I faked a team brainstorming meeting, my coworker lies about how much work she does, and more

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

1. I faked a team brainstorming meeting

I recently started my first job out of college and was given a task by my boss to brainstorm some plans with my team and send her what we came up with.

It ended up being a crazy week schedule-wise and there was never a time I could get the whole team together, and I was honestly still a little shy about working with my team. I ended up just sending my boss ideas that I had come up with and that I had kinda heard the team discuss before.

Now we are implementing these plans and my boss keeps mentioning the team effort and I am worried that it will come out that I was never able to have a full-team brainstorm or that my team will be confused/offended. I’m also concerned that we haven’t discussed these ideas as a team and we are just implementing them. I incorrectly assumed there would be another discussion after the brainstorm. Am I overreacting? Or should be trying to figure out how to remedy this?

Oooooh, yeah, don’t do this kind of thing. I can see how you ended up there, especially in your first job, but you should always just be honest with your boss in this kind of situation. For example, you could have said, “I’m having trouble finding a time that everyone can meet. I’ve come up with some ideas myself and I’ve written down the ideas I’ve heard others discuss before, but can you give me some advice on how to make a meeting of the whole team happen, with how crazy this week has been?” (She might have told you “just schedule it and it’s fine if not everyone is there” or “yeah, wait for next week when things will be slower” or “nah, this list is fine for now” or who knows what — but the point is that you’d be letting her weigh in and not deciding on your own to do something different than what she asked you to do.)

As for what to do now … it’s hard to say for sure without knowing exactly what you’ve said to your boss so far, but ideally you’d say something like this: “I realized I should have said this earlier — I wasn’t able to get the whole team to meet to brainstorm, so I wrote out some ideas of my own and others I’d heard people mention. But we haven’t actually talked about them as a group, the way you originally asked. I’m sorry about that — I wasn’t sure how to handle it, and now I realize I should have been clearer with you when I sent the list. Do you want me to go back and try to set up that group meeting now?”

Read an update to this letter here.

2. My coworker lies about how much work she does, and I’m supposed to report her numbers

I produce a daily progress report for the management team. A coworker, M, gives me the number of items she has completed in a day, and I plug that number into the report and pull the actual total number of items remaining unresolved from the database.

For a long time, I only handled reporting the items I was assigned. A, another coworker, worked on the same items as M and handled reporting those numbers; A has been promoted to supervisor, and M can’t report the numbers herself for reasons I don’t fully understand, perhaps because she just doesn’t want to.

I noticed the discrepancies first when the number she would give me wouldn’t make any logical sense: A starting number would be 40, then ending number would be 15 and she would say she’d “worked” 300 items. I began checking the database totals more frequently during the day, and the discrepancy would be more apparent: The starting total would be 15, perhaps 40 by mid-morning, another 25 by early afternoon, for a total of 70. M would tell me she had “worked” 200 items. One day, I checked the totals hourly, and by comparing the numbers, it was clear that M had only actually resolved 30 items, but reported that she had done 190.

I’m at a loss at what to do here, aside from accurately documenting my own work. Any suggestions would be appreciated. The culture in my office is highly political, and M has been shown a great deal of favoritism from management, so I feel like any attempt to bring the issue to the department manager will result in retaliatory action.

Talk to your boss, and frame it as confusion/asking for clarification. For example: “I’m supposed to be reporting M’s numbers now and I’m running into some confusion. For example, I’ll saw in the database today that she resolved 30 items, but her report to me says 300. Yesterday the database showed she’d resolved 70 items, but she reported 200. I’m not sure where the discrepancy is coming from and I want to make sure I’m doing this correctly.”

Even if your manager favors M, she’s not likely to cover up blatant and systemic lying.

Alternately, you can say something similar to M herself, but when someone is behaving unethically, sometimes giving them a chance to cover their tracks (and potentially take it out on you) isn’t a wise course of action.

3. My coworker is asking “general knowledge” questions in job interviews

I came across something in an interview that confused me and I’m hoping you can shed some light on it.

I’m part of an interview panel that is trying to hire someone for a role in our department. One other person on the panel has been asking “general awareness questions” during the interview. He will ask things like, “What is the square root of 16?” or “Who is the governor of the state?” I assume he learned this from interviews he went through before, but I have no idea what purpose it serves. General knowledge, while of course useful in nearly any job, is not a specific requirement for the role we are hiring for. Have you heard of this before and what are your thoughts on it?

Your coworker doesn’t know how to interview and someone should tell him to cut it out — or at least ask him to explain to the rest of you what it is that he’s trying to assess with those questions and why.

Your panel should be asking questions based on the specific skills, experiences, and traits needed to do the work well.

It should also be thinking about the impression you’re giving candidates, and quizzing people on topics unrelated to the job is likely to turn off good candidates.

4. Should I re-submit a job application if the closing date has extended?

I applied for a job that I think I have a real shot at a week ago and tomorrow was meant to be the closing date. I then noticed that the closing date was extended by four days and I was left wondering what I should do since there wasn’t any indication as to whether previous applicants would still be considered or not. Should I re-submit a job application to reiterate my interest in the position? And potentially with any small revisions?

Nope, they’ve got your application. Extending the closing date doesn’t mean “we’re throwing out the applications we have and starting all over.” It just means “we’re giving people a few more days to apply.” That could be because they don’t feel they have enough strong applications or it could be for other reasons that are impossible to guess at from the outside. But you’ve applied, and now it’s in their court.

5. How should I tell my manager this job isn’t for me?

I was recently assigned to a new manager. From everything I’ve seen, she’s one of the best managers I’ve worked for. The job, though, is a terrible fit.

My employer closed my office and offered transfer to another location, where they would find me a position. I accepted, given the tentative position was within my skills and interests. A temporary assignment to a client-facing team that could use my knowledge has become permanent. I have decent client-facing skills, but I find it extremely stressful. I’m already looking for a therapist after a couple months. I never would have applied for a job where I’d be working this closely with customers. I’d happily reconcile spreadsheets 50-60 hours a week, but five pleasant phone calls and I’m a nervous wreck. Spreadsheets were in my future when I transferred, but the company plans fell through in that department.

The manager has adjusted assignments around the team so I have the least client contact, but it’s still far from my comfort level. Everyone else in the team comes from a customer service background, including the manager, so the format works well for them. How do I tell my manager that she is doing all the right things, but she can’t turn this job into something that works for me?

Unless you’re willing to risk being pushed out earlier than you’re ready to leave, the best way to tell her is when you resign because you’ve accepted a new offer.

If you tell her now, there’s not a lot she can do with that information other than start planning for your departure … and that may end up happening sooner than you want it to (assuming that you want to find a new job first). That’s not necessarily because she’d actively work against your interests, but because she has to work for the interest of her team and these conversations can easily turn into “I understand, and thanks for telling me. Let’s talk about what kind of transition timeline would make sense.” And then the next thing you know, you’re agreeing to leave at the end of the month.

So, unless you know for sure that won’t happen, wait until you’ve accepted another offer. Then explain the situation to her and thank her for all she did to try to make the situation workable.

{ 269 comments… read them below }

  1. Edith*

    #3: Does the coworker advocate for rejecting candidates who forget to say “plus or minus” when giving square roots? I kinda hope the post-interview discussion goes
    Boss: Wow, I really liked her.
    Coworker: Yeah, but……

    1. esra*

      I had an elementary teacher who used to dock marks from people who would say plus or minus when giving square roots instead of “positive or negative.”

      Honestly though, that would be so patronizing in an interview.

      1. Purplesaurus*

        That totally ruins the little song I learned for the quadratic formula.

        X equals negative b, plus or minus radical b square ….

    2. finderskeepers*

      it is convention that the square root refers to the *positive* square root. The plus/minus is need when solving x^2=16

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I agree with finders as to the “correct” answer, but the entire thread illustrates why this is a terrible question. Is the “trick” in the over-simple question testing whether you remember that there could be two numbers that can be squared giving 16? Or to use the correct terminology and say positive/negative not plus/minus? Or to recognize that square root means the positive root?

        It’s like the “why are manhole covers round” question.

        1. Lora*

          Ha, I happen to know a civil engineer who knew the answer to this personally, as he had been a contractor for managing the transition between manhole cover styles for multiple municipalities/cities/states. Turns out that the “so they don’t fall in” was observed independently many places. It wasn’t derived from theory alone, as some people imagine – all experientially, because initially the casting dies and cutting equipment were square and would have been expensive to change – as with many large engineering projects, there has to be a certain amount of $$losses$$ before the infrastructure is changed. For small municipalities and towns where there isn’t as much need to go down into the utilities frequently as there is in larger cities, they hadn’t noticed or didn’t lose enough covers/have enough accidents to make it worth changing. Some of the transition came from smaller towns becoming part of larger cities and transitioning to round covers because the large city was, and they didn’t want to give up their old style.

      2. Edith*

        Perhaps where you’re from, but that’s definitely not the convention in the U.S. If it were we would need a separate term to refer either to both square roots or to the non-natural square root counterpart, and to my knowledge there is none. People just forget how multiplying negatives works. But all of this is completely beside the point that OP’s coworker is being ridiculous.

        1. ket*

          I’m going to be one of *those* people on the internet, and only because anonymity emboldens this kind of antisocial behavior :P

          If you’re a mathematician, positive root only is the convention everywhere in the world. The square root is a function and functions by definition can only have one unique output for every input. Of course when you’re solving x^2 = 16 you learned in school to take square roots of both sides and then write x = 4, -4, but that’s “grammatically incorrect” in purely mathematical terms. The problem is that f(x) = x^2 is not an invertible function.

          I’m guilty of this math shorthand myself, but it is just wrong, unfortunately. And agree this shows why it’s a stupid interview question.

  2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#3, I had a coworker who did this, and it drove me out of my mind. I didn’t have the standing to say anything directly, but I found that literally five other staff (including senior managers) had complained to the Exec Director and to the coworker about it, and nothing changed. In addition to being pointless and looking exceedingly smug, it was distracting and came off as if he were (1) suggesting the candidates were ignorant or unaware, and (2) trying to trip up candidates by asking insultingly stupid questions. It turned off a bunch of talented candidates and diminished the organization’s reputation in their eyes—and word got around, which impacted our ability to recruit a talented pool to begin with. Several candidates turned down offers specifically citing that his general knowledge questions raised concerns about workplace culture.

    Please oh please oh please figure out a way to get him to cut that nonsense out.

    1. Julianne*

      I absolutely would have suffered through questions like this as a fresh grad who just desperately needed a job (I was asked much crazier questions in one memorable interview right after I finished school), but now I’d probably – at minimum – respond, “Wait, what? Did you just ask me the square root of 16?” And I’d subsequently cite those questions as a reason for taking myself out of the hiring process.

      1. BouncingBall*

        Yes, when I was a desperate new grad, I sat through an entire interview that began with the question, “If you could be any breakfast food, what would you be and why?” I even tried really hard to answer that question well, if there even is a way to answer it well.

        These days, I probably would laugh it off and not take the rest of the interview seriously.

        1. peachie*

          On the subject of horrible interview questions, my roommate was telling me about one his mom once got.

          They asked her, “If you were a utensil, what would you be?”

          She said, “A whisk.”

          They asked, “Why?”

          She said, “Stupid answer to a stupid question.”

          She’s my hero.

          1. Snark*

            “An 8in chef’s knife.”


            “Because I’m useful at a variety of tasks, I’m razor sharp, and BITCH I WILL CUT YOU.”

        2. all aboard the anon train*

          This is why I hate interviewers who think these are softball questions that will ease the candidate into an interview. A lot of people are going to be uneasy if their first question is some variation of
          “What’s your favorite book?/What breakfast food are you?/What random fact do you know?” A lot of people assume an interview means you’re judged on every question you’re asked, even these supposed easy ones.

          I definitely have no problem asking if the question is relevant to the job or why they’re asking it, but I know not everyone is comfortable doing that. I definitely wouldn’t have as a new grad.

        3. Julianne*

          I was asked what kind of tree best represented my personality. I said pine, because it was the only kind of tree I could think of off the top of my head. (I had no parallels to draw between myself and a pine tree.)

          1. Cercis*

            I’m an arborist and was a forestry major. If I’d been asked this question I would have laughed – well, okay, I wouldn’t have laughed because I wouldn’t have even begun to know how to answer it. I know that there’s a lot of myths about trees (oaks are deeply rooted, for example) which aren’t actually true (or not universally true) and my knowledge would have gotten in my way.

            Questions like that stress me out. I don’t think that way. I’m much more literal (kind of happens when you’re raised in a family of non-neurotypicals).

      2. Turquoise Cow*

        Yeah, if I *desperately* needed the job, I’d sit through the interview and answer the questions, although I probably wouldn’t be able to hide my increasing confusion.

        If I was not desperate (like if they were trying to recruit me away from a job I didn’t despise) or I had enough years of experience to know that these are not normal interview questions? I might push back in the moment, like “why is that relevant?” If I was seriously annoyed, I might just walk out.

    2. Apollo Warbucks*

      At least she’s made a more meaningful contribution to the comments section than you.

    3. Gee Gee*

      I had a very condescending interview in this vein, with a well-known camera company. It made me angry enough that I switched my personal gear to Nikon. It was pre-Glassdoor, otherwise I would have unloaded there!

    4. Fake old Converse shoes*

      I know a handful of companies that include sudokus and brain puzzles for their fresh grad entry-level group interviews, and those who don’t solve them correctly or don’t met a minimum level are not called back (even if you meet the job requirements). It was a complete waste of time.

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        I mean, I get asking certain kinds of brain puzzles if listening to a candidate talk through solving the puzzle gives the interviewer an idea of the candidate’s thought process (and the answer isn’t nearly so important as the process of arriving at the answer), and the job involves a lot of lateral thinking.

        OP3’s coworker isn’t even doing that, though. What on earth is asking the square root of 16 supposed to tell you about a candidate?!

      2. Oryx*

        ExJob used the Wonderlic test: it was a career college and students had to take it but interviewees did, too. I remember walking away from the test thinking “If I don’t get the job because of fractions I’m going to be so pissed.”

      3. CMart*

        For my current role (a staff-to-senior development program for new grads) they had all of the finalists take the Wonderlic test. You know, famous for being given to NFL draft hopefuls.

        I get to be smug because I had the highest score of my interview group but it felt weirdly petty.

      4. many bells down*

        I was given a “logic test” once in an interview. It was a bunch of questions that started off really easy (“What is the last month of the year?”) and got progressively more difficult. You weren’t supposed to be able to finish it in the allotted time. It was weird, but I was young and it wasn’t THAT much weirder than other interviews I’d had.

        I got the job, though. He said I had the best score of anyone yet and offered me the job on the spot. Worked there for 3.5 years.

        1. Clewgarnet*

          I was once given one of those tests where the instructions say to read all the questions before starting, and then the last question is, “Answer only questions one and two.”

          I could just about see it being useful-ish for a job where following precise instructions is necessary. This was not one of those jobs.

    5. Elizabeth West*

      Yeah, this reminds me of an interview I had in February. The hiring manager gave me a general knowledge test–I mean a whole test, like those Iowa Basic Skills tests we had in school. It was a project management admin position, and literally none of the questions on the test had anything to do with the job at all. It was just to see how smart you were, I guess.

      The whole thing was mega-weird. I didn’t get the job and I’m not sorry. I don’t think I would have gotten along very well with this person as my manager.

    6. Amy G. Golly*

      Long have I suspected my job prospects would improve if only interviews were more like pub quizzes. Heck, give me a buzzer, and I’ll really show you something! ;)

  3. Artemesia*

    3 I don’t know how your office organizes these job interviews, but when I ran interviews and had a panel of colleagues, we agreed on a question protocol. We were hiring professionals and so I organized 5 basic questions and then sat down with the panel and we refined that and talked about what we were looking for and thought about what kind of probes would go under each question if needed. That way we were all on the same page and the flow was fairly natural but there was a similar pattern focused on what we needed with each applicant.

    I have been a panel member when others organizing the process did something similar. We would all be asking questions but basically taking turns asking about categories we had agreed on or asking follow up questions within those categories that would vary by interviewer interest and the response we were getting from the applicant.

    I don’t know what authority you have here, but the guy asking these questions can’t be the boss, so can you either organize a set of appropriate question or talk to whomever is in charge of this about doing so as a group. Letting someone go off the rails and insult candidates like this can’t be good for hiring competent people. For pick detail oriented interviewers, there are lots of ways to focus on detail that is job relevant, problem oriented and won’t make the interviewer look stupid and the interviewee feel demeaned.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      You should be doing this anyway really, to ensure you ask roughly the same questions to each candidate and can then compare.

    2. Purplesaurus*

      We use a question pool as well, and some actually are to screen for culture fit. But even those questions ask about teamwork, time management, and so forth – nothing that might show up on a 6th grade pop quiz.

  4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#1, I’m struggling a bit because lying about something like this seems like a big deal to me. Although the group element of the original task may not have been necessary (or maybe it was—it’s not entirely clear to me), this kind of omission signals something about integrity and forthrightness that would make me uneasy as a manager. General point: Try to avoid misrepresenting your work, regardless of how (un)important the method or outcomes may seem.

    I think you should try to get ahead of this ASAP. There’s certainly a risk that it could make your boss raise their eyebrows. But the risk of them finding out from some other source (and the related consequences) would be a lot worse, because then it will look like you were misleading and then tried to hide that you had acted in a misleading way. The sooner you raise the discrepancy, the sooner you can plead naivete / inexperience / inadvertent omission of information. And then try very hard not to do things like this, again.

    1. Phoenix Programmer*

      I would not jump to integrity issues personally. It makes sense to me that boss asked for a results from b process so think it’s totally fine to just provide the results asked for. It’s not of course but the error in logic is totally understandable from an entry level employee.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Sure. I just think it’s helpful for OP to realize that this could be seen as an integrity issue down the road if there are repeats (or as OP gains greater experience). I suspect that if OP is upfront about what happened, most reasonable managers would be more willing to see this as a logic mistake than a character mistake.

      2. Stellaaaaa*

        I don’t think it’s helpful to underline that this COULD have been a misunderstanding when OP admits that she understood the directions correctly and simply chose not to follow them or ask for help before the deadline. That’s what makes this an integrity issue. OP didn’t commit any great crime and she might very well be able to fudge her way out of this, but I don’t think any method of problem solving should overlook the fact that OP made the deliberate decision to be dishonest. I don’t think it would be giving her good advice to suggest that she should insist she misunderstood when that just isn’t what happened. In life and work, it’s a sign of low integrity to consistently coast on reasonable doubt when you know exactly what’s expected of you. I sincerely hope that OP doesn’t suffer repercussions for being unsure of how to navigate a busy week at her first professional job, but her defense shouldn’t be doubling down on a lie that frankly isn’t believable anyway.

        1. Engineer Girl*

          And if there are enough of these incidents people will figure out that it is deliberate. The alternative is stupidity. At the very best it will seem as passive aggressive. A more likely scenario is that people will see it as dishonesty.

        2. CoffeeLover*

          I agree with all of this. I think OP’s saving grace here is that she’s new. I would consider it a lack of integrity from an experienced employee, but it’s more like inexperience and mishandling from a new employee. As said above, OP was unsure of how to handle a busy week. Unfortunately, she didn’t handle this part of it very well.

          I fully agree with you that the best way out of this at this point is through total honesty. We all made mistakes when we were new and hopefully your boss will understand that. If she’s managed other new people I’m sure she’s seen some of this stuff before. I do think it will be a ding to your image, but that’s unavoidable at this point. I don’t think it will be a major red flag as others have suggested, if you’ve done well otherwise and continue to do good work (and continue to be honest).

        3. neverjaunty*

          Exactly this. The OP didn’t express confusion about the method; she got busy and took a shortcut.

          Not only is this an integrity issue, it looks like a skills issue: being unable to move forward because coordinating schedules was difficult.

          Definitely something OP should get in front of now.

      3. Apollo Warbucks*

        Maybe it’s not a lack of integrity as such, but a lack of openess and transparency for sure.

        The boss is expecting to have had ideas from the whole team which they haven’t.

        I think the OP collecting the ideas together was a good start all she needed to do was send them to the team saying I’ve been asked to put this together can you read it over and let me have any ideas you’d like to add.

        1. Czhorat*

          It’s certainly an integrity issue; OP was tasked with engaging a specific process, did not do so, and mislead their boss. There is no way that ISN’T integrity, and it robbed colleagues of a chance to give direct input.

          On the positive side, the OP appears to be aware that this was – at the very least – a serious misstep. This means that they can grow from the experience and, hopefully, salvage the situation. In any event, it will hurt their reputation with the boss and the company.

          1. eplawyer*

            I agree it is an integrity issue. Not an “you must be fired immediately” issue, but one I would watch closely to see if there are any other signs. If there are not and the person’s work is generally good, it can be chalked up to new to the work force. Coaching will solve it. I truly think that this is the case here. But the sooner #1 owns up to it, the easier it will be to chalk it up to naivete.

    2. hbc*

      It’s definitely consistent with an avoidant-type person, who can be very difficult to deal with. Someone who asks for help too much can be instructed to try to come up with their own solutions, someone who charges out on their own when they should be checking can be reined in, but if you’ve got someone who quietly dodges, you don’t know anything until it all falls apart.

      OP, the only way to get ahead of that kind of reputation is to explain yourself. Before your boss makes a team announcement about the brainstorming results and gets blank looks. It’s the difference between looking like a rookie who made a mistake and an unreliable liar.

      1. Samata*

        I think the distinction here is really important. I do agree it can be seen as an integrity issue – and it will be a mark against her if something else questionable comes up. But if OP knows it was wrong there is an opportunity to salvage what could turn into quite a bad situation.

      2. Anna Held*

        This. I think the bigger issue is that you were afraid to speak up when there was a problem, or be proactive in solving it (e.g. you could have met with a smaller group in tandem with a few rounds of email to keep everyone in the loop and participating). A lot of us can see this sort of thing happening when they’re in a new position, but you just made the situation worse. Remember this sinking feeling the next time, and talk to your boss, or a trusted cowroker, and figure out what the best plan is.

        Communication and assertiveness are BIG topics on these boards (and in all areas of life, really). Working on them will help! Maybe in your next sit down with your boss have a general talk about problem-solving and communicating with her to figure out how it’s appropriate to react to situations in your workplace.

      3. Anna*

        I know that in my first job I was scared to death to ask any questions because I was afraid of being seen as incompetent. It would be unwise to extrapolate the OP’s entire personality based on one moment in their first big job.

        1. hbc*

          I’m not extrapolating personality, but the boss might. And it isn’t one moment if there have been a lot of moments where it’s been made clear that the boss believes the results came from a brainstorming session. If it’s been “this is a great collection of ideas from the team,” there’s some wiggle room. If it’s “Great job organizing that brainstorming session,” each day that passes is compounding the potential damage.

    3. Ramona Flowers*

      Also, some people might take it as you not wanting to give anyone else a chance to have any input. And it’s not really fair on your team, who didn’t get the opportunity to suggest or discuss anything. I would not be happy if someone in my team did this.

      I did wonder if everyone needed to be together in the same room to brainstorm around this particular thing? Sometimes that can work. But sometimes you can get people to do the thinking in their own time.

      Where I work, it’s not unusual for someone – e.g. my manager or grandboss – to send an email, or mention something in a team meeting, about how the llama handlers need ways to make the llamas look more fluffy and we should send them any ideas by x date, or to ask us to put ideas for new teapot designs in a certain folder. You don’t always need to have everyone in the same room.

    4. Former Hoosier*

      I am also really concerned about this. As a supervisor, this would be an integrity issue if someone who reported to me did this. It is also going to really impact the employees she supervises because regardless of why, it appears to them that she doesn’t want their input and is going to lie to her boss about getting it. It doesn’t matter her intentions, it really could be perceived this way. If she doesn’t address it now with her supervisor and her employees, it could have huge reprecussions.

      1. Undine*

        Is she a supervisor, or does “my team” just mean “the team I’m on”? If she’s a supervisor, yeah, organizing people is her job, and she has to figure out how to get something done. If she’s just an employee on a smaller team & asked to handle the scheduling, getting overwhelmed is not ideal, but definitely something I could see happening to me in my first job.

    5. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

      This reads more immature/inexperienced than integrity to me. It reminds me of something my teenagers would do actually – find a short cut so long thing that they don’t want to take time to do becomes a short(er) thing they can tell me they have finished.

      1. Alex the Alchemist*

        Yeah I’ve had similar issues when managing student employees when I was a work study supervisor. Sometimes they couldn’t find time to meet with each other due to classes, etc. and so one of them just decided to go on ahead with a plan they hadn’t cleared. It was frustrating, but not firing-worthy unless it became a pattern. I just usually had a conversation with them about how things should have been handled and it usually improved.

      2. Jaguar*

        Yeah. Calling this an integrity issue seems rigid and hyperbolic. It’s a mistake a person new to the working world made and is kind of panicing about now that it was miscommunicated.

        1. Jaguar*

          That said, OP, this is a thing you need to unlearn. When you didn’t complete a task, you need to mentally prepare to take the hit. “Sorry, I didn’t find the time to collect everyone together for the brainstorming session. In the meantime, I’ve compiled ideas of my own and ones I’ve heard from everyone casually.” Not be clear or trying to avoid the bullet typically results in what you’re seeing now – this isn’t a fluke.

          1. Jaguar*

            I explained my reasoning in the next sentence, so I’m not sure what other clarification you’re looking for. Calling someone making a rookie mistake an integrity issue strikes me as similar to saying someone wearing their shoes in the house a public health issue: sure, you could see it that way, but it’s so strict and literal that it’s hard to take seriously. I think it takes an unreasonable person to question the OP’s integrity when the facts of this story are presented. OP’s manager might be such a person, but I’m betting not.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              I was trying to get a better understanding of why you think perceiving the issue as part of a larger bucket called “integrity concerns” is rigid or over the top, but it sounds like we just disagree. I think this was a rookie mistake, but I also think it raises integrity concerns, and I think it’s important for OP to be aware that the integrity concern is a dynamic that can come into play down the road (even if it doesn’t come in this first time).

              I’m not saying OP lacks integrity; I’m saying that OP could be perceived as lacking integrity if they do something like this again, or if they do it later in their career when they’re no longer a rookie. I don’t think calling it “rigid and hyperbolic” is fair, but everyone’s entitled to differences of opinion/interpretation.

      3. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

        I haven’t read through all the comments so just going to reply to myself with something else I thought of in case no one else has pointed this out.

        OP – Don’t think of team brainstorming as necessarily meaning your whole team *must* participate (unless of course your manager says it has to be all). It sounds like that was part of the issue. You got stuck when you couldn’t get everyone together. You send out the meeting request, everyone who can join will join. Then you report back to your manager with, “(List of team members) met to brainstorm. These are the ideas.” It’s pretty rare, IME, to be able to get your dream list of meeting attendees to all join at once unless something is made mandatory.

        1. Oryx*

          This is a good point. If it’s something mandatory we make an effort to check everyone’s calendars and pick a time that is good for everyone, otherwise we just pick a time that works for *most* people and if you can’t come you can’t come or it’s on you to rearrange your own schedule if you want to come.

    6. Specialk9*

      I would have a really hard time trusting OP1. With the expectation of group results, sending your thoughts without a disclaimer was deceptive.

      1. Specialk9*

        That said, if OP goes to the manager now, and apologizes cleanly and well, and identifies how they will change behavior, it could be salvaged.

  5. Miso*

    Ha, when I interviewed for my apprenticeship, not only was it a group interview, but also a big part of it was just answering general knowledge questions. Not really maths related, but more political and historical stuff and so on.
    Probably would be the nightmare of most commenters here, but for me it was actually good – those were my first interviews ever and I was really really really nervous (and I’m generally bad with telling people about my strengths), but I can do general knowledge! It was also quite apparent that I was better at it than most of the others, so it gave me quite a confidence boost.
    In the end it was also the only offer I got, haha.
    But of course, as I mentioned, it was for an apprenticeship, so most candidates were very young and right out of school (not me… cough) and it’s not like they could’ve asked many job related questions. They asked some, though.

  6. Amy*

    OP1, did you actually tell your boss these ideas were from the group? As in, at this point, have you outright lied about this situation?

    If not, Alison’s script is pretty good, and I recommend using it as soon as possible. Treat this as a miscommunication/failure to communicate that you need to correct. Those happen sometimes (especially when you’re new!), and are forgivable! But if you take too long to correct it, it will likely be considered a lie of omission even if you didn’t technically lie outright, and you really want to avoid that.

    If you did directly lie about this, that’s harder to fix. Lack of integrity is a really big deal, even when you’re very new–the idea is that you can train someone on a given skill set, but you can’t train a fundamental value like honesty. I think your best bet is still to fess up to your manager right away, tell them you realize you were really out of line and feel awful, and ask if there’s anything you can do to fix it at this point. Expect to be on really thin ice after this; however, the fact that you’re owning up without anything forcing your hand will hopefully show that you have some integrity, even if you misplaced it for a bit.

    Your alternative would be to let the lie continue and hope it never comes out…but that’s a bad idea for a couple of reasons.
    -First, getting caught in a long-term lie would show that you’re absolutely OK with dishonesty, as long as you think you can get away with it. You really, really want to avoid giving that impression.
    -Second, in this situation, it seems likely that the truth will come out. Your boss will probably talk to other team members about these ideas (thinking they’ve already been involved), and they’ll have no idea what your boss is talking about, and eventually alarm bells will go off. Even from the most self-interested perspective possible, committing to a lie that you think will probably get found out is a bad idea.
    -Third (and most importantly), it’s just the wrong thing to do. If you continue without getting their thoughts, you miss out on their ideas and perspectives, which may be crucial to the long-term success of your plans (maybe one of them has a brilliant idea you’re missing; maybe one of them has thoughts on how to successfully implement the plans you’re making that will make everything go smoother). And since the ball is rolling now, if you wait too long to go back and get that input, it may be too late to work them in. You’re currently the only one who knows both that this discussion was supposed to happen, and that it hasn’t happened; that means it’s currently up to you to change that.

  7. Uyulala*

    #2 – With the numbers being off that much, I wonder if the confusion isn’t about what is actually being counted as an item worked.

    Like, if the task is to update customer information… the database and other people might count one customer as one task completed. But, the coworker might be counting updating the name and updating the address separately.

    1. MK*

      I had the same thought, because I noticed the OP checks the database for items “resolved”, while the co-worker is reporting items “worked on”. Maybe she is counting all the items that she did any kind of work on, not only the completed ones.

    2. Jess*

      That was my first thought too – that for such a HUGE discrepancy it’s worth checking if different metrics are being counted. Like – if the incorrect numbers were 10-20 off from the OP’s report, that’s the kind of thing that wouldn’t raise an eyebrow. Being hundreds off is so OBVIOUSLY wrong that it makes me think it couldn’t be something someone was trying to get away with.

      1. Artemesia*

        This also gives you a hook to talk about it with the boss to get guidance since if she is reporting based on one metric and you are reporting yours based on another then the data is worthless.

    3. Jesca*

      Yes, it could just be a miscommunication in what data is actually to checked vs what is to be reported. I would DEFINITELY frame it this way when I approach my boss. And you should be approaching your boss, btw, because if one of you is off on what is supposed to be reported on, then you may (will, regardless) look really bad not mentioning it. They will think you didn’t notice!!!

    4. nonymous*

      I agree, even if the co-worker is fudging numbers, going to the boss with framework of “confirming that my calculations are correct” is much better footing than “they’re lying!!! git ’em”. And, depending on the boss, they may think OP is doing the latter at the slightest excuse.

      1. Anna Held*

        Yep. And if she asks why you didn’t check the numbers with coworker, I’d say that since she doesn’t do reporting, you didn’t think she’d know the answers.

    5. Emmie*

      My first thoughts too. There might be differences between what you count as one, and what she counts as one. For instance, you may count one “ticket” or “project” as one item. She may count the number of tasks, or attachments to evaluate leading to higher numbers. Perhaps her count is a more accurate projection of your team’s workload – especially if a higher number of tasks on one project or ticket may take more time. I wouldn’t default to her lying about her workload.

  8. Kat*

    #3, could Alison or someone else advise if you think asking *any* general knowledge in an interview is a bad idea? I don’t mean unscripted like in this instance, but for example giving candidates a general knowledge test? I have experience of this being part of an interview process – just a few questions, but the aim seems to be to find out if the person will ‘fit in’ (the nature of the work means it kind of makes sense in a way, I suppose). It isn’t sprung on people and is in addition to ‘normal’ interview questions. But the response here has given me pause, and I’d be interested to know thoughts. (Not a manager, but have been involved in a recruitment process before.)

    1. boris*

      If your job is writing crossword clues or as question setter for a quiz show, then I can see how a general knowledge test might be useful: when you’re writing things like that, it’s useful to be able to mentally jump from fact A to fact B to a barely remembered fact C.

      I am a hobbyist quizzer, my general knowledge is reasonable, and I would be baffled and put off by being asked general knowledge questions to establish cultural fit. If it’s not relevant to the job, don’t make people do it.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I’m now choosing to believe that the interviewer is doing crossword puzzles, hoping the motion passes for notes on the interview, and is tossing out any tough clues to the interviewee.

      2. LizB*

        Yeah, unless the company culture mostly revolves around having everyone play on their pub trivia team, I don’t see how a general knowledge test is going to help establish cultural fit anyway.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          “Rocket scientists we can find, same with exobiologists. We can cross-train someone. But what we need is someone who can do those and fill the role of Broadway Trivia Expert when we go head to head with Area 51.”

    2. Ramona Flowers*

      I’ve been given a knowledge test in exactly one job. It was for an entertainment website and the test was on film, music and television.

      I think a knowledge test is only relevant and appropriate if you need to know your stuff to do the job. Even then, it’s not a great way of doing this. Not everyone performs well under pressure in tests. Academic tests are different as you’ve studied the specific material that will come up.

      It is certainly not a valid way of testing whether someone will fit into a particular job environment or culture. And I can’t be the only person remembering that grant interview Ross had in Friend’s.

      And I’m struck by the fact that my job requires me to be an expert in certain things and I was not given a test. I was expected to explain, in my application, in what way I was an expert, what areas of knowledge I had and how I got my knowledge.

      Everyone in my team has the necessary expertise. None of us sat tests, yet they did a great job on hiring us.

      1. Kat*

        It’s not the only thing used to judge a candidate, and when I was on the recruiting side I weighted heavily on how they came across, qualifications, etc., because I agree. I couldn’t ignore it because, well, I had no authority to, but I tried to put it at the bottom of the list when deciding who to hire. I’m good academically, and I too hate tests. Interviews are scary enough! I can’t change the approach, but I’m glad to finally find my perspective isn’t totally off base.

    3. Foreign Octopus*

      This question reminds me of someone who wrote in about an entry-level or intern working in there office. Apparently they had absolutely no general knowledge at all and it was really off-putting to the others who worked in the office. I can’t remember the letter or when it was though.

      1. Foreign Octopus*

        Oh my god.

        Their office, not there office.

        You wouldn’t think I’m an English teacher.

        1. Liane*

          It was autocorrect, I am sure. I just caught my Kindle Fire trying to turn “edit” into “wrong”! (And I’ve scored essays as well as edited.)

        2. Artemesia*

          Sometimes the fingers are not attached to the brain — mine do ‘few’ for ‘view’ occasionally and ‘every’ for ‘ever’ almost every time unless I correct it.

      2. Myrin*

        Fear not, I could never forget this letter and immediately knew exactly which one you meant. Link is in my username.
        (There was also talk of a similar person in an open thread before that which some comments to that post linked to because they thought they might be the same person. They were not.)

        1. Liane*

          I recall that one and still wonder how such an extreme lack could have been missed in the interview. I guess it could have been noticed but the interviewer/s assumed it wouldn’t be a problem?

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            “Have you ever encountered an electric stapler? If you were to encounter one, would you film it in action and send it to your team, even though they work in the office with the stapler?”

      3. Observer*

        I was thinking about that one too. But, in a way,it makes the point. That kind of extreme lack of knowledge is the kind of thing that should have showed up in an interview, unless the interview was so heavily scripted and controlled that there was no room for any sort of conversation.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          It’s also an intern who might do very well on an academic-style quiz, listing the branches of government and conjugating a verb and solving a simple math problem.

      4. Ramona Flowers*

        That was an extreme though, if it’s who I’m thinking of (the guy who was mesmerised by an electric stapler?)

    4. MashaKasha*

      As a candidate, it would turn me off with a quickness. Being asked this kind of questions in the interview would give me all kinds of assumptions about the job, none of them good – e.g., that this company values meaningless NVA activities more than they do actual work. It would not attract the kind of candidates OP3’s job supposedly wants to attract.

      (reading the other comments on this subthread) also, to boris’s point, trivia-like questions around cultural references can send a REALLY wrong message to a candidate who is of a different age group/heritage/national origin than the interviewers. It says, “we want someone exactly like us.” I’d assume I would not enjoy working on this team, and not want to interview with them further.

      1. Amelia*

        In the last few years of my job, I’ve seen “meaningless” general knowledge questions become more and more relevant. I work in b2b sales and there was a time when taking customers out to dinner and slapping them on the back a few times was sufficient. Now to be successful, you need to be well read and knowledgeable about local and state regulations, contracts, initiatives etc. If you don’t know that Cuomo is the governor, then you definitely don’t know that he’s pushing a major investment in X but that the legislature is opposing it for Y reason. These issues will always be changing but it’s critical to hire nimble people who are aware of local community issues and the larger political climate. Not necessary to all jobs but I’d be very concerned if someone never seemed to read a newspaper.

        1. SarahTheEntwife*

          ” If you don’t know that Cuomo is the governor, then you definitely don’t know that he’s pushing a major investment in X but that the legislature is opposing it for Y reason.”

          Are those initiatives things that are directly relevant to your industry? Having a broader understanding of issues in your field seems like a very reasonable thing to ask candidates.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            There is a world of difference between “Do you know the name of our state’s governor?” and “Can you summarize how the liquor license bill currently before the legislature would impact our customers?”

            1. esra*

              Exactly this. Asking elementary school questions is patronizing, asking relevant industry questions is expected.

        2. Sutemi*

          Are all of your candidates local? I live in MA and don’t know the names of governors of CT, RI, NH or VT even though I could easily apply for jobs in those states.

          1. Erin*

            I know the governor of my states name, but I could only tell you the name of one or two other governors.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              Butch Otter!

              It’s not like I know a single policy of his, but he’s narrowly beating out Hickenlooper for best name.

              1. Foreign Octopus*

                I thought this might have been a joke (British person here) so I googled him and his name is actually Butch Otter!

                1. Falling Diphthong*

                  I assure you, Real Americans who don’t live in Idaho have the exact same reaction to his name.

          2. Amelia*

            I don’t think it really matters if candidates are local. They can either help provide solutions to our customers’ current business issues or they can’t. It’s not the client’s job to tutor them on their local business climate or even the company’s job. Ideally we really want people who can say to us “Have you noticed the trend is towards customers buying server space on Amazon instead of local hosting? If you hire me, I will ensure the way we generate our data is compatible and addressing their low-cost server needs.” This type of thinking has huge value to us. How candidates get up to speed with national, state and local issues is up to them. But I think it’s pretty easy with Twitter, the NYT and a well-chosen RSS feed.

            1. Oryx*

              Well, sure, but there are ways to do that without asking “Do you know who the governor of New York is?” which is what your original answer seems to be implying. When I interviewed at CurrentJob I was directly asked about what resources I use to keep up to date on trends — the answers provided to that question signals that I actually DO keep up to date on trends and that I’m gathering from a wide scope of resources.

              1. nonegiven*

                Governor of New York? Don’t know, don’t care enough to google it.

                Now about your dark chocolate teapot spouts…

        3. MashaKasha*

          Understandable, but a lot of us do not work in b2b sales.

          And, this has not been touched upon in the OP or any of the comments, but since you are bringing this up, political questions in an interview are a minefield, to put it mildly. I live in a swing state. There’s at least a 50% chance that the manager interviewing me has never read the newspapers that I read, and considers them fake news/corrupt media. I’ve never been asked a question about the local and national political issues in a job interview, and if I ever am, that might end up being my first time to walk out of an interview. Even if a question is marginally related to the company’s line of business, that’s just a hard nope, unless I’m interviewing for a position in politics. Jeez I’m breaking out in hives just thinking about this.

          1. Elemeno P.*

            Yes, this. I live in Florida and actually have to think for a second about our governor’s actual name, since most people I know just refer to him as Voldemort (due to both policy and strong resemblance). If I answered “Governor Voldemort” in an interview, I’d either get a high five or escorted out.

            1. MashaKasha*

              OMG. I’ll have to look Governor Voldemort up now. I’m too far from FL to be up to date on him.

              Ours was one of last year’s presidential candidates. He’s a pretty uncontroversial guy himself by today’s standards, but once you start talking about him, you’ll have opened a bottomless can of worms.

          2. PM Jesper Berg*

            “And, this has not been touched upon in the OP or any of the comments, but since you are bringing this up, political questions in an interview are a minefield, to put it mildly”

            “What is the governor’s name?” isn’t a political question, but one of fact.

        4. Observer*

          If that kind of thing is relevant to your industry and / or job, then that goes from “general knowledge” to relevant information. But at that point, a question like “who is the governor” doesn’t really tell you much anyway. And, if it’s not relevant to your industry or job, then it’s an utterly meaningless question – and knowing the answer says absolutely nothing about how nimble a person is.

          1. eLizWM*

            And it would make me look worse because I would immediately ask, “What year is it?” since my head is normally somewhere else in the calendar.

          2. PM Jesper Berg*

            “But at that point, a question like “who is the governor” doesn’t really tell you much anyway”

            Sure it does. It tells you whether the person reads up on current events, for example.

            1. Observer*

              No it doesn’t. If someone is from a different state, they might not know, but will find out if they move and events warrant it. One the other hand, lots of people know who the governor is and NOTHING else.

              If you want to know if someone “reads up on current events” you ask them about their reading habits or about actual current events that would be relevant to them / their field / current job.

        5. Anna*

          I currently know barely anything that is happening on the state level due to the insane things happening on the federal level. This is not an indication of my lack of general knowledge; it is an indication of what I’m paying attention to right now.

      2. k8*

        “also, to boris’s point, trivia-like questions around cultural references can send a REALLY wrong message to a candidate who is of a different age group/heritage/national origin than the interviewers. It says, “we want someone exactly like us.” I’d assume I would not enjoy working on this team, and not want to interview with them further.”

        a friend of mine went through an interview at a big tech company and got a whiteboarding question that revolved around the conceit of setting up brackets for, like, an NCAA tournament or something. She was familiar with how those brackets work, but when she tried to explain the question to me (we were both jobsearching at the same time and would help one another practice whiteboard questions) I was SO confused, because I don’t follow sports, and that knowledge was basically integral to the problem. Had i been in her place, I would have felt that the company was looking for a “brogrammer” and that the culture was likely not one i wanted to be a part of as a female engineer. So, tl;dr– +1!

    5. Princess Carolyn*

      Some copy editing tests include some general knowledge as a way to gauge whether you’ll catch errors or references to stuff most of your readers will know. I remember once having a hard time because I didn’t recognize the date (with no context) of the Challenger explosion — which happened before I was born. I’m not crazy about it, but I get it.

      However, I don’t see how any of this would assess a culture fit. In most cases, I would say a general knowledge test is a waste of candidates’ time.

      1. Risha*

        I was prime Challenger explosion age (watching it in class), and I couldn’t tell you the exact date, or even the month or year! That’s a terrible “most of your readers will know” question. JFK shot, maybe.

        1. Mirax*

          I wouldn’t be able to tell you when JFK was shot. It was before both my parents immigrated and the last time I had a history class that covered it I was fifteen. I like Jackie’s clothes in general but JFK and the Kennedy family never had any cultural significance to me.

        2. Nea*

          I respectfully submit that if you asked a group of people “When did the World Trade Towers come down”? they wouldn’t know the full date. They may or may not connect it with the day and month but I’d bet cash money that many people have forgotten which year.

          1. Some sort of Management Consultant*


            (I’m really asking.)

            I’m from Northern Europe and most adults here definitely know which year 9/11 happened.

        3. Oryx*

          That’s not a good question either and I could only tell you the year and even then it’s only because it’s referenced in a particular X-Files episode.

        4. Lindsay J*

          January 1986, but I only know that because I was born a couple days later.

          I couldn’t tell you about Columbia, or when JFK was shot.

        5. Elizabeth West*

          I remembered the year but not the month. For JFK I remember the entire date, because although it happened before I was born, it’s also the title of a Stephen King novel. :)

      2. Kathleen Adams*

        I think general knowledge tests are usually not a good idea, but there are definitely exceptions. We recently interviewed for a writer/marketing person who would be working closely with our lobbyists, and one of the applicants – an otherwise apparently bright and qualified candidate – didn’t know that in this state, the legislature is known as the General Assembly. She’s not from here, so perhaps that’s the reason, but she’s lived here for a few years, and her current employer is definitely involved in state politics, so…let’s just say that was not a point in her favor. It wasn’t the only reason why she wasn’t hired, but it definitely left a negative impression.

        We didn’t find out from a test, though – it was just through a casual question. It made me think that sliding at least a few pertinent, general-knowledge questions into interviews might not be a bad idea.

        That said, the examples mentioned in this letter make the coworker look like a twit.

  9. Em Too*

    I don’t really see how general knowledge translates to ‘fit’, and likely to bias by age, lack of other commitments etc. I’d’ve thought you could make better use of everyone’s time. Unless you are a quiz writing company.

    1. Kat*

      Yeah, it isn’t anything I’ve been involved with developing, but I’ve had to execute it, if that make sense. The question gave me pause, not that I can change the approach (I doubt).

    2. Grits McGee*

      It reminds me of all the articles that have been published about the racial/cultural biases in standardized testing (esp the SAT). The example questions are more insulting than insidious, but I could see general knowledge questions getting legally hinky real fast.

      Although, if an interviewer asked me who the governor was, I’d be wondering if he was trying to see if I had a brain injury, not if I was a “culture fit.”

      1. Kat*

        I’m not in the US so I’m not sure if the same applies here, but it sounds fair enough. Quite a few interviewees don’t know who some of the most prominent members of the government are, which to me is a bit surprising when you’re going for a job where you have to get documents to a high standard, but I am not sure it should be a standard question. After all, there are many things I don’t know, and I would hope my not knowing them wouldn’t stop me being rated as a good candidate for an office job. Again, I can’t influence this, but it is interesting to hear other views about it.

        1. Grits McGee*

          Unless you work directly with politics or politicians though, I don’t know that being able to name them correlates to work performance. I couldn’t tell you who the second senator for my (US) state is, and it’s had no bearing on the accuracy and quality of the work I do (which is consistently rated as excellent, fwiw).

          (Like Mel brings up below, a lot of that is down to that fact that I’ve moved a lot for work and just don’t have the time/bandwidth for that particular info. I could name all of the major political figures going back 50 years in my home state though…)

            1. Nea*

              If it were sports trivia, I’d know for sure that I’d be a terrible fit in that workplace. I’ve been the only theater geek in a sports office and while I wasn’t pushed into any lockers a la school, it made me feel very much an outsider and uncomfortable.

              1. Elizabeth West*

                Same here. However, if they asked me something nerdy in the interview, I’d probably nail it. In fact, I prepare nerdy answers for all those dumb “What tree/animal/food are you” questions. If they know what a mallorn, a hippogriff, or lembas is, then we’re probably going to get along great. I sort of wish they’d ask me those so I could screen THEM.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            . I couldn’t tell you who the second senator for my (US) state is, and it’s had no bearing on the accuracy and quality of the work I do (which is consistently rated as excellent, fwiw).

            I could name a few representatives from my state, but couldn’t tell you if they were in the Senate or the House. And it has no bearing on the quality of my work either.

        2. Liane*

          If the job requires getting documents to a high standard, you don’t test applicants with a quiz game*. You give them a writing, or editing test.

          *even though that would ensure I was a finalist at worst ;)

        3. who?*

          But what does knowing who the governor is have to do with the standard of your documents? Seems like you should be testing for grammar and spelling. Also, if you run into something on the job that you don’t know, you have Google at your fingertips and will know in about 2.5 seconds. If my interviewer had asked who the governor was I would’ve had no idea, because I had just moved back to the state.

          1. Kat*

            We test for that too (again, surprising how many people apply to edit when they can’t use a semi-colon).

            I certainly don’t think it’s necessary. I fact check a *lot* because I often edit on unfamiliar topics, but others are less thorough. I guess I wish we could test for thoroughness rather than anything else.

            1. fposte*

              Man, I hear that. I’m toying with a copy-edit test that includes errors of fact and misspelled names.

              1. Sue Wilson*

                But there are ways you can put the correct answer in the questions, like as a paragraph intro, and see if they recognize them when editing several drafts that relate to the intro paragraph.

                1. fposte*

                  Yup, one possibility; however, for my work I’d want to avoid a situation where they could accidentally choose the right one as the authority when what I’m looking for is interrogation and external confirmation.

                2. oranges & lemons*

                  As a copy editor, including both makes total sense to me–you want to make sure they’re fact-checking and also paying attention to make sure the information is internally consistent. I’ve never either taken or administered a copy editing test, but developing one sounds interesting.

      2. Mel*

        Exactly. Such “general knowledge” questions could bias towards people with a socio-economic and educational background the same as the people putting together the questions. Even questions like “who is the governor?” puts a bias towards individuals from the same state (and definitely against those from other countries).

        1. PB*

          I agree. I’ve had to move state a few times for work. If I’d been asked in an interview about the elected officials for that state, I probably wouldn’t be able to answer. I’m pretty well informed, but I can’t name every state governor off the top of my head.

      3. the gold digger*

        the racial/cultural biases in standardized testing

        And in textbooks! My college macroeconomics textbook used taxi medallions as an example of how supply and demand works. I had never in my life taken a taxi and had no idea what a taxi medallion was.

          1. Observer*

            I’m not surprised. In fact, I’m surprised that anyone used Taxi medallions without a LOT of explanation. Not every place licenses taxis, even those that do don’t necessarily use medallions, and most people who take taxis have no clue or interest in the technical details of what the licensing structure and terminology are.

            In other words, people who know what medallions are in this context are a minority of a specific class and geography. That’s just a REALLY bad choice.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          I only know about taxi medallions because they were on an episode of White Collar.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            That’s the only reason I know of it.

            So the test would be useful for garnering an office full of White Collar enthusiasts….

      4. Lora*

        Ha. I got some questions for your co-worker:
        -Tupac or Biggie?
        -Illustrate on the marker board the biological process of transcription and translation and indicate critical expression control points.
        -In the movie Pan’s Labyrinth, was the violence in the civil war part of the White Terror or the Red Terror?
        -Is President Maduro considered left wing or right wing? Why?
        -What marked the end of the Tokugawa Shogunate?
        -What is the largest city in China?

        1. Amelia*

          Grouped together, these don’t make much sense. But individually any of them could be relevant. I’m not in the music industry but I imagine if you are, it’s reasonable to have an opinion about Biggie or Tupac. If the company does business with the Philipines, you should be knowledgeable about Maduro etc

          1. Observer*

            Again, you seem to be missing the point. These are all “general knowledge” questions that have absolutely no relevance to most jobs. And they illustrate the problem with “general knowledge” questions. None of these questions are of any use whatsoever in telling an employer whether a person is going to be good at their job, unless that particular question is actually relevant to their job. And, with one possible exception, even if they were relevant, these are very poor gauges of the person’s fitness anyway.

        2. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

          I’m pretty well-read, but I couldn’t answer a single one of those questions.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            Tupac or Biggie is an opinion question. You could fake an answer to that one, assuming you aren’t asked to provide your reasoning. (I couldn’t anything either has produced if you held a gun to my head, but I’d ask the interviewer about their favorite conspiracy theory regarding their deaths.)

            1. Lora*

              See, it’s actually relevant to fit!

              Just kidding. In my field we do indeed have nerdy opinions about things, and Frequentist vs. Bayesian is a thing. The misuse of Bayesian analysis to justify data-mining exercises as actual experiments without doing the experimental validation of the findings really grinds my gears. But to everyone not in a very specific handful of fields, it might as well be Tupac vs Biggie.

              1. Laura (Needs to Change Her Name)*

                “Frequentist vs. Bayesian is a thing”

                I went to a stats workshop this summer that was amazing, and suggested that the organizers might develop an app for future years. One suggested feature was that it could integrate a Tinder-like feature where attendees could connect with like-minded people for both curricular and extra-curricular activities. Options under “Interested In” would include men, women, Bayesian analysis … ;)

        3. Specialk9*

          -Definitely Tupac, Biggie was decidedly mediocre but Tupac had good beats and strong social justice themes
          -I’d draw a DNA helix, what I remember about the CRISPR zipper, then stars and a unicorn and then pull the fire alarm
          -Pan’s Labyrinth wasn’t really my thing
          -Well he’s socialist, so in most places he’d be left wing, but since socialism is the law of the land and people are starving now where they were fed under Chavez, maybe he’s secretly a right wing Republican plant? (Ducks)
          -Meiji era meritocracy?

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            I’d draw a DNA helix, what I remember about the CRISPR zipper, then stars and a unicorn and then pull the fire alarm

            I’d hire you.

          2. Lora*

            Answer key:
            -Tupac for the reasons you cited
            -Ha, it goes DNA helicase -> mRNA -> ribosome connecting activated amino acids. The major control points are in the DNA promoter regions, histone proteins the DNA wraps around, introns/exons in the mRNA and animo acid posttranslational modifications in the ER and Golgi.
            -CULTURAL FIT FAIL! It was a great movie, but the White Terror was the atrocities committed by the government and church against the rebels while the Red Terror was rebel atrocities vs. government/church.
            -Yeah, it’s weird. Technically I suppose he’s left wing although nothing he does is particularly re-distributive of resources, sooooo…
            -Acceptable, although I was thinking the trade routes with Europe opening.
            -Guangzhou now. Manufacturing there has shifted stuff around considerably.

      5. nonegiven*

        My friend, they asked her who the President was and she answered, then they asked her who the Vice President was. She said, “I don’t remember his name. You know, that guy nobody likes.” (Quayle) They told her that was close enough.

    3. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

      I have had field specific knowledge questions and I understood why. There are some basic, but important, concepts someone needs to know and some people who share my degree and title do not know them. I never minded them because they were always scenario based or interpret these results questions, so we’re relevant and in context.

    4. Artemesia*

      I am imagining a hip, happening startup that could screen out old losers by doing some sort of music or culturally oriented quiz. And as an old loser, I am thinking that even using the phrase ‘hip, happening’ I would flunk right at the start.

      1. Kat*

        Opposite issue, actually! Unhip and unhappening deciding what’s relevant. Which is not better or worse, it just highlights another issue with it.

      2. Lora*

        True story: Virginia is asking for suggestions from the public on what to re-name the Jefferson Davis Highway. My friend and I were trying to think of various famous Virginians, and pretty much all the names we came up with other than the Memorial Linkin Parkway had the younger folks scratching their heads. Ella Fitzgerald, Charlie Byrd, Jimmy Dean, Dave Grohl, June Carter, the Nat Turner Freeway…

        1. Mockingjay*

          They could simply revert to the route number for each portion…US 1 / US 15 / SR 110 / SR 712 / US 58. (I think that’s all of them.)

    5. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

      It isn’t just general knowledge questions either. I was asked at an interview if I had a theme song what would it be. It was all I could do not to grown out loud at the question. If I had been asked general knowledge questions on top of that, I would have pulled my candidacy right then.

      1. Nolan*

        Ugh that is a nightmare question for me… my musical taste is all over the map (literally and figuratively) and I’d have a hard time coming up with an answer, let alone one that didn’t make me sound like a total weirdo.

        Interviewers, don’t ask questions like that, an interview is not the place I’d want to divulge that BoA’s Did Ya would probably be my intro music. You just… you don’t need to know that.

        1. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

          Right? I listened to Run the Jewels on the way down to the interview to get jazzed up. They were country music people – so a disconnect right there for me. I listen to a wide, wide variety of music, from doo-wop to gangster rap to pop icons to 80s hair bands and more. But country is one of the few music types not on my rotation. Not to mention, I listen to music constantly so picking one song to sum up the entirety of my being is impossible.

      2. LS*

        I was recently asked what my favourite colour was. And another similarly odd and irrelevant question.

        It was offputting, but the rest of the interviews were conducted professionally and it was a position I was really interested in so I mentally packed it into the “weird” box and let it go.

  10. Kitten*

    OP #2, is this a ticket system? For helpdesk / IT tickets?

    I wonder if you’re looking at the stats for ‘tickets closed today by M’ but M is looking at ‘updates done today by M’ (and presumably including changes to Next Contact Date looking at those numbers!).

    Might it be possible to ask M to show you how she records her figures so you can see if this is the case? I, for one, struggled in a new workplace where the KPIs had very little to do with the work I’d actually done and the discrepancy between the numbers is pretty big there!

    1. AnotherAlison*

      This question confused me a bit. If the database system has a way to report on this information, why does the OP have to go ask M for her update anyway? Why not just pull a report from the system? However, if you work on 150 items, but only 20 are closed and there is no status update for items only touched in the system, then it makes sense to manually report this and ask M for updates. But, in that case, M’s feedback would not match the database report, and she would not be lying about her work. . .again, I’m confused about what’s going on here!

      1. Kitten*

        Me too!

        At my previous job, we had customer-facing tickets on a Salesforce platform which were dashboarded to death. The only people you might need to get a manual update from were the team-leaders who might have been working with the Dev team or with Hosting on tickets not in their name (and therefore not otherwise traceable back to them). But realistically, those people didn’t have ticket targets in the same way.

        If it’s a similar system, I can definitely see why M would want to report back ‘I have done a lot of work on tickets today’ even though management only care about ticket closure. It may even be possible (since OP’s predecessor didn’t flag those figures) that the reporting metrics have changed / the criteria are wrong. It’s such a big discrepancy in figures that there has to be some confusion going on – if I started claiming several 20 hour days per week, even my nonchalant boss would catch it, because it’s so far above the expected 8 – 10 hours that everyone else is reporting.

        I really think the OP needs to go and have a chat with M before making any kind of accusation. Or even reach out to A and just check that they’re all looking at the same metrics here.

    2. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

      Also, one ticket can mean a lot of work, yes? I know if 20 computers were suddenly not working, our IT wouldn’t want 20 tickets. They’d want one that detailed everything that needed worked on. So that would be 1 ticket vs 20 items worked on.

      1. Kitten*

        Yes! Although often the real work lies in diagnosing and fixing the issue, rather than rolling it out across a number of machines.

        However, trouble-shooting complex things often involves a lot of back-and-forth between different departments / users / companies. Often the cycle involves making a change, pushing it out, testing it, getting feedback, correcting against that feed back, making a new change, pushing it out, testing… and around you go. And if the fix is troublesome, but not show-stopping, people might not come back to you straight away. Or they might need additional sign-off. Or you might need to go and find someone with Admin Privileges.

        When I worked in software Tier 3, we could have tickets open for weeks with activity on them every day just because the trouble-shooting was so complicated. I was still doing work, it just didn’t result in quick closures.

  11. Ramona Flowers*

    #4 Reapplying would look very odd. Try to remember that they haven’t reposted the job – they’ve just extended this round of hiring. You will look forgetful, obsessive or just plain weird if you reapply. Don’t ruin your shot!

    1. Artemesia*

      And if they repost it, it means they didn’t want you OR they paid a fee that will allow continuous reposting until they turn it off intentionally or someone forgot. But unless months have passed, never re-apply to something.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      Or reapply with a different first name and slightly altered resume, and if you both get called for an interview, pretend to be twins. And come back and tell us what happens. ;-)

      1. Jadelyn*

        Looking forward to the letter in a few weeks, “What do I say to a candidate I’m fairly sure applied twice under different names?”

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Or “We hired twins but they lobbied hard for work-from-home and they’re never in the office on the same day and I have a sneaking suspicion they’re the same person.”

  12. Raven_144*

    OP5 – I moved into a new position about a year and a half ago and found the transition really tough. Fortunately I did know that I wouldn’t be pushed out if I outlined what I was struggling with. I had a very candid conversation with my boss and we went through each item. In some instances she was able to redirect work to a different team, in others she was able to provide suggestions on how to make it better, and then in others she was very upfront on the “this is the job” tasks. I told her I was seriously evaluating it for the rest of the year and then worked to get better on the “this is the job” tasks and other areas she gave for improvement. It really worked out.

    Hopefully you’re in an organization that’ll work with you, especially since you were moved to this job because a location closed. And hopefully there’s a different team you can transfer to internally with your manager’s blessing. That goes a long way.

  13. Doug Judy*

    #5 (the link to the article mentioned wasn’t working)

    I’ve been a a job that was a terrible fit (actually it sound like you’d love my old job) and it sucks. I also had a sucky boss so it was a miserable experience. Take Alison’s advice and just start job searching hard and then resign when you get an offer. Hopefully you find something better suited to you soon. For now focus on the good aspects of where you work, talk a short walk after you talk to a customer to take a breather of you are able.

    1. The Other Dawn*

      UGH yes! I’ve been there, too, and it’s soul-sucking. I pretty much cried everyday in the shower. In my case, I was totally upfront with my manager and was brutally honest about how I felt about the job. She did everything in her power to tailor the job to my needs. She was desperate to keep a body because it took a long time for her to get the position approved, and then a long time to hire someone, because basically everyone in the industry knows her and what’s she like to work for. In the end it just wasn’t enough because one can only change the job so much before it’s not the same job anymore. I left for another job that was a much better fit in every way.

      Being upfront with my manager worked for me; however, OP really needs to think about her experience and relationship with her manager before considering going that route, if that’s something she wants to attempt. Alison’s advice is good.

  14. Bookworm*

    #5: I’m sympathetic. I’m not quite in your shoes but after my first couple of jobs as a working adult that required so much phone/in-person interaction I do understand where you’re coming from.

    I think Raven has some good suggestions above. If your manager has managed to rearrange things thus far, is it possible to sit down and outline why this job isn’t working for you and see if she can meet you any further? If the rest of the team has the CS skills and your strength is in spreadsheets, maybe you can swap additional tasks? Or another, suitable job or placement could be found?

    Good luck. I’ve also landed in jobs where I didn’t know people-facing would be required (for one it wasn’t even in the job description, the written offer and I sincerely don’t remember it being brought up during the interview!). Hope it works out.

  15. Zathras*

    #1 mentions she is just out of school – it strikes me as possibly a situation where the coping skills that helped with a given situation in school aren’t appropriate for the work world. In school, when you’re assigned a team project and your team is not responsive, handing in your own work with everyone’s name on it is often your best option. Teachers/professors often refuse to enforce consequences on team members who slack off (and I think this is really terrible, but that’s another topic.)

    It’s absolutely the wrong thing to do in the work world, because that’s basically what your manager is for – helping you get stuff done and prioritizing work. And unlike in school, a manager is in charge of the whole team’s work priorities – whereas in school, maybe Fergus didn’t pitch in on your history class team project because he prioritized studying for his biology exam.

    1. Princess Carolyn*

      I was thinking the same thing. In school, you’re often expected to get together in your free time despite wildly different schedules. If you can’t swing that, a very common solution is to just do it yourself. (In my experience, teachers who are inconsiderate enough to assign lots of out-of-class group work don’t care who actually does the work.)

      So, OP needs to learn to say: “This didn’t work because X, so would you like me to do Y or Z?”

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yeah, in school I saw teams of 5-6 people and it was normal that 1 or 2 people did all the work. The profs didn’t want to hear anything about slackers. “Figure it out. You will deal with this all the time in the workplace.” No, generally bosses intervene in these instances, it’s only in school that there is no intervention.

        I went to a fairly well-known school. It was common for students to say, “Oh, I will write some load of crap and say you guys helped me.” I’d look around and see people nodding in agreement that this was okay with them.
        The group would get an A or A minus for something that the students agreed was a load of crap.

        As a boss, I would be very concerned about this mindset being used in the workplace.

    2. neverjaunty*

      What a great observation. This, so much – the difference between a school project (where the teacher just wants fewer papers to grade and to offload supervision) and employment (where the boss wants team input).

    3. Newbie*

      Hi I’m OP#1 and this is definitely where I got this from. I would always take charge of my group projects and would often do work for people just because I thought I could do it better. This is definitely an important lesson to learn that I need to shake a lot of the habits I learned from school because they do not apply to the work place. Thank you for this insight!!!!

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Thanks for chiming in here, OP. Yep, schools do the students NO favors by showing them this stuff is okay.
        Go talk to the boss and tell him that you won’t do this again and you understand the reasons why not to do it.
        Ask him how he would like you to remedy the situation, bonus points for offering suggestions.
        I think you will be okay on this one as long as you just take the bull by the horns. “This will never happen again, Boss.”

      2. Escapee from Corporate Management*

        OP, it’s good that you are open to feedback. There are many differences between your professor and your manager that require you to respond differently to them:

        1. Unless the professor is your advisor or you are in a small major, you often will take one or two courses with a professor and be done forever. Your manager, on the other hand, will be working with you continuously for an extended amount of time. A bad relationship with a professor is a small part of your life. A bad relationship with your manager is a HUGE part of your life.
        2. Your professors may have dozens or even hundreds of students. They don’t know much about each one and professors don’t usually follow-up with them. Your managers probably have a small number of employees. They will get to know you very well. You want them to trust you and the work you provide.
        3. Your professors, unless they are really good and have the time, have a transactional view. They teach, you hand in predefined assignments, they grade you. That’s it. Good managers have a relational view. They are working WITH you. That means they care how things are done, since that influences what tasks they will assign you in the future and also will influence how they choose to work with you.
        4. Last, your work impacts your managers’ own situation. A professor’s role doesn’t change if you present your own work as a group project. Your manager, on the other hand, may be impacted quite a bit. For example, He or she may have already gone to their supervisor and presented the work as a group effort. If that occurred, he or she now needs to go to their boss and admit they made a mistake. That will not look good for your manager. This is why it is important to have your manager trust you are being honest and open.

        OP, it appears you were not trying to mislead your manager, but you did omit information that would have been helpful. You should speak with your manager right away and clarify how you handled the assignment. What you don’t want is for your manager to find out through someone else. When I managed teams, I accepted mistakes and clarifications. What I could not accept were surprises, especially ones that hurt reputations. Be direct with your manager now. It may make for a difficult conversation today, but it will help you greatly in the long run.

  16. a different Vicki*

    “General knowledge” and comfort with math aren’t the same thing. If you asked me for the square root of 16, I’d say “four. Why?” but some people might freeze up because “oh my god, unexpected math!” or because they had never memorized, or had forgotten, those simple square roots. I can’t think offhand of a job where being able to answer both “what is the square root of sixteen?” and “who is the governor of this state?” are relevant. The second might filter for recent resident + doesn’t pay a lot of attention to politics, but there are easier ways to find out how long someone has lived in the area.

    1. Courtney*

      I was imagining myself being in this situation as I read the question, and I would definitely freeze up. I generally do well in interviews and am comfortable striking up a conversation with just about anyone, but questions like this are a sure fire way to get my brain to freeze and not be able to recall information that I definitely know. I’d probably get flustered enough to somehow have our (Michigan) governor’s name fly out of my head and just say something negative about him and the whole Flint water court case situation to stall for time while waiting for my brain to work, haha. And the math…no. Please no. I’m an English major and would definitely get have the “ahhh unexpected math question!” reaction.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      If someone’s hiring for a job that requires comfort with math, I desperately need them to say so in the job posting so I can avoid it. If they spring a question like that on me in the interview, I’d then have to explain dyscalculia, which they likely wouldn’t understand, or it would end the interview since it’s obviously not the job for me.

      This has happened to me more than once and it sucked. I generally ask about it in the phone screen, but the screener isn’t always the same person who 1) wrote the job posting or 2) is the hiring manager doing the actual interview.

  17. LQ*

    #1 other people have covered the lying very well. But OP are you the manager? You say “my team” and your boss like they are different and like you are the boss of this team. And you are shy working with them. Knock that out today. You don’t get to be the boss and be shy about working with your team. At that point it is literally your job to work with your team. Part of the reason your boss assigned this and is harping on the part about the team effort may be because she can see you are “shy” and she needs you to be stepping up and involving the team in things. Also if you are just implementing ideas without discussing them it is because you literally skipped the step where you were supposed to discuss them.

    You need to get in front of this today. It is incredibly important that you be able to work with your team when your boss requires it. And about a bajillionty times more so if you are their boss.

    1. Myrin*

      I read “my team” as “the team at work I am part of”, e. g. the team in the Department of Teapots that handles everything involving chocolate teapots.

      1. Jadelyn*

        Yeah, I use “my team” to refer to the team I work with – I’m the second-most junior member of the team, and that only because we just hired a new assistant, but it’s still “my team” even though I don’t manage the team.

  18. Hiring Mgr*

    On #1, when I was younger (long time ago), I did something similar… My boss had asked me to work with the team on some training stuff for new team members. I told him I would do it, then dropped the ball as a bunch of other things came up.. A week or two later he asked for an update on it and I said something like “should be finished this week”, thinking i would get on it immediately… Of course he then called a team meeting for the next day to brainstorm on it.

    I remember being extremely stressed thinking i was going to be reprimanded or fired for having done nothing on this project as well as sort of misleading my boss into thinking I had been working on it…I “came clean” and told him I dropped the ball, hadn’t really done anything yet on it…He said no worries and we used the meeting time to sort it out. But I learned a lesson that you can’t let these things linger or ignore them….

  19. Workfromhome*

    #2 I would definitely document the discrepancies in an email and send to boss saying: “I want to understand this so that the reporting is accurate”. Then go have a face to face discussion with boss. I would be careful not to frame it as any kind of deception by M. Simply a discrepancy that is inconsistent with other reporting and practices

    I agree I would NOT take this directly to M.

    The OP has been reporting their OWN numbers. Ms numbers differ greatly from the OPs own numbers. so:
    A:M is not following proper process in reporting (IE reporting number of tasks touched vs cases closed) which is unintentionally giving bad data.
    B:The OP is incorrectly reporting their own numbers and M is actually doing it correctly.
    C: M is intentionally fabricating her reporting.

    Given Ms long tenure and “favoritism” if either A or B is the case it will go badly for the OP. If its A its possible they say oh that’s just M that’s the way we used to do it or she always does it that way. She’s been here forever work around it. If its B the problem is obvious. Even if its C you don’t want to make any judgment on her intentions. It might not be a big enough deal to do much to her if she has management backing. We cant say if this is a big legal deal. Being factual and then if the boss says let it go then get it in writing to cover you own rear. Its very important to keep documenting the discrepancy if there is one even if told to let it go. You never know when current boss might move on and the next person that comes along says “hey I see this reporting has been wrong for a long time..did you know about this?” If you say yes my last boss told me to leave it alone you better have some proof. otherwise its easy to get limped in as being complicit in a cover up. You need to address this ASAP. You just need to tread carefully and protect yourself at all times.

  20. (Mr.) Cajun2core*

    Re: OP #3
    I can somewhat understand where op #3 is coming from. I am not sure that I would want to work with someone who didn’t know who the governor of the state was. If you may think that people like that don’t exists but they do. I recall meeting someone a few years back (personal situation). We were touring a historic site and there was a time-capsule there. The person asked, “What is a time-capsule”. This was a person in their early twenties! I would not want to work with someone like that.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I wouldn’t be surprised that someone, especially significantly younger than myself, didn’t know what a time capsule was: I think they have fallen out of favor in the past decades. (After the experience of opening them proved bland, and the web has made available far more detailed and specific information about What Was It Like In Olden Times.)

      I think I’m actually familiar with them in the context of over-elaborate plot tropes in which to hide clues to a century-old mystery.

    2. Nervous Accountant*

      This may be an UO but I kind of agree. You don’t have to be well versed in politics or history, but cmon, know who your current president/governor/mayor is. Don’t be like the people Jay Leno used to interview on the streets (never knew if thatw as fake or real tho)

      I’ve been interviewed 6 times at my current company (3 different years, rejected 1st time, seasonal 2nd time, and seasonal to perm 3rd time). First set of interviews was kind of normal (aside from the fact it was done in the owne’rs lounge and there was a bar and dark leather couch and shower in that room lol). Second set of interviews was 2 years later, and they gave us an IQ test, puzzles, etc. utter BS. Third time around and utnil now,the interviews are all normal conversations, nothing crazy.

      1. a different Vicki*

        Also, that person at a job interview may not actually live in “this state”: they may be considering relocating if they get the job, or because their spouse/partner just got a job in the area. If you’re deciding whether to take a job offer from Microsoft, “who is the governor of Washington?” isn’t likely to be high on your list of relevant questions.

        Or they might live in a nearby state: I lived in New York for a long time, and during most of that time I could have told you who the governor of New Jersey was, but I had neighbors who couldn’t, and they didn’t need to. For that matter, I can’t think of anything practical I did with that information: I wasn’t voting in New Jersey elections, or calling or writing to the New Jersey governor’s office about anything.

        There are jobs for which “what would you do if the governor’s office called?” is a reasonable question, but it’s pretty clear that that isn’t why OP’s coworker expects the people he’s interviewing to know who Charlie Baker, or Jay Inslee, or Scott Walker is.

    3. Lora*

      I work with lots of folks from very different cultures, and it’s surprising to me how much they know about the US. Of course, they know lots of cultural things about China, India, Nigeria etc. that I am clueless about. It’s not reasonable to expect them to know American civics though, they don’t pay attention to that stuff any more than Americans keep up on the latest India vs. Pakistan tensions.

      It can get *really* interesting when you have a Yankee and a transplanted Southerner trying to explain the civil war to someone from China…It’s not a language barrier thing, either. In fact, a shared language sometimes just means you can disagree more efficiently because you know EXACTLY what a jerk your colleague is being.

      1. Elizabeth H.*

        How can you not know the square root of 16, assuming you know what the English words mean? Of course it is not *at all* an appropriate question to ask in an interview, because it’s insulting and just plain weird. But it’s weird because it is irrelevant, not because people shouldn’t be expected to know the answer off hand.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          How can you not know the square root of 16, assuming you know what the English words mean?

          I assume you’re going for hyperbole here, and aren’t truly claiming that every single person who speaks English should know the square root of 16. But even given that, there are LOTS of people who just aren’t good at math, but are very good at other things, and who memorized square roots long enough to get through a basic math class and then completely forgot about them.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Or in my case, I have dyscalculia and don’t know how to figure square roots, because it’s a learning disability. I would not be interviewing for a job where I had to figure square roots. If you asked me that question for a job where square roots were completely irrelevant, I would look at you as though Kuato the Mutant had just poked out from the front of your shirt. I am not dumb or ignorant because I can’t do square roots. I would not want to work with someone who thought I was.

            For a long time I didn’t pay attention to politics either, especially local politics because I relocated several times. So I might not have known who the governor was, especially if it were a state where I had just moved.

          2. Someone else*

            For me, while I don’t think it’s reasonable to assume anyone comfortable with English can do square root off the top of their heads, specifically of 16 is what I consider an extremely basic math question, like third grade level. It’s something I would expect them to just know, as I’d expect them to know what 4*4 is without blinking. Knowing that answer isn’t “doing math”. It’s more like common memorization. It’s a pointless interview question, and I would assume anyone who graduated high school to know it, but at the same time, calculators exist so it’d be odd and rare to be hiring for a job where someone would need to do a ton of basic arithmetic in their head frequently enough for the answer to that question to matter. If someone couldn’t answer that I’d assume they had discalcula or something similar. But I also wouldn’t ask it in an interview.

            1. Observer*

              Just because YOU happen to remember that the square root of 16 is 4 without thinking about it, doesn’t mean that it’s not math. It’s CERTAINLY not 3rd grade, as 3rd graders don’t learn the concept altogether in most curricula. (And when it is introduced that early, it generally needs repeating for most children, which is why it keeps on showing up in later grades.)

          3. Elizabeth H.*

            I’m not. I do think every single person over a certain age, of typical mental abilities, should know the square root of 16. It’s like knowing the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Or that the earth is part of a solar system. Or that we have a north and south pole. Or that there are seven continents. It’s a basic fact about the world we live in.

        2. Observer*

          Actually, the English phrase is meaningless unless you understand the basic math. And, it’s actually possible to get through college without ever knowing what a square root is. It’s even easier to get through school having learned, in a hazy way, what a square root is and possibly having memorized a bunch of values that were then promptly forgotten, and have no idea how to figure this out.

          Now, if you are in a STEM field, that’s a problem. But for anyone else? Who cares?

    4. all aboard the anon train*

      Well. I wouldn’t want to work with someone who judged others for not knowing what something as insignificant as a time capsule was.

      I never knew what one was until a few years ago when Disney buried one in the park. It was something that had never been mentioned before. I don’t see how that makes someone ignorant because it’s not like it’s important knowledge someone needs to know to get by in the world.

      I don’t even think it’s a thing my generation does anymore.

    5. Observer*

      To be honest, I’d find your attitude far more off-putting than lack of knowledge. I want to make sure that the people I work with are up to date on relevant knowledge, but honestly, I don’t give a hoot if they do or don’t know about other stuff. I’m not there to be best buddies or even constant conversationalists with them. We’re there to do a job, and as long as they are reasonably easy to get along with that’s all that counts, beyond actual job performance.

    6. Jadelyn*

      Someone who lacks knowledge can learn. Someone who begrudges sharing knowledge with someone who lacks that knowledge is unpleasant to deal with and not likely to change. You’re extrapolating from ignorance to judgments about personality and competence, and I’d far rather work with someone I have to explain “common knowledge” things to sometimes, than someone who makes a point of feeling superior to those who know less than they do.

      Also: https://xkcd.com/1053/

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Haha this. I wrote a post about different types of nerd fans on my blog once. The cool folks are the ones who, if you say “I don’t know anything about SpongeBob,” will say, “Oooh let me show you the camping episode; you will cry laughing!”

        The ones nobody wants to be around say stuff like, “Really? Pffft! How could you not know about SpongeBob? Everybody knows about that. What are you, some kind of starfish living under a rock?” That’s so presumptuous. What if I couldn’t afford cable and that’s why I didn’t know?

        At work, I would much rather someone shared information with me instead of treating me like crap for not knowing. Because then we’re both knowledgeable, and that makes the team so much stronger.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Common knowledge is whatever the speaker decides is common knowledge.

        I remember a family member brought some electronic games over. This relative wanted me to play, so Relative handed me a game that played poker. I don’t know how to play poker and I could not figure out how the gadget worked. I lost interest so fast, I set the game down after a few minutes and did not pick it up again. Relative went on and on about my lack of interest in the game. “Well it’s just poker. It’s common knowledge. And it’s an electronic game so that is a no-brainer.”

        No. Not to me.

        I did notice however that I never said, “Well, in my world I do not have time for this junk that is why I am not familiar.” Maybe I should have said it.
        I think saying something is common knowledge can become a crutch so the speaker can avoid all the work of explaining.

    7. Snark*

      But honestly? When was the last time a time capsule got buried? It was kind of a thing in, like, the 1950s or so. They’re definitely not a thing anymore. Most of ’em were supposed to get opened in 50 years, or in 100, and we’re smack between the two. And I’m a pretty informed, news-reading kind of guy, and I can’t recall the last time I read about a time capsule being opened anywhere I live – I vaguely recall a bunch around the year 2000, and none since, so your early-20s person would have been like, what, five or six then? That’s not something your average kindergarten student pays attention to. I think it’s pretty unfair to criticize people for not knowing irrelevant minutia.

      1. Lora*

        Couple of years ago in Boston – maintenance workers found one buried in the foundation by Sam Adams and Paul Revere. It had newspapers, some coins, a medal with George Washington engraved on it, a state seal, a copy of the first page of some kind of court records and an engraved silver plate saying that Sam Adams laid the cornerstone.

        They put a new set of coins and a new newspaper and plaque in and re-buried it after sealing it in stainless steel with argon overlay.

        1. all aboard the anon train*

          Yeah, I remember this. It was the second time I’d heard of a time capsule. For a lot of people in my generation, this isn’t something we learned about in school because it never came up. I find it weird to be so concerned about someone not knowing what it was because imo it’s definitely a generational thing.

  21. Jubilance*

    #1 – You’ll run into this again at some point, where you need to pull a group of people together but can’t find a time that works for everyone. When that happens to me, here’s how I handle it:
    *Get together the people that can make it, and ask those who can’t to send you their ideas via email
    *If your team is one that responds to email & you have a short turn-around time, you can ask everyone to send you their ideas via email. Not as great as an in-person brainstorming session, but it allows you to gather everyone’s ideas.

    #3 – I once interviewed for an analytical chemist position, and the person that I was replacing asked me how many microliters are in a milliliter.

    1. Former Hoosier*

      Great advice for #1.

      #3 that is relevant to your job such as if I was asked about employee OHSA compliance. But although I do know it, I have never actually used the square root of 16 in my job and it would be insulting to be asked.

  22. Nervous Accountant*

    #5, I am sympathetic in that I totally understand that CS/client facing isn’t for everyone, I really do. It wasn’t a strength of mine either and I’d honestly be much happier doing actual work than babysitting., but I learned enough to be better at it. And I am super glad that you are self aware and realize that this job isn’t for you.

    IME, I’ve a CW has made it clear that she will not communicate w clients and can barely communicate w us; 100% of our jobs here are client facing heavy. Apparently her work is so good that TPTB can overlook that (it’s not, at least not to the level that it’s ok to refuse an entire job duty). I’m getting fed up tbh and I wish they would be this self-aware.

  23. sunny-dee*

    #2, I had a situaiton in OldJob where there was a senior employee, inexplicably respected by management who did absolutely nothing. This was a doc team, and I could see the feature list and see who was working on what, and he wasn’t covering features. When I pointed this out to management (because the team was insanely behind schedule and I needed writers), they said to use a ticketing system. So he would file tickets like “check chapter for typos” and then close them the next day … with, again, no work done. I pointed that out to management and they didn’t believe me, so I pointed out that I was actually checking the version control on the docs. Then he started opening docs and inserting line breaks and whitespaces at random, saving, and closing the docs and telling management he’d edited X number of files or Y number of lines … when, again, nothing was being done. At every point, I would send links to the ticketing system or to the version control system so they could see what I was talking about, but management wouldn’t check. If I didn’t send links, then I was making allegations without proof; if I did send evidence, I was calling him a liar or sending them busy work and they refused to check.

    It never changed, and I eventually moved to another (substantially more sane) department.

  24. strawberries and raspberries*

    For #1, in addition to Alison’s advice, I might also think about asking your manager for some support in how to best get the team together if scheduling meetings is difficult and you’ll be expected to coordinate efforts like this again. Early in my last job I was tasked with organizing an event in which all hands were required, and yet every time I tried to call a team meeting or follow up with people on specific items everyone was too busy or even openly said,”Oh yeah, I never did that. Oh well.” When I expressed this to my manager, she offered for me to CC her on email communications and that she would back me up, and she did- when I sent out an email on a Monday that had no responses by the end of Wednesday, my manager emailed everyone like, “Team, Strawberries and Raspberries has been sending you emails trying to coordinate a meeting to discuss X, Y, and Z for the Teapot Event since [original date]. In lieu of a meeting, please respond to her email no later than COB Friday with your input for the event.” Of course, then everyone responded right away.

    If you make an honest effort to coordinate and you’re not getting responses, it also couldn’t hurt to say something to the team (in writing) like, “Because we are pressed for time and have to submit ideas for X, I plan on submitting the following. Please contact me immediately if you have anything to add or modify.” At least then your boss (and your colleagues) can see that you did try and implementing your ideas only is a result of not getting other ideas.

  25. Sue Wilson*

    #1: I think you got caught up in the fact that your boss asked you to set up the meeting, that you didn’t realize that didn’t necessarily mean you had to control everything about the meeting. You would have been in a much better position if, as soon as you boss told you to set it up, you emailed the team with a request to set aside the meeting and a summary of the purpose. Even if everyone said they were busy, I’m betting you would have felt significantly less embarrassed to a) ask them for their opinions over email and b) tell your boss what happened before you sent her the results.

    It’s okay to ask for help. You’re not going to look incompetent for asking for help regarding circumstances beyond your control. And corralling people is beyond anyone but the boss’s control.

    1. nonegiven*

      IDK why you couldn’t do brainstorming over email. List the ideas you have and have heard and send out a request for comments and new ideas. Distill what you get back into a discussion of the most popular or important ideas and request comments on that, then write up something for the boss discussing the ones that got the best development.

  26. Perse's Mom*

    OP2 – I could see this happening in my department if the person who handles Reporting B also picked up Reporting A. A is essentially ticket status, which is a system generated report. B is deeper reporting that we do manually because it CAN’T be system generated, and there’s significant variation in the numbers because of it.

    ex: one of the processes I work on could have a ticket with one item to clear, and the next ticket could have hundreds. Reporting A would say I closed 2, while Reporting B would say I did 251.

  27. peasandcarrots*

    Perhaps the “general knowledge” questions are to avoid having a person like the employee who didn’t know anything about anything, from a letter a few months ago. I can’t recall the specifics, but someone wrote in that they had a junior employee or intern who was just so completely clueless as to be irritating.

    1. Snark*

      Eh, I don’t think so. That type of person is pretty rare. Most folks have a functioning understanding of the world around them and may be assumed to be informed.

      1. peasandcarrots*

        I’ve learned that I can’t assume anything anymore. I’ve worked with people who are extraordinary at what they do, but who are like Sherlock Holmes in that episode of the Cumberbatch series when he didn’t know that the Earth revolved around the Sun. Different people may have different levels of tolerance for that sort of thing, though.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          That bit from the Cumberbatch series was drawn straight from the original stories.

        2. Observer*

          But who cares if someone doesn’t know that? Obviously someone working for a doctor’s office who thinks that “big pharma is HIDING the cure for CANCER! Aren’t they awful?!” is going to be a problem. So is someone in just about any office environment who is all awestruck by “A STAPLER! OMG LOOK at that thing!” But these are outliers. And treating all people as though they are likely to be that outside of the norm is going to turn off people with options – who are often the people you WANT to hire. And there is no real need, either, because there are better ways to figure this out.

          That does mean planning your interviews, but not over-scripting them and not limiting yourself to a tidy list of yes / no check boxes.

  28. Newbie*

    OP#1 here! After reading everyone’s comments I ran straight into my boss’s office completely terrified. He basically laughed at me and was extremely understanding. That being said, I really do appreciate everyone’s comments because it pushed me to have that conversation and I understand how serious this is, especially if I were to continue this pattern. My past work experience was all internships where interns were expected to get the work done without being heard and there has been a learning curve for me now that I am working with such a collaborative team and being given so much responsibility. I was given this assignment during my second week on the job (still not an excuse) and now that I have been here over a month I am much more comfortable with everyone and have been running meetings and communicating more with coworkers. Thanks everyone for their feedback!

    1. fposte*

      Thanks for weighing in, and I’m glad your candor was met with an understanding response. (And also that it sounds like you’re growing well into the job.)

    2. Snark*

      We can get kind of Dreadful Wrath of Management God around here, but a good manager really does need to be understanding of occasional lapses in judgment when managing new people. Glad yours was. It wasn’t such an awful transgression, and if you had to have a learning experience, glad it was this.

    3. Czhorat*

      I’m glad it worked well.

      I can completely see how the situation ended up where it does, and it speaks well of you that you were willing to have the difficult discussion AND not make excuses for yourself.

      Good luck, and thanks for sharing here.

    4. Elizabeth West*

      That’s a good boss, someone who understands that new employees and those new to the workplace do make mistakes and they are a good learning opportunity. And good on you for being honest about it.

    5. Jaguar*


      I had trouble owning up to mistakes with bosses when I entered the workforce as well. It’s a skill you have to develop and you always imagine it going worse than it actually does.

      1. Jaguar*

        And ironically, the bosses that would take bad news badly are the ones I had less problem bringing up problems to (screw them, basically). I find it’s harder to mess up for a good boss because I feel like I’m letting them down.

    6. Escapee from Corporate Management*

      Well done! You took responsibility and demonstrated integrity. You can’t go wrong with those two attributes.

  29. Feo Takahari*

    I just realized that I have no idea who my governor is. I voted in the last election, but nothing he or she did since being elected was important enough to make the national news.

  30. Mimmy*

    #5 – Oooof, this is so timely because this is how I’m feeling about my job right now. My managers are saying and doing all the right things, but I just cannot warm up to what I’m doing. I’ve….probably been a little too forthcoming about my feelings. Oops–hope the damage isn’t done :/

    So OP, I can totally understand where you’re coming from. I too have good skills for client-facing roles, but it makes me incredibly anxious at times. There are other factors at play too, but anxiety is a big part. Just give me a project with clear guidelines, and I’ll be happy as a clam for the rest of the day.

    My plan is to work on reframing my thinking so that if/when I do find another job, I can leave on good terms (I am probably going to start looking again soon). *fistbumps OP* we can do this!

  31. Not So NewReader*

    For OP #3. I have a horror story. My friend applied at a Famous Company. He had to take a mechanical test. He thought that was odd since the machines he would be working on usually required a new circuit board. Rarely did he need basic mechanical knowledge for this work. He took the test, which was supposed to take an hour, he finished in 12 minutes. In other words, he blew the test out of sight.
    Years later, in a law suit the courts deemed that mechanical test discriminatory and the company was ordered to stop using it. I never thought that test would be dragged into court. I had to chuckle though, because the test had very little to do with the work performed. I think the tech changed and no one looked to see if the interview testing remained relevant.

    Stress with your group that questions have to be relevant for the job. How many times a day will the new hire use the square root of 16 or the name of the governor? Tell them they have to be able to explain how their questions relate to the work the person will be doing.

    I had a job interview where I was asked how many ounces are in a gallon. Not that I would have to do that computation every day. But I did have to understand the difference between fluid ounces and dry ounces. I would use those measurements daily. The question was tangent to the work. The interviewer let her guard down, and exclaimed, “You would not believe how many people can’t get that one.” Reading labels on laundry detergent bottles finally paid off for me.

  32. Harra*

    Thanks for answering my question (#4)! I was a bit worried about what to do, but your reply seems very logical. Fingers crossed!

  33. Crystal*

    One of the most interesting jobs I’ve had was an assistant to the President of a company. First “interview” before I even came in was a phoner where he asked me all kinds of current events questions. He basically didn’t want someone who was an idiot esp. since we spent so much time together. Some were industry questions (what company recently merged x with x) and some were just general knowledge. I passed to the next phase, got the job and quite enjoyed that part of the interview, actually.

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