my boss does “talk to the hand,” interviewing across the street from my office, and more

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

1. My boss does “talk to the hand” in meetings

My boss has a terrible habit of doing a “stop” or “talk to the hand” move to people in meetings when others are speaking and she wants to interject. She’s done it to me, I’ve seen her to do it with other coworkers, and with our volunteers. She literally holds her hand up, palm out, and, if she’s sitting close enough to someone, I’ve seen her actually puts her hand in their face. It comes across as really rude, but she seems totally unaware of this.

The general reaction, from myself and others, is usually that the person speaking is so caught off-guard by her action that they stop talking — and then she starts in. Do you have any suggestions for what I can do when she does this to me, or to someone else we are meeting with? I’m able to just chalk it up to social awkwardness/unawareness and not take offense, but I do worry about the perception with others who don’t know her as well.

When she’s just doing the “talk to the hand” move but it’s not right in your face … well, you have a rude boss and she’s making herself look bad, but ultimately it’s her prerogative to interject if she wants to, even rudely. (The exception to this would be if you had an extremely strong relationship with her where you knew she’d be grateful if you told her how this was coming across.)

But when she’s actually putting her hand in your face (!!), that’s beyond rude — it’s bizarre and not okay, and it won’t even take much capital to call her out on it because it’s so over the line. The next time she does it, physically pull back, look shocked, and exclaim, “Your hand was right in my face!” In other words, make a slight scene that looks like an involuntary reaction to thinking you were about to get slapped. It’s unlikely she’ll keep doing it after that.

2. Did I overstep on my first day of work?

I very recently left a great job and I’m having some serious second thoughts. In addition to feeling lonely and ill-prepared for my new role, I fear I’ve started off on the wrong foot with a coworker. On my first day, this person was loudly discussing a question up and down the hallway for the better part of an afternoon. I heard everything and, because the question was an interesting one and I’m not yet busy, I googled it for more info. He eventually stopped by my office to ask my opinion, at which point I admitted that I’d found it interesting and looked into it and mentioned that I may have found a potential resource. I wasn’t pushy, just thought that I’d try to be helpful and participate in an office conversation. He was visibly annoyed at my response and basically said that he already knew everything contained in that resource. Well, he actually started quizzing me about what it said and then responded to each answer by stating that he already knew that, and then asking another question. When I responded to one of his questions by saying that there might be leads to more resources but I didn’t know if they’d be helpful, he basically huffed out of my office and into his own. (I stupidly followed, as I was mid-sentence when he walked out.) Then his phone rang and he answered it and turned away, leaving me awkwardly lingering in the doorway.

Now, the office feels even more tense and weird than it did before. Upon further reflection, he probably did know everything contained in that resource. The question doesn’t have an easy answer and I thought maybe I’d identified something that could lead in the right direction, I certainly didn’t mean to act like a know-it-all or, worse yet, like the new guy who thinks she knows everything but doesn’t know much at all. The resource was reputable, it just didn’t give a slam dunk answer because I don’t think there is one. I should’ve stayed quiet, I was just intrigued by the question and probably hungry for social interaction as I’m very clearly the odd person out. I’m not convinced he didn’t completely overreact but I don’t trust myself to know at this point.

What do I do? Leave it alone? Shoot a quick, friendly email saying something like, “sorry if I overstepped, was just eager to dive in?” This job is off to a rocky start and now I can’t shake this awkward interaction.

It does sounds like you made a kind of rookie mistake; when you’re new to a job and especially when you’re new to a topic, it can be easy to not have a good sense for what people will already know (and thus what might seem obvious to them), and so you can end up saying things like “hey, have you ever seen X?” when X is a pretty basic 101-ish resource and they’re looking for something more 301-ish.

But this is not a huge deal! This is a thing that people sometimes do, and your coworker should not have been a jerk about it. You weren’t acting like a know-it-all; you just made a suggestion that wasn’t helpful, which I’m sure your coworkers has done himself sometimes. He should have just nicely explained that it wasn’t quite what he was looking for; his reaction was overblown. But it’s likely that he was already frustrated and it had nothing to do with you (or that he’s a jerk in general, which also would have nothing to do with you).

Don’t beat yourself up about this. It really wasn’t a big deal! Similarly, I don’t think you need to apologize; that would make it a bigger, potentially more awkward thing. I would just focus on being warm and friendly to people, learning all that you can about your new job, and trust that you as you get more settled in there, things will feel more normal. If they don’t — or if you’re already seeing real signs that this job isn’t for you — you can deal with that, but don’t give more weight to this interaction than it deserves.

3. Asking an employee to stay signed into instant messaging when working from home

I manage an employee who works a total of two days from home each week (two hours Monday through Thursday, and a full day Friday). When she’s in the office, she signs into Lync (our company-wide IM system). However, when she’s home, she doesn’t sign in, which gives me the impression that she doesn’t want me (or others) to be able to see if she’s actually working. She handles a large volume of work and does a good job on her work, but I worry that she is using this work from home time to do other things – when, if she has that much free time, I’d like her to help others on the team / take on additional projects. I’d like to require that she start signing into Lync when she is working from home – is that reasonable? All other employees who work remotely already do this.

It’s very reasonable to ask employees who work remotely to sign into whatever instant messaging system you use; that’s normal and common. She may simply not realize that’s expected of her, so just tell her directly. Present it as something you ask of everyone who works remotely, not just something targeting her (and it’s worth making this a standard part of the expectation-setting you do when someone first starts working remotely).

If she’s handling a large volume of work and doing it well, I wouldn’t default to thinking that she’s slacking off at home, unless you have other reasons to think that. And really, if she is slacking off at home, she’s going to be able to continue doing that while she’s signed into Lync — so you’re better off just talking to her about what her workload is like and whether she has any downtime that she could use for additional projects.

4. Interviewing right across the street from my office

Help! I just scheduled an interview at an office that is located directly across the street from my current office. My office is business casual, so I’m worried that my coworkers will figure out what is going on if they see me enter the other office building wearing a suit. The street is a high-traffic area for both cars and pedestrians, and I run the risk of being “caught” by a coworker at any time of day, even outside of normal business hours. Also, both buildings only offer front entrances, so there’s no way for me to sneak in a back way. I have no idea how to pull this off!

Can you wear suit paints and a nice top to work that day, and then carry the suit jacket in a bag when you head to the other building, and only put it on once you’re inside? There’s also the option of changing in a bathroom once inside the other building, but you’d need to scope it out first to make sure there’s an accessible bathroom (and it shouldn’t be the bathroom of the company you’re interviewing with). It also wouldn’t hurt to check out what other businesses are in that building, so if anyone sees you and asks about it, you can say your dentist is located there (or whatever). Good luck on your interview!

5. I thought I had this job in the bag, but they’re interviewing other people

I interviewed for job last Tuesday. I was referred highly by multiple people at this company because they specifically want me on their team. It sounded like the job is in the bag. On Thursday I got a call from HR confirming my address and my asking hourly rate. They said I should hear back by Friday or Monday because they have one more person to interview.

I didn’t think they were interviewing others. My interview went well and the managers spoke to me as if I had the job. Should I be concerned that I may not get called with an offer? What is your opinion?

You should always assume that an employer is interviewing other people, no matter how positive they sound about you. You could be their absolute top candidate and they still might interview others because (a) it’s good practice to do that, because you never know who you might find, (b) it could be company policy to interview at least X candidates for every job, (c) they could have internal candidates who expressed interest, (d) the CEO asked them to interview a contact of hers, or (e) other strong candidates emerged at the last minute. Basically, it’s never in the bag until you have an official offer and have accepted it, even when you’re hearing lots of positive feedback — and even when they’re talking to you as if the job is yours.

So yes, it’s possible that you might not get an offer. At this point, it’s just a waiting game to see what happens.

{ 319 comments… read them below }

  1. Alldogsarepupppies*

    I actually recently have a coworker get a job in our building with another company one floor up! I was super impressed with her ability to navigate that smoothly.

    1. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

      Same here! A few years ago I worked in a shared office of four. One of the four successfully intereviewed (twice!) and negotiated a job for the company in the building next door to ours – AND we were generally ‘casual’ dress. It certainly made me question my own observation skills as well as being in awe of her ninja ability!

    2. BRR*

      I saw a job post for an organization that is on the floor above us and I thought about how I would swing it. Some sort of disguise?

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          Or just a sheet! “Nothing to see hEeeeeeere….I’m just a ghOooooost, wearing dress shooooooooes!”

      1. Traffic_Spiral*

        If someone sees you up there, pretend you got on the wrong floor by mistake, or heard they had free cookies and were trying to get one.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Heard they had free cookies and were trying to get one.

          This. This could cover any amount of job interviews. And I intend to bear it in mind if I ever take up corporate espionage.

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        See if they’ll interview you in the elevator, or the bathroom. “Oh, we just happened to be in the same place at the same time. Nothing to see here.” ;-)

    3. Beatrice*

      I did an internal interview with a team one floor down from mine, and I don’t think my teammates ever knew. I wore suit pants and a nice top to work (and had made a habit of dressing a tiny bit nicer than required for a couple of weeks, so it wasn’t remarkable anymore), with my suit jacket draped over my arm, and slipped out for my interview and put the jacket on in the stairwell. The only risk was that they’d see me in the actual conference room during the actual interview, but it was an out-of-the-way room and that wasn’t likely.

    4. Interviewer*

      Spend a whole week dressing up, before & after the interview, and blame it on issues with getting laundry done (no time, broken dryer, etc.). By day 3, no one cares what you’re wearing.

      Good luck!

      1. TootsNYC*

        Or develop a policy of always wearing a suit on one day every week.
        Say it’s because you’re making those clothes justify the closet space they take up. “I spent all this money on suits, I figured I should wear them now and then.”

        When I was in college, I dressed up one day (in a skirt, no less!) becasue I suddenly realized I’d brought these clothes to college but never wore them, and everybody acted like it was SO UNUSUAL! It annoyed me. So when someone said, “Why are YOU all dressed up?” I said, “It’s Monday.”

        Oh, he said, do you always dress up on Mondays? (sort of skeptically, snottily)
        So I said, “Yes.” and for the rest of my college career, I did. Every Monday, I dressed up.

        1. lost academic*

          I had a friend that did that. Wore a three piece suit every single Monday at least our freshman year. I was impressed. He was also doing this weird thing where he slept the hours some monks did elsewhere (details are fuzzy now).

        2. miss_chevious*

          I routinely break out the more “interviewy” outfits in my closet at random intervals at my current business casual office. It drew comments at first, but since I’ve been here for several years, now everyone’s used to it and no one ever thinks I’m interviewing, even when I am. :)

        3. Turquoisecow*

          For many years, I rarely wore skirts or dresses. Without fail, on the occasions I did, someone would make a snarky comment. It put me off from wearing them for a long while.

          It wasn’t until I started working in an office with other women who wore skirts and dresses that I felt comfortable wearing them on a regular basis.

          1. teclatrans*

            I am so glad to know I am not alone in this!

            In high school I was sorta interested in trying dresses, but it was a special hell to have every single person I passed make judgments and comments (either snarky or else overly fawning over how niiiice I (finally?) looked, so I gave up on that. When I did finally start wearing skirts at my firsy office job (age 18), I did it all wrong (at 6′ tall with a long pelvis, standard skirts were always end several inches above my knees and a-line skirts flare really weirdly and end at my kneecaps, and I didn’t understand office norms OR skirts). One of the nice things about being in my 40s is that I just don’t care as much as I used to. But I think that’s helped by a policy of mixing it up stylistically so people early on learn not to make assumptions about me, and can roll with it when I decide to get more fussy about my appearance

        4. Q4 OP*

          OP#4 here – you’re right, if something is taking up space in my closet and I only wear it once every few years, why have it?

      2. Q4 OP*

        Q#4 OP here – this is great advice, thank you! A few days of dressier clothing would definitely help normalize it.

    5. Lindsay*

      I had this happen to me! Tell the interviewing company! Mine was very flexible and let us do the interview at a restaurant nearby instead. As soon as I mentioned the situation to HR they immediately rescheduled at a different location.

      1. Koko*

        Yes, explain your situation if they call to offer the interview. I had an interview in a coffee shop a good ways across town once for this reason. The interviewer actually was kind enough to suggest it.

      2. Q4 OP*

        Hi, OP here. That’s great advice – it certainly doesn’t hurt to ask. I think I was nervous about not seeing the office, but if the interview goes well, I’m sure they wouldn’t mind me stopping by one day in a less formal way if they know the situation.

  2. Mike C.*

    OP2: The other thing that obsolves You is the fact that he asked for your opinion specifically. Had you run out and interjected that would have made you look silly, but here I think your coworker was just directing their work frustrations out on you.

    1. Not a Morning Person*

      Yes, and what makes it even more likely that coworker was directing their work frustrations at OP2 is that after OP2 offered a suggestion, they asked several questions and rebutted every answer…like they were trying to catch or prove OP2 wrong in some way. I’ve worked with the occasional interrogator type and after awhile the coworkers learn to avoid them or get caught in a defense of every statement. I’m willing to bet that there are others who are aware of this behavior and if they overheard your exchange are sympathetic to you. Try to let it go.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        I’m betting that guy did NOT know everything in that online resource. I mean, c’mon, he asks a question, gets an answer, and says “I knew that”? No, buddy, you did not know that. You remind me of some 6-year-olds I’ve met.

        And how much time did this guy waste with his hallway rant, anyway? He spent “the better part of an afternoon” making sure everyone knew that he had a Very Difficult, Very Important Issue. And then LW2 handed him answers. Maybe not so difficult after all, buddy?

  3. LadyL*

    Wait, OP2, he asked your opinion on the question, and then got huffy with you for doing your best to answer, including walking away while you were mid-sentence? I think your co-worker is the one who should be embarrassed, not you. If you just butted in then it would be a different story, but it seems bizarre to me to ask someone’s advice and then be annoyed that they tried to answer.

    1. Artemesia*

      This. But as a point of strategy I would not talk about googling something you heard him yammering about. Instead I would have just used the information I had uncovered to provide him with an answer to his question of your opinion. i.e. look knowledgeable rather than oddly overeager. Play it cooler. but yeah, he sounds like a dick.

      1. LadyL*

        Honestly I feel like 90% of my last job was spent googling things I overheard coworkers talking about, and then butting in to tell them about it. But then it was a science museum, so being a geek for research and overeager to talk to others about it was pretty much the basis of our business model.

      2. Ramona Flowers*

        Eh. I’m not sure about faking being knowledgeable – that can backfire.

        But I had one other thought after I posted the comment below that I think is worth adding. When you find yourself gnawing at a small thing you did, something good-intentioned which wasn’t well-received, and worrying over and over about what you did wrong?

        Well, that’s generally the sign that the other person is treating you badly and you’re reacting with fear, guilt and obligation not because they are correct but because you’ve been wrongly berated.

        1. Casuan*

          Ramona, what prompted you to make the faking knowledge comment?
          I very much agree with you, although I can’t find where it was said.

            1. Artemesia*

              I didn’t suggest ‘faking’ knowledge but using the minimal knowledge one has had from the googling. Saying ‘I overheard you and googled’ is awful. Having an opinion is fine.

              1. Casuan*

                That’s how I read it- that Artemesia meant minimal knowledge as opposed to fake knowledge.

                Trying to convey that one knows more than one really does is never good for one’s credibility although faking knowledge can easily destroy credibility in an instant.
                I don’t think the OP did either of these (nor, in the comments I’ve read, has anyone else said this), she was simply an eager new hire who made a common rookie mistake. OP, don’t let this throw you!

          1. Ramona Flowers*

            I was just replying to Artemesia. It might be a bit hard to tell as this is the second comment down.

        2. Lissa*

          To your second paragraph – man, I wish I could get my brain to *stop* doing this! In my case it doesn’t even matter if the person treats me badly or not, I will totally stew over jokes that landed wrong, comments the other person took not how I met them etc, for weeks later. It’s so much worse if it’s work stuff, too! This is probably not usual though. :)

          1. Ramona Flowers*

            Well, it’s certainly not unusual. It’s not an ideal thing for your brain to do, it’s not required, but lots of people do basically bully themselves in this way (and I only managed to cut down on doing it once I realised I was indeed bullying myself).

            Of course, we don’t know if the OP is prone to this – or if it’s a new habit forming due to the unpleasant situation they are in.

            1. Casuan*

              Bullying themselves.
              Bullying myself…?

              That’s a paradigm that will keep my subconscious busy for a day or a week.
              In sincerity, Ramona, thank you for this!

          2. Competent Commenter*

            I feel you so hard on this, Lissa. I’ve had that problem since childhood. Surprisingly it was getting an ADHD diagnosis and starting Adderall that made these “post mortems” as I call them stop for me. A minor miracle the first time I came out of a client meeting…and didn’t start obsessing over some trivial comment I’d made. May you also find your solution!

            1. peachie*

              Taking medication for ADHD has helped me with so many things that I wouldn’t have guessed it would. It did more for my depression than most antidepressants and brought my anxiety down to what I think is an average-person level. Brains are weird.

              1. Julia*

                Did your doctor prescribe this off-label or do you also suffer from ADHD? I’m still anxious even with meds, so I’m now hoping this might work.

          3. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

            I do this and always thought it was part of social anxiety. I will replay any and all interactions with others over and over in my mind for weeks.

            1. Competent Commenter*

              I agree it seems like social anxiety. That’s how I always framed it. I don’t know why in my case Adderall for ADHD made it go away, but it does make me curious to know what other components are at play in this type of anxiety. I know that on Adderall I have better control of what I say/less blurting/more thinking time before I speak, so I do perform better in social interactions than I used to, and that’s been a big benefit of treatment and leaves me feeling better after meetings. But I know for sure that the post-social-interaction anxiety stopped long before my performance improved. And anyway the things I used to obsess about were nothing to worry about anyway, like mixing up the names of two people I’d just met as I said goodbye at the end of a party. I still might do that now, but I won’t worry about it afterwards like I did before.

              I can also add that this problem was far, far worse in the winter, when I have seasonal affective disorder and get depressed and very anxious. I had never noticed the seasonal aspect of my worst symptoms until a doctor suggested it. I spent two weeks deeply upset a few winters ago that I had offended a colleague during a phone call, even though they had sent a follow-up email saying what a great phone meeting it was. I knew it was irrational and it just haunted me for so long. That was the last winter I tried to go it without an antidepressant. I do a lot better now.

              Anyway, it’s just a terrible thing to live with and I’m sorry you have it so bad. I hope something in my experiences is helpful for you. :(

        3. Nic*

          The bit about the other person treating you badly is really good. I’m going to have to remember that in the future. Thanks!

        4. Jesca*

          I agree with the faking knowledge thing. I think its best in this situation to just say “well I am only familiar with what I read on XYZ site where they say ABC” and then leave it at that. BUT no one is perfect in the moment, this guy did ask for an opinion, and was maybe a little more emotionally invested at the time than he thought. I wouldn’t dwell on it too much, though I understand that it can be hard not to.

          I never heard that about it being a sign the other person was treating you badly. It has really made me think!

        5. TootsNYC*

          When you find yourself gnawing at a small thing you did, something good-intentioned which wasn’t well-received, and worrying over and over about what you did wrong?

          Well, that’s generally the sign that the other person is treating you badly and you’re reacting with fear, guilt and obligation not because they are correct but because you’ve been wrongly berated.

          I agree! This is SUCH an important insight.

          If YOU behaved badly, you will have a very different emotional reaction.

          This guy was a class-A jerk. And I’m not so sure that he actually knew all that stuff–because, you said the webpage you found DID have the answers to the questions you heard him asking. I think he was just pissed off that your initiative showed him how stupid he was, that he didn’t even google it.

          1. TootsNYC*

            also, I think part of that reaction is that we want to control how we move through the world, even if only through the “be helpful and pleasant, and people will treat you well” compact we think we have with one another.

            And we’ve just been shown that we can’t.

            Deep down, we know we can’t control or “fix” them, so we focus on controlling or fixing ourselves.

            We often say to one another, “You can’t change other people, you can only change yourself.” But we leave out the message, “Lots of times, you don’t actually need to change yourself.”

        6. Artemesia*

          Googling something you overheard in the hall and then telling the guy you heard him and googled and this is what you found just seems off to me. It is similar to butting into someone else’s conversation. Thus, if you are going to do it, don’t talk about how an overheard remark of his got you all excited and looking stuff up. Just use what you found. You don’t have to pretend to be an expert. It can be ‘I don’t know a lot about this but my initial thought was X.’

          1. zora*

            But in this case the guy came to the OP and asked her opinion! And he was up and down the hallway all morning asking everyone this question. I think this also has to do with the industry, my friends who are software engineers are often looking things up on stackexchange or github for ideas, it’s not a ‘trying too hard’ thing.

            I think especially when you are the newest person in the office, pretending you know things you don’t is not a great way to start out. It could totally come back to bite you. I think what OP did was 100% fine, and what most reasonable people would do, and the coworker was a jerk.

            1. SusanIvanova*

              And even experts in something might forget a detail that’s in the documentation because they’ve been doing it so long that it’s been years since they even thought about the documentation. I used to be a third-party developer; now I’m working for the first-party. I hit a similar situation to the OP the first week I was there: one engineer claimed something didn’t work a particular way, but I knew of cases where it did, and the doc says it really is supposed to work that way.

          2. chi type*

            Maybe it’s due to my field (librarianship) but I agree with Artemesia.
            Google is amazing for some things but implying to an experienced person in the field that they could just google it and quickly find the answer comes off as kind of presumptuous and insulting.
            Nowhere near insulting enough to justify the reaction!!! But a little eye-roll-y, IMO.

            1. chi type*

              (Basically what Alison said, a 101 answer to someone who is theoretically working on a 301 level.)

      3. KS*

        I mean, if people don’t want everyone hearing their business, they should stop shouting it for all the world to hear. -_- I may have a certain biased opinion on this.

    2. Casuan*

      Also what Mike C said.
      Almost everyone has a story like yours, personally I have several!!

      OP2, use what happened as a reminder to listen & learn, although if someone directly asks for your input then go for it. Soon enough you’ll have “301-ish” knowledge.
      I love that you were curious enough to research a topic that interests you.
      Good luck in your new job!!

    3. Ramona Flowers*

      What really stuck out for me was the interrogation to prove the resource sucked. That was out of order anyway but on your first day?!

      All he needed to say was: “Oh, thanks, I’ve actually seen that already and unfortunately it’s not what I’m looking for. Anyway, welcome to What’s Your Probllama, how are you settling in?”

      Even if you did overstep (and I don’t think you did), his pompous questioning rates much higher on my wtf barometer. It’s possible he was bristling at effectively being asked ‘have you Googled that’ but experience tells me lots of people don’t search online, or don’t search effectively, and it can be worth sharing things you found.

      I’m sorry your new job isn’t going well. If this is what the people are like, then no wonder you’re unhappy.

      1. Djuna*

        There is a wonderful word (that lost out in the American Dialect Society word of the year last year) for someone like OP#2’s colleague: askhole. It’s someone who asks the same question over and over again and never accepts the answer OR demands you cite your sources in detail, then tears them down.
        This guy sounds like a walking definition, and OP#2 can be pretty confident that he’s known for it – especially if he’s loudly progressing through a hallway asking everyone he sees (even the newest employee) the same thing.

        1. Parenthetically*

          I had a roommate who was an Askhole subtype Sad Panda. I think there’s probably nothing more exhausting.

      2. Julia*

        It sounds like he didn’t actually know the source, because he kept asking OP2 about it and THEN claiming he knew what she said. As if he wanted the information, but did not want to admit that he wanted the information.

        1. Traffic_Spiral*

          Yeah, it is a bit weird that he asked her opinion, then asked a bunch of follow-up questions, but then responded to each question with “I already know that.” Seems he’s either very bad at asking questions that help him get the answers he’s looking for, or he’s lying about already knowing the answers.

      3. TootsNYC*

        except that, every thing he interrogated about, the resource had an answer to. I’m not so sure he really knew those things.

        I also am sorry your job is not going well in these early days.

        I left a job w/ onsite daycare for another job, partly because it had shorter hours, the commute was shorter, and I might get to see my husband in the evenings, and my first day, NOBODY TALKED TO ME. No one. My boss didn’t walk me around; the woman who was supposed to be training me didn’t talk to me. I sat at a desk all day.
        I was nearly in tears. I kept thinking, “I left that job for this one, and this was a HUGE mistake!”
        I got on the subway to come home, feeling so unhappy, still almost ready to cry. I was standing there, holding on to the bar over some seats, miserable. And I looked down, and seated directly in front of me was my husband.

        It was still lonely at first, but I was there 12 years, and almost all of them were GREAT.

        And at that job, in the first days, I also had a couple of people who were just generally sort of snotty to me. But the other people were nice.

        Here’s one thing: People who have good boundaries, and good respect levels, don’t approach right away. They ease in. So don’t give up! This guy can’t be the standard for everyone there.

    4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Agreed. I suspect the guy was behaving like a jerk. It doesn’t sound like he wanted his question answered—he wanted the attention and opportunity to walk around asking everyone.

      But even assuming his running around was normal/merited, I suspect OP#2 may be feeling awkward about the exchange, which contributes to OP’s feelings of tension in the office.

      OP#2, give yourself a mulligan and forgive yourself. I don’t think what you did was egregious, and it sounds like you might feel better if you give yourself permission not to worry about the exchange and to move on. I’m sorry the new job has felt rough so far, but I’m sending good vibes that it will even out, soon!

    5. Merida Ann*

      Not quite the same thing, but I had a coworker at my last location who kept asking me my opinion on things (mostly political stuff) and insisting that I answer immediately. My response was usually something like, “Well, I don’t know much about that – I’d need to research it some more before I really have an opinion,” or “Hmm, I know I’ve heard arguments on both sides of that issue – I’d have to see the exact specifics of what this proposal entails to know if it’s on track or not.” But he would always keep pressing for more of an answer: “Well, if you had to say right now,” or “Yeah, yeah, but you must have some sort of immediate opinion.” He was always really insistent that I have an immediate reaction (and usually he was looking for me to be outraged about something) and would get bothered when I didn’t react as strongly as he wanted.

      I get the same sort of vibe here – the guy came to the OP asking for her opinion and then was miffed when she did actual research and didn’t get all riled up and just join him in complaining about it all. Without knowing the specifics of this, that may or may not fit in this case, but it feels like it could be a similar sort of thing.

      1. LadyL*

        Oof, I’ve talked with people like that before.

        Usually they were people who could sense we were on opposite sides of the political spectrum, and were hoping to get a “HAH! JUST AS I SUSPECTED, ALL [political party aligned people] ARE IGNORANT FOOLS!” type moment.

        Or, weirdly enough, I’ve also experienced the same exact scenario but with cultural tastes. “HAH! I KNEW YOU HAD SUBPAR TASTE IN MUSIC/MOVIES/TV! BWAHAHA, now you are trapped in my lair, and will be subject to me explaining the directorial choices behind every single frame of There Will Be Blood!”

      2. Basia, also a Fed*

        Merida Ann, I’ve had a couple of people ask me political questions in this way. My response has been: “I think part of the problem in this country is that people don’t do enough research before forming their political opinions. Basing your opinion on soundbytes and not knowing the facts behind the issue is very irresponsible, in my opinion. I don’t mind if people don’t believe the same thing I do, but the future of this country is too important for knee-jerk reactions.” Shuts them up every time.

        1. tangerineRose*

          Nice! I don’t mind if other people don’t believe the same thing I do, but I want them to be polite about it (or maybe we could just not discuss politics at work).

      3. Emmie*

        I love that you research your opinions. I’ve been doing that for the last year, and it’s a lot less stressful than listening to the news.

    6. Stranger than fiction*

      Right? Also, it sounds like he was only saying “already knew that!” after she’d bring a point up. So he seemingly is the know it all and was pissed someone was (inadvertently) calling his bluff.

  4. Casuan*

    OP3: Be sure to clarify “downtime” & in what ways you want your employee to help others as this isn’t always intuitive to those who don’t automatically seek out more projects during downtime.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      Also, you say she handles a large volume of work and you’re only concerned because she’s not on Lync. If she was on there, would you still have concerns about her productivity? Is it possible she’s using the quiet time at home to get hyper focused on work?

      1. Elizabeth West*

        That’s what I was wondering. If there’s normally a lot of chatter on IM and she turned it off while she was in the office, people might just come to her desk. Maybe she wants to concentrate when she’s not there.

          1. Oilpress*

            She can still log in and set her status to “Busy.” Then she doesn’t have to answer ordinary messages. But if she isn’t logged in at all and her boss needs her for something urgent, then all of a sudden she isn’t as valuable of an employee as she could be if she was logged in and available for urgent tasks.

            1. Sarianna*

              ‘Busy’ doesn’t stop incoming messages, in my experience. Maybe that’s a config thing? But honestly, it’s not just my boss who messages me when I’m marked Busy or Busy/In Meeting, and I have no direct reports! But in an effort to avoid boredom, I’ve taken on so many secondary responsibilities that I get more questions about related things than about my core responsibilities. Hm, maybe it’s time for a new job, now that I think of it..

              1. MLB*

                My last job used Lync – there is a Do Not Disturb setting that will stop messages from coming in – if she really wants to focus that’s an option. But if she’s working from home, she should be doing the same things that she does in the office, which includes signing into the IM service. It tells how long you’ve been away, so I’m guessing that’s why she’s doing it. In my experience, it’s much easier to focus at home anyway, because you don’t have people coming up to you in the office to break your concentration.

                1. EW*

                  Yeah but you can change this setting (or at least I can, I guess there may be different permissions). I have mine set to go to away only if I’m away for more than 10 minutes instead of the default 5. Otherwise I go “away” whenever I take a phone call :)

                2. MLB*

                  There are many ways to set up Lync (I used to make phone calls to colleagues and have meetings using it), but my point was that she may worry that anytime it says she’s “away” her boss will think she’s not doing her job which is why she doesn’t sign in. Bottom line is that her manager needs to set expectations when she works from home, and signing into their IM is not an unreasonable expectation.

                3. Anonymoose*

                  That said, I can’t access Lync from home because I’m using the online version of Outlook when I’m working from home, not the desktop program. For some reason our license doesn’t include Lync for the online version. Or maybe it’s that I’m not on our network, I don’t remember. I just know I couldn’t log in.

                  LW, I would start with asking her why she’s not on it, but yes you can certainly require to be accessible online. It is your team = your rules!

          2. GriefBacon*

            Yep, this was my first thought. I’ve often structured my days to save the work that’s truly solo work and doesn’t require any consulting/teamwork/etc with coworkers or supervisors for late afternoons when everyone’s left the office, so that I can plug away at it with no distractions. If I worked from home on a regular basis, I would absolutely do the same. Her working at home without logging into IM might be why she’s able to handle such a high-volume and do it well.

        1. Cheesy feet*

          This was my thought: the OP says that from Monday to Thursday the employee works from home for 2 hours. Obviously it depends on what tasks she has to do,
          but 2 hours isn’t a long time… by the time she’s got into her work and got focused, maybe she doesn’t want interruptions so she can finish a task in those 2 hours.

      2. Engineer Girl*

        I thought that too. Lack of interruptions can make people highly productive, especially in analysis jobs.

        My concern is how OP is handling work load. You have a highly productive worker and you want her to compensate for lesser workers by doing even more work. That’s unfair and a recipe for burnout.
        Strengthen the rest of your team instead of sucking every last bit of work from a high performer.

        1. Ramona Flowers*

          This is a valid point, but I do think it can depend on the individual – you (hopefully) don’t want someone to feel overworked and put-upon, but you do need to ensure they have enough interesting work to be getting on with.

        2. all aboard the anon train*

          Yes, that was my concern, too. I’ve burnt out in at least two jobs because I was always given a higher workload to “help”coworkers, and I ended up doing more work than my teammates. Don’t punish people for being good at their jobs. If the department has too much work, it’s not fair to pile all that on an already good worker.

          Also, I tend to turn off chat when I wfh or I’ll log on but make myself invisible because the number of people who chat me when I’m wfh is triple the number I receive when I’m in the office. It’s really distracting. Sometimes I just want to work on a project for two hours without being bombarded by chats.

          1. Nic*

            I’ve been that employee before; quick, skilled, and accurate. Not only did OldJob increase my workload until I was being required 5x the quota of everyone else, I was also expected to create training documents and train new employees. It got to the point I was requesting to work from home multiple times a week. I wasn’t working anything close to my capacity. I was on Lync the whole time, and would send an email now and again.

            I did that because I hadn’t just gotten burned out. It affected my mental and physical health significantly, and I became very angry, bitter, and distrustful of the company. I asked for this work from home time because it was the only thing that saved my sanity and my direct supervisor (thankfully!) understood. I had too high of a work ethic to drop all the balls and hurt the customer, but I was incredibly tempted to many, many times.

            It’s easy as a manager to think that because a person is doing their job well and successfully completing their work quickly that they can be utilized for more. Helping others or additional projects may be a great break for this employee, or it might be soul crushing additional workload on top of something she’s already struggling to keep up with. In my case, I had to do some crazy acrobatics to keep up with that workload, and they kept piling more on because I’d shown I could.

            I strongly suggest talking to her and finding out before asking her to take on additional projects or help others. While there’s a non-zero chance she’s using this time to slack, there’s a strong chance that she’s legitimately working from home at her usual pace, slightly below, or slightly above.

            1. Life is Good*

              I had the same experience re: work being piled on me because I was a quick learner and spent my day working rather than chatting/gossiping at my old dysfunctional workplace. In fact, my old boss liked to say that he only gave work to the busiest workers because he knew it would get done. I got burned out and left. Working from home wasn’t an option there, because the boss felt he couldn’t monitor people’s productivity that way. His people were slacking off right under his nose! I think I would have done exactly what you did, Nic, if I could have worked from home. Might have been able to stay in the job.

            2. TootsNYC*

              I know someone who busted her butt, and worked from home in the evenings, to meet her deadlines. Her stuff was always on time even though she had the same delays in getting pre-project approvals and delays as everyone else. Because she put in so much extra work during that part of the workflow.

              Then someone else got sick, and none of HER projects were done. The boss doled out one each to everyone else, except my friend, who got two because her own projects were in better shape than theirs.

              A week wemt by. All the other people hadn’t even started their extra projects, but my friend was one with her own, plus this one (by putting in killer hours). So the boss took two projects away from other people and gave them to my friend. Who objected, saying, “I feel like I just got punished for good behavior!” Her boss got pissed at her.

          2. essEss*

            Agree! I once needed to work on an urgent project that required serious concentration (I debug code so I needed to read each line and keep a mental image of the what the data looked like at each step for over a hundred thousand lines). I knew it was urgent and that I needed to complete it quickly but accurately. Over the course of 1 hour, I received 8 urgent instant messages from different people demanding the current status of what I’d found so far. I was unable to get more than 20 or 30 lines in, and I’d have to drop everything to AGAIN explain the current situation. I finally had to turn my instant message to offline to be able to work which ticked off a lot of people but allowed me to finally get the urgent job done.

            1. Koko*

              I recently had to search for errors in a big tangled mess of code and the just-frequent/infrequent-enough stream of interruptions became like a Chinese water torture and I started getting irrationally angry at people for asking me completely reasonable questions, like they should have psychically known what I was doing and not interrupted me. I did finally abruptly tell the report who’d been repeatedly pinging me with questions about the same project as she worked her way through a process that I needed to focus deeply for a while and was going to turn off IM for 30 minutes. She was so apologetic even though she couldn’t have known! It’s funny how those things can just drive you mad.

        3. Koko*

          Yes, there’s a vaguely antagonistic/mistrustful tone coming through in the letter. OP says that her work output is top-notch, but when he sees that she’s not signing in to IM his question wasn’t about how he needs to be able to reach her more quickly and can’t because she’s not logged in. Instead he jumped immediately to suspecting she was slacking off, and that if she has “that much free time” he’d rather her spend it on work. But he has no evidence that it’s “that much” time – he has no evidence that it’s any time at all. What’s going on that he jumped so quickly not just to the suspicion that she’s slacking off, but to imagining that she has gobs and gobs of free time?

          1. Hera Syndulla*

            “when he sees that she’s not signing in to IM his question wasn’t about how he needs to be able to reach her more quickly and can’t because she’s not logged in. Instead he jumped immediately to suspecting she was slacking off, and that if she has “that much free time” he’d rather her spend it on work. ”

            That is the feeling I got from this as well.

            Her werk has been great so far, why does OP suspect that she is slacking off when she works from home?

      3. Mookie*

        My first question, as well. It’s weird to leap to “she must be skiving” unless there are pre-existing circumstances that make it likely. If a constant stream of uninterrupted communication with my team is not required for processing a full day’s work, I’d be signed off, too. For me, remote work (which in my case has always been highly independent) has its own unique set of time-sucking distractions and disruptions, and one of them is any instant-messaging system I can’t temporarily disable or shift to silent mode for a while.

        I’d be interested to know whether the LW genuinely needs to monitor her employees in this fashion, or if it’s simply the way it’s always been done. In either instance, there’s nothing objectionable to requiring that they do so, anyway, but it may reassure the LW to hear from others who are just as productive, if not more so, when their every keystroke is not under potential observation.

        1. Phoenix Programmer*

          Sadly some managers operate this way. My current manager recently flat out told me that “most people will slack off when given the chance so I only let people WFH in emergency situations. “

        2. Someone else*

          I can see where the OP is coming from, without it necessarily being suspicious or malicious. I know for some managers with an all-remote team, everyone is expected to be logged in to IM in general, and part of the culture is a little bit… that’s how you indicate you’re “in” the office. People use DND and busy, etc, but generally, if someone is not logged in at all it implies they’re either not working today at all or offsite/with client. If that’s the general mindset of the place, even though I agree not being logged in has no direct indication of whether one is actually working, and it’s possible to slack off even while logged in, and sometimes IMs are a giant distraction, if the company culture uses this as an “are you in your office” flag, and already has an existing policy that people be logged in while working, both in the office and remotely, it’s a reasonable request that this person do that too. I personally love that one of my OldBoss’ productivity tips was “get off IM sometimes” to really hunker down on focus-necessary tasks. But if the general company policy is not to do that, it’s not a hill I’d die on.

          That said, I think it’s good for OP to consider all the reasons many posters have already mentioned why this needn’t be a big deal. If she weren’t being productive, one could probably tell from her output, IM or not. But since she appears to be the only one who doesn’t log in during WFH hours, it’s probably worth a calm, not at all accusey, “hey BTW this is the policy please do that”. It doesn’t need to turn into A Thing.

          1. Ramona Flowers*

            See, what I don’t get is why this is seen as a good thing. Isn’t this Lync thing distracting? I’m sure it depends on your field but for example my team tried Slack and stopped as it was just a time suck.

            1. Someone else*

              For some people, it is distracting. I can’t speak for other places but in my office we have clearly defined rules about What Is IM-worthy and What Should Be Email vs Phone Call vs Meeting, etc. We don’t have Lync specifically, but a similar product. Those who are productive anyway tend not to misuse (or overuse) IM to the point of distraction. For most people it’s basically just a list of who is in/out and rarely used for conversation, and when it is, those conversations are very short. That’s one of the directives: IMs are for things you need answers to NOW that are quick. If it’s more than three sentences, it shouldn’t be an IM. Our IM system is also hooked into our phone system. It’s all the same application. Someone could call you if you weren’t logged in, but it’d be kind of roundabout (and they’d probably expect you not to answer since you look not there.) Generally the people in my firm who do get distracted by IMs are probably distracting themselves in other ways too.

              I think of it kind of like, you can use a butter knife to carve a turkey and waste a ton of time, but that’s the fault of the person using the wrong tool, not the fault of the person who gave them both a butter knife and a carving knife and instructions on when to use which.

            2. Koko*

              Another perspective – it is distracting, but sometimes the company is willing to trade that off for making communication happen more quickly or easily between employees.

              Ultimately we are all responsible for certain performance targets and can use IM as much or as little as they want as long as they hit their targets. If someone needs to turn off IM for a few hours for a specific project, that’s culturally acceptable, but in general we’re supposed to be accommodate being interrupted under normal conditions. It’s just like if someone came and knocked on the door to my office, I could either answer their question immediately or ask them to come back later. If I really needed to focus for a few hours it’s culturally acceptable to put a Do Not Disturb sign on my door.

    2. banana&tanger*

      Lync signs in automatically at my office. Were I to work remotely, I don’t think it would occur to me to sign in. She also may not even have it downloaded, even if she’s using a work-issued laptop at home.

      1. HR Here*

        Yep I came to say the same thing. I don’t really use Lync much, but it auto signs in at work. It wouldn’t occur to me to bother when working at home.

      2. Half-Caf Latte*

        Yes, this. It Auto-signs in at work, but when I wfh, I’d need to manually start it up.

        And the work I do from home is very analytical, so not being interrupted is welcome.

      3. Amy*

        Mine doesn’t sign in automatically at home because it tries at start up before I sign onto the VPN. I always have to go to it and manually click sign on. I usually don’t notice until I need to IM someone.

      4. Ama*

        We recently started using an IM client (not Lync) at my work and when we worked from home the other day due to weather, mine wouldn’t start up. It turned out part of the program was disabled on my computer and somehow that was affecting how it worked when it wasn’t directly connected to our work network. Because mine normally also logs in automatically and I don’t use it that often, I didn’t even notice it wasn’t running until a coworker tried to send me a message and the system sent it to me in an email instead. So it’s definitely worth checking that there isn’t some kind of setup issue.

      5. Ophelia*

        Also, I don’t know if Lync requires a VPN, but I work from home, and for a while had an issue that using the VPN slowed down my internet connection. So I would log in to access files, etc., but if I was doing work that didn’t require me to be on it, I wouldn’t be.

        FWIW, yes, people who work from home sometimes throw a load of laundry in the washing machine, but OTOH, we don’t have the chance to chat with our co-workers in the kitchen while we’re grabbing a cup of coffee, so I suspect it comes out…in the wash.

    3. Beatrice*

      I set my Lync to not show me as Away or Idle unless I’ve been idle for more than 15 minutes, specifically so busybodies don’t report that I’m slacking off on the rare work-from-home days I get. If I’m dealing with a repairman or a sick child or in the bathroom or getting a quick snack or on a call, I don’t need someone who doesn’t know my situation making assumptions just because I’ve been idle for 5 minutes. If I’m at work and showing as idle, people will assume I’m in a face to face conversation, taking a quick break, or in the restroom, but the minute I’m home, it’s different.

      1. Judy (since 2010)*

        I once had a manager who asked me to change my idle time to 2 minutes when I worked from home, just to make sure I wasn’t slacking off.

          1. Turquoisecow*

            Yeah, I was going to comment that I thought there was a program that would juggle your mouse enough to keep your computer awake and your IM program in active status.

          2. MissDissplaced*

            Mouse Jiggler also works great when you’re on webex or VoiP calls. Our security shuts the screen off in like 2 minutes so I turn it on during those

      2. JB*

        Same! This makes me crazy!! I can go to the downstairs coffee shop when I’m in the office and be gone for 30 minutes and no one even blinks. If I get up from my chair at home and take more than 30 seconds to answer a ping and some people freak out. Luckily, my manager isn’t one of them.

        When I WFH and need to be uninterrupted, my mgr and I call it “going dark”. I set my status to Away but she can still ping me. She understands I might not answer in a nanosecond because I might actually get out of my chair at home for coffee, food, or bathroom. It does keep others away so that i can focus though. If I do need to be away for more than 15 minutes, I let her know.

    4. Bend & Snap*

      Yuck. Being on IM isn’t an indicator of productivity and can often impede productivity.

      I WFH full time and whether or not I’m on IM depends on what I’m working on. If I need to write or do something really thinky I sign off. Lots of my colleagues don’t use it at all.

      It really irks me when managers feel they can’t trust their employees for no reason other than they can’t see them.

  5. Ramona Flowers*

    #1 I thought ‘talk to the hand’ was something people did to stop others interrupting them, not an interjection strategy. How odd. However, it’s currently giving her exactly the result she wants, so she may not think there’s any payoff in stopping.

    1. JamieS*

      I’ve seen it used both ways so I think it’s mostly a “I have the floor until I relinquish it” gesture that can be used to either interrupt others or let others know not to interrupt.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I’ve seen it used both ways, although I find it shocking that an adult human would do it at work and in settings that are not otherwise heated or adversarial. It’s really not normal to put your hand in someone’s face in a professional conversation!

      I’d probably be shocked into silence, too. It sounds like it could be helpful for OP and their coworkers to come up with a few one-liners that they can practice so that they’re ready to deploy them the next time it happens.

      1. Jesca*

        I have only ever seen “talk to the hand” in someone’s face as purely adversarial. I wouldn’t understand why someone would do that in the work place.

        The raising the hand to stop someone? That all depends on the hand motion as well. I don’t know that it is always rude. As in there are soft gestures and there are aggressive gestures. But, if she is going it in people’s faces, then I am going to assume that her hand gestures to stop someone from across the table are going to be of the aggressive type.

        I’m sorry OP. You boss is pretty awful in this respect. Alison is spot on, I think.

      2. [insert witty user name here]*

        If she does it IN SOMEONE’S FACE (emphasis to show how RIDICULOUSLY RUDE that is!), they should high-five her, say, “yeah, I thought it was a great point too!”, and keep talking :)

        1. ResuMAYDAY*

          Ha! That would definitely make her think twice before doing that move again. Or, do a Borat impression, “high fiiive!” and keep talking.

        2. Joe*

          That’s probably a better way to handle this than my instinct, which was to suggest that you lick her hand. There’s a reason I don’t trust my instincts.

    3. Boy oh boy*

      I feel like holding up your hand like a ‘stop’ gesture (possibly at shoulder height) is older than ‘talk to the hand, ’cause the face ain’t listening’ phrase/gesture.

      1. Mookie*

        Yeah, in my book they communicate very different ideas. I have not heard “talk to the hand” out loud in what seems like decades, but it sounds like it’s made a comeback? Or maybe it never left and I just work with very unfashionable people.

        1. Someone else*

          Yeah, it’s also not completely clear to me from the letter whether the OP is saying the boss did an actual “talk to the hand” (ie not just the gesture but also the statement, which would be very 1991 schoolyard) or if she’s just using the phrase “talk to the hand” to describe the stopping gesture the boss is doing. I got the impression it was more the latter. Then again it becomes more clear that this is definitely rude given that it sometimes ends up directly in someone’s face.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I think once it ends up in someone’s face it becomes “talk to the hand,” even if it was intended as an oldschool “stop.” But just the fact that she’s routinely telling people to stop talking (in the context provided) is also a problem!

    4. Voyager fan*

      Ha. Captain Janeway made this gesture all the time on Star Trek. It never came across as being rude, just “captain’s prerogative.” I think something similar probably applies here.

      1. Birch*

        It’s certainly possible to make this gesture in a reasonable way, but an important thing to remember is that rudeness is based on perception, not intention. If the gesture is being perceived as demeaning by the people is being used on, that needs to be addressed.

        1. fposte*

          Though that depends on what you mean by “addressed.” I think a hand in the face *is* rude, but there are all kinds of behaviors people can feel is rude that really aren’t reasonable to expect a superior to change.

          1. Birch*

            Yeah of course there are always going to be shades of grey. But this is one of those situations where the intention doesn’t really matter–it’s having real consequences. Not only the OP but also their colleagues think this is rude behaviour and possibly hurting the company.

            1. fposte*

              We know it makes the colleagues stop talking, but we don’t know what they actually think of it–only the OP’s opinion is known.

              I’m resisting a little because sometimes stopping other people while they’re talking is an important ability and flashing a hand is a good way to traffic-police a rambler. It sounds like it’s with a frequency that isn’t necessary, but I think it’s really important for people, especially women, not to just accept that somebody else’s voice means they can’t be heard.

      2. Liane*

        But much as I love Star Trek–the OP is asking about a real-life superior in a real-life office. What works in TV/the movies often goes very bad in the real world. What if people used Gotta Win [Back] That Person rom-com plots as relationship how-to’s?

          1. Voyager fan*

            So what you’re saying is that it’s OK for seniormost people to do “talk to the hand,” but not mid-level people. Gotcha.

        1. Voyager fan*

          I mean, yes and no. Obviously the plot elements of Star Trek are (gasp) fiction. But its portrayal of leadership style can be valid. I understand that United Airlines has shown TNG to its pilots-in-training as an example of effective cockpit resource management (CRM) — and have anecdotally heard of the military using clips of various Trek captains as examples of effective leadership. Those are about as real-world as you get.

          A lot depends on nuance and context here. Too close, and yes, I can imagine holding up your hand to stop conversation may come off as rude. But I can equally well see it as a valid way of bringing debate to a close — “I’ve made my decision.” You don’t want “paralysis by analysis” in every context.

    5. MCMonkeyBean*

      “Talk to the hand” is a way of telling people you don’t want to listen to them at all, it’s not to do with interrupting in either direction. The rest of the phrase is “because the face ain’t listening.”

      I think the OP just means that they are physically holding their hand up, which is a universal symbol for “stop.” In this case it means “Stop talking because I want to talk.”

      1. Voyager fan*

        ““Talk to the hand” is a way of telling people you don’t want to listen to them at all, it’s not to do with interrupting in either direction. The rest of the phrase is “because the face ain’t listening.””

        There can be times where this is a valid message, though. To be sure not always and in every context, but yes, times.

  6. NotoriousMCG*

    OP3: is it the same computer used at work + at home? My work computer signs me into Lync automatically (though my branch doesn’t use it for inter-office communication) and I would not think to log into it otherwise, especially when VPNing from home

    1. all aboard the anon train*

      I was about to write something similar! My work computer signs me into our two chat systems automatically when I log into the network, but I have to manually sign into the chat system on my home computer. I often forget to do that until I need to chat someone.

      1. Collarbone High*

        I also wondered if maybe Lync and their VPN don’t play well together — all the remote workers in my office have ongoing problems using Skype on VPN.

          1. Karo*

            I have a few co-workers that don’t have any trouble with Lync on VPN, and then a few (including myself) that cannot get the stupid thing to work. It’s still worth having the conversation with the employee about signing in, but VPN issues could still be a factor when everyone else has no problems.

              1. Windchime*

                I work from home on a Macbook. I VPN into my work computer and then run everything from there, including Lync. I haven’t had any trouble with it at all.

                When my team works from home, our boss asks that we leave a quick note on our Lync when we are going to be away from our (home) desk. I think it’s only fair to keep the boss updated on whether or not I’m at the computer. My office is a very Lync-dependant office; it’s the main mode of communication and just shutting off the Lync is not really an option. It is OK, however, to set it to “Busy” with a note (“Heads down on the Penske file. Please do not disturb.”)

        1. Stormy*

          I’ve used both Lync and Skype during WFH, and they are a huge hassle on our VPN. They constantly sign me out and I have to log into meetings as a guest, plus they throw constant “Your system has run out of application memory” errors and freeze up programs.

  7. Diamond*

    #2 – your coworker’s jerk-ness far outweighs any faux pas you might have made! All you did was make a suggestion that wasn’t helpful, he’s the one that kept the whole conversation going. Why would he start quizzing you if he already knew that resources? Was he trying to make you get something wrong? And then he walked out mid-sentence! Very rude. I’d just leave this alone. He was probably having a bad day. A mis-guided suggestion is hardly a big deal.

    1. TootsNYC*


      And really–he already knew that stuff? If he already knew it, why was he running around asking people about it? Your resource directly answered the question he was specifically acting.

      You just accidentally made him realize how stupid he looked.

  8. SS Express*

    OP2, I think this is all on your butthead coworker. He specifically sought your input, and you did your best to answer despite being new and not having the same level of knowledge and experience. Maybe you were mistaken about how helpful your resource was, and maybe he was frustrated to have someone suggest something he was already well aware of, but that’s the risk you take when you ask other people for suggestions and especially when you ask a new person! A normal nice person would say “oh yeah, I’m familiar with that but it’s not quite what we need, thanks anyway” or (if they are awkward and conflict-averse) “oh thanks, I’ll check it out!” + not actually check it out. And the fact that he quizzed you about it then stormed off actually has me wondering if that was his intention all along: to ask you a question you probably couldn’t answer and make a big deal about how unhelpful your suggestions were to make you feel bad. (I don’t know why, but it is a thing that horrible people sometimes do.)

    He’s either a total butthead, or an otherwise okay person who behaved like a total butthead on this one occasion. Nothing you need to feel bad about. Good luck getting settled into your new job.

    1. Alternative Person*

      Yeah, that part is pinging my radar. I have a co-worker who has gone out of the way to ‘prove’ his knowledge against mine to the point of weird backtracking when I start getting into the details, and have my resources mysteriously fail on him for no reason that can be explained satisfactorily-I know it works, I tested it, so either he didn’t do it, or didn’t set it up properly and won’t admit it.

      The first few times, I didn’t think too much of it, I figured we were working out how to work together, but now, it’s immensely frustrating because the knowledge litigation and equipment failures can all be explained away but it’s very undermining as I have to reprove my expertise or retest stuff when he says it fails.

      So, I guess, keep an eye on your interactions with this guy because it could be one off buttheadedness but it could also be a sign of a pattern with this guy. I’m not sure I have a good solution if this is part of a pattern, I basically don’t talk to the guy I wrote about unless I have to and double down in terms of professionalism during interactions.

      Best of luck with your new job.

    2. RVA Cat*

      OP #2, your co-worker’s ego and rudeness is not your problem, and neither are managing his emotions. I’m getting a really gendered, mansplain-y vibe from this interaction too, though I suppose it could be an age thing if they are both male.

    3. TootsNYC*

      Maybe you were mistaken about how helpful your resource was, and maybe he was frustrated to have someone suggest something he was already well aware of,

      Or, maybe he didn’t actually know any of this stuff (because I notice that he still asked an actual question, and this resource DID actually answer it–if he knew the stuff from the resource, then WHY was he asking the question?), and maybe he was just frustrated to have someone accidentally point out that he was too stupid to google it.

    4. Student*

      One of the hardest lessons of adulthood for me was: “Don’t ask people questions unless you’re ready and willing to really listen to their answers”.

      OP2, your co-worker has not yet learned this lesson. He asked you a question because he wanted to use you as a foil in his own internal monologue, the self-starring play running in his head. You didn’t play the role he’d assigned you in his head, and instead turned out to be a Person with Opinions and a Voice, instead of an extra. So he tried to put you back in to the role he has for you in his head instead of listening to your answers. All of this is on your pompous co-worker. You did nothing wrong. You aren’t obligated to play foil to some self-important co-worker.

  9. Anon for This*

    OP1: I’m quite surprised that your boss hasn’t yet received any physical retaliation to putting her hand in someone’s face. Some of us have histories that mean we act reflexively to unexpected/aggressive invasion of our personal space and she’s just asking for fingernails in the wrist with a move like that…

    1. My Anonymous Alter Ego*

      Yes, so very much this. When I read that, my first thought was if she did it in front of me then my reflexes would kick in & at best she’d have broken fingers, probably a broken wrist & there’s a good chance I’d stop before breaking her arm. This wouldn’t have been intentional, it would’ve been total reflex that happened within 5 seconds of her putting her hand in my face. The closer the hand, the greater the injury.

        1. LouiseM*

          Slamming your hand into somebody’s face is assault, too. What My Anonymous Alter Ego is describing is self-defense.

          1. BananaPants*

            Who said anything about slamming? OP1’s boss is rude to hold a hand up in front of her subordinates’ faces, but if she’s not actually touching anyone, it’s not assault.

            Responding by breaking her hand certainly would be, though.

          2. Natalie*

            I don’t think any jurisdiction in the world considers putting your hand close to someone’s face to be a crime.

            1. DogG*

              But having a hand in someone’s face is sufficiently close to assault to warrant a legitimate action in self defense.
              My partners cousin is a survivor of severe domestic abuse (something that happened through childhood then repeated through not one but two marriages. Don’t even get me started on the cycles of abuse at play here.)
              At a thanksgiving gathering, one relative did reach over to slap her in the face for speaking out of what was perceived to be her turn. Guess what? He got his fingers smashed into the table instead. This was an instinct she learned when physical objects were involved before. Act first rather than waiting for the assault you know is coming. As women we are raised to be people pleasers but that instinct is dangerous. No empathetic person would fault a survivor of abuse for having well-honed self defense techniques.
              Louise makes a very prescient point in this regard.

              1. fposte*

                “But having a hand in someone’s face is sufficiently close to assault to warrant a legitimate action in self defense.”

                There are several problems with that assertion. For one thing, that’s going to be jurisdiction dependent (even what “assault” means is jurisdiction-dependent, since I think you mean what most jurisdictions would call battery); another is that “close to” an offense doesn’t count.

                In real life, it’s pretty unlikely the prosecution would consider a hand near a face sufficient to justify battery, but such situations either usually end with a single mild response like the one you describe so nobody calls in law enforcement, or they turn into an all-out fight where who started it doesn’t matter so much.

              2. Semi-regular*

                It’s not lacking empathy or anti-woman to say that breaking bones in response to something that is merely rude is assault.

                Putting a hand up rudely is not in any way close to assault, not even close. If someone’s history is a such that they cannot control violent impulses if another person puts their hand up, they should make sure they are more than arms length away from all other people at all times.

                I can’t believe the way things get twisted around in this comment section sometimes.

              3. Natalie*

                As women we are raised to be people pleasers but that instinct is dangerous.

                There is an enormous gulf between being a constant people pleaser and BREAKING SOMEONE’s HAND because it was insufficiently far away from your face. Yegads.

                1. fposte*

                  Yes, I’d say the instinct to break somebody’s hand as a response to discomfort is even more dangerous.

      1. BananaPants*

        And I’d hope that you’d be promptly fired and on the receiving end of assault charges.

        If such a violent reaction would indeed be unintentional, I strongly suggest seeking counseling. Someone in your workplace holding up a hand near your face, while quite rude, is not a legitimate reason to break their fingers.

      2. NaoNao*

        I honestly don’t think these kind of vigilante, extreme responses are helpful to the OP. It’s just so unlikely that they would actually *break fingers* (and let’s get real, would you actually do that? Or are you just fantasizing out loud/in print about what you wish you could/would do?) that it bordering on being rude to chime in and note your lightning quick “bone breaker” response.

        I second the commenters who said that maybe “fight” responses to less than aggressive/abusive moves are something that might need to be looked at in a therapeutic environment.

        Society and individuals don’t solve or lessen violence and abuse with *more freaking violence*. Fingernails in the wrist, broken fingers, hands, and wrists/arms actually makes you an abusive person, not some kind of office super hero.

        A hand in the face is rude, can be startling, and is for sure annoying as all heck. It is in no way assault, abuse, or aggression. To retaliate or respond with abuse or fantasies of abuse/aggression/harm is…disturbing.

      3. My Anonymous Alter Ego*

        addendum to my inital comment:
        Mostly my comment was to say that I had the same thought as Anon for This & even though my comment was very badly conveyed with 1am bravado. I’m sorry for that. I totally agree that if I were to do what I said then such actions would rightfully bring an assault charge & all of the consequences with it.

        My comment also had truth as to my possible reaction to a hand literally in my face, although that would be unlikely. Most likely I would be okay in the office setting & able to filter my response & it helps to know this is a known action from that boss. However if someone were to suddenly put a hand touching my face then my reflexes might kick in from that particular trigger.

        Before things escalated to that, I’d do a few things first:
        If possible, I’d sit as far as possible from this boss.
        If I that wasn’t feasible or if I thought the scenario likely to happen, I would privately talk with my boss & tell her that her habit could provoke me to react a certain way & I’d ask her to help ensure that doesn’t happen.

        1. shep*

          Unrelated, but: I love your screen name.

          And suddenly need my DA:O fix. It’s been a few years since I’ve done a playthrough.

              1. Andraste's Knicker Weasels*

                I’m sure you’ll be pleased with the goods my boy and I have collected. And! With your discount!

          1. Andraste's Knicker Weasels*

            Thanks! I looooooove Dragon Age so much. I just did another DA:O play through a few months ago.

            And I just finished my new dice bag, a knitted drawstring bag with the blood dragon on it.

    2. Sleeping, or maybe dead*

      That’s what I thought as well.
      The last time someone did that to me, I involuntarily slammed their hand on the table.
      Which was still better than the time before that, when we ended up agressively and awkwardly holding hands.

    3. CG*

      If someone stuck a hand in my face and I wasn’t sure what to do, I think there’s a non-zero chance that I would instinctively go for a high-five. I bet that would end that habit quickly!

      1. tangerineRose*

        I’d probably let out a high pitched noise while moving my face away from her hand and putting my hands up to protect my face. Kind of embarrassing, but if I think I’m going to get hurt, I’ll try to back away.

    4. Michelle*

      I agree. If someone stuck their hand in my face I would absolutely throw up a “block” move.

  10. Tuesday Next*

    OP4, perhaps smart pants that you can dress down with a pair of sandals and “cute” earrings, and dress up with a suit jacket, pumps and pearls?

    Also look and see whether there is another less obvious entrance to the building. Or invent a friend who works at one of the companies in the building and go and have coffee with them.

    1. Liane*

      OP did say she’d checked for other entrances and there wasn’t one. But meet for coffee sounds plausible, depending, as Alison said, on what other businesses are in that building.

    2. Cassandra*

      I have several wardrobe pieces from a local art-fair upcycler — she thrifts clothes, disassembles them, and reassembles them into tunics, dresses, and whatnot. One thing I bought from her is a long vest/duster made of the most 70s-est of 70s sweaters imaginable. Objectively it’s kind of awful, but I still love it — and it’s so (ahem) eyecatching that it would probably hide the formality of anything worn underneath it.

      (I’m in academia, where “eccentric” is tolerated in workwear. I don’t wear this particular piece if I’m going to an important meeting or anything.)

      So… possible to dig up a layering piece (cardigan, duster, vest, whatever) that would camouflage your intent?

  11. Jillociraptor*

    OP2, I wonder if there might also be an office culture/subtext thing going on here. By way of illustration, an anecdote: my partner’s brother HATES it when we respond to “dinner table trivia” (e.g. what was Tom Hanks’ break out role? How old is Michelle Obama? stuff like that) by Googling, because for him, it’s more a way of launching a conversation than a request for a specific answer. He enjoys the back and forth, the dumb arguments and really reach-y lines of thinking that happen when you try to answer, all of that.

    That made me wonder if your colleague was posing this question in a similar vein, maybe to commiserate about a shared challenge, or just to have a bit of camaraderie.

    His reaction is really odd, and it seems like you may have hit a weird trigger point that you couldn’t reasonably have anticipated.

    1. Birch*

      Yeah I thought this too. It wasn’t that he wanted a straightforward answer, he wanted to mull it with people. Did OP also overhear others’ answers? It seems odd that no one else would suggest the same resource. Or if they did, maybe that could help explain the irritation. IMO it might also be a bit of seeming too familiar at your first day. I would find it off putting to meet a new coworker for the first time and have them launch into solving everyone’s problems, just because there’s no way for the new person to understand the social dynamics that are already in place, and personally I find it rude when people jump in like that without the getting to know you part first. But the coworker did ask OP directly, so anything after that is purely the coworker’s overreaction. I hope he apologized later! Maybe OP should tread lightly around him till they get a better read on his work relationship style!

      1. TootsNYC*

        I would find it off putting to meet a new coworker for the first time and have them launch into solving everyone’s problems

        This is REALLY unfair.

        This guy walked into the OP’s office and asked.

        The OP didn’t “launch into” anything. OK, the OP did google what had been overheard, but HE ASKED. He WALKED INTO the OP’s office to do so.

    2. Maya*

      That could make sense, but at work I feel like it would be much more reasonable to assume that he did actually want an answer.

    3. Parenthetically*

      This is a fascinating take — it seems like there could be something to it given the fact that he seemed to be magpie-ing from everyone else in the office as well. Might it be an idea to find someone else with a warm demeanor whom he also spoke to and say, “Hey, I think I put my foot in it with Wakeen but I don’t know quite why. *brief description* Any ideas?”?

      1. Birch*

        Yeah. I hate sounding like I’m defending this guy because he sounds really unpleasant. But it just doesn’t sound like he actually wants an answer. If you have a complicated problem, why would you ask *everyone*? Does literally everyone in this office have the same expertise? It just sounds like he wants everyone to say “yeah that’s a hard problem dude, sorry” or have more of an open discussion rather than a solution.

        My take is the same as Alison’s–he was probably annoyed at OP suggesting that a quick google from the new guy is enough to help with this complicated question, maybe he felt insecure about that and lashed out. My advice: don’t contact this guy. Try not to interact with him, don’t bring it up to anyone else, and don’t suggest helpful solutions to other people’s problems until you’ve been at this job a while–there’s no way for you to know how much or little they know already in order to actually be helpful. I think the social aspect of work isn’t addressed enough. Psychological studies have shown that people like someone who they observe making mistakes or doing embarrassing things–it makes everyone seem human and fallible. So presenting yourself as the office know-it-all from the very beginning is really shooting yourself in the foot and can hurt both the professional and social dynamics at this job. You’re the new one and they’re all sizing you up, trying to figure out what role you’re going to fill, and that’s a really hard position to be in! I think it makes everyone defensive and encourages posturing all around. It might help if you focus on being friendly and supportive of your colleagues but work-wise focus on getting your bearings in your own tasks first.

      2. Trig*

        Yeah, he might be *that guy* in the office. A quick “hey Wakeen seemed to be really annoyed with me yesterday, am I missing something?” might result in an eyeroll and an “Oh that’s just Wakeen.” Which gives some information about how to approach (or not) Wakeen in the future.

        But really, seems like OP has that information already, so I vote for not giving this incident more thought beyond “how not to interact with Wakeen” and continuing friendly-like as though nothing happened.

  12. Woodswoman*

    #1 with the “talk to the hand” manager, you mention that she’s doing this with your volunteers. Awful as it is for staff, something like that could drive volunteers away entirely. Is there a way the person who manages the volunteers could be the person who brings it up, in the context of overall volunteer management?

    1. I'm A Little TeaPot*

      Yeah, if anyone did that sort of thing to me while I was volunteering, I’d stop pretty quickly. I’m donating my time and energy, the least you can do is treat me with respect and be polite.

  13. BePositive*

    I didnt know the premise (I was a little sheltered). So, I had a ‘talk to the hand moment’ at work and I instinctively took my hand and dodged moved it on his wrist to the side as I thought he was going to hit me. (Result from self defence reaction) Lucky I stopped ‘defending’ myself when I realized he didnt intend to hit me due to his facial reaction. Then people explained the phrase when I expressed why I didn’t understand. That manager was more embarrassed as fortunaltely a equal level manager told him to stop. I don’t think it’s out of line to challenge her to let you finish your statement when her hand raises. That’s what I learned from that awkward moment

  14. Boy oh boy*

    I have seen people use the ‘stop’ gesture more politely. Holding up a hand, not getting in someone’s space (!!!) and, importantly, saying ‘Can I stop you there – [reasons]’. The other person is usually going to be annoyed but it can be done gracefully and for good reasons. Eg, you have a person who will not stop talking, you’re running out of time, it’s a pre-agreed signal, they’ve misunderstood something, they’re repeating themselves…

    I feel like if someone’s not responding to a verbal cue, adding in the gesture gives it a bit more emphasis.

    It can’t used all the time and just because YOU want to talk, and you can’t stick you hand in someone’s face!

    1. fposte*

      Yeah, I’ve used the “stop” gesture, but the hand stays with me, it doesn’t float up to somebody’s face.

      1. Koko*

        Yep, and usually I only make the full Stop gesture for a moment, and then I let my fingers relax and curl slightly as I begin speaking which also softens the gesture.

      2. Ophelia*

        Exactly. I kind of make it by my own chest, and let my hand soften and move up toward my mouth, like a more-emphatic version of The Thinker. I also use it SPARINGLY, and usually with words to articulate why we need to move on, etc.

    2. Elizabeth*

      Yeah, this is how I interpreted what the person in the letter was doing, and didn’t find it at all spectacularly rude the way most others have here. That said, I used it once when someone interrupted /me/ and I needed to tell them I was in the middle of something time-sensitive and would need to talk to them later. This person then came back the next day and chewed me out in front of my staff about it and, when I touched base with her to clear the air because she and I had never had a problem before, she refused to accept my apology for what she had perceived as a brush off and never spoke to me again. (No, she didn’t apologize for the inappropriateness of dressing me down in front of my team rather than in private.)

      So while I think this can be done gracefully (and I like to think that’s how I did it, of course!), that doesn’t necessarily change how someone else might react to you using it. At any rate, now I have a story to share whenever I get asked the “Tell me about a time you had a conflict with a coworker and how you resolved it” question in interviews.

    3. Canto Bight*

      I use it regularly, especially as I’m someone who puts together ideas slowly and gets distracted easily. When I have a coworker who jumps in when I am pausing trying to find the right word and tries to finish a sentence or change the subject, I’ll hold the hand up (in my own space) and tell them to give me a second to finish. I also use it to interject on others if I’m leading a meeting and the other person is failing to answer a question directly or is addressing something that strays from the point, or if someone is dominating a discussion and not letting others contribute. I see it as both kinder and firmer than just interrupting. Honestly, aside from the putting the hand right in someone’s face, which is obviously heinous, I didn’t see the problem that OP1 needed solving.

  15. AlwhoisthatAl*

    #4 Sadly this is the case with a lot of Managers and the “Working from Home” thing, it doesn’t matter how much work a person gets done – in this case: “She handles a large volume of work and does a good job on her work” a Manager always believes the worst: “but I worry that she is using this work from home time to do other things” and therefore needs a method of checking up on them, in this case IM.
    It’s very sad that Managers are unable to trust their staff to do a good job and if they can’t see them, they MUST be skiving.

    1. Anonnnynnn*

      I commented just below for #3. This is basically happening because managers don’t actually know what their employees are doing and what reasonable expectations look like. It’s like “Keep working all eight hours and whatever you produce will be fine!” People who think about this for more than three seconds know that makes no sense. I mean, it certainly doesn’t make sense in a post-industrial/digital age, but I don’t even think that management approach made sense for the industrial or agricultural ages.

    2. LilySparrow*

      Perhaps the reason she’s able to get so much done is because she’s not being pestered on IM.

      What are the odds her productivity takes a nosedive when she’s required to log in?
      For many, many people the key to high productivity is eliminating distractions and interruptions.

      Obviously there’s no essential info being shared on IM, or she would be having performance issues.

      1. Bostonian*

        Yeah, I wanted to echo this- both the managers in my department are never on Lync because they get pestered with non-urgent questions constantly (not from direct reports). I can still either walk over or email and get a timely response from them if I need to.

        And on the other end of the spectrum, I have a coworker who thinks if someone is not on Lync or has their status set to “busy”, then they’re being deprived any opportunity to communicate with that person (um… did you try emailing?).

        All of this to say people certainly have different perceptions for what Lync should be used for, and I’m really curious as to why OP thinks it’s so important for this person to be on Lync. Have you tried calling/emailing and she isn’t responsive? Do you think every employee is inherently out to take advantage of you? I don’t understand how Not on Lync = Gaming the System.

        1. Antilles*

          Yeah, I wanted to echo this- both the managers in my department are never on Lync because they get pestered with non-urgent questions constantly (not from direct reports).
          This was me at my last job. I used it for the first two months, realized it was killing my productivity (for no real benefit), and then modified the settings to never turn on at startup.
          You know how Lync has a little “last online ___” thing? Mine was over three years – which I’m pretty sure was a record.

  16. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

    Lync / Skype for Business automatically signs in on the client, but if the OP’s employee is using Office 365 to log in from home she may need to manually sign in – and she might not know this.

    Also, it’s worth OP bearing in mind that just because someone is signed in to Lync and has a ‘green’ status doesn’t mean they’re working (you know you can set it to stay on ‘available’ indefinitely even if you’re inactive…?) and just because someone’s not signed in or sitting on Do Not Distrub doesn’t mean they’re slacking off? Technology is not an alternative to trusting your employees, OP, and it sounds like this employee is already busting her ass. Maybe she just wants to get stuff done without being harangued by Lync messages?!

    1. Anon for this*

      Yeah, I’m not proud to admit it, but I’ve definitely done that: putting my skype status to do not disturb and then being… less than productive.

      1. Antilles*

        Exactly. The green indicator only indicates that you’ve Done Something with the computer in the past 20 (or whatever) minutes, but doesn’t actually indicate whether they’re being productive.
        If you’re reviewing a hard copy of a report or on a conference call, you can easily slip to ‘inactive’ since you aren’t touching your computer despite being very productive; conversely, you can be reading sports news online and it’ll stay green and ‘active’ even though it’s not work-productive.

    2. Juliecatharine*

      Yep this. Not proud but at soul crushing old job there were a few occasions when I would literally just move my mouse every few minutes to keep my availability in the green. If people want to slack they will. A great way to encourage that is to assume they can’t be trusted.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Heck, there are programs that do that for you! (In IT, we have people use them when we need to remote update their computer at a specific time, even if they’re not using it. It keeps the computer from going to sleep, which is more reliable than setting a computer to wake on LAN.)

    3. Anonnnynnn*

      This sounds similar to the management style and culture at my current job. Very few managers and leaders actually know what their employees are doing each day (week?) since managers are not trained and given resources to be effective managers. The default is 1) I see your butt in a seat, 2) you are not on your personal phone, and 3) you are available on Lync when teleworking. Poor communication and management, plus a culture of “appearances,” mean that these cues are favored over meaningful work results.

      Oh wow, a memo containing a mandate for using Lync went out just this Friday…

      1. BeenThere*

        I had a company that used Lync and similar weird management. Everyone in IT had different tricks for getting Lync to show them as always available. So I did a little Google and you should be able to set timeout for when it shows you as idle to 6 hrs..

        There are other more sophisticated methods if these are disabled, usually some sort of script that simulates a mouse move.

    4. Rusty Shackelford*

      It sounds like a lot of people have jobs that are only done on a keyboard? I mean, green only means you’re using your keyboard, right? In my case, the fact that I’m pecking away doesn’t mean I’m actually WORKING. I could be AAMing. ;-) And if I’m not working on my computer, I might be doing actual work that involves looking at hard copies.

      1. Turquoisecow*

        Same! Although *most* of my work is done on the computer, there’s some hard copy work involved, during which I may not even glance at my screen.

  17. Audrey Puffins*

    Is it worth LW1 gently pushing back against the interruptions in meetings? If boss interrupts a co-worker, perhaps a kind but firm “I don’t think [co-worker] had finished speaking, [boss]” or “can we just finish listening to what [co-worker] was saying please, [boss]?” might help discourage interruptions, and if Boss gets to a point of no longer interrupting, then the hand gesture issue might go away on its own.

    1. Liane*

      Only two problems.
      1) The offender IS the Boss, which means this is risky because of the power difference, and, as Alison said about bringing it up privately, it only has a chance of working if OP has a really good rapport with Boss.
      2) Someone who shoves their hand in people’s faces is someone who–best case–is going to ignore gentle pushback &–worst case–shove their hand in your face and go off on you.

      TL;DR: IMO, Only someone of higher rank using strong (but polite) words and tone has a chance of successfully calling this out.

      1. Montresaur*

        That was my sense of the situation, as well. I’m sure it’s possible that Boss is simply caught up in her thought in the moment and isn’t considering how she’s coming across, but it sounds like she won’t be receptive to any kind of push-back from a subordinate.

        That said, I’m viewing this through the lens of my past experience with a couple of former bosses.

  18. Myrin*

    #3, Alison’s advice is absolutely spot-on and I have nothing of substance to add. However, without wanting to sound accusing at all, I did want to comment on the fact that your letter seemed a bit. Hm. All over the place, maybe?

    What I mean by that is the following:

    You end your letter with “I’d like to require that she start signing into Lync when she is working from home – is that reasonable? All other employees who work remotely already do this.” That’s a very matter-of-fact question. And even if asking employees to be available through instant messaging weren’t as common as it is, you’d still have a perfect reason to do so in this case since all other remote workers are doing the same thing and it’s reasonable to hold her to that same standard.

    In the rest of your letter, though, you’re making some leaps I’m not sure I can follow quite as quickly as you’re jumping to them.

    First of all, if she works from home two hours Monday through Thursday, you still see her in person every day, right? Just for only six hours or so? It seems to me that with such a setup, it would be quite easy to tell if she were slacking off at home, but obviously I don’t know what kind of work you do and how visible progress is.
    However, it doesn’t really sound from your letter like there’s anything outside of the Lync-issue that makes you think she might be lazing about during her time at home. You say that “she doesn’t sign in, which gives me the impression that she doesn’t want me (or others) to be able to see if she’s actually working”. And that’s a strange logic to be following! Unless you’re working on Lync, whether you’re logged into an instant messaging system doesn’t say anything at all about whether someone’s actually working! I wanted to spell it out clearly like that because this really is a weird coming-to-conclusions process you’ve got going here. I’m not familiar with Lync in particular, but I’m guessing logging in just means you’re shown as “being available”. Which, well. That alone really only proves that she’s logged into link, not that she’s really available. Are you and other employees regularly trying to get in contact with her and she can’t be reached? Then that is a problem and could indeed – if proven to be a pattern, not a one-time incident where she was on the toilet and didn’t see incoming messages for five minutes – point to her slacking off (and, FWIW, need stronger intervention from you than simply saying “log on to Lync”).

    Now, in the very next sentence of your letter, you say “She handles a large volume of work and does a good job on her work”. That’s great! That’s what you want! So again, where is that worry that she’s “using this work from home time to do other things” coming from? Do you have any other reasons to believe that other then, again, her not being logged in to Lync? Because if so, you need to address that, because that’s important.

    And then, honestly, you start to lose me, because you say “if she has that much free time” and that’s just strangely judgmental and like you’re somehow stating the obvious when before that, you’ve just spoken of your entirely theoretical concerns that she might be slacking off. You don’t know if she has any free time, let alone “that much” and I really need to ask you: Where is that coming from? Again, i don’t want to sound accusatory in any way – your letter is quite short and it’s entirely possible that I’m missing a whole underbelly of issues you haven’t mentioned – but you already seem to be coming at this with an uncharitable view towards your employee from the get-go, based solely on the fact that she isn’t logged on at your instant messages system.

    1. Amey*

      I think you make a really good point about the two hours thing – I hadn’t noticed that in the letter. If I was working from home two hours a day and then going into the office, I might well prioritise my total focus tasks when I’m at home and not switch Lync on. Obviously if you need her to be using her time from home in a different way, you can make that clear, but I definitely wouldn’t be jumping to conclusions.

      I also agree with the people above who say that Lync logs in automatically for them at work but not at home when working over VPN. I actually use Lync more at home (because I can’t just turn around and speak to a colleague) but I often forget to switch it on until I want to do so.

    2. part time teleworker*

      One benefit of teleworking is that it gives me some uninterrupted time to concentrate on suitable tasks without having my train of thought derailed every time some passerby has a whim to ask me a question, a question that can usually wait. The OP doesn’t seem to grasp that having somebody in the office, signed in to the IM, can be just as unproductive as someone working from home; it’s results that count. I hope the responses from AAM convince the OP to judge by results, not process.

    3. Guacamole Bob*

      Also, I assume this person chose this unusual work from home schedule – a couple hours a day is definitely not how most people structure it. So it’s likely that there’s something about her life that makes that schedule very valuable to her – she’s able to pick up her kids on the way home (older kids who can manage on their own for the two hours she’s working), she can care for a pet without paying a dog walker, it helps her manage a health condition in some way that’s not apparent to you, etc.

      So my question is, what if she does occasionally throw in a load of laundry or take the dog out or whatever while she’s technically on work time? Is she a good enough employee that it would be worth it to you, even if by cracking down you could eek out a bit more productivity at the expense of making her much less satisfied with her job? Especially keeping in mind that being in the office or signed into Lync is no guarantee of nonstop productivity, either.

      If it’s impacting office workflow, then sure, ask her to sign in to Lync. But don’t do it just to check up on her if she’s as good an employee as you say.

      1. TootsNYC*

        Also–if she’s productive in general, it may be BECAUSE she feels a heightened obligation because of this flexible schedule.

        People who have a perk like that will often feel a greater obligation to be a powerful employee.

        1. Happy Lurker*

          I have 2 friends who WFH exclusively and they both feel very strongly that it is a huge perk for them. They work all hours of the morning and night to get projects done.

    4. hbc*

      Good points. I would definitely ask that she use Lync–because that’s the policy, the end. This doesn’t have to be a “I think you’re slacking” conversation. And really, since she’s a good performer, if she has a decent reason why she shouldn’t/can’t use Lync from home, I’d consider it.

      The rest of it I would be very cautious about addressing since she’s so good. If she takes 3 hours to do 2 hours worth of work and intersperses laundry and meal prep and whatnot, is that really a problem? If she’s only putting in 35 hours a week but getting 50 hours worth of work done, is that really a problem? Maybe it is, but if it isn’t, chasing her down is a good way to be looking for her replacement in the near future.

      1. Competent Commenter*

        Agree on the “If she takes 3 hours to do 2 hours worth of work and intersperses laundry and meal prep and whatnot, is that really a problem?” Or maybe she does her two hours in the evening. Does it matter as long as her work is good and she’s reachable?

        I once at a .5 FTE 100% telecommute job. Got a new boss around the same time as the workload hugely increased. We had some insane rolling deadlines for months and they knew I worked until 1 am sometimes to meet them. When the comp time started stacking up (60 hours in a month! With no plan for paying me) and I pushed back, my boss was enraged. He decided they’d been too flexible with me and that I would have to stick to regular hours. A man of little imagination. I tried to explain that I was being flexible for THEM…

        I picked the hours of 8am-12pm. Oh the enragement when he’d call at 12:05 to give me an assignment! The delicious voicemail messages saying “I know you’re there! Why won’t you pick up the phone?!?!” I quit as soon as they paid back the comp time.

    5. Kerbs*

      I agree! I was thinking it could be a good idea to just send a message to all persons who occasionally work from home as a “general reminder” to please sign in when you’re at home. That way she feels like she’s not being personally addressed and it might be a general problem.

      1. Jessie the First (or second)*

        But she *is* being personally addressed – I do not think it is a good idea for a manager pretend to not have an issue when a manager actually does have an issue.

        General messages are less effective because you miss out on the chance to actually talk to the person and find out more (like, for example, there may be a valid reason the IM system isn’t on when she’s at home – maybe she gets interrupted too much and wants the focus time; or maybe her two hours at home are not consecutive so it’d be pointless), and because they can annoy people who are already doing what you need, and they turn what could be a minor issue into a source of office gossip.

        This isn’t a big deal. There is no reason to hide from it. LW can tell her he’d prefer her to sign onto Lync when she works from home, and ask if there is a particular reason she doesn’t that she wants LW to consider.

  19. SleeplessInLA*

    #3 As others have stated, your employee is likely not signed into the chat system on her WFH days because she isn’t on the office network which logs in automatically. I find it telling though that even though she handles a large volume of work AND does a good job, you have the impression that “she doesn’t want me (or others) to be able to see if she’s actually working” ??

    Why is your natural inclination to think your employee is being sneaky? Also, say that she’s ahead on her work and does have free time, how is it fair for you to pile on even more work when by your own assessment she already handles a large volume? That sounds like a recipe for driving away a good employee. If you want her to log in to the chat system in case you need to contact her while she’s out of office then fine, but your intentions seem misplaced here.

    1. Observer*

      Why is your natural inclination to think your employee is being sneaky?

      This is EXACTLY what I was coming to say.

      1. CleverGirl*

        ME TOO! What is it with managers assuming their WFH employees are slacking off in the same breath as saying they are getting their work done and meeting their deadlines. (This is not the first letter that has basically said exactly that.)

  20. Doodle*

    I’m so sorry you’re having a hard time! I think you might get more/better responses if you post to the Friday Open Thread, especially if you post soon after it goes live? Some examples of how you’ve been misunderstood or how you’ve misunderstood others might help people understand the problem as well.

    I’ll be thinking good thoughts for you until then!

  21. Bobstinacy*

    Next time your boss puts her hand in your face high five her then keep talking. I’ve done this a number of times (what’s with these people?) And best case scenario it makes them reexamine their approach, worst case they get mad and you get to employ the wide eyed “But why else would your hand be in my face?” approach.

    1. Mookie*

      I love this, but it’s probably frowned on by etiquette sticklers. I’d throw a “bam!” in there as well, or request in turn a Down Low in response to which she will be Too Slow. Reminds me of Kate Beaton’s Courtly Love series, where would-be acts of chivalry (be-heading someone) are rewarded with non-traditional gestures of mutual but mild and passing affection (like high-fives).

  22. radiator*

    I think I have a similar problem to you, I find that I can explain things fairly clearly in written form but when I try to verbalise my ideas to colleagues or in meetings I can see everyone’s eyes start to unfocus and their minds start to wander. Some people just kind of ignore that I’ve even spoken, and some people become earnest and you can see them trying hard to figure out what I’m getting at which is very kind but also feels a bit condescending.

    I suspect I also have a form of dyspraxia or something similar. It’s all very frustrating and feels like it’s holding me back in my career because I can’t easily make suggestions in meetings or discuss ideas with people face to face. I’m not really sure what to do about it. The situation in #2 really does feel horribly familiar though. I mean the guy in this case sounds like an idiot but the situation where someone asks me for help and I am unable to effectively articulate an answer and we both just get frustrated is… really familiar.

  23. Knitting Cat Lady*


    By in your face, does that mean actually touching you?

    Cause I can tell you, I dislike having stuff near my face, including hands. Anything too close gets swiped away.

    And if it involved touching? I hate being touched. Especially the face. More so if it’s unexpected.

    Seriously, at the mildest that would get a ‘WTF are you doing?!’ from me.

  24. Oryx*

    Op #5, there’s often that scene in movies or television shows where a job candidate goes into the interview, rocks it, and the hiring manager says “Well, I’m not supposed to do this with a whole room of people out there but you’re hired!”

    That’s not how life works. I say this because those other interviews had probably already been scheduled and the company doesn’t want to cancel on them. Their job is to find the best candidate for the position. Maybe that will be you, but it may not and so they want to continue to interview people until a decision has been made. You don’t have a job until you have a job.

    1. Kathleen_A*

      Exactly. OP, if you had the job in the bag, they would have offered you the job. From what you’ve written here, it seems clear that you are probably a strong candidate, but under most (though not all) circumstances it would actually be pretty irresponsible to interview just one person for a job opening.

      The only way they could have truly acted as though you already had the job is to, you know, give you the job. :-) Showing you around, introducing you to people, talking about very specific things such as benefits and and “where your office will be” – none of those things are sure-fire indications that you have the job. Most organizations I’ve worked for have routinely done those things with strong candidates – and actually, we’ve done it sometimes for middle-of-the-road candidates, too, because you don’t always know someone is middle-of-the-road until you get through all the interviews.

    2. Lala*

      Not to mention, if they fail to interview other people, even if your interview is the most amazing interview of all time, *you* could always decide NOT to take the job. They have no way of knowing that their top pick will for sure take the job, and if their offer is turned down, that means their search fails, and they start back at square one instead of having backup candidates. No one on a hiring committee wants to go through the hiring process multiple times unless they really have to.

    3. Lora*

      Only twice have I ever been offered a job on the spot, same day as the interview. Both times the place was an unmitigated disaster job, one of which I quit with no notice (I’d rather work at Taco Bell than that craphole again) and the other I parted ways with via settlement check for 22 violations of NLRB/Department of Labor regulations.

      You want to be in a candidate pool with your peers, because that demonstrates that this company is good enough to attract multiple qualified candidates. If you’re the best they’ve ever seen on earth, it’s usually because they can only afford or attract the bottom of the barrel.

    4. Jen S. 2.0*

      Aaaaaaaaaall of this. Indeed, they might not contact you with an offer, for a number of reasons. That is always a possibility, in every single job interview you ever have. “I have great qualifications, I interviewed well, I have a very good in with influential people there, and everything is lined up well” =/= “I am entitled to an offer.”

      You don’t have the job until you have the job. Period, full stop.

      You also likely don’t want them to interview only one person. What does that say about them?

  25. Globe Trotter*

    As someone that works from home full-time, it is VERY easy for instant messenger to turn into a massive distraction. If fact, I’d say it’s a distraction more often than not. Most of the people I work with don’t typically communicate this way on a regular basis, fortunately, but Slack channels and the like can easily eat up a ton of productivity, and it’s obnoxious with the constant sounds and notifications. I find that it also promotes a sort of learned helplessness in some people (as in, they won’t bother to try to work something out for themselves because it’s just more convenient to ask someone else over chat to give them the answer).

    The bottom line is that you’re doing your employee a disservice by assuming she’s not working even though her actual work says otherwise. It’s funny that people automatically think IM = working. That is so not the case.

    1. Observer*

      The bottom line is that you’re doing your employee a disservice by assuming she’s not working even though her actual work says otherwise.

      This is true. But it understates the case. The OP is doing THEMSELVES a disservice with this assumption. “You get what you measure”. If you measure connection to Lync, that’s what you will get, not good work output.

  26. Jesca*

    I agree with this that this would be a pretty nice open thread discussion. I know many people here will be able to help you out.

    (and just a BTW, once you hit your early 30’s those people do actually start treating you more like you are an adult!)

  27. Jesca*

    There really are no “friends” at work. Always just assume that until someone proves otherwise. It is not personal either. But yes, open thread on Friday! I think this would be great there and you will gets LOADS of really great advice.

    Plus search through the archives here, because AAM has tackled almost everything you have been struggling with.

  28. Morag*

    #1 Appreciate Allison’s answer to this as a reminder that whenever someone does something so out of line that it makes me speechless – that’s the time to react with my true feeling of obvious shock at the obvious out-of-line-ness, even if it’s only to say, “I’m speechless! What did you just do?”

  29. Allison*

    OP 2, while I do think it’s irritating when someone I just met tells me something super obvious about my job, if I asked them for their opinion I shouldn’t be getting huffy when that obvious thing is all they can come up with, because honestly, sometimes people overlook the basics and try to make things more complicated than they need to be!

    Now, if someone on their first day came to my cubicle and started telling me how everyone in my position is using social media these days, something I’d learned on the first fricking day of my career YEARS ago, that’s annoying. And it happened – and it was definitely in a “hey you should look into this” sorta way, not a “here’s what I’ve heard about what you do and now I’m using it to make conversation” sorta way.

  30. The Other Dawn*

    RE: #3

    Being signed into Lync really doesn’t give the OP any indication her employee is actually working. It just means she’s signed into Lync. Perhaps if OP sends her an IM at 8 am and gets nothing back for more than an hour, then maybe OP might conclude she’s not really working. But even then, maybe the employee just didn’t see the notification. There are times when people IM me on Lync and I just don’t see it because I’m involved in something else or I’m not looking at that area of the screen because I have a bunch of windows open.

    Also, can she actually sign into Lynch from home? With our VPN setup, only certain applications are available. We can’t get Lync at home, among other things.

    I’d focus on her work product. Does she get all her work done, or is she lagging behind? Is her work done well? (I have no idea what industry this is and what the metrics are, but I’m guessing there’s some easy way to know.)

    1. Observer*

      Also, can she actually sign into Lynch from home? With our VPN setup, only certain applications are available. We can’t get Lync at home, among other things.

      Except that the OP says the other people doing WFH do log into Lync.

      1. tangerineRose*

        As someone who works from home, I’ve learned from experience that sometimes what works for other people doing WFH doesn’t always work for me.

    2. essEss*

      Its also possible that she’s doing non-computer tasks during the at-home 2 block. Returning calls, reading documents (which can be done on a cell phone if they were in emails), responding to emails (again do-able on phone) and other non-logged in stuff.

  31. Temperance*

    LW2: I’m a nerdy woman, so I’ve met this guy many times. They love to gatekeep, so they’ll do it by acting pissed off at you for existing, and then will huffily quiz you on your knowledge. I guarantee he didn’t read that source ahead of time, he was pissed off at you for actually bothering to do any research.

    1. Willow*

      Yep. They’re everywhere. Had this happen when talking about lifting weights. Guy was very upset to learn I could deadlift as much as him. Started quizzing me about whether I knew what a deadlift even was.

    2. TootsNYC*

      And women get this, but guys get it too, especially if they could be perceived as having lower status (like, they just started their job, or something).

    3. Lora*

      YES. THIS.

      This was a weenie-measuring contest, not an actual thing you should concern yourself with. He’ll forget about it and next week he’ll have a different thing to give you heck about. Dude thinks he is Alex Trebek, next time ask if there’s a $400 prize for getting the answer right.

  32. KR*

    Hi interview OP – is there an accounting or tax office in that building? Sometimes people dress up to get their taxes done – you could say you’re doing that.

  33. Allison*

    Op 3, I’m a big believer in being signed in to the instant messaging system at all times, especially when I’m working from home, and I try to avoid an “inactive” or “away” status because that could signal to my boss I’m not working – of course if I do need to step outside for a minute, or take a phone call, an “away” status makes sense. That said, it’s easy to set it so you have to be away from the computer for half an hour before you’re shown as inactive, and you could just do something every five minutes to maintain an active status, so that alone doesn’t indicate you’re being productive. Plus, I’d like to think my boss has better things to do than babysit me all day.

    Like AAM said, if she’s getting her work done well and on time, there’s no need to monitor her every move.

    1. TootsNYC*

      having to change my status because I’m going to the bathroom would be such a pain–and it would make me more unproductive.

      We’ve just started using Slack more, and I’m going to have to sort all that stuff out. I never had to worry about it before–it’s going to be SO much more mental work!

      1. Nerfmobile*

        I love slack because in my company with IM, people expect an immediate response and there is no persistence of the message if you are away. With slack, it hangs around until you have time to get back to them. Could be immediately, could be 3 hours from now, it’s all the same.

  34. please*

    If an office is generally business casual, but people sometimes dress more formally (such as for outside meetings or meeting with external constituents) I’d urge OP4 to start dressing more formally from time to time just for the heck of it. You’ll be much less suspicious at work, and become super-comfortable in your “interview clothes” if you aren’t already.

    1. Xarcady*

      I agree. If you show up for work a couple of times a month in a suit or blazer, people get used to it. At first, people will jokingly ask if you are interviewed, but you can reply that you just felt like getting dressed up that day. After a while, it won’t attract notice and will just become that thing you do.

      That doesn’t help with this current interview, though. Is it cold enough where you live that wearing a coat would seem normal? Winter coat, rain coat–they would hide the fact that you are wearing a suit jacket.

      1. TootsNYC*

        “I have these suits in the closet–I figured I should wear them now and then before they stop fitting me.”

    2. Buu*

      I’m female my office is casual but I often wear black boot cut trousers, for tops I alternate between blouses, fitted t-shirts and tops/tshirts with blouses or thicker shirts worn jacket style over the top. If I really wanted to I could switch it to an interview outfit by buttoning the blouse up and wearing nicer shoes.

      Another approach is with scheduling, if they’ll schedule the interview in the morning you can go in dressed up nicely, then if you go into your current job put a coat over the top and duck into the toilets and swap your nice top to everyday wear. It’s easier to switch down than it is to dress up covertly. If anyone notices such a minor change you can tell them you spilled coffee on it or something.

    3. Q4 OP*

      OP#4 here – thank you all for the advice. What’s the point of owning something if you only wear it once every three years? I’ll admit I’m paranoid because one of my co-workers who recently left my organization was called out in front of my entire department for being particularly dressed up one day. It was done in a joking tone – “Oh, does John have an interview today? Ha ha ha” – but he just had a formal event that evening. So yes, running regular interference is a good long-term strategy!

  35. Czhorat*

    I’m a remote worker, and we also use Skype for Business for IM, voice, and video calls. I’ll aside that one can log in with a phone even if not at ones desk, so seeing an online status doesn’t prove anything.

    My initial question is why you want your employees to remain logged in. If it’s primarily as a communicatioons tool then it’s quite reasonable to expect availability. If it’s a tool for “checking up” on people to see if they’re logged in then it’s less so.

    Your business may vary, but most work-from-home situations are at least somewhat flexible with exact hours worked; if a remote employee needs to run a midday errand and spend extra early morning or late evening hours that’s fine in many cases. If their output is as expected and you feel that they’re putting in appropriate hours then your issue is a very minor one unless you need to reach them and can’t.

  36. TheCupcakeCounter*

    Two thoughts on the IMing issue:
    1. On the days she works 2 hours from home maybe they aren’t “normal” hours because she does have other things going on (hence the WFH situation). I have a coworker who does this because she volunteers in her special needs son’s classroom once a week. She will work an hour or 2 very early in the morning (like 5am) then do the kid thing, come in for a few hours, and then work a few more hours after the kids are in bed. She gets in the full 8 hours that is expected but there is no point in having the IM system up and running at those times.
    2. She works from home to avoid interruptions and my experience with IM/chat programs is they are 10% work related and 90% socializing (granted I know other areas of the business I work in use chat programs instead of email since it can be quicker and that is work related).

    If you are having issues getting a hold of her (mostly on the Friday all day WFH) then it would make sense to dig in a little on requiring the sign in but if her work is excellent and she responds in a timely fashion similarly to how should would when in the office then drop it. At minimum if you are going to require it make it a blanket policy and not single her out.

    1. Chatterby*

      I agree on point 1:
      I would assume she was working non-standard hours, especially during the 2 hour blocks.
      It makes more sense in my head to work 6 hours, then go home, do the errands, eat dinner, hang out with family, and ~then~ work 2 more hours. If she was just going to work the remaining 2 immediately, there really isn’t a point in going home to do it first.
      As for the Fridays, could be the same thing. When I work from home, it’s usually from 6pm-2am, because that’s when I’m most productive and like to work. Plus, then I had all day to do other stuff out and about that can’t get done at midnight.
      Or, if your time sheets don’t include weekend days, she may be spreading her Friday hours out over the weekend, like 4 hours Friday, 4 hours Saturday.
      But honestly, if she’s getting her work done, leave her alone.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        If she was just going to work the remaining 2 immediately, there really isn’t a point in going home to do it first.

        Eh, there could be a lot of points. Maybe a parent needs to be home after the kids get home from school, because there is definitely an age where they need an adult around but they don’t need constant care and supervision, so she could still work. Maybe leaving two hours later or coming home two hours earlier means the dog can hold his bladder the entire time he’s home alone. Maybe missing rush hour traffic by two hours turns a 90 minute commute into a 20 minute commute. I don’t think we can assume anything, but I suspect that if her WFH hours were pretty far removed from normal office hours, her manager wouldn’t know or care that she wasn’t on Lync.

        1. Allison*

          Honestly, I had a work arrangement where I left at 3:30 and worked from home for a couple hours because I had to park on the street, and if I got home after 6:30 I’d be screwed, there’d be hardly any space left and I’d be competing with a bunch of other, very irate, commuters looking for them. It was so stressful! But coming home at 4:00 meant getting a spot near my apartment building.

          1. Koko*

            My office hours on days I commute downtown are 10a-5p for similar reasons – I miss morning rush hour and evening rush hour starts late in this city of workaholics, so if I get out at 5 on the nose my 45-minute commute is only 60 minutes instead of something like 90, and saves me from having to pay a dog walker.

            I usually spend an hour or so at home going through my email, answering everything I can, and planning out my day’s projects so that when I get to the office I can dive straight into the work-work instead of the answering-inquiries-work.

            Being given this flexibility is chief among the reasons I may well work here until I retire. It’s a benefit that costs my employer nothing to give me, but puts hundreds of dollars in my pocket – $150+/week not paying for 5 dog walks a week, $50/week not paying for parking 2 days a week, 40% less gas, 40% less wear and tear, and the money I save not eating expensive lunch downtown two days a week plus having an extra two days at home to babysit my crock pot so that I can make cheap lunches in advance for the other three days of the week.

            And that’s just the financial benefit–there’s also the reduced stress from commuting less, the convenience of being able to schedule in-home appointments and just step away for 30 minutes instead of taking an entire morning off work, the greater amount of focus I can achieve, and just the rewarding and highly motivated feeling of knowing that I’m trusted and respected as a professional who can be counted on. My company would have to take a very hard left for me to even consider giving all that up. I’m well-known enough in my field to get actively recruited by competitors pretty regularly, but my company has won my loyalty by treating me so well.

  37. Jam Today*

    The worst human being I have ever worked for put his hand in my face to keep me from talking (I was answering a question he had asked) with such speed that I had to dodge to keep him from actually striking me.

    In retrospect, I wish I hadn’t dodged, let him hit me, and have the satisfaction of watching him him marched out by security.

  38. AdAgencyChick*

    I really wish the answer to #4 could be “dress as you normally would for work, and quickly explain the situation to the interviewer when you get there.” Maybe it’s because I’ve been in such a casual-dress industry for so long (and living in NYC, where most people don’t have a car to change in), but I can’t imagine as a hiring manager faulting a candidate for dressing like she would for a regular day of work rather than suiting up for an interview, if she is currently employed. It’s hard enough to make time during the workday to interview — and then the candidate has to change in the bathroom too?

    I realize this is not how it works outside my industry (I have both interviewed wearing jeans, and interviewed people wearing jeans, and people are very understanding that even well-pressed trousers and a blouse can be like waving a giant flag emblazoned with “I’M LOOKING FOR ANOTHER JOB!”). But I wish it were.

    1. Bea*

      I just wore my jacket all day when I was interviewing and had my suit jacket in my car. Granted that doesn’t help that you cannot even wear dress pants without raising a flag :|

  39. Safely Retired*

    #3: Consider the possibility that her productivity is higher when working from home. Some office conditions make it hard to get things done. Interruptions presented by IM may be just one of the factors that make it harder to be productive in the office.

  40. thesoundofmusic*

    I have to admit that I have been guilty of the hand thing a time or two. I usually find myself doing it when I keep getting interrupted. . Even raising my voice doesn’t work, so I wind up doing something like the hand. It’s almost a reflex. I would appreciate any suggestions on how to handle this differently. We have a team that is so fast talking and so staccato that you cannot get a word in edgewise. if you hesitate 1/4 of a second to breathe or swallow, somebody else is already off to the races and talking.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      I think using it defensively (“please don’t interrupt me”) is way different from using it offensively (“stop talking because I’m interrupting you”), but it might still be too harsh. What about holding up a single finger? It says the same thing, but less aggressively, in my opinion.

      1. thesoundofmusic*

        good suggestion. someone also suggested keeping my palms flat but extending my hands out and saying “wait I am not finished. ” Kind of a “tamp down” gesture.

  41. What's with today, today?*

    OP1: My 3-year-old has picked up this method of saying stop (I think it was taught in his pre-school with good intentions, but the habit us killing me). I discipline him when he does it to adults. This behavior would be unbearable from an adult.

  42. Goya de la Mancha*

    #4) My go to answer for dressier work day clothes is “Laundry day”. Seems to work, but only if you use it a bit more then occasionally and don’t leave on all of those days ;) So about once a month (all on random days), I dress a bit dressier at work. Most days I’m at work all day, so it’s less noticeable the few times I have to leave for an “appointment”. Though of course, I could only be fooling myself and my office knows what’s really going on :-p

  43. lost academic*

    #3 – are you sure that the employee is intentionally not signing into Lync? I ask because I have found that Lync, even on a VPN, sometimes just won’t sign on for certain wifi networks and I can’t figure it out. (and sometimes it will and then it’s Outlook that won’t sync). But I agree in general that the conversation about what it means to be signed in or out of Lync needs to happen – maybe she doesn’t think it’s that important or for the couple hours no one notices or cares. It would get remarked on quickly at my firm!

  44. AngelfoodorDevilsfood*

    #2 — I would follow up with that coworker and ask them if they ever found working solution, acknowledge that it was a tricky one and if co worker found an acceptable solution, wow aren’t they the problem solver. If they didn’t find a good solution, huh that was a tough one, coworker is doing a heck of a job managing unsolvables.

  45. Curious Cat*

    #3 could it be possible that the system just isn’t automatically logging her in from her home network? I know that when I’m in the office I’m automatically logged in to our IM, but when I telework I have to manually open the program and sign in. Could be that she’s not aware that she isn’t logged in or needs to manually do so.

  46. Candi*

    #3 -I really hope that you’re talking about your worker going from, say, 65% to 80% or something when you’re talking about her taking on additional work.

    One thing I’ve seen too often in my round of dysfunctional workplaces is bosses who expected 100% all the time, often because of/in spite of short staff. Then there’s nothing left for emergencies.

    And often those fires started because we didn’t have time to pick up the kindling in the first place to keep them from happening.

    You sound like a decent boss -just, please, take this into consideration.

  47. user4231*


    I hate people sending me basic knowledge when I have specific questions. I always do my research before I turn to anybody for help anyways, so if someone tells me to find the materials on the web, that’s naive and rude.

    It’s like when I seek very specific help with some software I’m using. Of course I google it, but at times no clear answer can be found. I already had people I turned to for help sending me links to online courses in the software. That’s really unnerving.

    If you don’t know something just say that and propose you can google it for the person. But don’t give them general links from the internet. Most people aren’t idiots and can google.

    1. Bea*

      Except the OP doesn’t know you and didn’t know the co-worker, so you don’t know when someone has the mentality to Google things for themselves or not. It’s not rude or naive to answer someone’s question to the best of your abilities.

      I have made a career out of Googling for people because they can’t be bothered or don’t know how. You’re really out of touch thinking that everyone out there researches extensively before asking questions. Many people’s default is to just ask someone about it even when it’s “how do I scratch my butt?”

      1. user4231*

        “Except the OP doesn’t know you and didn’t know the co-worker, so you don’t know when someone has the mentality to Google things for themselves or not.”

        I prefer treating people as if they weren’t idiots unless proven otherwise. Not the other way around.

        “You’re really out of touch thinking that everyone out there researches extensively before asking questions. Many people’s default is to just ask someone about it even when it’s “how do I scratch my butt?””

        No, you’re out of touch extrapolating your experience on everybody. I’ve worked in plenty of places – I was a management consultant, so I had an opportunity to meet plenty of people working in companies. I haven’t normally run into people too lazy or too silly to google.

    2. Sue Wilson*

      ….then what are you asking people who knowledge-base you don’t know for? That’s what would make me think you hadn’t googled, because if you’re looking for higher-level information….you go to people who you know have it.

  48. Stranger than fiction*

    Hey #4, if there’s no other businesses in that building, you could always say you found something belonging to an employee there (like a badge) and were returning it.

  49. KS*

    “Well, he actually started quizzing me about what it said and then responded to each answer by stating that he already knew that, and then asking another question. ” How incredibly rude and condescending. LW did nothing wrong as I can see, but this guy is obnoxious.

    1. JM in England*

      That was my take too. He asked the OP’s opinion and they gave it. If he doesn’t like it then it’s his problem!

  50. lilaaaaaaah*

    LW1 – My area manager does that too, though not quite to that extent. Whenever my line manager asked her a question (after they had a falling-out), she’d look really obviously at her fitbit and if he didn’t stop talking, she’d get up and walk off (she later claimed that she ‘needed to boost her steps’).

  51. ReneeB*

    For Number 3, know that their are always ways to bypass IM programs by tampering with the settings. You can make it so you are never offline, even when you technically are, or where it doesn’t show you as offline unless you are stagnant for 5 plus hours. Basically, unless you find a way to make the IM settings sealed in and non-tamperable their is a always a way people can get around that, especially if that is the only way you view whether or not your employee is online and working. I would suggest if you are that worried about your employee not working when home that you send IM’s throughout the day (my manager does that). If they constantly do not answer them and give excuses then you know they are likely doing something other than working. Yes you sometimes do catch them during bathroom or lunch breaks, also meetings are a possibility, but for the most part that is unlikely.

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