I want to break up with my boyfriend but I work for his parents, office flatulence, and more

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

1. I want to break up with my boyfriend — but I work for his parents

I just graduated from college last spring with a degree in a field that’s rather difficult to find work in. Lucky for me, my boyfriend’s parents happened to own a business in that field and they had a position open that was basically my ideal role (and probably several steps above any entry-level position I would have gotten elsewhere). I saw it as a great career stepping stone and accepted their offer. It has been far from perfect (typical small, family-run business issues), but overall, I’m comfortable with the position and wanted to stay in it for at least a year before moving on to the next great adventure.

Cut to now, nine months in, and I’ve realized I really need to break up with my boyfriend, as soon as possible. My grand decision to work for his parents is feeling pretty stupid (I’ve felt pretty dumb about it for a while now — feeling trapped by this job situation is part of what made me realize we need to break up). My boyfriend and I live together and our lease is not up until July. I’m willing to eat some money and move back in with my parents while paying off my rent, but in order to do that, I need to keep a job.

I’ve started job hunting, but am left with the decision to miserably prolong the breakup until whenever the time comes that I have something lined up, or continuing to work for his parents post-break-up and take whatever fresh hell that arrangement presents me with. They are good people, and I don’t think they would fire me or consciously retaliate in any way, but I still feel that there’s no way it will really function well.

I’m also kicking myself because I’m so close to the one-year mark, I’ve invested a lot of time and energy into this position, and never did I consider what would happen if all of my professional experience was tied up with an ex’s family. Like, what would a reference from them look like for future positions? Again, I think they will wish me well in life, but it would still feel awkward asking them to speak on my behalf to future employers. On that note, if I do leave before the one-year mark, what should I say to future employers about my leaving? All personal drama aside, I think I’ve done well in the position and accomplished a lot. I would hate to leave it off my resume to avoid bringing up my rather poor judgement on accepting the role.

If your boyfriend’s parents are decent people, they should handle this professionally and kindly. It will be awkward, yes, but awkward isn’t the same thing as horrible or insurmountable — and the awkwardness may go away sooner than you think if you make a point of being really professional and hard-working and showing that you’re determined to continue being a good employee and not let the break-up impact your work. (And really, if they’re thoughtful people, it occurred to them that this could happen when they hired you.)

They’d have to be really petty to let this impact the references they give you, and you say they’re not, so I don’t think you have to worry too much about that. You definitely don’t need to leave this job off your resume!

I do agree, though, you should definitely be job searching actively. There’s nothing magical about making it to the one-year mark in a job — nine months is not all that different from 12 months in that regard. It’s still a short-ish stay, but that’s not a big deal for your first job right out of school. (But you do want to make sure that you stay in the next one for at least a couple of years so it doesn’t start to look like a pattern.) You could tell interviewers that you’re looking to leave because it’s a small family-run business and you’ve realized that you’d like to work somewhere more established/with more structure/whatever makes sense for the context. Interviewers will understand that, and you won’t need to get into the boyfriend situation at all.

2. My coworker constantly farts, and my employer says they’re not allowed to talk to him about it

I recently was told I had to move to a different cubicle. I wouldn’t mind, except that now I’m right outside the office of Fran Flatulence. He was in an office next to my previous cubicle when he was first employed and the smell was atrocious! I told my boss that I was not okay moving to a place where I would be subjected to his poop potpourri. Now let me add that I am not a priss. Farting does not normally bother me. Everyone does it, and sometimes it can’t be helped, but why do we all have to smell it? It is extremely rude to let it blow in his office every time.

My boss talked to HR about this and apparently she talked to an attorney. The problem is, everything I’ve read is different than what HR is telling me. HR has stated that it could be a disability and as such they cannot even ask him about it. Really? I find that hard to believe. If it is a disability, I get it and would not mention it again. It is an embarrassing issue and I am not out to humiliate anyone. I know this matter would have to be handled delicately, but to not attempt a solution at all is crazy to me. I have also been told that I cannot do anything about this matter since HR has received advice from these attorneys. I have worked here almost 10 years and have not had any problems until now. Moving to a different desk is out of the question and my job is not one that an office would be needed for. I would just like to know, is HR lying to me?

They’re probably not intentionally lying to you, but it sounds like they’ve gotten bad advice. It’s true that if turns out that it’s caused by a disability covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act, they’d likely need to accommodate the problem … but it’s not true that they can’t even ask your coworker about it. It sounds like they’ve talked to an overly cautious lawyer (there are some who give overly rigid advice) or that HR misinterpreted it, which is really common — some HR departments are notorious for hearing “you need to handle X carefully” and translating that to “you can’t do X, period.”

If they’re not willing to do anything, even talk to your coworker, the best thing for your peace of mind might be to decide that it is in fact stemming from a medical condition, since it sounds like you’d find it easier to accept if it were. Sorry you’re dealing with this!

3. How to discourage out-of-town candidates from traveling to us at their own expense

I work for a government agency and we are required by law to interview all candidates whose applications pass the review committee. I do not handle hiring directly, but I’m often in charge of scheduling interviews. Usually our interviewees are pretty local, but right now I’m scheduling interviews for a newly-created executive-level position. Two candidates are from totally different parts of the country.

In my interview invitation, I mentioned that out-of-state candidates were welcome to do a Skype or phone interview, but both of them opted to book flights at their own expense and come in-person instead.

The really wretched part of this is that we already have an internal candidate who is very likely to be promoted to this position. They will probably use this candidate pool to select his replacement, and while it is still a management-level position, it’s not in the same authority or pay grade at all.

Is there a script you would use to encourage candidates to NOT spend hundreds of dollars to come to an interview for a position they are very unlikely to be offered? Especially for a first-round interview when there will most certainly be a second round? (For what it’s worth, one of the candidates is an incredibly weak candidate as well — not much relevant experience and her cover letter was basically a giant typo that is a copy and paste of instructions on how to write a cover letter with only her name and address inserted, but I cannot decline to schedule an interview for her.) I feel awful seeing them spending that much money!

Ideally you’d say, “I want to stress that you won’t be at any disadvantage if don’t interview in-person. We do Skype and phone interviews in place of in-person interviews all the time, and I don’t want you feel obligated to take on the expense of travel. And as I know people sometimes wonder about this, I can also share that we do have a strong internal candidate.” But you’d want to check first to be sure that you’re allowed to mention the internal candidate, since in a system with rigid requirements like this, you might run afoul of your hiring rules if you do. If you’re not allowed to, you could just chop off that last sentence but still say the rest and hope that they pick up on what you’re saying.

4. When negotiating salary, can I tell a personal story about why I need to make a certain amount of money?

My father passed away in 2015 and as a result of his passing, I had to sell his house and take whatever equity I can get for it. The equity did not end up being much and as a result, I had to move to a sketchy neighborhood. This is a situation that I am trying hard to get myself out of.

I am graduating this April with a bachelors in Business Administration and am going to every internship fair and career fair possible. My real estate agent told me that in order to afford a decent house in a nice, safe neighborhood, I need to be making at least $35-40K per year. I guess my question is: is it appropriate to tell this story to the hiring manager in the salary negotiation process? How do I tell this story without sounding weepy?

Don’t bring that up. Salary negotiation is based on the market rate for the job in your geographic area, and on what you’ll bring to the position. An employer isn’t going to pay you based on what you need/want to be making, and you’re going to make the hiring manager really uncomfortable if you bring a personal story of need into it. And that’s a good thing — after all, you don’t want to get paid less just because a coworker has higher bills than you do, or be asked to take a pay cut when your expenses go down.

I’m sorry about your dad!

5. How long does an agreement to be a reference last?

I have a question about reference etiquette. If someone agreed to be your reference, how long should you assume they still feel that way/they’ll remember they agreed? I started job searching in January of last year while I was still in college, and I got permission from all my references back then. I currently have a part-time position tiding me over, but I’ve been looking for full-time work basically for a year. I don’t think I’ve gotten to the reference check stage at any point. I’m not really sure what the protocol is for this. It feels weird to ask again, but it also feels weird not to say anything — I doubt they remember a short email exchange from last year. And I guess on some level I find it pretty embarrassing that I’ve been looking for a job this long with no bites, and so the thought of bringing it up with my references is just miserable. What’s the protocol for this?

There’s not really one firm answer to how long to assume someone’s willingness to be a reference stays in effect. Or to put it more precisely, their willingness usually lasts years, but at some point it does make sense to check in with them and sort of re-confirm that. I wouldn’t think it was premature if someone did that after six months, but I also wouldn’t think it was rude or strange if they waited a bit longer.

But since it’s been a year, it makes sense to touch base with them again now. Don’t be embarrassed that you’ve been looking this long — sometimes job searches take a long time, and they also don’t know how actively you’ve been looking. You could say something like, “You were kind enough to agree to be a reference for me last year when I was job searching. I’ve been working part-time doing X, but I’m really looking for full-time work and I’m hoping it’s still okay to offer your name as a reference if I get to the reference-checking stage with any employers.”

{ 463 comments… read them below }

  1. Greg M.*

    well to be frank, I take diabetes meds that do have flatulence as a side effect. especially if I eat certain foods. it’s not something I can control or help.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I don’t think OP is suggesting that it’s rude or immature behavior. They’re simply noting that the sheer volume of farts has previously driven them to distraction and made it difficult to accomplish their work.

            1. Defrockz*

              “It is extremely rude to let it blow in his office every time.”

              I took that to mean that it was rude that it seems that the coworker doesn’t take any measure to remove himself to a more private area for episodes, and always just lets it go around other people, without a thought. Which is distracting, and makes it difficult to compete work, and I can see why the OP would consider that rude behavior.

              Obviously, I don’t run to the restroom, every time I need to let some air loose, but if I can tell when it’s more serious than just one or two, I discreetly remove myself. Maybe Fran does leave his seat, discreetly, and that’s why OP thinks Fran never leaves, so it seems rude. OP could be exaggerating, but if it really is an noticeably lingering, offensive fart cloud, that seems a bit excessive.

              There is a guy at my office, who was notorious for crop dusting people. I’m not sure if it was ever done on purpose, but it seemed like it. You’d be in the break room making your cup of coffee, he’d walk in and over to you, without any prompt, to start chatting and then he leaves a few minutes later, but his gas clouds never left with him. He’d also do this if you were at your own desk focused on work, or went into the copy room while he was in there talking to a client on the phone, and he would walk out to get away from the copier sounds but still never took his cloud with him.
              It was so bad, a manager had to formally discipline him for it, because even if it wasn’t intentional, everyone on his team thought it was, and started to refuse to be near him.

              So yeah, don’t share your farts with your coworkers… I’m not sure why that has to be said.

              1. Defrockz*

                Also, to follow up, he still works at my company, and after the discipline it hasn’t been an issue (for a majority of the office). I personally haven’t experienced it since, and others have commented on the improvement in air quality.

                1. Amber T*

                  Out of curiosity, was it discipline specifically for this, or was this tacked on to performance issues x, y and z?

              2. LKW*

                I was on assignment at a client. 8 of us shared a tiny, cramped awkward space. One teammate would leave for a bathroom break but he would always fart before leaving. Silent but deadly. I wanted to tell him “when you feel the pressure, that’s the time to leave for the bathroom, not after farting”. I should have said something. Everyone in that room should have said something.

              3. EyDef*

                On the other hand, some people just cannot control them. There are numerious medical conditions / handicaps / medication that causes flatulence. It sucks. For the ones who are confronted with the smell and/or sound but definitely also for the person who is “the culprit”.

                A few months ago – when working in a clothing store – an elderly lady came to me and I heard her fart with every step she took. She appologised and was really embarrassed about it and said that it was caused by the medication she was taking. (it has to be noted that there wasn’t any smell, I can understand it is a lot more embarrasing when there is a smell as well). But what was she supposed to do? Stay inside and never come out, even when you need something?

                Flatulence is part of everyone’s life, no matter what everyone claims (everyone thinks theirs smells the best ;-) )

              4. Koko*

                If he’s really got chronic flatulence, leaving the room every time he needs to fart may not be a realistic option. That’s more of a solution for a person who occasionally needs to fart when it’s about time to go to the bathroom than it is for someone who passes gas multiple times an hour – you can’t really expect they’re going to get up, walk down the hall, fart, and return to their desk every 15-20 minutes.

              5. Dzhymm*

                The story of the “crop duster” reminds me of a tale told by a friend of mine of his time in the Navy. He was serving on a submarine, and apparently one of the guys thought it was just the funniest thing to fart at his fellow sailors as they lay in their bunks (or “racks” as they called them on the sub). He was working his way down the line, and one quick-thinking sailor reached for his Zippo.

                Afterwards, Le Petomaine had to hobble on down to the medic to try and explain how he ended up with flash burns on his butt….

              1. sunny-dee*

                Yeah. I’m not a fan of the smell, generally, but I’m four months pregnant now. Between my dogs, my 13-year-old stepson, and my beloved husband, there have been incidences where someone let rip a smell, and I had to run for the bathroom because it made me throw up. I’m not trying to make anyone feel bad … but I really can’t help it. I simply would not be able to work around that guy.

                1. agmat*

                  I’m six months pregnant and am now at the stage where I don’t always know a fart is coming and a little *poot* unexpectedly comes out. :( Luckily they aren’t super noisy or at all smelly. I haven’t had anything noticeable occur around coworkers (I think…oh god!), but I don’t even like farting around my husband so they’ve been super annoying. But there is literally no warning.

            1. Drew*

              There were times when I was tempted, when I was stuck in an open office with a big conference table right behind me. At least I would have had a door.

      2. a1*

        The LW writer even says they’d understand if it were medical. The issue is that HR and management won’t even ask and just assumes they can’t talk about it because it might be. And also, just because it might be medical doesn’t mean it is. It could be apathy to people around them. Going on long tangents about all the ways it could be medical doesn’t help the LW when they 1) acknowledge that, but really 2) management and HR won’t even broach the subject.

        1. DMR*

          Is it possible that this has been brought up with the “offending” party in the past, determined to be a condition that must accommodate, and there is nothing more that can be done? It’s not really the OP’s business if Farting Fran has a condition that causes flatulence, so I am not sure HR owes her any more explanation than “we can’t do anything”.

      3. Julia the Survivor*

        I didn’t know until now it’s a side effect of meds.
        I have, and have studied, different types of food allergies and one of the things I learned was that smelly farts happen when someone eats food they can’t digest. Common culprits are lactose, dairy, sugar, and too much fiber. But if he has a sensitive stomach it could be anything or any family of foods.
        Don’t know if this applies to OP’s co-worker, but if so changing his diet might help. It sounds like someone needs to talk to him. Maybe he’s under the impression it’s not noticeable?

        1. Julia the Survivor*

          Also, many foods that are considered healthy are common causes of gas as well as cramps and other symptoms. Off the top of my head: oatmeal, all dairy except hard cheeses, flaxseed, beans and other legumes, and nuts.
          Co-worker may be eating these things under the impression they’re good for him…

        2. Greg M.*

          it might not be listed on the bottle but it sure as heck increased after I started taking them. I’ve cut some foods out of my diet to avoid the worst of it. Instant oatmeal for some reason really reacts with it. Let me have it for a couple days and I’ll wilt flowers.

    1. Anoymous for this post*

      This was my experience as well. I sit just a few feet from a co-worker and had flatulence I couldn’t control after a digestive condition that landed me in the hospital and took weeks to resolve. In my case, it was me who initiated a conversation because otherwise it would have been too embarrassing. I took my co-worker aside to let her know I couldn’t help it. She was very kind about it all.

      1. Anony*

        I had a similar experience. A bout with food poisoning left me with horrible flatulence for several months. It was very frequent and I couldn’t even feel it coming on half the time. I was mortified but I couldn’t prevent it from happening around coworkers.

    2. Yada Yada Yada*

      The topic of farting has come up in other letters and I always really feel for both parties. It would definitely suck to be gassy all day and I realize it’s not something most people can control. At the same time, the fact that some people’s gas stems from a medical condition doesn’t make it any more pleasant to hear or smell for everyone else, especially since it can be a long-term issue. No easy answer from where I sit

          1. idi01*

            Old guy walks into a doctors office and yells “Doc, my wife complains that I am always giving off very loud and very small frats, but she must be lying because I don’t smell or hear anything”.
            After examing him the doctor gives him some pills and says “take 3 pills a day and come back to me in one week”
            The old guy comes back in a week and “doc, what the heck were those pills. After taking them I keep smelling something god awful all the time.”
            The doctor says “now that we have fixed your sense of smell, we need to do something about your hearing problem”

      1. Anony*

        I think that the company should look into putting the coworker in an office. If he is less close to others it is less likely to be an issue. Whether his job requires one or not, it sounds like productivity does require that he has one.

        1. Myrin*

          The coworker is in an office but has a wide stink-range: “except that now I’m right outside the office of Fran Flatulence”.

    3. Betsy*

      I definitely think it’s likely that someone who does that has a medical issue. I can sympathise and think it would be quite gross to be around someone who smells bad frequently, but there are so many issues that can cause flatulence and people won’t necessarily be able to hold it in until they get somewhere more private.

      Even endometriosis, which affects around 10% of women is a common cause of flatulence. IBS is also quite common. Celiac disease can cause flatulence. Crohn’s disease can cause flatulence. So many medical issues can cause flatulence that I’m quite surprised it’s being assumed that it’s rude or malicious behaviour.

      I don’t think nothing should be done about it- perhaps HR discreetly moving the offender to an end cubicle, if possible, would be a good idea.

      1. Nita*

        Yes… I can’t imagine anyone farting non-stop for the fun of it, although some of the comments above make me wonder. It’s very likely to be a medical condition. However, that doesn’t make it easier for OP to be subjected to the smell. I’m pretty sure HR can ask Frank gently what the story is, they just cannot pressure him to do something about it if it’s related to a disability, or retaliate against him if he doesn’t/cannot take any measures. Not sure if they can request that he do something about it if it’s “just” a medical condition, but not an ADA-level disability. In any case, assuming Frank has no control over the situation, can’t the OP stay at her current seat, or get some kind of screen between her spot and Frank’s office to redirect the flow of air? Something as simple as a tall file cabinet might do.

      2. Julia the Survivor*

        As I mentioned above, several foods that are considered healthy commonly cause this. It could be his diet. I hope so because that’s easy to change!

        1. Close Bracket*

          There was a letter writer (female) with a flatulent office mate (male) who later admitted he was purposely eating a lot of cruciferous vegetables to drive her out. Something something women don’t belong. O.o

          Not that I am saying OP’s co-worker is doing this. Just that the reference to diet reminded me.

    4. Beancounter in Texas*

      I didn’t realize that, which makes my former diabetic boss a little less demystified.

    5. Dovahkiin*

      If it was a 24/7 flatulence situation like the LW mentioned, how would you feel about a private conversation where the LW gives you a box of matches and was like:
      “hey this is embarrassing, and I know everyone farts, but the way air flow works in this office means I get the brunt of what you’re brewing. Would you mind using these liberally? I solemnly swear to do the same on my end.”

      Would you die of shame? Harbor a grudge? Simmer with resentment?

    6. I can do it!*

      Farting can’t be helped, but you know what helps with farting? MATCHES. Sprays, candles, air freshener, a box of baking soda! It’s pretty rude for the farter to not attempt to mask the smell in any way at work, especially as it’s so regular. It seems like the logical solution for everyone to allow the farter to use something to treat the smell in the office…farter avoids embarrassment and fartees don’t have to smell it anymore.

      But since the farter is either unaware or doesn’t care, maybe the company just buys plug-in air fresheners for everyone with an office?

      1. Rana*

        I actually find air “fresheners” to be more unpleasant than farts. Farts don’t give me headaches, for one thing, and my experience is that more often than not, you end up not with freshener instead of fart smell, but some terrible combination of the two.

    7. Happy Lurker*

      My mother has terrible gas and has for as long as I can remember. I purchased her some Beano one day, some years ago and asked her to use it…it has been a godsend. I don’t know how or why, but the Beano works for her.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      They could potentially move the coworker to a more private area if it’s going to be an ongoing issue (as opposed to, say, a temporary side effect of a medication).

      1. fposte*

        It sounds like the co-worker may already be in a private office; a closed-door policy for “private work” might be effective as well.

        1. Mookie*

          Yes. I’d love it if an office manager, in cases like these, could request help from facilities in “aerating” or dehumidifying nearby communal air (or whatever one calls it), but a lot of times the “solution” people hit upon is adding to the odor problem, usually with something irritating that’s going to inevitably bother someone else or mix with farts to create a juicy and unappetizing air-stew of sulfur and artificial florals or gourmands. That, in itself, can be unbearable. Ideally, the co-worker could crack open a window and maybe use a fan for ventilation and to direct the odors out into the aether.

          And although not particularly pertinent here, as a former interior landscaper I’d be remiss if I didn’t remind people of the power of good species selection for air quality (ditto the right potting medium).

          1. Mookie*

            power of good species selection for air quality (ditto the right potting medium).

            Though that mostly applies to tight quarters and the right kind of lighting (one that stimulates additional growth and size rather than maintains it through cell renewal).

          2. Artemesia*

            An air filter might help; there are lots of portable air filter appliances about the size of a space heater. I use one in our bedroom for dust and pollen and it is pretty effective for that. We of course never ever fart.

            1. myswtghst*

              Yes, this. I’ve got a little one that plugs into the wall and hardly makes any noise, which is helpful for us since we have a stinky bulldog at home. We’ve also got a few mini towers around the house, which are a bit louder but work well for larger spaces.

              I recently had a really unfortunate situation at work in a small classroom where the doors had to be kept closed because of noise, and one person in class had a medical issue which created a strong smell. Adding air fresheners made it so much worse, but even adding the little plug-in air filter helped a ton.

    2. Alison Read*

      There are actually underwear for this, shreddies, as well as a seat cushion with carbon based filter built in. Those seem like the type of thing the person with the gas would have to be self aware enough to buy. If management did get involved and it is a medical condition, I’d think purchasing a chair pad and a plug in mechanical air filter (Not the scented type) could fall under accommodations – even if they’re not claiming ADA.

      1. Alison Read*

        These are the underwear: http://amzn.to/2CfGBCq – they’re spendy, but I’ve heard they’ve saved a marriage! I can imagine they could save a job. This air cleaner is great for bathrooms without ventilation: http://amzn.to/2ExNX9s and would probably be good for a small office. The best part about the air filter is that it works via UV so there aren’t filters to change. Perhaps the OP could get their own air filter and a small desk fan that directs the air flow towards Fran’s office?

        1. Nucking Fux Nix*

          I was also thinking that maybe you could hide a bad air sponge in his office when he is not there somewhere? Or even just keep one under your own desk as a mitigator? The UV one also seems pretty discrete. I’m sure others here will disagree with me but I personally think what they don’t know won’t hurt them.

    3. Queen Esmerelda*

      There are charcoal seat cushions and underwear inserts that can be used to help absorb odor. I know this because I used to work with someone whose gas issues were medical in nature and he used these to mitigate the problem.

        1. Alison Read*

          Anony – Yes!!! Warning… TMI to follow: I have Crohn’s and a shortened intestinal tract, as a result any gas is scary smelly gas unless I start taking charcoal pills with every single thing I eat starting a day ahead (I’ll do this for planned long term close quarters events – think air travel, conferences, reunions, etc.) but charcoal pills (brand name Devrom) interfere with absorption of medication and nutrition. Considering I have limited absorption to begin with, it isn’t something I should regularly take, Devrom is also used in colostomy bags for odor control. Shreddies are pretty spendy and require hand washing but are amazing for those last minute/unexpected close quarter events. They can typically completely contain the issue unless my diet has been really out of control, some foods my body clearly does not like no matter how great it tastes! (Now the AAM world knows way too much about me!)

          Really I think if the OP gets a UV filter & desk fan blowing across them towards Fran, they can alleviate a lot of the odor they’re experiencing. I’m terrible at formatting but I hope this describes what I’m trying to explain:
          |Fran| -walkway- UV |OP’s desk| <-fan

    4. Mb13*

      If its a cubical or open office I would ask my coworker something along the lines of “hey I am sorry to bring it up and I don’t want to shame you in anyway, but when you fart the smells lingers for a long time and it ends up distracting me from work. Would you mind running a small desk fan for a few minutes after you fart? I dont want you too feel embarrassed by this discussion, but I do want to know if we can figure out a solution together.”

      1. Alison Read*

        No!!!! This would make it worse! It sounds like Fran is in an enclosed environment so Fran running a fan would only clear their area out and blast the OP worse!!! Fran really needs a filter in their office, lacking that, OP needs a fan aimed at Fran to keep Frans’ odors directed away from OP. Think – those little fans on airplanes: often you need to direct those towards a seatmate to blow their personal ambiance away from you! I tried to write out a diagram for OP in my response to Anony (assuming OP gets a filter for their personal area and Fran does nothing).

        1. fposte*

          Beano is like Lactaid–a specific enzyme (or two, in Beano’s case) that assist with digestion of specific sugars. If the issue isn’t those specific sugars, there’s not much Beano can do.

    5. Brandy*

      I wonder if the co-worker had a fan on her desk blowing in a certain direction would help. Like maybe have is oscillating and blowing the smell away??

        1. myswtghst*

          I had a coworker years ago who had a little desk fan he’d use when he got back from his lunchtime trip to the onsite gym. I’m sure it felt great for him, but it just blew the sweaty BO smell around the office at the rest of us.

    6. Beancounter in Texas*

      I had a diabetic boss that just let it rip whenever, wherever, without any embarrassment or apology. I lost my inhibition and having kept a can of air freshner in my drawer for post-departure spraying, I started spraying it liberally in his presence.

      Maybe the OP can keep canned air freshner or a burning candle or a nosegay to smell. I sympathize.

        1. teclatrans*

          Amen. The cart smell doesn’t disappear, it just takes on a floral/perfumed flavor. If I.

          Ideally the coworker would get an air purifier, but if not, OP should get one. (Or, better yet, get the office to pay for one.)

          1. MsChanandlerBong*

            As my best friend’s mom said after someone used a can of apple orchard air freshener in the bathroom: “Well, now it just smells like someone s*!^& in an orchard!”

        2. Free Meerkats*

          Lords, the number of times I’ve told my spouse that. But she was raised in a house with automatic air fresheners in every room…

          I’d rather smell the gas than the air “freshener”. And the combination of both is gag inducing. I admit I’m a special case; immediately outside my office (I got curious and paced it off just now – 35 feet from the front door and 60 feet from my frequently open window) is a pond of about half a billion gallons of partially treated sewage. And it’s not unusual for me to be physically in sewer manholes.

        3. Electric Hedgehog*

          Proven by science! The US military spent a ton of time/money weaponizing foul odors post WW2 and found that an army latrine smell laced with other additives (including a floral scent) was univerversally the worst. The floral scent rides on top and makes the target unconcieously breath in deeply- whereupon they got the full monty.

      1. Julia the Survivor*

        I would be careful with air fresheners and candles. They often contain chemicals that can make people sick… in any given place, there’s probably someone who would get sick from the particular scent, and/or someone who would get sick from the chemicals.
        For example, citrus air freshener seems healthy and personally I love it – but I’ve read about people with citrus allergies…

    7. star86*

      It may be involuntary if it’s a medical condition but in my experience, most people have some level of control. My partner is a teacher and even though he can be very flatulent at home, he manages to make it through the school day without farting in class. You can often at least know that it’s coming and move to a private location.

    8. Blueberry*

      I’d bring an air freshener or an oil defuser. I know some people are allergic to these things but it’s not a solution to tell the OP to just suffer it. It’s not fun to have to smell someone else’s gas all the time. Even if it’s medical it’s not reasonable. At all.

  2. Kiwi*

    Hi Alison, I think you mean an employer *isn’t* going to pay you based on what you need/want to be making.

    OP4, I really wouldn’t mention your housing situation. It’ll make employers less likely to offer you a job if it’s below that $35K and that may limit you more than you want.

    Good luck with the job hunt!

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      And really everyone has a personal story about why they happen to live where they do and why they need a particular amount of money. Your own story is always going to feel special to you because you’re living it – but that doesn’t mean anyone else needs to hear it and especially not a hiring manager.

      It’s fine to have a number in mind that influences the vacancies you apply for and the offers you’ll accept. But it’s best to keep your personal reasons out of the discussion. If you’re looking for a salary that fits the role and experience level, you have no need to justify why you’d want it.

      1. JamieS*

        Agreed. OP, best thing to do is to research the market rate for jobs that you qualify for and target jobs that either meet your target or are at least close enough that it’s within the reasonable range of negotiation.

      2. Boy oh boy*

        +1. I want a nice house but my parents died without leaving me a house or anything much except their personal things. Should I deserve a £80,000 salary, which is what I need to buy a decent place in my high cost of living area?

        If Kelly, who wants the same job, has the same problem but has 5 kids, should he get £160,000 so he can get a six-bed house?

        Everyone should get a livin wave but salary shouldn’t be based on the employee’s needs like this.

        1. Anion*

          I should email my husband’s boss and tell him he needs to give Hubby a raise because I need to renovate my kitchen and build an in-law suite for my daddy.

          That’ll work, right?

      3. I'll come up with a clever name later.*

        +1 It would be so unfair if a person’s personal story for why they want the money were to be factored into the salary negotiation. I probably wouldn’t make any changes in my living situation but I’d love to have more money to travel with my family, to be able to have more funds for our meager entertainment budget. I’d hate to have someone feel like my reasons for wanting the money weren’t as important as someone who wanted to buy a home or live in a specific neighborhood.

      4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I said something like that in an interview once. But it was a weird interview all around. It was a panel interview with 4-5 people in it.

        Hiring manager: What type of salary are you looking at?
        Me: However much you think I am worth.
        HM: No, how much?
        Me: I’m sure we can work with what you expect to pay to someone in this position, and come to a number that works for all of us.
        HM: No! How much???
        Me: Alright, alright! I currently make X. I cannot take a pay cut, because of Y and Z personal reasons.

        In front of five people… I still feel embarrassed when I think of it.

        OP, it’s fine to be needing to make X amount. The employer does not have to know why.

        1. AKchic*

          Ooooh. Whenever someone asks me exactly how much I want to be paid, I feel like they aren’t hiring for a position, they are looking to see how little they can pay a body to fill the position. I’m usually right.

            1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              I tried so hard to weasel around, but that guy just would not quit. It was not the only red flag in that interview, he was being pushy all around.

              They ended up not hiring me. Then a few years later, a mutual friend told me that the company was struggling, and laying people off. Good thing I wasn’t a good fit, otherwise it would’ve been me.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Ooo, yeah. It’s going to sound naive (and a bit self-centered) to talk about the need to earn a certain amount so you can buy a house in a nicer part of town. In theory, everyone seeking a job would like to make enough to live where they want to live. You may also end up low-balling yourself if incomes in your sector (and region) are already at or above $40K.

      I’m very sorry about your father’s passing and the difficulty that came with settling his estate.

      1. TL -*

        Yup. You live where you can afford to and it stinks if you’re in a neighborhood that you don’t care for, but you’re not entitled to a nicer house/your own apartment/a different neighborhood.

        1. Project Manager*

          Yep. I seriously considered switching to English literature in college, but I stayed in biomedical engineering largely because it was significantly more likely to support me in the lifestyle to which I was hoping to become accustomed. (Also, it’s a lot easier to do engineering as a job and pursue an interest in literature on the side than vice versa.) I did not grow up in a nice neighborhood at all, and wanting to live in a place where it was safe for a young (at the time of the decision in question), short and slightly built woman to go for a walk around the block alone was a big motivator for me to work hard, starting with taking plenty of extra math and science as early as middle school (age 13 or so). (And yes, that hard work did pay off.)

          So, LW, I get it. Good luck, and I hope you are able to build your skills sufficiently to earn the money you need.

          (BTW…unless you live in a very low cost of living area, I would take another look at that 35-40k figure. In my city, which is not particularly expensive on a national scale, that is nowhere near enough to get out of a place like my old neighborhood and still live sufficiently within your income to be able to cover emergencies, save for retirement, etc. People in the house buying/selling business tend to not be very realistic about what a person can really afford. (Our mortgage company told us when we were house hunting a few years ago that we could afford a half million dollar home. I literally howled with laughter on the phone with the rep who told me that. Try *maybe* half that.))

            1. JB (not in Houston)*

              In the US, it very much depends on what part of the country you live in. That would be a pretty nice house (though not a mansion) where I live, but in some parts of the country that much money wouldn’t go very far. I don’t want to derail the thread anymore, so I won’t get into more details than that.

          1. Naptime Enthusiast*

            Yes, this. We “qualified” for a 600K home, but in reality we were only comfortable paying a third of that so we could still afford the lifestyle we wanted.

            1. MLB*

              Yup – the qualification amount only covers what you owe to others, i.e. car loans, credit cards, etc. It doesn’t take into account things like food and gas for your car, which are kind of important.

          2. Jesmlet*

            Ditto on your last paragraph. Where I live, $75k will get you a decent co-op or condo in an okay neighborhood. Unless you have absolutely no other liabilities, $35-40k will comfortably get you a 600 square foot apartment in an area where you’d need to hold your keys in between your knuckles any time you walked outside. Write out all your expenses and see what you can actually afford… don’t just trust what your agent or the bank says.

          3. Falling Diphthong*

            It’s a lot easier to do engineering as a job and pursue an interest in literature on the side than vice versa.

            My daughter ran this calculation for a hobby as she was finishing high school, and came to the same conclusion–better a job that let her pursue the passion on the side, on her terms, than a narrow range of jobs that put her near the passion but had a ton of negatives. (Low pay, wealthy clientele not used to hearing ‘no.’) Her father and I would have fully supported either choice, but I think there’s a lot to be said for both considering future pay, and for letting the things you do for joy not be central to making rent.

            1. Jesmlet*

              My dad did the same. Double majored in music and business, got his MBA and works for a SIFI, and plays in big bands on the side and I know he has no regrets. My hobby is watching trashy reality tv shows… nothing you can make money doing, but if the choice was between a job I love that may leave me struggling to pay bills and a job I’m good at and can make a good living off of, I 100% would have done the same as my dad.

          4. Blue Anne*

            Eh. I make about $40k a year in the Midwest. Bought a nice $120k four-unit home for myself and a $80k rental duplex on that salary. Safe working class neighborhood.

              1. Blue Anne*

                I’m in the suburbs of Cleveland, I’m trying to convince all my friends from NYC to move out here. It’s a great place to live. :)

              2. Alienor*

                It’s a mobile home where I live. The 40-year-old 2-bedroom condo I live in was $550k the last time it was appraised.

            1. HS Teacher*

              I have a similar situation in the southwest. My 2,000 sq ft home, which I had built cost $140,000. It’s in a fantastic neighborhood. A half a million dollar home here would be about 5,000 sq ft.

          1. Turquoisecow*

            Thank you. I don’t think it’s “entitlement” for OP or anyone else to think that having a job will let them afford a place to live.

            1. Clairels*

              But she doesn’t just want any place to live. She wants a nice (or nicer) place to live. I don’t know whether or not she’s entitled in general, but she’s not entitled to that, any more than the people who grew up in those sketchy areas. You don’t think they would move someplace better if they could?

            2. TL -*

              The OP can afford a place to live – and not gonna lie, I’m so far from ever owning a house (partly because of my own priorities/decisions, but partly because the best place for my career path is hella HCOL) that thinking you are owed a salary you can a buy nice house in a nice part of town on is just very….outside of what I have calibrated my normal to.

          2. TL -*

            I’m not calling the OP entitled, I’m just saying she’s not entitled to a nicer neighborhood than she has. It sounds very similar to what a lot of my peers and I have gone through – crappy living situations in crappy neighborhoods until we can afford better. It’s a really common rite of passage in American culture.

      2. MissGirl*

        Yep, all recent grads I knew lived in more sketchy neighborhoods than we wanted to because that’s what we could afford. And that’s with roommates to share the cost.

        You are naive, but so was I until reality set in. We could do an entire thread about the things we put up with the first years after school with low salaries.

      3. Jules the Third*

        Self-centered? Naive, I agree – but a college senior is likely to be naive.

        Self-centered is not a kind editorial on the OP, and a step farther than the letter justifies. Can we go back to erring on the side of kindness?

        1. MLB*

          Commentor didn’t say the LW WAS self-centered, they said the request would SOUND self-centered if asked. Big difference and completely true. I believe LW is just naive but needs to understand how a request like hers would come across to a potential employer. It’s not unkind. Letting LW believe mentioning a personal financial situation is normal and acceptable would be more unkind.

          1. Anony*

            I agree. The comment was referring to the way that it would come across if used as salary negotiating tactic. They were not passing judgment on the OP.

          2. Falling Diphthong*

            There was a link a couple of days ago about sounding naive in interviews, when you are a new grad and literally naive, and why it can still be bad. Will look. But sounding self-centered–that you can’t look beyond your own needs to accurately evaluate who will care about them–is one of the negatives. Also thinking of those interns sending everyone a video of the office electric stapler IN ACTION and how even the whole curious/excited/eager to learn thing can be done at such an intensity that it drives your superiors crazy.

            Link in name.

          3. Delphine*

            I think we can tell the LW that the request won’t go over well, and the reasons why, without implying that it’s entitled, naive, or self-centered to want to live in an area where you feel safe. It’s not like the LW is suggesting she be paid $100k for an entry-level job.

        2. AnotherAlison*

          Eh, the OP is being a little self-centered and naive, but I don’t think they’re uniquely self-centered, and it’s not over the top to point it out. Although, I think it is difficult for us who are not college students to sometimes remember back to how we thought things worked when we were college students. The OP may have the impression that other graduating college students are getting parental support (like an ongoing housing allowance post-graduation) or are able to move back home, when the reality is her situation is not that unique. Lots of students are on their own when they graduate, regardless of their parental and income situation. My own kid will have about 1 month to FIO when he graduates. My inlaws quit supporting my husband when he was 16, and he is worn out on paying for our kid at this point.

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I don’t think OP is naive or self-centered! I just think it’s important for OP to understand how this tactic would sound to an employer. I’m not casting personal judgment on OP’s desires—as noted, (almost) everyone wants to live in a place of their choosing, and that can include a place that feels safer than their current neighborhood. But it’s important, in any negotiation, to consider the other party’s perspective and whether your approach/framing will be effective with them. In this context, I don’t think OP’s suggested approach will be effective, and it runs the risk of causing unnecessary offense.

    3. HannahS*

      It’s also important to remember that employers, generally speaking, are looking to pay you whatever they think is the minimum sufficient to retain you. They have little interest in how much money you need or deserve. It’s important to remember that when you take a job, you’re entering into a business exchange: your labour for their money. I don’t meant to come off as condescending; I screwed this up a lot during and after university. What threw me was that most of the people who took appalling advantage of me were really, genuinely nice. They had good values! They cared about education, and research, and serving the public! They voted for the same political parties as me! These were not greedy, Scrooge McDuck types.

      My first boss was ran a tutoring centre; she wasn’t getting rich from it. But the going rate for the labour of a university-educated person with job experience was just above minimum wage, and that’s what I was offered. If I had been able to teach desirable subjects, like upper-level math, I could have negotiated for more money, because she would have been willing to spend more on me to bring in a greater number of students to her business. As time went on, and I became more valuable to the organization–I made lesson plans, I worked weird shifts, I taught kids with special needs–I could have negotiated for more because at that point my boss would have been convinced that a) she wanted me because I was good for her business and b) more money would keep me at her organization. Now, I was too conflict averse to ask for more money, and despite that fact that she openly liked and respected me and knew I couldn’t afford to move out of my parents’ house, she never offered me any. The point is, if you want to be paid more, you have to present yourself as desirable to the organization–you’re bringing value to them, and it’s an intelligent financial decision for them to spend X amount of money on your salary to get you. Or, they don’t want to lose your value, so they should spend X amount of money to give you a raise so that you don’t leave.

    4. Caryatis*

      Yeah, and I doubt OP is going to get a lot of sympathy for “my inheritance wasn’t as much as I hoped!” Just imagine how that sounds to the majority who get no inheritance at all.

      1. Delphine*

        Yeah, that framing is really unkind. It sounds like the LW might have been a teenager whose father died, leaving her without the ability to live in her family home. She wants to live somewhere she feels safe. This is not whining about inheritance. I don’t think it’s too difficult to offer advice about using personal stories during salary negotiations without passing judgement on that personal story.

    5. OP#4*


      I am the OP and and after he passed away, I used the equity from his house to cover the closing costs after I had to pay him to be buried, what is left was not that much. I ended up moving to a neighborhood where being awoken by gunshots and the sound of police sirens are the norm. If it helps, the house that i live in now is only worth $30,000. I also live in an area where the commercial avenues are all empty and desolate.

      1. TL -*

        Hey! That kind of neighborhood is actually really, really common to live in when you’re first paying for your own lifestyle – I lived in a similar neighborhood after I graduated and some of my friends lived in a similar neighborhood in college. Heck, I live in some pretty cruddy places now because I’m back in grad school and don’t have much of an income anymore.
        My brother lives in a small-town version of this neighborhood – less gunfire and ambulances but that house that he rents is truly run down and 30k is probably the upper limits of its value. It’s what he can afford right now. Get a full-time job, get some savings, and make sure you’re being paid around market value for your skill set. Eventually, you’ll be able to move somewhere nicer.

        I’m really sorry your dad passed.

        1. EchoChamber*

          I don’t think just because that’s what you experienced you can say it’s “really, really common” or a rite of passage, as you called it earlier in this thread, to live in a neighborhood where gunshots and sirens are a regular occurrence. There are lots of people who are lucky enough to live in perfectly safe neighborhoods immediately upon graduating, including people who move back in with their parents to save money.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        OP, I don’t doubt that you don’t feel safe in your neighborhood! But truly, the explanation is not going to play well with most employers (as someone who grew up in a neighborhood like what you’re describing, it would not play well with me, for example).

        I understand why this is the most important issue for you, but I think you have to sort through salary concerns in the application and hiring process.

        I’m truly sorry for your loss.

      3. Jules the 3rd*

        Hi OP #4: That kind of neighborhood is not the norm. You (and all the people who live there) deserve to live someplace without nightly gunshots.

        I’m sorry that you had to defend yourself here. There’s some useful nuggets in the comments, about ways to get a higher salary / live in a safer space.

        One I forgot – some employers have roommate matching services – that can hook you up with someone who has a steady job, at least. A good roommate can be really helpful – I know mine were. If you’re female, that can get tricky, finding someone with a steady job who doesn’t want to hook up / make hooking up a requirement. I roomed with a female friend’s boyfriend for a couple of years – it gave her a reason to be over “at Jules’ place” when she needed some cover from her overprotective mom, so it worked out really well. The fact that he and I developed a brother / sister kind of relationship helped a lot.

        Good luck.

        1. Luna*


          While some people obviously have experienced living in OP’s type of neighborhood, that does not make it normal and people should not be making OP feel bad for desiring to live somewhere safe, or telling her to suck it up and stay there. When I first graduated I made very little money, and while I didn’t live in the swankiest part of town I never had to live in a place where I felt unsafe. I rented and lived with roommates to reduce the cost.

  3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#2, whoever there lawyer is, they need to get a better one—ideally someone who specializes in employment antidiscrimination law (including the ADA). It’s not true that they can’t speak to your coworker about his flatulence, although of course they should frame the issue somewhat broadly at the beginning.

    It’s not clear that his flatulence even qualifies as a disability under the ADA (it could, but generally on its own it would not). Where they need to be careful is in not assuming or treating him as if he were disabled when he does not identify as having a disability. By refusing to talk to him, they’re kind of doing that, which can also create problems. I agree with you that it’s not reasonable to not even attempt a solution. But unfortunately, if HR digs in, there’s very little you can do without triggering the “out to humiliate Fran” sensitivities (even though that’s not your intent, and of course most people with a functioning sense of smell would be uncomfortable in your position).

    The other passive-aggressive approach would be to see if you can negotiate your cube assignment. I’m sorry you’re all dealing with this :(

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I understand, but I wonder if this is more negotiable than OP realizes, especially if HR insists that it cannot even raise the issue with Fran.

        1. LW2*

          Hi! It is not possible to move :( There are no other available cubicles and the one I had to move from has someone else in it. I tried to stay there, but was not able to. It’s a group of four cubes, two of them have a half wall on one side and the other two have all tall walls. They gave my desk with the tall walls to our safety guy and had me move to a cube with a half wall because I keep a cleaner desk and the safety guy has private information (which he puts in a locked cabinet). None of it has made sense, but when you are told to do something by a superior, there isn’t much choice. I would like to thank you for your suggestions :)

    1. bridget*

      Even totally ignoring the existence of the ADA … what would talking to Fran achieve? It’s very unlikely he is doing it for fun. People don’t generally fart in public when they can help it. The only thing it would serve to do is humiliate him.

      HR should let the OP negotiate a different seating arrangement, because even if they could talk to him about it, it would be pointless and embarrassing.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        There are two possibilities. Either OP moves, or Fran moves (possibly to a more private office, or an office with better ventilation, etc.). I think the safer option is to move OP if HR wants to completely avoid the conversation, but I wonder if other coworkers have been affected by their proximity, as well.

        I agree that it’s a delicate issue, though, that could come across as humiliating, embarrassing, and/or pointless if handled poorly.

        1. bridget*

          I agree. It just seems like either way, whoever moves, I see no upside to asking him “so, is it a medical thing or …?” It’s the situation, regardless of whether he has a particular diagnosis or medication to point to.

        2. Brandy*

          I wonder if a fan would help. Ideally Fran would keep the office door closed. If Im gassy, medical condition or not, maybe its just me, Id be embarrassed and keep the door closed.

          1. Ani are you okay*

            It is possible that Fran thinks the smell is more or less remaining confined to his office and would take steps if he realized that’s not the case.

      2. Yada Yada Yada*

        Remember the guy/gal who wrote in about their loud burps/farts and didn’t realize that most people hold them in or make their burps quieter? They had been quite literally letting it rip at full volume all day in the office and were getting complaints. Man was that a wild letter

        1. bridget*

          I must have missed that one! I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it seems much much more likely it’s not an issue of manners or choosing not to hold it in. If the risk is horribly embarrassing someone for no real helpful reason, I don’t want to bet that he’s the one on 1000 who just doesn’t realize it’s not socially acceptable.

          1. Yada Yada Yada*

            Oh for sure, 99% of people would not be doing this on purpose! Just reminded me of that old letter, the LW legitimately wasn’t aware that it’s possible to semi-silently burp or that people hold in their farts

        2. teclatrans*

          I understand trying to make things quieter, but OP is specifically concerned about the smell. I guess I just dont believe anybody who says they can just contain gas inside their abdomen for hours on end?

          1. Yada Yada Yada*

            Not for hours on end, no, it’s not an all or nothing scenario. But absolutely most people contain their gas to some extent. Depends on where I am, who’s nearby, etc, but I’ll often “pass” on letting out a fart (pun intended) and hold it for either a later time or a different location. OP’s situation is different because it sounds like this guy needs to fart much more often than the average bloke, and holding it each time is probably not reasonable. But in general, yeah, it’s polite to not fart the second you get the urge, and I’m not sure why that’s hard to believe.

          2. FartyFarrah*

            I have a private office, but the ventilation is so bad that if I fart in here, I’ll end up “Dutch oven”-ing myself. I also don’t want to crop dust people, so if I find myself plagued with smelly farts some days (depending what I eat, my farts range from barely detectable to hot garbage), I will find some excuse to go outside or check something out in my company’s warehouse. Never requires holding in gas for more than 10-20 minutes.

            1. Anony*

              That is possible in general, but if there is a medical condition at play that is increasing the value of gas, holding it for 20 minutes may not be possible.

              1. FartyFarrah*

                Oh yeah for sure, I was just telling teclatrans that when people (without medical reasons for their flatulence) say “hold it in” I don’t think they mean for hours. I didn’t think s/he was referencing just people with medical conditions.

        3. Myrin*

          Or the OP who wrote in desperately because she, too, had an overly farty (and burpy) coworker? In her update, it had come out that the coworker was doing it on purpose to drive her out! (Which I don’t think anyone – commenters, Alison, and the OP alike – had considered before!) I agree with others that this is really, really unlikely but it is apparently a brand of jerkness that does happen from time to time.

            1. Tassie Tiger*

              I don’t have the link, but the update was heartbreaking–she literally was driven out of her job because the smell of farts made her vomit and lost too much weight. No one in her job helped her or supported her.

              1. bohtie*

                god, I just went and looked that up (after thinking long and hard about how my boss would react to walking into my cube to find a page of search results about farting) and the comments made me as angry as the post. “Look on the bright side, at least you lost weight!”

        4. Sylvan*

          I think that OP had a medical issue that hadn’t been diagnosed yet. They said later in the thread that they were burping sometimes as frequently as once a minute. They didn’t seem to get that this was 100% not normal to live with.

          1. soon 2be former fed*

            Not all medical issues can be accommodated in the workplace, especially when it is other employees who are doing the accommodating, not the employer.

            1. Natalie*

              I sincerely doubt “coworkers have to smell something unpleasant” is going to reach the bar of undue hardship.

      3. myswtghst*

        Not quite the same situation, but as I mentioned upthread, I recently had to work with HR and a manager to address a “smell issue” with a trainee. We were stuck in a closed-door classroom, and the trainee in question had a medical issue which caused a strong smell. We were really limited in terms of the room, ventilation, space, etc… and did everything we could think of doing discreetly, but it was causing issues for all the other trainees.

        It wasn’t a fun conversation, but the manager practiced beforehand with HR and with me, and demonstrated sensitivity when they brought up the issue with the trainee one-on-one, and it went about as well as it could. There was no magic fix, but we put an air purifier in the room near the trainee’s seat, opened the doors when we could, and the trainee worked with their doctor to minimize the issue. The trainee also spoke with the people sitting near them, which I think helped, as they then knew it was a medical issue being treated.

    2. Zip Silver*

      > But unfortunately, if HR digs in, there’s very little you can do without triggering the “out to humiliate Fran” sensitivities

      That’s why I generally find it a bad idea to bring certain things up to HR in the first place. Should have talked directly to Fran. I’ve found that HR prefers to take the most legally conservative route, so it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission.

    3. Triumphant Fox*

      I have air purifiers throughout my home – they are amazing. I bought them initially because our home is old and musty and this was one of the ways I could improve the air quality as we work on more permanent basement renovations. The other thing it did? Made my bedroom breathable during the night. I’m really sensitive to smells and the nighttime flatulence was killing me. This thing has saved my sleep. It has the added bonus of a little white noise. If your building allows them, I highly recommend requesting an air purifier by your desk (or bringing in one yourself if they’re allowed – mine was $80 on Amazon but It’s meant for a decent area), with the back facing the general direction of Fran.

    4. Bingo*

      I do want to point out, though, that we have like 5th hand information here. Legal -> HR -> possibly this manager, possibly someone higher up -> letter writer -> us.

      For all we know they have spoken with the poor guy and it is indeed a disability. Or this manager has misinterpreted the information HR provided. Or this employee misinterpreted what their manager told them. At the end of the day, all of that is irrelevant because a) we don’t know what the actual advice was, and b) letter writer is not in a position to act on behalf of the employer to find out or to come up with an accommodation plan.

      That being said, I completely sympathize with the letter writer. Even if it is a protected disability, that doesn’t mean that every other employee should suffer as a result. I think all the letter writer can do is tell their manager that they’re not going to treat Fran any differently in the workplace and they’ll respect the company’s decisions around what action to take, but that they cannot work out of that cubicle and they need to be placed somewhere else and hope that the manager is able to assign somewhere else to sit!

    1. Bea*

      I flinched reading this suggestion. There is a recent story about a woman being fired for that course of action over a co-worker with strong body oder.

      Also you then run the risk of harming a co-worker with allergies or chemical sensitivity.

        1. MsChanandlerBong*

          No, but the solution to one person’s funk isn’t to make a chemical stew that aggravates people’s asthma and allergies.

        1. Bea*

          They said she was discriminating against the person with BO and creating a hostile work environment. As we know lots of people don’t know the actual definition of hostile work environment but I wonder if the coworker is protected and they think that is the true cause of the actions. It’s a weird case and not enough info at all in the news stories that I’ve read.

    2. Marnix*

      I agree that a plug-in or some other good smelling things could work. Even a plain fan pointed at the right angle might help.

    3. all aboard the anon train*

      Those run the risk of offending another coworker. I know they trigger migraines for me.

      1. Chocolate lover*

        I’m also subject to occasional migraines, but more often nausea due to artificial chemical smells like those. They’d be worse than the smell of flatulence for me (which isn’t enjoyable for me either, but won’t make me physically feel as bad.)

        1. Talvi*

          And some of us get headaches (not migraines, thankfully) and nausea from artifical, chemically scents :/

    4. TL -*

      An air filter in his office would probably be more practical and perhaps more effective – it did wonders for secondhand smoke in my apartment and might help neutralize the smell before it spreads.

    5. Yada Yada Yada*

      They make undies with a strip of carbon or something inside of them which is meant to filter the smell right out of your toots. In addition to being a weird product, they had very weird advertisements, as you can imagine

    6. Anon55*

      Ozium is really great too – I gave it to a pregnant friend who found approximately 98% of all office smells nauseating in her first trimester and it worked great for her! It’s not super-perfumey at all and what scent is there dissipates quickly.

      1. Parenthetically*

        This is about the only decent one. Perfumey air fresheners just make everything smell like a mix of synthetic floral chemicals and farts. Horrid.

    7. Justme, The OG*

      So instead of fart smell you get fart plus floral. Those things never really work, and as mentioned before can harm those with allergies.

    8. poop_emoji*

      White vinegar is great for absorbing odor – a bowl or bottle with white vinegar should help absorb the smell. A few drops of essential oil can add fragrance as well, though it isn’t necessary.

      1. BeepBoopSkiDoopBop*

        I never knew this! I can’t wait to try it! I am very sensitive to smells and cannot stand the lingering smell of cooking/food after I am done making it.

        Pasta is pretty much my go-to meal because it doesn’t smell. Even the smell of cookies makes me feel ill if I am not actively making them.

        I’m probably going to be cooking a lot more meat and vegetables if this works :)

  4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#3, could you change your internal practices to only allow Skype interviews (or the like) for non-local candidates at the first-round stage? I’ve found it’s hard to discourage people from traveling at their own expense because they’re often very eager, feeling slightly desperate, or worried that other candidates will travel and it will put them at a disadvantage. Sometimes having a general policy that you can share makes it easier. (But I’m not sure if this is even feasible given that you work for a governmental entity, which likely has very strict rules about hiring processes.)

    1. Susan K*

      Yeah, that was my thought — why are you even making an in-person interview an option at this stage? It is very common for a first-round interview to be a phone interview, period. When you call them to schedule an interview, just say, “I would like to schedule a phone interview for the Senior Rice Sculptor position you applied for.” You could let them choose between (a) a phone interview or (b) a Skype interview, but don’t even bring up an option of traveling at their own expense.

    2. Not Australian*

      Would it ‘level the playing-field’ to interview *everyone* on Skype for the first round, and make that abundantly clear to all the candidates? (Absent rules which prevent it, obviously.)

      1. Mookie*

        Would even the internal candidate(s) do this, as well? It could seem a bit weird, I suppose, but it’d make the policy fairer and wouldn’t burn bridges with qualified, long-distance applicants who might be interested in a similar position later down the road.

        1. Grits McGee*

          I work for a government agency, and we do phone interviews for the first round (even if the candidate works in the same building!). Most of our job postings are internal-only, but we have offices across the country. Most of the openings are in our main office, and this phone interview is meant to level the field for applicants outside the DC area.

        2. Sam.*

          My office does the 1st round over phone for everyone, including internal candidates. Yes, it’s a little weird, but you laugh at the awkwardness and move on.

        3. babblemouth*

          That’s what I used to do when recruiting interns. It’s the best way to make sure you’re not being partial to someone just because it’s easier to relate to someone when you’re talking face to face instead of through a screen.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            Yes, I’ve heard in several contexts of radio interviewers doing this–it’s a different dynamic if one person is sitting next to Ira Flatow and one person on a phone line. So I can absolutely see the slightly desperate long distance candidates concluding that they need to be physically in that room, like everyone else.

            (That said, how did the second person get through the first-level screen?)

      2. LAI*

        I like this idea a lot. Personally, I do think that Skype interviews put you at a disadvantage (I say that as both an interviewer and interviewee). When I am the interviewer, I try to be very conscious of the discrepancy and not allow it to be a factor, but I wouldn’t assume everyone else is. If I really wanted a job, I would do whatever I could to make my interview in person (unless it was clear that this round was not in person for anyone).

    3. Cambridge Comma*

      I’ve never been in this situation, so perhaps there’s something I’m missing, bit isn’t it a huge red flag if you tell a candidate explicitly not to do something (assuming OP is) and they go ahead and do it anyway? My initial reaction would be to have neither an in person nor a Skype interview with that person.

      1. Crystal*

        They’re not saying explicitly saying not to do it. Those words are not used. As someone who lives on one side of the country and is applying for jobs on the other I always assume it puts me at a disadvantage from in-person candidates even if they say it doesn’t. I’ve been proven right on this a few times and wrong a few others. After one disastrous Skype experience from hell, if I made it to a certain point I would fly myself out. The only time I haven’t done it is when as mentioned above they said “since you’re in Cali we’ll do the next interview on Skype, let’s set up the time, etc” That’s what she should do if they’re not local. Don’t give the option.

        1. Cambridge Comma*

          So then maybe OP could explicitly say to the candidates that they should not make any arrangements to travel for an in-person interview.

      2. Sam.*

        I’ve applied for jobs in regions in which I did not live more than once, and I always assume I’m at a disadvantage. I’ve always taken people at their word if they say that skype is a fine alternative, but there are enough unwritten “rules” of job searching that I can definitely see someone being skeptical of that. Undoubtedly, there is some hiring manager out there who does treat it as a test of people’s commitment to the position.

        1. Samata*

          I have had TWO Skype interviews where the interviewers Skype did not work and we ended up just doing phone interview. Interestingly enough, I did get an offer from both of those.

          However, these were positions where I’d be working remote in my territory & both bosses were 500 miles away working out of their home office as well…so there was no in-person interviews for any candidates in either case.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Same here–that’s how Exjob did it. AwesomeBoss was in another state and we just talked on the phone and via email the entire time. We didn’t meet in person until I got the job and scheduled a week-long orientation, where she flew in.

            I just applied for a remote position with a company in New Mexico, and assuming the recruiter calls me, I’d be surprised if I had to fly in. (Also screwed if they don’t pay for it, because I’m broke.)

      3. SarahTheEntwife*

        There are so many reasons why someone could want to travel for an out-of-town interview that it seems weird to penalize someone doing so when it’s not absolutely necessary to the interviewer. Maybe they’re already planning to move to the area and they’re also looking at apartments or whatever while they’re there. Maybe they have friends or family in the area.

    4. Betsy*

      Do other people think it’s a real disadvantage? I have a job interview next week, but I’m on an different continent and couldn’t afford to fly out and wouldn’t be able to take the time off, even if I could.

      1. Tuesday Next*

        I just went through an entire interview process (2+ phone calls and 3 video calls) and was offered the job without ever having an in person interview. It was also on another continent and the cost would have been prohibitive.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Technically it depends on the company. Just like how for every gimmick out there, there’s a hiring manager who loved it–was impressed that the CPA applicant showed up to interview dressed as a dolphin and hired them for gumption, and you’ll hear about that and not the dozens of hiring managers who crossed dolphin CPA right off their list. I can say that a) if it’s a secret test from the company, you probably don’t want to work somewhere with secret “do the opposite of what we tell you” tests; b) if someone ignores the company’s suggestion for skype to travel at their own expense, confident that when the company sees the passion in the same room it will hire them, that suggests the candidate recognizes their application is a stretch on all the other measures.

      3. LAI*

        Personally, I do think it’s a disadvantage. From the interviewee side, the only 2 Skype interviews I’ve ever done are the 2 jobs I didn’t get. Every in person interview I’ve had has resulted in an offer (6 jobs). Of course, it could be something about me specifically that comes across better in person than on a screen. But I’ve been on the interviewer side too and I think Skype feels less personal, more like talking to a robot so it’s harder to feel like you’re making a warm, personal connection. I think experienced interviewers will be aware of this and consciously take it into account but not everyone will.

        1. Jennifer Thneed*

          Also, if you’re not familiar with video-meetings, it’s very awkward indeed! But once you’ve done it some, it’s much less so. But I do remember when a place I worked was bringing in personal vid-conferencing (with webcams on everyone’s computer, etc) and we all went thru a training. WOW I did NOT know how much I touch my face until I was sitting in the training with all our faces visible to us. So (a) I learned to make an effort to not touch my face in conversation, and (b) I learned to not get distracted by seeing the thumbnail of my own face on the screen.

          (Other things I learned: most people’s windows are badly-placed and create glare or put them in silhouette; most people have extremely boring walls behind them. I had a nice piece of very red embroidered cloth pinned to the cube wall behind my head just to brighten up my own life, and everyone liked it, in person and via video.)

    5. Batshua*

      I was going to suggest just saying you have … hundreds of candidates (if that’s true and you can say that), which might sort of give these folks a reality check about their odds.

    6. A Person.*

      I like the idea of phone or Skype for all first round interviews. I work for a government entity and we are also required to either skills test or interview all applicants who meet the qualifications (including answering questions in the application). Having been on both sides of the table, even a phone or Skype interview for local candidates would be great, since we work off a list of standardized questions for all candidates and have to take a lot of notes. Also, I am currently job hunting and I hate having to make up excuses to take a 2-3 hours off at my current job to go across town when I might not even have a real chance.

      Also, my first job in the current system? I got it after a cross-country video conference interview in the pre-Skype days. It didn’t put me at a disadvantage for that position at all.

    7. OP3*

      I can suggest this, for certain, but I do not have the authority to make that kind of decision. There are times when we have large numbers of candidates that we start with phone interviews to narrow down the candidate pool, but this particular position doesn’t have that large a pool.

      Although technically I’m supposed to offer every candidate the same access to information and contact, etc., I think sending my invitations to out of state candidates just stating they will be phone or skype will not run afoul of our laws/policies so long as I do that for every out of state candidate.

  5. Ron McDon*

    #2, I wondered if HR know that it ‘is’ due to a medical reason, and are couching it in terms of ‘could be’ to preserve his privacy?

    I’ve worked with someone in the past who did this, which is what made me think of it!

    No way OP can know one way or the other, so probably best to assume that’s the case, as Alison says, if it makes it easier to deal with.

    My commiserations, I am sensitive to smells, and this would make me miserable.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      It’s also possible that they’re aware of a medical condition that may or may not be the cause. (It’s equally possible that they’ve got bad advice or misunderstood it and are treating him differently due to wrongful perceptions as PCBH points out above).

      Either way, it’s worth remembering that HR can’t always share information about people and it’s not really about lying vs not lying – some of the information they are party to will be confidential and they can’t share everything with you about a coworker.

      I figure you just made up the nickname and funny term for this letter, but I would be careful to not use nicknames or terms like poop pourri anywhere outside of your own head (where it’s fine if it helps you tolerate the situation). An employer who is being this cautious may not react well to this kind of humour and it could backfire on you.

      Unfortunately it may be that you end up having to job hunt over this if you decide you can’t stand it.

      1. Mookie*

        Agree with both of you. I’d listen carefully to what HR says on the subject and how they say it, because they could, indeed, be what’s going on here. I’d be rather surprised, at least in places I’ve worked, if HR or management were to reveal something like this to a third-party, even one inquiring about a nuisance stemming from a medical condition. The onus, though, would be on the employer to mitigate the problem, address the complaint in some way, while protecting the employee’s privacy.

    2. Thlayli*

      This is what I thought when reading this. HR knows it’s a medical condition but obviously can’t tell OP that. Obviously I don’t know for sure, but it’s definitely possible.

    3. Legalchef*

      Sure, but even if HR knows for sure it’s bc of a medical issue, the solution isn’t just to say that the LW has to just suck it up (uhm… literally) and deal with it. There are certainly (non-scented) options that HR could try – a fan, an air purifier.

  6. Engineer Girl*

    #4 – As Alison stated, jobs pay by value to the company. Your finanaces are not a part of that equation.

    So sorry to hear you’re in a less desireable neighborhood. That’s actually pretty common when you are just starting out. The other solution is lots of roommates. True story – when we were first hired by our company we were paid fairly low wages. We made less than the person running the copy machine. My boyfriend at the time lived by himself. That said, he would sit in his living room with binoculars and watch the gang fights at the school across the street. Everyone was happy when he could move out.

    1. Mookie*

      Yeah, that’s my take on this, as well. The issue at hand isn’t the LW’s father’s house, but her own housing situation. Of course she should be reasonably negotiating for pay in order to cover rent or acquire a mortgage; that, quite literally, is one of the primary reasons for earning a living: to eat, to live. Nothing to be weepy about at all, but a simple fact of life. It’s the same for everyone, so it’d likely seem odd or like a non-sequitur to tell a hiring manager you need your salary to compensate for your spending and future expenses. That’s a given, but your expectations for salary depend on the position, the industry, and your experience, and that’s how it should be framed. You can either afford to work for them or you can’t, and it’s the applicant’s job to advocate for themselves and then accept or reject an offer accordingly. Not being able to hold onto an inheritance is irrelevant; you’d be living somewhere no matter what happened to that house.

      1. fieldpoppy*

        And I’m also curious about where the OP lives where they expect to be able to buy a house right out of university — most of the people I know in Toronto can’t start thinking about purchasing real estate until they have been working for a while. It’s just how it goes.

        1. Chriama*

          To be fair, no one is living on their own at 35-40k/year in Toronto either, and certainly not buying a house on that income. So it’s pretty clear OP is somewhere with a much lower cost of living.

            1. fieldpoppy*

              I did too. It was awful. BUT my point was that it is pretty normal most places not to expect to buy real estate at a just-out-of-college salary.

        2. accidental manager*

          There are some places where it’s common to find rental housing through a real estate agent. I wondered if “afford a decent house” meant that the OP wanted to rent a house.

          1. Pollygrammer*

            That was my interpretation, or they were just using “house” as a catch-all for any kind of dwelling place.

        3. KitKat*

          I was also curious about this. I’m intrigued that
          1. OP seems very set on buying a house immediately after college
          2. Purely based on the question, I would guess OP is young
          3. 35 – 40k would be enough money to buy a house in a desirable area in a relatively short amount of time?

          Regardless, OP, as you can tell from the comments, your sense of how to negotiate a higher offer is a little off. I am also relatively recent college grad, and reading through the AAM archives was a HUGE help in learning about not only salary negotiations, but about white-collar workplace norms in general (not that those are the only questions Alison answers but it does skew that way.) Alison has a category called “salary” that you can click on and in addition to her answer, those letters might be really helpful as well.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        LW1, is it the case that the sale of your father’s house and clearing of his debts left you with very little money at all? Or that it left you with a down-payment that would buy a house in a good neighborhood with the mortgage you could qualify for at $35,000/yr, and you are trying to turn it over and buy a house for tax purposes?

        I worry that you may be naive about what your housing and financial options are, and a real estate agent looking for a commission is not a great guide to the full range of options. Living in a cheap apartment with roommates is really normal when starting out.

        On the weekend there were some free-for-low-income tax advice places recommended, and I think if you could find a legit financial advisor–especially if it’s b and you have a potential house downpayment in the bank–that might help. Anyone know a good resource?

        1. Natalie*

          The LW shouldn’t need to do anything with the estate to avoid taxes – given the figures they’re discussing, this is an estate that is well below the tax threshold and an income/living situation that wouldn’t lend itself to much of an income tax bill to reduce in the first place.

          Some financial guidance would probably be a good idea, though, and definitely not from the real estate agent.

    2. Hey Nonnie*

      For researching market value of a job, I’ve found payscale.com to be incredibly helpful. You can search by geographical location, experience level, and job title; and you’ll get a range of what common real salaries are.

      Also, I don’t know of anyone who didn’t have flatmates right out of college. You’d also need a down payment to buy a place, so I would reset your expectations somewhat and expect to be renting for a few years while you’re saving money for it. With some planning and some luck you should be able to rent (with one or more flatmates) in a nicer neighborhood while you do so.

  7. Bea*

    I feel like the only option for discouraging someone from making the trip is to drive home that they won’t be penalized for a Skype interview.

    To be fair when I traveled for an interview during my relocating process, I had multiple interviews lined up. You’re possibly not their only reason for the trip, they are at least flirting with the idea of moving to your city if not dead set on doing so.

    I think it opens a huge can of worms if you start hinting that there’s a strong internal candidate. You look like you’re openly saying that despite the regulations, the outside interviews are just a formality that are not being taken seriously at all because you’re already focused on someone that’s already within the company. That’s not something I would ever want out in the open despite it being true.

    1. Guacamole Bob*

      I would also steer clear of mentioning the internal candidate, and I’m surprised Alison suggested saying that. It just opens the door for candidates to protest that the process isn’t fair, among other things.

      In the OP’s shoes I would make sure that candidates know that there are multiple rounds of interviews and tell them that the agency strongly recommends that non-local candidates interview by phone or Skype for the first round.

      If the agency uses a typical government interviewing process where all candidates are asked the same questions and their answers are scored, as opposed to a conversational back-and-forth, you could also explain the process a bit and say that the agency has found that Skype and phone interviews work just fine in that format. As a candidate, that would help me understand that the in-person impression matters less than in some other types of interviews and organizations.

      1. Teapot Lending Program Manager*

        Not mentioning the internal candidate makes the process less fair. People make cost-benefit calculations all the time, making an investment of time, energy, and money based on whatever they believe the potential upside is. But when an employer withholds a significant factor which would likely impact that analysis, that’s when people feel like it’s unfair. A strong internal candidate reduces the likelhood of an external candidate realizing any potential benefit, so many people would probably not go to such lengths for such an opportunity.

      2. Jesmlet*

        I’d appreciate knowing about the internal candidate. It would take me from “maybe I shouldn’t fly out” to “definitely won’t be flying out”. Anyone applying to a government agency should know that this is simply how it works and knowing that I’d be unlikely to get the job would save me the airfare and the headache.

      3. OP3*

        We do. Everyone is asked the same questions (they are actually given the questions 15 minute prior and allowed to make notes before the interview starts) and the interviewers have a scoring rubric. The second round interviews are allowed to be conversational style, but first-round is required that all candidates are scored on the same measures. Thus, skype/phone isn’t a disadvantage really.

    2. FartyFarrah*

      Seconding this.

      I interviewed for a job in Vail, Colorado a few years back (I live in central Ohio). After the initial phone interview, I was offered a second interview. I could’ve opted to do it on Skype, but instead I chose to use my own money to fly out there. I made a trip of it. Three friends came with me. We got some hiking in, went to a few cool bars, saw some sights. I took an hour and a half one day to interview. So for me, it was more like I took a vacation and toyed with the idea of making it my permanent residence. I could have easily tried to line up a few more interviews elsewhere had I really been dead set on moving there.

      I ended up getting the job (but ultimately decided not to take it). Even if I hadn’t been offered the position, I would have said my money spent getting there was well worth it.

    3. Pollygrammer*

      They could say “we only encourage out-of-town applicants to make travel arrangements for second-round interviews.”

  8. Pam*

    Addressing #1, you will probably burn more bridges in the long run by getting a new job and then immediately dumping the boyfriend. That makes it look like you were using him as a safety net.

    1. Sherm*

      Totally agree. Plus, if the relationship is truly over, there’s just no faking it. Even decent people like OP1 will grow frustrated and let a snarky comment slip here and there. The boyfriends’ parents will pick up on the negative energy and wonder why OP1 isn’t being nice to their dear Fergus.

    2. Mookie*

      That makes it look like you were using him as a safety net.

      Sure, but they offered the job with their eyes wide open and if the LW has been an exceptional employee — and it sounds like she has — and the parents are decent people — it sounds like they are — that would be uncharitable on their part but beyond the LW’s control. If they want to be angry, they can be angry. Sounds like LW is being conscientious and trying to limit the melodrama here by extricating herself from an uncomfortable place that is the fault of no one. Good for her. People break up. It’s not a slight upon the family to want a regular paycheck and to try to seamlessly transition from one job to the next without living the first in the lurch. It’d be unfortunate if they burnt up all the good will they’ve earned here by refusing to give a reference to a good employee, irrespective of her romantic life. Also, it sounds like the impending break-up will not be much of a surprise to anyone, so hopefully all parties understand the calculation behind the timeline she’s chosen.

      1. Kate*

        I honestly didn’t really understand all the hand-wringing in #1. She says they’re nice people who won’t retaliate, but also that breaking up with her boyfriend will bring ‘fresh hell’ and she can never put the job on a CV or use them as a reference and it was a horrible terrible decision to work there. I can’t see how both those things can be true.

        1. Lily Rowan*

          Eh, the OP is just out of college and presumably doesn’t have much experience either leaving a job OR breaking up with a serious boyfriend, so it seems fair to me that she is catastrophizing a little bit. Which is why she wrote in! So other people could tell her it (probably) won’t be as bad as she’s imagining.

        2. Emi.*

          I think she’s predicting that it’s going to be hella awkward, and overestimating the impact that will have.

        3. Samata*

          I think this big emotional swings and uncertainty is a common back and forth with a big break-up – especially when you are the one doing the breaking up.

          I mean, I am almost 40 and moved out of the home I shared with my partner for over 7 years. I vacillated back and forth between “He’s a wonderful person & will be understanding” and “dear god, this will be hellacious” to “people will be understanding” to “people will be shitty” to “my mom will be there for me” to “my mom will ‘I told you so’ me to death” for weeks and still do a little bit because it’s raw.

    3. Thlayli*

      I think the most important factor is to be kind to the boyfriend when breaking up. To be honest and polite and gentle and try to have as good a breakup as possible. I’ve had breakups on good terms with lots of exes; there’s definitely a right way to do it. Some of my exes parents still really liked me after breakups and I’ve even gone for lunch with an exes mother once. It’s part of life to break up and move on at a young age, the key thing is to be nice about it. Try to explain to him why it’s a bad idea to stay together. If the relationship is bad most people really know it deep down and it can become more of a mutual thing if you explain why you think it’s a good idea to end it, rather than just ending it abruptly.

      1. blackcat*

        I’d avoid explaining why it’s a bad idea to stay together–that can go down a hurtful rabbit hole.

        Because if the answer is “Your an asshole who screams at me over spilled milk” that’s not helping anyone. But saying “We’re growing apart and I think it’s a good idea to break up now, before either of us becomes more invested/older/etc” is fine. Even if you want to yell at him, be 100% polite the entire time. Be kind to the parents, too. Don’t tell them why you are breaking up other than a vague “We’re growing apart, and this is for the best.”

        My dad still helped an ex boyfriend of mine find a job. Ex was a good guy who was not a good boyfriend. My dad is a reasonable person who realized that and that people grow and change over time (it had been 5ish years between when we broke up and when he asked my dad for career advice. Time helps, if at all possible).

        1. Thlayli*

          Well yes obviously if someone is a scary abuser telling them that to their face would be pretty risky. I didn’t think that would be the issue here though because if that were the case OP would probably have mentioned it – she would be concerned about him showing up at her workplace after the breakup for example (OP if by chance you are in an abusive relationship I think you need to quit your job when you break up or he will stalk you there).

          Assuming OP is not in an abusive relationship I’m sure there is a chance of having a good amicable breakup. Which would be the biggest factor in determining whether her bosses will feel inclined to treat her as “our valued employee who used to date our son but broke up on good terms” versus “evil cow who broke our son’s heart and left him crying on the couch for months”.

        2. bohtie*

          Yuuup. Feeling like you have to explain yourself can also lead even decent, good-intentioned people to a bad place where they’re arguing with the reasons you gave, in the hopes that if they can prove you wrong or “win” the argument, you’ll be somehow contractually obligated to not break up with them. This is just a thing I remembered off the top of my head because it actually happened to me and I was so astonished I laughed:

          me: you’re really, really messy, and despite repeated conversations, it’s clear that you still expect me to clean up after you. I need to live in a space that’s clean and doesn’t have roaches because there’s food remnants everywhere.
          him: yeah well, one time you left your empty cereal bowl out and I had to put it in the sink! You can’t leave me for being messy when you’re messy too!

          1. blackcat*

            Right. One of my ex boyfriends is a totally reasonable person. And he still tried to argue with my reasons for breaking up with him. It made everything worse! And less amicable!

            It was much better when I just started telling him “I don’t want to date you anymore, so I’m not going to.” If I had said something similar (but gentler) in the beginning, I don’t think I would have had to end up with something so firm/insensitive. But opening with “X, Y, and Z aren’t working for me” lead him to try to explain how he could fix X and Y and that Z didn’t really matter.

            He wasn’t abusive or anything (per the above comment), he just really didn’t want me to dump him. His upset brain didn’t want to accept that the relationship was over. I’m sure a lot of that was immaturity, too (we were 18), but it sounds like LW is also young and may run into similar problems.

  9. HannahS*

    OP 2, I have minimal knowledge of the ADA, but if he’s farting constantly and it’s so foul that it travels out of an office to engulf a cubicle, I’d just assume there’s something medical going on, in the same way the Sniffy Sheila may well have year-round allergies, and Hacking-cough Hannah (that would be my nickname in an AAM letter) is slightly asthmatic and takes forever to recover from chest infections. But I don’t think it would be out of line for you to push hard on being moved somewhere else, or to ask him to close his office door (“Fergus, this is a bit awkward, but I’m finding I can smell your gas out here. Would you mind keeping your door closed from now on?”). And honestly, even if HR was willing to take action, I doubt there’s much other than that they could do.

    When I took calculus in high school (so, already a form of torture), I was made to sit next to someone who farted, on average, every five minutes. I measured. Like clockwork, fifteen times per class, I could count on him to engulf me in the smell of someone who subsisted on–and apparently could not digest–sausage, beans, and cruciferous vegetables. One stink would clear, and then the next wave would hit. It was so distressing. I’m not squeamish about most things, but I remember inwardly panic-screaming “Why can’t you apologize?! I’m smelling air that was inside your bum! During calculus! I’m breathing in BUM AIR! ARGHHH!” While I told myself that he probably couldn’t help it and was probably too embarrassed to say anything, I understand that it goes a long way to hear, “I’m sorry, I know it’s unpleasant. It’s a medical thing.” I wish there were such thing as nose-headphones.

    1. HannahS*

      Oh, I see they’ve told you YOU can’t do anything either! That seems odd. Since you’ve been there for ten years, do you have any social capital to spend on pushing back? Because having been in the situation I described above, I honestly think I might start searching for jobs if someone made me go back to that, and perhaps your boss would be willing to go to bat to keep you.

    2. Triumphant Fox*

      They actually do make little air filters that fit inside your nose. I wore them when we went to a smoky place for a show and they work OK – decently for smoke, so I imagine better for farts. It’s the closest thing I can think of to “nose headphones.”

    3. Close Bracket*

      > I wish there were such thing as nose-headphones.

      There are those nose-plugs that swimmers wear. Then you can be the annoying mouth breather.

      Or wear one of those filtration masks that you have to wear when working with inhalable irritants.

    1. AnonMinion*

      I like the fan idea. Another temporary non-invasive (unlike an air freshener) quick fix is odor neutralizers used in hospitals. They make small spray pumps for smells much stronger than gas (think osotomy bags). We use them in my hospital and they are safe for anyone sensitive to smells. They are expensive so ideally your company could buy them. I take them from clinic and use them when people microwave stinky lunches. I have an extremely sensitive nose and air “fresheners” and things like that give me instant headaches. These are different. Just search for hospital odor neutralizing sprays.

  10. MJ (Aotearoa/New Zealand)*

    #1, I just wanted to say I worked for my partner at the time’s mother, we broke up abut 9 months into me working there, and not only did I continue working for her for another year, I’ve actually worked for her at two other organisations since then. It can be really hard, and certainly the first few days were awkward, but if you’re both professional and respectful it can work out!

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      Yes, LW, if they are decent people–you say they are–it is likely this will involve stupendous amounts of awkwardness in the short term without being fatal to you in the long term.

      Oh, and when you’re interviewing, your desire to move on has nothing to do with a former boyfriend.

  11. Scourge of South FL*

    There may be a policy, but it’s 100% disgusting and wrong to interview candidates knowing you have no intention of hiring them. You have no idea what you’re doing to them, their families, their vacation time, their reputation and G-d knows what else. Employers, you do realize these are people’s liveliehoods you’re playing around with, right?

    1. JamieS*

      I agree in general it’s a poor policy to interview people with no intent on hiring them but I think you’re taking too hard of a stance. I doubt anyone’s reputation is going to be tarnished if OP interviews them and they don’t get the job.

      Also to be fair to OP I don’t think they were saying other candidates wouldn’t be considered but was noting there was a very strong internal candidate also in the running.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      For employers with strict policies around hiring and interviewing (see, e.g., Actors’ Equity), oftentimes they’re required to interview a set number of people, even if there’s a strong internal candidate. Of course, there’s always the possibility that they do end up hiring externally, even if the odds are slim. These programs were originally created to help combat nepotism/favoritism in particular industries. It’s unsurprising that this would also exist in government, where the civil service for most states and the feds has worked diligently to create merit-based hiring systems (in place of nepotistic ones).

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        I think in addition to combating nepotism and favoritism, these types of rules are designed to combat discrimination and promote diversity. If you have to interview everyone who meets qualifications on paper and then have to use a rigid interview structure with scoring and whatnot, you’re more likely to end up hiring someone who is qualified but who doesn’t fit the image that you had in your head of what you were looking for. And then you’re also doing a better job spending taxpayer money wisely when you’re forced out of the “culture fit” hiring of people who are a lot like yourself that’s so easy to fall into.

        Yes, there are downsides, but some of these rules have pretty good intent.

        1. Smithy*

          The NFL’s Rooney Rule is perhaps a more famous version of this – and often one aspect of praise for this is that it gives non traditional candidates more experience on what those kinds of interviews look like. Is it a panel interview? Is a presentation needed? How formal vs how much personal sharing? Even if there is a strongly preferred candidate, they may remember someone’s great interview and figure with a few more years or for another position they want to hire them. And for the candidate it gives them the chance to hone their skills at interviewing for the big jobs and identify areas where maybe they have weaknesses.

          Interviewing can suck in 101 ways – but rules like this aren’t trying to just mess with people’s livelihoods.

      2. LQ*

        I’ve known people who’ve gotten jobs where there were very strong (read shoe in) candidates when they were an outside candidate. And I’ve known one shoe in candidate who totally blew it and they hired from the outside (a total unknown who is awesome). It definitely can and does happen. (All my examples are in civil service.)

        1. Guacamole Bob*

          I found out after I was hired into my current government job that there had been an internal candidate who likely would have gotten it had I not applied. It just happened that the position was a really terrific fit for me, in a way that’s unlikely to happen often, but it definitely can.

          1. shep*

            Same thing happened to me; I was hired over an internal candidate in large part because I had a very specific educational background and skills that dovetailed really nicely with the position.

      3. Rusty Shackelford*

        I’ve been on an interview committee where we were pretty sure, beforehand, that the strong internal candidate would be our choice, but a great external candidate changed our minds.

      4. IKnowRight?*

        I couldn’t understand why someone with a “cover letter was basically a giant typo that is a copy and paste of instructions on how to write a cover letter with only her name and address inserted” would get an interview anywhere, ever, but I guess having a quota to meet explains it? Yeesh.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I suspect that the screening is quantifiable variables–Y level of education, 3+ years experience in
          X role–and doesn’t allow for “how did their cover letter make you feel” as a metric, even if the answer is a fully justified “Like they weren’t very qualified.”

          1. Jesmlet*

            They should add a metric then – no more than 5 obvious typos in their submission materials. Make it 10 if you want to be extra generous.

          2. OP3*

            I have no idea what their metrics were, but even using that kind of thing they don’t fit. The position is leading reporting/metrics of a social service, this candidate’s experience is exclusively managing rental equipment businesses.
            Our HR was recently centralized, where instead of each agency running their own HR, all applications are now processed by a state level HR. We expected that we’d get decreased candidate quality when people unfamiliar with our needs were screening, but this was a shock. I’m hoping it was just a mistake as everyone is still getting their bearings from the change. All the other applicants are qualified.

    3. Scourge of South FL*

      Where I live it is possible for a reputation to get tarnished by a rejected interview. Either in the form of “oh you won’t beleive this stupid thing Katniss Evergreen said in her interview!” or as in “yeah we interviewed Beavis but passed… enjoy our sloppy seconds!” Not to mention the capital the candidate burns at work by skipping out for interviews.

      1. Yada Yada Yada*

        That doesn’t sound like the interview itself ruined a person’s reputation, it sounds like nasty interviewers spreading gossip about their candidates. In normal workplace cultures people go on interviews all the time for jobs they’re not chosen for and it’s not a big deal. Wouldn’t even be a blip on someone’s radar. It sounds like you’re talking about a particularly toxic industry

      2. JamieS*

        Sure it’s possible someone’s reputation could be tarnished. It’s also possible I could walk outside right now and discover an alien space ship had crashed on top of my car. However neither of those scenarios are very plausible in most cases. Your industry/geographic region may be the exception but assuming it’s a normal interview (that is candidate doesn’t do something crazy like poop in a plant) I’m holding firm most people aren’t going to have their reputations tarnished over it.

        Also I find it incredibly improbable a company would trash talk former candidates and tell other companies to “enjoy their sloppy seconds” so if that’s actually a thing that happens I’m very intrigued.

      3. Which Witch*

        Wow. Sounds like you like and work in a pretty dysfunctional place! And with some truly awful people, unfortunately. Most workplaces and cultures are not like that.

        I hope you can find a better work environment soon.

      4. Bea*

        Holy shhh…you’re in a toxic ugly environment then. That’s not normal, your area and industry are nasty humans if you gossip about interviews like that.

        Sloppy seconds? Y’all teenagers down there or something?

    4. Max from St. Mary's*

      The OP says that their agency is required by law to interview anyone who passes the review committee, so they have no choice in offering an interview, even if the interviewee probably won’t get the job.

      At my college, so state employee, we sign confidentiality agreements when we’re appointed to hiring committees, so no way could we even hint that there was a stronger candidate, though might be different for the OP.

      1. Cheryl Blossom*

        Off-topic, but is your username a Chronicles of St. Mary’s reference??? I love those books!

        1. Max from St. Mary's*

          Yes! My goal is to find the real St. Mary’s and sign on to time travel…I mean, investigate events in real time. The biggest problem is that I’m American, but I’m working on my Welsh accent so I can fake it.

      2. OP3*

        It’s the same. I could never tell them there’s an internal candidate. I’m allowed to divulge the total number of candidates and the people who will be interviewing them and that’s pretty much it.

    5. Ramona Flowers*

      The OP clearly does realise that this situation, which is outside of their control, is not ideal, which is why they wrote in for help with the only parts they actually have control over.

    6. Mookie*

      I do think, though, that candidates for a government job already know this is a possibility, that there is a viable internal candidate. I’ve never been under any illusions about it myself because it’s not terribly common but it does happen. Ditto using the screened pool to fill another somewhat comparable role. I’ve worked with people who’ve landed their current position precisely this way.

    7. Sparta fc*

      Hey but the candidates will be so cheered by being considered for a different job, same or worse as they already have: “they will probably use this candidate pool to select his replacement”

    8. Thlayli*

      I agree 100% with you that it’s an awful policy/law. However, OP doesn’t have any control over it, so she has to work within the policy.

    9. MollyG*

      #3 The whole idea of having a rule requiring you to interview all qualified candidates is an effort to bring fairness to the hiring process, and to hire the best candidates, not just the one who everyone already knows. By already having a “strong internal candidate” you are complying with the letter of the rule, but ignoring the spirit. It is unethical and by not telling the other candidates you are compounding that ethical lapse. Either have an honest interview process or just openly acknowledge you don’t.

      Also there is no possible way that a Skype interview and an in person interview are on the same level. That is just ridiculous.

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        A lot of government interviewing is the type where they ask exactly the same questions to everyone and score the answers. Skype is probably still a disadvantage, but not nearly as much as in a more conversational type interview.

        1. MollyG*

          I once had an interview like that, but the actual hiring manager was in a different meeting, so I got interviewed by his interns. The other candidate spoke with the manager directly. I did not get the job. Had I been there in person, it would have been highly likely I would have at least met the manager.

          1. Nep*

            My job interviews like that, and the same panel is required to be at every interview for that very reason.

          2. OP3*

            This would never happen in a government agency. The laws are written so that every candidate is given an equal experience. They must all be interviewed and scored by exactly the same people, with the same questions with the same amount of time offered to answer.

            1. Mollyg*

              It was government. Department of Energy. I interviewed for a few of the offices and key people not showing up was normal.

    10. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

      I do hear you… For me it is extremely obvious if I am going on an interview. Anyone with any sort of observational skills will know and be 100% sure about what is going on. So going on interviews is a real risk for me.

      Also, totally agree that employers absolutely should be keeping this in mind. I got pretty upset recently when I was brought in for multiple rounds for a job that required 5 years of experience with specific items. Legitamately I have about 9 months of direct experience with it, though I frame it on my resume that I have 9 months of direct experience within 2.5 years of tangential experience. Either way – nowhere near 5 years. In the end they went with someone who had 5+ years of direct experience. I was so upset at them for getting my hopes up, for making me waste vacation days, for forcing me to tip my hand to my employer that I was job searching when they knew, all along that I did not have anywhere near the level of experience that they wanted. Thankfully my boss was reasonable and didn’t immediately fire me (because that did actually happen to me early on in my career), but it absolutely did effect my standing/options/potential in my current role – at that point I was 50/50 on leaving, then I tipped my hand that I was considering, and then it became clear that there was no room for advancement in my current role. That was the sequence of events though – so I have no idea if perhaps I did not tip my hand, then maybe there could have been a path for advancement.

      Anyway – I agree with you that there are real consequences that *some* jobseekers will face for pursuing outside opportunities and they deserve as much information as possible so that they can calculate whether its worth taking that risk.

      That said, I think the OP is trying to do right by the candidates. Hopefully these comments will give them some ideas on how to provide more info to these types of candidates.

      1. please*

        “For me it is extremely obvious if I am going on an interview. Anyone with any sort of observational skills will know and be 100% sure about what is going on. ”

        How do you know there aren’t cases where someone was doing this but fooled you?

        1. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

          I meant that given the specifics of my role, the culture, my schedule, our dress code, etc. – it is obvious.

      2. Starbuck*

        I think the way you are framing the process isn’t doing you any favors- this place didn’t “make” or “force” you to do anything, they extended you an invitation (that you sought out an applied for) and you accepted of your own free will. Employers go into interviews knowing that they may not get their #1 pick- maybe the person with more experience wants more money than they can offer, and they already have a job so they won’t accept. That’s why you also interview the candidates who may have less experience but could still probably do the job well. It’s not personal, and it’s not any different than going on multiple interviews yourself with different employers at the same time.

        1. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

          I totally should have included that as much as I “blame” the employer or am frustrated with that employer, I do realize that it was my choice to pursue the interviews and I know that rationally they did nothing wrong by interviewing me (I know they were not just stringing me along, there was a legit chance that they could have hired me).

          It just felt frustrating from my end – on an emotional level, particularly because there was such a gap between myself and the person they ended up hiring. If I had been closer – I had 3 yrs of experience and they wanted to five it would have been easier for me to accept. If I put myself in the hiring manager’s shoes I can’t imagine even considering someone with less than a year of direct experience when I’m really seeking someone with 5+, so because I can’t really understand the reasoning it feels more frustrating to me.

          I have reframed it to myself – I now see it as a compliment. Something about my resume or my initial phone interview gave them reason to believe that I might have been able to do this job. Maybe a modified version, but still – that’s a huge compliment. I just remember feeling so frustrated when I first heard the news that they went with the other candidate (and of course I was super upset/disappointed).

    11. LAI*

      The OP didn’t say they have no intention of hiring them. They said there is a strong internal candidate, which isn’t at all the same thing. I’ve seen plenty of situations where an assumption was made on the outside that someone was going to the strongest candidate, and that person isn’t the one who ended up getting the job.

      1. please*

        “The OP didn’t say they have no intention of hiring them. They said there is a strong internal candidate, which isn’t at all the same thing. ”


      2. myswtghst*

        Yes, this. I’ve been on hiring committees where the candidate we knew we wanted from the beginning dropped out or bombed their interview, and I’ve been on hiring committees where a candidate we were not expecting showed up and blew us away. Having a strong internal candidate can create a bit of bias, but it doesn’t mean a stronger external candidate won’t be considered if they emerge.

  12. Piano Girl*

    Op #2 – I had a co-worker who, for whatever reason, had intense body odor at times. I would keep lotion on my desk (fairly strong-smelling) and would apply some to my hands and wipe my face by my nose, or between my nostrils, blocking any other smells. Hopefully that helps!

      1. delurk*

        This reminds me: When I was a teen I rode a female horse, and got a ride to horse shows with a lady who owned an un-neutered male horse. She used to put Vicks Vap-O-Rub around the male horse’s nostrils in the trailer so he would not smell the female horse. Worth a try? ;-)

        1. Forking Great Username*

          Not a good idea for people! Having the fumes so close to your nose and on a more sensitive part of your skin can actually be quite dangerous.

            1. Lily Rowan*

              And I’m pretty sure delurk’s winky at the end means they did not mean it as a serious suggestion.

              1. Someone else*

                I thought the instructions said to put it on your chest, which is a slightly farther distance from your nose and thus safer place for it.

          1. Bea*

            It’s just petroleum jelly and eucalyptus…I’m fine after a decade of my mom smearing me every cold season.

    1. I'm A Little TeaPot*

      The problem is if I sit next to you Piano Girl, then I will get a whiff of your scented lotion. And likely have an asthma attack. Every time. Please don’t.

      1. Myrin*

        This feels a bit sandwich-y to me, though. Presumably you’d bring your problems with scented products to the attention of the person sitting near you using the lotion, right? Piano Girl’s suggestion might well work for people dealing with all kinds of smell-related problems and it’s not at all unlikely for someone to sit surrounded only by people who don’t react badly to scented products.

  13. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize*

    OP#2. A small desk fan pointed away from you so the odor doesn’t have a chance to reach you? I’m thinking of the silent battery operated ones that people with hot flashes use.

    1. LS*

      Certain smells are a migraine trigger for me, and while my co-workers are generally considerate, we do see a lot of other people in the office, so it can be an issue. I have a little USB fan at my desk and it really helps keep odours from lingering.

    2. Ann*

      2. My husband has flatulence due to medical reasons, and a strategically aimed fan on my side of the bed works pretty well towards protecting my nose.

  14. Jennifleurs*


    As someone who has spent huge amounts of time and money travelling to interviews all over my country (UK) I would have loved it if the option for Skype interviews had been offered!! Maybe if you make it more explicit and say to them, “We can see you live X, and given the distance, cost and time of a face-to-face interview, would you prefer a Skype interview? We find that out of state candidates really benefit from these.” Like, explicitly offer them it rather than give them the choice. That weird job hunting mentality might be kicking in and telling them they should take the face-to-face because anything else “looks like you’re not dedicated enough”

    1. MrsCHX*

      It would be better to just say out-of-town interviewees are interviewed via Skype. So many people have already chimed in about feeling disadvantaged when they aren’t local. This phrasing still makes it optional when it would be wiser to just make it policy/practice.

    2. OP3*

      The way it was worded in the initial invitation was “Interviews will be held in Muckity Muck Building in Coffeeville, XY. Out of state candidates may interview via phone or skype.” It was given as an option vs. a command but it was definitely offered upfront.

  15. Buu*

    #4 I agree about not bringing this up in an interview. Small note here once you get a job, be careful of talking about ‘sketchy areas’. I don’t get that meaning from you at all, but it’s often used as a code from racist people to denote areas that are less desirable because the majority racial group is different.

    It must be hard to have moved to a new area away from your Dad’s home. I know it feels hard atm and you want to move but think of it this way the money you got from selling the house let you buy somewhere, so in every place you live now own there’s a shared family continuity there. A lot of people notice a severe drop in housing quality when they move out on their own, and it can be miserable. Give yourself a bit of a break, it takes time to earn your way up to a fancy place.

    1. Nox*

      Yes thank you! If someone tried to give me a sob story about a bad neighborhood I immediately write them off as “bigot” cause I just don’t have time for passive aggressive veiled racism.

      1. blackcat*


        I regularly encounter people who think my neighborhood is “sketchy.” The only crime in the neighborhood in the last 3.5 years while I have lived here was some kids going into all of the *unlocked* cars on the street and stealing change. We also have a pretty high density of cops living in the neighborhood, so there are always cop cars around (often just b/c some folks come home for lunch).

        A few blocks away, on the other side of the town line, there have been several (DV-related) shootings. But that’s considered a “better” neighborhood by many.

        The only reason my neighborhood is considered sketchy seems to be that it’s about half black and only a quarter white. Buying here, as opposed to in the “better” town, means that I have a lot more house for the same price. I also have lovely neighbors.

      2. Emi.*

        Wow, that’s pretty unfair. Plenty of people just use this kind of terminology for neighborhoods with high crime rates, regardless of race.

        1. Yondu Poppins*

          Yeah, when I lived in Ohio, my husband and I rented a place on the border of Sketch Town and Nice Town. Sketch town was student housing and mostly all white and we referred to it as Sketch Town because the kids would have raging parties, light couches on fire after football games, etc etc.

        2. bohtie*

          “high crime rates” is in itself often a euphemistic thing too, though. A lot of working-class and/or predominantly nonwhite neighborhoods are described colloquially as being riddled with crime when if you actually look up the numbers, it’s nowhere near as bad as everyone assumes. I’ve lived in one of those “bad” neighborhoods for many years, and we have almost no crime aside from the occasional domestic dispute and, like, maybe some occasional bored-teenager graffiti. Statistically, you’re far less likely to be the victim of a crime in my area; robberies, muggings, etc. at least in my city are WAY more likely to happen in rich, tourist-friendly neighborhoods — there’s nothing here for anyone to steal, really, and everyone knows each other, so you can’t get into any sort of real trouble without being spotted by somebody who recognizes you.

        3. Pollygrammer*

          When I say my neighborhood is sketchy, I mean that my car has been broken into several times and packages are stolen from front steps a bunch. But I don’t have any plans to move any time soon, and it only ever comes up in conversation when people ask how I can afford a two-bedroom apartment.

      3. Kimberlee, Esq.*

        Yeah. TBH, even if its not about racism (which, obvs, it almost always is) I wouldn’t be sympathetic anyway, because it amounts to saying “I want you to pay me more money because I don’t want to have to live where The Poors live.” Like, ppl have been living in every sketchy neighborhood for decades. Kids grow up there. You were born with the privilege of not having to live there in your childhood and thus it feels terrible to have to experience it for a few months/years when you’re starting out. That is just not a very sympathetic position to me. Stick with the facts, ask for your market value in salary, and try to remember that real, actual people live in the neighborhood you disdain!

        1. fposte*

          “This very place which you call a land of exile is home to those who live here.”–Boethius, 6th century.

      4. Engineer Girl*

        So you immediately write them off without seeking clarification on why they are saying it?

        I’m afraid that makes you the bigot. Really.

        Snap judgements harm people. Stop it.

      5. Mikasa Ackerman*

        LOL I’m Mexican American, and I can totally imagine you calling me a bigot for acknowledging that the neighborhood I’ve lived in for years is sketchy, and it’s hilarious. Let me ask, are only white people not allowed to say “sketchy” or everyone? My dad’s car has been stolen. The crackheads tried to break into my house. The police are here constantly. Yes, my hood is pretty dang sketchy.

    2. LouiseM*

      Maybe you were just trying to be polite to the OP, but I’m curious why you say you “didn’t get that meaning from her at all.” It seems very likely that that is exactly what she meant, since sk very often this veiled racist meaning is what people mean when they talk about “sketchy neighborhoods”–especially on this site, where people’s casual racism really has a chance to shine when they talk about the dangers of public transit, etc.

      1. MissGirl*

        We’ve been asked to be polite and civil on this site. Calling someone racist when there is zero evidence of it is the opposite of that. We give OPs the benefit of the doubt. We don’t have enough information or the right to say whether her neighborhood is dangerous or not.

        This is why OPs are hesitant to read the comment sections.

        1. Jules the Third*

          +1. Educating a 22yo that a common slang term has been co-opted by racists is consistent with the site guidelines. Writing her off as a bigot / assuming her bad intent is not. If you don’t have the time and energy to educate people in your life, I get that, it’s exhausting. But there’s a reason for the commenting guidelines (found via googling ‘ask a manager how to comment’)

          • Be kind to letter-writers and fellow commenters, which especially means being constructive if you’re criticizing. If you want a steady supply of interesting letters to read here, people need to be willing to write in and expose themselves to public critique. Treating them kindly makes that far more likely to happen.

          A subset of that rule: Give letter-writers and fellow commenters the benefit of the doubt. Don’t jump to a negative interpretation of someone’s comment or situation; instead, assume good faith on the part of others, including people whose opinions differ from your own.

        2. The Other Dawn*

          +1, MissGirl. I didn’t get that (racism) from OP at all. “Sketchy neighborhood” usually means that there’s a high crime rate, and those crimes can be committed by people of any race. I used to live in a neighborhood (18+ years) that I commonly referred to as “sketchy.” It was because of the higher crime rate. It had nothing to do with the racial makeup of the neighborhood, which was a fairly even mix of white and non-white. July 4th and NYE were commonly celebrated with multiple gunshots, houses were broken into, etc.

          Could “sketchy” refer to a non-white neighborhood? Of course. But I don’t see any evidence of that from the OP.

            1. Jules the Third*

              ok, now *that* is not accurate, or at least leaves out huge levels of nuance.

              Crime rates track to economic status more than race. In the US, economic status is correlated to race as well. If you start with economic status *and* try to control for racially biased policing (eg, remove certain kinds of drug / loitering charges), the correlation between race and crime rates is weak. This sometimes pops up in the news under the ‘legal immigrants are more law abiding than citizens’ stories, but otherwise it’s too complex to fit into the media’s ‘fear is best’ narratives.

              A realistically nuanced way to discuss this might start with the statement “In the US, the economic structures and unfair policing lead to a strong correlation between crime rates and race.” This is at least where I started with my kid.

    3. Joielle*

      Yuuuup, agreed. I live in a nice and very diverse neighborhood of a large Midwestern city, and I can’t tell you how many times my rural (and even suburban) relatives have made comments like that. Even if it’s not racism in the OP’s case, it’ll sound like it. Best not to bring it up, especially since it’s not even relevant anyways.

    4. Allison*

      Also, if the neighborhood is indeed dangerous and not just rundown because it’s lower income or “sketchy” because it’s not majority white, then everyone else who lives there also wants to make enough money to move out. Using moving out as an argument for a specific salary makes it sound like you think you’re better or more deserving than the other people who also live there.
      The reason you don’t use housing and other expenses to negotiate salary is like Alison explains, but you could also be read as entitled or stuck up by many interviewers (like commenters on this thread).

    5. Tuxedo Cat*

      This. Even if it’s a predominantly white area, you never know who is from this area and would be offended.

    6. Bea*

      This is good advice. I grew up poor and in a gnarly area where my friend’s parents from the “right side of the tracks” were gross bigots who weren’t happy when they found out their kids were slumming it with my kind. It wasn’t racists because we were parked squarely in the middle of nowhere. Just poor white laborers many with addictions needless to say. My parents were just frugal and surviving on a labor wage with two kids. But they quickly assumed I was trash because we lived in a run down rural area.

      So yeah, it’s not always racist but you’re going to offend a huge number if people who have a variety of backgrounds needless to say.

      If only wages were set so EVERYONE could afford the “nice” homes.

    7. BananaPants*

      To be fair, sometimes this is a socioeconomic issue and not a racial one. I live in a predominantly working class/blue collar town where we happen to have a satellite office. Our crime rates aren’t high, it’s just not anywhere near as affluent as most of the surrounding towns. I’ve interviewed job candidates who grimace or even comment negatively about said town when it comes up in the interview – I’ve heard, “it’s like a trailer park”, “full of poor people” and “sketchy” on more than one occasion.

      When it happens, I sort of relish smiling and telling the candidate that my family and I live in said town. The town is about 96% white, so it’s not really a racial thing, they just don’t like the idea of working or *gasp* LIVING among “poor” people.

    8. myswtghst*

      So very true. In my experience, “sketchy” can mean everything from actually having a documented high crime rate to full of students who light couches on fire to racially diverse area people are super judgmental about. You don’t know how it will be perceived by the interviewer(s) and it’s probably not a risk worth taking.

      Not to mention, you have no idea where your potential future employers live. If your address is on your resume, and the hiring manager sees the neighborhood you’re describing as sketchy is their own, which they are fond of, it’ll go over like a lead balloon. In my last job, I had a coworker who lived in an area plenty of people would casually refer to as sketchy, for various reasons. He was super involved in the community and loved his town, so he would have been pretty put-off to hear someone refer to his area as something they were trying to escape.

  16. Katie the Fed*

    OP3 –
    I can nearly guarantee you this isn’t true. It sounds like the kind of thing a lot of people think is the case but really isn’t:
    “we are required by law to interview all candidates whose applications pass the review committee.“

    1. Mookie*

      Well, it’s true of certain civil service tracks and departments in the sense that test-scores on examinations oblige the hiring team to interview top-scorers at and above a certain bracket according to their own internal policies, ditto (as the LW says) mandatory interviews of listed applicants recommended and ranked by a review board (DHS is one example of this, I think). I don’t know if that’s a “law” or not. It’s also true that federal agencies — in the US, anyway — are known for skirting competitive / delegated examining when they are not required to do so according to the agency’s own rules, so it’s certainly not a universal policy.

      I assume the LW knows best here, though.

    2. Thlayli*

      What’s confusing me is how did a weak candidate who’s cover letter wasn’t even a cover letter pass the “review committee”? Did they even review it? OP should he pushing the review committee for some higher standards!

      1. LQ*

        They may have a rule that everyone who passes the minimum criteria gets a 1st interview. (Which yeah, phone for everyone really helps if you have that rule.)

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Yeah, if the first round is just quantifiable (X years experience) and doesn’t allow for screening people who misspell the application, then I would expect the next round to be by phone for everyone, even people who work next door. Especially for a senior position, not a minimum wage high turnover starter job where they take warm bodies.

      2. WellRed*

        Yeah, their hiring process isn’t working well if someone who isn’t qualified and has a bad cover letter is considered appropriate to interview.
        Honestly, you hear stories about how govt employees have to pay for basic necessities like tissues, but then the government wastes time and money on things like this clunky hiring process.

        1. SallytooShort*

          The hiring process isn’t just there to get the right candidate. It’s to prevent nepotism and overall government corruption. One job going to someone’s nephew isn’t a problem. But if it happens all of the time you have a government fueled on nepotism not quality.

    3. SallytooShort*

      This is not at all an uncommon rule in government. The point of it is to prevent the Hiring Manager from selecting a few weak candidates from the pool and then then their nephew or something. So that the nephew gets the highest marks in an interview process because the others are so weak (in government interviews candidates are usually scored.) So, the common rule is that if they meet the criteria they must get an interview.

      I can almost guarantee it is true.

    4. OP3*

      Yeah, no, I’m not wrong. It’s a state-level law and not federal, but it most definitely is there in our state codes. There are further administrative rules that also govern what we can and can’t do regarding applicants.

  17. please listen op1*

    I was once in your shoes..same situation, and terrified! please, just move on, and it won’t matter! after your next job, just leave it off the resume.

    I really hope this gets better for you soon!

  18. Deus Cee*

    OP5: I had my university tutor as a reference for my first job. Fast forward about 5 years, and I need to go back to university to get the degree I need to move forward in the profession I ended up in. Applying for the university, they requested an educational reference, so I got back in touch with my old tutor. After a “why do you need such an old reference?” sort of response, I explained that they wanted an educational reference and I only had work references since then, and she was fine with it.

    1. Thlayli*

      It’s totally normal to use references that are years old. I started at my last job in 2008, so when I applied for my current job in 2016 my second reference from the job I finished in 2008 was 8 years old. That’s totally normal. I did give him a call in advance to check he was still happy to be my reference and that I stil had correct contact info, but it’s totally normal to have references for years.

    2. SallytooShort*

      Five years doesn’t seem that old. I’ve been in my current job five years (almost) and I would have to have a reference or two that was older than that to diversify my references.

    3. Jayne*

      And one of the important things it to touch base with the reference before you send in their name if it has been a while (longer than a year, two if you were outstanding). I supervised some students for a six month time period. One of them did not ask me to be a reference, but five years down the road, I had an FBI agent in my office asking me about her.

      My first unfortunate reaction was “Who?” Fortunately, I never throw out email, so I was able to search my files and figure out:
      a) Who this person was?
      b) Some things I could discuss about them.

      And I know that it was possible that the agent was going beyond the initial references, but he indicated that I was listed as a work reference.

      Another initially asked me to be a reference five years ago, but has not contacted me since. She has given my name twice, the most recent last week. My email files rescued me again.

      I know that everyone is the hero in their story, but that is a long time to try to remember people’s work. It can also help the reference to know what you are wanting them to emphasize. I basically had to fall back on the job description that the company sent me and hope I was hitting the right notes.

      1. Thlayli*

        Haha I used to supervise students also and most of them I remembered well enough but once I could not remember the guy at all. The reference check was a call to my mobile and I was in a different organisation by then anyway, so I had no way of looking stuff up. I just gave a good reference. I only had one bad student in 3 years so he must have been good even if I couldn’t remember him.

        1. please*

          I got a job a year out of college by letter. Postal mail. Reply came the same way.

          This was in the 1980s. Job was in a place with few phones on another continent.

  19. Clairels*

    #L4 How does the dad’s passing away have anything to do with this, really? What if your dad was still alive, or had never owned the house? You wouldn’t even have the equity then. We all live in less-desirable areas when we’re young and starting out, and we all want to move up in the world. You don’t “need” that amount any more than anyone else does, and it actually feels like you’d be bringing the dad into it as just an attempt to drum up sympathy for yourself, which is actually kind of icky. This isn’t reality TV.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      I assumed the LW was living with Dad, and when the house had to be sold, the LW ended up in a less-desirable neighborhood because there wasn’t enough money left to live anyplace nicer. (I agree that the LW’s unfortunate circumstances aren’t going to get any kind of response from potential employers.)

      1. MrsCHX*

        Same. She is graduating this year and her dad passed in 2015. So assuming she’s 22-23 now she would have been 19-20 at the time. I have 18/20 year old kids and I couldn’t imagine them dealing with something so big. OP was barely out of her teens, no way she could maintain the house while being in college…Not to mention grieving her parent’s death.

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I read this as OP having to sell the house (that, I am assuming, she grew up in) as soon as possible for whatever possible reasons: dad left medical bills and the only way to pay them was with the money from the house, or OP could not pay the mortgage on the house (being a college student) and the house would’ve gone into foreclosure unless she sold it immediately, or who knows what else. I didn’t read this as “I didn’t get as much inheritance as I hoped to”, but more as “on top of suddenly losing a parent, the parent also left me so much debt that it turned my whole life upside down”. I have never thought of my life as sheltered, but this is bigger than any problem I’ve faced, pretty much, ever in my life, let alone as a young adult of 19-20. So, no, not “we all”.

      1. Clairels*

        I’m sure the experience was likely very painful. I’m sorry if my opinion sounded “unkind,” but whatever happened to the OP, it is still not relevant to employment or how much money the she should earn.

        1. neeko*

          You could have said that – your personal story is not relevant to how much money you should earn – without suggesting that she was using her father’s death for head pats. “Be kind to letter-writers” is the first rule of commenting here.

    3. Esquire47*

      Even though it might seem obvious to many that the OP’s personal circumstances/economic needs aren’t relevant justifications for a higher salary, I’m glad that the OP asked the question and that Alison provided a thoughtful response. We don’t start out in the working world automatically knowing these things, and I don’t see a reason to be so harsh to OP. I like reading this site and the thoughtful comments even if the questions aren’t specifically relevant to me…sometimes it gets me thinking or I tuck the advice away for another day when it does become relevant.

  20. Tyche*

    OP3 I think you shouldn’t mention that you have a strong internal candidate: as others say it’s opening a can of worms, and it depends in what qualifications external candidates can put on the table.

    I think you should clearly state the fact that it’s only a first interview, and for those it’s non necessary to be present in person, but it’s simpler to organise a telephone or Skype interview. Only people who are asked to a following interview can be asked to be there in person.

  21. anonforthis*

    This reminded me that I used to work with a man who had a severe gastrointestinal illness, depression, and very poor hygiene – think skid marks visible from the outside. The smell around him was so bad that it made you gag, like there was a toxic cloud following him everywhere. Some people refused to have him working in their office, which created more work for the rest of the team (our jobs involved installing equipment in people’s offices). Once I was sitting next to him in a team meeting and the smell was so bad that I excused myself and ran to the bathroom to throw up.

    How do you deal with a situation like this? Obviously this man was very ill and not doing it on purpose. I suspect the lack of hygiene may have been a consequence of his depression. However it created an office environment that was really unbearable for his coworkers. We didn’t have space to separate the team into different rooms and my boss said there was nothing we could do. I left for another job.

    I know OP1’s situation isn’t that extreme but I don’t think it’s right that she should just suck it up. There has to be some kind of middle ground where the employee with the farting problem can be treated with kindness (assuming he has an medical condition) while still maintaining a pleasant environment for OP1.

    1. Beep*

      I think for that situation, and rally in only that extreme of a circumstance, a manger or HR could step in and politely remind the coworker that “having a professional appearance and hygiene is a requirement for the job”.

      And I only say in this case because it was affecting the coworker’s ability to maintain relationships with his coworkers (no one wanted to be around him), and it was affecting the rest of your teams work load (going into offices he was “banned” from)

      As for the OP, scented lotion, perfume, or a scentsy….

    2. soon 2be former fed*

      In my federal office, an exceptionally unhygenic employee was indeed counseled to clean up his act. The manager was great, not afraid to deal with sensitive issues. People just don’t want to have the conversation so they say there is nothing they can do, which is bull.

  22. Robin B*

    On the plus side, there have been recent studies showing breathing in that foul air has some health benefits to the breather…..

  23. Argh!*

    Re: flatulence

    ADA just requires *reasonable* accommodation. Shouldn’t that include supplying coworkers with fans and air freshener?

    Has anyone here tried poo-pourri? Their ads on YouTube are obnoxious but if it really works, that’s a solution.

  24. MollyG*

    The whole idea of having a rule requiring you to interview all qualified candidates is an effort to bring fairness to the hiring process, and to hire the best candidates, not just the one who everyone already knows. By already having a “strong internal candidate” you are complying with the letter of the rule, but ignoring the spirit. It is unethical and by not telling the other candidates you are compounding that ethical lapse. Either have an honest interview process or just openly acknowledge you don’t.

    1. Tuesday Next*

      I kinda see your point, but… the existence of a strong internal candidate is a fact, not something OP or the company cooked up to make things unfair for external candidates. If they weren’t bound by this policy, they’d probably just be promoting the internal candidate. The IC shouldn’t be disadvantaged by this process either.

      Also, would it be different if OP had interviewed a strong *external* candidate and would like to offer them the position right away – but is obliged to interview all of the candidates which the review committee believes are suitable? I believe it’s pretty standard to stop interviewing when you have a certain level of confidence that you’ve found the right person.

      1. MollyG*

        I have no problem with hiring internally. They just need to be honest about it to the others they interview.

        1. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

          They really don’t, actually. In fact, it’s unethical to disclose candidate information to anyone not in the ‘need to know’ category internal to the company itself. They should not be sharing any information with other candidates.

          1. artgirl*

            in the federal government, though, which it sounds like is the sector/employment rulemaker in question here, there is a way to post jobs where only internal-to-the-agency or only internal-to-the-federal-govt candidates can be considered. that seems like it would be a much better avenue for this particular position!

          2. Kimberlee, Esq.*

            I don’t think I agree with your statement, Rebecca, but I’d be interested in knowing more about it. Personally, I think that the information asymmetry in hiring is egregious and unethical all around, to Molly G’s point. I’m having a hard time seeing the ethical argument the other way.

            1. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

              Well, here’s a link about it: https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/talent-acquisition/pages/protecting-candidate-data.aspx

              Basically, my point is thus: assume there are going to be other candidates, even if you think that you’re perfect for the job, and that you’re not entitled to any information about them including information on how they know the manager/hiring committee or where they’re being hired from. Just put all that curiosity in a box marked “none of your business” and sit on that box hard while you do your best to get hired anyway.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                That’s about sharing personally identifiable information (social security #s, etc.) not about sharing info about the pool in general (like that there’s a strong internal candidate), which there’s no real ethical problem with an employer doing (especially in a case where it will help candidates make better decisions for themselves).

    2. Natalie*

      I fail to see how the simple fact of there being a strong internal candidate is unethical, unless you’re assuming that the only strength they have is being a known quantity. While I’m sure that’s true sometimes, it’s not a given.

  25. Goya de la Mancha*

    some HR departments are notorious for hearing “you need to handle X carefully” and translating that to “you can’t do X, period.”

    Ain’t that the truth!

  26. Tuesday Next*

    OP3, why has your review committee approved someone who is “incredibly weak”? Are their standards really low, or do they not understand the job requirements? It’s a waste of your time and the candidate’s to be hiring them when they clearly have no chance past the first interview.

    This might seem off topic but if you’re trying avoid wasting people’s time and money, this seems like a good place to start.

    1. Bea*

      I wonder if they have to interview 12 people and the person was planted there because they had 15 applicants but the others didn’t fill their forms completely.

    2. OP3*

      I really don’t know! I’m hoping it’s a mistake resulting from a big change in the way HR is handled – moving it from each state agency to a centralized state HR agency – because it’s otherwise completely baffling. I could even understand nepotism or some connection to someone, but there doesn’t seem to be any. I’ve seen lots of bad cover letters in my time but this one was unreal.

  27. TheCupcakeCounter*

    My future SIL has some issues with this as well (IBS) and she bought a tiny essential oil diffuser/humidifier that she keeps on her desk. She uses simple oils like lemon grass or peppermint that are not very likely to cause issues for coworkers but are potent enough to cover any potential odors. As a bonus her sinus’ have been doing really well the last 2 years.

    1. The Other Dawn*

      Based on what I understand about hiring for government jobs, as long as the applicant passes the application process with a certain number of points, they are passed on to the interview stage and must be interviewed. I applied for a government job once and this is how it was explained to me. So it doesn’t sound like the OP has any choice in the matter.

  28. MrsCHX*

    #1 DEFINITELY break up first. Be kind, don’t engage in any drama with the boyfriend. And DO NOT discuss the relationship with the parents. You don’t owe your bosses an explanation about your romantic relationship.

    Now, like someone else said, I’m confused on the work situation. You’re describing opposing things. If working there has been good for your career; keep working there. If it hasn’t, find a new job. If they are good people, working there shouldn’t be an issue after the initial awkwardness (YOU keep the discussion on work, do not discuss your personal life with them. It being their son doesn’t matter). If they will inflict “fresh hell” on you then get out of there.

  29. Nep*

    I worked for a state government until recently, and I strongly discourage you from mentioning that there’s a strong internal candidate. That may create the appearance of impropriety, which we were warned against at all cost. We’ve been in similar situations (except they were all sufficiently local) and HR has had to go over our choices and decisions very closely to make sure that we weren’t just picking the one internal candidate nor deliberately throwing off the process so he could be picked.

    Otherwise, I think AAM has an excellent script.

    1. OP3*

      I definitely cannot. We are very strictly limited in the information we are allowed to give out to candidates, and an internal candidate is definitely not permitted. I agree about the rest of the script – next time I’ll just tell them to wait until second interviews and assure them that they will be scored on their merits as everyone else, and not be at a disadvantage by interviewing remotely.

  30. Frustrated Optimist*

    I’m genuinely curious: Has anyone ever had a prospective employer tell you that there is a strong internal candidate, apart from that statement being noted up front in the job posting?

    On the flip side, has anyone as an employer decided to share this information with a candidate, to give the candidate a realistic picture of their chances?

    It has certainly not been my experience that that information is shared up front. For employers that are apparently required to interview a set number of candidates, even though they know darn well who they’re going to hire, it would seem counter-productive: Gotta get those filler candidates in, to make it look good for HR!

    1. Jennifer*

      No, I’ve been burned on that one almost every single time I’ve applied in recent years. There’s been a strong internal candidate and if it was a job in my office, it wasn’t me. So no, nobody will tell you this. I wish they had so I wouldn’t have wasted my time and emotions on trying, but….legally I guess they have to interview at least two, so I was the other one.

      1. Frustrated Optimist*

        Sorry it’s happened to you, too. I’ve written about these experiences fairly extensively on this site, so I don’t want to bore everyone, and/or go too far off-topic, but if you search the archives for my screen name, you can find a few stories.

    2. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

      I’ve not been told it, but I have seen a job posting where it was obvious. I’m in academia, looking for teaching jobs. One job was so very specific (a certain number of years experience in a very small area of their state looking at a very small subset of their culture/archaeology/artifact groupings) that I knew they had a current graduate student in mind for the position (the only, and I mean ONLY way to have gotten that exact experience) so I did not apply.

      1. Frustrated Optimist*

        It sounds like as an insider, you’d be able to pick up on the clues, but an outsider may or may not.

        1. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

          Sure. But by the time you’re applying for tenure-track jobs, you *are* an insider. Only the most tuned-out of people searching that ad would need to be told that it’s not for them.

    3. Tuxedo Cat*

      I’ve found in academia at least there are a lot of clues. These aren’t just internal candidates, but they have a hire in mind.

      -The ad is written so specifically (e.g., strong researcher in 15 Century Teapot making done by women from X Continent, with consideration about their social-political relations in the world) that it would be hard to imagine them not having a person in mind.

      -The ad is written so generically and poorly (e.g., do research) that they aren’t going to put forth effort into trying to attract a candidate.

      -In interviews, they do little to nothing to make the position sound good.

      -In the interviews, they have repeatedly asked whether I want the job. This isn’t a matter of enthusiasm from my end that I can tell. I feel like they are trying to assuage their guilt.

      1. Frustrated Optimist*

        Thank you for these additional clues. In hindsight, I have experienced many of them.

        Another “clue” I read about is when you go to the interview, and instead of asking you any meaningful questions, they just have a pleasant conversation with you. In the moment, you think, “Well, they know I’m well-qualified, so now they’re just trying to get a sense of my personality to see how well I’d mesh with the team,” and you leave feeling good. Then you get a rejection notice (if they don’t totally ghost you), and that’s when the reality of what happened comes into focus.

    4. saby*

      I have been a strong internal candidate who didn’t get the job. In this case, it was a small workplace, and I had been acting in the role since the previous person left. My manager implied to me that the job was mine and the hiring process just a formality… and then a really great candidate, definitely stronger than me, applied. Of course they had to hire him, but then because I had been doing the job I ended up training him in a lot of the day-to-day procedures. As far as I know, he never knew that there was a strong internal candidate — if he had it would have been obvious it was me. I was already feeling awkward about training him and if he had known I had applied for his job I’m sure he would have felt awkward too and it would have become a whole thing!

      1. Pollygrammer*

        That’s a sucky situation and it sounds like you were incredibly professional about it, I’m impressed!

    5. yup*

      I once outright asked (in academia) because of some clues as mentioned previously and they were candid about the internal candidate. The hiring manager called me to basically apologize for not giving me the job because she really liked me.

      1. Frustrated Optimist*

        Can I ask where you were in the application/interview process when you asked about an internal candidate? It sounds like you’d had at least one interview at the time (?)

        I’d love to avoid even going on the interview (and getting my hopes up), but that’s probably not realistic, unless you get a straight-shooter of a hiring manager who tells you ahead of time, as Alison suggests.

        1. yup*

          Oo… I am trying to remember. I did have one interview. It was a phone screen… I am trying to think if there was a second round, but I cannot recall. Sorry…. :-/

  31. neeko*

    #4 – Look into getting roommates. Not many people can afford (with what I assume is an entry-level job hunt) to live alone and in a super desirable neighborhood right out of college.

    1. nonymous*

      or look into renting a room/basement/MIL unit! My current neighborhood is SFH which are mostly families and empty nesters, but there are still lots of options for a quiet person to find a small unit. My neighbor behind me turned his walk out basement into an efficiency unit with it’s own entrance- they just keep the door to the stairwell closed on both sides.

      1. anonagain*

        Yes! Renting rooms has worked well for me. If you’re willing to do some work you can sometimes get reduced rent.

  32. Jules the Third*

    OP$: I’m sorry about your dad. I’m also sorry you’re getting condescending comments for your honest question.

    Alison’s right, your salary is based on the market rate for that skill. There’s still things you can do to improve your long-term chances:
    1) If your degree’s not in STEM, look for ways to apply it in STEM companies – eg marketing or sales for a tech co. They pay a little better, because these are usually higher-margin industries. In addition, you’re not done learning yet. The new job path is continuous learning. Working for a STEM company means you’ve got a better chance to learn things that get paid more.
    2) Negotiate if you can – more important to get a foot in the door, but it’s never a bad idea to ask. Definitely negotiate salary on the second job, based on your skills and the market. Don’t sell yourself short.
    3) You can buy a house with less income than what the realtor recommends, but it takes longer. Build up a down payment, educate yourself on front-end / back-end debt ratios, learn about home repair – an older house is cheaper, but you pay for it with maintenance.
    4) Decide your priorities with whatever income you get in the end – house first? retirement? How much current comfort can you give up for future ease? I rented for a decade before I bought a house – a dependable room mate is really valuable and can help reduce your cost of living while making it affordable to live in a place where you feel safe.
    5) Consider a weekend job, or volunteering in ways that can help you get to home ownership. For example, building with Habitat for Humanity will also teach you maintenance skills.

    Suze Orman’s site has a lot more advice about managing the money you do make, and she’s reliable. NOT get rich quick or gimmicky. My mom gave me a Suze Orman book shortly after I graduated college, and it was helpful.

    To give an example of why front end / back end is useful: that + ’40K to buy’ tells me the realtor is expecting $120K for a loan. Knowing that, you can set targets like ‘save up $24K in 4 years for a downpayment’. It doesn’t have to be ‘buy a decent house with my first job or never get a house ever.’

    The commenters are right about ‘sketchy’ though, that’s usually code for ‘not white’. Check the crime stats in your neighborhood and make sure your perception isn’t skewed. Some of my (white) friends are uncomfortable in my (40% not white) neighborhood, but it’s as safe as theirs according to the stats.

    1. Jules the Third*

      This is for OP4, not OP$… sigh. Good luck OP, we’ve all been young and had to learn this.

  33. Narise*

    OP #2 Place a fan on your desk pointed away from you and towards his office. At least you can stay downwind of him and that should help. If anyone objects their only option is to move you or him and the fan is a small compromise.

  34. Maiasaura*

    Re: stinky farts, there’s an OTC medication that I’ve heard great things about on bariatric surgery forums called Devrom. I’ve never tried it myself—my stomach issues manifest in noise and burps, heh—but folks swear by it. I don’t think the LW could discreetly suggest it to her coworker, but for anyone here who worries that they are Fran it could be helpful.

    1. NewJobWendy*

      I am the farty co-worker and Devrom has changed my life!!! (I’m not the one mentioned in the letter though). Seriously, it used to be that before a job interview or a date or a road trip I would have to carefully watch my diet for days to ensure I didn’t end up with nuclear weapon grade farts – and it’s not even due to a medical condition or food allergy of any kind, just some biological bad luck. I am empathetic to both co-workers in this story.

      If you can’t discreetly recommend Devrom, then Febreeze and scented candles and possibly a fan to re-direct the air are all things I’ve used. I would have been really happy if someone had told me about Devrom, so if you think your co-worker is AT ALL aware of and embarrassed by the problem, you might be able to send them the link to the website or post an ad in the bathroom or something.

  35. Amber Rose*

    If 9 months isn’t so far off from 12, how about 21 as opposed to 24? I had a couple not-quite two year stays and I’m not sure if that’s considered too short.

    My three year anniversary at this job was last Friday though, which is kind of exciting.

    1. Bea*

      I was at 11 months when I left my last job, nobody cared much they asked why I was leaving and I told them. Months do not matter too much unless it’s only three or four months kind of thing you leave off completely.

      It will always depend on your industry as well. I’m in accounting, stability is important. Other departments, meh not so important.

  36. soon 2be former fed*

    OP 2, a small but powerful HEPA air filter in the offending cube would make all the difference. No way you should be expected to work normally in such unpleasant circumstances. It’s like working in the bathroom! We do ignore typical flatulence, out of courtesy to each other, but this is not typical and I could not endure it. Keep pursuing resolution. Good luck. Oh, does this person have no external contact? I cant imagine that this would be acceptable if he did.

  37. LW1*

    LW with the boyfriend drama here – the situation is actually updated since I wrote in! I ended up breaking up with him about a week ago, and it ended up being completely mutual. He probably would have initiated the conversation himself if I weren’t working for his parents. We had been together for three years, so it has been very sad, but overall best case scenario in terms of breakups. Some earlier commenters are right that I was disproportionately catastrophizing the situation – lesson learned!

    That being said, the job situation has become quite dysfunctional in a way that I did not anticipate: his parents are quite upset by the breakup (I think they had been anticipating us eventually getting married), and keep getting very emotional when speaking to me at work (sometimes breaking down crying). While I feel very appreciative that they obviously care about me and want to keep me in their lives, it’s been pretty much impossible to keep things at work professional and separate from my personal troubles. Going in to the office has become rather overwhelming and anxiety inducing, and I am having trouble continuing to be a great employee in the midst of all of the chaos. Long story short, the job hunt has intensified and I’m beginning to weigh my options on leaving before securing a follow-up position.

    Thanks for all of the input!

    1. Kathleen A*

      Hmmm. That’s…a bit odd. For them to be sad is perfectly normal. For them to be crying about it – at work! – for days! – is…OK, I’m just going to say it: It’s weird. It’s totally weird that they’d feel so invested in this relationship.

      I assume it will eventually calm down, but it is weird, so in case I’m wrong about that, the meantime, I think job hunting isn’t a bad idea. If things settle down, you can always stop hunting, but if they don’t, it’s as well for you to already have begun the process.

      Good luck, LW1!

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I think Sally has it–they may have lost the person they viewed as on the fast track to daughter in law and to taking over the business with their son one day.

        1. Kathleen A*

          I am just trying to imagine feeling that strongly about my child’s GF/BF – so sad that I cry about it at work, or anywhere else, for that matter – and I’m failing. But hey, YMMV.

          1. bonkerballs*

            I kinda get it. The boyfriend may have been the person OP was dating, but that doesn’t stop relationships with other people in boyfriend’s family from developing. The boyfriend’s parents may have come to see OP as a daughter, as someone they love. And now because OP is breaking up with the boyfriend, the parents are losing their relationship with OP as well, and there’s not anything they can do about it. That has the potential to cause some real grief.

            1. nonymous*

              Possibly the nature of the breakup is causing them to rethink how they perceive their own child? Not suggesting that OP and her boyfriend are in any way out of norms – it may be that his parents are much more conservative about personal relationships, though.

          2. Student*

            Theory: They wanted grand-babies and they are reacting very poorly to not getting them on their schedule.

    2. Murphy*

      Wow. I’m sorry about your breakup. It’s always hard even when you know it’s right, but I’m glad it’s going as well as possible.

      That sounds rough at work. I hope you’re able to find something new soon. Good luck!

    3. Nita*

      Oh, I’m sorry, that’s such a messy situation! I’m sure the drama will die down in a few weeks. It’s kind of funny the parents are taking it harder than either of you (though I do feel for them), but like anyone else involved in a breakup, they will get through the initial shock and feel better with time. Also, good luck with the job search!

    4. SallytooShort*

      Good luck!

      It doesn’t sound like your ex works there is that right? In which case, since this is a small company, they maybe had hoped for you to be the one to carry on the legacy as their daughter-in-law. So, they could have had a lot more in their hearts over this relationship than they let on.

      I’m sorry it’s awkward for you. I’m glad it’s not hostile though.

      1. Blue Anne*

        Yeah, I could definitely see my boyfriend’s mom having this kind of thing built up in her head! A lot of would be in-laws have high hopes.

        Glad to hear the breakup itself was healthy, LW1.

    5. Pollygrammer*

      That sounds miserable. Are you in an area where temping is a possibility, which could give you a little buffer if you choose to leave without finding something else?

    6. Jules the Third*

      A week is a short time and three years – well, people do get invested. If you really like the job, be patient with them. If it’s still going on after another two weeks, see if your ex-boyfriend will mention to his parents how relieved he is over the end of the relationship.

    7. Bea*

      The fact they care about you this much also points to them being good references in the future at least.

      I think they need more time to absorb the changes, after just a week they’re still raw and hurting. You and your ex both saw this coming it sounds like, they were broadsided by the news, you know?

      I hope that their shock and emotions are reeled in soon for everyone’s comfort and sanity.

    8. Brandy*

      Can you talk to your ex, have him let them know this needs to stop? This is something I have only seen on the Judge shows on Justice Central.

  38. thesoundofmusic*

    thank you thank you Alison for explaining that a candidate’s personal finances do not influence salary offers. I cannot tell you how oftenwe hear these kinds of stories when we are hiring for positions. It is a major turn off. Instead of talking about all your financial problems, your job is to convince the hiring manager that you are worth the extra money you want.

  39. ...with a K*

    I used to hire seasonal staff from a college so I expected to get calls a few years out for references from them. If it was a year or so later, the really great ones would shoot me an email letting me know they were looking for jobs so I wasn’t completely blindsided. I’ve also changed jobs a few times in the last few years, so some of my contact information is out of date. The benefit to the ones that reach out to me is that I could update them on the changes. I guess the other ones have potential employers call a number that’s out of service, or assigned to another person.

  40. Alanna*

    #3 – OP might try something like a few of these in her cubicle space – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00GQD05VO/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_U_x_oUDGAb08SY6JF – they’re scentless, so they won’t offend anyone else, but do a great job of absorbing odors. I have IBS which sometimes leaves me very very gassy, but I am lucky enough to work from home. I use these in my car and where my cats’ litter box is – one of my kitties has IBS and this helps with that odor, too!

  41. Student*

    #4 – Please be aware that this story is also not necessarily going to be as… effective as you think it should be with everyone. I am not questioning your assessment of your own neighborhood, but there is a big variance in what people consider to be a “sketchy and unsafe” neighborhood. Not everyone is going to agree with your assessment of your neighborhood, no matter where you live. If your opinion of it differs substantially from the person you’re telling your story to, then you could leave a pretty bad impression or end up in a discussion you do not want.

  42. Jack of all trades*

    References – depends on the person, depends on the type of job. I have a (former) employee (entry level, we are seasonal so we get a lot of these) that has been asking me every 3 weeks or so to be a reference for a job she is applying for (with details on the job). I’ve never actually gotten a call – mostly because I find a lot of minimum wage jobs don’t call all or any references (myself included – it just doesn’t make sense when you’re often hiring high school students or individuals with very negligible work experience). Anyway, the requests were getting more annoying than the (non) calls so I finally told her she can use me as much as she wants. If she moves up in her career and needs me in a year or two, I hope she’d give me a heads up, but honestly as long as they’ve been around long enough that I remember who they are, it’s not a big deal.

    That said, at my point in my career (management – hiring mentioned above is for spouse’s business, but I also work full time), I would almost always contact my references individually to make sure all is well, and they are still on board to give me a reference. If I was actively job hunting I might ask if it’s okay to use them for the next little while and give them a heads up for any really special opportunities/dream jobs, but every job would be overkill and they would just get annoyed, I think.

  43. willow*

    Re: flatulence – there are things akin to panty liners that contain activated charcoal that are supposed to contain the smell.

    Or, he could go the SNL route and buy some “Flatuscents”, the suppositories that make it smell like a fresh breeze, or a new car, or other delightful scents.

  44. BananaPants*

    #4 – This may sound harsh, but your personal desire to move to a nicer area and buy a house has nothing to do with what an employer should pay you. Would you be OK with your coworkers who are parents earning a higher salary because they need to pay for child care? Yeah, I didn’t think so. Everyone can come up with a reason they WANT to make more money, but if your value to the business doesn’t justify paying you that much, you’re not going to get it.
    Giving a sob story to a hiring manager is going to make you sound naive at best.

    Also, if you’re job searching in the general area where you currently live, you run the risk of offending an interviewer or hiring manager if it turns out that they live in the “sketchy” neighborhood/town that you want to leave.

    1. Jules the Third*

      If you start a comment with ‘this may sound harsh’, then you should take a look at the site’s commenting guidelines. This site works better when we are not harsh.

      • Be kind to letter-writers and fellow commenters, which especially means being constructive if you’re criticizing. If you want a steady supply of interesting letters to read here, people need to be willing to write in and expose themselves to public critique. Treating them kindly makes that far more likely to happen.

  45. cncx*

    late to the game on this, i really wish hiring committees with strong internal candidates would think like op 3. also, i wish they would do stuff like- if there is no chance someone coming for an in person interview is going to get it but they have to interview anyway, try to schedule it at a convenient time for people who have other jobs. I once had a literal two day back and forth with this company who wanted me to come in at like 2 on a tuesday, i had to take a half day off, and it turns out i was just their tick the box candidate so they could say they talked to someone before hiring the internal candidate. the interview lasted literally 15 minutes. i would ahve really appreciated a lunch or 5pm /830 am interview if it was just a bs interview.

  46. senatormeathooks*

    OP #2, if your employer permits it, see if you can light a candle during high-volume fart traffic times only

  47. LW2*

    Hello everyone! LW2 here! I would like to thank all of you for your comments and advice!! I have since put a small fan in my cubicle and will turn it on to redirect the smell. I also have a candle, that I have had for quite some time, that I would light every now and again for no reason. Now, I light it when I smell Fran, so it doesn’t look like it’s due to his issue, it’s just because I wanted to. I will honestly say that I do not believe it is a medical issue, but I have been trying to think of it as one to just deal with it. I didn’t want this brought to HR at all, but my boss went there to try and help. I can’t move my cubicle as there are no more available spaces. So, with all of your help, I have put in place some of the ideas you had. Thanks again :)

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