A lot of them had to work on how to be good communicators or how to be empathetic listeners. What they did not need to learn was to be decent to everyone around them, regardless of class or rank or perceived influence. Being kind is a choice you make. You can learn and grow as a person if you’ve not made that choice in the past, but it requires introspection and self-evaluation and a willingness to admit your own faults, not some external force.

        I’m glad that the OP received some input on the hiring decision from HR–that’s a big deal! Now they need to choose to look inward and make changes to their attitude, though I think this update illustrates they don’t think it’s necessary to do so yet.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Failing to be kind is something people may legitimately just not know any better. Whether because they are inherently selfish and resisting any information to the contrary, or because they were sheltered by their parents from any unpleasant blowback to their behavior.

          I agree with the following: You can learn and grow as a person if you’ve not made that choice in the past, but it requires introspection and self-evaluation and a willingness to admit your own faults, not some external force. Except that very often what prods people to do that is an external force. They are dumped by someone important–romantic partner or friend–and finally realize they are an asshole. Their charming lateness gets them written up the second week on the job, and suddenly they discover the ability to be on time. The motivation comes from within, but they found that motivation because they didn’t like the external consequences of their behavior. Not because they just woke up one day and decided to become a better person. (The classic example of the latter being New Year’s Resolutions, and we know how likely those are to permanently change someone’s behavior.)

          1. Dankar*

            I think I didn’t word that correctly. I totally agree that “they found that motivation because they didn’t like the external consequences of their behavior,” but to even make that connection between behavior repercussion requires empathy, not someone just saying “You should be kind.” You need to see something other than yourself as valid or valuable.

            Even if no one ever steps in and tells you that explicitly, neuro-typical people should be able to see that they’re hurting or inconveniencing someone and reflect on what they can do to change that fact.

            My major issue with the naivete-of-youth argument is that there are plenty of older people who are also rude and selfish. Where do we draw the line and say “You’ve experienced enough to know better?” Kindness is something we’re all generally “taught” to value when we’re very young, at the same time we learn it’s bad to torment pets/refuse to share/bite or pinch.

            We see these kinds of story lines–karmic backlash, schadenfreude–in sitcoms, fairy tales, Twitter feuds, etc. I just don’t see how anyone could argue that OP and others don’t know any better. Beauty and Beast was just remade, and it was in the news for a good month!

      3. Figment*

        I’ve seen way too many people with kids point at a retail or fast food employee and say, “You see, Timmy? That’s why you need to go to college, so you don’t end up working here like her” to know that there are a crap ton of parents who aren’t teaching their kids to be polite to everyone.

  33. Malibu Stacey*

    “We get a lot of tips about . . . how we should conduct ourselves during interviews, but not this type of real life recommendation.”

    Wouldn’t being polite to the receptionist/janitor/security guard at your interview fall under this? I find it hard to believe someone came out and said how you treat non-decisionmakers doesn’t matter.

  34. Optimistic Prime*

    OP…why do you still think the incident has something to do with you not getting the position when HR clearly stated it didn’t? I think this is a linchpin to you moving on from this having learned something that will be useful in hiring and working in the future: it appears much as if you are attempting to shift the responsibility for you not getting a position away from something about yourself (which HR directly told you was the issue, and gave you some valuable feedback) to something external. I understand the impulse – it’s quite a natural one! no one likes to think they messed up – but I urge you reflect a little bit more. In fact, this is the kind of “life skills” development the HR contact was likely referring to.

    It’s unlikely that the HR manager is intentionally trying to lie to you or mislead you about the reason they did not hire you. It doesn’t offer them any benefit to do so.

    1. sunny-dee*

      I think it may have something to do with it in one sense: if the CEO or others were on the fence about whether the OP was a jerk or not, this would have confirmed it. It’s easy to wonder if someone’s behavior is really a little off or whether you’re reading too much into it, whether they’re cocky or just bad at communicating.

      An alienating interview combined with being a complete and total and unnecessary jerk to an elderly man and a woman would totally confirm what may have been just a suspicion before (especially if the OP was trying to be “nice” to the people who “mattered”).

      We have a new grad in my old team that recently got hired from an internship and moved into my new team. Every. Single. Person. on my old team rolls their eyes or snorts when his name comes up, and he has been most consistently described as cocky. I’m actually kind of dreading working with him (guess who gets to mentor him?), although I’m trying not to let that bias me. But I guarantee that if he had chewed out a director or something during the interview process, he would have been rejected. Right now, everyone is just thinking he’s young and inexperienced and immature and that he will grow out of it as he gains experience. But jerks are just jerks.

      1. Confused Teapot Maker*

        Agreed. In fact, if OP was a glowing choice for the position and this incident came to light, I potentially would have pulled them to one side and asked them what on earth was going on/given them the benefit of the doubt that they were having an off day. But if it was a candidate I was on the fence about, this would have been the nail in the coffin.

      2. Artemesia*

        My experience having hired a lot of people is that every problem you notice in the hiring process will come back at you in spades once they are hired. I can’t actually think of exceptions. I was hiring a lot of people where we wanted Duncan the Wonderhorse but were only willing to pay at broken down mule levels. This meant we had to prioritize and hired some people with fairly significant flaws. If they yammered on and on during the process of hiring, they were rambling boors once on board. If they were identified as ‘brusque’ or ‘abrasive’ by references who otherwise touted their intellect and expertise, they were nasty to work with. Good luck with your cocky new guy.

  35. Murphy*

    If two people were competing for this position, then there’s no way that the interview could be considered a formality, and there’s not necessarily any reason to believe that the incident on the subway had anything to do with it.

    1. AMPG*

      Right – clearly the OP’s entire mindset regarding this position was off, based simply on the facts.

  36. Some sort of Management Consultant*

    Wow, that was a really gracious and kind response from HR. I hope that you will realize one day what a huge favor they did you by giving you the feedback.

    Either they loved you and really wished you well despite everything or they were shocked/appalled by your behavior.

    If they felt you were absolutely hopeless, they probably wouldn’t have bothered to give you feedback though.

    Take this opportunity to reflect on why they gave you feedback and why they gave you this particular feedback.
    Have you gotten similar feedback before? What do you think constitutes life skills?
    Why did they think you were overconfident?

    1. Some sort of Management Consultant*

      Have you got an advisor or trusted professor at your uni who you trust to be honest with you?
      Or an older adult that would be completely straight with you?

      It might be worth to discuss this whole thing with them and ask for their impressions of you and how you come off in public.

      If you don’t want to change how you are, at least try to modify how you appear because what you do now obviously does you no favors.

  37. Mayor of Llamatown*

    OP, take this anecdote to heart: My grandfather (who died way too young) was an executive at a Fortune 500 company. He’s been gone many years but one of the stories always told about him is that he knew the names of all the janitors and made gifts to them each Christmas. He also took care to know the name of their mail carrier, the paper boy, and the trash collectors. He taught his children that everyone is worthy of respect and every job has dignity.

    When you are gone, you won’t be remembered for that awesome internship you landed right out of university or how great your grades were. You’ll be remembered for the way you made people feel and whether or not you treated them honorably.

    1. Hannah in London*

      This is a beautiful comment, I tip my hat to you, and to your grandfather.
      I want “You’ll be remembered for the way you made people feel” as a poster on my wall.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      This, this.

      My grandfather was Irish and this was in the day when Irish had a hard time getting work. Grandpa was always employed. He had a full time job with full benefits. (His insurance paid IN FULL for Grandma’s nursing home and he had been gone five years by then.) Grandpa said taught his daughters “Speak to everyone with the same level of deference. Use the same level of respect with the janitor as you do with the CEO.”

      Some of his kids listened to this advice and some did not. But people can tell us things and we can underestimate the importance of what they are saying.

  38. MathOwl*

    OP, what bothers me here is that you seem to see basic respect and kindness as tools to get ahead only. The truth is those two things are fundamental values to have in life. We live in society: this means making effort to be kind to others, to try and understand where they come from instead of judging them and to maintain basic politeness and helpfulness (that is, helping someone who obviously needs it when it comes at little to no cost or energy for you).

    Besides, this isn’t only good for others, but I think it’s a fundamental portion of personal happiness either. If you only see people in terms of how you can use them and don’t know about basic kindness, it’s hard to direct that same kindness inwards. Often, people who act superior do so because “being ahead of the game” in terms of career, attractiveness or other such things prevents them from being as harsh and critical towards themselves as they are towards others, but they aren’t happy.

    My point here isn’t to lecture you, but more to say that if you think of people a bit differently and in less opportunistic ways, you might find your own life, not only other people’s, enhanced. So by all means assert yourself when needed and go after your professional interest, but not at the expense of basic decency.

  39. Volunteer Coordinator in NOVA*

    Right now, you were given some really important feedback about the impression you make and those are things can seriously affect your career in the long run so don’t dismiss it because it doesn’t line up with what you believe about yourself. Instead of second guessing the reason you didn’t get it, take to heart what HR is telling you and look inwards to see if there could be some truth in it. This can a really tough exercise but it’s better to do it as your entering adulthood and your professional life than 20 years down the line when your habits are more ingrained. They could have easily dismissed you but they didn’t so take advantage of it! It’s not an attractive quality to an employer if an entry level employee comes in and is over confident because they can be really tough to manage and teach. You want to show that you are flexible, willing to learn and willing to listen to feedback so take this as practice for yourself. Some of the best people I’ve worked under have been confident, humble and used their talent and knowledge to help others. Don’t let something that you can fix stunt your chances early on. ]

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      If an entry level employee comes in and is over confident because they can be really tough to manage and teach.

      Seconding this. Reminds me (in the context of my current week, which includes a lot of drivers ed) of teaching my oldest to drive–she was a good and careful driver inside the very limited experience she had to date, and wasn’t able to see that until she backed into another car.

  40. Kiki*

    OP, to put it kindly, you come across in your writing as the stereotypical snobby rich kid who thinks he’s better than everyone else. And based on the feedback that HR gave to you, it seems that the same arrogant attitude comes across in real life as well and they don’t want to deal with it. Because when it comes down to it, there’s always going to be someone else who has the same skills, education, etc. as you and attitude is going to be the deciding factor.

    I’d also like to add that people don’t exist simply to serve you or get you what you want. You shouldn’t just be nice to the people that can benefit you in some way.

  41. Elkay*

    OP you did what I’ve done. Assumed the interview was a formality. I learnt the hard way, as have you, never assume the interview is a formality. I’d been invited back by the hiring manager, done the job for six months and STILL wasn’t the hiring manager’s first choice after the interview. I was VERY lucky and another interviewer on the panel stood up for me so I got a second interview. It’s a horrible lesson to learn and I hope you go on to find another job you enjoy but unless someone above you takes pity on you (without you asking) you’re done at that company.

      1. atexit8*

        Yes. No real remorse or reflection.

        Are *you* reading the same letter?

        No good comes from the phrase “whatever that means”.

  42. Searching*

    This is a case where I would love to get an update in a couple of years, after OP has not only more work experience but especially more life experience under their belt. I suspect OP will do their own face palm then, looking back on this lack of self-awareness.

    1. Anon Anon*

      Me too.

      I don’t think the OP’s attitude is that unusual, especially coming from an elite school that often reinforces the programming that the student is special, elite, and will accomplish great things. I think the real key is how long the arrogance remains. Heck, I didn’t go to an elite school, and I remember thinking I was pretty hot shit when I finished uni. It wasn’t until I got months of rejection letters, found a job that paid me far less than I had been expecting, that I made an attitude adjustment.

  43. Cranky HR*

    Years ago Richard Branson had his own version of “The Apprentice”. In the opening episode he observed all the candidates from baggage claim through taxi service to arriving at the destination. Then he fired anyone who had not been respectful to any of the workers they encountered on the way (Red Caps, drivers, receptionist). It was great.

    1. Volunteer Coordinator in NOVA*

      I can’t remember if it was google or zappos but a couple of years ago an article came out and one of the HR people there said that they would ask van/bus drivers who interacted with the interviewees about their interaction to see if they friendly/how they reacted to them or things that happened on the trip. In addition to interviews and other tests that day, it was part of the process to see if they would be a good fit in the company.

    2. Ophelia Bumblesmoop*

      The Rebel Billionaire! Whenever I pull on a pair of Spanx, I think of Sara Blakely having tea with Sir Richard on the top of a hot air balloon. She should have won.

  44. River Walker*

    I grew up poor, redneck white trash in the South – yes, the stereotypes have a grain of truth people, let me introduce y’all to some of my relatives! – and apparently, I was taught better manners than this guy who went to a presitgious university. Bless his heart.

    My momma was a cafeteria worker at the local school and she told me to always be polite to the secretaries, janitors and cafeteria workers. I have worked fast food, retail and in a call center. I always tell people to be polite to service workers, since they are doing all the work and taking all the crap with little in return. I’m now a teacher and I once defused a bad situation with a teenager because I said ‘please’ and he said I was the only one who ever said that to him. I address my students, as well as their parents, fellow teachers and administrators as ‘ma’am’ and ‘sir’. Being polite costs nothing and creates a positive atmosphere even in dark places.

    OP, consider it a life skill.

    1. mf*

      I love this: “Being polite costs nothing and creates a positive atmosphere even in dark places.”

    2. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      I cackled at ‘Bless his heart’, I know what that really means! :D

      The story about the teenager is so sad. That such a simple courtesy made all the difference tells you everything. I’m glad you were there to help.

      1. Elan Morin Tedronai*

        Non-American here… If I’m reading the context here, does “bless X’s heart” actually mean “X can go fuck himself?”

        1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

          I’m also not from the US but yes, pretty much. I’ been told by US Southerners that “bless your heart” is the Southern version of ‘f*ck you’. (Bonus if it’s accompanied by a bright smile.)

        2. Marillenbaum*

          It can be, however there are also times where it is truly sincere, in an “aren’t you sweet?” sort of way. Example: I had moved back to North Carolina from a year overseas, and I had a dental appointment literally the next day, because that was when they were free. When the receptionist found out I was jet-lagged and had a 9 AM cleaning, I got an honest “bless your heart!” as an expression of sympathy.

  45. Amber Rose*

    In simple terms, “life skills” means your knowledge is quite good but your wisdom is lacking. You have a lot of facts and skills and not enough awareness of the world to apply them properly. One of the many bits of wisdom passed on by my teacher is that everyone who learns something starts that way. You spend the first stage focused entirely inwards, trying to figure out how to make what you’re learning work with you, and then once you get there, you look outwards, to see how to make it work with everything else.

    You’ve been told that it’s time to start looking out. Take that seriously. It is not beneficial to come across as self centered. It makes you seem very young and very insecure.

    1. atexit8*

      life skills = EQ = emotional quotient
      one can be quite exceptional in school (hard skills) but fail miserably with dealing with others (soft skills)

  46. Wannabe Disney Princess*

    OP, you’re young. This isn’t a ding against you – it’s just a fact. It comes across quite clearly in your letters so I’m guessing it does in person too. In fact, I’m willing to bet that is what the HR department meant. I don’t know what this role is but it clearly needed someone more mature (I do not mean age) and that isn’t you yet. You can get there. In fact, when you acknowledged that the CEO’s wife was not rude in retrospect…I saw a glimmer. Keep taking steps like that and you’ll get there. To me, the fact that HR told you to offer your services to the CEO if there’s a position available again shows they don’t loathe you. There may be potential there, even. There’s just too many rough edges right now for them to work with. This is okay. This is how you learn.

    And, it is okay to still be upset you didn’t get the job. Life sucks sometimes. I know I’ve screwed up in a few different interviews. Yeah – it stung. But I learned from it. So, learn from this. Your education doesn’t stop just because you’ve graduated.

  47. Falling Diphthong*

    Advised about “life skills” development, whatever that means.

    Go to the neighbor who suggested you write to Alison, and ask them what it means. Or maybe ask someone who works with you, one whose attitude hasn’t been that you have this in the bag and nothing could go wrong.

    You are getting real feedback here on what made you seem like a poorer fit than the other candidate, and you should not dismiss it. No matter how comforting the bike-on-tube story is, it may have never been mentioned to the CEO. It may have been mentioned and confirmed an existing poor impression of soft skills that your strengths couldn’t balance. You made mistakes, but at least it’s an environment where people seem inclined to attribute it to your youth and assume you can improve. Don’t ignore that feedback.

  48. Elisa Maza*

    OP, for your own sake– you need to accept responsibility and realize that only you are to blame for your current predicament. It’s not your university’s career services fault, it’s not HR’s fault, and it’s not the CEO’s wife’s fault. It is your fault. You lack empathy and common courtesy, and whether or not you value “life skills” you need to first acknowledge that you need to learn how to perceive, understand, and interact with other people in a positive, un-selfish way.

    I applaud you posting an update. Please take this opportunity to receive real life advice from the commenters here.

  49. A N O N*

    OP: please, please use this experience as well as the reactions you’re getting on this post as a lesson. It sounds like you need an attitude adjustment.

    For one, it seems like you’re still trying to justify your actions by saying that people’s suggestions varied based on age – like you’re trying to distance yourself from the experience by saying lots of young people see it from your perspective. But keep in mind it’s probably not an age issue, but one of maturity/work experience. Younger people are less likely to know what the norms are in an office and for interviewing. Try to stop justifying your actions and start accepting that what you did was impolite and wrong, and try to change going forward.

    Secondly, in the work world, you can’t just complain to HR when something doesn’t go your way. The fact that you did – and were so impatient to do so! – shows a lack of maturity. The company has a right to not hire you for whatever reason they want (so long as it’s not a protected category). If you were wearing a yellow shirt when you met with the CEO and the CEO hates yellow, he could not hire you for it. Learn to accept and move on – complaining about it won’t fix it and certainly won’t endear you to anyone.

    The more you interview, the more you’ll learn that you rarely get feedback on why a company decides to not offer you job. So take their advice to heart. I imagine there are very few times when a company wants to hire someone who’s cocky, especially when the person’s new in their career. Employees new to the workforce generally want to present that they are eager to learn and grow since there’s no way they can know what they’re doing since they’re new. Going forward, try to be hyper-aware of not coming across as overly confident.

    Now, career services definitely has a bad rep on this site, but you’re blaming them for not teaching you to be nice to others. That’s not something that career services should have to tell you. Take some responsibilities for your actions. It is your own fault that you were inconsiderate to the CEO’s wife, not career services’s for not telling you to be nice.

    Again, OP, I really really hope you learn from this.

  50. ge45hy56hju*

    From “rather rudely” to “it was a standard and legitimate ask”. And after reflecting on what happened you’re “still super upset about it”. Hopefully that emotion is directed more or less 100% at yourself rather than the company.

    Are there life skills classes on learning self-awareness that people can take? Is this not a skill that can be taught?

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      It can be taught, and it’s not necessarily fair to blame young people if their parents didn’t teach it to them.

      Maybe they tried and it didn’t take, or won’t take until the individual gets slapped upside the head with a consequence painful enough to make them consider “or maybe it’s me…” as a possibility.

      It’s a subcategory of making mistakes because you lack experience.

      1. employablepotato*

        He’s an employed graduate in his twenties. I think we can stop saying it’s his parents fault for not teaching him.

    2. kb*

      As someone who worked with the public in quite a few times, I will say a lot of people, not just LW, struggle with differentiating rude and being told or asked something they don’t like/is inconvenient.

  51. animaniactoo*

    TL:DR, you seem to have a shaky grasp on common courtesy and how you are impacting others and filtering what you are told from various sources. The life skills you sound as if you are dismissing as something you don’t understand are a key aspect of overcoming that.


    OP, in general, life skills development are about help you get through life relatively amiably and positively for your own benefit.

    In this specific context, what that means is:

    1) The ability to better analyze situations and recognize when others needs supersede yours despite “the rules” or “the specifically called out”. Such that on reflection you say it was a standard and legitimate request – but at the time, you didn’t treat it as such. You need to be able to do that in the moment so that you don’t end up looking back repeatedly going “oh, wait. I was the jerk in that situation”.

    2) The ability to differentiate between “Bikes are allowed” and “Handling your bike’s presence in a way to minimize its disruption for other people. This is again, part of common courtesy – we all use public services and spaces – the goal is to minimize your own use of it in a way such that either more people can use it OR use it most comfortably. The more people who do this, the more comfortable everything will be and that is why it is referred to as “common” courtesy – courtesy commonly given for the betterment of everyone as a whole.

    3) The ability to weed through what you’re being told and not overstep your chances by essentially dismissing your competition and feeling confident you’ve gotten something in the bag – which is likely in large part what led to you coming off as overconfident. Always take everything with a grain of salt and act accordingly. Because what happened here – if the 2nd top candidate lagged somewhat behind you in technical skills but had the soft/life skills to not aggravate people? Well, that’s huge. Because it means a better result in the long-run where you might have to take a little longer or use a less optimal solution because that’s what the 2nd top guy does, but the whole team moves forward much more quickly because they’re more willing to communicate with each other and bounce ideas or just ask for a simple checkup on something. That’s the “better fit” aspect here.

    4) The ability to read someone else’s tone/body language/statements and understand what kind of impression you’re giving them of yourself and how they’re receiving it – and the ability to *modify it* on the fly if it’s not going well (and when you want to modify it vs not care about it).

    Life skills development is getting yourself to the point where much of this is second nature to you and you don’t actively have to think about it in order to do anything about it. Skills in your repertoire for getting through life. Towards that, I would advise you (as I did on the original post) to take a hard look at the world and how you interact with it, because I think that your grasp on “common courtesy” remains somewhat shaky, and you can help yourself most in the long run by sorting that out as soon as possible.

    Towards that: Here’s an assignment if you want to take it on. For the next month, every time you are with other people, make it a point to be observing their behavior. You want to make note of two things in particular. First – what things do you see actively being a problem for someone else? Like if someone just parked 6 inches forward, another car could have parked behind them. Or somebody sitting with their legs spread and taking up a lot of space and making others have to ask not to be left standing. Somebody who stands at a cash register with a line of people behind them slowly putting their card/money back into their wallet and then into another bag before gathering their purchases – rather than gathering their purchases and moving off to the side to do that so that others can get through the line. Second – what things do you see other people reacting to by their body language, facial expressions, mutterings? Take those away – because those are common perception and creating a good common perception (in general) is your goal.

    Examine those so that you can look at them, form some opinions about them and then make choices about who you want to be and how you want to interact with the world in general and do that. However! Because this kind of examination can lead you to becoming really judgmental, part of this is another piece. Finding a benefit of the doubt. A good reason why somebody is doing something that is so rude or inconveniencing for others. Not as a way of creating excuses for yourself – because what you want to do is avoid doing these things. But so that you can forgive what will come to seem to you to be unforgivably rude as you and not get super aggravated about it as you see it happening.

    I suspect you are someone who has had to fight for what you’ve gained, and it’s created a somewhat “me first” view of the world for you, and while you don’t want to be a mouse and give up fighting for things for yourself, you need to find a middle ground between that and where you are now. I have confidence that you can do it. Such that nobody will ever have to tell you to be nice to someone that it takes little or no effort to be nice to, you just do it as a matter of course. Best of luck to you.

  52. Tiffin*

    “I wish I had been told the receptionist/janitor/security guard story by career services at my university, which is one of those prestigious English ones.”

    I mean… I feel like it shouldn’t be up to your university to tell you to be nice to people. It’s called being a decent human being.

    I have to say, a lot of this follow-up still rubs me the wrong way. I’d encourage the OP to engage in some introspection so that similar issues don’t cost him more jobs in the future.

  53. HRtripp*

    OP you still seem like you don’t get it, even in your update response comes across with an attitude and a lack of understanding of the situation. I think HR gave you great feedback about your interview, which they didn’t have to do. I would take some time to really reflect on what they said and think of what YOU could have done differently… not just in that one situation but during your time there. Maybe in a couple of years you’ll understand better but for now it seems like you still have some growing up to do.

  54. Tuxedo Cat*

    I really hope you take this as an opportunity to reflect more and grow more… I find a lot of your response off-putting from needing to add that your institution is one of those prestigious English ones (what does that have to do with anything?) to seeming to be dismissive of the HR’s comment about life skills (i.e., “whatever that means”) to still not believing HR’s feedback. Based on what you presented here and in the first letter, I don’t think the incident on the tube was the ultimate deciding factor. I think similar types of uncaring and inconsiderate behavior appeared while you were working at the office.

  55. Lisa Fakes*

    Life skills – “whatever that means”. It means giving up your seat when someone in needs asks. It means not ruining someone’s clothes without even an apology. It means not being so entitled that when you don’t get a job you go complaining to HR about the CEO’s wife. It means being nice to people even when it doesn’t benefit you. It means not feeling like you are entitled to a job. It means having some humility and knowing you are young and could stand to learn some things. It means your prestigious university doesn’t mean squat once you actually get a job, it’s how you handle yourself. Life skills are EVERYTHING..

  56. nutella fitzgerald*

    I don’t mean to nitpick OP’s word choice, but I find it telling that the person who actually got the job is described as “second top candidate”. I feel like OP still doesn’t recognize the person who got the offer actually was a better candidate, for all the reasons that HR communicated :/

    1. JennyFair*

      I thought that as well when I first read it, but upon reflection think that he just means the second candidate for the job that was still in the running, rather than a ranking in comparison to himself. But I would also have to say that if there’s another candidate, and you think the interview is ‘just a formality’, then *that* is the very over-confidence they told you about.

      There are inklings of teachability in the beginning of the update. I hope they come to fruition.

    2. Engineer Woman*

      OP could have said “the other top candidate” but I feel “second” does infer ranking as perceived by OP, which I take also to mean OP doesn’t recognize the better candidate got the job.

  57. bikes*

    LBK’s comment was the bomb, but I am am going to be a pickypants and deconstruct this one sentence: “You have to be really careful with that kind of transactional thinking because while it works in some situations, in others it can be very transparent and people like myself who aren’t interested in playing that game won’t respond well to it.”

    This is logick-ing transitional thinking with… well… more (sophisticated) transactional thinking.

    My re-write: “You have to be really careful with that kind of transactional thinking because it’s not what we aspire to as humans. The ideal is continual moral and emotional growth with no other end in mind. Whether at work or elsewhere, we should always ask, ‘How can I be peaceful, kind, and loving to all others?'”

    1. LBK*

      To be clear I don’t think anyone should aim to conduct their career that way, but the counterargument is usually that there are people who achieve success by playing office politics. I find it unsavory but that doesn’t stop some people from doing it, so I was merely cautioning that if you do decide you’re okay with going that route, be aware that there’s usually a plateau of how far it can take you and that it can really bite you in the ass if you run into key players who don’t like those kinds of games.

      1. bikes*

        That makes total sense. And I think the way you framed it probably will resonate more with the OP. But I tend to think of advice as age-specific. The OP is too young; I simply can’t recommend an all-out Machiavellian world-view.

  58. Mike C.*

    So as a former janitor, I just have to ask the OP, why do you need a prestigious English university to tell you to treat me like a f*cking human being?

    Here, let me give you the list of people you need to treat with respect and dignity that Oxbridge apparently couldn’t handle:

    All of them.

    1. Oskiesque*

      I went to a prestigious American university, and they didn’t need to teach me to respect people. Why? Because it’s a given and it’s not something that a school should have to teach you.

  59. kb*

    Hi LW! Thank you for following up, especially after having received some harsh criticism– that’s really hard to do. While I agree with the commenters saying you should be kind and respectful because it is right, not just because you think it will benefit your career, I do want to say it *will definitely* benefit your career and life to become a kinder person to everyone you encounter.

    I also want to point out how powerful the perception other people have of you is. Yesterday a letter came in from someone who had literally bitten their coworker. Because she was able to acknowledge what she did was wrong and conveyed she was mortified by her behavior, a lot of commenters were able to empathize to the point some people were kinda condoning biting a coworker! When people like you, theyre willing to give you some extra leeway. This isn’t to say you should be transactional with your kindness or go into things expecting leeway because you’re likable, but ultimately kindness pays off. How terrible would it be to be the dude who everyone dislikes so much people feel schadenfreude when he gets bitten? I know it stinks right now because you lost out on that great job, but you’ve been given a great opportunity for reflection and self improvement. Best of luck, LW!

    1. LadyKelvin*

      I was thinking this exact thing about difference between the comments on this and those about the biter yesterday.

  60. Kate*


    The HR rep did you a HUGE favor by giving you feedback, and you appear not to have learned a thing. MANY hiring managers refuse to give rejected applicants a reason other than “it was the wrong fit” or “someone else had more experience.” Here you are, having been given constructive, actionable feedback, and you’re choosing to scoff at it (“whatever that means”) and refuse to believe it (you insist it was still the incident with the CEO’s wife.) Why, exactly, are you so sure? Are you still convinced that you are SO outstanding that it could ONLY be the CEO incident? You don’t know what goes into any hiring decision and you clearly don’t realize how you come across to others (in your posts, in your interview, etc.) Also, you casually mention here that you were one of two finalists for this job that you were definitely going to get- um, what? Why would they be interviewing another person, if the job was yours/final interview a formality? You seem to be putting your own spin on a lot of facts here- some of which you are clearly wrong about. Consider that you might be wrong about why you didn’t get this job. Or, you know, just stay indignant and don’t learn a thing and see where that takes you.

  61. Jadelyn*

    OP, you’ve been given a powerful and hopefully valuable lesson about hard skills not being the end-all be-all of work performance and advancement. You can be a freaking wizard at whatever your role’s skillset is, but I’d rather work with someone who’s competent and pleasant to work with, than someone who’s a genius but arrogant and clearly thinks everyone is beneath them. There’s a sense of entitlement I keep getting from your letters, as though you feel that, because you did excellent work, you are entitled to a job – but that’s not how that works. Being the best at something can’t make up for being an arrogant jerk while you do it.

    There’s a media trope that you see often: the Insufferable Genius. Think Tony Stark, or Dr. House – people who are legitimately brilliant and the best at what they do, but they’re rude, arrogant jerks. That’s how you’re coming off in these posts. You’re very smart, you do very good work, but you expect that that alone will be enough and don’t care if you’re also good with people, which would honestly make you a nightmare to work with and even worse to manage. I wouldn’t hire someone like that, no matter how good they were at their job. Knowledge can be taught and skills can be developed – I’d rather hire someone who knows how to play well with others and teach them the finer points of the KSAs they need, than someone who’s got every KSA and then some but who makes the people around them unhappy.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      People smarts is a form of intelligence. There are many aspects to intelligence and book learning is only one aspect.

      In school, I worked on a team with a man whose people skills were extraordinary. He could get an accurate read on people and he could do it quickly. He had very insightful responses to situations. He was a solid C level student. There is no doubt in my mind that he will go far in life. What he does not know probably won’t matter, people around him will be willing to fill in the gaps for him.

  62. MeowThai*

    I regret not posting this on the previous post, but since you really didn’t take the correct lesson from everyone’s comments before, perhaps you’ll take note of mine.

    The life skill that HR is advising you to learn (and rightly so) is probably the Platinum Rule: Treat others the way they want to be treated.
    Normally people talk about the Golden Rule (Treat others the way you want to be treated), but what I see you lacking here is empathy. The ability to step into someone else’s perspective for a moment and understand their feelings.

  63. Sup Sup Sup*

    I’m going to try really hard not to pile on here, because much of what I think has already been covered by a great many others. But, what I do have to say is that your youth (and by that I mean your experience in the working world, but if you’re young as well that’s applicable too) actually works in your favor. Ignorance is something that we all have to go through. We are not born to know everything and we certainly aren’t taught to know everything. We learn as we go. I beg of you to take this as a teachable moment and not to get bogged down in the details of what happened or the outcomes that came as a result of it. As someone who tends towards the pessimistic side of human nature, I can understand feeling as though things or people are working against you. But, take it from someone who has lived too long in such a world — you cannot support yourself if you’re unwilling to accept and trust the environment and people around you and learn from them. It will only result in stagnation and fear, and that’s no way to live or work.

  64. DevAssist*

    Yikes! I actually felt more sympathetic towards OP in the original letter, but this update reeks of entitlement, self-absorbed oblivion, and anger.

    OP, please learn from this. Like, actually take a step back and try to identify how you’re coming across to people (not well, basically). I want everyone to be able to succeed in their professional lives, and I hope you come across more opportunities to prove that you are not only bright and experienced, but HUMBLE and KIND.

  65. Professor of Teapot Studies, AAM University*

    I’m surprised no one else has mentioned the subtle dig at Alison for taking too long to respond, so apparently it’s her fault OP got impatient and went to HR. Another example of coming across the wrong way!

    OP, as everyone else has already noted , life skills = being respectful of others, not leveling unfounded digs at others, and taking responsibility for oneself.

    1. Hunger Games Summer*

      Yeah it didn’t seem even all that subtle just more evidence of the intense lengths this OP seems to go to justify the natural consequences of his actions as the fault of others.

    2. CS Rep By Day, Writer By Night*

      That totally stood out to me too. Even if he didn’t intend for it to sound demanding and entitled, in light of everything else he’s written it reads that way. I feel like this is even more pointing towards a larger pattern of the OP having little insight into how he’s coming across to others.

    3. Tobias Funke*

      That was my favorite part actually!

      I’m pretty sure I dated this guy and he told me it was a waste of my time to be a social worker because that’s all “soft skills” and he could do my job without any education or training.

  66. Colorado*

    I don’t know, this update rubbed me the wrong way and came across as classist and elitist. Maybe it’s cultural or how the OP was raised, who knows. Based on HR’s feedback, I don’t believe the CEO’s wife had anything to do with not getting the job, as they were very clear on their reasoning. It was kind of them to provide the feedback. OP: learn the life lesson. I don’t care who you are, or what university you came out of (like, really don’t care), people are people and we are all just trying to make our way in this world. We are all just trying to figure it out. I don’t want to be a complete ass, but be nice and get over yourself!
    As far as the cultural thing goes, I had a boss, a young boss who owned the company (in the US) set up by his wealthy parents who are from a country that is still very much classist. He was very rude to anyone who “was not in his class or at his level”. I was so mortified the way he spoke to and treated people that I called him out on it. I said you don’t do that in this country or anywhere else for that matter, it’s not nice. He honestly couldn’t believe that everyone deserved the same respect. He couldn’t wrap his head around it. He was a complete ass and I couldn’t bear to work for him. I quit as soon as I could find another job.

    1. RVA Cat*

      Umm, the US is still very much classist, we just like to pretend we’re not, plus it’s all knotted up with race.

      1. Specialk9*

        This. The US pretends class doesn’t exist, but most of us know it does, but kinda ambiguously. That said, even though social mobility is increasingly uncommon, were believe in it as an ideal, so I think that’s part of the denial – we believe that we’re better than we are.

  67. Snark*

    “However, I do acknowledge that you have a point and that some people might not want to employ those whom they perceive as jerks.”

    You’re still holding this point at arm’s length, aren’t you? That’d be ALMOST ALL people who ABSOLUTELY do not want to employ those who they OBSERVE TO BE OBJECTIVELY PRESENTING THEMSELVES as jerks. You’re really minimizing the impact of what we’re telling you here. There’s a lot of people with a lot more life and professional experience than you telling you in no uncertain terms that your attitude is a problem. It may not be easy to hear that, but this is something you need to wrestle with, and not in a way that softens up the message or makes it seem like it may not pertain to you at all times.

    “We get a lot of tips about how to write our resume and cover letter and how we should conduct ourselves during interviews, but not this type of real life recommendation”

    Of course not. I think it’s generally assumed that, by time one graduates university, they have a basic understanding of human social interaction and the rules pertaining thereto.

    1. Observer*

      Yeah, that’s another one.

      OP – Only people who are themselves jerks or dysfunctional in ways that affect others will hire people who are or are perceived to be jerks by choice. Even those who make such hires do so because they think they have no choice. Do you REALLY want to be the guy people hire because they have no choice?

  68. MuseumChick*

    Improving your life skills = learning basic etiquette, getting along with others, not assuming you are owed a promotion, doing the right thing when no one is looking, etc.

    1. RVA Cat*

      I.e., not being a douche.

      Maybe it’s the “prestigious English university” thing but, by any chance, is the OP the Millennial scion of House Flashman?

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Am chuckling. It’s amazing how important it is to do the right thing when we think no one is looking.

      Just a simple example. I have encountered situations on the job where doing the right thing was ten steps and doing the lesser choice was two steps. I would chose to do the right thing and do the ten steps that went with it.
      What happened next was interesting. I was able to pick up speed and do the ten steps accurately and quickly because of being familiar. And I also knew where all the common pitfalls were and how to fix them. A few other people, not so much. They gave themselves away by the questions they asked. People who were unfamiliar with the correct process did not know how to do it efficiently and they did not know what to do when they encountered a pitfall.
      This works into a larger story of building credibility, being respected by peers and so on. That all starts with how we handle the small stuff.

  69. ToxicNudibranch*

    OP, I’m very sorry that no one ever told you that being nice to everyone (even those you perceive as “lower”) is a good idea, and may even benefit you! It is likely that this is the sort of thing meant by “life skills”.

  70. Insurance Geek*

    I really dont want to add to the pile on.

    OP, I feel like volunteer work or a job making an entry level salary would provide you with some “life skills.” I think you need to step down in order to get your come up.

  71. Corby Ziesman*

    OP, the only key you need to improving and developing here is to really and truly, actually, accept and believe that she did not say a word about it to her husband, even if she did recognize you and does not particularly like you. You need to believe that because it is probably the actual truth that matches with the reality we all live in. Then you can start to realize that implies you did actually not get this job based on merits you displayed in the interview itself, and that was enough, and someone else was better. It’s like you are aware of all the facts but have to always be in denial about one of them at any given time, I have a hard time grasping what you really believe happened like if you had to sign a statement about it. It’s possible you created this scenario, which did not happen, as a way of not having to face that you lost this job fair and square on your own merits.

  72. Katie Fay*

    Being nice, reasonable, and polite to those around you isn’t something a prestigious English university needs to instruct you on – I’m thinking they assume you already learned this before arriving. And then there is this: “Unfortunately, when I was getting off the train, I accidentally moved my bike in a way that it caught and left dirty stains on her coat. I did not think much of this …” — specifically the part about not thinking much of this … well that is an example of the (lack of) life skills and over-confidence you received as feedback. Your comment of “whatever that is” sounds dismissive and you really shouldn’t be – you’ve received very valuable feedback and it will serve you well to carefully consider it.

  73. Cinnamonroll*


    YOu need to work on your EQ – as both of your letters make you sound as if you are lacking in empathy, have no sense of courtesy and are assuming that your education/intelligence are enough to make you a strong hire. Etiquette is not just a bunch of rules regarding forks-it is how to treat fellow humans – and it is not based on who those humans are- manners are a reflection of who YOU are.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      Both letters have reminded me of a recent writer in Prudie, who was certain that in a just and fair world their fancy alma mater would have beat the pants off the competition’s experience, knowledge of the company, and industry contacts. And in school, a 98 really is better than a 95–it can be shocking for the possessors of those 98s to realize that a potential employer views that as “more than 90” and it’s a wash between you, so the decision will rest on softer factors like which of you seems easier to work with, or has relevant experience.

      1. Noah*

        That wasn’t really what the letter to Prudie said. It was far more benign than that — maybe a little self-aggrandizing and entitled, but not crazy obnoxious or entitled — but Prudie read it to say “anybody who goes to Harvard is better than anybody else.” The newish Prudie has a tendency to jump to these extremes, which I don’t like, though I do otherwise generally like her advice.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Some people look for a magic bullet that will ease their path through life. The secret is there is NO magic bullet. Living life is work.

      3. memyselfandi*

        This is a general comment on this comment and the replies – colleges and university use “prestige” to sell themselves to parents and students and some of them buy it hook, line and sinker. It’s too bad.

  74. Robbenmel*

    When my DH and I went on our first date, I was already 3/4 in love (we had been corresponding online for months.) But when I saw how he engaged our young server, asking him lots of questions about himself and being all kinds of awesome and kind…well, that sealed the deal, right there. I know now that it’s something he always does, no matter where we go, and he has no need to try to impress me! But I still fall in love all over again, every time.

    OP could learn a lot from my DH.

    1. K.*

      Yep. My ex is successful in his field and makes a good living, but he doesn’t come from money at all. He put himself through college on a combination of social security survivor benefits (he lost a parent when he was a kid), scholarships, and odd jobs, including waiting tables. He was always kind to servers (he was kind to everyone but especially servers), especially if they appeared to be students. There were a lot of restaurants we liked in an area of our city with a lot of campuses so most of the servers were students, and he was always great to them. It was really attractive. Once he gave one of them his card when he found out that she was studying to be in his field.

      Conversely, I have declined second dates with men who are rude to waitstaff entirely because they are rude to waitstaff. Bad manners don’t make you better than anyone.

      1. Relly*

        I had a friend in high school that I had to stop having lunch / dinner with, because she was so horrible to the wait staff. I would cringe every time we went out.

        I wish I had actually called her out on it, but teenage me was not that astute.

  75. Hoorah*

    OP, it’s not your university’s job to teach you not to be a rude jerk. It’s not their fault you behaved like one. Your behaviour is totally on you, mate.

  76. BePositive*

    I’m responsible for buying from companies with have big contracts with. (I work for a multi million dollar company)

    I had cover reception once. A supplier called, asked for me and I just said ‘She’s not available at time moment’ and ask to take a message or forward to voicemail. The guy got rude, demanded I hunt for myself as I would definitely take the call. It was so demeaning and unprofessional.
    I asked reception afterwards, this was common from that supplier. I was like ‘why didn’t you tell me! You don’t deserve that’.

    I pulled and awarded the contract when theirs expired.

    Yes I told him right after the rudeness as professionally as I could muster at the time

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      One of my favorite examples of instant comeuppance here was the guy interviewing for a high-level position with the last level, the board, who was obnoxious in response to the civil greeting of the woman standing behind the receptionist’s desk.

      She was the company’s chief stock holder, and part of the interview. She’d been looking for a pen.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      On several occasions I have informed a hiring boss that an applicant was rude. The application went in the garbage each time.

  77. Kelly*

    I think there’s been a lot of valuable commentary about service jobs and what we can all learn from them, and having done lots of that kind of work, I agree.

    However, in the professional workplace I have learned two things: 1. People like people who treat everyone with kindness and respect. And I know lots of people who bluster around about not being at work to make friends but at the end of the day I think there is so much value in making small talk, giving compliments, and generally giving out sweetness and light. It makes me feel better about my day, and it also gives me lots of valuable social capital around the workplace. I have a team of people around me who will bend over backwards to help me when I’m in a bind because I’m kind to them. Some are peers, some are people higher up the food chain, and some are admins, janitors, and the like. 2. Generally, the admins and janitors and mailroom staff and folks in the more service-oriented parts of professional life know a lot more about the building and how it works and who makes it happen than me. Like, a LOT more. This has been true of every job I’ve ever worked at. So while I try to treat people kindly and with respect because that’s a normal human thing to do, I also try to do it because I can LEARN from all of those folks. Being perceptive about who you can learn from is a super important workplace skill.

  78. Hiring Mgr*

    My personal rule of thumb is that I’ll be polite to anyone who might get invited to the company holiday party (receptionist). If not then I’ve only got so much energy to put into being friendly and I would rather save it for the more important people. Nothing personal, I’m sure some of them are very nice people in a different setting.

    1. Snark*

      “If not then I’ve only got so much energy to put into being friendly and I would rather save it for the more important people.”

      The only excuse for lacking the “energy” to be friendly to everyone you encounter in a professional interview situation is, perhaps, also lacking the energy to put on pants. If you can put on pants and walk out the door, you got energy to be polite to people. Energy is not a finite resource and I think you can probably scrape more of it together than you’re currently doing.

        1. Snark*

          I was being a little tongue in cheek there, but I don’t buy for a second that this person runs out of gas so quickly and completely that they can only be friendly to a select group of people who can help them get a job.

      1. Clerking 9 to 5*

        Agreed. I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and still have enough energy to be polite to pretty much everyone. IMO, it’s a poor excuse for incivility.

      2. Bryce*

        Interacting with people takes energy for an introvert. Like when running low on gas I make a point of budgeting for the trip home as well, but I’m probably gonna be coasting rather than revving my engine. It’s a poor excuse, but it can be mentally draining.

        1. Snark*

          I’m an introvert. Sorry, it doesn’t have traction for me. You can go home and be quiet and alone later.

          1. Bryce*

            It’s certainly no excuse to be nasty to people. I find that takes as much energy as being nice. I just find that sometimes I shift into neutral and don’t realize I was passively rude to some folks until after I’ve recharged.

    2. Mobuy*

      This comment makes me feel sad. Haven’t we all been one of the “less important” people in some setting? And yet, I didn’t feel unimportant to myself.

      1. Here we go again*

        I’m curious as to what you think the distinction is… I believe there is one… Politeness is showing a basic level of decency and respect towards a person, whereas, friendliness is taking it to the next level (i.e. asking how your day is or complimenting someone on their hair).

        1. Kate*

          Exactly- politeness is basic, friendliness might take more effort. For example, if you take the bus to work, you can’t chat with the bus driver, ask her what her kids’ names are, etc. That would hold up the line, the driver has to concentrate, etc. But you can say “Good morning” while you swipe your card. It might be hard to be friendly 24/7, but it’s almost always easy to be polite. Say hello, apologize when you bump into someone, say “thank you,” etc. Hiring Mgr seems to be conflating two very different things.

          1. Snark*

            But friendliness doesn’t actually take that much effort. And I say that as an introvert. You can scrape it up to be not just civil, but actively engaging and friendly, for the duration of a job interview.

          2. Kasia*

            Yeah, I am an introvert who is pretty bad at ending conversations. So if I’m friendly and chat with our security guard, it might be 10 minutes of small talk which I do find tiring. That’s absolutely no excuse for not being polite, of course. I always say hi and smile, but I save “how was your weekend” for when I have the energy/time to have a conversation.

    3. Dankar*

      If you make kindness a reflex–like using your turn signal, chewing with your mouth closed, etc.–it takes zero energy. (Barring any kind of mental illness like depression, which does make things like courtesy more taxing.)

      Seriously, it takes me way longer to make myself look so busy that I couldn’t possibly engage small talk than to just chat with a bored stranger about the whether, or to consciously avoid eye contact than say “thanks” to the person holding the door for me. I totally agree with Mobuy–we’re all the protagonists in our own story, so it’s jarring when someone else treats us like an automated NPC rather than extending a bit of courtesy.

    4. paul*

      There’s a gap between polite and friendly. You don’t have to be buddy-buddy but that doesn’t mean you should be a jerk.

    5. Observer*

      A few things. Firstly, you often have no idea of who might get invited to the company party – that’s the issue for the OP. For another, no one is asking you to be FRIENDLY with everyone. But common courtesy is another whole kettle of fish. And there is really very little excuse for not finding “the energy” to make simple politeness the default for every person.

      It’s thinking like this that got the OP in trouble most likely. Not so much what happened while in transit, but what went on during his internship.

    6. Jessie the First (or second)*

      My personal rule of thumb is that I am polite to everyone. It takes more energy to be rude. And frankly, it is less effective to be rude, as people to whom you are rude are generally not interested in helping or providing you with whatever customer/client experience you need. I do not get actually chatty and friendly with random people, because I don’t always have time and often don’t have interest – but I am polite to everyone.

      Politeness costs nothing.

    7. Noah*

      This may or may not be okay, depending on what you mean. If you don’t go out of your way to talk to the janitor, that makes sense. I mean, I’m rarely polite to janitors because I rarely interact with them.

      Being polite to a security guard is really just saying “hello” back if they say hello to you.

      You don’t need to schmooze the receptionist (which is the vibe I get here — that you see being polite as schmoozing), but should be polite to her, too.

      Being polite requires essentially zero energy and is not the same thing as “being friendly.”

    8. Creag an Tuire*

      Bah, you’re such a pushover, Hiring Mgr.

      I only waste my limited supply of politeness on people who can defeat me in single combat.

      (For those of you just joining us, “Hiring Mgr”s comments are usually snark, as are mine.)

        1. Creag an Tuire*

          I am always unfailingly polite to bears and alligators, so let’s go with “yes”.

    9. Not So NewReader*

      I figure everyone is invited to the holiday party, this saves me lots of energy doing that calculation. With that saved energy I have bandwidth to say, “How are you today?” or “Nice weather, isn’t it?”.

      I am hoping your comment was snark.

  79. paul*

    OP: Don’t be a jerk. That isn’t something that a university should need to teach you and I pray that it isn’t something you work on *solely* because you think it helps your career out.

    Don’t treat people like they’re just a means to an end.

  80. Marissa Richardson*

    I hope this is taken as a lesson to just be kind to everyone you meet. Regardless of just the possibility of that person offering you a job, it’s just positive energy. Not to sound like a total hippie but when you’re nice to people you meet on the street that’s good energy. Good energy that you definitely need when interviewing or looking for a job. Also, if you’re a believer in Karma, it will come back to you.

    Take this as a lesson to be nice and then let it go.

  81. Rachel*

    Wow, gotta be honest, I’m not surprised at this response, especially the part where the LW reports that HR said “overconfidence” was a reason he didn’t get the job. That’s one piece of feedback I’d really take seriously.

  82. GreenYogurt*

    Your update here solidifies my opinion of you formed when reading your original post – you are arrogant and think you’re better than most people. I don’t care if you’re graduating from Oxford with high honors. You’re NOT better than most people.

    I wouldn’t hire you either. You would never fit through the doorway with how huge of an ego you’re carrying around.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      True story.

      I knew an elderly Harvard man who did not do much meal prep all his life. One day he had to fix his own cereal and milk. He did not know how and had great difficulty figuring out how. And his fate was sealed because no one would help him. No one would help him with this basic task because of his attitude and his entitlement issues.

      Harvard should have taught him how to fix cereal and milk?
      Where we were educated and how much education we received is a mere part of our life story, that is all. In the greater scheme of things it matters very little.

      1. Artemesia*

        ??? Can’t be true — any 3 year old can figure out how to fix cereal and milk on that morning they get up before Mom.

      2. Buffay the Vampire Layer*

        Aww, this reminds me of a really endearing story about one of my college roommates. He was a delightful and kind person and very very privileged. He used to tell us about how he “cooked for himself.” He meant making sandwiches and bowls of cereal. This was Jr year – the first two years he ate all his meals in the dining hall. It’s a nice memory for me, he was such a nice kid.

  83. Noah*

    It seems like OP learned a little, but the tone of this letter doesn’t give me a great deal of confidence that he’ll be able to extrapolate any of this to other situations.

  84. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

    OP, if you get this far down, a good rule that’s easy to remember is “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.”

    To apply it to your situation, sure, you can refuse to give up your seat. But should you? You can refuse to apologise to people when you accidentally dirty their clothes. But should you? And so forth.

    If you are genuine about changing, please note that disagreeing with you doesn’t mean a person isn’t on your side. Your letters remind me of a few people I’ve known throughout the years. They weren’t necessarily bad, but everything that happened was someone else’s fault. That came through in your writing – even blaming Alison for taking too long to respond. That may not have been your conscious intention, but it’s how it comes across.

    You’ve been very lucky in getting some excellent feedback, from both the company and people here. Don’t waste it. Good luck.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      The fact that OP is still thinking of this as her side vs their side, tell us that OP still needs to look into this situation a little deeper.

      1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

        Very true. I’m glad the OP is at least starting to look into this and that he continues. It’s a long journey but it’s worth it. He’s lucky that he’s starting it while he’s young. There are people in their fifties or sixties who’ve just figured out they don’t have life skills, and it’s always a shock. Seeing the world as ‘me against everyone’ is draining and exhausting, even when the person does it as a defensive measure to keep themselves safe. I hope OP continues on this path.

        1. Old Admin*

          ” There are people in their fifties or sixties who’ve just figured out they don’t have life skills, and it’s always a shock. ”

          Oh yes. That’s me. I’m Mrs Nerdy, and didn’t notice how I was coming across until I was way beyond grown up. Reading AAM has taught me a truckload of lessons on How To Survive In An Office Environment. :-)

          1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

            Honestly, that’s truly wonderful. I have nothing but respect for people who can take a straightforward look at themselves, say ‘yes, I need to change’, and then do it. It is not easy at all (I’m still changing and still have a lot to learn). But it’s so worth it, and when you look back on how things were a year or two ago, you can be so proud and amazed of your progress.

            One of my favourite quotes about change is “We don’t want to change. We want everyone else to change so our lives will be easier.” It makes me laugh every time and reminds me to keep at it when times are tough. If I want others to change, then I’d better be prepared to do my own work!

            This internet stranger is really proud of you! Your comment made me smile so much. Keep on going, you’re doing great!

  85. Sexism Police*

    Sort of off-topic, but I’ll throw it out there: I find it very interesting what different commenters assume(d) about the gender of the OP. When reading the original post, it was pretty obvious to me that this was a man (my own biases), which I’m going to assume is correct based on the name Herbert and Alison’s use of the male pronoun in reference. But many people still say “her” and “she” — I wonder why?

    1. Wannabe Disney Princess*

      The default on the site is to use the female pronouns. In this case, they (probably) happened to miss the pronouns Allison was using.

      1. Fictional Butt*

        And Allison didn’t use any gender pronouns in the original post, so there was no reason for commenters over there to not use the default “she.”

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I did not catch that OP was male. Since we have the default “she” that is my go-to.

          1. Czhorat*

            I always use “they” until the OP comments with the name “Herbert” or something. Defaulting to “she” is an interesting choice in that it subverts the more common default.

    2. Observer*

      The default on the site is she. I used “they” till I saw the response from the OP which pretty much confirmed that OP is male.

    3. Quadnon.*

      I assumed it was a (white) male because statistics have shown that they are they least likely to give up their seats on public transit. I may have waivered on color but never gender.

      1. emma2*

        Really?? I’ve observed the complete opposite – men almost always play the gentleman, and give up their seats for older people and women. I’ve been in two separate occasions where I gave my seat up to much older men (one with a CANE), and they flat out refused to take my seat until another guy gave theirs up so I could sit.

      2. Sexism Police*

        Yeah, I was thinking along the same lines, and also evidence shows that men are more likely to overestimate their abilities while women underestimate them. But I totally missed that the default on the site is to use “she” unless otherwise noted – thanks for pointing this out, all!

  86. former foster kid*

    christ. i live in london. i’ve worked with these sorts of people. OP, are you a dulwich boy, as all who’ve i’ve ever met have this attitude? are you one of the oxford students who used to sneer at me when I worked in oxford (and also a student)? I also take my bike on the overground, having cycled out to hampton court or through kensal green etc. come on man, you’re giving the rest of us young, but with a standard of humanity, workers in london who cycle a bad name.

    i cannot imagine a british company’s HR that is willing to say you need to work on life skills. like, you must just be appallingly bad in many aspects to get them to say that.

    you should get out of the square mile and work somewhere else for a while. and do try to think about people who don’t have your (apparently extremely privileged) background. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jul/12/leaving-care-cambridge-university-access-problems

    1. OldJules*

      “i cannot imagine a british company’s HR that is willing to say you need to work on life skills. like, you must just be appallingly bad in many aspects to get them to say that.”

      I was thinking of that so hard. Growing up in the Commonwealth environment where you don’t say anything negative to anyone not in the in ‘circle’. I was shocked that HR said something at all. He either has connections to with an in crowd or he must have flubbed something bad.

      And I don’t know if it has changed significantly since my days then but a good breeding indicator is how you behave and treat people around you. My mom would be appalled by such crass behavior. A lady or a gentleman behave as such. Maybe not the nouveau-rich crowd?

      1. paul*

        Your last paragraph comes across damn near as snobby as the OP. Seriously, “good breeding” and bashing people that ain’t old money?

        1. OldJules*

          I sound like a right arse don’t I? Good call out. I should have thought my comment through better.

  87. LeisureSuitLarry*

    I don’t remember where I heard this, but I’ve found it to be true. Your interview starts the moment you walk out of the door to your home. You never know who you’re going to interact with on the way to the interview, so it’s best to pretend that everyone might be your interviewer. That means giving up a seat for an old guy, not cutting someone off in traffic, apologizing if you bump someone, etc.

    Even if you get the job, the time to let the full force of your personality out isn’t immediate. I’ve got a super dry sense of humor, to the point that a lot of times people can’t tell if what I’ve said is supposed to be biting or comical (pro-tip: it’s usually both), but I try not to let that part start having free reign until I’ve gotten to know people a little better.

    1. Nox*

      I have very complicated feelings about the commentary that is on this post. I find most of them to be well intended but unnecessarily judgmental.

      OP :I think you should avoid these comments and perhaps take some time out to do some soul searching. No one on the internet is going to be able to help you “look in the mirror” and help you see what other people see in you. I think you’re still very young and bright and you will realize that you will have to fall on your hiney a few times before you start seeing what everyone else is trying to get you to see.

      I would recommend you look into EQ courses. I found those very helpful in being able to see the bigger picture with how I interact with people since I have narcissistic tendencies. The earlier you look into them I think it will be for the better. Good Luck!

  88. Kat*

    Wow this kid didn’t learn a thing. It isn’t about treating people with well when convenient, it is about being a decent human being. Of course this isn’t something to be taught during ur job search as it is applicable 24/7. His “reflection” on the situation makes me even more sad for him. He really doesn’t get it.

  89. Keaton*

    Wow, this kid is never going to find a job with that attitude. You’d think he learned his lesson, but judging from his tone in this update, he hasn’t.

  90. PrimaryCareDoc*

    As a physician, I am constantly amazing at how often patients are total jerks to my receptionist and then sweet as pie to me.

    I am quick to remind them that I value respect- My staff and I give it to my patients, and I expect them to treat my staff likewise.

    That usually takes care of the problem, but they are almost always surprised to be called out on their behavior.

    If they continue to be jerks to my staff, I discharge them and tell them to find another doctor. I’ve got plenty of patients. They’re a dime a dozen (as are job applicants for many jobs). A happy, productive staff, on the otherhand, is irreplacable.

  91. Emilia*

    Going to an elite school doesn’t change the fact that the OP is as arrogant and cocky as they come which is a HUGE turn-off to most people. As someone who goes to an Ivy League right now, I know that attending one does not give someone a free pass to look down on other people. Most people don’t care where you went to school, just as long as you have the necessary skills/requirements and a personality that doesn’t make you seem like an arrogant jerk. I would say I feel bad for the OP, but I don’t, he’s bringing all of this negativity on himself because he thinks the school he goes to give him the right to be arrogant and entitled. Am I saying people shouldn’t go to Ivy Leagues or elite schools? No, but if you’re going because you think it gives you an excuse to look down on other people, you’re going for all the wrong reasons.

  92. Nieve*

    This letter itself also ‘exudes’ a sense arrogance of a huge lack of ‘life skills’ Im afraid. Also you sound a little naive, in that in your eyes, the people who think you did wrong are all mostly ‘old’ people. Of course if you tell this story to your friends, they would try to sound like they agree with you/be on your side. In the end, your life success dont really matter to them and all they want from you is easygoing friendship. They’re not going to go out of their way to explain that what you did/how you perceived this situation is wrong. For your information, as soon as I read your original letter I could see exactly where you went wrong and agreed with many other commenters saying that you were lacking in showing ‘good character’. And guess what? Im in my early 20’s. Hopefully now you’ve learned that it doesnt hurt to be nice to people, but it could hurt to be rude! If the CEO decided against hiring you because of this incident, there really is nothing wrong with that. I wouldn’t want to hire someone who doesnt show any care for other people either, such a lack of empathy could cause all kinds of trouble in a workplace.

  93. Annie*

    To me, the security guard, receptionist, janitor… they are as much your coworker’s as the people directly on your team. They keep your office running and clean and safe. If you lose your keys or need the temperature in your office adjusted, they will help you. More quickly, especially if they like you and you e been nice to them.

    1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      People like you made my day when I worked as a cleaner. Some people were awful and saw me as useless and stupid. But some people talked to me like a human being, and told me I was part of the team, that they could not have a functioning office/school without me. You bet I went above and beyond for them. One day, one of the jerks needed to be let in to a part of the building. Technically, I could have done it since I had the keys. Officially, I wasn’t allowed to. I told him he had to wait around for a manager and he was pissed off – “I just need to get one thing!” Sorry dude, rules are rules.. Had it been one of the nice people, I’d have let them in to grab their stuff and go, or offered to get it for them.

      I love malicious compliance.

  94. Marisol*

    OP what stands out to me about your letter is that it is almost devoid of affect. You mention being impatient and upset, but other than that, there is no emotional resonance whatsoever.

    Most people feel ashamed when others point out their mistakes; they then either admit their mistake and acknowledge their shame if they are emotionally mature, or, if they are immature, they defend against their shame by getting angry and denying their error. But in your case–there is no shame. There is no affect whatsoever, you just take the situation and the advice you’ve been given as data and proceed straight to an analysis. It’s like you have a worldview that is completely utilitarian.

    But here’s the thing: your analysis will never be accurate without an ability to empathize with others. You are seeing some weird cause-and-effect between the woman on the train and your not getting the job, when there is overwhelming evidence that you didn’t get the job for other reasons, such as your poor social skills. People who are adept at picking up on the nuances of social interaction can see this, but you can’t.

    Other commenters are calling you an elitist, someone who only thinks of their own feelings but I get the impression that you do not process feelings at all, beyond a very basic, lizard-brain identification of need–you are “upset” (angry?) that you didn’t get what you want; you are “impatient” to get it. I do get the impression that you prioritize your own needs above others, and this is therefore a kind of de facto arrogance or narcissism. But I don’t necessarily think you are doing this out of a sort of wealthy person’s entitlement. I get the impression that you are blind to the emotional needs of others, that you simply lack the faculty for processing emotional affect correctly.

    Please, please, please see a psychologist and get a diagnosis. I am not saying there is anything “wrong” with you. But I do think you’re an outlier on the bell curve, and people whose behavior is aberrant have great difficulties in life, and getting a formal diagnosis is a blessing for them. I personally was diagnosed with adhd at age 40 and I wish I had gotten the diagnosis sooner as it helped me understand the way I am in the world for the first time. If you continue on this same trajectory, refusing to learn life’s lessons or making only tiny incremental changes, I predict some serious, needless disappointments ahead for you. I think you fail to realize that when the HR rep said you needed to learn “life skills” she was, in a nice way, saying you had a low level of functioning in the world. This is a serious problem; it is a major, not a minor, adjustment to make, and it needs immediate attention. Please see a professional.

    1. Observer*

      I was thinking much the same thing – only you have put it far better and more coherently that I would have.

      OP, please take this seriously.

  95. Matt*

    I was wondering about all the piling on OP (short of calling it a sh..storm) in the original article and I’m wondering again about it in the follow-up. I know this from some other forums but not from AAM. Seats on trains seem to be a really emotional topic.

    1. West end of nowhere*

      Yup, a lot of strained elbows around here from everyone patting themselves on the back for being so genuinely nice to secretaries and waiters.

    2. Macedon*

      Think it’s mostly a knee-jerk reaction to OP being more concerned that they were not ‘properly equipped’ to game the system than to the fact that they need to re-evaluate their motivations and public behaviour.

      The gloating for treating the secretary/janitor/whoever properly doesn’t sit well with me either — it’s an obvious tenet, let’s not congratulate ourselves for minimal courtesy — but it’s a rare situation where it seems OP needs explicit guidelines for, well, human decency.

      1. Observer*

        I don’t think people are exactly gloating. It’s more like amazement that this even needs to be said.

  96. Kat*

    To the gentleman who says the bosses wife took away his job and his manager said to learn some life skills that was the part where it states that he should have given up his seat for an elderly person it’s just called manners.
    Here’s some life skills that you need to know
    1.Always say please and thank you always
    2 If you sneeze if you make a weird sound or you do anything like that you say excuse me if you bump into someone accidentally you say excuse me
    3. Listen very carefully if you are a healthy young person and you’re riding on a bus a train a boat where it’s public sitting and you are an able to body person you give up your seat to a person who is elderly because might not be able to stand all that time. A female especially a mother who has bags in her hand and maybe a kid or kids. A child maybe a young teenage child many times I’ve seen kids try to stand and ride and they actually get tossed to the floor because they’re not use to the motion.
    Get the book dangerous boys is one that young boys usually get to learn so as they grow up they have some manners and know how to deal with things I would highly sugges it. You will find it in the children’s section there are adult books you could go with those but you need to learn life skills and you can’t just wave it away it is important for your success if you wish to climb the ladder of success you need to learn life skills if there’s any chance you can afford to take classes do it don’t ever waive off life skills because life skills are that important

    1. Nea*

      IMO, all of etiquette can be summed up as:
      1) Say please, thank you, excuse me, and I’m sorry as often as necessary
      2) Do not make extra work for other people, and if you end up doing so, apologize profusely
      3) Listen to others and give them their way/negotiate to mutual satisfaction rather than always do what you want
      4) Start with the silverware on the outside

  97. HumanBeing*

    Op I’m sure by now you’ve gotten the message about being nice, please take that advice.

    Next, please keep in mind one of the best things you can be in the workforce is teachable. Learning doesn’t end with Uni and the more teachable you are the more successful you will be. I promise!

    And, while we’re discussing things, remember this point going forward: if you decide you’re successful, creative and talented, and a hard worker, you can start your own business. When you do, you, as the owner, will have a chance to be the janitor, the receptionist, the plumber, the ad person, first and last contact of your business. It’s part of being the owner.

    But you’ll never be the owner if you’re a jerk and not teachable.