interviewing for a job in a sketchy neighborhood, my employees blow off meetings, and more

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

1. I’m interviewing for a job in a sketchy-seeming neighborhood

I wrote to you around 18 months ago about working for an inept manager. I have been searching for jobs all that time and have finally been asked to a final interview for a position that I think is a good fit. The HR reps that I interviewed with have indicated that my salary, benefits, and vacation demands are not an issue. This is a longstanding $2B global company that is financially stable and with a huge growth upside.

My final interview is on Tuesday, so this morning I drove over to the local office location to make sure I would know how to get there for my final interview. This is the location where I would be working. To my surprise, the office is in a terrible part of town. The entrance to the road is in between a sex toy shop and an “adult entertainment facility.” I assumed GPS had taken me the wrong way, but nope. The building itself is run down and is surrounded by garbage strewn on the street and sidewalk. My husband and I googled the name of the strip club and learned it had been a setting for an episode of Cops.

If the position were to live up to its description and they were able to offer me everything I have asked, accepting the offer would be a huge step up for me in salary and opportunity. It would also get me out of a toxic work environment where my career is going nowhere. Should I let my concern about safety keep me from immediately accepting a great job? Or should I not let my desire to finally get out of my bad work situation cloud my judgement on working in a potentially dangerous part of town? I don’t know how to address my concern about the office locale without offending the hiring manager who has been kind enough to schedule a final interview with me.

If you can, do more research on that part of town, rather than just going by what it looks like. Talk to people who know the area and look at crime statistics. Also, pay attention to where the employee parking is — is it in a covered garage attached to the building, or is it half a block away? That matters.

Once you have the offer, you could also say, “What can you tell me about the neighborhood the office is in?” and see what they say. (Also, if you have the chance to talk to other people you’d be working with, besides just the hiring manager, ask them that too.) But seek out real info rather just judging based on what’s around it; some neighborhoods are perfectly fine despite surface appearances.

2. My employees come in late and blow off meetings

I’m a new manager and two of the four employees I manage are consistently coming late or blowing off meetings that I set and do not provide information I ask for. They have been with the company 10 years+ each, and I have only been here two months. How do I approach them to correct these problems in an assertive way that is not passive aggressive?

The first step is always just to be direct and matter-of-fact: “You’ve been coming in late pretty regularly. Going forward, can you be here at 9 a.m. consistently, other than in unusual circumstances?” And: “I’ve noticed that several times recently, I’ve asked you for information and you haven’t gotten back to me about it, like with X and Y. Can you make sure that you’re being diligent about getting back to me on requests?”

Then if it keeps happening, you move to this: “We talked about X but it’s continued to happen. What’s going on?” And from there, you need to be willing to hold people accountable, meaning that there are consequences if it continues.

Blowing off meetings you’ve set is a big deal. They’re either remarkably unorganized or — taken together with the other problems here — they don’t respect your authority. So don’t hold off on addressing any of this; address it head-on and quickly and see where it goes.

3. I turned down a job offer, then asked to accept it, then turned it down again

I interviewed with Company 1, where I really liked the team, and I felt the same coming from them. They informed me they would get back mid next month and I decided that they would be my priority should I get the offer. In the meantime I had an interview with Company 2 and received an offer there. I decided that I will wait to hear from Company 1 before I accepted the other offer.

Company 1 got back to me with an offer later than initially planned, and I had already accepted the offer of Company 2. There were also a few drawbacks: Company 1 offered me a lower salary than initially discussed and lower than Company 2’s offer. I also had my doubts about their location, and Company 1 is slightly smaller than Company 2. Based on those criteria, I rejected Company 1’s offer and decided to go with Company 2.

Nevertheless, during the same week, I could not stop thinking about my decision, because I really liked the team in Company 1, and I really like the industry they operate in. I decided to call them back and ask to reconsider me. They said they would let me know the decision after the weekend. During the weekend, I rethought my position, and since I had already signed the contract for Company 2 and a housing contract to move to their location, I decided that I could not make changes at that point.

On Monday, I called Company 1 again and explained that I needed to withdraw again my candidacy due to the very last-minute preparations (namely the penalty that I would need to pay on the housing contract) and that I apologized for the situation. Of course the feedback was negative, which I totally understand.

Now I would like to still keep in touch with them, since I really like the company, and I wish to consider them as employer in the future, but the feedback over the phone was that they would not want to consider my profile in the future. My question is, what would be the best way to continue the communication with Company 1 and how can I change their negative impression?

It’s very unlikely that you can. They made it clear that they’re irritated by how wishy-washy you were with them. Asking to accept an offer that you’ve already rejected will make you look a little flaky and will raise some concerns about how committed you are to following through (and how well you thought out your decision each time) — but it can work. But then backing out again after that is going to leave them permanently thinking of you as flaky.

At this point, they feel jerked around and it’s unlikely that they’re going to view any future applications from you favorably. I’m sorry.

4. Coworker constantly changes email subject lines

I’m working on a project with someone who changes the subject line of the email thread every time she replies. For example, if the original email was “ABC Project Launch,” she’ll reply and change it to “Drafting: ABC Project Launch.” When I or someone else replies, in her response she’ll change it to “Moving Forward: ABC Project Launch” and then, “Clarification: ABC Project Launch.”

This makes conversations incredibly difficult to follow, especially when there are multiple people on a thread all replying to one another, and then she replies and literally changes the subject. (Our office uses Gmail, so she’s not on a different email client.)

I don’t normally work closely with this person, and will probably only have to work with them on their project launch for 3-6 months. Is it futile to try and correct this, given that I’m probably not the first person it has irritated? Should I ask her to stop, or do I tough it out until the project is over?

That is indeed annoying. It sounds like she probably thinks she’s being helpful (“now the subject line reflects what this is really about!”) and doesn’t realize that she’s making it impossible to track by thread.

So say something! It’s entirely reasonable to ask her to stop doing it. I’d say it this way: “I’ve noticed you’ll often change the subject line of an email chain each time you reply. Any chance I can convince you to leave the subject line as is? Otherwise it makes it hard to to follow the thread, and it can make it difficult to find responses later if I need to go back and search for something we decided on.”

5. Meeting invitations outside of my normal work hours

I work for a company whose normal business hours are 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. However some departments work from 5:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and individuals in other departments who interact with those departments may also work “the early shift.” I myself worked the early shift for several months after a colleague moved to a different department, and I filled in until we could hire a replacement. Now, however, I work the normal business hours. I recently received a meeting invite from the early shift replacement for 8:00 am, a time which is outside my business hours but inside business hours for him and a few other attendees. Is it unreasonable for me to propose a new time that is within my working hours, like say, 9:00 am?

If no one involved is senior to you (they’re all peers or junior to you), it should be fine for you to treat this like any other scheduling conflict and just say, “I can’t start at 8, but I could start at 9 or later.”

But if the person initiating the meeting is senior to you, whether or not you can do this will depend on your office’s norms. Generally you’re expected to make yourself available on whatever schedule works for the more senior person, but in plenty of offices it would still be fine to ask something like, “I actually work a later shift — would 9 or later work for you, or is this the only time that works well on your end?” In other offices, that would be considered a little tone-deaf to say that to certain higher-ups, so that part of it is a know-your-office thing.

{ 356 comments… read them below }

    1. Lioness*

      I read it as though some departments run from 5:30am -5:00pm with individuals working an earlier shift. That the OP starts at 8:30am, but meetings are scheduled at 8:00am from the early shift individuals.

      1. LW #5*

        Letter Writer #5 here. The “early shift” is actually 5:30 am to 5:00 pm, though I suppose technically the early shift portion is only 5:30 to 8:30, even though you work the entire 12-hour period. It made for very long days!

            1. Amtelope*

              … and nobody pushes back about this? I can’t imagine being asked to work twelve-hour days every day starting at 5:30 as an exempt employee and wanting to stay in that working situation very long.

              1. LW #5*

                It’s commonplace in this subsector, but it is also one of the reasons I didn’t pursue the vacancy created when the former holder moved to a different department after two and a half years. I got a taste of it when I did it for about five months during the candidate search process. The first few weeks were awful, but eventually you adapt or you find a new field. To be honest, if the position opens up again and the compensation is right, I wouldn’t rule out applying in the future (but I wouldn’t schedule meetings before 9:00!)

              2. Bea*

                If the industry works those hours, they work those hours. I regularly work over 50 hours a week because of the responsibilities I’ve accepted as part of my career.

                If you don’t like the hours, then the career isn’t for you, that doesn’t mean that you should just “push back” on the schedule.

            2. Ann O'Nemity*

              Given this information, it may be more difficult to push back on the 8 am meeting. The early shift folks may roll their eyes a bit if you refuse to come in 30 minutes early if they’re working an extra 17.5 hours per week. I like Alison’s wording to help mitigate this – “I actually work a later shift — would 9 or later work for you, or is this the only time that works well on your end?” That at least shows some flexibility on your part.

            3. Noah*

              It’s hard to imagine somebody being exempt and REQUIRED to be at work at 5:30. Not impossible but hard to imagine.

    2. Jeanne*

      I think it’s possible that for some reason a different dept runs for about 12 hours. Then in OP’s dept there are some staggered schedules. I think OP might as well ask for the later meeting time. They may not realize her schedule has changed now. If you don’t ask now, they will continue to schedule early meetings with you. Even if this one can’t change, you don’t want it repeated each time.

    3. Beatrice*

      I run into this a lot. Our core hours are 8 am to 4. I work 8-5, and if I need to work overtime, I stay late. I have several coworkers who work 7-4 and come in as early as 5:30 am if they need to cram some extra hours into their week. I occasionally get meeting requests for 6:30 or 7 am, and I push back on them, unless it’s a 5-alarm issue that definitely requires my attention. I get similar pushback for scheduling nonessential meetings after 4, so it’s not just me. I used to try to accommodate early meetings more often, but my family’s schedule is pretty closely tied to my normal starting time, and it’s really disruptive to try to move things around (we are NOT morning people). I decided that I’m not willing to put them through that if it’s not absolutely necessary. There’s probably a career cost to that decision, but I have proven myself enough that it’s nominal. I do accommodate late meetings, lunchtime meetings, and work travel, which helps – if I were not willing to do any of those things, that would really limit my career options here.

      1. Rockhopper*

        But see, I thought that was why companies identify “core hours.” So that people would know that everyone should be there at, say, 10:00 a.m. so that’s a good time for a meeting.

        1. Soon to be former fed*

          Yeah, don’t schedule meetings outside of core hours unless absolutely necessary, and then make them remotely accessible if possible.

          1. Ramona Flowers*

            This is why I refuse meetings before 10. It’s outside core hours. Last time I mentioned it people told me it was unusual to get away with that but I refuse to have poor boundaries around core hours just because others let them get woolly.

      2. Samiratou*

        We have a “core hours” thing, too, but meeting schedules are generally dependent on time zones. I think official “core hours” are 10am-3pm, as being “these are the hours we expect everyone to be available” but actual hours can vary from 6am to 6pm, depending on role and who you work with, customer support roles etc. Though nobody is expected to work all 12 hours!

        Generally I work 8-4:30, and don’t schedule meetings before 9 or after 4, if I can help it, unless scheduling with folks on the west coast (I’m central), when even scheduling meetings at 11am our time only gets about 50% attendance.

        This annoys me a bit–when you’re working with people across shifts, sometimes coming a little earlier than normal isn’t unexpected, particularly if the team is busy and that’s the only time you can find and it’s once in a great while. We sometimes have to have meetings at 6 or 7am to accommodate teams in India, for example, which sucks but once in awhile is no big deal.

        For the OP#5, though, for sure ask if they can move it back, but if it’s a rare thing and the answer is “this is the only time the whole team is available” it’s probably worth it to just go in a bit early, if you can.

        1. LW #5*

          For what it’s worth, I didn’t say anything and went in at 8 under the assumption it was a one-off. It’s good to hear the feedback, though, if this becomes a recurrent situation.

    4. PersephoneUnderground*

      Hi Alison- any chance you could update the letter to add the AM and PM designations LW #5 clarified with? It’s distracting when reading the question and your answer to not be sure if there’s a typo or if they mean 5:30 pm to 5 am or what.

  1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#1, a friend works for a big fancy affluent company that was acquired by a hedge fund last year. When it was acquired, they moved their headquarters from a desirable part of town to a high crime, slightly abandoned area that is undergoing gentrification (but very slowly and with a lot of community pushback). Despite those features, the actual commute is totally safe, and there’s a car service for folks leaving after dark (when the streets are more abandoned). The company itself isn’t toxic at all—just kind of middle-of-the-road in terms of its policies, but with the added pressure to push down fixed costs for the hedge fund’s benefit.

    Which is all to say, check out information regarding the location. It’s also ok to ask if there have been any security concerns or what safety measures the employer takes for if folks are leaving late at night or at times when there’s few people out and about (but please do more research, first, or your questions will sound extremely offensive if your perception of the relative “danger” is inaccurate). You can also ask them about their relationship to the neighborhood; for example, if they feel well-integrated, if they volunteer or give back locally, etc. It’s going to be a tough tone to nail down, because you don’t want to sound like you’re clutching your pearls, especially if the neighborhood is grungy but not dangerous.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      Definitely check it out. The letter reminded me of one of my old freelance clients who, before about 2007, used to a work in a seriously sketchy looking location next to a ‘massage parlour’ that I’m fairly sure got busted. It was a major British newspaper starting with G.

      Recently I was looking up a location I needed to visit that I thought sounded dodgy. Google came up with the top ten dangerous boroughs in my city. I’m not sure why, as this location wasn’t in it – but I did find the area I actually work in!

      1. LJL*

        Yes, check it out, but also check to see what the culture is. I worked in an area in a major city that was right next to a pretty dodgy area. The building had security that walked employees to their car (in the garage about two blocks away), plus when we needed to leave after dark a group of us walked together. We were fine, except for some car break ins. But again, no one was physically harmed.

    2. Jeanne*

      It is not offensive to ask if the area is safe. We worked in a very tiny town and still had safety issues. No place is safe anymore.

      1. Sami*

        There are plenty of places where the location is very safe. In fact, every location on Earth is on an continuum of safety. Many more safe than others.

      2. TL -*

        It absolutely can be, if you’re using class and/or racial markers to determine what looks “safe” – and people generally do.

        The USA is safer than it’s ever been – violent crime rates are down nearly everywhere but Chicago, and you’re much less likely to be a victim of violent crime than anytime since we’ve started tracking crime stats. A lot of times people look at lower class or non-white neighborhoods and automatically translate that into “not safe” instead of actually learning what the risks are.

          1. Artemesia*

            And in Chicago it is very concentrated in certain areas; there are definitely areas you wouldn’t want to work but most of the city is safe (or as safe as any city in our armed culture)

            1. ThatGirl*

              Poor Chicago. We get such a bad rap, and it’s not really an unsafe city. It’s just a very big one with a few pockets prone to violence.

        1. Ramona Flowers*

          I think you make a valid point about class and race in general, but I don’t think it’s either classist or racist not to want to be around people who patronise strip joints. (Am less bothered about the adult shops, unless they’re cover for something worse.)

          1. TL -*

            My guess is the strip joint is most active late nights and weekend nights, so if the OP is working normal office hours, that’s probably not going to be a big concern of theirs.

            1. Trout 'Waver*

              That was my thought too. Those types of businesses aren’t usually active during normal business hours.

            2. Detective Amy Santiago*

              The strip club next door to my sister’s high school had a pretty good lunch buffet.

                1. Karen D*

                  There sure is !

                  The good detective is correct, though – strip clubs in some districts can be active during the day. In my hometown, there was a club that was notoriously frequented by some of the city’s power brokers, who figured it was a safe place to meet up because anyone who ratted them out would also have to confess to being in a strip joint at noon. (Cue all the jokes about movers and shakers.)

                  It took one enterprising reporter to put a stop to that, but it took a surprisingly long time for that to happen.

                2. Detective Amy Santiago*

                  The best part? My sister went to a creative and performing arts high school. There were a lot of jokes about the dance majors getting jobs after graduation.

                  She used to tell dad to get lunch when he had to pick her up from something though.

                3. Xay*

                  Several Atlanta-area strip clubs are known for their lunches.

                  At my old job, there was a story about a group of new employees (who were also new to the area) that ventured out for lunch. They accidentally walked into a strip club because a. the name wasn’t obvious; b. the building wasn’t obvious; c. the billboard advertised a lunch buffet and the parking lot was full so they assumed the food was good.

              1. MG*

                Detective Amy, I thought I knew what city you were talking about from just this first comment, and then I saw that it’s a creative & performing arts high school next to the strip club. Yep, this is my city.

                And to relate it back to the topic of the question, it’s a strip club next to a high school in a neighborhood that is absolutely safe to work in during business hours, and still very safe evenings and weekends. I both lived and worked in that neighborhood for years.

                1. Detective Amy Santiago*

                  Howdy neighbor :)

                  Yeah, I mean, this is smack dab in the middle of a business district.

            3. LBK*

              Agreed – I can see it feeling kind of unsavory to work in an office sandwiched between those two businesses, but I don’t actually think it’s inherently dangerous, especially during the day.

          2. Bagpuss*

            It isn’t classist or racist not to want to be next to a strip joint but may be misinformed. A business of that kind probably doesn’t want any trouble or hassle and may well take active steps to ensure that their clientele doesn’t cause problems.

            Friends of mine once inadvertently rented a property where their neighbours included a couple of dodgy massage parlours and a brothel. They said it was actually one of the quietest and safest places they’d ever lived, as the businesses were very keen *not* to upset the neighbours, because they knew that having anyone call the police or complain to the council, whether it was about noise, or parking, or anything else, would put off customers and be bad for business, so they had their own security and ensured that their clients didn’t hassle anyone.

            1. DArcy*

              I work for a company thay happens to be housed next door to one of the biggest strip clubs in the city (as in a quarter-block, two story venue). Pearl clutching aside, the strip club actually makes the neighborhood much safer and nicer because they have heavy, proactive security presence.

              1. Sistersister*

                I’m not sure about that. My sister was the manager of a chain of stop clubs. Big names.

                The security is only there to protect the club. In the case of he clubs, all the security did was push the issues a few blocks away.

                I don’t think presence of a club makes things per se safer or more dangerous. Depends upon the club, it’s management, and whether or not it’s fronting for other illegal activity.

                Some clubs are only about stripping and shut down selling actual sex, illegal drugs, etc. some are fronts for other activities.

                1. Emi.*

                  I personally would not want to work in the block where men land after they get thrown out of a strip club.

            2. Koko*

              A friend of mine owns a cannabis dispensary in an upcoming neighborhood and it’s the same way. They have security cameras pointed everywhere on the block and a strong relationship with the local police, and have greatly improved the security in the area since opening up.

              1. ThatGirl*

                Related anecdata: my FIL owns a small business and next door is a medical marijuana facility. They have a TON of security. Although he did have to allow them to reinforce his side of the wall so nobody could try breaking in and drilling through it to get to a safe.

              2. Optimistic Prime*

                I live in Washington and all the cannabis dispensaries here are in fancy neighborhoods/suburban towns in pretty nice areas. Most of the patrons quite frankly are middle-class to upper-middle-class.

            3. paul*

              Our city doesn’t have many, but the two or three that have gone out of business in the last 3-4 years were seriously bad; one of them had semi-regular stabbings and the odd shooting. It’s very much a YMMV.

              The last one standing is supposed to be kind of seedy–and the restaurant portion gets dinged in health reports–but AFAIK it isn’t a violent place.

            4. ket*

              I heard a similar story from my parents about staying in a mob-owned hotel. They had some trouble, a few calls were made, and there was no more trouble after that.

            5. Chinook*

              “They said it was actually one of the quietest and safest places they’d ever lived, as the businesses were very keen *not* to upset the neighbours, because they knew that having anyone call the police or complain to the council, whether it was about noise, or parking, or anything else, would put off customers and be bad for business, so they had their own security and ensured that their clients didn’t hassle anyone.”

              DH the Cop says the same thing about living next to bikers or other “professional criminals” – they will always make the best, most polite neighbors because they don’t want anyone calling the cops about little things (and intimidation doesn’t guarantee a neighbor’s silence).

              1. Elizabeth West*

                Having lived across the street from a meth house for a while, I can attest to this. The most noise that ever happened over there was one customer’s car stereo (he was really nice about it when I asked him to turn it down please because I had work the next day), and the top-volume police megaphone used when they finally served a warrant on them at 3:30 in the morning. The rest of the time, they were very quiet and unobtrusive, if somewhat messy.

                Not that I prefer to live near meth dealers, mind you. :P

          3. So totally Anon for this*

            I danced at a strip club in college. The security was so good and so assertive that my job as a stripper became my rule of thumb for my professional career: if I am treated worse and with less respect for either my work or my person than I was as a gosh darn stripper, then this is not a job I want to keep.

            Sadly, many so-called professional and white collar jobs treat women and often people in general worse than strippers in a semi-seedy club with sticky floors and cheap liquor. I would go so far as to say the majority. I wish I was kidding.

            1. LBK*

              That’s kind of fascinating, but it totally makes sense. If you’re going to keep women around to do a job where they’re extremely vulnerable, you need to ensure you’re doing everything you can to make them feel safe.

              1. So totally Anon for this*

                I think it was probably more for business reasons than the women. 1. There’s plenty of patrons, nobody is going begging for customers 2. Don’t spook the high rollers who bring in their whole law office for the intern’s last day, they don’t want to be punched or caught up in some kind of police bust 3. these kind of jerks really are, you give an inch they take a mile, there’s no need to be polite or understanding about their bad behavior 4. if you allow customer behavior the other clubs don’t, your good dancers will go elsewhere and you’ll be stuck with the junkies and women the managers consider low quality, and you won’t be able to bring in the acts that bring in $$$$$ (usually porn actresses) 5. if things get out of hand on even an infrequent basis, the neighbors and the city council will be RIGHT THERE to revoke your business license and boot you out of town in a heartbeat, no matter what the real estate values – you’re not running an Applebees and it doesn’t take a lot of convincing on the part of the Upright Citizens’ Brigade that you shouldn’t be running a business at all, let alone one in their town.

                That said, whenever I run into some jerk making excuses for why the Harvey Weinsteins of the world should be coddled and “understood,” I think, If your other option was a pavement facial followed by banishment to the Worst Job Ever, you’d miraculously find your self-control under the couch cushions or wherever you lost it.

                1. PlainJane*

                  “If your other option was a pavement facial followed by banishment to the Worst Job Ever, you’d miraculously find your self-control under the couch cushions or wherever you lost it.” This. is. brilliant. And so true. It’s amazing how much self-control (most) people can exercise when there are immediate, harsh consequences for not doing so.

                2. veggiewolf*

                  “If your other option was a pavement facial followed by banishment to the Worst Job Ever, you’d miraculously find your self-control under the couch cushions or wherever you lost it.”

                  This is going to be my Skype status tomorrow.

            2. Sistersister*

              My sister used to manage strip clubs. The good ones are very protective of the women who work there. That doesn’t necessarily translate to them caring about anything that happens to beyond their parking lot.

              Well I don’t think a strip club is indicative of a bad neighborhood, I also don’t think we should go the other route say that it makes things safer. It really depends on the club and the management.

            3. Totally Anon Too!*

              I’ve done some similar types of work at different points in my life. I was treated with a lot more respect than in most of the other jobs I’ve had.

          4. Demon Llama*

            I used to work right round the corner from one of London’s most well-known strip clubs, which is also within a few hundred yards of some really upmarket restaurants. Which kind of proves your point, I guess – it was not an “unsafe” part of town.

            We had to stop one of the partners directing clients to our office by saying, “it’s just off X Avenue, round the corner from [strip club name].” So much for brand building…

            1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

              Agreed. A former partner of mine worked in a city government building that shared a street with several strip clubs. It was quiet and well-behaved — the worst she ever heard was a lot of jokes about working in the location with “perks.”

            2. LBK*

              I mean, if we want to go to the most extreme example, Amsterdam’s famous Red Light District is right in the middle of the touristy downtown area…

              1. Demon Llama*

                Hah, very true – although I would actually say that part of Amsterdam does feel unsafe to me, much like any really touristy area, because of the crowds and likelihood of pickpockets etc.

                1. LBK*

                  I think pickpockets are a valid concern but otherwise crowds are a pretty good deterrent for crime, as I said in another comment below about Manhattan. You’re not getting in Times Square.

              2. Optimistic Prime*

                Amsterdam was exactly what I was thinking of. I studied abroad there and the red light district is actually really close to the University of Amsterdam and the Dam…I used to ride through there all the time to get to and from school.

                Honestly, I also thought of New York, which has lots of strip clubs in the area surrounding Times Square and edging towards Hell’s Kitchen. That area USED to be seedy and relatively unsafe, but now it’s a huge tourist destination.

            3. zora*

              I lived right across the street from a high-end strip club in NYC, and this was university housing. It actually made the block really safe, because their security was really serious. This was the first year that our building had opened as university housing, mostly full of teenage women, but we didn’t have any security coverage of our building. We went over and introduced ourselves the first week of move-in and when we told them about our building they were very clear that they were going to look out for the safety of our building as well, and that if we ever felt like we were being followed home or not sure about the security of our entrance, we should come across the street and tell them immediately.

              I actually did take them up on that, and always felt safe coming home late by myself because they were always there and were looking out for us. So, honestly, it depends on the establishment, but I have actually felt safer with a well-managed strip club on the block than not!

            4. PlainJane*

              I wonder how much zoning rules have to do with this. Oregon has (or had when I lived there–I assume it’s still true) really strong free-expression laws, so strip clubs and adult bookstores couldn’t be easily zoned out of nicer neighborhoods. So there was less correlation between sex-related businesses and crime. Not sure about other places though.

          5. Natalie*

            I worked across the street from a strip club for 7 years – literally the only slightly odd thing was seeing women in really big, long coats standing outside smoking with a bouncer. Otherwise, you’d never be able to tell it wasn’t just a bar.

          6. K.*

            I know lots of men who have been to a strip club at least once (usually for a bachelor party), and none of the men I know are … I don’t know, criminals, or dangerous people.

            I’ve never been in a women’s strip club* but I don’t think of strip clubs as particularly dangerous. Whatever sketchiness is going on there is a) likely not going on during business hours, and b) probably going on in the club, not on the street. People who go to strip clubs are likely not particularly interested in the neighborhood; they’re there for the club.

            *Yes, I’ve been to a men’s strip club. Also not dangerous, although I didn’t particularly enjoy it.

          7. FiveWheels*

            I understand not wanting to work near strip joints etc, but I don’t see that they automatically connect with the area being dangerous.

            1. Nervous Accountant*

              This is such a funny conversation about strip clubs and neighborhoods. I’m in NYC so majority of clubs at least in manhattan aren’t in seedy parts of town (heck there’s no “seedy” part in manhattan but that’s another point I guess). Although if we’re talking outer boroughs, idk it just makes me super uncomfortable going through certain neighborhoods. And I’m not a pearl clutched

              1. LBK*

                Personally, I only tend to feel less unsafe in the outer boroughs because there tend to be fewer people around at all times. Part of the reason most of Manhattan is relatively safe is because there’s always crowds around at all times – no one’s going to try to mug you when there’s constantly witnesses present.

                1. Anon for right now*

                  It’s so funny, because as a Brooklynite, I find Manhattan to be the most unsafe (in a scale of unsafe for NYC, which isn’t unsafe at all). It’s just so impersonal, while in Brooklyn, true it can be block by block in terms of relative safety, there’s more a neighborhood feel. You say hi to people on the streets. Folks seem to look out for each other. Yeah, I’ve hung out late at night in Brownsville, then walked home through Flatbush. Sat in front of the Pink Houses many an evening. There’s a bus stop I’m frequently waiting at late at night in front of the Lafayette houses with zero issues. Of course anywhere in Queens is a nonstarter. I actually think the most dangerous neighborhood I’ve ever been in is Williamsburg, outside of Manhattan.

                  Anyway, this is off topic. But just saying, don’t judge the out boroughs. :)

                  –fourth generation N’Yawker.

                2. LBK*

                  Ha – FWIW, I say this from the perspective of a Bostonian who frequents Manhattan and rarely leaves HK/Midtown West when I’m there.

              2. zora*

                Ha, exactly, I lived right across from the strip club on E 23rd St in college. (I don’t know if it’s still there, though)

      3. Student*

        Most of the US is vastly safer than it was in years past. Crime rates here have dropped substantially.

    3. Sparkly Librarian*

      Pearl-clutching will get you (general you) laughed at. Our library had a new volunteer bail on his first meeting/shift because of our location. He emailed the manager that he’d come by the library at the right time but had to leave because he didn’t feel safe in the neighborhood. Like, on first look in broad daylight. The staff who are here every day (some of whom also live nearby) shared some side eye over that. Probably just as well for our patrons that he didn’t stay, with that attitude.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        That said, some areas really are less safe than others and I’m not sure it’s fair to the LW if we completely dismiss that idea. However, the key thing for me is that you can’t always tell by looking. There are areas of my hometown where I absolutely would not go alone after dark.

        Yes, pearl-clutching can get you laughed at. But I think there’s also space to acknowledge that some areas really do feel less safe, for a variety of reasons. It’s important to check that out, sure, but let’s not pretend everywhere is equally safe.

        1. TL -*

          The problem is that “feel” less safe is often tied up with all kinds of really troubling ideas and doesn’t often reflect crime stats and reality. The least safe neighborhood I’ve ever been in was near my university – it was a really rich part of town up against a middle class and fairly poor part of town, so the non-violent crime (theft) was high in the nicer neighborhoods.

          There are definitely some neighborhoods, particularly those with lots of gang-related activity (in the USA), that are less safe but honestly, that’s not usually what people are talking about when they say a neighborhood doesn’t feel safe.

          The OP should definitely ask, especially if there’s been any concerning news reports or if they’re working late at night (probably lots of drunk and rowdy at the adult entertainment place.) Presumably, however, plenty of people are working and living in that neighborhood already without becoming victims of violent crime.

          1. Engineer Girl*

            You made an important distinction. It’s violent Vs non-violent crime. They are not in any way the same.
            Your argument breaks down because you say the “least safe” area is the non-violent crime area. I think most people would say that “least safe” is a violent crime area, not the area with the most incidents, as you claim.
            People fear personal assault the most.

            1. TL -*

              Personal assault is much, much more likely to come from somebody you know, especially if you’re a woman or child (even more so if you’re white.)

              There wasn’t much violent crime to speak of in any of the neighborhoods I was talking about – the crime difference all came from non-violent crimes. And the poor neighborhoods “felt unsafe” to several of my friends.

                1. FiveWheels*

                  I’m pretty sure an area with fifty muggings and 450 non violent crimes is more dangerous than one of each, despite the ratio.

                2. Xay*

                  I think this is a faulty assumption. Low violent crime neighborhoods that have high rates of breakins and muggings are routinely described as unsafe, regardless of the amount of violent crime.

              1. Engineer Girl*

                As you’ve noted, the non violent crime neighborhood , “felt” safer to you friends. But it isn’t about feelings but numbers. They felt unsafe in the other neighborhood because of the violence.

                The truth is not in feelings but numbers. A high ratio of violent crimes is deemed unsafe. It’s why people feel safer in the Tenderloins district of SF Vs Hunters Point. Tenderloin has more crimes but Hunters Point has a high violence ratio. That’s numbers Vs feeling.

                OP should check out the violence ratio to get a better feel for the neighborhood.

                1. TL -*

                  The other neighborhood didn’t have a high violent crime rate or a high violent crime to non violent crime ratio. They felt unsafe because the other neighborhood (which looked exactly like my hometown) was poor and Hispanic and they grew up in white suburbia and believed that poor non-white neighborhoods are inherently dangerous.

                2. Mary*

                  Yep, TL – I live in a part of a British city which has a majority of people of colour: an old established Afro-Carribbean communinity, a more recent Asian community and a lot of housing where recent immigrants and asylum seekers end up. We’re a white middle-class couple, and we hear a *lot* of assumptions about how dangerous our neighbourhood is! In reality, I feel very safe there because a) nobody bothers breaking in to nick stuff, because the assumption is that nobody has very much worth nicking; b) street crime (violent and non-violent) seems pretty low because all the houses look right onto the street and a lot of people spend time in their front gardens and get around on foot, so there’s very often people around.

                  My definition of unsafe would usually be about busy roads – the one thing I’d definitely like a crackdown on is the boy racers charging up and down the road at 30mph and trying handbrake turns!

                3. Sistersister*

                  It’s also about what type of person you are. If I’m a white dude, I’m not generally going to be concerned about sexual harassment or rape. I am going to get concerned if my car is going to get jacked

                  As a woman, however, I have different concerns.

              2. Artemesia*

                Personal assault for me is not likely to come from anyone I know. The fact that some people have relatives who are alcoholics with a violent streak or are married to domestic abusers doesn’t make me personally less safe. I live in a city with some serious violent crime in some areas; my greatest odds of personal assault are going to be in those dicey areas or the bad luck of the perps who live in that area branching out as they do from time to time. General statistics are not helpful when assessing one’s own risks especially with regard to friends and family. Some people have violent friends and family and some don’t.

                1. Annabelle*

                  Respectfully, not all assailants seem violent or have addiction issues. Tons of people have been victimized by perfectly upstanding friends, family members, and acquaintances. I think the general point is that assaults perpetrated by strangers are pretty unlikely.

          2. Agnes*

            However, while “bad neighborhood” can be code for “POC live there”, one clear form of privilege is the ability to choose safe neighborhoods. There’s a reason that there’s a field of study “neighborhood effects as a cause of health disparities”.

            If it’s not a bad neighborhood, I don’t think asking about it will make you look weird or out-of-touch. If it’s safe, the strip club and sex toy shop are probably sources of jokes around the office. There was a massage parlor in my college town that everyone knew about (except, apparently, my roommate who called for a massage and was asked if she wanted topless or non-topless), and people used to joke about it all the time.

          3. Soon to be former fed*

            News is frequently biased though, so I would caution against forming opinions just based on those reports.

          4. ket*

            Yep, I bike through “bad” parts of town without trouble — who’s going to bother a biker minding her own business? And the people in the “bad” parts of town don’t want any trouble. They are actively avoiding trouble. It’s clear I’m not from the neighborhood; we’re all respectful of each other as I pass through and I feel safe. Where I don’t feel safe is near the fancy-schmancy nearby university: a bunch of well-off kids paying 60k a year who know they can get off any charge. There I’ve been harassed from cars at night and guys have tried to take pictures down my shirt as I bike in the summer, also from their cars. I’m very worried about drunk driving in that “good” neighborhood, because those kids get really drunk and the pissing-on-neighbors’-lawns stats from the police give hard numbers about their bad behavior. Those kids are looking for trouble. It seems to me that a rational estimate of danger makes the “bad” neighborhoods safer for me by a long shot.

        2. Kyrielle*

          Agreed. The important thing is to do the research first and figure it out.

          I know of two client sites, one that I went to and one that coworkers went to, that I would not willingly work at if I knew what I was getting into in advance. It’s not the way the area looked – I never saw the second one, and in the daylight, the first one looked fine.

          It’s the crime rate, and also the reaction of our clients (who were police agencies). When they tell you ‘park in this garage. Do not drive past it. When you leave, turn right on X, do not go anywhere else until you’ve gotten out to the freeway’…that is not a good sign no matter how nice the area looks in the day. Neither is it when they don’t offer but insist on escort to your car, two blocks away, when you leave after dusk.

          I am not normally fearful, but that place worried me a bit. (And the other one had similar issues, both in feeling and in our client agency telling our people to be cautious in ways you don’t normally have to.)

          My suburb is very, very safe-looking most places to most people. There are still a couple areas that, I’m learning, probably shouldn’t be entered after dark if you don’t have to. (Although I’d feel much, much safer doing so than visiting either of those locations mentioned above.)

          When you don’t have convenient clients who know what they’re talking about, crime maps are your friend. (But pay attention. The worry factor for ‘lots of crime, almost all property crime’ is there, but compared to ‘some crime, but mostly violent’…I’d rather have my car and/or its contents taken than be in danger myself, thanks.)

          OP – Google ‘crime maps by address’ or ‘crime map (cityname)’ or the like. Not every site has data for every city, and I don’t know if all of them are online, but it’s worth hunting around.

          1. Karen D*

            Another good phrase to search on is (Community name) and the word “CompStat.” Compstat is a program used by an increasing number of local police departments to make crime statistics easily viewable and sortable by members of the public.

      2. Kate 2*

        Loving this thread. In my big city, one of the local public library branches is right next to a strip club. Lots of families go to that branch every day, it is centrally located and very convenient. LW, in a city, especially one with super strict zoning laws, you have to take what you can get. It is not at all strange in my city for nice little cafes to be next to salvage yards or gambling restaurants next to more ordinary businesses. These places are crammed into some red light district, and I really think it makes them safer, for patrons and workers, not to mention adding some local color!

        1. Elizabeth West*

          This city is like that too, with so-called bad neighborhoods crammed right up against nicer ones, especially on the north side of town. I live near a commercial area with a strip club, tons of fast food restaurants, a few motels, and a very large multi-story hotel where Obama once stayed (as a senator). I don’t feel at all weird about walking at night, though usually I don’t because by then I’m in my jammies.

    4. Indoor Cat*

      Sometimes thinking of safe vs. unsafe, things that don’t show up in stats but have a major impact are things that aren’t technically crimes, but still are things I’d quit a job over if I had to experience them on a daily basis on my way to work: catcalling and sexual harassment, being accosted, being followed, graffiti that is vulgar or threatening in nature.

      If there are two neighborhoods that have identical, low crime rates in terms of thefts, muggings, or physical or sexual assaults, but in one neighborhood I’m harassed and have to walk past a swastika tag on an abandoned wall, and in the other I’m left alone and the graffiti is just names or whatever, then to me, the latter neighborhood is safer. It doesn’t matter to me that the stats are the same. Just because a neighborhood has a low crime rate doesn’t mean it’s safe.

      That being said, being poorly-kept (limited garbage pick-up, structural damage to roads, etc) doesn’t make a place unsafe. So it’s less about the appearance of a place and more about how people treat you when you’re there.

    5. Fake old Converse shoes*

      I wouldn’t be so quick to judge OP as “pearl clutching”. We don’t know what triggered OP alarms and anyway, that is not the core of the question.

      1. Annabelle*

        I think it’s safe to assume that the strip club and adult novelty store triggered her alarm, as that’s what she mentions in the letter.

    6. Halls of Montezuma*

      Seconding (or maybe more now) that the adult clubs are not likely to indicate safety problems – even if you’re staying late at work, you’d have to be very late for them to be doing brisk business. It’s also unlikely they will be drivers for violent crime, because they have their own security and usually like their customers to leave with no cash left to be robbed of.

    7. Falling Diphthong*

      I recall a discussion on another topic, but it brought up the example of a woman who got off her bar shift late at night and had to walk several blocks to the train. The shortest route was right through the red light district, which also happened to be the area where there would be some people out and about on the streets at 2 a.m., and the cops drove through frequently. She determined that was the safest route. So “where the sex workers are” isn’t necessarily the least safe spot.

    8. Dust Bunny*

      I was actually most bothered by the amount of garbage described, in the sense of a) not a great first impression and b) is this just blowing in accumulating, or does it mean people are hanging around during the day and/or the area is generally neglected by city services?

    9. Karen D*

      To me, the most important thing is to at least inquire more deeply – especially with what looks like a very good job on the line.

      We had a situation that completely flummoxed me about six months ago, when we were interviewing in-home caregivers for my mom. We had one candidate who was totally gung-ho, passed the phone screening, had great experience – so we set up an in-home interview. She texted us that she was on her way … the time for her to arrive came and went … and nothing. It was like she vanished off the face of the earth. Phone calls went to voice mail, texts were unanswered.

      It finally dawned on me that it was a drive-by ghosting. Mom lives in the home we grew up in, and the neighborhood has changed A LOT, including the fact that more than half the houses are now occupied by families who don’t speak English at home. If the job candidate had actually inquired, she would have found out that the neighborhood’s crime rate is as low as it’s ever been and that the young families in those houses are just as determined to make good homes for their kids as my folks were, decades ago when they were raising us.

      Oh, well.

    10. grasshopper*

      I used to live around the corner from a strip club and I never felt unsafe. In fact, I felt a bit safer there knowing that the club meant that there would be people on the street, unlike my current nice residential neighborhood where I don’t see anyone on my block if I’m walking home late at night.

      The strip club was very conscientious about being a good neighbour and not pissing off the community. In fact, there was a church in the same building and there was never any friction between the two establishments. Since I lived there, the neighbourhood has been gentrifying; several new offices moved in and fixed up older buildings, and art galleries and coffee shops have opened. The strip club is still there.

      OP #1 might be confusing unfamiliar with sketchy. You should never feel truly unsafe at work, but you could consider testing the boundaries of your comfort zone. I wouldn’t base my opinion on the type of businesses that operate there, but more on the overall impact of the location on your day to day work life. How is the commute?Are there sufficient transit options that run frequently nearby and/or is there convenient parking that is in good condition? Are there any good lunch options within 5 minutes? Those are the type of things that will really have an impact on your daily enjoyment of your job.

      1. Super Secret Squirrel*

        The OP didn’t say “sketchy” they said terrible. The headline (Alison) said sketchy.

        “To my surprise, the office is in a terrible part of town. The entrance to the road is in between a sex toy shop and an “adult entertainment facility.” I assumed GPS had taken me the wrong way, but nope. The building itself is run down and is surrounded by garbage strewn on the street and sidewalk. My husband and I googled the name of the strip club and learned it had been a setting for an episode of Cops.”

    11. JGray*

      I work for county government in a downtown area. The downtown area is very safe during the day but night is a completely different story. Not that you would get murdered but there are lots of bars and the town has a homeless population so the atmosphere completely changes. I feel completely safe during the day and walk around by myself and cut through alleys during the day but at night I won’t do those things. Everyone that works downtown knows of the dangers so we are all really cautious if we stay after hours. The cops are really good but they can’t be everywhere all the time. I am saying this because things might be perfectly fine during the day and its only at night that you have to worry. I don’t know this for sure but defiantly check things out before you pass on the job.

    12. Chinook*

      OP #1 – keep in mind that the current boss at that location may also be looking at ways to relocate out that area because it has changed since they initially set up office there. I know that was the case at one job I had. My boss and colleagues were awesome but that neighborhood in Ottawa had gotten sketchy and my boss couldn’t convince his boss in California that it would be smart to find a new location that didn’t include increased street crime, a computer parts store that never had customers but never went out of business, or free wired internet in the men’s washroom (as in the CAT 5 cables were hanging loose in there). Luckily, I only had to go there during daylight hours and I never felt unsafe.

      Then the head boss came for some onsite meetings and got propositioned by one of the women walking outside the building. My local boss swore up and down that it was a complete coincidence and not a set up but it did mean our relocation was approved as soon as we could find a place to move to (we were gone in just over a month).

  2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#2, blowing off meetings with you is pretty egregious (I don’t know if coming in late is, but given that you’ve noticed it, I suspect that’s a problem, too). When I worked at ToxicJob, being repeatedly blown-off on meetings that were scheduled around my coworkers’ availability was one of a litany of crap behaviors that led me to quit. But in that circumstance, I was a peer, and a relatively “new”/junior one at that—I had no real clout, political capital, or leverage to get people to act like decent human beings.

    But you’re the new manager. You have everything I wished I had, including the ability to have frank conversations, to discipline, and to fire. You have leverage. Use it. Have the direct and uncomfortable conversation knowing that you’re secure in your position. If your employees continue to flake after those frank conversations, apply incremental discipline. What they’re doing is so extremely not ok that it warrants swift, direct correction.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      Yes, so long as the meetings are indeed scheduled round their availability and you’re not somehow scheduling them at the worst possible time of day. I think I’d ask this once just to be sure – and once you’ve checked, they no longer have the ability to use it as an excuse.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Maybe I’m less forgiving, but I think they still have to show up to meetings with their manager even if they’re scheduled at the worst possible time of day.

        1. Tau*

          Yeah. I’ve been pulling my hair out over the fact that I’m the only early bird in my office and they will *keep* scheduling meetings for 4-6pm or the like when I was planning to leave at four.

          What I’m planning to do? See if it continues and if so talk to some of the main offenders and/or my boss to ask if we can’t at least try to have meetings a little earlier, or failing that if I’m really needed at all of them.

          What I haven’t done? Just skip them.

          (I also haven’t scheduled any at 8:30 in retaliation, although I have to tell you it’s tempting.)

          1. Matt*

            This could be me … what I did was: we have Outlook, there’s this calendar where you can see everyone’s availability when scheduling a meeting, and I marked myself absent at all times outside my usual working hours. So everyone who wants to invite me for a 4-6 PM meeting can still do so, but at least has to notice that they sentence me to two hours of overtime by doing so.

            1. Karo*

              You can also adjust your working hours in Outlook so that when people are looking at your availability it’s grayed out. I think standard is 8:30-5:30; I’ve set mine to show 7-4.

              1. Kyrielle*

                You can, but then when you tell Outlook to show you your ‘work day’ it hides the stuff outside those hours. Even if you’ve accepted it. I finally set my ‘work day’ for 6 am – 5 pm, then set a recurring ‘out of office’ appointment for 3-5.

                1. Phoenix Programmer*

                  You can always turn off that filter though and view the full week and look at those meetings. Personally how I do it since I I use work outlook for all my personal reminders.

            2. K.*

              I do that too, particularly when I worked for a company with offices on both coasts, in the UK, and in Asia. No, I will not be available at 4 AM my time for a call, thanks so much!

              1. yasmara*

                Yes, time zones cause my biggest problems. Those of us on the East Coast are expected to work late if it’s your manager or executive from the West Coast scheduling. For me, this sometimes means taking a meeting in my car at a soccer field.

                And those on the West Coast often have meetings with East Coast executives scheduled as early as 6am. I miss the Central time zone…

        2. Ramona Flowers*

          Oh, I didn’t mean worst as in don’t-like-it but actually not possible.

          For example my manager kept scheduling 121s over the one thing where I absolutely cannot take time out from coverage and I kept having to switch with a colleague. Just no-showing isn’t okay and is a power play, but I think you do need to ask once if there’s a reason – because then you basically remove the ability for there to be one in the future.

          1. yasmara*

            Maybe I have been lucky, but when my manager does this, I just let her know I have a conflict & we figure out a time that works for both of us!

            1. Ramona Flowers*

              I mean I switched 121s with a colleague. It wasn’t an issue but it was frustrating to have to. Just saying to check there isn’t a bona fide scheduling issue.

          2. Lindsay J*

            I don’t think she does need to ask if there is a reason. As you yourself said, just no showing isn’t okay.

            If there is a reason the onus is on the employees to speak up and explain why when the meeting is scheduled. As they haven’t done that, I think she can continue acting as though they are just blowing it off.

            I can’t imagine any situation where someone would reasonably feel that just skipping a meeting is a better option than talking to their boss about why the timing is poor.

            If when she’s having a conversation with them about expectations and the potential discipline that is coming for not making the meetings they bring up a legitimate issue, at that point they can discuss it and come up with a solution, and she can also still talk to them about the fact that having a legitimate conflict still doesn’t excuse them from notifying her of the conflict.

            I mean, in pretty much every job I’ve been in, a no-show-no-call is grounds for termination. It doesn’t matter if the reason that you didn’t show up is a good one – that you were sick, that your car broke down, whatever. It matters that you didn’t do whatever you could to inform your manager. Generally the only times when I’ve seen this waived is when there was legitimately no way for them to contact the manager – if they were unconscious in the hospital, or if the schedule was changed at the last minute or incorrect or something like that.

            Obviously missing a meeting isn’t the same as missing work entirely. However, I think the principle of the idea is the same. By the time you’re in the workforce, you need to be proactive and inform your manager of issues, not just not do things and expect them to figure it out.

        3. Kyrielle*

          Or they need to respond and politely ask if that can be changed. My regular hours are shifted early relative to my team. If someone schedules a later meeting, I will ask if earlier is possible.

          There are exceptions to this – my boss and his peer in this office are both very respectful of my schedule, and if they ask me to schedule a meeting ‘after I leave’ then that is the only time slot they could make work, and I will only push back if I have an actual appointment that day or something. And even then I won’t, if the appointment is easily moved.

          But I would never just skip the meeting. That is Not Done. (Mind you, I did once miss a meeting – the invite was sent out at 3:15 pm for a 4:00 meeting, and I saw it the next morning. However, they knew I might miss it and understood, they just filled me in.)

          Fortunately, my schedule’s actually handy for the team, since the third office we work with is in Europe and overlaps our office hours briefly in the early morning. Less-briefly for me than for others. :)

        4. Karen D*

          Hmmm… I think it depends.

          Our current department boss is an early bird in a field largely populated by night owls. He tried so hard to mandate that people be at their desks chirping away by 8 a.m.

          That just is not – and never will be – the culture of our company OR the industry we work in. It actively worked against people getting their jobs done. And since most of our workers are hourly, it was creating a serious time crunch at the end of the day (which, due to the nature of our industry, was often the most productive time to be working).

          People did try, even though there was a lot of muttering along the lines of “is this kindergarten?”

          But eventually he got the “yeahhhhhh …. um, actually, no” reaction on a department-wide basis; people just went back to doing what they needed to do to get their work finished and hit their deadlines. Fewer and fewer people were showing up for the meetings. Boss was very frustrated but the rebellion was so gradual, yet universal, that he really had no purchase. And now the 8:30 meetings are at 10:30.

          (We did learn that he’d tried to mandate the same thing pretty much everywhere he’d worked, and got the same slow-blink reaction, so it wasn’t like it was a huge surprise at all.)

          All of which is to say: If OP2 is trying to change, by fiat, the entire rhythm of the office, it’s reasonable that there’s going to be push-back, and “because I’m the boss, that’s why” probably won’t cut a lot of ice if the staff is otherwise professional and dedicated to doing a good job.

    2. Cambridge Comma*

      I wondered if it might be established behaviour, though. Where I work it’s acceptable to skip certain types of meetings if you don’t have a central role in them without letting anyone know (it works because we have a lot of pointless meetings to which too many people are invited). OP should maybe check that out first before letting her staff know about her expectations for meetings in the future.

      1. hbc*

        Yes, even something as simple as the previous manager’s similar Update Meeting operating under the principle of “show up if you’ve got something to share that not everyone else knows and you’re not neck-deep in something important.” I’ve also been in offices where a 10:00 start time means that’s when you start rolling in, stopping at the bathroom and coffee maker along the way, someone grabbing your attention for a quick 2 minute conversation.

        It’s at least worth checking if expectations need to be reset.

      2. NW Mossy*

        That’s how I discovered that my 2 predecessors in managing my team set the expectation that employees shouldn’t report to 1 on 1’s unless the boss said “show up” ahead of time. I had to flip it to the reverse, where the standing expectation is that we meet unless I tell them otherwise.

      3. Lora*

        Ugh, yeah. At many many jobs I’ve had, there were always standing weekly/monthly meetings where technically only one or two people had to be there to represent the department, but since it could be you or someone else there would be a shout-out over the cubicle walls to see who would go, and if you really didn’t have anything to contribute, then nobody went. There was always a culture of “some meetings are optional” that you wouldn’t know unless you’d been there for months on end: you had to know who was the jerk who didn’t do any real work and spent his days scheduling meetings, who got things done in meetings because they couldn’t function solo and worked best with collaborators, who was the Big Cheese whose meetings couldn’t be missed, etc. and you just had to KNOW. If you went to all the meetings that the make-work ding-dongs tried to put on your calendar, you’d never get anything done. And honestly, my best bosses had optional 1:1 meetings – we talked casually as needed throughout the week, because it was always easy to ask them questions and they were extremely approachable. During the official calendar 1:1 meeting they might very well be on an airplane or something and instead we’d send an email update as needed, but real updates and heart-to-heart talks and consultations for help and advice happened outside of the 1:1 meeting, more usually over lunch or coffee, during travel or in the middle of the lab.


        At the end of the day, I feel like the function of having a placeholder 1:1 meeting is to remind employees that I’m here to chat, I want to hear from them and how they are doing, I want to help any way I can, but the bottom line is that it’s a placeholder. We can and should talk any time, all the time, you don’t need an agenda, you don’t need a proposal, you don’t need anything formal, it’s just a reminder that hey, I’m here, how are things going, is everything OK, do you need help. It’s not in my interest to create barriers to communication – that has never worked well ANYWHERE I’ve ever been.

    3. persimmon*

      I think it’s worth considering how well these employees perform overall. If multiple good performers are late to and avoiding meetings, that’s bad behavior but it might also signal that OP is holding too many meetings or somehow not making them productive. If they are dragging feet in other ways too obviously that’s a different story.

      1. kittymommy*

        It sounds like the meetings are only one of a few problems, coming in late repeatedly and, this last seems fairly important, not providing requested information to their manager, probably makes the meetings an even bigger deal.

        I wonder if they’re seeing what they can get away with under a new manager. Pure speculation here, but I have worked with quite a few people who do this.

        1. Artemesia*

          This would be my bet and every day it goes on undermines the managers authority a bit more. If you are really the manager and have actual authority then it is critical to be clear and proceed with consequences. Thus it is also important to be sure you have your own manager’s support. If after the initial meeting with the employees they continue to show their ass, it will be important to let your own manager know they are making a point to show you who is boss and you plan to do X about it. It is also important to reflect on the meetings, time requirements, their performance as you don’t want your own boss saying ‘well they are our best performers, what does it matter that they show up later?’ If the meetings are important then that is worth enforcing but don’t let yourself get backed into a corner with your own boss by either failing to manage or being petty and demanding about things that don’t matter.

    4. Nervous Accountant*

      I never understood why ppl hate meetings so much? I love meetings as it blocks time off from my calendar so we have less calls to attend to.

      1. Purplesaurus*

        For me, most meetings only serve to waste my time (as in, nothing relevant discussed or nothing that couldn’t have been communicated through email) and keep me from my output work, which is the work I’m expected to do and overall enjoy doing.

      2. Mike C.*

        Because there are plenty of us who’s work doesn’t stop, the meetings aren’t useful and they go on forever.

        I mean look, when it comes to my year end review, I can’t point to all the meetings I attended as justification for a pay raise or bonus.

    5. Where's the Le-Toose?*

      When I was a new manager, I had an employee skip out on a scheduled meeting. All I said to say was “Employee A, attendance at those scheduled meeting is not voluntary.” The employee never missed another one.

  3. Ramona Flowers*

    #4 It sounds like she’s doing it to stop the emails from threading, so you might want to suggest she just turns that feature off instead.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      Also, Outlook has a feature where you can edit received emails in your inbox (eg change the subject line to whatever you prefer). Maybe Gmail has something similar?

        1. MicroManagered*

          Open your message so that it’s “popped out” in a separate window… Then just click on the subject line and change it to whatever you want.

          1. Turkletina*

            On a Mac, you have to go to Message > Edit Message. Double-clicking to open the email in a separate window doesn’t work for this.

            1. Ramona Flowers*

              Just be aware that the edits will still be there if you reply or forward – so remember to change it back if you don’t want to send on your edits.

      1. Lance*

        Would that put it back in the thread? Granted, I suppose even if not, it’s still the same consistent title, so still more trackable than being split off and renamed.

      2. sacados*

        If she absolutely has to change the subject lines, she can put it inside square brackets []
        This is something not a lot of people know. Gmail classifies conversations entirely by subject line – -change that, even by adding an extra space, and it will split off into a new thread. However, for some reason or other, anything insisde [] will not be counted.
        So this means that if you send an email with subject ABC Project Launch
        Coworker can change her reply to be
        [Drafting] ABC Project Launch
        and Gmail will still keep those inside the same thread.

        *note tho that spacing is important here. If it becomes
        [Drafting]ABC Project Launch
        for example, then that will become a new thread.

        My office uses this system a lot and it’s SUPER helpful.

    2. Emmie*

      She could also suggest that the email always start with “ABC Project Launch” and add the extra part after, so OP can still sort the emails by group. “ABC Project Launch – Assignments,” “ABC Project Launch – Deadlines,” and “ABC Project Launch – Clarification re: Oct. 10-12 Dallas Trip.” It’s actually pretty helpful that way.

    3. Ashie*

      Or she’s not using the threading at all and she’s trying to keep herself organized and doesn’t realize what it’s doing to everyone else.

    4. Laurel*

      +1 for assuming she’s trying to make her life easier and doesn’t realize it’s screwing up everyone else’s email. Or that she wants threading to stop. Just talk to her about it, face to face. If you have a laptop, bring it with you so you can show her threaded view, and how to change it etc. Ask her to stop changing subject lines. I guarantee she’s driving other people nuts with this behavior. And since you have gmail, she could do this same sort of organizing in her own email b turning off threading and/or applying labels and nested labels.

      (I must admit that occasionally I change a subject line, but that’s because it just says “Question” or “Research” or doesn’t have a subject at all, which is not at all helpful to anyone.)

      1. Super Secret Squirrel*

        Someone recently posted about putting actions into email headers (eg “SIGN: …”, FYI: …). I have been turning that over in my mind. It sounds like this person was trying to do something similar.

    5. MsSolo*

      This was my thought. I really hope no one in my office cottons on to this – most of the anti-thredders have turned it off but some persist and persist in complaining about it.

  4. periwinkle*

    #1 – I work for a Fortune 50 company and spend a lot of time in one of their smaller campuses. The neighborhood could be described as a bit sketchy – pretty much everyone is puzzled on their first visit there. “Wait, this is the right place?” There are, TBH, occasional problems with car break-ins but otherwise is fine. The company has security patrols and the buildings themselves require card access. My colleagues at this site are more annoyed by the mediocre cafeteria food than concerned about the neighborhood…

    1. JustaTech*

      I usually find that limited food options are often correlated with meh-to-sketchy locations. Like, my work location is fine during the day, but at night everyone is gone or in their apartments and it feels very, very deserted. At a previous job (in the same location) we didn’t have on-site parking and my boss was all surprised that I (young woman) didn’t want to have to stay until 1am and then walk to my car half a block away in a poorly lit parking lot with a permanently parked RV.

      At my current job I have a parking spot in the garage so it’s fine. And the neighborhood has relaxed in the past 11 years.

  5. Engineer Girl*

    #2 – by all means find out what is happening. And make sure they understand that it’s not optional to blow off meetings.

    I remember having to deal with this myself. It turned out to be a respect issue. Of course the lowest performer was the one causing issues. The top performers had no problems!!

    My regret was being too nice about the performance problem. And it is a performance problem. By all means address it quickly and firmly before it explodes in your face.

  6. CS Rep by Day, Writer by Night*

    OP #1, I work in a not-so-safe area; there have been multiple robberies and a couple of shootings within blocks of our facility. I would echo others and say that the company’s security measures is key. In my case the facility is behind a barbed wire fence, you have to badge or be on a visitor’s list to get in, and everyone walks through a metal detector and had their bags searched upon entry. We have 24/7 security onsite, so once I’m at work I’m actually safer than I’ve been at any other job.

  7. Gurl*

    My job has two shifts – 7a-3p, and 3:30p-11:30p. Generally if two people on different shifts need to meet up it happens somewhere in the window of 2-5 PM, if possible, but also they’re trying to work it out so that they have enough people on each shift that that’s not necessary – like a friend of mine on the late shift had to meet someone on the early shift for something or other, and the person wanted to meet at like 9:30 AM and pushed back when he told them that he couldn’t meet that early. As he was talking to me about this the night shift building manager walked by and was like, “No, you tell them you can’t meet then! They have to get someone else to meet with you for this at a time in which you work.” I’m not sure what happened but I think they got someone else on the late shift to meet with him.

    1. Turkletina*

      OP1’s situation is different, though, because there is a significant overlap between the working hours of the two shifts.

  8. Kimberly*

    Op #1 I agree with checking Allison about checking actual statistics. You might be surprised. A couple of years ago a couple of my cousins told me I made the nervous because of some of the parts of Houston I go into for shops, restaurants, or events. I showed them the crime statistics for those areas vs the Galleria area where they go for shopping and eating out. Well, the high-end shopping center had a much higher crime rate.

  9. Kiki*

    OP #1–“Sketchy” neighborhoods are not necessarily dangerous or unsafe. The neighborhood I’m about to move into has been described as “sketchy” by many people because the housing is less modern (ergo cheaper) and the shops and restaurants are not high-end. But my husband and I spent multiple weeks staying over in the neighborhood and the worst thing is that is gets a little noisy on weekends because there are some bars on the main street.

    I think Alison gave great advice. If you’re going to be spending most of your time in the office building anyway then you are probably fine. You might even discover some charming aspects of the neighborhood after you’ve been there awhile.

    1. blackcat*


      The only thing I see as being problematic is if you are into going out for lunch–there may not be anything nearby.

    2. Agnodike*

      Yeah, I live in a “sketchy” neighbourhood too – there are three strip clubs or “adult massage parlours” within a 15 minute walk, lots of drugs and street-involved people on the high-traffic roads, etc. There are also three beautiful parks within a five-minute walk of my house and I have the best neighbours I’ve ever had. It’s hard to know a priori how safe or dangerous a neighbourhood is based on how many sex workers you encounter while you’re there.

    3. paul*

      I live in a “sketchy” neighborhood that’s mixed race and lower income (which is a rarity–most of our lower income neighborhoods are pretty segregated). it’s pretty safe; there’s been a hit and run recently, and we did have to call cops on a domestic disturbance a week or two back. But it’s fairly safe despite the fact people feel it’s sketchy.

      But there’s also sketchy neighborhoods, even in our little city. Places I sure as hell wouldn’t go at 10pm at night because they tend to be violent (one of them’s actually close to mine, but the city’s working on shutting down a club that seems to be the focus of a lot of it).

  10. nnn*

    For #4, if it turns out she’s changing the subject line to keep track of things in her own inbox, the Labels feature in Gmail might help her do that without affecting what lands in everyone else’s inbox

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      Right but if she’s got threading switched on then labelling isn’t going to help her split out different emails.

    2. Samiratou*

      Yeah, I’m guessing she’s changing them to make it easier for her to keep track, without realizing the impact it might have on everyone else.

  11. CrazyJ*

    In OP #3, anyone else struck by the “I wish to consider them as an employer in the future” language? It sounds a little out of touch since it’s so at odds with how an employer thinks about this process, and that might be part of the thought process that created this situation. Especially if OP is new to the job market, it’s important to remember that the job seeker is in most ways the “supplicant” in the process, asking the employer to consider her or him. That’s not to say there are no opportunities for an employee to choose, but if you realize that the company’s primary concern is almost always finding the right employee for itself rather than “being considered” by an applicant, that will help explain why it’s probably impossible to recover from this particular situation.

    1. Close Bracket*

      Employment is a two way street. Job seeker’s primary concern is almost always finding the right employer for them.

      1. Colette*

        That’s true – but there are a lot more potential employees than companies, and many companies hire more than one employee, so being blacklisted at a company has a higher impact than one job seeker deciding not to apply there.


      2. MicroManagered*

        I agree, but given how LW handled the situation (turning down the job, then asking for it, then turning it down again, and being told they would not consider her in the future), it rang a bit odd to me too.

        1. Hills to Die on*

          It’s very odd. It would be a permanent burned bridge for me, and I would take that anyplace else I worked (I.e., you won’t work anywhere I work if I have a say in it). I don’t mean to freak you out, OP, but WOW. People will be talking about this if/when they find out—it’s that unusual and rude. Write this company off forever and hope that nobody talks about it to the other employees. Protect your reputation and don’t ever do this again. Next time, make a decision and stick with it.

          1. Phoenix Programmer*

            This sounds seriously vindictive to me. I have had many employees change there mind on an offer. I think the op should send a thank you too the hiring manager and apologize for the back and forth and provide some context. Really not the end of the world.

        2. Antilles*

          It’s also a bit strange given that LW had already accepted an offer from Company #2. Backing out of an accepted job offer is a really big deal. You can do so if you want to, but it’s not something to be done lightly – if LW had accepted Company #1’s offer, she would have burnt the bridges at Company #2.

          1. Phoenix Programmer*

            This must be industry specific. In healthcare we lose hard to fill positions at the last minute or pay offer pretty frequently. None of them are blacklisted.

        3. Falling Diphthong*

          I’m guessing fairly new to work, because it’s not like “you signed a contract and there’s a housing penalty if you back out” was something that changed between turn down offer 1, then ask to be back in, then take oneself back out–it was a known known throughout. Sort of like OP processes things by thinking through them out loud with someone.

          OP, keeping the bridge would have meant saying once “Sorry, in the interim I’ve accepted a position at another firm.” That’s a totally normal reason to take a different job even if you like the company.

      3. EleonoraUK*

        Sure, but there are usually more good applicants for a role than good roles for an applicant at any one time.

  12. HA2*

    For the meeting at 8: in my opinion, they’re being reasonable.
    If they work the early shift and you work the late shift, there’s no good time where both of you intersect. They’re scheduling for the last possible moment in their time which will run over into your normal hours – it’s only half an hour early, you usually start at 8:30 and this is scheduled at 8.

    I typically work starting at 9 but we have an overseas office, and occasionally we need to have calls with them, and those usually happen at 8AM because that is kind of intermediate time – it’s a little early for us, a little late for them, but not totally unreasonable for either.

    There can be exceptions if your 8:30 start really is a hard deadline, like you’ve got kids and need to drop them off, or public transportation schedules don’t line up or something. But other than that, I think this is a time to be a little accommodating if possible.

    If it turns into a regular thing, then it’s time to push back seriously. But if it’s just once or on occassion, it’s something to work with I think.

    1. Sparkly Librarian*

      I think generally your observation is true, such as in the example Gurl mentioned above where the shifts don’t overlap. However, using the information we’ve been given in the letter, there are plenty of potential meeting times that would work for members of both shifts. From 9AM to 1PM, for example, even when accounting for lunch breaks, would probably produce less conflict.

    2. Lars the Real Girl*

      I AM in one of those overseas offices and I just want to say thank you for noting their time limitations. I can’t tell you the number of 11pm on my weekend (we work different work-days as well) calls I’ve had to get on, or send a “hey remember that I’m 8-12 hours ahead so I can’t get on your 4pm EST call…..” emails.

    3. LW #5*

      LW #5 – Our days overlap. The meeting scheduler works my entire work day, plus the three hours in front of mine (he works 5:30 am to 5 pm; I work 8:30 to 5). For what it’s worth, I sucked it up at went at 8 because a friend convinced me I was being high maintenance. Hopefully it IS just a one-off situation, but it’s good to have all this feedback for the future.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        No, that’s not high maintenance at all! Just as long as you phrase it as a request rather than a demand. “Hey, I don’t usually start until 8:30, is it possible to push the meeting back?”

    4. MCMonkeyBean*

      They overlap for the LW’s entire shift–they called it an early shift but said they all end at 5 PM. The early shift people are just starting 3 hours earlier.

    5. Kj*

      In my experience that is true. I know they overlap more than most, BUT in my business being asked to come in an hour early is not that bad and would be considered reasonable if the meeting was important and not a regularly occurring meeting. That said, I would also say to my supervisor “I’m coming in for an early meeting Wednesday; is it ok to leave a little early to make up for that time?” Generally, I think I’d get a “yes,” so that helped me deal with early meetings.

  13. Bowels of Temp Hell*

    Lw #1. Earlier in my career I worked in a very sketchy “being gentrified” neighborhood. Among my fond memories of those years include the guy in his underwear on the front sidewalk who screamed conspiracy theories through a bullhorn; the colleague who was nearly beaten to death by some random local gang and has about half his original IQ; and the bomb some dickhead put in our basement (in protest of a new law that had nothing to do with our company).
    Also, the lunch options were slim.
    I’ve fantasized about working at home ever since.

    1. Close Bracket*

      “the colleague who was nearly beaten to death by some random local gang and has about half his original IQ”

      Oh my. That would scare the bejeezus out of me, and I might have to leave on the spot.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      Sorry if this sounds insensitive, but I find the juxtaposition of coworker almost beaten to death/bomb in the basement and also, the lunch options were slim to be kind of hilarious.

      1. JulieBulie*

        Heh, I had the same reaction, but I know what Bowels of Temp Hell is talking about… it’s a Severe Occasional Occurrences vs Daily Mild Nuisances thing. You can tolerate an occasional horrible thing if your daily life is fine, and you can tolerate a daily nuisance if people aren’t putting bombs in your basement. But when you’re having to deal with both, somehow it’s much, much worse.

        (I never worked at a place where people were nearly beaten to death or had bombs in the basement, but I did work at a place where to get to a nearby restaurant you either had to drive a laughably short distance, or walk through a tall-grassy field that was full of biting insects and a couple of homeless guys who would sniff gold spray paint and scream about the government. And set fires in the woods behind our office.)

  14. Mookie*

    To my surprise, the office is in a terrible part of town. The entrance to the road is in between a sex toy shop and an “adult entertainment facility.” I assumed GPS had taken me the wrong way, but nope. The building itself is run down and is surrounded by garbage strewn on the street and sidewalk. My husband and I googled the name of the strip club and learned it had been a setting for an episode of Cops.

    I’m not too moved by the COPS episode — residential neighborhoods are/were also frequent settings for COPS, but COPS also played up classist and racist stereotypes, so I’m assuming they sought filming licensing to cater to their audience’s tastes — and the garbage is not pleasant. Does your city enforce Adult Entertainment Zoning? That tends to make businesses like the ones you mention cluster together (although their original purpose was to prevent large arcades of naughty things all in a row; now they’re mostly used to ‘protect’ church-goers, school-children, and people who frequent public parks). Their mere presence doesn’t really signify much, but that the location is literally, sometimes figuratively, on the edge of town, away from prime real estate, or in an incorporated neighborhood. Alison’s advice is solid. Save yourself the unease of not knowing, and research the area.

    1. Optimistic Prime*

      Yeah, I wouldn’t consider that evidence of anything either – I’ve walked through many, many filming locations for Law and Order.

    2. Kate 2*

      Um, COPS is just real footage of actual police encounters, not a scripted “reality” tv show. Those are actual crimes and calls you see the cops responding to. If they were in the neighborhood it was because they were called in to handle a situation.

      1. Mookie*

        Who said it was scripted?

        If they were in the neighborhood it was because they were called in to handle a situation.

        COPS producers and cameramen are never called in to “handle” anything. Producers decide what cities to film in (this is not body-cam or dashcam or CCTV “footage,” this is video intended as entertainment for a television audience), what crimes to depict, and which segments to edit (and how they are edited) and release. That’s how “reality” tv works. COPS has its racist agenda, and such as it is, does it successfully. Pretending that it’s a documentary is just silly.

  15. Jessen*

    Ugh, meetings are such a big issue where I work. My department is actually on 24/7, so it’s almost impossible to schedule a meeting at decent time for everyone. Usually it’s the night crew like myself that ends up having difficulties – if you put a mandatory meeting at 1pm, it’s really quite difficult for us. But there’s probably no good time for everyone.

    1. Jean (just Jean)*

      Can the night crew join meetings remotely, by phone or whatever other tech works best? That way you could at least be resting on the couch in PJs instead of turning your entire life inside out to be come early or stay late. (Your department has probably already thought of this option.)

      1. Lindsay J*

        But if you work a true overnight shift, that still screws up your entire day/night, though.

        I worked 7PM-7AM for a long time. 1PM was right in the middle of my sleep time. Even if I were able to remote in, it would be like someone on a 9-5 shift waking up at 2AM to take an hour long phone call. They’d still probably be exhausted the next shift.

        I think the best option – if it’s just supposed to be a meeting where information is transmitted – is to have two meetings – one for each shift. Or if everyone needs to be there, if one shift can come in an hour early and one shift can stay an hour late or something like that that’s fairer to everyone.

        Otherwise, you just kind of learn to suck it up and deal with it. (And become resentful if the meetings are clearly unnecessary, or, even worse, if they are supposed to be a reward. No, waking up in the middle of my sleeping time in order to come in and have lunch and listen to the bigwigs talk is not a reward and I’m not going to be happy about it. Let me sleep instead.) It’s one of those things, I think, where there’s just no 1 perfect way to accommodate everyone.

        1. Jessen*

          They want everyone there. The trouble is everyone’s staggered, but there’s roughly three shifts – morning, afternoon, and night. So there’s probably not a very good option for everyone. If you hold it when night shift is getting off at 6am, the afternoon shift has to wake up early (which they don’t want to do because they don’t get off til 9 or 10 at night). If you hold it when the night shift gets in around 9pm, the morning shift has to come back because some of them went home at 3.

        2. Jean (just Jean)*

          Thanks for being the voice of experience. I was trying to find a suggestion that pleases everybody (and thinking but not expressing the idea that maybe the meeting could be at a time when night shift workers would be winding down but not yet asleep) but nobody is pleased by interrupting their sleep to attend a work meeting. Or interrupting their pre-bed routine.

      2. Jessen*

        Given the work we do, I don’t think the company has the tech set up to do that, and it’s unlikely most of my coworkers have the setup to do that. Many of them aren’t high tech – I’m not even sure if all of them own computers.

    2. Perse's Mom*

      We have an AM team and a PM team, the latter of which is primarily but not entirely part timers who work ONLY in the evening. My employer solves for this by holding two meetings – one first thing in the morning for the AM team, the other when the majority of the evening-only employees are starting. They also record one or both meetings so that anyone who was unable to make it can still watch it.

      1. Jessen*

        Our trouble is they want these to be team discussion meetings, not just information meetings. So they want to get everyone together to talk about things as a team, but there’s no good time to do that.

    1. LaSalleUGirl*

      I thought the same thing! #3 should invent Cones of Dunshire if they want to get back in the company’s good graces.

  16. Zip Silver*

    1) I wouldn’t worry about it *too* much. Lots of times strip club placement is due to zoning law quirks. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one near a residential area, lots of times their in commercial or industrial areas (IE. Near where offices would be). I would look into the neighborhood beyond the strip club and sex shop, like checking crime rates, and ask folks at the office what the overall neighborhood is like.

    Sidenote: I do remember one particularly interesting strip club location. I was staying at the Capitol Hilton in DC for a conference (the one Reagan was shot at) and there was a strip club in the building next door. The block right behind the strip club building is Lafayette Square, and then right behind that is the White House. I found it quite amusing that zoning would allow for that.

    1. JC*

      Extremely nitpicky sidenote to your sidenote: I don’t think you were at the Hilton where Reagan was shot if it was the Capital Hilton near the white house. He was shot at the Washington Hilton above Dupont Circle, at Connecticut and T.

    2. Former Retail Manager*

      Very true on the zoning laws and the location of the clubs. It’s that way where I live as well. After 5:00, the only businesses that really have any cars in the parking lot are the strip clubs.

    3. Lars the Real Girl*

      DC is also notorious for one block taking you from the who’s-who of Washington to the worst part of town. I remember taking my mom around the Mall and turning the wrong way trying to find parking and all of sudden it’s bars on the windows, graffiti everywhere, cars with their wheels stolen, etc. And you could still see Capitol Hill.

      1. Jean (just Jean)*

        For a while I had a DC commute through impoverished (but gentrifying) neighborhoods–all within sight of the Capitol dome. I wanted to drag Congress a couple of blocks out of its normal environment. “Hey, guys and gals, these people have problems over here! Can you think of a few ways to help?”

        I’m not trying to be specifically political in the sense of “the people of XYZ Party have all the answers.” I was just unhappy with the implied life-iniquities when a symbol of power and self-determination hung within view of an environment that contained many potential roadblocks for its occupants. Regardless of party affiliation, anybody can be dismayed that not all people have an equal chance at life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

        1. yasmara*

          Yep. We stayed near a metro stop in DC at a rental apartment a couple of years ago. New grocery store nearby, super expensive row houses near the metro stop…and 3 blocks away by our rental we heard gunshots twice at night.

    4. No, please*

      I once lived in an area that didn’t do much zoning at all. There was a strip club next door to a daycare and a gun shop. But it wasn’t really a dangerous spot. I’d ask around and look at statistics before getting too worried.

  17. C*

    OP #3 – I have a work friend who had been working a prn/as needed job but then accepted a full-time position at a company for guaranteed hours and then withdrew before starting (she was concerned about that particular site/coworker). She had also interviewed for and been offered another full time position with the company & did not accept it (I believe that one was over an hour from her house). (I don’t recall if that was before or after the position she had accepted & withdrew from.) This particular company had 6 sites where people did the same job in her state at the time but some were obviously a lot closer than others.

    She tried for years to get another interview when a position opened up at closer location. And she continued to work for the company in the “prn” position getting basically full-time hours but no benefits. She finally had to interview with a different company to get hired.

    So, if this person who the company knows & knows her (good) work would not consider even granting her another interview, your chances of continuing a relationship with the company you changed your mind with are not great.

          1. Myrin*

            Ha, I always read “smh” (“shaking my head”) as “somehow” which follows the same logic as your “per necessary” because it’s more… phonetic, maybe? Looks like it would be said that way? IDEK.

            (Also, I totally goofed there because I’d actually wanted to put a literal translation in my comment, not simply repeat what Apollo said, but apparently I can’t even remember my own objective for more than three seconds. So yeah, “pro re nata” = “for the thing born”, i. e. you do something as the thing is ‘born’/arises.)

            1. MJLurver*

              Omg I’ve always thought “smh” was like a “pshhh” or “harrumph!” or a clicking of the tongue in response to something that’s hard to believe. Like “yeah, right!” without using real words……

              Holy cow! Everything makes so much sense now.

  18. gawaine*

    #3 – Learning how to be decisive and live with your decisions is a difficult skill to master. I’m seeing problems with it across the board with new hires, which may have always been there and just become more obvious as people are starting to have choices. After you get out of today’s predicament, I’d suggest seeing if there’s a way you can work on those skills.

    I’m afraid you’re done. I’m in the midst of something like this right with an intern we were trying to hire as a full-time employee right now, and had written up a letter to Allison about it before I decided it was too specific. Yeah, I’m afraid you’re done for now, though “forever” is a long time. At this point, the good thing about not actually working for them is that they don’t have to give you a reference, so it hopefully doesn’t stick forever.

    For my intern, we’re in an industry with background checks, and since she was employed here already, I’ll be asked for years whether I’d hire her again, and whether she’s eligible for rehire. And I’ll say no to both of them, which may ruin her chances, but from outside her mind, we can’t tell the difference between negotiating in bad faith and being too indecisive. Other interns, who just said “no”, have earned glowing recommendations.

    1. MicroManagered*

      Learning how to be decisive and live with your decisions is a difficult skill to master.

      I read #3 in this light as well. It sounds to me like the underlying issue here was OP’s indecisiveness. I’m sure it’s tough to choose between (what sounded like) two very desirable offers. But at some point, with stuff like this, you have to make your choice and live with it. A little “buyer’s remorse” is expected with big decisions. Resisting the urge to act on that feeling (and when to recognize your gut telling you that you made a real mistake) is a learned skill.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        A little “buyer’s remorse” is expected with big decisions.

        Yes. Take a job, sign a mortgage, bring home the new pet, there’s normally a period of “Gah! Was this right? What if it was wrong?” no matter how well your reasoning holds up on paper.

    2. BlueWolf*

      Yes, I think a lot of people get stuck in the “grass is always greener” mindset. I haven’t been in this particular situation of having to choose between two potential offers, but once OP accepted the first offer, they just needed to forget about the other company. In my particular industry, it seems like people who have worked in the industry a while have moved around to all the different companies in the area. There has also been a fair amount of turnover in our company recently. I can’t quite understand it because it seems fine to me, but I guess it’s about personal needs and experiences.

      1. Data Analyst / Software Engineer*

        I’ve been lucky — I’ve been in the position three times of having more than one job to choose from when I’ve been on the market. And yeah, you pretty much have to make your choice and accept it. As a very practical matter, you just don’t have enough information to know how green the grass is at places you’ve turned down… if things aren’t “working out” for you in the first few weeks/months at a new job, there’s just no way to “know” that they’ll work out at some place you already turned down.

        What I’ve found odd/interesting is that some places are SLOW to get back to you. I’ve had people call me for interviews six months after I’ve applied, and I did actually take a phone screen from someplace three months after I started my current job. I had reasons for being curious, and figured there wasn’t much harm in a 30 minute chat, but it really was an awkward call.

  19. gawaine*

    On #4 – I’d consider this both ways – yes, you should talk to her about threading, but you might also take it as advice to write stronger subject lines. They don’t have to resemble Facebook ads, but there’s a reason clickbait works better than boring status updates at drawing eyes.

    At some workplaces, there’s been a strategy to this – if you want someone to look at something, you write a subject line that’s strong and suggests action, which lets management know that they need to look at it. If it looks informational (“ABC Project”, “Weekly Status”), they won’t click on it or read in depth, but you can see it’s been received, so it’s good for CYA.

    1. Colette*

      She’s literally getting paid to read these emails – and she seems to be reading them, so I don’t think a “click bait”title will help.

      If you need something from someone, adding “action required” to the subject can help – but that’s not what she’s doing, and she seems to be handling the emails appropriately.

      1. gawaine*

        She’s changing the subject line when she sends out the email, so whether she’s reading them isn’t likely to be the problem, it’s whether she thinks the other “multiple people on the email” are reading them. And perhaps, she’s passive-aggressively trying to show you how she thinks its done. And while passive-aggression bugs me, it’s at least more active than complaining to a third party about it.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          I don’t even think she’s being passive aggressive. I think she’s just “helpfully” updating the subject line to reflect the immediate status, without thinking what it might do for people who thread their emails.

      2. Lynn Whitehat*

        “You won’t believe the status of the Walrus Project!” “Ten unbelievable customer inquiries–number 8 will shock you!”

        1. As Close As Breakfast*

          I legit just cracked up for at least 5 minutes over this. And I imagined an entire scenario that started with me using click bait titles and ended with a coworker writing in to AAM.

    2. Murphy*

      OP’s colleague is changing the subject line multiple times within the same thread. That’s not normal.

      1. A Non E. Mouse*

        Not normal but it can be useful for very limited circumstances.

        Example: we have a lot of mobile users, so if I’m sending out an alert I will fashion the subject line “ALERT: Thing X is happening at YY time” so that just by reading the subject line they have an idea what’s happening.

        I put more details in the body of the email.

        When Thing X is completed/done/I need to send an update, I will change the subject line to “UPDATE: Thing X is Complete” (or if something was broken, I’ll title it RESOLVED: Thing X…) precisely because I am circumventing threading – I need them to see this message immediately.

        However, all of these Alerts/Updates are meant to be deleted when no longer needed – you get the update, whatever was wrong is fixed and you can carry on.

        For emails I would need to keep – like an ongoing project – changing the subject line would drive me absolutely insane if I was on the receiving end.

  20. gawaine*

    #2 – One thing that sometimes works – if you can get them in a room – is to ask them to come together to suggest the time for the next meeting. If you’re scheduling over the office trivia event (which you aren’t invited to), the weekly special at the taco place, or the time when they’re used to streaming Price is Right at their desks, maybe they can come up with a better time.

    For my office – I have three night owls. I respect them enough to make the meetings later when I can, and in return, on those rare occasions when I need them there early, they know it’s not a power play and they don’t feel the need to get rebellious, and they show up.

        1. Anononon*

          Between this comment and the one above where they say the question asker is passive aggressively complaining to Alison.

      1. Fact & Fiction*

        I don’t get that sense at all. Clear examples of important vs not so critical items and how the poster handles those. People use humorous examples and names regularly here.

    1. Girasol*

      And discuss agenda. Not that employees should set the agenda but they may have some insight about what they think ought and/or ought not be on the agenda. If they don’t see value in being at the meeting, there’s some disconnect there. Either they don’t find that the information is valuable for their work or they don’t share the organizational objectives for which that information is valuable. To solve the problem it might be helpful to know why they think the meeting isn’t worth attending.

  21. baseballfan*

    Re: #4, I find this ironic, as typically the problem is the opposite – people keep replying to an email thread whose subject line in no way resembles the current topic, when changing the subject line would result in the emails making a LOT more sense.

    1. Chris*

      In my office, a lot of people will reply all just to say they agree. If I need to send an update or question, and want it to be noticed in a volley of reply-all-agree, then I will do a variation on what is described in #4: I keep the original heading so it is recognizable but then add “—update” or “—question” to flag it.

    2. Murphy*

      Yeah, I manage a listserv, so often if people want to email me, they’ll just reply to the last email I sent out, even if it has nothing whatsoever to do with what they wanted to email me about. Makes tracking emails very difficult.

    3. Cucumberzucchini*

      This is a major pet peeve for me. I like to keep email threads on topic. If something else pops up I start a new email but it’s hard when working with clients to get them to do the same. I don’t want to search for your candle packaging suggestions within the seo project email conversation.

    4. Gail Davidson-Durst*

      Yeah, changing the subject with EVERY reply is ridiculous, but sometimes a thread meanders completely away from the subject, and I’ll update the subject when I reply or forward to a necessary party so people know WTF we’re actually talking about.

  22. Shop Girl*

    If your $2b company has an office there they likely know something about the area you don’t. I would say rather than run away this is time to buy that house or rental property before prices go up!!

    1. Former Retail Manager*

      No kidding! The sketchy area that I worked in for over a decade has experienced an almost complete revitalization/gentrification over the last 10 years and real estate prices have easily doubled, tripled in some cases. I considered buying in that area when I first started working there, for convenience mostly and because it was cheaper than almost anywhere else. I wish I had now!

    2. Stellaaaaa*

      I once worked for a hugely profitable company whose home office was in a terrible area. Gun violence every weekend, huge drug problem, etc. The boss didn’t know something I didn’t. He was cutting corners and saving money wherever he could, our safety be damned. I hated parking my car in the attached lot, and I was scared every day on my 30-second walk to the front door.

      1. JulieBulie*

        Yeah… I’m thinking that if the company knows something about the area that the question asker doesn’t, it’s something about the cost of commercial real estate.

        1. JulieBulie*

          Meant to add, that doesn’t mean that the company’s presence in the neighborhood won’t make things better. But I wouldn’t count on it.

  23. Orfeo*

    1 — Safety is your first concern, but I would also consider simply how pleasant or unpleasant the neighborhood will make your daily life, and alot of that can be very specific and dependent on your habits and preferences. When considering these things it is okay to be selfish. Don’t drift into moral judgements or confuse comfort and safety, but think about it in the same category as the length of the commute and the state of the break room and whether there is a park nearby (and whether that is important to you). Does the neighborhood mean that you will spend all your breaks inside (not because outside is unsafe, but because there is nowhere nearby that you would want to visit)? What will your day to day life look like?

    My mother recently confessed to me that she had stopped taking the train and walking to work and started driving again, despite environmental concerns and the very immediate benefits to her health. Several nearby homeless encampments meant that the walk from the station smelled overpoweringly of human urine and required walking past (and sometimes literally stepping over) people in obvious distress that she could do nothing about, and it was becoming too much for her to deal with twice a day. Of course that was a choice that comes from a place of enormous privilege, and on any moral reckoning or the judgement of how a society should allocate its resources the basic needs of the most vulnerable should outweigh the discomfort of a well-employed suburban lady (as she would and has been the first to argue). But on the level of her daily life it was a decision that she could make to make her life a bit easier, even if other people don’t have those options.

    I’m sorry for the long anecdote, and it’s not as well expressed as I would like. Part of my point is that her decision wasn’t about safety. A sex toy shop and garbage in the streets probably won’t make a meaningful difference to your safety, but maybe will make walking to work less pleasant, and it is okay to consider that selfishly.

    1. Myrin*

      This is a very insightful comment, well thought-out, realistic, and down-to-earth – no need to feel like you didn’t express it well, I’m giving you a little sitting ovation from my desk!

    2. Helpful*

      This is much more helpful than the commenters accusing the OP of pearl-clutching! The OP’s concerns seem legitimate and I hope she investigates further.

    3. BlueWolf*

      Many very good points. I think someone else above mentioned asking about the food situation. Our office has a cafeteria, but it’s still nice to be able to go out occasionally for lunch and there are lots of options near my work. Although it would be better for my budget if I was forced to bring lunch everyday due to a lack of eating-out options, it is nice to have the options. I also like to go for walks on my lunch breaks, and if there wasn’t really a nice place to do that it would not necessarily be a deal breaker, but it would still be a consideration. Depending on one’s preferences, the area around the office may be an important consideration. Others might not care if they are going to be spending all their time inside the office.

    4. Kyrielle*

      Yes, this is very well-said! In terms of safety, I’d reference real crime reports. But if you like casually strolling to a park and sitting down to eat lunch, or walking to a restaurant to eat, is that something you could do in this neighborhood, both in terms of comfort and safety?

      That’s a legitimate question – and one that wouldn’t necessarily occur to me in my calculus, because I tend to either stay at my desk or sit in the breakroom at lunch, eating what I brought from home. (Not a judgement or even exactly a preference: just that I have lots of dietary restrictions, and a fair amount of hay-fever type allergies; even in an area with food carts and parks, I’m not going to grab lunch from a food cart and eat it at a picnic table. It sounds lovely in my imagination, but the reality would not be, for me.)

    5. Kj*

      As someone in a city with a growing homeless population and few solutions on the horizon (COL is out of control here), I struggle with my human desire to help and my human fear about my safety. My neighborhood does not have a large homeless population, but still, we have camps from time to time and I’ve had campers basically in my front yard. I want to help, but I also don’t think that letting people take over parks(or front yards) to live in is the solution. It bothers me and I struggle with what to do about this. Orfeo’s mom has my sympathy, because I feel I’m in the same boat. Add in the fact that my city gets dark early in the PM in winter and I start to feel unsafe in some areas. Most homeless people are good and unlikely to harm me and I know this- but I also know the rates of SUDs and mental illness in homeless populations and that causes me some fear. I like that my workplace doesn’t have a large homeless population around it, but the homeless population in my city does affect where I choose to go in the PM and if I go running in my neighborhood early in the AM.

  24. Observer*

    #3, I’d say that not only have you made yourself unhireable at this company, you’ve also probably tarnished your reputation with the people you dealt with. The worst thing you could do right now is to try to keep in touch and thinking about you, because they won’t be positive thoughts. Better if these folks forget about you. In time, people might be open to thinking about you more positively.

    There is a broader problem you may need to address, which is an apparent tendency to make decisions without thinking them through and without considering the impact they may have on others. I realize that this whole thing may truly be a one-off for you, but the way you describe this situation makes it sound like you don’t realize what you’ve done wrong here or how people would react to it.

    What you did here is to TWICE make an employment decision without fully thinking it through – in both cases quickly changing your mind over issues that you knew about and should have taken into consideration before you made your decision. And, you also did so in a way that involved other people. In the future, try to make sure that you are taking all the realistically knowable factors into account BEFORE you make a decision. And when you do have good reason to ask someone to inconvenience themselves to accommodate your change of mind, think carefully if what you want is worth the relational damage you might do.

  25. Former Retail Manager*

    OP#1…..based on the current work environment you’ve described, I’d take the job in the “sketchy” part of town. It just sounds to me like the benefits far outweigh any potential negatives….with emphasis on potential. I don’t think the sex shop is really an issue. As for the strip club, again I wouldn’t be too concerned. How old was the episode of Cops…is the club under new management now or have they come into legal compliance….if you’re not visiting the strip club, I don’t foresee it bringing problems your way. I personally worked in a sketchy area of town for over a decade and dealt with a wide array of nutbags, although thankfully, no one was ever violent.

    Definitely look at crime stats, but remember that vehicle burglaries and other property crimes can happen anywhere. FWIW, in my current position I travel regularly to places within a 100 mile radius of my office which encompasses very wealthy cities to what would be described as the ghetto. I’ve had more strange things happen/people approach me in wealthy areas than in sketchy areas. Smart criminals know that your guard is more likely to be down in a nice area vs a sketchy one. You’re really not safe anywhere anymore. Best of luck and congrats on getting this far in the interview process!

    1. RVA Cat*

      One way the OP could do some due diligence before accepting is to drive through the neighborhood on a weeknight, around as late as she expects to be working. See what the foot traffic is and if men are loitering near the strip club and catcalling, etc.

      1. Former Retail Manager*

        Absolutely! This tactic is a must for apartments or any rental property as well. Daytime, evening and weekends are all absolute musts for a home. Hopefully this will give OP more insight into the area.

    2. Cucumberzucchini*

      I live in a very nice, historic neighborhood and we have higher-crime rates as compared to the surrounding suburbs because of how close we are to downtown. If you look on the crime maps there is a lot of red in our neighbor for vehicle burglaries, home break-ins, muggings and some violent crimes. That doesn’t change the desirability of the neighborhood or the home prices or how good the assigned public schools are. What’s really odd is despite this, I feel completely safe walking around at night in my neighborhood – and it’s not that I have a death wish. It’s just feels safe – I’ve lived here 6 six years and the worst that’s we’ve personally experienced is change stolen of our cars when we forgot to lock the doors. My next-door neighbor on the other hand had some one break into her house when she was sleeping and steal all of her purses.

    1. Natalie*

      Until fairly recently, sex toy shops carried a pretty big stigma for so-called polite society. They weren’t necessarily clean, brightly lit, women run or women friendly, etc. In a lot of cities, they would be zoned into whatever that city’s “red light” district was, along with the strip clubs, adult bookstores, and peep shows.

      Keep in mind that when Sex in the City was running (98-04), women talking about vibrators on an HBO show (not even broadcast TV) was still edgy and kind of a big deal. That really wasn’t that long ago.

      1. Izacus*

        Yeah, it’s also hugely different from location’s zoning laws. E.g. in Denmark you may see sex shops in “respectable” city centers showing their wares in a window, while other cities will push these kind of businesses to seedy parts of town. It’s not that the shop itself makes the part of town seedy, it’s that these kind of businesses are forced TO seedy parts of towns due to zoning laws.

    2. K.*

      Yeah. Maybe it’s me, but the conditions OP #1 is describing don’t sound that unsafe. I don’t associate sex toy shops and strip clubs with danger. My former dentist’s office was on the same floor of a sex toy shop, in a huge generic building in midtown Manhattan. You take space where you can. Many sex shops are bright, clean, well-staffed retail businesses – they just happen to sell stuff related to sex. Lots and lots and LOTS of “regular people” buy things at sex toy shops and patronize strip clubs; otherwise they’d all go out of business (like how nobody watches porn, but it’s a multi-billion-dollar industry). I like Alison’s advice to dig a little deeper.

      1. Kit Cat*

        I think that tends to depend on urban planning. Places that tend towards more suburban or rural seem to shove strip clubs and the like to the edges of towns, which by lack of traffic/witnesses may be more of a security risk already. It’s more correlation, less causation.

      2. LCL*

        There are a couple of those clubs in my neighborhood, and I do associate them with feeling less safe. One shares a property boundary with a gas station. The few times I have bought fuel at that station, there have always been angry men being pushy about getting to the gas pumps first and making a point of cutting you off/cutting in line. The level of free floating aggression in the air is way out of proportion to what one expects to find when buying gas. I’m not hating on the women who work there, but there is a reason that those places have another employee walk the women to their cars after their shift is done.

    3. Bekx*

      There are still sex shops that ARE seedy and questionable. There are two in my general area, and one is very bright, clean, women-friendly and has always been a pleasant experience when I go there. The other? Neon signs saying “adult videos, mags, & more” and just a general run-down appearance. Looking at the google maps location info right now, all the photos are of naked women and it just doesn’t have the same vibe.

    4. Sistersister*

      It’s not the shop per se. It’s that in a lot of places in the United States, zoning laws require these to be pushed him to certain types of neighborhoods. Generally those that are poor and have high crime rates (or are perceived as such) or industrial or semi-industrial wastelands.

      There’s a huge difference between a sex shop in San Francisco and one and then urban area of a red state.

      Like many posts on the site, we’re all viewing this through the lens of our own experience.

      Unless you lived around the United States in many different areas, you might not understand that in some regions, sex clubs and strip clubs are pushed into certain neighborhoods bc that’s the only place that’s socially tolerated.

      We also don’t know if bad neighborhood is populated and minority and poor or if it’s an industrial wasteland. If the latter, I would be concerned about safety myself. If it’s the former, it’s likely socially conditioned fear.

  26. Temperance*

    LW1: for what it’s worth, it’s probably a super safe area even if it looks sketchy. Sex shops tend to have good security because they can attract a lot of weirdos.

    1. Annabelle*

      Yeah, same with strip clubs. And those two places are probably only near one another because of really specific zoning regulations.

    2. Katniss*

      Also, most patrons of sex shops aren’t going to bother you. They want to get in and out (heh) with their purchases without a lot of fuss because there is still unnecessary stigma around people shopping there.

    3. KR*

      Hi OP, totally agree with Former Retail Manager, Katniss,Annabelle,and Temperance. Sex shops and strip clubs aren’t definite signs a neighborhood is unsafe at all. I work in an unsafe feeling area currently. Aside from being the rural desert with a lot of abandoned shacks and houses seemingly thrown together with whatever material happened to blow across the desert, there are drifters everywhere all over the plaza where our office is just hanging out there, all day. They’re mostly harmless and just need somewhere to hang out for the day where there is water (the grocery store has an open spigot out for them to get water from). Yes, there is a lot of trash blowing around and it looks run down, but I take basic precautions by making sure my car is always locked and we lock our office up tight and a couple months later it’s much less intimidating just how run down it seems.

  27. AdAgencyChick*

    #5, are you exempt? If you’re nonexempt, talk to your boss about whether she’s willing to have you incur overtime to attend these meetings.

  28. The IT Manager*

    LW#2 … I don’t know if you used the wrong term or not, but I find your concern about being passive aggressive odd. You’ve been nothing but passive because you seem to have not given these employees any feedback yet when it’s long past time. And providing negative feedback to people not performing well is a managers job and not aggressive or mean.

    It really seems like your employees are getting away with what they can and you need to start managing. Who knows if they specifically don’t respect you and are sending strong signals to you ir maybe they’ve been getting away with it for a long time and it’s a habit. Either way, you’re their manager and need to manage and that doesn’t make you passive aggressive unless you do it wrong.

  29. Zathras*

    #2 – Alison’s advice is great, but only bring up the lateness if it’s actually affecting their jobs. If they’re rolling in at 9:20 but working full-time hours and they don’t actually need to be there right at 9 to do their jobs, let it go.

    I’m not saying you don’t need to address it, it’s very possible it really is a problem. Just that it’s really easy as a new manager to feel like you have to go after people for every little transgression in order to maintain your authority, but that actually makes you look weaker. If you put too much emphasis on stuff that doesn’t really matter, it makes it easier for people to dismiss the stuff that does.

  30. Tsalmoth*

    For #5: Our work calendar software (Google Calendar) allows us to set “working hours,” and people who try to schedule meetings outside of that time get a notice (the same as they would if they tried to schedule a meeting with someone who was already busy). I’m assuming most other enterprise calendars (Outlook, etc) do that as well.

    If you have that feature turned on, and people are still scheduling over it, they’d either better be directors (who, as Alison notes, get to ignore this, although it’s still a bit rude), or managers with a really urgent reason (as a manager, I’d always contact my folks outside of the calendar to tell them why I’m doing this). For a colleague to do this without asking you offline to make an exception is, frankly, dickish, and rejecting the meeting time is appropriate .

    1. LW #5*

      I actually thought I did have this feature set, which is part of the reason the early meeting time surprised me, but I will double check.

      The meeting scheduler is my counterpart, not my supervisor or manager.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        Usually that feature requires that someone ‘check schedules’. Many people who aren’t used to scheduling (or are just in a hurry) don’t hit that extra button.

        I get soooooo many meeting notices on my days off, which are blocked in the calendar schedules.

        1. Samata*

          Yes. i was going to say the same thing! Our email has this feature and people just don’t look or disregard it. And then when you deny it based on unavailability they get all upset they have to reschedule – so frustrating!

  31. A. Non*


    I currently work in a somewhat sketchy area. That being said, my workplace has us go out to our cars together, escorted by a security guard, and we park in sight of cameras. If you’re working 9-5 hours (I don’t), this is usually less of a problem, but–

    Are there lights in the parking lot? Are the spaces visible from the building? Do people leave in groups? Is the parking off set from the public street, i.e., would the layperson be able to find the lot easily? Is there building security? When you went by to look at the place, did you see more cars with nothing visible in them (everything tucked away or under seats) or with stuff visible on the seats/in the back?

    All of these things will tell you what the locals think. It’s not really pearl clutching (as some are saying) but that if this isn’t an environment you’ve been in before you don’t have the markers for safety that you’re used to.

  32. rosiebyanyothername*

    #4- when it comes to computer stuff, I’ve found that everyone thinks “their way” is the best way. Some are more assertive about getting everyone else on board with “their way” than others. I have a coworker who loves to interfere with people’s computer setups and techniques when you’re doing work with her (in a “oh my gosh, why are you doing it that way? this way is so much better, let me show you!” tone) that can get annoying, but I tend to only put my foot down when she’s doing something that interferes with my work. Otherwise, I just let her get her kicks from showing me a “computer trick” and switch it back to the way I like it later.

    1. Lars the Real Girl*

      But then she’s probably doing it to everyone else too and no one is calling her out on it and being less productive by having to un-do her “fixes” :(

    2. RVA Cat*

      It’s the same optimizing behavior people (obnoxiously) do for other things, it’s just that with computers etc. more people do it because etiquette hasn’t kept pace with technology.
      I find Captain Awkward’s anecdote about her engineer father *rearranging her toast in the toaster* a great way to reframe it and shut this down.

        1. rosiebyanyothername*

          It’s AAM posts like this that make me, a millennial, go “yeah, I get why people hate us”

  33. Jules the 3rd*

    General questions re: OP#4:
    I change email subjects. If the email is going out to 8 people, but has actions for 1, then the second time I’m asking for the action, I will add the 1 person’s name at the end of the email subject, eg: “Strategic Decisions” becomes “Strategic decisions: CERSEI”. Over the last year, I’ve found the response rate has increased by about 50%, and seems to have cut the ‘hey, Cersei, are we going to blow up the Sept?’ significantly. I do this when meetings / instant message reminders aren’t the right response either; I’m working with people in different time zones, who need to do research to give effective responses.

    I don’t use threads – I file by subject or use search for key phrases or people. I’ve tried threading, it doesn’t work for me. Might be a ‘Lotus Notes doesn’t do this well’, but my teams use both Notes and Outlook.

    How disruptive am I being to people who use threading?
    How many people use threading to track recent history vs search / filing, and what client do you use?

    1. BlueWolf*

      I recently realized you could use threads (conversations) in Outlook. It makes it a lot easier for me because I also use folders with rules in Outlook, so even if the emails are in different folders, I can easily see all the other related emails. However, there are times when I wish others would change the subject line when forwarding something because they may be forwarding a question or request about an email that has a generic subject line like “Notifications” and then if I need to forward it one to someone else I have to change the subject line in order for the other person to realize they need to do something. But then it makes it harder to find the original request email. So it really is situation-dependent.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        Yes, that’s where the ‘stronger subjects’ rule comes into play. The generic subjects drive me nuts.

        BUT! Thanks for pointing this out – it’s reminding me to look at things, not just do it automatically.

    2. Ramona Flowers*

      I don’t use threading. I do use the Outlook button where you click to view other messages that would be in the same thread.

      I would want to throttle you.

    3. sacados*

      If you’re emailing people who use Gmail as a client and use threading, *very*
      Gmail classifies threads based purely on subject line, so any change is going to bump the email into a new thread for whoever you’re sending it to.

    4. Not Quite As Zealously, But Still, Anti-Thread*

      Oh man I was waiting for the thread (ha) to talk about how much I hate threading for work. The conversation is collapsed so it’s hard for me to weed through anyway, most people DON’T know how to write subject heads that actually summarize the topic at hand, and slight modifications allow me to search for the conversation with that subject head while ALSO bringing to view the updates to said subject. I would agree that changing every response to the conversation is overkill. But when Office 365 online was automatically set up with threading (versus Outlook client), it threw my work in a tailspin (until I figured out how to turn it off).

      For non-work hijinks in my personal email, threading is fine. :) Man I miss the old days (and of course I mean the 90s) where you know you’ve got a good conversation going on with there’s like 15 “Re:” and then it’s pretty much all you see as the subject head …

  34. MommyMD*

    An area of sex toy shops and adult entertainment definitely will attract the seedy side of humanity. The most important thing is campus security and parking. Are there guards? Will you be alone in a desolate area? If your car breaks down will you be stranded in a high crime area? Reasonable safety should be a factor in your choice.

    1. Lars the Real Girl*

      If by “seedy side of humanity” you mean adults, then yes, adult toy shops and adult entertainment locations will definitely attract adults.

    2. Oryx*

      “Seedy side of humanity”?

      I have voluntarily ventured into both sex shops and strip clubs. So let’s not make sweeping generalizations about this sort of thing please.

      1. Emi.*

        She didn’t say that’s all they attract. Let’s not pretend that venues like this don’t attract, say, the kind of men who abused your namesake.

    3. Eli*

      The sex toy shop nearest my apartment quite literally has a maternity store next to it, and an adorable children’s bookstore next to that. I like to joke that it’s the “before” and “after.” Just to say that it most definitely does not guarantee “seediness.”

  35. Samata*

    OP #1: I haven’t read the comments yet, but am in a pinch for time this morning and wanted to chime in to say I definitely agree with Alison’s advice to check it out more. This could very well be in the town I grew up in; there are some shady looking spots for people who aren’t used to them, but it’s a ridiculously small, safe, rural country town.

    It also happens to have a strip club near a highly traveled highway for truckers to pull into. They haven’t cleaned up the building in my entire lifetime (38 years) and it’s a hot mess. There have been a few arrests (literally just 2-3 in 30 years) that I remember (though no COPS episodes I am aware of) but more like guys drink watching the girls dance and get in a scrape outside, so the owners just call the cops to handle it. I think they were robbed once, but don’t ever remember a violent event – and I would have known. When I say small town I mean small town.

  36. Hlyssande*

    #5 –

    Since you and the early shift do have a lot of overlap, it makes perfect sense to ask for the meeting to be scheduled later, during your normal hours. You’ll want to make sure that your calendar is up to date (and see if you can set your work hours during it, so you show as unavailable when people schedule things out of hours).

    Depending on if you’re hourly or salaried, you may need permission to do out of hours meetings. If your boss says yes, unfortunately you’re probably going to have to do it.

  37. ClownBaby*

    OP #3, I just dealt with a candidate not dissimilar to you. In January, I scheduled an interview with her. She called and had to reschedule twice. When we finally were able to get her in, the hiring managers loved her and we offered her the job. She accepted. Her start date came up, she was a no-show. We couldn’t reach her for about a week. She came up with some excuse and asked if the position was still available. It was…but I was done with her, so I told her no and wished her luck in her job search elsewhere (I guess looking back, I never told her we would not consider her in the future). Months passed. We had another position open up in another department. She applied. I went against my better judgment and scheduled and interview with her. She rescheduled twice again. Didn’t bother trying to set up a third interview date. I let her know we weren’t interested and this time that we would not be consider any future applications from her.

    I don’t see any way my negative view of her can be changed. She made me look incompetent not once, but twice…more if you count the endless interview reschedules. It’s a bummer because she impressed two of the toughest hiring managers during her initial interview, but I know neither of them are ever going to be willing to give her another chance either. That bridge is completely burnt down.

    Chalk it up as a loss and forget that company.

      1. I just might*

        And any place that would hire someone after all that is full of bees. I was passed over for a job where the person hired rescheduled their interview twice. At first I thought wow, they must have been a super strong candidate to get hired, wonder what I did wrong. No, turned out the person who I’d be working with wanted me but the owner (who I’d only done a phone interview with due to her working at multiple sites) picked the rescheduler because she found me intimidating and too smart. Turned out “too smart” meant “knows basic labor law” because she was classifying all her employees – even the receptionist position I interviewed for – as independent contractors to save herself the payroll taxes. Also fired her pick a month later for questioning her.

        I was so upset when I didn’t get that job. Bullet dodged.

  38. Lars the Real Girl*

    #1 – I think a lot of people have covered the “do some more research” and “sex shops don’t always equal shady” angles, and have given you some really good tips about how to find more info (visit at different times of day, statistics, walking around, etc). I agree with and encourage you to do all of the above.

    I also want to validate that if you don’t feel comfortable somewhere, you do not need a reason for it. You are allowed to choose a different path and look for a different job. Your fear is a powerful tool and it shouldn’t be discounted because of statistics (although they can help to dissuade irrational fear). If, after you do your homework, it still doesn’t feel right, you’re allowed to trust that and move on. (Obvious plug and recommendation for “The Gift of Fear” by Gavin de Becker)

    1. RVA Cat*

      This. I’d also trust any vibes you get from the company culture. Pay attention to the gender ratio and anything that might hint at a Dudebro atmosphere where they’re having business lunches at the strip club.

  39. Allison*

    #1 It’s not ridiculous to ask about the area, the location of a job is important to a lot of people! It’s reasonable to know about lunch options, traffic in and out of the area during rush hour, *and* the safety of the area, especially if you’re in a city. A good interviewer would either admit the area is a little iffy at night but will fill you in on how people mitigate that risk (including what the company may do to offset it), or they’ll assure you it’s not as dodgy as it looks.

    Oddly, a strip club and . . . erm, commodity store wouldn’t really strike me as “sketchy” enough to pose a possible safety risk. I would assume patrons of those establishments are getting their needs taken care of, and wouldn’t bother me in the evening. I’ve thought of the things that might indicate an area is “high risk” but strip clubs have never made that list, they’re not much sketchier than, say, dive bars are, and I’d put sexual novelty shops on the same plane as stores that sell smoking paraphernalia “for tobacco use only” (yeah, hokay, sure).

    But if you feel uncomfortable, you feel uncomfortable, hence why it’s okay to ask about safety and building security! You most likely wouldn’t be the first woman to ask.

  40. VioletEMT*

    OP1, definitely ask about security/safety if you’re concerned, but I would advise you to wait until you have an offer in hand before you do so.

  41. Amber Rose*

    #1, My old high school is situated between both a sex shop and a strip club. I got a job in that area too, and so I spent much of my summers walking around there. No issues. Sex shops are not really any different than any retail establishment, and strip clubs are not as full of mafia and drug dealers as TV would have you believe.

    In fact, I struggle to understand what distinguishes a sex shop from a novelty shop. There’s a place in the mall where the 13 year olds like to get their edgy shirts and goth jewellery and black lights, and basically a solid 30-40% of the store is adult toys.

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      In my area, the store is Spencer’s . Right in the middle of the mall, though the toy selection is pretty lame.

  42. Jaybeetee*

    LW1: I would encourage you to really do some research on this neighbourhood and figure out how safe/unsafe it actually could be. I lived for several years in one of my city’s “sketchiest” neighbourhoods, but honestly, experienced very few issues there (my then-bf had a couple of car break-ins as he parked on the street, but my newer car, parked in the driveway, was never touched). My mother worked in an office in the same area for awhile, and her observation was that during the day, everything was completely fine, and she only felt uncomfortable if she was working late (and even then, it was more “I’m uncomfortable by the activities I see happening around me”, not “I’m concerned for my safety.”) But you might find that this neighbourhood isn’t actually that bad, and/or that the worst stuff happens late at night and you’re fine during the day, or what have you.

    LW3: I’m a bit sympathetic to you, as I had a similar situation one time with job offers, especially when the offer I was really gunning for came in later than expected, and in the meantime I had to make a decision on a second offer. Part of what helped me make my decisions was a tool called a “decision matrix.” Instead of a straight-up pros and cons list, you list, say, five things you want/need in a job, and rank those things from 1-5 in importance. Then, you rank each job from 1-5 on each of those criteria. Multiply that job’s ranking by the first number, then add up your totals. (For example, if you rank “Location” as a “3” for importance, then one job has a much better location than the other, say a 2 vs. a 5, multiply both of those by 3). Generally, seeing it laid out in hard numbers should help you come to a decision and stick with it (and frankly, usually the numbers align with your gut instinct as to which job you want anyway).

    As for now, though, I wouldn’t try that first company again anytime soon. Maybe in like 5 years, depending on turnover in your industry.

  43. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

    For #1, in addition to considering the actual safety of the area, be sure to think about how the neighborhood will affect your work life in other ways. For example: from your description, I’m guessing that there aren’t places that you will want to eat nearby. Does that matter to you? Could you easily run errands on lunch hours? Is there a pleasant place to take a walk? etc.

  44. OP #1*

    Hi everyone! Thank you for your responses. I appreciate the helpful advice I have received about the situation – from everyone, and a lot of you had super advice. I am kind of surprised that the focus of many of the comments seem to be either 1. anecdotal about your exact life experience or 2. the assumption that I am white, wealthy, conservative, live in the suburbs, and wear pearls that I enjoy clutching. I asked if I were overreacting that the area looked seedy and having been on Cops. Sounds like I might be, or I might not be, but I won’t know unless I do a little more research. I am open to that and think that makes a lot of sense. That is why I plan to follow through if the interview (hopefully) leads to an offer. No need to jump to a conclusion that anyone is classist or racist, especially someone who is seeking constructive advice on how NOT to jump to conclusion. OP#1 over and out.

    1. Emi.*

      Good for you, and I’m sorry people are being so cranky! One tip for checking crime stats–my family was looking at (I believe) and it appeared that Town A was *way* more dangerous than Town B. But then it turned out that they were quite close, only the site only pulled data from the county PD, and most of the crime in Town A was handled by their city PD so it didn’t appear. Good luck!

    2. Owl*

      Don’t be surprised about #1, people LOVE to talk about their own life experiences, here and everywhere on the internet and in life. Sometimes it’s helpful and a lot of time it is less so.

  45. Manager-at-Large*

    #1 – you may be surprised when you get more information on the location. It could be that a move is planned in a suitable period of time, or that it is much safer than appears (impending gentrification as noted above).

    #2 – have you established one-to-ones with all your new directs? Maybe give a couple of weeks to find out what is going on in their work lives, what their chief challenges are, and let them know they are being heard.

    #4 – perhaps she is trying to dice the nuances of the email thread to finely. Just speak up. Maybe she doesn’t know the email feature of conversation threads and how changing the subject can unintentionally derail it.

    #5 – Maybe you can call in to early meetings from home or the car? I work a super-early time from US West Coast to accomodate higher ups on Eastern time and others that are non-US. It doesn’t make it happen in your core hours but perhaps it makes you able to handle the occasional meeting without disrupting your morning routine. Alison gives good advice about asking for accomodation for peers vs. management

  46. Free Meerkats*

    For LW#2, just how important is it that they have their butt in the chair at 0900? Since you are new at this employer, what is the company policy/culture about being on time? If every other manager has a laissez faire attitude about being in at 9 and you are the outlier, that could be a problem for your advancement in the company.

    As far as meetings goes, that’s a definite problem that you need to address as Alison laid out.

  47. Julia*

    Re #3:
    Have you ever felt attracted to someone, maybe even sure they were the one… but it didn’t happen and after you’d gotten to know them thought “whew, I dodged a bullet there!”
    I think that’s what happened with Company 1. If you worked for them you would have found the downsides of lower salary, etc. to be worse than you expected. That they promised you one salary and then offered you a lower one is a red flag – they’re deceptive and don’t respect you.
    I think you were smart to take Company 2’s offer and you’ll be much happier there! :)

  48. Noah*

    I largely disagree re OP #4, although the answer and complaint may be valid in context. I once had a boss that insisted I change subject lines to make the subject of email chains clearer. I quickly learned it was incredibly helpful and now do it whenever I’m working with somebody who can tolerate it. It’s not great for inbox management, but if you have a job that involves saving emails and looking for them later, good subject lines are more valuable than message chains. At least in Outlook, you can still use “find related messages” to see all the message in the chain, regardless of subject line.

  49. Radiant Peach*

    My additional advice on working in a sketchy-looking area: when you look up the crime statistics, try and compare them to a nicer-looking part of town as opposed to looking at them with nothing to compare them to. I’ve found that in many American cities (assuming you’re in the US) crime stats in areas you don’t know well pretty much always look scary until you compare them with areas you do (although obviously there are areas that are unsafe)

  50. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    I think I’m worried about pot shops kicking up here in Massachusetts – since they can’t operate within the banking system, they will be cash businesses… and thus may end up being robbery targets (the stores as well as their customers)….similar concerns….

  51. Lake Means*

    OP #1
    I’ve worked on an off in an area of town that was a little sketchy 10 years ago, but is pretty ok now. I still drive in between a strip club and a comedy club to get to my office, but I also walk up past them to visit the post office, and some great restaurants. Those places don’t even open till 8 or 9, so it’s not really an issue during the work day. The only issue with the strip club is remnants of some of the extra curricular activities that happen overnight in our parking lot, if you know what I mean. It’s gross, but it’s not keeping me from my dream job.

    If I stay past dark, I’ll walk out with a co-worker or bring my car around to the front of building before it gets dark, but really the only major issue I’ve seen in my sketchy part of town was a quiet, lost, nude, mentally ill man who really could have been lost anywhere in our city.

    And I kind of hope someone recognizes where I’m posting from based on the descriptions and my posting name. :) :)

  52. Princess Cimorene*

    4. Coworker constantly changes email subject lines

    I use gmail for everything, but I hate the conversation threads in gmail and before I learned you could turn them off, I would edit subjet lines so that emails came in as new emails/individual instead of a long thread. Perhaps your coworker prefers that for her inbox too, and if so she should be shown she can turn “conversation view” off in the settings for gmail and then she wont need to change the subject lines for each email convo and can organize it in her inbox in a way that works best for her. Including labels and colored stars etc.

    1. Princess Cimorene*

      turning this off in your own inbox doesn’t affect the conversation view for everyone else*
      so, she would get individual emails that she can organize and everyone else would still get the threads, and she won’t have to touch the subject line to organize her inbox.

  53. Anon anon anon*

    There is crime everywhere. Consider what gets reported versus what doesn’t. Statistics only reflect what the police are aware of.

    In other words, you’re not inherently more safe in one kind of neighborhood than another. A lot depends on who you are, what you’re doing, how you treat people, what you do to protect yourself, etc.

    I think the best way to figure it out is to hang out in the neighborhood. Find an excuse to go there and talk to people. If you get a chance, ask them what it’s like to live there. Reputations can be accurate but they can also be full of bias. It can be hard to tell.

    But I think instincts can be very telling with this kind of thing. If a place feels sketchy, it probably is. On the other hand, if your employer is taking measures to protect the employees, it might not affect you.

  54. Mayor of Llamatown*

    #4 we must work with the same person. I was literally sitting here this morning thinking that my coworker’s habit of changing email subject lines was worth sending to Ask A Manager.

  55. Kat*

    LW#1: I don’t know if anyone mentioned this yet but regardless of what your research tells you, TRUST YOUR GUT. If for reasons you can’t articulate you don’t feel safe, despite evidence to the contrary, trust yourself.
    I have been in two situations where I couldn’t articulate my feelings without sounding judgemental about a “sketchy” neighbourhood and I turned out to be right. I was fortunate no harm came to me but I learned that often times we perceive small things that escape our conscious mind’s notice and those things translate to us feeling unsafe and uneasy and it’s better to trust yourself.
    Even if you’re being unreasonable at the end of the day how crappy will it feel to go to work day after day in an area you don’t feel safe in?
    And just because crime stats or research says it’s safe doesn’t mean it’s a right fit for you.

  56. Jean Lamb*

    My daughter asked the local police what the neighborhood was like before she moved into an apartment building near Forest Lawn Cemetery, and received assurances that it was pretty ok, and a family type neighborhood (they inadvertently failed to mention the 3 am ‘ice cream trucks’, but they didn’t ring their chimes and to all appearances all buyers and sellers were orderly, so my daughter just learned to live with it). But there were lots of families who lived there, and no shootings, so hey.

    Your local police will know if the neighborhood is safe. Mostly.

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