candidate said she’d relocate but then backtracked, employee plays with her hair in meetings, and more

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

1. Candidate said she was open to relocation and back pedaled once she had an offer

I work for a very small company as the HR manager. We have found a candidate for one of our teams who would be perfect. The role is based in New York and our candidate currently lives in LA. Before initiating the interview process, I asked my candidate if she would be open to relocating. We prefer to start employees in our office full-time, and once we see the quality of their work/ become confident in the quality of their work allow them to work from home occasionally or, in extreme circumstances, full-time remote work for people who have been with the company for 2+ years or who have extenuating circumstances. The majority of our office comes into the office and we’re not interested in hiring full-time remote from the beginning of employment. At the beginning of our process, my candidate said she was looking and willing to relocate.

Fast forward to giving her an offer, and she has asked that this position be remote from the get-go. While we do have some full-time remote employees, I’m disappointed in this turn of events and feel that I was misled by the candidate. The fact that she is going back on her word does make me question her integrity. What is the best way to proceed here?

I wouldn’t assume this is an integrity issue. It’s possible that she genuinely was open to relocating at the start of the process but has since realized that it’s not something she wants to do. Or she may still be open to relocating but would prefer to be remote and is just asking if that’s a possibility.

If you don’t want to hire someone who’s remote from the start, just explain that that’s not possible but I wouldn’t hold it against her that she asked. (The exception to that is if she said something indicating that she’d been planning on this from the start and hoped you’d agree once you’d gotten to know her through the hiring process, in which case, yes, she was acting in bad faith with you and wasting your time.)

2. My employee examines her hair during meetings

I work for a relatively small company that is pretty matrixed. My direct report works on some projects with me and some with other people. She is receptive, eager to learn, and generally good at implementing feedback.

She has a habit that I’m puzzled about. In meeting situations, she will grab sections of hair and examine the ends, as if she were looking for split ends. I didn’t really notice it before but a higher-up mentioned it as something that makes her seem checked out. Now I notice it quite frequently. When working with my boss (male, all other people mentioned are female) during her review process, I mentioned it as something that I might coach her to be aware of. He didn’t think that was a good idea at all.

However, people might get the impression that she is not thinking about the content of meetings or is not listening to them. I haven’t seen her do it with clients, but she and I don’t share a lot of clients where we meet face-to-face. Is this something worth mentioning or did my boss have it right that I shouldn’t go there?

I disagree with your boss that you shouldn’t mention it. You already know that at least one higher-up has commented on it, you’re noticing it frequently yourself, and it’s likely that other people have noticed it too. It would be a kindness to her to flag it for her, since she may not even realize she’s doing it or how it’s coming across. That doesn’t mean you should make a big deal out of it — you shouldn’t (and it definitely shouldn’t be part of her performance review). But it would be fine to say something like, “This is a small thing, but I’ve noticed that in meetings you often play with your hair. I suspect it’s an unconscious habit, but it risks looking like you’re not engaged in the meeting, especially with clients or higher-ups.”

3. I’m left out of conversations with my boss

I have a question about including myself in conversations at work. I’m on a small team: me, another person with the same level/title as me, and our boss. My boss and my coworker sit next to each other and I sit across from them in a different aisle of desks.

The issue I’m having is that, when my boss has a question or is trying to work through a problem, he’ll turn to my coworker to talk about it. Since I’m physically separated from them and further away, I’m never part of these conversations. I find this frustrating — I often have something to add, and even when I don’t, I feel like I’m missing out on learning opportunities. The kinds of things they talk about impact all of our work, and there’ve been a few instances where I don’t get told important information because I’m not part of those conversations. There’s an additional dimension that both my boss and my coworker are men and I’m not, but I don’t think they mean to exclude me for that reason.

I’m struggling with how to address this. I’ve tried walking over and participating a few times, but that feels like just butting in where I’m not welcome. I think my boss just doesn’t see this dynamic and would want to include me if he did. In situations like performance reviews and check-ins he seems very interested in both getting my opinion and mentoring me. I’m unsure how to even bring something like this up without sounding like a brat, or if it’s something worth bringing up at all. Do you have any advice for how (or if) to talk with my boss about this? Or is there another way I should approach this situation?

Yes, talk to your boss! You could say something like this: “I’ve noticed that you and Bob have a lot of ad hoc conversations throughout the day, especially when you’re trying to work through a problem. It makes perfect sense since you sit next to each other, but I’d love to have more of a chance to be involved in those conversations. Assuming that our desk configurations can’t change, I wonder if there’s a way to structure things so that I’m included more often? Maybe more frequently brainstorming meetings with the three of us, or even just making more of a point to include me when you think it would be worthwhile?”

If your boss is a decent manager, then even just having this conversation should make him more aware of what’s happening and drive him to do things a little differently. It’s natural to talk to the person who’s sitting right next to you, but once he realizes he’s chronically leaving you out, it might be relatively easy for him to be more deliberate about calling you over (or finding other ways to mitigate it).

4. Recruiter wouldn’t tell me what company the job was with until after I applied

I was recently contacted by a recruiter via LinkedIn, about a job in my industry that’s senior to my current job. I asked for more information about the job requirements and the company, and while the recruiter was forthcoming about the job duties and skills needed, she was oddly tight lipped about the company itself. All she would reveal was that it was the same subsection of the industry that I am currently working in, and said they would reveal the name after I submitted an application.

Is this usual for recruiters? It seemed really bizarre to me. Why would I want to apply for a job if I don’t even know which company it’s with? Before I spend time on an application I’d want to know if it’s a company I’d actually want to work for. Ours is not a huge industry in my country and I know most of the companies. There are some that have poor reputations for toxic work environments, and I definitely wouldn’t want to work for them.

In the end I decided that the job wasn’t quite for me anyway and declined but thanked her for considering me. But I still wonder what’s going on with this secrecy. Is it because it was a management position? Or perhaps they haven’t yet told the person who’s currently in the role that they’re being replaced? I just can’t understand why they would need to keep it a secret.

It’s because they don’t want you to go around them and apply on your own, because then they’ll be cut out of the fee for recruiting you, which is how they make money. They’re trying to avoid the situation described in letter #4 here.

5. Can I ask if I’m no longer being considered for a job?

Is it ever appropriate to ask if you’re no longer being considered for a position? For several months, I’ve been communicating with an old colleague who expressed interest in bringing me onto his team at his new company. He organized a handful of informal chats for me with his other team members, and they all seemed to go well. But eventually our talks seemed to stall out, mainly due to his being out of the office. (We’re Facebook friends, so I’ve seen him post about a few trips.)

He emailed me once to say that he was still working things out on his end and to thank me for my patience, and I assured him I understand how this process can be slow and that I’d be ready when he was. But that last communication was more than a month ago, and I’ve heard nothing since.

Given the lapse in contact, I’m starting to think that he no longer wants to hire me and simply doesn’t know how to tell me. If that’s the case, I’d be disappointed but I’d understand. Is there any circumstance in which it would be appropriate to ask if he’s moved on? To ask him to let me know, one way or another, with no hard feelings? I’d love to work at this company but would also like to be able to put it behind me if I need to.

I wouldn’t directly say, “Have you decided not to move forward with this?” If he hasn’t, it’s going to seem strangely pessimistic. But since it’s been a month, it’s okay to check in and say something like, “When you have a chance, I’d love to touch base about where things stand. No pressure, though — I know you’re busy!” And then when you do talk, you could say something like, “Do you have a sense of what your timeline is for figuring out whether to move forward?”

Meanwhile, though, the best for you to do is to proceed however you would if you knew this job was definitely off the table. It’s not clear from your letter if you’d be looking for other jobs in that case, but if you would be, continue doing that actively now. If you get close to the offer stage with any of them, at that point you can let your friend know, tell him you’d rather work with him (if that’s true), and ask if there’s a way to expedite things on his side.

{ 544 comments… read them below }

  1. LouiseM*

    Maybe it’s just because I’m not in an industry that uses recruiters, but #4 seems so strange to me. I get that the recruiter is afraid of being cut out, but it seems like by googling exact quotes from the job description the OP could find the job posting anyway. It just feels like the risk of the secrecy (seeming shady, people not wanting to apply without knowing the company) outweigh the risk of being cut out. Is this really normal?

    1. Sabine the Very Mean*

      Yeah I can’t understand not just explaining that the candidate needs to apply with the recruiter rather than directly through the website because the potential employer hired the recruiter to do this work. I’d be happy to oblige. Is there an advantage an applicant has to going around the recruiter?

      1. Bea*

        Some people think they have a better shot going to the source instead of a go between. It really depends on the hiring methods that the company is utilizing, a lot of places use a recruiter to weed out candidates and don’t want to do work directly with the first wave of applications.

        I’ve answered job ads and found they’re placed by recruiters that screen everything and pass along the best options.

        1. Stranger than fiction*

          Also, sometimes the company cuts a chunk off of the salary that goes towards the recruiters fee. I know it’s not supposed to work that way, but it happened to my friend. The recruiting company was offering $110/yr, and he found out the company was posting it as $118/yr.

      2. JamieS*

        In general I wouldn’t think so but that won’t stop some candidates from thinking there would be. Cut out the “middle man” and talk directly with the source and similar such ideas.

        1. Kathleen_A*

          I actually did this by accident once. A recruiter tried to set up an interview with a potential employer, but the employer decided I was overqualified and didn’t grant me an interview.

          But a couple of weeks later, I saw an ad, applied for the job on my own, got an interview and eventually the job – and it was the very same job the recruiter had tried to get me an interview for. And I actually *was* overqualified for the job, BTW, but they hired me anyway, because of my native charm I guess. :-)

          The recruiter was pretty ticked off – but it wasn’t anybody’s fault. She had submitted my name in good faith – it was just at that moment, the perception was that I wasn’t the right person for the job – and I didn’t know who she’d submitted my resume too, nor did my employer have any idea whose resume the recruiter had submitted. I think the recruiter still sort of thought that somebody had pulled a fast one, but nobody had. It was just one of those things.

          Anyway, recruiters who don’t have an exclusive “All applicants will come through us” contract with a company often keep the name of the company confidential (my experience is “always,” but no doubt there are exceptions) until after the preliminaries are concluded, just to prevent somebody from pulling a fast one. Which I did not. :-)

            1. Kathleen_A*

              Why? She didn’t help the company find an employee and she didn’t help me get a job. She tried to do both of those things, but she failed. What got me the job was answering an ad and managing to stand out from *many* applicants; what got the company an employee was choosing to interview me after a phone screening.

              The only role the recruiter played in this was that of demonstrating that coincidences happen.

              1. Ben There*

                You didn’t do anything inappropriate, but the hiring company may have, if they did not pay the recruiter’s fee. Since the recruiter did present your resume first, there may have been some agreement with the company that the fee was owed if they hired you within a certain timeframe (30 – 180 days). Most companies would honor this and the applicant/new employee would not necessarily be aware of any of it. If for some reason the recruiter contacted you to complain, you would be in the right to tell them their beef was with the hiring company, not you.

                1. Kathleen_A*

                  I don’t think that was the case. I think it was a lot more informal than that. The recruiter didn’t have any sort of agreement with the company, at least not that anybody ever told me about.

                  But it was an odd place in many ways, with very….flighty management, so who knows?

                2. Amanda*

                  Kathleen: even if things are handled informally recruiters tend to have a contract to make sure everyone knows their role in the arrangement and so if there is a disagreement there’s a way to resolve it.

                  That said, the applicant has nothing to do with that. If the recruiter is upset she can take it up her own chain of command or make a note to extend the time later.

            2. Raina*

              Catnpoodle is correct – the recruiter was owed a fee for presenting the candidate first. The hiring company was out of line to not pay the fee, even if the candidate came in LATER with a resume. The recruiter will certainly not work on behalf of that company again.
              And note: recruiters do not HELP candidates get a job … they bring candidates and opportunities together.

              1. Kathleen_A*

                I’m sorry, but I just don’t see it – and apparently the company didn’t either.

                I don’t think there was any contract or agreement, if that makes a difference. It was very informal. The recruiter told me that she had worked with the company once or twice, but the company hadn’t asked her to help find candidates for this or any other specific position. She was working on spec, if you will: If there was an open position and she happened to have someone that she thought would be suitable for that position, she’d pitch that person’s resume. So when I came in to her (she didn’t recruit me) asking for help finding a job, she made some calls, found out my then-future workplace had an opening that it hadn’t posted yet, and submitted my resume and my experience. And the company said “She’s overqualified” (which I really was). When I applied for a posted job a couple of weeks later, I had no idea this was the very same job I had been declared “overqualified” for. That’s all there was to it.

                So although I realize that the job of a recruiter is to “bring candidates and opportunities together”….she didn’t do that. I was the one who brought the candidate – me – and the opportunity together. Me, my resume, my interview during the phone screen – oh, and some luck (there were lots of applicants). She tried to help, but the fact is nothing she did helped me get that opportunity or gave the company the opportunity to see just what a wonderful addition to the staff I’d be ;-), so I don’t see why the company owed her any money. That’s certainly how the company saw it, and even now, I can’t see any reason to disagree.

            3. TheCupcakeCounter*

              I disagree. If the recruiter had told Kathleen_A who the employer was before or after her resume was rejected by the company OR the company had it on record that recruiter X brought them Kathleen_A’s resume then I would agree with you. But Kathleen never knew who the recruiter submitted her resume to and it sounds like the recruiter sent Kathleen’s resume in without identifying details so the employer was not aware that Kathleen had been submitted and rejected. The recruiter should have at minimum let Kathleen know what companies her resume had been submitted to. Without that info Kathleen did nothing wrong. It would only be on the company IF they knew that Kathleen’s resume had been submitted by the recruiter earlier in the process.

              1. Kathleen_A*

                Nope. Everybody was in total ignorance: I didn’t know what company the recruiter had talked to; the company had no way of knowing that out of all the applicants, I was the one the recruiter had approached them about; the recruiter had no way of knowing that among the many jobs I applied for, one of them was this particular company, etc.

                The first anybody knew about it was right after I’d accepted the job. The recruiter made a routine call to me, just to see how things were going, and when I said I’d gotten a job, yay!, she naturally asked where. And that’s when the coincidence was discovered. She was not happy, and I didn’t blame her, but it really seemed to me both then and now that nobody was at fault, aside from Fortuna, the goddess of luck and capriciousness.

              2. Kathleen_A*

                Nobody knew…well, anything. I didn’t know the name of the company the recruiter had contacted; the recruiter didn’t know where I was applying on my own; the company had no way of knowing that out of all the people who applied to the ad, I was the one who the recruiter had approached them about; etc.

                We found out only when, during a routine call to find out how things were going, the recruiter heard that I had a new job and it was with this company that had told her I was overqualified. So she was upset, and I don’t blame her really, but I honestly don’t see where anybody did anything wrong. If there is any blame, it lies with Fortuna, the goddess of luck and capriciousness. Or so it seems to me.

                1. Kathleen_A*

                  Sorry for the repetition, all. The site pretended for a while that it wasn’t going to post my response.

          1. cyan*

            Yikes, I cringe because in my industry, this would get you disqualified for the position (being submitted twice)… though recruiters are used more often and are somewhat the norm.

            1. Kathleen_A*

              That seems wildly unfair (and pretty silly) to me. Nobody did anything wrong – neither me nor the recruiter – so why should anybody get disqualified?

              1. Anna*

                I think in your specific case it wouldn’t make sense to disqualify anyone, because you applied to a position in good faith not realizing it was the same one the recruiter had submitted you for. It seems what other people might be talking about is when a recruiter reaches out to a candidate, but that candidate sidesteps the recruiter and tries to apply on their own. It makes sense to disqualify someone who isn’t going through the normal process.

                1. Kathleen_A*

                  Oh, I see. No, as far as I could tell, nobody did anything wrong – nobody sidestepped anything, there was no contract on my part nor, as far as I know, was there one on the company’s part or anything like that. It was just pure-D coincidence.

                2. cyan*

                  Kind of! Once the resume is on the company’s desk you’re considered submitted. The applicant has to choose one way of submission and one firm only. No doubles, period. I’ve unfortunately had friends that have been burned due to this, so I’ve been very careful when I applied for jobs.

                3. Kathleen_A*

                  Interesting. I am actually not sure the recruiter “submitted” my resume. She may have, but my impression is that she just called and said “I have a client with experience in X, Y and Z – you should meet her,” and the company said, “Nah. She’s overqualified.” But I could be wrong.

                  If she did submit the resume, the company may truly have been at fault because I had just moved to the Midwest from California, which isn’t a terribly common thing. Therefore, you’d think that if the recruiter had shown them my resume, all those atypical California references and so on would have sounded familiar. They can’t have seen too many resumes from people with a degree from the Cal State system, after all. But then again, my eventual supervisor and the president of the company were pretty odd and flaky (it wasn’t a bad place to work, but it was a weird place to work), so there’s literally no telling what they’d notice and what they wouldn’t.

          2. Jamies*

            Your situation sounds more like a lousy recruiter than you cutting the recruiter out. In my mind cutting a recruiter out would be if a recruiter told you about the position then you applied without ever giving them the chance to be the go-between. Your situation was closer to you tried to use the recruiter, the recruiter wasn’t successful at their job (couldn’t get you an interview), and you were able to get an interview on your own after trying in good faith to go through the recruiter. Recruiting is about finding good candidates but that’s only one part of it. The other major part is selling the candidate to the company which it doesn’t sound like this recruiter did.

      3. Media Monkey*

        yes. as the client doesn’t have to pay the recruiter, so potentially there is more money on the table to pay you. i would think that with 2 identical candidates, the company would choose the one who came to them direct as they would be cheaper.

        1. Clewgarnet*

          When I’m interviewing people, I have no idea whether they’ve come direct or through a recruiter, so that’s a complete non-issue.

          1. Media Monkey*

            when i interview people i always know where the lead has come from – we have to be very careful to log all of our leads as sometimes the same person’s details might come from 2 different recruiters (shouldn’t happen but it does!)

            1. Rusty Shackelford*

              If the applicant isn’t able to find out who the company is until after they’ve already applied, I can see them easily working with two recruiters and not realizing they’re both recruiting for the same job.

              1. Media Monkey*

                oh in my industry you wouldn’t know the company at the initial approach but you would know before agreeing to have your CV submitted.

              2. Nita*

                Yes! I’ve been recruited for the same, or similar, job several times. It sounded good on paper, so the first time I agreed to apply. The interview was odd and the job was not what the recruiter described.

                When I got contacted by other recruiters, they just didn’t mention the company name until I told them I’m interested in the position and want to apply. At that point they told me who’s hiring, and I said that I’m sorry, but I already interviewed with them and decided this isn’t for me. If they’d kept the company name under wraps, I’d have gone ahead with applying and wasted everyone’s time.

            2. Clewgarnet*

              For me, that’s always been the responsibility of the HR department, rather than the hiring manager. I imagine it would be different in smaller companies, but I’ve never worked for a company without an HR department of at least two or three people.

        2. Runner*

          But as in this case and in the linked letter, the potential candidates wouldn’t even know the opportunity exists without the recruiters actively seeking them out. It’s kind of odd how the two OPs seem to kind of take it for granted that an opportunity just fell out of nowhere into their laps and don’t connect it to the work of the recruiter — and in fact are irritated the recruiter exists. It’s an interesting phenomenon, this strange sort of invisibility.

          1. Media Monkey*

            i totally get that. i was just explaining that there is an advantage to not going through a recruiter (to the company and potentially to you as a candidate). i would never do that and would definitely think less of a candidate who tried to do it. in my industry, recruiters are great – as there are a limited no of potential companies, they can often give you great advice on the culture of each company as they tend to know them really well (and definitely know what the turnover is like there!)

    2. PizzaSquared*

      My experience is that it is extremely common for external recruiters to not want to name their client. In fact, I’d go so far as to say in my roughly twenty years in the workforce, I can’t remember a single time that an external recruiter proactively told me the company. At least in tech, this is pretty much standard practice.

      That said, depending on how much leverage you have, it’s probably possible to find out. I am fairly senior in my field with a lot of unique experience. I am also happy in my current job, so my bar for considering opportunities is pretty high — I have nothing to lose from walking away. If an external recruiter contacts me with something that seems interesting, I always reply with something along the lines of “this sounds like it might be interesting, but I’m particular about who I work for, and I don’t want to waste your time or mine. I’ll need to know who the company is before I decide whether to move forward or not.” And almost always, they will tell me. There needs to be some mutual trust, and good recruiters understand that. I think they also know that someone with my level of experience knows how the game works, and won’t go around them directly to their client if I want to apply (even though I hate working with external recruiters; I just know that it’s not ethical to cut them out if they’re the ones who sourced me).

      And yes, it is definitely true that if the recruiter uses language from the job description verbatim, it’s often possible to track down the original posting. But most good (smart) recruiters don’t do that…

      1. Lynn Whitehat*

        I work in tech too. IME it’s more common for the job posting not to say who it is, but when the recruiter talks to me, the first thing they say is “OK, it’s Apple” or whoever it is. I mean, really, how can we move forward on anything without clearing up what company it is, for all kinds of reasons? Maybe I already work for Apple and I’m trying to get out. Maybe it’s an insane commute from my house. Maybe my non-compete bars me from working there. Maybe I don’t want to work for a company that size. Maybe anything at all, but it would be a huge waste of time not to clear that up at the beginning.

        1. Czhorat*

          This seems normal to me, and matches my experience (in a tech-related field).

          Most recruiters want to talk to you in person to get a better feel for where they can place you – it’s as much in their interest as yours to find a match. I’ve rarely had one fine me a company name in a cold email/LinkedIn message but always gotten it before sending an application.

          I’d not let someone advance my candidacy with a mystery organization, and don’t think it’s a good practice for anyone involved.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            I would worry that someone was reasoning “No one will apply if we tell them it’s Toxic Teapots, so we need to get some sunk cost fallacies going about not dropping out when they’ve already put in all this work.”

            1. Libora*

              That happened to a friend of mine. It was the first time as an engineer that a recruiter refused to give her the company name before she applied, she found it very strange and she was concerned she was unknowingly interviewing for Evil Corp. Sure enough it was the case and she withdrew her application after the first interview.

              However my partner works in videogames and every recruiter that called him over the years held the info before he applied. I agree that depending of the industry the LW works in it could be perfectly normal.

            2. Czhorat*

              If the role is at Toxic Teapots, the recruiter is better served by saying it outright, and adding that they know they have an uneven reputation but they think it’s worth considering because of some other reasons. This way they don’t waste either your time or the hiring manager’s.

              More often I would assume they’d been burned by candidates trying to do cut them out and go directly to the hiring form.

              1. Seriously?*

                I wonder if there is a way to minimize the work put in for the initial application. If a recruiter just asked me to give the ok to pass along my resume, I would be ok with not knowing the company name. If I need to spend several hours filling out an application and writing a cover letter then no way.

              2. Falling Diphthong*

                Ok, but: There’s a close limit to how far you can go down “Ooooh, your people. People like you have burned me before. I’m always on the defense against you and your kind.” With customers, romantic partners, would-be employees.

                1. Czhorat*

                  I’m not saying it’;s a GOOD approach. This is one of those “explain, not justify” things.

                  I’d personally never go directly to a hiring firm if a recruiter brought me to them as a matter of integrity. I assume most people would act this way.

      2. Ben There*

        If a recruiter does not want to tell me the name of the hiring company, usually all I have to say is, “Look, I’m actively looking and just want to make sure I do not already have an application in with your client.” That would be a major pain in the neck for recruiters and I’ve never once had anyone refuse to tell me the hiring company’s name after that.

        1. Ben There*

          Actually, to be more accurate: the only time a recruiter couldn’t come up with a company name was because it turned out he was fishing for resumes. He did not have a client, he was trying to find decent resumes in order to GET an order to fill for a client. I declined to send him my resume.

          p.s. I did some headhunting in my early career days and this kind of dishonesty was why I quit. I did not want to get some poor guy all excited about a fake job opportunity in order to get his resume (and agreement to search through me) and just HOPE I’d find a job for him in a few months. (of course the fake job always went with a different candidate, too bad. but since you’re looking, I can submit to other jobs….yeck.)

          1. Stranger than fiction*

            Yep, I’ve seen that scenario a lot. But you can sometimes tell “those” recruiters by the way they seem to spam everyone under the sun. Like if it’s by email and has very little personal details about you specifically. By phone I suppose that would be harder , except they might act cagey.

    3. KarenT*

      I found it pretty bizarre when it happened to me, but it does seem to be normal. I was contacted on linkedin by a third party recruiter, asking me if I’d be interested in a position with another company. I asked that the name of the company (knowing the companies in my industry in my city very well, I would be open to some and not at all in others). He wouldn’t tell me the name, but did offer a phone call before I applied. During the call he outlined the role in detail, and we went over my experience and how it lined up with role. I guess that convo was enough for him to ‘own’ my candidacy and he said he’d like to put me forward as a candidate and revealed the name of the company. I declined (the company was fine, but it was a stretch role in a direction I wasn’t sure I wanted) and he asked if I knew anyone who might be interested. I reached out to a former colleague and she was interested, so I put them in touch and she actually ended up in the position. I really did find not knowing the company upfront to be annoying but the recruiter was so professional that overall it was a positive experience.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        On several occasions, I have submitted applications for a position via a recruiter, only to discover the job was one for which I had already applied. The record was 7 times!

        I ended up contacting the recruiter and saying something like “I am interested in the role of Chocolate Teapot Supervisor, however the wording in your job description sounds very similar to a position for which I have already applied. Could you please let me know the name of the company?”

        1. ThatGirl*

          I definitely got calls from recruiters for the same/very similar positions at the same company, who would start describing it and I would say “wait, is this for [ForProfitCollegeCorp]?” and then I would explain that I’d had two interviews there and got ghosted so no, I wasn’t interested.

    4. Rhymetime*

      Having spent many years in the nonprofit sector, I find this practice fascinating. I hear from recruiters pretty regularly, and they’ve never once kept the name of the organization out of the conversation. In the nonprofit world, if a recruiter is being used, it’s often listed right on the website itself that you have to go through them, so maybe that’s the difference. But that’s not always the case, either. I never knew this was a thing, interesting.

    5. Akcipitrokulo*

      Completely normal. I’ve usually gone through recruiters and it’s so standard it wouldn’t occur to me to ask (I did earlier in career!).

    6. Kitty*

      I’m LW#4, and Louise I really agree with you, it made the whole thing feel so shady to me that it was really off-putting.

      I have been cold contacted by several other recruitment companies before and none had ever been this secretive.

      I think Alison may be right that it’s partly to do with wanting to “own” the candidate to put forward to the company.

      Though funnily enough, after writing the letter I found out from a different source which company it was, as a colleague from a different department at my current office got the job! It turns out it actually was the company I was thinking of that has the very poor reputation for work culture, and as a result has a very high turnover rate. Some of my colleagues said they’d seen the same job advertised earlier with the company’s name on it, and had heard through the grapevine that there were few if any applicants to that job posting. So maybe it was partly because they knew their reputation was driving away applicants? Who knows.

      1. Katherine*

        The one time a recruiter wouldn’t tell me the name of the company, it ended up being an organization that specialized in psychic readings. The position was newsletter editor, and the recruiter told me it was a perfect fit for me because it was lifestyle content. (I usually write about food.) I was set up with a phone interview still not knowing the company name, but I thought perhaps it was a travel website. Then the first questions I was asked were whether I was spiritual and if I’d be comfortable getting monthly readings and telling readers what I learned. Anyway I really bombed that interview but didn’t feel too bad about it? I definitely couldn’t have prepared for the questions they actually wanted answers to. (Cue psychic jokes.)

        1. Czhorat*

          This is why it’s a bad practice.

          The recruiter looks bad because they brought in a really poor candidate.

          You wasted your time. The hiring manager wasted their time.

          It’s a lose/lose/lose which could have been avoided had the recruiter told you “This is for a spiritual organization called Llamas From Beyond”.

        2. Kathleen_A*

          My experience is that keeping the name of the company confidential in the early stages is actually fairly common. It can be done for underhanded reasons, of course, but it also happens because the recruiter is trying to protect his/her fee.

        3. Seriously?*

          That is taking the secrecy to a ridiculous extreme. You would think that at the very least they would tell you the company name after the interview was scheduled.

        4. Stranger than fiction*

          Well if they’re psychics, they should already know who they’re going to hire.

      2. MK*

        I don’t get what they hope to gain by this, if so. The candidate will have to learn the name of the company sooner rather than later; and I can’t imagine that a candidate who wouldn’t have been willing to even consider the company is likely to change their mind just because they have been tricked into applying.

        1. TCamp*

          Sometimes it’s a confidential search (at least initially). The employer may be looking to replace an employee who is a poor fit or is looking to do some reorganization – and they can’t make these changes unless or until they find a viable candidate. I don’t think it’s highly unusual, unless of course the recruiter won’t share much about job responsibilities, city of location, etc. They have to give you enough information for you to know if you’re interested in the job or not, however!

    7. Media Monkey*

      from an industry that does use recruiters, totally normal. in my industry the recruiter would always tell you who the role was with before applying and it is likely that the job has not been posted anywhere else as no one uses job boards. so for recruiters, the biggest risk would be being cut out by the internal recruiters of the larger companies who post their own ads and approach people through linked in. I’m in the UK though and quite a specific industry!

      1. Kitty*

        That’s the difference though, you mentioned that the recruiter will always tell you who the role is with *before* applying. This recruiter said they wouldn’t tell me until *after* I had applied. I still can’t understand how this works as a usual thing in some industries! XD

    8. Runner*

      Yes. It’s normal. The recruiter is actively seeking to find candidates to match to jobs with organization(s) working with the recruiter.

    9. What's with today, today?*

      I’m not in a recruiter heavy industry either, and everything I read here about recruiters makes me so glad I’m not.

      1. cyan*

        I actually love being in a recruiter heavy industry. My apps don’t get stuck in HR-app-land and my resume gets directly in front of the manager among other things. I really cringed going back to a non-recruiter process because it. took. so. long. Recruiter? Usually a week or a few days. Applied directly? Weeks to months.

    10. a1*

      When I’ve worked with recruited they’ve always told me the company in that first phone call. I didn’t need to apply first. This seems really weird and the fact that so many people say it’s normal also seems weird to me. Why would you apply for a job when you don’t know what company it is?

    11. Allison*

      And that’s exactly what I do, and it works almost all of the time. Then again, recruiters usually tell me the name of the company in the phone screen, before having me do the paperwork to get an application in.

      1. Allison*

        I should add, this wouldn’t work if the job hasn’t been posted yet, which does happen with highly confidential searches, usually for executives.

    12. Fabulous*

      This is how I’ve gotten around not finding out company names from recruiters. I’ve worked with a number of recruiters throughout the years so I know the nuances and wouldn’t apply otherwise, but it’s definitely nice to know what you’re submitting your name for ahead of time!

    13. LawPancake*

      I’d always rather go through a recruiter than apply directly. In my experience, it means I don’t have to go through some obnoxious application software and often can skip the cover letter.

        1. Amelia*

          The last several times I’ve worked with a recruiter, I never had to fill out the online application.

    14. AnotherHRPro*

      In addition to the reason Alison stated, this could also be a confidential search. Companies do this from time to time for various reasons that could include, they are planning for a separation or they are investing in a part of their business and have not announced it yet. The are generally for more senior positions and the job is not officially posted anywhere other than with the recruiting firm.

    15. Amelia*

      I’m biased because my husband is a recruiter, but it always seems to benefit the candidate to go through him.
      A successful candidate means he gets his fee so he’s very motivated to prep them.

      He usually talk and meets with the candidates 3-4 times in the process and provides inside information.
      For example, “I’ve placed many people with Jane, the hiring manager. She’s really looking for X, Y, Z. Her pet peeve is _______. She’s feeling a lot of pressure from the VP to do _____. What really makes her tick is ___”

      It’s information that would be very hard to get if you’re blindly going into the process. He also tends to have an inside track on salary negotiations and how flexible the range can be.

      Perhaps there is a downside to going with a good recruiter but I haven’t seen it. However, one thing to remember is that recruiter is fundamentally views the company as the client, not the candidate.

      1. ThatGirl*

        Ah, but that assumes the recruiter is a good one. I agree with you that good ones could be invaluable. But I’ve dealt with far too many who didn’t seem to have much authority to pass on candidates, or were just trying to get the fee, or clearly hadn’t read my resume well.

    16. Wendy Darling*

      Also, who the company is is a huge influence on whether or not I’m interested in a job! There are definitely companies that they could submit my application and then tell me who it is and I’d say no thanks.

    17. Amanda*

      I agree with you but most of the recruiters I’ve worked with have been like this. I also never considered their positions worth putting time into, so if it turns out it’s a company I don’t like I can withdraw my application.

      Usually the places ended up being small companies in adjacent industries though, and sometimes ones I’d only heard of in supplker/customer lists of at all. Like if my industry is hipster tea cup pottery, the company may produce the clay and want someone who knows the technicalities of tea cup pottery on their team, so they can keep making better clay that keeps up with industry changes.

      Once you’ve worked with a few recruiters you get used to the secrecy.

  2. Kheldarson*

    LW2, I totally do what your employee does, especially if my hair is down for the day (part of why I usually have my hair tied back!) She probably isn’t even thinking about it: her hair catches her eye and she goes to check because it gives her hands something to do. So just mention it. She’ll probably correct it easily.

    1. BadWolf*

      I’m a hair comber (finger combing), I’ve been trying to break the habit for awhile at work. In addition to unprofessional, I was leaving long hair behind (fine at my house, less great for conference rooms). It was definitely easy to do without thinking! Once in awhile I still start doing it, especially during boring presentations.

      1. Curious Cat*

        *raises hand* Also a finger-hair comber. Didn’t even realize I did it until a friend casually mentioned it one day, and then I’ve been super self-conscious of it since (especially at work, but I know it can give off an uninterested or “ditzy” vibe otherwise as well). LW should definitely mention it to their employee!

      2. Accountant*

        I do this too! Not from boredom but from anxiety! I also twirl my ring, wring my hands and clean my fingernails compulsively!

      3. bookish*

        Oh my gosh, same. Like it actually drives me crazy because I have a compulsion to comb through my hair, play with the ends, etc. (I would also leave hairs all over my desk if it was a late night and I was stressed about getting work done in time to leave at a decent hour.)

        What helped me A LOT was getting a subtle undercut – I brought in a picture of Rosamund Pike with one, where the bottom part of her scalp, starting probably mid-ear, is short like a pixie cut but not like crazy shaved, and then of course the rest of her hair is long. I didn’t even do it for aesthetic reasons because I enjoy looking Very Wholesome but I thought this was a style that could work, and I could leave my hair down to cover it up whenever I wanted. Now I put my hair up in a bun every day, which used to not solve the problem because I had shorter wisps of hair at the nape of my neck that I could never tie up or pin down but would drive me crazy and I couldn’t stop tugging at them – now those are gone. I’m free. It’s amazing.

        Of course, maybe really conservative-about-appearance offices wouldn’t be into this, but I chose the cut because (in addition to being able to leave my hair down and cover it) I feel like it’s finally mainstream enough that it doesn’t look too extreme. Plus a couple other women in my office have more dramatic undercuts than me.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Agreed on all counts.

      I suspect OP’s boss discouraged OP from following up with OP’s report because of concerns that the feedback could sound gendered (this is speculation on my part, but it’s the most common excuse I hear men use as a justification for not addressing a behavior that is commonly associated with women). Thankfully, Alison’s script avoids that by making the issue and ask really specific. For example, if she were clicking her pen repeatedly, examining her fingernails, staring at her laptop screen throughout the meeting with minimal eye contact, or any other activity that can make a person look distracted, it would be fair game (and a kindness) for OP to let her know that others perceived her as distracted. And that would also be true if she were a man.

      Which is all to say that I think you’re in the clear OP. I’d let her know.

      1. Isobel*

        Yes, agreed. And for what it’s worth, I had a male colleague who used to fiddle with his hair during meetings and I found it very off-putting. I wish someone had had a word with him (though actually that was the least of my problems with him, so there may have been an element of BEC).

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Re Alison’s script, I’d actually say “check for split ends.” To me playing with hair suggests pushing it back from your face as a nervous tic (still something you might bring up, but less distracting), while checking for split ends means you’ve dropped eye contact, mentally dropped out of the meeting, and have moved on to personal grooming.

        (One of the memorable “apparently people are different” conversations here was whether sitting at your desk trimming the ends of your hair was Super Weird or Totally Normal.)

      3. Jesca*

        Honestly, I think this woman is doing it the same way people doodle while meetings are going on. It actually makes many people concentrate more. So OP can definitely approach it that way! And then sort of talk about other ways the employee can try to stay focused that doesn’t look like they are so checked out.

      4. Kathleen_A*

        Can someone explain to me what “pretty matrixed” means – and also what it has to do with hair fiddling?

          1. Kathleen_A*

            I would never, ever, never have guessed that. Thank you very much.

            I don’t see how that’s related to the hair-fiddling, but you’ve answered my primary question, and that’s the main thing.

            1. teclatrans*

              What I pulled from that context was that the hair-checker has lots of meetings that OP has no visibility into, and/or the potential to upset a number of higher-ups, but I am totally guessing. In any event, I didn’t think it pertained to the hair-fiddling so much as the perception side of things.

      5. LouiseM*

        Absolutely. It’s interesting to see people throughout the thread commenting that they’ve also known men who fidgeted with their hair, etc. What they are missing is that twirling one’s hair is EXTREMELY common visual shorthand for feminine vapidity, frivolity, etc. in our culture. So it does make sense to me that the boss would find this feedback too gendered (while I also agree with you that OP should give it anyway).

    3. Close Bracket*

      Turned out my unconscious, habitual hair-playing, along with my constant fidgeting, falls into the category of autistic stimming. Who knew.

      1. Harper the Other One*

        I hope you don’t mind me asking but have you ever used stimming jewelry like a geared ring? I have two kids on the spectrum and I’d like to introduce them to some fidgets that won’t stand out too much in high school or professional settings. There’s a cool selection on a website called Stimtastic but I haven’t been able to find anyone who’s used something similar!

        1. curly sue*

          I’ve ordered from stimtastic for my kids a couple of times and I’ve been very impressed with their customer service. I can’t speak to their gear rings specifically, though — my guys are oral/chewers so I’ve mostly ordered from their chew jewellery. The quality’s very good.

          1. Harper the Other One*

            Thanks! I really like the idea of supporting Stimtastic in particular so it’s good to know you’ve had good experiences.

            1. curly sue*

              Oh – I will say the squeeze ball/stress ball thing from them wasn’t superb. The rubbery covering disintegrated pretty quickly under light use. Of course it’s kids, and they’re forces of entropy, but I was still surprised by that one.

          2. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

            Chew jewelry! Interesting! I’m going to have to check that out!

            After I got my tongue pierced, I kept the extra long bar that is used for the initial piercing (to account for the swelling) for years because I liked to play with it both consciously and unconsciously. I really only ended up changing it because the constant fiddling was messing up my gums & teeth! What I ended up with that helped both issues was a much thicker gauge *and* an unusually short bar (10g & just under 1/2” for any who might be interested) and I could probably go a even shorter if I could find one, or felt like special ordering it.
            If I have to take it out for a medical or dental procedure, it becomes really obvious just how much I fidget with the darn thing, so I would much rather keep it than transfer that to some new source of nervous energy release.

        2. Specialk9*

          Not on the spectrum, but I’m a fidgeter. When I was in HS, I used to twirl my class ring on my finger, as it was weighted on the top. I’d pull it to the middle of my finger, then use my thumb to twirl-twirl-twirl. My friends used to say I’d lose it that way, but I never did. It’s a way to use something unobtrusive and fidget it quietly and when under a desk or in the lap.

          You can also find rings on Etsy that are “fidget rings” or “spinner rings” and reasonably priced. Link in next comment.

            1. Mairona*

              How have I not heard of these before? I have ADHD and have been looking for something unobtrusive to fidget with. I’d been considering a fidget cube, but was worried that I’d lose it because, well, ADHD.

              1. Caitlin*

                A little background: when I was five I was diagnosed with ADD. I was retested when I was 25 and was diagnosed with nonverbal learning disorder (with symptoms of ADD). When I was in middle school (back when we thought I had ADD), a counsellor suggested I get a Koosh ball to fiddle with. It helped. I can’t find the exact one, but it was one of the softer ones with loops instead of strands.

                1. Caitlin*

                  Nowadays, when I find my attention span waning, I’ve taken to doodling in the margins of my notes or writing out the alphabet backwards. (During a particularly long meeting, I once tried to write out all 50 States, but ended up forgetting about seven of them.)

          1. Harper the Other One*

            Thanks for the suggestions! I find the idea of a ring really appealing because it doesn’t stand out as being something odd or unusual – they’re both a little self-conscious about that, at least right now.

          2. SpaceNovice*

            I have plastic spinner rings and they’re fantastic. A lot of the metal ones are too loud, I hear. The plastic ones though are great, and almost no one notices them. Very unobtrusive in an office.

        3. char*

          I have a bracelet from Stimtastic that I fidget with a lot at work. When I fidget with it, it’s a little more obvious than, say, spinning a spinner ring would be, since I normally take the bracelet off to fidget with it. For me that’s fine because my employers are aware that I’m autistic and very accepting of stimming in general as long as it isn’t distracting to others. I actually get a lot of compliments on the bracelet; people seem to think it looks pretty cool.

        4. Jesca*

          These things actually work great for my son, but he does always lose them!

          I am a fidgeter too. It helps me concentrate. I am fidgeting as I am writing this. And I too always lose the things to use to fidget with. Like all my pens? Gone. Where did they go? Rings. I don’t even bother wearing them anymore haha. But, if your kids aren’t, as I like to call it, absent-minded fidget losers, then yes I find them to be amazing.

          1. Harper the Other One*

            My son probably would lose them! My daughter, though, is one of those kids who can tell usually tell you that a month and a half ago she put something in the third drawer and be right, so I’m thinking testing out a ring with her might be a good thing to try.

        5. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          Not autistic but ADHD — I’ve used a spinner ring in the past for when I’ll go bonkers without something for my fingers to do, but found that wearing a ring tended to make typing less comfortable. Right now I keep an extensive collection of silly putty in my desk drawer and usually have a bit of it out to mess with.

          One of the managers on my floor jokes that if he ever sees me without silly putty, he’ll know I’m about to drop a major issue in his lap.

          1. Slow Gin Lizz*

            I play with my hair at work and it drives me crazy! I have silly putty too but it doesn’t seem to work for me. What used to work great when I worked from home was knitting while I was reading (yes, I can do both at the same time!) or on telecons but I think that knitting while in the office would be frowned upon, which is too bad. My hair would definitely prefer that option, and knitting is a lot more productive than silly putty. Perhaps if I played with string or something that would work better than silly putty.

            1. ket*

              If it’s a teleconference and you can knit quietly and in your lap (not holding up the knitting) you can maybe get away with it. I eventually was able to knit in faculty meetings; people saw that I could knit under the table (entirely by feel) and I was also engaged in the conversation.

              1. Slow Gin Lizz*

                It’s funny, though. The kind of telecons I’m on in the new job actually require me to pay attention and take notes, so I don’t need to knit then. It’s when I’m reading/doing research online that I get fidgety and would like to knit. Since that doesn’t involve interacting with people nor does most of what I read actually need to be reported to someone, it would be difficult to prove that I’m paying attention to what I’m supposed to be doing rather than my knitting.

        6. TeapotSweaterCrocheter*

          Harper, I have a spinner ring that I wear to the office all the time and I love it! I don’t think I’m on the spectrum (never been diagnosed, never thought to ask) but I have the ring because I have body-focused repetitive behaviors (BFRBs)/trichotillomania. It’s metal, and as someone else commented, it can occasionally make noise. However, it makes a lot less noise than my fidget spinner, and I can bring it to meetings without anyone remarking on it, so I’m pretty happy with it.

          I searched on Etsy and found some I liked, but ended up getting an awesome deal from ShopLC.

          1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

            I had to google BFRBs, and now I want to thank you for opening my eyes to them. Thank you! Another layer of my onion peeled away.

        7. Close Bracket*

          In my case, I did not know I was on the spectrum until very recently, and by the time I knew, I had already been working to calm all my fidgety behaviors bc of how they affect people’s perceptions of me.

      2. Lynca*

        Yep. The behavior described is exactly why I keep my hair pulled back. But the good thing for me was I could substitute in other forms of stimming that are much less obvious. I have a cube but I really don’t like it. So I have to work to find alternatives.

        Pen clicking is a no go (too much noise) but so far no one has commented on pen twirling.

        1. Close Bracket*

          You mean holding the penas though you’re going to write and then twirling it right back into writing position? I am fascinated by that skill and jealous of people who hold it. :-) I tried to teach myself as an undergrad but didn’t stick with the practice long enough to get it down. It does seem to be an acceptable form of fidgeting.

      3. Stranger than fiction*

        I’m going to have to look that up. I noticed I pull on or otherwise fidget with my clothes when I’m speaking to my managers sometimes. Thought it was nerves, since I’m not spectrum that I know of, but sounds interesting.

        1. Close Bracket*

          Fidgeting, doodling, and lining things up are all types of repetitive motion, like hand flapping, which is a diagnostic criteria for autism spectrum conditions. The current model of stimming behaviors is that they are a form of self soothing. People on the spectrum can get overwhelmed by too much sensory input, and stimming is calming. So it’s not unlike anxious fidgeting! There are many behaviors and traits common to people on the spectrum that are shared by typical people. In fact, a good 10-15% of neuro typical people have an autism quotient above the cut off for autism. This is why people should really only be diagnosed by experts.

          1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

            As well as non- spectrum neurodevelopmental disorders! I’m severely ADHD-PI and dyspraxic and have a LOT of overlap of behaviors & traits with people on the spectrum, without being on the spectrum myself- though both can be and often are comorbid with autism spectrum disorders.
            Dyspraxics are highly susceptible to sensory disorders, for example, as well as similar social issues due to difficulties being able to read people’s expressions, body language & tone of voice (worsened if we can pick up on the unconscious expressions/body language etc + can’t read the purposeful ones and they *don’t match*.)
            One of my own personal quirks is that being visually under stimulated will cause me extreme anxiety & nervousness…plain white walls or minimalist decor makes my brain nervous & fidgety. I feel most calm surrounded by a level of visual stimulation that *many* people find completely overwhelming, let alone those with sensory difficulties!

    4. Jess*

      Ugh I am totally that person too. Except I’m absolutely aware that I do it even though no one has ever mentioned it to me. I actually assumed it looked fidgety or nervous, not disinterested, which is why I try really hard to catch myself and stop. I tend to do it when I’m concentrating or thinking though, so oddly enough it’s more a sign that I am paying attention than that I’m not. And if my hair is pulled back, my hands go to the charm on the small necklace I always wear. If I’m not fidgeting and I look attentive, I’m not—I’m concentrating on looking like I’m paying attention. Awful catch-22!

      OP, just let your employee know. She’d probably rather know she’s doing it. I bet the conversation will end up being easier than you think. Unconsciously playing with your hair just doesn’t seem like the type of behavior anyone is going to be really sensitive about or get too defensive over (although the news might surprise her at first if she isn’t aware she does it!).

      1. Mairona*

        This is my problem, too – I actually read that letter very carefully to make sure that the LW wasn’t talking about me because I also tend to do the “split end check” as a fidgeting thing completely without thinking about it. I have ADHD (inattentive type with a touch of the hyperactivity) and if I don’t have something to keep my hands occupied (or didn’t take my medication, which I don’t every day), I can’t focus on what’s being said in meetings. And like you, if I look like I’m paying attention, I’m probably not because I’m so focused on looking like I’m paying attention!

        I also agree that it’s possible she doesn’t know she’s doing it. One time I had a boss stop a team meeting to ask if I needed to go to the restroom because I was bouncing my leg so much (another one of my fidgets). I had no idea I was doing it until he mentioned it. This was also years before my diagnosis so I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t seem to keep myself from doing these things. I really like the suggestion of fidget jewelry above – definitely going to look into that.

        1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

          Ugh, PI here too, and same. Unless it’s the rare occasion that I’m so interested in what’s going on that I’m hyper focused on it & drinking in in every moment- if I look like I’m paying attention, I’m probably totally zoned out, and if my attention seems focused on something trivial like doodling, I’m taking in every word.
          I play a game where I often need to engage in the kind of “grinding” that is repetitive, boring, and totally mindless, requiring almost no thought at all. I love to do this to music, because the “listening” part of my brain is then able to ACTIVELY listen, in great detail, and enjoy the music in a way that I can’t usually otherwise focus on it enough to do.
          Also funny because my husband will talk to me while I do this, and think I’m not listening, til I repeat whatever it was he last said word for word, lol!
          When I used to draw much more, it was the opposite- I’d put an LP on repeat, and end up zoning on it to the extent that I could focus & concentrate on my drawing for hours without interruption.

    5. Tonbrry*

      I do this but its part of my trichotillomania- I’ve been trying to stop but it is incredibly difficult- so please be aware this could actually be a sensitive subject so approach with caution!

      1. Myrin*

        I hope I’m not being insensitive, but I don’t really see the relevance of that – there’s nothing incautious about Alison’s script!
        (In fact, it even includes “I suspect it’s an unconscious habit”, which means the employee doesn’t get into the uncomfortable situation of feeling like she has to provide a reason.)

        1. Seriously?*

          I agree. Mentioning it once but not pushing shouldn’t be a problem. If it is not something she can fix, she won’t be hearing about it again. If it is something she can fix then she will appreciate knowing the impression she is giving to upper management.

          1. LouiseM*

            Even if it’s something she can fix, OP may need to mention it more than once for it to really stick. Sometimes a “you’re doing it again!” is all a pen-clicker needs, but they fall back into old habits a week later.

            1. MerciMe*

              Pen clicking is a fidget too though! “You’re doing it again” is actually really unhelpful – it puts the person on the spot without giving them better alternatives. I can say from direct experience that it feels very unsupportive. More effective is to clarify that it would be safe for them to bring subtle fidgets – rings, or I have an unobtrusive small black fidget for work that doesn’t distract my colleagues…

      2. TCamp*

        She needs to be made aware of this! Obviously it’s creating a somewhat negative perception about her interest/participation in meetings, and I’m sure we’d all want to know if we were in her shoes. And it has to be distracting her to some degree when she’s doing it. We all have quirks or habits, but if they become disruptive or a distraction to us or others, it’s an issue.

        1. Altman*

          What Tonbrry is describing isn’t a quirk or habit, though. I think that’s her point. Trich is on the OCD spectrum and I promise if OP told me “it has to be distracting [you] to some degree when [you’re] doing it. We all have quirks or habits, but if they become disruptive or a distraction to us or others, it’s an issue,” I would be upset and feel like I needed to now have an awkward conversation about my diagnosis.

          In my own work life, I get out in front of the issue by mentioning I have OCD and that if I’m “playing” with my hair it is in no way an indication of my interest or attentiveness. That usually works well, but I often wish I had “very neat desk” OCD that people believe is the actual manifestation of the disorder.

      3. Emily K*

        Same here. If I can get myself to just touch my hair instead of pulling it out, it’s a huge victory. Trich has a very low treatment success rate.

        Not saying the OP shouldn’t bring it up, but just emphasizing what Tonbrry said to approach with sensitivity.

        I am very embarrassed by my habit but it take so much willpower – so many mental spoons – to stop myself that it’s not realistic for me to expect to go through an entire day without doing it. I will often be sitting there thinking, I wish I wasn’t doing this, but I also know that if I stop, the second I stop thinking about not doing it, I’ll be unconsciously doing it again, so after more than a decade of living with this illness it’s become something I’m somewhat resigned to letting happen a lot of the time.

        But I have enough spoons to say, work really hard not to do it for a very important 1-hour meeting. I can take precautions by wearing my hair tied back or, if the office dress code permits it, a casual hat (like a knit beanie), which helps limit my hair-touching. I wouldn’t be mad a boss discussed the issue with me as long as they were understanding, and believed and supported me when I explained that it’s a medical psychological issue.

        1. meesh*

          I also had Trich and I truly truly never thought I’d “recover” or stop but somehow, after 13 years, I’ve completely stopped unconciously pulling…so it is possible!

          This did resonate with me though because it literally was me too: I wish I wasn’t doing this, but I also know that if I stop, the second I stop thinking about not doing it, I’ll be unconsciously doing it again, so after more than a decade of living with this illness it’s become something I’m somewhat resigned to letting happen a lot of the time.

          1. Emily K*

            That’s really great to hear! I’ve had better years and worse years, I think. When my ADD was diagnosed last year (at the age of 32) and I started stimulant medication I had something of a backslide with the drugs really amping up and exacerbating the problem, but luckily after some trial and error we found the right one and it’s become more manageable again – I’m still touching and twirling and finger-combing my hair most of the day but the pulling has majorly subsided and I’m not getting “stuck” in the behavior as much as I was.

            1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

              Whoever mentioned BFRBs made me realize I’ve had them since I was about 16. And same, better years & worse. I’ve noticed that it is definitely exacerbated by stress.

        2. annejumps*

          I have a similar problem and trying to stop doing it actually does end up making it worse. It really sucks.

          That said I don’t think it’s something a manager would have to avoid mentioning, if it’s a problem.

        3. Tonbrry*

          Thanks to the commenters above for clarifying- yes my point was about just ensuring that the tone of how this is spoken about is sensitive, not to not bring it up at all, but just to be aware that this could be a potentially triggering conversation if the employee in question has this particular issue. There are other comments below that confirm this, its something a lot of us already are beating ourselves up over in our inner monologues, so to then have that externalised and brought into a work context could be awkward if not handled delicately.

          Trich sufferers unite in AAM comments!

    6. Drivesmenuts*

      My supervisor plays with her hair when she’s nervous. I think it’s just a personal tic that she definitely doesn’t realize she does. I can always tell when she’s going to tell me something critical because she starts playing with her hair. She’d make a terrible poker player!!

    7. Specialk9*

      Women definitely get judged for touching their hair. Which can be frustrating because it’s gendered, but it’s good to know and pay attention to like other, not-gendered, undermining-at-work tics like lots of “uhs” or slumped posture.

      I recently presented at a big conference, and realized in practicing how often I was touching my hair (new cut, the edges were tickling my face). I had been reading a lot of the snipey comments on how often Meghan Markle touches her hair (and then the sub-thread of how that was a gendered criticism) – so I just pinned the very front hair back for the whole conference. Which I worried made me look younger, but I had to choose the lesser of two whole.

      In this case, though, I suspect it’s the gendered thing *plus* the intensity that’s the problem – if a guy were staring fixedly and close-examining the weave of his jacket fabric during a meeting, we’d probably be pretty disconcerted too!

      1. Snark*

        You’re not wrong about the gendered thing, but like you say – focusing intently on a totally unrelated thing is the problem here, not necessarily the hair itself.

          1. LouiseM*

            The difference is when men fiddle with their beards (or even the hair on their head) it has nothing to do with the stereotype of a vapid valley girl type twirling her hair. It’s such common shorthand in our culture that hair twirl = frivolity, vapidity, etc. that it’s something women need to worry about and men do not.

            1. Happy Lurker*

              My mother’s boss used to pull at his hair while he talking, especially while on the phone. Everyone in the office had permission to throw a something soft at him to get him to stop. Years later he went on medication which did help him to stop pulling at his hair, somewhat.
              When my mother would be on the phone with me and say wait a minute, and then come back and say, I just had to throw something at boss. I was horrified, until she explained it.

          2. Emily K*

            Yeah, for bearded men with trich, the beard seems to get most of their attention.

            It kinda makes sense to me as a trich sufferer. My arms actually get sore sometimes from how long I’m cumulatively holding my arm up to reach the top of my head, and it also attracts more attention to be touching the hair up there, so I have a tendency to fixate on the areas behind my ears where I can sort of tilt my head down to the side to meet my hand instead and it’s still noticeable but less distracting. If I could just tug at a beard on the front of my chin it would barely even register to most people because I can easily reach my chin without lifting my arm or tilting my head.

            1. PhyllisB*

              When I was young, I had this problem.(Fiddling with, pulling out hair.) Didn’t know it had a name. Drove my mother crazy; everywhere I sat except at the dinner table I would leave little piles of hair. Even got a small bald spot in the crown of my hair for a while. That slowed me down but didn’t stop me entirely. The only thing that helped was getting my hair cut short. By the time it grew in again I was over it. Now I find myself occasionally raking my hand through my (once again) short hair. But I don’t do it around other people. Just sometimes when I’m reading or driving.

        1. Mairona*

          It’s more of the *appearance* of focusing on a totally unrelated thing – if she’s like me, this quirk is actually making it easier to concentrate on what’s being said than if she was sitting perfectly still. However, appearances matter so even if this is the case, she does need to be made aware so that she can find a more discreet “fidget” that doesn’t make her look distracted or disinterested.

      2. BadWolf*

        On the other hand, I see more men picking at their scalp — I guess because short hair makes it easier? I find that grosser than hair touching/combing.

        1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

          As a short haired fidgety woman, I an answer your question in the affirmative.
          And yes, it’s gross even when for the picker/scratcher/fiddler.

    8. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize*

      The hair playing should be mentioned because it seems to be very distracting. In my first food and hospitality job it was drilled into us to never touch our hair or face while working. Whenever I see someone playing with their hair I’m tempted to tell them do stop.

    9. Samiratou*

      This letter irritated me so much, as someone with ADD. Hey, boss? Do you want me to LOOK like I’m engaged with the meeting or do you want me to BE engaged with the meeting? I’m far more able to listen if I can fidget with something, though it can easily look like I’m not enganged. I wish we could just put up a sign or make buttons or something or maybe have people not just assume that unless you’re sitting up straight and staring directly at the powerpoint at all times you must not be paying attention.

      If I’m staring at the powerpoint, odds are very good I’ve already read it and my mind is now off on a tangent somewhere nowhere near what the speaker is talking about.


      1. laylaaaaah*

        Yes, but there are ways for an ADHD person to fidget that aren’t distracting to others and don’t make you look quite so intensely checked-out (and tbh, personal grooming in a workplace environment is very rarely appropriate).

        I mean, I’m like you in that if I’m staring at the powerpoint, odds are good my mind is somewhere entirely different. But as someone who used to play with her hair a /lot/, I’ve found other outlets that don’t draw so much negative attention. It’s not about the fidgeting per se- it’s the intense ‘I am SO BORED I’ve moved on to an activity that may result in lots of my hair being left all over this room’-ness of it.

        1. Snark*

          When I read your username, the “LAAAAAAYLAAA bwah bwah bwah-bwah BWAAAH” guitar line went through my head automatically.

      2. Snark*

        “Do you want me to LOOK like I’m engaged with the meeting or do you want me to BE engaged with the meeting? I’m far more able to listen if I can fidget with something, though it can easily look like I’m not enganged.”

        Well…both? Appearances do matter, and appearing checked out and fidgety around clients, bosses, other offices, and folks who otherwise don’t work with you and us day to day is a bad look. So is personal grooming at work. And it’s 100% valid to assume that if your vision is focused elsewhere and you’re intently messing with your hair or something, you’re not paying attention – this is how social cues work. Given there’s plenty of ways to both fidget and have your eyes and visible attention cues focused on the people who are talking and what’s going on, I think a boss would probably expect you to find a way that worked for you, and make a good-faith effort to both be and appear focused in meetings.

        1. Marillenbaum*

          That’s an important point. My sister is a hardcore fidgeter/doodler/etc. and it makes trying to talk to her really frustrating. Even though I know that realistically, she’s probably paying attention to me when we’re having a conversation (which isn’t always guaranteed, because sometimes she does those things and is actually distracted), having someone actively do something else the entire time you’re talking creates the impression that this chat is an inconvenience. It’s hard to create trust, especially for challenging conversations, when you are not effectively conveying your interest in your interlocutor.

          1. Snark*

            And, it’s also important to note, these are REAL POWERFUL social cues. Even when you know someone well enough to know they’ve got ADD or OCD or whatever, it can be frustrating and alienating just on the subconscious level at which we respond to social cues and dynamics. With a client or grandboss or representative from another company or whatever, they don’t even have that to go on.

          2. Turquoisecow*

            Yes, and it gives the impression, real or imagined, that the person you’re talking to isn’t interested in what you’re saying, or isn’t listening, because usually the way we know that is if someone is looking at us while we’re speaking. It’s different in a meeting, where one person is speaking to a group – we might expect that not everyone will be staring in rapt attention, and some people might be doodling, taking notes, or just looking elsewhere, especially if it’s a long speech. But if you’re literally never looking at the speaker, it kind of signals that you’re not listening. And one on one, it’s definitely a signal that you’re not paying attention.

          3. Lissa*

            Also for some of us with ADHD having another person doodling/playing on their phone is super super distracting. And knowing it’s the other person’s coping mechanism doesn’t make my brain suddenly stop flicking over to what they’re doing, unfortunately. Wish it did!

        2. Close Bracket*

          “And it’s 100% valid to assume that if your vision is focused elsewhere and you’re intently messing with your hair or something, you’re not paying attention – this is how social cues work.”

          Then you need to recalibrate your social cues. What you find to be signs of inattention could be signs of inattention or could be signs of intense attention. So no, not 100% to assume someone’s focus is else where.

          1. Plague of frogs*

            “…could be signs of inattention or could be signs of intense attention…”

            Well, that’s the problem. There’s no way to tell which is which.

          2. Snark*

            There’s no way to tell, so it’s reasonable to assume it means what it looks like. This is, as I said, how social cues work.

        3. Anxa*

          And it’s 100% valid to assume that if your vision is focused elsewhere and you’re intently messing with your hair or something, you’re not paying attention – this is how social cues work.

          I disagree.

          I think it’s worth being more conscientious of your appearance. In fact, I’ve spaced out during lectures for class, just to have to do twice as much work as if I were to simply stay home and read from the book or if I doodled, etc. A waste of 3 hours of my time just to make a good impression. But impressions matter more than substance, so often.

          But even though appearances matter and so do social cues, I don’t think it’s valid to assume that you’re not paying attention just because you don’t look like you’re paying attention. Those that equate vision focus = attention are wrong.

        4. laylaaaaah*

          I think a key issue here might be how much she’s contributing in those meetings. I used to have students who were chronic doodlers/fidgeters/phone checkers- but if I asked them a question, they’d answer right off the bat. Then I’d have others who were doing the same behaviour, and clearly had checked out from the class entirely, to the point where they had no idea what we were discussing. And if I’m running a meeting/teaching a class, I have no way to know which is which.

      3. SophieK*


        I’m a hair twirler but can also sit perfectly still like a little angel. Neither state of being has anything to do with whether or not I’m engaged. And as an artist I can often get lost in visuals–the way someone’s mouth moves or the reflection in someone’s glasses, for instance. Looking away often helps me focus on the sounds entering my ears.

        How about the OP check for engagement with ALL meeting attendees before picking on one person?

        1. Snark*

          It’s not picking on one person, and it has nothing to do with whether they’re “actually” engaged. And behavior is a signal of engagement.

          There’s this persistent assumption cropping up in this discussion that behavioral and social cues don’t matter as long as you know yourself that you’re engaged, and that’s not how it works.

          1. Specialk9*

            “There’s this persistent assumption cropping up in this discussion that behavioral and social cues don’t matter as long as you know yourself that you’re engaged, and that’s not how it works.”

            This. When you’re CEO of your own company, do all the quirky things you want. If you’re in a hierarchy, and we all are (even CEOs actually, if there’s a board), you need to pay attention to social and work norms.

            1. Stranger than fiction*

              Yes, there’s a lof of F you I am who I am attitude out there these days.

              1. MerciMe*

                No. There are a lot of people with disabilities telling you that insisting on the worst possible interpretation of other people’s actions is harming us. You’ve been given repeated plausible explanations and insisting on giving your biases precedence over other people’s well-being just because those are the rules you were taught… That’s pretty problematic, honestly.

                This isn’t something we can just stop. It is built into the way our brains function. All of us here are doing our best to find ways to coexist peacefully – hell, look at how many posters are sharing advice on unobtrusive things they’ve figured out!

                But rules and expectations aren’t right just because that’s the way it has always been. And the whole workplace benefits when we apply reasonable levels of flexibility to our interactions with each other.

                We are all human. We all have quirks. Some people are at the beginning of discovering what works for them and others are further along in their journey.

                But people aren’t robots that can just flip a switch and instantly reprogram themselves, and what you appear to be interpreting as entitlement is actually a very thoughtful and culture-wide discussion about how we can create space in which everyone can work to their best potential (not just one where only people who can meet arbitrarily narrow standards get to succeed and everyone else gets brushed to the side for being fuckups).

                1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

                  not just one where only people who can meet arbitrarily narrow standards get to succeed and everyone else gets brushed to the side for being fuckups

                  I spent my life with non-typical neurology that has made it impossible for me to meet those arbitrarily narrow standards in more ways than most people can even begin to imagine, no matter HOW hard I tried, despite being gifted with above average intelligence, talent, creativity, and even looks. Which not only resulted in being brushed aside as a fuckup, but also the assumption that someone with my advantages couldn’t/wouldn’t *possibly* have such problems meeting those arbitrarily narrow standards unless I was purposely choosing to do so. In other words, I was being a fuckup on purpose to…be difficult? Be rebellious? I’m not really sure what my motivation for that was supposed to be.
                  And all I can think is that if we didn’t have these arbitrarily narrow standards, if it were known that behaviors that fall outside them are often “standard issue” for a wide variety of non-neurotypical people (and others), that it was NORMAL for many to say, be fully attentive while doodling or playing with their hair, people like me would not only not be stigmatized, but we would be RECOGNIZED. Someone in the course of our lives might have had the knowledge to say, Oh! That Thing you do? Totally typical of ADHD/Autism/learning disorder X Y Z! It may help to get evaluated, and even if not, these could be useful workarounds/accommodations/aids/whatev!
                  Acting like we are all just fuckups who can’t/won’t march along with ‘normal’ society is treating disability & it’s symptoms as a moral issue rather than a medical or even social issue, a hugely problematic attitude which still persists but seems to be especially harsh and persistent with learning & neurodevelopmental disorders, mental illnesses, and many other invisible disabilities.

          2. Parenthetically*

            I’ve said, “Show me with your body that you’re paying attention” so many times in my classes that my kids probably say it in their sleep. We talk a lot about how perception really matters in school and in the adult world, and that it’s part of being perceived as polite and engaged to make an effort to show people that you’re paying attention. That obviously looks very different for my kids with ADD or ASD or other stuff that can get in the way of typical “paying attention” body language, but yep, I agree that it’s pretty important as a general rule to work toward nonverbal communication that actually communicates attentiveness to the people you’re talking to.

            1. Turquoisecow*

              That’s brilliant. Kids need to learn how to look like they’re paying attention, because otherwise we give that impression that we aren’t. And then, you miss out on opportunities! Maybe OP’s employee in this situation is absolutely brilliant. Maybe her work is excellent. But, in front of the rest of the company, she’s playing with her hair and zoning out, appearing to not even pay attention during meetings, and that isn’t going to impress any of her colleagues or higher ups, and she might miss out on assignments or promotions because of that.

              I hate optics. I hate the idea that how we’re perceived controls so much of our lives, like if I come in five minutes late but do excellent work, I might be perceived as a slacker. But that is the way the human mind works, and it is a thing that people need to manage, so I’m glad you’re teaching that!

          3. Close Bracket*

            “There’s this persistent assumption cropping up in this discussion that behavioral and social cues don’t matter”

            There is the persistent assumption in this thread that fidgeting is a social cue for inattention. Maybe we should challenge that, starting with ourselves.

            1. Turquoisecow*

              I mean, you can go ahead and challenge that, feel free. I’m not at all saying it’s a fair assumption. But if you’re sitting in a meeting with some professional people and you’re playing with your hair or doodling or otherwise not appearing to pay attention, it’s just going to look like you’re not paying attention. You can say to everyone in the meeting that you’re paying attention while you’re fidgeting and maybe some of them will understand, and maybe some of them won’t, but that’s a huge social norm and basically instinctual behavior to ask people to change.

            2. Snark*

              fidgeting IS a social cue for inattention. It’s a fair and reasonable assumption. It’s on you to manage that.

            3. Koala dreams*

              Yes, I’ve very surprised over that. I thought touching your hair was generally considered a sign of interest, for example in romantical movies. How people go from interest to inattention, I don’t know.

              That being said, I’m also surprised people are expected to look at power points at work meetings. I don’t have any such meetings at work, and in school/university the lecturers usually posted the power points before hand, so that students could look print them or reading them on their computer.

              1. laylaaaaah*

                There’s touching your hair while looking at someone- interest- and there’s focusing all your attention, physical and visual, on your hair. The two are very different things.

    10. Aitch Arr*

      I do this as well; one of many reasons I keep my hair short. I have OCD tendencies and this is a big one.

    11. PM Punk*

      I also pick at my hair compulsively and have been doing this for over a decade. I’ve tried many times over the years to stop, but these attempts only seem to make it worse. I understand why the boss might want to avoid asking about it because it could make things awkward, but as long as it’s approached in an understanding manner it would probably be fine.

    12. jo*

      I used to look for and pick at my split ends when I had long hair and wore it down. I agree it’s something OP2 should mention to the employee and try to coach her on, but it might not be corrected so easily!

      Tell the employee her hair picking has been noticed and commented on, and it would be better for her to try to stop the behavior. If she says it’s an ingrained habit that may be difficult to change, believe her, because it’s likely true. But you aren’t wrong to want to help her stop. Some reasonable things to suggest: she can pull her hair back during meetings, when she’s most likely to mess with it; she can keep her hands busy under the table with a stress ball; she can take notes or discreetly doodle during meetings.

      It’s very possible she doesn’t do it around clients, because even when I have the urge to do stuff like this, I can exert myself to resist for defined periods of time when I know it would look particularly bad.

      For me the hair examining was a BFRB (Body Focused Repetitive Behavior), and part of a pattern of BFRBs I’ve struggled with all my life, particularly skin picking. When I’m paying attention to something but my hands have nothing to do, I will find something on my body to pick at. I’m ashamed of the behavior and REALLY REALLY want to change it, but BFRB is a notoriously difficult condition to treat, and sufferers find it hard to change. (I’m actively working on it, most recently with Annette Pasternak’s self-help materials.)

      Just know that if talking to your employee about it doesn’t fix the problem, it’s not necessarily because she doesn’t care or didn’t hear you.

    13. Tones*

      I’ve been confronted by a boss before for hair touching but he did it completely the WRONG way. It was my last day of my internship and I handed my boss the evaluation he needed to fill out so I could get school credit for the job. He wanted to tell me a few things verbally and not write them down, which was okay by me. He took the opportunity to make it clear that he had noticed the “hair touching” in group meetings and the higher ups had made a lot of comments. He then compared me to a fellow coworker that had a bit of a physical tic and told me it was more distracting that that. Honestly, I just started crying in front of him because 1)he waiting 3 months to tell me this (on my last day) 2)he told me everyone noticed and openly talked about it. 3)I considered my coworker’s tics to just be part of his personality and I wasn’t really sure why he brought it up?

      So some qualifiers. This was a general contractor and the industry I work/ed in is construction. I don’t think I saw another woman in any of these meetings I went to with my boss. So it made me feel even more isolated and “different”, like I would never fit in to the industry. I was also 21 and we relatively new to the working world.

      But I have gotten better about touching my hair in meetings. I try to keep it to a minimum but my hair is still long and I’m not perfect. I really like Allison’s script because it just points it out, doesn’t make it into a huge deal and doesn’t make it sound like everyone is talking about her.

      The biggest thing that has helped me professionally is my boss and grandboss do FAR more distracting things in meetings. They are cuticle pickers and occasionally chew their hangnails off during meetings and if no one says anything to them, no one is going to say anything to me :)

  3. LouiseM*

    OP#3, are you by any chance a woman? I agree that you should try Alison’s script, but unfortunately I’ve heard of plenty of situations where the informal “throwing ideas around” part of work is left to the boys club.

      1. LouiseM*

        Missed that on a quick read, you’re right! It’s good that OP has that in the back of their head, but certainly changing the desk setup may solve the problem on its own.

        1. OP3*

          @LouiseM that’s definitely on my mind. Since I havn’t noticed any other weirdness or microaggressions from either of them I’m inclined to think this dynamic is because of the desks, but also the boy’s club optics are there even if it is accidental. I work in a male dominated industry so I’m pretty sensitive to that kind of thing unfortunately!

    1. Specialk9*

      The way I read Alison’s reply was that by bringing it up as a straight proximity thing, it could help jog other thoughts (like ‘oh hey we’re both dudes, she’s a woman, I wonder if this feels like we’re excluding her for her gender, I need to be careful of that’) without putting them on the spot.

      All of us have our implicit biases, but most of us also haven’t gotten to the point where we can own up to them honestly without impacting the ‘I’m a good person’ script most of us have. Coming in guns blazing is satisfying but not good strategy if you care about changing the end result.

      May be me projecting my thoughts onto Alison though.

    2. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      Eh, I don’t know if it’s necessarily gendered so much as convenience and proximity. I had the same situation at a previous job where my two colleagues shared an office and I had a desk immediately outside. After a couple weeks of literally running from my desk to their doorway when I heard them brainstorming, I went to my boss and asked to be moved into that office too. In my case it worked out because there was a spare desk in there, but it really was a much easier conversation than I was expecting – once I brought it up, my boss realized that OF COURSE I needed to be part of those conversations!

      1. OP3*

        It’s good to hear that you tried this and had a positive experience! Encourages me to go ahead and be direct with my boss.

        1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

          I hope you do! I think this is one of those things that feels like a BIG DEAL to an employee, especially if you’re somewhat new to the team, but is just such a minor thing to the company and boss that it barely registers. Honestly, if you get any sort of pushback from making a request to be more physically integrated with the group (beyond a “sorry, it’s not possible to move desks but let’s come up with strategies to work around that”), I’d take it as a red flag that something is up with this team.

        2. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

          Oh, and one more aspect to my story – I initially thought it would be impossible or a very big deal to move my seat because I was told when I started that they wanted someone in the desk out in the hallway to greet visitors, so I was pretty certain they’d tell me “too bad, you have to stay there”. The lesson being, even if you think the desk arrangement is set in stone, there’s still a very good chance things can be changed!

          1. JustaTech*

            I actually moved *out* of my (formerly shared) office into the cube farm to make sure I stayed connected to all the cross-cube conversations.
            If ever there were a “legitimate business need” to move desks, collaborating with your team is one!

      2. CM*

        I think it’s gendered in the sense that the manager may be less aware of the issue without it being brought to his attention. I’ve often been in the situation where due to unconscious bias, the manager says, “We need Bob in this conversation,” but doesn’t necessarily notice if Jane is missing. Anyway, the result is the same — OP#3 should be direct and it sounds like the manager is likely to be receptive.

  4. Combinatorialist*

    OP3 — it seems like that be easiest way to fix this would be if you and your boss switched desks (if that was possible). Then when he had something to ask, he would come over to talk to you or your coworker and you would both be there. Plus, you’re coworker might also appreciate a little separation from your boss

    1. Snark*

      I agree that the coworker probably would appreciate that, and that it would be the more appropriate seating arrangement, but I disagree that OP is on good footing being the one to ask for that.

    2. Washi*

      I think this is a great idea, but I’m not sure it’s something the OP could suggest without coming across as, I don’t know, overly sensitive? But it would be awesome if her boss thought of it and suggested it!

    3. OP3*

      @Combinatorialist I agree about it being good for my coworker too – when I first got my desk assignment I thought I was getting the better end of the deal for that reason! I guess the grass is always greener on the other side…

  5. Engineer Girl*

    #1 – I find it concerning that your default assumption is a lack of integrity.

    You’re asking someone to move to the other side of the country and into a different culture. Many times we think we want something like this but when hard reality hits we backpedal. That’s even more common when someone moves away from family and friends.

    That isn’t deception at all. It’s clarifying the data.

    If you don’t want her to telecommute then say no. Either she will take the job or not. If not, then move to the next candidate. That’s how hiring works.

    1. Espeon*

      Yeah. Sorry if this is harsh OP1, but I instantly got a whiff of the kind of manager who/workplace that defaults to ‘BETRAYAL!’ when employees Do A Life Thing that inconveniences the employer.

      You’ve invested time and hope interviewing her, but so has she in interviewing and I’m sure you’re both disappointed.

      If you’re not giving people the benefit of the doubt whom you don’t know intimately enough to carry that kind of emotional weight about, that’s perhaps something to think about.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        It’s also very possible that OP had a different set of assumptions/interpretations about what “open to relocating” meant than the candidate. I’ve found that when folks are hiring, they sometimes forget that the candidate does not have the same context and understanding of operations—i.e., they take the inside knowledge they’ve accumulated for granted. So when the hiring folks ask questions, they literally hear the candidate’s answer very differently than they would if they took a step back and imagined themselves in the candidate’s shoes (I think the earlier letter about “blindsiding” is another example of how this can play out).

        All that said, the candidate’s question regarding remote work should not (and in most cases, does not) trigger integrity concerns. As others have noted, being “open” to relocation is not the same thing as saying, “I will definitely move if you hire me.” There are so many things that go on in people’s lives, and so many feelings that can change between when you first apply and when you receive an offer, that it’s not realistic or fair to reinterpret initial openness as a firm commitment about moving.

        1. sap*

          Yep, this. Especially I’d the wording during the interview process was “open” to relocating, that makes it sound a lot like it’ll be a bakc and forth discussion–I expect things like “planning to relocate” or “willing to relocate” if it’s 100% necessary to relocate, definitely. “Open” suggests that it’s *possible* the position will end up needing to be onsite in NY all the time, but also like the company might be okay with a different arrangement.

          1. dr_silverware*

            No, I don’t agree—I’ve never heard “open to relocation” NOT mean “we’re in another place and you’ve gotta come to us.”

            I definitely think that OP needs to not think of this as betrayal, but also we probably shouldn’t get on OP’s jock about some pretty standard wording.

            1. Samata*

              I do think its standard wording and open just means open and the OP shouln’t change wording OR get upset when people end up saying not.

              Things can change. I am open to relocating, sure. But if the offer comes up short, I get the sense the expectations of the role are different than I thought, or the environment or hiring manager don’t line up with me, etc. etc. etc. then I am no longer open. Saying you are open to relocating doesn’t mean you are DEFINITELY in if offered, it means for the right opportunity you would relocate, but you don’t have enough facts at the present time to say a hard yes or no.

              1. Seriously?*

                It could also mean that she got another job offer that would not require a move and while she was willing to consider moving, now that she has a choice she would rather not. Or the cost of living is higher there and she can’t move for that salary. Or something else happened in her life that suddenly makes a move less feasible.

                Asking if the position can be remote does not mean she was acting in bad faith. It means she would like to work remotely if possible. Just say no and see where it goes from there.

            2. Scott*

              I think the way I’ve seen it worded was “relocation is required” along with some stipulations about whether or not assistance will be provided.

              1. jo*

                Thank you for this! OP, it’s okay to use firm wording in the job ad if your position is firm. If you use soft language like “open to relocation,” you will get some soft reactions. Instead say, “relocation to our main office required for the first 1-2 years, with telecommuting a possibility later.” Or simply “relocation required for non-local candidates.” And if you offer any relocation assistance, say that in the job posting. Stating benefits up front attracts a bigger candidate pool, and stating requirements up front attracts a more *suitable* candidate pool.

        2. Snark*

          And you can be open to the general idea of relocation without being necessarily open to relocating to, say, the insanely expensive Bay Area, or the northern ‘burbs of Phoenix, or the entire Eastern Seaboard, to name three areas I would not be open to ever relocating to.

          1. jo*

            Right. Maybe the candidate was hoping it would be sufficient to relocate to the same time zone, but not willing/able to live in NYC.

        3. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          Yes, I’d agree with this.

          “Open to relocating” to the applicant can mean “I’m not entirely opposed but I would want the offer to be worth my time before I consider it.” Moving is a gigantic pain in the rear end!

          1. jo*

            Yes, even with financial assistance from the employer, and EXPENSIVE without it! I just did a cross-country move for my wife’s job. We would not have done that without either relo (which she got) or a high salary to make the trouble and expense worth it.

        4. Parenthetically*

          My immediate question was, did the “open to relocating” conversation happen before they started talking about a compensation package in any capacity? It obviously happened before the offer was made — how tight-lipped was the OP about compensation prior to the offer? Was she open to relocating if the payoff was worth it, and then found out it really kinda wasn’t once they made her the offer?

          it’s not realistic or fair to reinterpret initial openness as a firm commitment about moving.


      2. Caro in the UK*

        Yes! It’s certainly possible that the candidate was deliberately trying to pull a bait and switch, but it’s unlikely, and the worst possible interpretation of her behaviour. Given that there are many more legitimate and understandable reasons that could be behind her request, I think it’d be worth thinking about why you, OP, were so quick to think so negatively of her intentions.

      3. Sam*

        Thank you for saying this. I once indicated that I’d consider moving for a job before the interview and changed my mind afterwards when the reality became clear to me. I’ve always worried that the company thought I was acting in bad faith when actually – as is often the case in recruitment – reality was different from initial expectations.

        The job was OK and if I’d lived in the area I’d have considered taking it, but it wasn’t worth uprooting myself for.

      4. Snark*

        Yeah, it’s overly personalizing things and making more of the relationship than there currently is. You’re not evaluating her. You’re evaluating each other. Both parties get to decide if a position is a good fit, and to reject the proposed employment relationship for just about any reason. It would not have been betrayal if you thought she was a bad fit for some reason important to you; it’s not a betrayal if she thinks the particular location is a bad fit for her.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          It would not have been betrayal if you thought she was a bad fit for some reason important to you

          “But… but you said you were open to hiring me! How dare you backtrack like that!”

      5. Kathleen_A*

        My take is that “would be open to relocating” really means “would consider it.” She didn’t promise anything so how could she “break her word”?

        You’re taking this waaaaaaay too personally, OP.

      6. MLB*

        Also, did the LW even consider that after interviewing, she found out something about the job/manager/other employees that made her change her mind? Like you said, that’s a pretty big move to consider, and going from CA to NY would be a big culture shock on top of it. For most people a job would have to seem pretty perfect to move 3000 miles for it.

        1. TheCupcakeCounter*

          or she realized the the salary+benefit+any relo (if offered) would have been a significant decline from her current lifestyle and the amounts were so far apart that it didn’t make sense to try for more money so she went with option B – remote work (which is becoming enough of a thing that unless it was specifically spelled out that this role requited a minimum of 2-years before remote work would be considered I doubt it was a plot all along)

    2. AJ*

      + 1 I am also confused by this. She had not excepted the offer yet. Asking if the job could be remote was part of the discussion – information she needed to make a decision. It sounds like OP simply asked “would you be *willing* to relocate” and did not state “you have to relocate”. The first paragraph explaining remote worker expectations – did the OP explain this to the candidate or just assume she knew it from “are you willing to relocate?” And even if it was fully explained to her, asking if it could be remote during the offer is *not* unreasonable. The OP explained all these special caveats/circumstances, so why wouldn’t there be a *possibility* she could be an exception to the norm – it doesn’t hurt to ask! Wait, it does. It’s unreasonable and unfair to question the applicant’s integrity just because things didn’t go they way OP wanted them to. Would they have questioned her integrity had she simply turned down the offer?

      1. TheCupcakeCounter*

        I assumed the OP gave us the remote work information for context but it wasn’t shared with the candidate since remote work wasn’t an option.

    3. Fiennes*

      It’s also worth remembering that the applicant may have undergone a change in her personal life during the interview process, one that makes relocation less attractive/feasible. This could be anything: an elderly parent who broke a bone and now needs more help, a sibling or close friend who’s going through tough times and needs their full support system, reuniting with a fiancé after a longer break—seriously, just about anything. Nobody can guarantee that their life and their needs won’t change during the interviewing process—or, for that matter, at any other time. As John Lennon said, “life is what happens while you’re making other plans.”

      So, OP1, unless you have specific info that this person was being misleading, don’t get upset. Either tell her it won’t work or ask why she’s requesting it.

      1. paul*

        That happened to me a few years ago; I was looking to relocating to Houston for personal reasons and those reasons vanished. It was at the early stages of an interview process so I just withdrew my name, but it’s certainly something happens.

      2. Anon Accountant*

        This was my first thought. Something in her personal life changed and moving wasn’t an option anymore.

    4. Cordoba*

      I would absolutely do the same thing this job candidate did if I was lukewarm on the job or the pay/benefits.

      Sure, early in the process I said I would be open to a cross-country move. Implicit in that is “if the opportunity is right”.

      If as the interview process proceeded I was not put off by the job but not blown away by it either I would be very inclined to say “I accept, but only if I can stay remote”. If they bite, great. If not then it’s no big deal.

      I don’t see anything here indicating an integrity issue.

      1. sap*

        Yeah, I said this above, but as a candidate I absolutely would not hear “open to relocating” as a clear statement from the company that the job had to be based in NY. I’d hear it as “depending on the candidate/how some things we’re still figuring out on our end work out, this may need to be out of NY,” and I’d hear it also as an opportunity to negotiate being in NY or not being in NY as part of the salary/benefits package. Whenever I’ve been approached about a job that absolutely requires relocation, the recruiter has used language like “new opportunity to move to exciting city” or “must be willing to move to city.” “Open to relocating” is language that I’ve seen used in positions that ended up being half-time remote, for the right candidate (never me, but my husband has hired a lot of people based in other cities with that language, and like 70% of them ended up staying in other cities).

        1. TheCupcakeCounter*

          See I would assume that the job was in NY and I would have to be local as that is the norm in my industry (as well as my husbands). Open to relocating to me is basically just a question of whether or not I’m open to it to determine if talks should proceed. It could absolutely be make clearer with a simple “This position requires being onsite full time, are you willing to relocate ?”

      2. Lynca*

        Neither do I. It definitely reads to me that the offer wasn’t worth the relocation so the candidate is trying to salvage something that would work for the offer.

        Which to me still expresses a great deal of interest in the job. She could have turned the offer down outright.

    5. Akcipitrokulo*

      Yes – “willing to relocate” means “willing to relocate if I like the job enough and you’re paying me enough to be worth the hassle”. Which could mean anything from “Yeah, a bit more money in pocket would be nice” to “this would need to treble my current salary and put me on a fast track to director level”.

      But no bad faith – just went through process, and decided it wasn’t worth it. That’s reasonable.

      1. Yvette*

        Those were my thoughts as well, that by the time everything was put forward with regards to the job, the applicant might think that the job was not worth relocation, but would be acceptable if remote work was available. There are often situations where someone may choose one job over another simply do to the commute involved, or the corporate culture etc.

        1. TCamp*

          It really depends on how clear the expectations were laid out to the candidate. If they weren’t, then it’s not surprising that this happened. If he candidate’s circumstances have changed, she should mention that – not that she needs to go into detail, but it would be helpful for HR to better understand her asking this. It’s disappointing to be that far down the path with a candidate and have this happen (you’ve invested time and resources, and are now likely back to square one!). But what’s more disappointing is to have her take the job, incur expenses for the hire and relocation, and then have turnover. Better to know now – and relocation is a huge decision!

          1. Akcipitrokulo*

            Yeah – but asking in initial interview “are you open to relocating?” isn’t giving a lot of detail to the candidate, and I’d be open to relocating to a lot of places if the money and job was right… but the right money isn’t something I’d be likely to be offered :)

            1. Yvette*

              “I’d be open to relocating to a lot of places if the money and job was right…”
              And money isn’t usually mentioned first thing.

    6. Blue*

      I had to psych myself up before officially accepting a new job yesterday, because even though I’d been excited about it and believed it was the right move, the reality of taking the plunge was/is scary. And that didn’t even involve uprooting my entire life! I think it would be very natural for someone to balk at that, even if they’d been open to it in theory.

      1. laylaaaaah*

        Me too! I moved to a city a a few hours away from my home town- it was the city I went to for college, so I knew it well, but I still get intense pangs of homesickness sometimes. I can’t just go see my friends/family/support network whenever I want (and it’s taking me a while to build a new one here), and also, I just plain miss the place. And that’s only a couple of hours away, let alone LA to NY!

    7. A Non E. Mouse*

      OP #1, definitely don’t consider this personal or a betrayal of some kind.

      Many moons ago, my husband was asked if he’d consider a promotion that required relocation about 3 hours from where we are now. So not terribly far – we could still easily see family on weekends.

      Sure, we’ll consider it! We even went so far as to start scoping out the housing market. And then we got the salary number, and it was….not a good number. A raise, sure, but not enough of a raise to uproot our kids, move out of state and substantially change *my* career path. The company was disappointed and asked what our actual number would be…and it was double what they were offering.

      So it could be that looking at the whole picture, the candidate is deciding that for herself, the job only makes sense if she doesn’t have to move. She wouldn’t be able to know that without getting to the offer stage, so a previous “yes, open to relocation” wasn’t lying – it’s just that this job doesn’t necessarily consider this a job she wants to move for, now that she’s got the details.

      1. Seriously?*

        I think that the fact that a spouse has to uproot their career, and potentially take a pay cut or a period of unemployment, sometimes gets overlooked. Yes this job is an increase in pay, but the family may face a net decrease in pay at least in the short term.

    8. a1*

      I disagree. I’ve known several people that have said they’d relocate when they knew they wouldn’t. They wanted to get more interviews under their belt, or learn more about the company, but never were open to moving.

      I’ve also know some that they say they’ll do it for the “right offer”, but what they really mean isn’t something like slightly above industry standard or above good pay for the role, but more like 10 times what’d be normal for that role. So if that role/industry/location normally pays $50K they wouldn’t move for $60 or even $70, but $500,000 would convince them. So again, very disingenuous.

      1. Catnpoodle*

        I am with you a1. ‘Are you willing to relocate’ coming from the employer = you must live in the location of the business. I cannot imagine rounds of interviews that did not make it clear that it was an office job in NYC. Had there been additional circumstances that appeared during the interview process, I am sure the candidate interviewers and try to score the remote position….all along.

        1. Catnpoodle*

          Ugh my keyboard chewed my text ?

          Had there been additional circumstances that appeared during the interview process, I am sure the candidate would have told the company. Otherwise it seems she tried to wing it, impress the interviewers and try to score the remote position….all along.

          1. Parenthetically*

            Otherwise it seems she tried to wing it, impress the interviewers and try to score the remote position….all along.

            Maybe? But also that seems way, way less likely than what others are proposing, which is that “open to relocating” was step 1, the offer was step 35, somewhere in between steps 2 and 34, something changed — and that’s life. No blame-game, conspiracy theory, or personal offense necessary.

        2. Biff*

          To be fair to the candidate, they might be willing to relocate to be in the office several days a week, but still want work-from-home time. That would not be an unusual schedule in California. So it might be that they were willing to relocate, but not willing to fight with NY traffic every single day.

        3. Jessie the First (or second)*

          But, Cat and a1, there are numerous people here who are saying that they have an entirely different sense of what “are you willing to relocate/open to relocating” means – that is does *not* meant “you have to relocate, the position is not open for full-time telework.”

          Which means that this could easily be a miscommunication, rather than a deliberate bait and switch. That *you* personally view the phrase “open to…” in a particular way does not negate that other people do not. Ultimately, because there is clearly a real possibility that miscommunication could be at the bottom of this, it would be most helpful for the OP to consider rephrasing, or being more clear, or only interviewing local people. If she simply writes it off as “well, this was an intentional lie from the candidate,” she may find she runs into the same problem again in the future. Because there will be people who hear that phrase differently than the OP meant it, and differently than you read it.

          Beyond that, though, relocating across country is an enormous undertaking, and it just seems entirely credible that once the candidate knew more about the job, the office, the salary, the benefits, the cost of living and culture difference, etc, that the “open to relocating” in theory became less interesting to her. I am “open to relocating” myself – I am job searching now – but whether I will actually agree to relocating for a specific job offer that requires relocating depends on things I can’t know when I first apply and first do my phone screen.

          1. a1*

            Sure, it could be those things. But everyone was acting like it was a HUGE stretch for someone to lie about it. That the ONLY explanation was a miscommunication, or a learning something new (which somehow wasn’t mentioned when asking to work remotely, no “since I now know X, I think impacts me Y, so can I start off remote”). Basically that of course it was in good faith and there is no other explanation so I pointed out it’s in indeed a possibility that someone lied. It happens quite frequently for it to be an outright lie at the start. When I was early in my career I even had coworkers and friends encourage me to go interview in person half way across the country, at that company’s expense, despite me not being willing to move there, because “why not?”, “it’ll be good experience”, “it’s no biggie to the company”, etc.

            1. jo*

              Yikes, you know some entitled oddballs! (Sorry, but it seems like even you agree that is entitled/dishonest behavior.) Do you work in an industry where most employers have tons of budget to throw around on hiring? I know it exists, but that’s not true for most of us. It’s much more common to work for a place that doesn’t even offer relocation assistance, much less paid travel for interviews. Actually, it’s MOST common to work for a place that considers local candidates only. What you’re describing is the narrowest top point of the job-hunting pyramid.

              So yes, I do think it’s unusual in most of the job market for candidates to be misleading in this way, and your experience is probably part of a niche. But in any case, Alison gave the OP advice on how to probe the candidate for more information and determine whether she has been acting in bad faith. The Plan A advice is still the same even if the candidate is lying: Start by assuming she isn’t, and navigate from there.

        4. SameOne*

          I am also totally with OP1! Similar thing recently happened to me: the job description clearly stated two options (X and Y) for job location and that the preference would be given to those at location X. We made sure to confirm this at every stage of the process. At the end we offered the job to a candidate who actually came third because she explicitly and repeatedly said she would move to X. However the last minute she said relocation to neither was possible for her and started to negotiate a totally different country (!!!), as her plan was to work on the Western salary in the third world country. She wasted a lot of time for everyone. I did question her integrity greatly. I think it is always better to be honest upfront with potential employers as one doesn’t know their internal considerations!

      2. KG*

        Same. I’ve seen similar behavior from candidates. (I’m a recruiter.) Not just relocation– hours, pay, travel– any core aspect of the job. The candidate assumes they’ll be in a position to negotiate once they get an offer, and wastes everybody’s time.* How often have we seen letters on AAM along the lines of, “This job pays substantially less than the bottom of my range. Should I continue with the process and try to negotiate once they see how great I am?”

        It is fully possible that there’s a more innocuous explanation. Life can change suddenly. Maybe last week the candidate was gung-ho about a cross-country relocation, but now it’s impossible. Just… call me cynical, but I don’t blame the HR manager for questioning the candidate’s integrity.

        *I’ve also had plenty of candidates come to me in the middle of the search process to say that they’ve realized that the location or hours or pay or travel won’t work for them after all, and ask if there’s flexibility. I’ve been that candidate myself! It’s a mutual evaluation process, and people get to change their minds as they learn more. What you agree to in a phone screen isn’t a binding contract. But waiting until an offer to try to negotiate a core aspect of the job? That feels disingenuous.

        1. CM*

          I agree completely.

          I think if you’re the candidate requesting something like this at the offer stage, you should explain why your position has changed, and whether this is a dealbreaker or just an inquiry. It sounds like the employer made it clear from the beginning that this position required relocation.

          1. CM*

            Actually, reading the letter again, I see that the company has full-time remote workers, and it’s a small company. So maybe it was clear in the OP’s mind that remote work was not an option, but it wasn’t clear to the candidate. In which case the candidate’s question would be totally reasonable.

            I guess overall, we don’t have enough context to know what the candidate’s motivations are. Negotiations are tricky. Ultimately, no matter how the OP feels, what matters is not letting any negative feelings bleed over into a working relationship if the candidate accepts.

      3. Observer*

        I’m sure that such people exist. But that’s totally NOT universal. The reality is that the OP doesn’t give us enough information – and probably doesn’t have it either – to assume one or the other. But there are so may possibilities that assuming the worst is just not a smart move.

    9. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      Exactly. It’s quite likely she was open to relocating, or at least open to learning more about it, and then once she visited the city she decided it wasn’t for her. At no point was there deception or a lack of integrity – it’s like when a candidate says they’re looking for a salary of X but then after learning more about the work they realize they really need X+5. It might be inconvenient for the employer but it doesn’t make the candidate a bad person.

    10. Tuxedo Cat*

      Life circumstances can change, and it can dawn on someone later in the process what they’re sacrificing with a move.

    11. OP#1*

      Hey Engineer Girl – We told the candidate that this would not be a remote position from the get go. We wouldn’t have conducted an interview process if we thought there was a chance this would happen as it wasted all of our time. I should have clarified that the first communication i had with this candidate was to confirm that she was looking to relocate to which the candidate said she was. We spoke about her moving several times throughout the process. At one point, our director pointed out why they’d want to move and specifically asked them why/if they wanted to. The candidate went on about how they have family here and think the area is beautiful. There was no way this candidate could have thought this was a remote position or that possibility was feasible.

      I’m sorry if that was not all clear.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        That does sound like someone who really wanted the offer more than the job.

        It also sounds like the best move is just to say, “As we talked about, the job requires you to be in-person in the NY office. If that is no longer an option to you, then we will proceed with another candidate.”

      2. Jessie the First (or second)*

        OP#1, since that seems to settle the issue of whether she knew the job required relocating, perhaps it is an issue with the compensation offered (as in, it was lower than she needs to make relo work). Or something changed on her end. Before jumping to an integrity issue, I’d check to see if one of those issues could be a factor. And if increasing the offer isn’t possible, just move on to whoever was your 2nd choice. I can see why this would be frustrating for you!

      3. Observer*

        I posted my other responses before I saw this.

        If there is no way that this can work, then tell her so. Then ask her why she’s asking, given what you had discussed. You may get some useful information.

    12. Shell Seeker*

      While it is part of the hiring process, I don’t begrudge a hiring manager for feeling frustrated if you get towards the end of the hiring process and a candidate drops out based on something you explicitly discussed at the outset. (Imagine the reverse – you’re a person who wants the option to work from home on occasion and you’re told that’s not a problem, only to be told at the end of the process that you have to be with the company for 5+ years and that it’s not available to all positions. You might start to wonder what else the company misled you about. I can’t imagine responding with “I find it concerning that you’re questioning the company’s integrity. That’s just how job hunting works.”)

      The whole reason things like this are brought up at the beginning is so that it doesn’t waste everyone’s time. It may be the candidate’s life changed or that she is just trying to confirm that they haven’t changed their minds about it. Fair enough! However, the OP wrote in to try and work out if this should impact her view of the candidate. That seems like a reasonable thing to try and sort out as she navigates what the next steps might be.

  6. MerciMe*

    So, if she needs something to do with her hands or to help her concentrate on the meeting, there are a lot of discreet fidgets (actions and toys, because what works will depend on the individual and setting) that pass quite nicely in a business environment without distracting people. I say this only because if it is a nervous habit or ADD or whatever, it may be a lot harder than one might expect to change that habit without some kind of substitute habit.

    1. Bryce*

      I use a video plug adapter. Fits easily in the hand, a variety of textures, moving parts with the screws, quiet, and readily available, they come with almost anything with a port (video cards, monitors, projectors) so any tech area tends to be sitting on a pile.

      1. jo*

        I think MerciMe is just giving context for what the OP should expect when they approach this conversation. They want the behavior to change, and it’s important to know going in that change might not be as easily achieved as they hope.

        Lots of things are employees’ problems and not their managers’, but it’s still useful to know why the employee has the problem and how they view the situation.

    2. Mairona*

      My first thought when reading that letter is that the LW’s employee probably has ADHD, possibly undiagnosed. I wasn’t diagnosed until about 2 years ago, in my 30s, and I cringe when I look back at some of the meeting-room fidget habits I’ve had to break. Some I was aware of (a manager once stopped a meeting to ask if I needed the bathroom because I was bouncing my leg so much) but others, like the “split end check” which I also do, had never really been called out. It was only when I was made aware of my condition that I realized how many “fidgets” I actually have!

      LW should *definitely* make her employee aware of it and how she’s perceived because of it because she may legitimately not be aware. And who knows, if she does have ADHD or some other type of fidgety condition, it might prompt her into getting a diagnosis. Mine was life-changing and my career trajectory has seriously improved since I’ve learned to manage it.

      1. laylaaaaah*

        Can I ask what’s been working for you so far? I’m currently trying to get a diagnosis, but it’s probably a long way off yet (yay horrendously overstretched mental healthcare system!), and in the meantime my work’s been suffering a lot. I’d love to hear some tips that aren’t just non-ADHD sufferers going ‘well, just organise yourself better!’

        1. Ahoy Admin*

          I was also diagnosed with ADHD as an adult. Two books were really helpful for me: “Delivered from Distraction” and (if you happen to be a woman) “The Queen of Distraction”. A simple thing that helped immensely (aside from medication and a really nice therapist) was implementing the 2-Minute Rule – if it takes less than 2 minutes to do, I have to do it immediately. It helps keep the tide of things I have to remember shallower since I’m not adding to it quite as often. Best of luck in your journey!

        2. JustaTech*

          I was diagnosed as a kid (very unusual) so I’ve dealt with it as part of growing up, but I recently read “ADD-friendly ways to organize your life” (2nd edition) at the suggestion of someone here and I thought it was pretty useful. (It turns out I’m already doing a lot of stuff, so that was awesome and gratifying.)

          It’s a magazine-sized book, but it’s short, to the point and broken up into small sections (you can skip the really long intro if you want). It’s also nice because it gives you different “levels” of approaches, so if you don’t have money or access to a professional organizer or therapist, there are still useful suggestions.

        3. JustaTech*

          At the suggestion of someone here I read “ADD-friendly ways to organize your life” (2nd edition).
          I was diagnosed as a kid, so I’ve had a long time to figure things out (yay meds!) but I still found the book super useful.
          It’s written for people with ADD (ADHD) so it’s small sections that get to the point and it has different “levels” of techniques and tips for when you might not have money or access to a professional organizer or therapist.

        4. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

          For commiserating with other ADHD sufferers as well as getting advice & tips & book recommendations, I like

      2. Elizabeth H.*

        I think “probably has ADHD” is a huge leap! I think playing with your hair is an incredibly common habit. I’ve always had the habit of playing with my hair in SOME fashion, since I was a little kid. I am semi aware of it so I do try not to do it in meetings. I use loose scrunchies so I tend to put my hair up and down a lot, which is not incredibly professional but better than twirling it or some other form of hair messing with.

  7. all aboard the anon train*

    #4: I have recruiters do that to me all the time. They’re vague about the company, salary, location, and whether it’s full-time permanent or contract. It’s gotten to the point that whenever I get a message on LinkedIn, I either google the job description from the recruiter to find the company myself or tell them that they need to provide me with the company name, location, and permanent/contract status before I’ll consider talking with them on the phone.

    Hiding the location and permanent/contract status bothers me more than hiding the company name, though. When they get vague and shifty about those two things, I just end all contact. I’ve had one too many recruiters say a job is in the city when it ends up being all the way out in the suburbs in an area where no public transit goes. No thanks.

    1. AcademiaNut*

      I can see how that would be very frustrating, going through the work of applying to find out that the job had a very obvious, non-negotiable deal breaker.

      I would think that salary range and job type (contract, temp, permanent) were things that could easily be communicated at the beginning. Name and even location could be very identifying, though.

      How much work does a recruiter typically ask of you before giving that information? If it’s a copy of your resume and a statement of interest, it’s one thing. If you’re expected to go through time consuming application procedure (or even interviews) before getting the information, I can see how it’s not at all appealing unless you really need a job.

      1. all aboard the anon train*

        Location is important, though. I don’t want to get through applying only to find out the job is a two hour commute. Or that when they said “X City”, they really meant “Suburbs of X City” or “Halfway Across the State from X City”. It happens fairly frequently. Or it’s a vague, “a great job in your area!” or “a job in a great location!”

        They almost always ask for an application or phone interview, sometimes both, before giving up that information. I have a job and even though I’m looking, location and job type aren’t really that difficult to mention up front in a message. There’s honestly no reason to keep those a secret. Both of those can be pretty big deal breakers for a lot of people.

        1. LouiseM*

          That is so strange. I would never apply for a job without knowing the location, and I doubt I’m alone in that!

          1. paul*

            at the early stages of it (i.e sending out a resume’ via indeed) a lot of them don’t seem to. Or they’ll give at most a city or suburb :/

            City and county jobs seem to be a bit better about that. I don’t want to wind up on the opposite side of Dallas, that’s an awful commute!

        2. Akcipitrokulo*

          That would turn me off… if I were told “London” in initial pitch, (and I were currently interested in commuting there), I’d ask whereabouts, and fully expect something like “closest tube station is…” or “10 minutes walk from…”

        3. Salsterr*

          Yes! I have received messages from recruiters stating “City” without any additional information, but based on the traffic here, a commute from one side of the city to the next could take well over an hour during rush hour! Please, tell me the neighborhood or at least which direction (North City, Southeast City) we’re talking about here.

        4. The Cosmic Avenger*

          They almost always ask for an application or phone interview, sometimes both, before giving up that information. I have a job and even though I’m looking, location and job type aren’t really that difficult to mention up front in a message. There’s honestly no reason to keep those a secret. Both of those can be pretty big deal breakers for a lot of people.

          OH! I was wondering why I never hear back from recruiters, despite being in very high demand in my field! When they message me on LinkedIn, I usually say that I’m happy where I am, so I need to know the location and salary before I’ll consider applying, and they ghost on me. Sometimes they’re asking for a phone call, and I won’t talk on the phone unless I know I’m interested. That’s probably why they never respond, they’re looking for the low-hanging fruit. :D

    2. Akcipitrokulo*

      Agreed about specifics. Recruiters have never given company name… and I wouldn’t expect it… but if they don’t tell me if it’s full or part time, contract or permanent, salary range and location then there is no point continuing.

      But I’ve never had to ask… maybe a cultural thing, but agents have always opened with something like “We’ve got an opportunity in Town paying between x and y we think would suit you… are you interested?” How they present pay will usually tell you if it’s contract or permanent.

      1. Akcipitrokulo*

        Actually – sometimes pay isn’t in the initial sentence, but would be mentioned in first few minutes of initial phone call.

      1. The Original K.*

        Or they just say the job is in a city and don’t say where. Just because you and a job are in the same city doesn’t mean it’s within a reasonable commuting distance. “Where’s the job?” “New York.” ” … Can you be more specific? Can we start with a borough?”

    3. Jennifer Thneed*

      I mostly am talking to recruiters about contracts, so that part is never a surprise, but I really do need to know location, especially since recruiters are all over the country and they won’t know what local traffic patterns are like. I’m in the SF Bay Area, and we have a LOT of bridges around here, and bridges are bottlenecks.

      So I always write back to recruiters (I very rarely accept phone calls for reasons) and ask the location. I get that they won’t want to tell me the company unless it’s a prestigious one, but they MUST tell me the location so I have a sense of what kind of commute I’ll be looking at. And if they just say “San Francisco” I follow it up with requiring the neighborhood, again, so I’ll know what commute I’m looking at. There’s a lot of SF that’s not convenient to pubtrans from outside the city.

      And the recruiters who get squirrelly about giving me this information don’t get any more of my attention. I don’t ghost them! I literally tell them, “Thank you anyway. Good luck to you with filling this position”. A couple of them have come back after that with the info I wanted, but by then they’ve already pissed me off and the odds are pretty good that I’ve heard about the same job from 3 other recruiters by then.

  8. Beth*

    #1 – I think it’s more likely that something changed than that your potential hire was lying to you from the start. The latter is possible–weirder, ruder things have happened–but it seems more likely that in the weeks it takes to interview people and make an offer, something in her life changed. Maybe a parent recently got a scary diagnosis and she’d rather be on the same coast as them. Maybe she’s just started dating someone seriously and is now more attached to her current area as a result. Maybe she had a chance to talk to a friend who lives in LA and is reconsidering whether it’s a good fit for her.

    You don’t have to agree to her request, of course. But I wouldn’t consider it an integrity issue unless there’s something concrete to suggest she was never willing to relocate and actively lied to you.

    1. Overeducated*

      Yup, stuff happens. My husband and I are in similar career stages so we have both been in the midst of long distance interview processes, and open to relocating, when the other got a job where we already were so we said “uh, mever mind.” This has happened in our last two simultaneous searches. When the process takes months a lot can change.

    2. INTP*

      Totally agree. I used to be a recruiter and this is very common and the reason that it’s harder to get considered as a non local candidate. All kinds of things go wrong when people start planning to relocate.

      One guy’s spouse was offered a huge raise when she went to resign so it no longer made sense for him to take the new job and relocate. People start crunching the numbers for relocation and realize the new salary isn’t what they thought it was. They talk to their kids and realize it’s a bad decision for their family. They start getting some interest in their resume and realize that maybe they don’t have to relocate to find work after all. I understand why OP would be confused the first time but really this is so, so common.

    3. Nita*

      That’s possible. I’ve been there. I got an offer for a really nice job a few years ago. In my mind I was willing to deal with the commute and eventual relocation, my family was on board, and we’d gotten to the offer stage. I had no intention to go through all that just to go back on my word that I’d accept the offer. And then my husband made an offhand remark about some sacrifices he thought we’d need to make if I took the job. It hadn’t come up before, because it wasn’t a big deal to him, but it was huge to me. I went back and forth about the decision for a couple of days, then called the recruiter, apologized a ton, and turned down the offer. There was also stuff going on with my old job that was giving me second thoughts, but that one offhand comment was what turned me around completely.

  9. in a fog*

    LW 2: I play with and pull on my hair a lot (the pulling is otherwise known as trichotillomania), which is very much a subconscious way to relieve anxiety for me. She may or may not be aware that she’s doing it, but just know that it may not be something she can stop overnight.

    1. LouiseM*

      It doesn’t sound like this employee is exhibiting compulsive behavior–I think when the OP said “grab” she just meant that she takes the hair into her hand so she can look at it, not that she is yanking it out. The disorder you mention is pretty rare, so it’s not the first thing I would jump to.

    2. It’s tricky*

      Hey, I also have trichotillomania (I have heard estimates of it affecting about 2% of people, so it’s rare but that’s still millions of people). For me, it actually began with examining split ends and pulling them and went from there, and I can definitely be obsessive about looking at my hair, finger combing etc as well as pulling. I agree that no one needs to leap to conclusions here, but it is worth bearing in mind, as in the fog says, that it may be a sensitive subject or not something that you can just say “hey cut it out” and it stops.

      1. Tonbrry*

        +1 another sufferer here! It might not be that easy to get her to stop if its part of this…..

      2. Specialk9*

        Yeah, for context, Jews only make up 3% of the population, but nobody would say we’re rare.

      3. Slow Gin Lizz*

        I also have trichotillomania and it’s really annoying. As mentioned in a previous comment thread above, when I worked from home I could knit while on telecons and reading (yes, I can read and knit at the same time, as long as the knitting pattern is really simple) but I don’t think knitting would be welcomed while at my office. So instead I pull out my hair and it drives me nuts. Silly putty isn’t helpful for me, I’ve discovered, but maybe if I got some string or something that would be since string is closer to hair than putty is.

        I guess 1% of the population is out in droves today on AAM.

    3. drpuma*

      Thank you folks with trichotillomania for sharing your experiences. I am curious – as it is a diagnosed medical condition, would that fall under reasonable accommodations? Sounds like the follow-up would be very different than for someone who is just absent-mindedly playing with their hair.

      1. Anononon*

        Just because it may be a medical condition, it doesn’t necessarily fall under the ADA.

      2. It’s tricky*

        This I can’t say (not American) but I would personally probably be mortified to the point of quitting rather than have that officially on file. Again, not saying this is what’s happening here, but just a counterpoint to some of the people saying it’s not a sensitive topic at all.

        1. It’s tricky*

          PPS a lot of people don’t know it’s a “thing” either. I went through all kinds of appointments with dermatologists and blood tests and stuff before making the connection that maybe I was going bald because I was pulling my hair out lol. Sounds dumb, but it literally didn’t occur to me that you could pull out so much of your own hair that you go bald, it seemed a crazy idea.

        2. Slow Gin Lizz*

          I found it pretty mortifying when I first started doing it and now 10 or so years later I am a little more open about it with people. I still don’t like to talk about it or admit it, but sometimes I’ll say that I “play with my hair” rather than pull it out, because that’s a little less icky-sounding.

          I wonder if it could be a medical accommodation to let me knit at work in order to save my hair? But I don’t want to ask because even asking doesn’t sound very professional, IMHO. YMMV.

    4. Trich Life*

      Thanks for sharing this. It’s always of great comfort to me that others are going through the same thing I am. My trich is limited to eyebrows, but I’ve been learning more about how in others it affects other hair.

  10. PizzaSquared*

    From my perspective, “I’m open to relocation” does not mean “I will definitely relocate for you if you offer me this job.” It means “I will consider relocating in the context of the rest of the offer and everything else I learn about the job through the hiring process.” Maybe the overall package and situation isn’t compelling enough to make your candidate want to relocate for it. Or maybe she’s pushing to work remotely and is expecting some negotiation on the topic. I definitely understand wanting this person to work in the office, and that’s an ok line to draw. But I don’t think it’s realistic to expect candidates to 100% commit to relocation at the beginning of the hiring process before they’ve met the team and seen the offer. I think the only way to truly avoid this situation is to limit yourself to interviewing local candidates.

      1. Akcipitrokulo*


        It may help cut frustration if, at in-person interview where they come to office, say something like “I don’t want an answer just now; but now you’ve been here, seen the office and the location, would you have a think about what would be involved in relocating, and let me know in a couple of days if it still works for you?”

        And you really have to have talked figures before then.

      2. Sarah M*

        Exactly. Did you offer relocation costs, OP #1? Because moving across the country can be pretty expensive. If you didn’t/couldn’t, then her first year’s salary is actually reduced by $X amount in relo costs. So, the pay package (at least for that first year) + mega hassle of moving cross country may have been less than appealing. I can only go by what was printed in your letter, but based on that, it doesn’t seem as though you’ve considered this.

    1. all aboard the anon train*

      That was my thought as well. Relocation is a big deal. Sometimes you can be open to it, but then realize you’re not ready to go through with it. Or you go for an on-site interview and love the company and team, but hate the city.

      I wonder if there was some misunderstanding or miscommunication about the nature of remote work. Maybe the candidate heard that people do work from home full-time and thought it was an option.

      1. Quoth the Raven*

        Disliking the location is another very, very real possibility. Sometimes a particular place sounds great in paper until you realise X about it and then it’s not that good of an idea anymore.

        I like in Mexico City; my SO currently lives in Michigan. We toyed with the idea of me moving there at first, and though I’ve been there and I really, really love the places I’ve been to, I don’t think I would be able to cope with the winters without wanting to rip my hair out. And living in a smaller town or city after living all my life in this behemoth is not something I would find particularly appealing. I would consider it, but it would take one hell of a deal to sway me.

        1. TheCupcakeCounter*

          I live in Michigan. No one should live here in the winter. Actually…no one should live here in the “middle” time between true winter and real spring. Just cold, gray, and depressing.

      2. Fergus*

        Yea I had a company want me to move 1000 mi to work for them and their relocation package was they would pay for a moving truck but I would need to get 3 estimates. They wonder why they are always searching for candidates.

        1. TheCupcakeCounter*

          oh that’s a pain! My FIL’s last job offered relo and they basically said we contract with this company and they will handle everything (seriously white glove service). If you decide to go another way just send us the bill. My MIL is OCD to the max and even she couldn’t find a single issue with the company they used. I keep telling my husband to give that company a call…

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I think this nails it. LA and NYC are perhaps more dissimilar than other pairs of cities, and relocation can be slightly more difficult between the two. For example, the initial list of questions that come to my mind for this kind of relocation are: Will you sell your car? Can you find an apartment (that you can afford) with the kind of space you get in LA? Where is your support network based? Can you deal with less sunshine? Can you make the cultural shift between both cities, and do you want to? Will you receive relocation assistance for the move?

      Some of those answers shift, or the candidate has a better sense of the trade-offs, only after the offer details are disclosed. To me, being “open” to relocation means you’re persuadable, but not necessarily that you’re already persuaded. And it definitely doesn’t mean you’re pledging, up front and without offer information, to move.

    3. MK*

      Ok, but if the company has actually made it clear that remote work is not an option, except in extraordinary circumstances, it’s pretty tonedeaf to try and negotiate remote work once you get the offer. I wonder if maybe the OP would have felt different, if the candidate had simply turned down the offer, once she realised she wasn’t willing to relocate; or, if the reason for not wanting to relocate is financial, if she had said so and try to negotiate the compensation.

      1. sap*

        Yeah, but it sounds like all the discussion about it was whether the candidate was “open to” relocation–which is really different from making it clear that the position had to be in NY (that’s “must be willing,” not “might be willing”).

        1. MK*

          I don’t know that we can assume that from the letter; but, either way, I think the best way forward for the OP is to write this off to poor communication and in the future be more explicit about relocation requirement, or, more accurately, the “no remote work” requirement.

        2. Colette*

          Yeah, agreed. “Are you open to relocation?” on its own is a very different question from “We require our employees to work from our office. Are you open to relocation?”

          1. Christmas Carol*

            Double agreed. You asked, “Are you open to relocation?” not “Do you realize you must relocate for this position?” The lack of honesty/integrity seems to be more on your side.

            1. Jessie the First (or second)*

              I don’t think there is any reason to disparage the honesty or integrity of the OP. That’s an unjustified harsh leap to make. OP thought she was clear but she was not clear. Sometimes people can have blinders on, and forget that what seems obvious to them (her company’s policies, her question about relocating) appear different from the outside.

      2. Beth*

        But it never hurts to ask. If something came up (whether in the candidate’s personal life, as part of the hiring process, or in the offer itself) that changed things so relocating was no longer an option, the candidate doesn’t lose anything by asking to go remote–they’d turn down the job if the answer was no, or they’d turn it down if they didn’t ask.

    4. Specialk9*

      Exactly. There’s unequal info in an interview. They know the salary range, benefits, and details – the job seeker does not. So agreeing to be open is a blind statement. One can’t negotiate in good faith until the information is roughly equal, ie not until after the offer letter.

    5. Glomarization, Esq.*

      Yeah, “open to relocation” is not the same as “I’m definitely moving as soon as you tell me I’m the candidate you’re making an offer to.” It means, “I’m willing to consider moving across the continent and accepting your other workplace conditions in light of the total compensation package you’re offering.”

      OP#1 evidently didn’t offer enough in the total compensation package to overcome the candidate’s concerns about moving. Instead of questioning the candidate’s integrity, I wish OP#1 had instead told us that there had been continuing efforts to negotiate a deal between the two of them. The result I see in the letter is a lose-lose, which is too bad.

    6. Hannah*

      Yeah this was my thought. If you had no intention at any point of hiring someone remotely, that should have been clear at the beginning, and if you used the phrase “open to relocating” that definitely would not communicate that need adequately. To me that means “Yes, I would consider it.”

      If someone said that to me at the beginning of the interview process, I would probably say “yes” if theoretically it could be possible for me, but then take a look at the whole package offered before deciding if relocating for it would be a good decision. Maybe you didn’t offer enough money and benefits, or maybe the candidate turned slightly lukewarm for other reasons after the interviews and decided they would only want the job if it was going to be remote.

  11. Dan*


    You use the phrase “going back on her word”. Did she actually promise you anything? “Open to” is not the same as guarantee. In the hiring process, there’s no deal until there’s a deal. As candidates, we are reminded of that All. The. Time.

    1. Marthooh*

      Negotiating for the best possible deal is not a deliberate insult, after all.

      Somewhere, Alison has a list of frequently misunderstood phrases to help job seekers figure out what potential employers are really saying. Maybe there should be another list for the benefit of employers.

    2. Engineer Woman*

      Yes! Did candidate say: “I’m so glad this job is in this relocated city because I’ve been wanting to move there!”?
      Then after receipt of job offer: “No, don’t want to move there. I’ll work remotely.”
      That would be going back on her word.
      Maybe candidate is still open to relocating but given this exact offer, it’s not what she’d is open to doing.

  12. lyonite*

    OP2, please tell her. I went through a phase of doing just that, after a bad round of highlights, and I didn’t realize how bad it was until it was pointed out to me. It was embarrassing at the time, but I’m glad I was able to break myself of the habit once I was aware of it. What the person said was along the lines of, “I realize this is probably something you’ve been doing for a long time, and you probably don’t realize you’re doing it, but playing with your hair like that is really distracting, could you try not to?”

    1. LouiseM*

      Absolutely! I was so grateful when someone pointed out my habit of twisting my ring around my finger. It was just a nervous habit that was very easy to drop, but it really looked like I was more interested in my ring than the person talking to me.

      1. BadWolf*

        Sometimes when I’m concentrating or reading something, I hold some of my hair to my face/lips. I’m not sure why — I guess it’s comforting? Some sort of security blanket like feeling? Who knows.

        One day at work, someone came to my office and joked that it looked like I was mid-sneeze with the way my chunk of held hair was situated. It was said in a kindly manner, but after that I tried really hard to stop doing security blanket hair!

  13. Mike C.*

    Op 2:

    Are you certain that your boss doesn’t want you to coach on this issue because it might not actually be a problem to begin with? You say this person is in general a great employee and you didn’t mention that they were checked out in meetings, only that some might get the impression that she was checked out.

    So long as she’s actually participating, what is the actual problem here? Wouldn’t it be immediately clear that she’s paying attention the first time she opens her mouth to respond to a question or give her input on an issue?

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Ooo, I disagree on this. In this context, saying that “others may get the impression” that she’s checked out means that the boss (and others) already have the impression that she’s distracted. So this isn’t a speculative concern; it’s a real issue that’s already percolating in the back of OP’s boss’s mind.

      The most significant elements of communication are telegraphed through body language. For many people, fidgeting with your hair is an indication that you’re nervous/fidgety, bored, daydreaming, disengaged, or otherwise not paying attention. And telegraphing those reactions can have significant and negative effects on how others perceive a person’s competency and capacity for promotion. Part of being a generally great employee includes using listening and communication approaches that signal that you’re mentally present and that you care about what others are saying.

      1. Mike C.*

        What? That doesn’t make any sense. If the OP isn’t speculating, why did she write as is she was?

        1. Specialk9*

          She isn’t speculating, she’s reporting that the boss noticed the behavior and specifically ascribed it to being “checked out”. For many people, that is code for ‘you should talk to her’, but even if they’re not of the hint vs ask culture, the boss has directly stated that this habit is causing negative thoughts about the employee. There’s no speculation, these are solid facts – boss commented and connected behavior to a negative trait.

          1. Mike C.*

            Yet the OP’s boss doesn’t seem to think it’s an issue. Why isn’t his opinion respected?

            1. Reba*

              Well, OP reports that her Boss doesn’t think she should talk about it with her report.

              That is not the same thing as the Boss saying “this is definitely not an issue that will negatively effect her” — and even if Boss believed that, we already know that’s not the case, since other higher-ups have noticed.

              And Bosses don’t always have the right idea, as we know :)

              1. Mike C.*

                Trust me, I’m well aware that bosses don’t always have the right idea. :)

                Ultimately I’m just concerned that folks are treating the possible appearance of maybe not paying attention the same as not paying attention. It’s an incredibly subjective issue when in general we should be looking towards more objective criteria for judging the performance of an employee.

    2. Akcipitrokulo*

      The problem is that she looks as if she’s not paying attention – and if she responds to things when asked or thinks it’s necessary, runs the risk of not paying attention to *that particular person who was talking at the time* which is even worse and could be viewed as rudeness (whether it was or not).

      Impressions count. Especially if there are clients in the room. And if it’s just your own company – but there are people higher up who may be considering who they want to promote? Don’t be the one with the “checks out in meetings” mental note in the heads of higher ups when they are making staffing decisions.

      1. Mike C.*

        if she responds to things when asked or thinks it’s necessary, runs the risk of not paying attention to *that particular person who was talking at the time*

        This doesn’t make sense to me, when else does someone speak except when they feel the need to contribute something or in response to someone else?

        1. Akcipitrokulo*

          I meant *only* responds when necessary, and plays with hair the rest of the time, sorry!

      2. Washi*

        This came up in a previous letter I think! People seem to have varying opinions about how important it is to look like you’re paying attention in meetings.

        I personally don’t have a problem with minor doodling, fidgeting, etc, but I definitely agree that it’s not a good look to be giving cues that you’re not paying attention (never picking your head up to make some eye contact, engaging in personal grooming like checking your split ends or nail polish, looking at your phone constantly, etc)

    3. Akcipitrokulo*

      It also may have an adverse effect on other people’s effectiveness. If I’m speaking in a meeting, I don’t want to have to keep checking that someone is still listening to what I’m saying, or have to repeat myself because person was playing with her hair when I was going over the critical part.

      1. sap*

        Yep, this would make me a bit flustered! And *I* am a person who fidgets when paying attention if I don’t remind myself that meetings aren’t the time to inspect my manicure!

      2. Mike C.*

        Why would you keep checking when they’ve already demonstrated they’re clearly paying attention?

        1. Specialk9*

          Mike, you seem to be taking this a bit personally. Can I take it that this is hitting close to home? Are you a fidgeter or apparently distracted person when you’re really paying attention?

          Specific to this letter, it’s a really clear situation, and the ‘is it really reasonable’ is irrelevant because the boss saw the behavior, commented on it, and said it makes them think bad things about the employee. OP doesn’t need to know whether we all think that the boss is right or wrong, they need to know what to do. (Answer: talk to the fidgeter, kindly.)

            1. Specialk9*

              The tone of your posts is really *engaged* on something that doesn’t seem that controversial. It’s usually a sign someone is feeling defensive because they themselves feel criticized because they identify with that person. I feel like you’ve had a similarly strong reaction before on this topic in the past too, but not positive on that.

              1. Rat in the Sugar*

                I’ve noticed Mike C.’s comments frequently sound really engaged like that; I think that’s just part of his writing style. Also he’s been pretty passionate in the past about many different issues involving the rights and treatment of employees. Not that everyone reads the comments as religiously as I do, but I think that’s just how he writes and it’s not personal.

                1. SophieK*

                  Now, see, I think Mike sounds dead flat rational, logical and not at all emotional. It’s others that are reading his remarks with a screamy voice in their heads.

                  I have the same issue with people:

                  Me: Hey, 2 + 2 = 4, not asparagus.
                  Other people: RAWR WHY ARE YOU SO MAD???!?!?!!!
                  Me: Uh, just stating a fact? In the most soft spoken way possible? *resolves to avoid crazy person in future*

                  I’ve noticed that people are becoming more and more resistant to taking in basic facts and job training, and are even getting upset about the personal preferences of other people. Maybe it’s participation trophies and the banning of red pens and grades?

                  I don’t quite know what’s going on, but when so many people are responding emotionally to people like Mike I do feel the need to redirect and reframe.

                2. SarahJ*

                  Well, anger and passion are both emotions. I think we tend to associate being “emotional” with being a weepy woman but in fact Mike is extremely emotional, today and most days. He’s passionate about the issues he cares about, sometimes to the detriment of discourse, making him one of the most emotional commentators here.

                3. Kelly L.*

                  And I feel like going down the path of participation trophy rants is not a good look for us.

                4. Specialk9*

                  SophieK, maybe people aren’t reacting to your logic but to what else you say. You talked about making simple factual statements quietly that people react bizarrely to, but in that short paragraph you also included (as a total non sequitur) some appalling generational aspersions (“participation trophies and the banning of red pens and grades?”). So maybe people are reacting to you making really inflammatory statements that aren’t related to the matter at hand. (Which is as far as I can tell it’s the intention of inflammatory statements so I’m not sure why you’re surprised.)

                  That is NOT how Mike C operates, by the way. He just really drills down into his belief that something outside of the social/work norm *should be* the norm. But without insulting millions (billions?) of hardworking people in the process.

                5. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*


                  There are a *lot* of social/work norms that are illogical, irrational, senseless, and/or do nothing but promote or reinforce various forms of bigotry (sexism, racism, classism, homophobia, etc etc) that are currently so deeply engrained into our culture that many people are unaware of them, or can’t see why they are a problem. I don’t agree with everything Mike C says or believes, but I agree that a lot of ‘norms’ NEED to be changed, like, YESTERDAY, because they are so incredibly harmful/toxic to those that fall outside them, and that one can be passionate or feel strongly about changing harmful norms that seem trivial to others because of their common acceptance, or about harmful norms do not affect one personally or directly (it’s called empathy).

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            That assumption isn’t warranted. People don’t have to be looking at you to be paying attention. For many people, doing something physical (doodling, playing with jewelry, and yes, even playing with hair) actually helps keep their mind from wandering.

            1. Washi*

              True. But from the outside, being completely checked out and doodling and paying attention and doodling can look exactly the same. I’m someone who takes a lot of notes to stay focused, but also make sure to pick my head up occasionally, nod, offer a comment, etc so the presenter knows I’m engaged and taking in the information.

              1. Specialk9*

                Oh yeah, there are ways to show you’re checked in while fidgeting. I was in a presentation and saw something interesting, pulled out my phone and looked it out – but so the presenter didn’t think I was reading a blog or email, I made sure to look at the presentation several times like I was checking what I was looking up, and looked at her too.

                1. laylaaaaah*

                  Also it helps if your boss knows /why/ you’re doing the fidgeting thing, if it’s happening a lot. My boss used to get upset about me having headphones on in the office- now she knows it’s an ADHD thing and helping me get my work done, she’s much more positive about it and we’ve come up with strategies for how to balance that with me being responsive to verbal requests in the office.

            2. BuffaLove*

              This has been discussed here so many times, though, and there needs to be a line drawn somewhere. Doodling is probably okay. Knitting or coloring or constantly playing with your hair is not okay, even if it’s helpful to you, because you’re going to look unprofessional and probably distract the entire room.

              1. Rusty Shackelford*

                True. I know not to do it, because I know how it looks. I just hate to see someone *here* using it as “proof” that you’re “not paying attention.”

            3. Akcipitrokulo*

              Playing with hair – yeah, OK. Examining hair for split ends – that looks like ignoring me.

              1. teclatrans*

                I agree that it “looks” like not paying attention, but the point is that it might not be.

                I am an intensely visual person, with some auditory processing issues, and if I look at a presenter, I get very lost in the shape of their mouth, the buttons on their shirt, the weird mole…all with Jo idea what they are saying. If my hands and my eyes are occupied, then and only then can I concentrate.

                To be clear, I agree with those saying you have to learn social cues and to give the right ones, even if they are a deliberate performance, especially amongst strangers or near-strangers. But for those commenters saying this woman is obviously not paying attention, I think you were missing the point we fidgeters are trying to share with you.

                1. Specialk9*

                  And it’s a good point! It doesn’t change the advice to the OP (talk to the hair fiddler), but it’s useful to managers to hear that there are other ways to be, and not make assumptions.

                2. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

                  I am *exactly* the same. Intensely visual with audio processing disorders, and the exact same issues with focus.

            4. soon 2 be former fed*

              What helps them may send the wrong message to others. Our behavior does not exist in a vacuum.

    4. Wakeen Teaptots, LTD*

      It’s a big deal. In many situations, young women start out at a disadvantage for respect because they are both young and women. Being noticed looking for split ends during meetings is an unnecessary negative. Break the glass ceiling, run the whole damn company, and then look for split ends all you like. Have an assistant whose job it is to look for your split ends! :D

      1. LQ*

        Strongly agree with this. In a perfect world which is not the one we live in would it matter? No because in that perfect world everyone would always be engaged at the correct level and everyone would always assume everyone else was engaged at that level. And no one would think that fidgeting isn’t paying attention. But here in this world they do. They notice, they give the primo account to the dude who is playing with his hair because he’s a dude and dudes are assumed to know enough to be able to handle primo account. And then dude had the primo account so he gets the raise and it’s all entirely based on merit.

        Mike, please, push back on all the people who say it’s a problem, tell them, tell the executives, tell the people who decide who gets the primo account or job or raise. But also, it’s ok to give women an edge by saying to them that the jerk in the corner thinks they are distracted and try a different form of fidget instead so that she can get the primo account.

        1. Mike C.*

          Ok, this is a lot more convincing than simply saying. “they don’t meet my arbitrary standards, therefore they’re obviously not paying attention”.

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        Have an assistant whose job it is to look for your split ends!

        And suddenly I realize there is a dream job for me after all…

    5. Astrid*

      I fall on the side of calling this a problem. I think it’s unhygienic and just plain gross when someone touches/twirls/smells their hair (and I’ve even seen more than one person put their hair into their mouth, yuck!). Once I notice this behavior, I can’t help but focus on it. I think it is stereotypical teenage girl behavior to play with your hair – I doubt anyone in a professional environment would want to cultivate that look.

      1. I wish I could be normal*

        Another trichotillomania sufferer here. You probably didn´t mean to, but calling the hallmark symptoms of my disorder “gross”, “unhygienic” and “stereotypical teenage girl behavior” is really hurtful to me. Of course I don´t want to “cultivate” an unprofessional look! Of course I want to stop “playing with my hair”! I spent years trying to – with therapy, meds, all kinds of self-help tools, but so far, nothing helped. Unfortunately, it gets worse if I´m stressed. Trust me, I really, really did not want to go to job interviews with a huge bald spot on my head (no, I did not have enough money to buy a wig). Having a mental illness is terrible enough; having a mental illness which outs you at first glance as a “crazy person” adds insult to injury.
        Of course we don´t know if OP´s colleague is suffering from trichotillomania, but I think it is a real possibility that she is. And if she is, I fear it will be no use to tell her something along the lines of “it´s disgusting and distracting and makes you look unprofessional”. If I get told to “just stop”, it only makes me feel even more ashamed, humiliated by a disease I cannot get rid of. And knowing that other people are noticing and judging my “disgusting” behaviour also makes me mor stressed, which in turn worsens my symptoms.
        Sorry for rambling! I´ve never commented here before and sadly, I do not know how to solve OP´s problem. But I felt like I kind of had to speak up about a less-known and heavily stigmatized condition. Perhaps I could instill a bit of empathy for “crazy” people like me? We really do not want to annoy, distract or disgust you but sometimes we cannot help it.

        1. Specialk9*

          Thanks for speaking up. I know exactly what Astrid means – my all girl high school had intense hair grooming sessions, and split end hunts, so that is what I think of too when I see the behavior. But I can hear that that really hurts you because for you, it’s compulsive and not something you just stop doing. (My highly anxious niece used to compulsively pull out eyelashes when she was younger, so in a very small measure I get that it’s really hard for you.) I’m curious, wouldn’t ADA cover this, or is it just not worth the risk of walking the uncertain path of revealing mental health issues to managers?

        2. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize*

          You have my support. Until I worked at a job where touching your hair and face could result in a write-up I had no idea how often I touched mine. It was a hard habit to break, I can’t imagine how hard it must be to try to control it when you have trichotillomania.

        3. soon 2 be former fed*

          The scalp can be very unhygenic. That said, it wouldn’t be useful to the hair examiner to focus on this. Do wigs help trichotillomania sufferers? There are inexpensive pieces made to just cover the crown.

        4. Trich Life*

          I’m also a trichotillomania sufferer (eyebrows, not hair) and I totally get what you’re saying and I really appreciate you bringing it up and talking about it. I see it differently, though. I would feel like someone would be doing me a favor letting me know that people notice my behavior and that it comes off a certain way I didn’t intend. Even though it’s a compulsion, it’s helpful to recognize any of my triggers and see if I can avoid it.

      2. Myrin*

        Not to start a huge debate or anything but I daresay that you’re a bit of an outlier in finding people’s touching their own hair gross and unhygienic. I hear you on the distraction issue but I really don’t think the grossness factor would come into play for a lot of people.

        1. Specialk9*

          I’m not grossed out by touching, but sucking or biting hair? That actually makes me feel a bit queasy too.

          1. Myrin*

            Oh yeah, I’m definitely not a fan of that, either (although it’s not really gross for me as much as just… wth are you doing?!), but since Astrid only seemed to mention the put-in-mouth thing as an afterthought and focused on “touches/twirls/smells”, I commented on that.

        2. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

          Yeah agreed. I just don’t see what is so gross about a person touching, well *any* part of their own body (as is appropriate for the consent level of the situation they are in of course- public/work being different than private/with consenting others.)

      3. soon 2 be former fed*

        Sometimes its considered sexual too. Don’t kill the messenger her, I am a woman with very short hair but women’s hair is highly sexualized and that’s why you won’t see many porn starts with hair like mine.

      4. Altman*

        To piggy back on others’ comments here, it’s disheartening to hear what could potentially be a disorder referred to as “just plain gross.” As a professional, I certainly don’t want to cultivate a “stereotypical teenage girl” look, but I also hope that my peers won’t discount and judge me that harshly. I have trichotillomania and dermatillomania and am generally pretty good about controlling both through medication, CBT, and situational awareness, but when I do it, it certainly isn’t because I’m an unserious teenager.

        I mentioned this in a reply elsewhere, but OCD isn’t just wanting your pens aligned just so. This blog is generally wonderfully sensitive to the range of ailments and impairments individuals can face, and this is just another weird facet of human behavior.

      5. Kate 2*

        Why is touching or twirling your hair gross??? How do you think people style their hair? Unless you mean something else completely different. I’m with you on the hair in mouth thing though.

  14. Emily Spinach*

    I used to play with my hair in meetings and presentations, and a colleague once said something like, “you should probably work on not looking so bored in meetings.” I was able to fix it pretty easily since I realized that looking bored could be insulting to my colleagues and bad for my reputation. So getting her to stop might not be a big thing. I’d start by assuming it’ll be straightforward and adapt if needed.

    1. LouiseM*

      Agreed. It probably is just one of those little tics that we all have, but the optics of examining the ends of your hair in a meeting are not great. You may need to remind her a few times, OP, but it seems like it should be an easy thing to fix.

    2. Ayla*

      Yes. I twirl my hair around my finger, even when it’s tied up. It helps me concentrate better, but I’ve been trying to stop doing it ever since somebody mentioned it to me, but it’s such a unconscious habit.

      I also tie, untie, retie, untie, retie (ad nauseum) my hair up in a ponytail. But I do try not to do that in meetings!

      1. A Non E. Mouse*

        Hello there, fellow hair-twirler!

        It happens when I’m tired, so when I find myself doing it I have to make a conscious effort to 1) stop and 2) re-engage in whatever is occurring – usually a meeting.

        It helps to already have my hands occupied – can you doodle in meetings?

      2. eee*

        aah same. not doing the split end examination is a little easier because it involves me LOOKING, so even when I start doing it unconsciously it’s easy to notice what i’m doing and stop. But the up down up down hair? I’m talking, I’m talking, I’m talking, I’m touching my hair stop! tie it up! I’m talking i’m talking i’m talking–i’m touching my hair again! when did I take my hair down? Put it back up! I’m talking, I’m talking, I’m talking…why is my hair down? How am I doing this?
        Any tips on noticing that you’re taking your hair down would be appreciated. It’s just so easy and unconscious that I don’t even notice putting it up and down half the time.

        1. Rat in the Sugar*

          If you have it put up with a hair tie, I would try holding the tie in place with a bobby pin or two. That way when your hands sneak up to pull it out the pins will get caught and catch your attention.

    3. Rusty Shackelford*

      I agree. The split-end-hunting is something I’ve started doing recently, and it’s not because I have autism or trichotillomania, it’s just a thing I do. Ironically, like doodling or picking at my nails, it’s one of those things I do when I’m listening that actually makes it look like I’m *not* listening. But I don’t have any problem stopping it, and if I started doing it at meetings and someone mentioned it, it wouldn’t be a big deal at all for me to never do it again. If you phrase it as “I know you’re paying attention, but the hair thing makes it look like you’re not, and it’s been noticed,” that might be all you need to do.

      (Or it might not. But give it a shot.)

  15. Akcipitrokulo*

    OP1 – it is absolutely reasonable to say “I’m sorry, that isn’t an option. Are you still interested in the offer?” and withdraw offer if the answer is no.

    It’s not something to have bad feelings or feel betrayed over though. Maybe she thought it was more flexible at the start. Maybe circumstances changed. Maybe she simply realised when faced with reality that it wasn’t as possible for her as she had, in good faith, thought it would be.

    In any event, she won’t be affected by how you feel, so putting it down to experience, and maybe confirming this requirement at later stages as well in future may help flush out changes in circumstances.

  16. Undine*

    #4 My experience with recruiters is that they want a phone interview between me and the recruiter before they will reveal the company name, but that they absolutely let me know before they submit my resume to the company. If they don’t do that, then they run the risk that I might have already submitted a resume through a different channel — either another recruiter or direct. Sometimes the not-telling is kind of a fig leaf — “It’s a large theme park in Anaheim”. I’m not sure what the not-telling accomplishes in that case, but I think of it as similar to having to sign an NDA to hear the full job description or go for an interview, only softer.

    1. Akcipitrokulo*

      Yeah – I once got contacted about a job “with a large utilities company in Cathcart”. Cathcart has houses, flats, a school, few shops and Scottish Power who employed a few thousand people.

    2. CM*

      I always ask and almost all the time, the recruiter will tell me when asked directly, “What is the name of the company and where is the job located?” On the rare occasion that they won’t answer, I’ve gotten the “theme park in Anaheim” type of response. I’ve also found that almost every time a recruiter contacts me, a little Googling will lead to the online job listing so I can see for myself.

  17. Flash Bristow*

    OP3, could you and your boss swap desks? So you and your peer are neighbours, and to chat, boss has to pop to your side of the aisle and so speak with both of you?

    1. Flash Bristow*

      Sorry, just saw that had already been suggested. For some reason I didn’t spot it when skim reading the comments before posting. Shows it’s a good idea tho!

  18. GM*

    #2 is me, but I’m conscious of it and trying hard to scale back. I don’t observe the ends of my hair as much as twirl the strands some times.
    #3 – I’ve witnessed this and was interested to see the response. Haven’t faced the situation but like the script.

  19. Czhorat*

    It sounds to me that the culture for OP 1 includes some trust issues overall, with the (likely erroneous) concern about integrity b fitting in.

    That they only allow remote work after a trial period, and only full time after two+ years indicates that they expect remote employees to slack off if they can’t somehow prove themselves first. That they only allow it for “extenuating circumstances” can create inequities in which some employees’ circumstances are seen as more extenuating than others.

    The whole thing can read as “we’ll let you work remotely if tiu convince us thatyou won’t screw it up and you really need it” rather than ” we allow you to work remotely because the nature of the job allows it”.

    Either accept this candidate or not, but you might want to examine some of your underlying assumptions.

    1. Cordoba*

      That also struck me a a bad approach for determining whether remote work is feasible.

      If I’m this candidate you’re telling me that you are confident enough in my abilities and work ethic that you’re willing to pay me thousands of dollars *and* foot the bill to relocate me from LA to NY; but you don’t trust me to to get work done without somebody looking over my shoulder until I have proven my fealty for 2 years.

      Haha, no thanks. This policy alone is a very bad sign; and is even worse if it represents the overall culture or organizational thinking at this company.

      To the OP: If you hire me and I relocate, after I’ve proven myself (2 years later!) to have sufficient quality of work will you then pay to re-relocate me back to LA?

    2. Beth Jacobs*

      Eh, there’s valid reasons for having someone start in the office that are not mistrust. It can be easier to train that person on site, he might have easier access to colleagues if he needs help and mistakes can be pointed out earlier. There really is a difference between being remote for training and being remote once you know the job and have established a rapport with your coworkers.

      As for the extenuating circumstances, that probably means those positions aren’t really ideal for telecommuting, but the company is willing to sacrifice some efficiency because it values its long term employees. Again, nothing malicious there.

      1. Cordoba*

        I don’t think it’s malicious, but I think it is misguided and likely to turn off some of the best potential employees.

        Given the relo involved and the degree of apparent hurt feelings I doubt this candidate was an entry-level person or some rando who met the minimum qualifications – she was probably a real catch with good experience and a track record of being successful. If that’s the case, there are more efficient ways to get them trained up than shipping their entire life across 4 time zones forever.

        If you’re hiring the sort of higher-level professional who you would recruit and relocate from the opposite side of the country why don’t you trust this person to correctly manage their own time at the mothership? They’re probably pretty well aware of their training needs and how to ask for help if needed. Just give them some latitude and guidance, it will probably work out fine if you hired the right person.

        The cost of a permanent cross-country relocation would pay for an awful lot of flights and hotel rooms. I suspect there are plenty of desirable employees who would be willing to spend the first month or so on-site and fly back and forth as needed but who would never permanently relocate. A bit of flexibility here might be a good idea.

        1. Czhorat*

          Exactly. I didn’t mean to imply malice, but perhaps a set of unconscious assumptions an attitudes about the degree in which workplaces are adversarial. In that light the reaction makes sense.

      2. Akcipitrokulo*

        Might be worth, in that case, saying “we will pay for your accomodation for the first (length of time), and revisit relocating at that time”?

    3. Colette*

      It’s not necessarily about trust. When someone is on site, it’s easier for them to get to know their coworkers (and their coworkers to get to know them). Many people like to know the people they’re working with – even if the potential new employee doesn’t, the people they need help from to be successful will. Being onsite makes it easier to get a computer & accounts set up and meet face to face with clients.

      And, in an environment where most people work in the office most of the time, working remotely means missing out on hallway conversations, which can be critical to getting the job done.

        1. Colette*

          Not in my experience. In teams that are used to working remotely, it’s not an issue, but if one person works remotely on a team that is otherwise in the office, they get left out of discussions – not out of maliciousness, but because they’re not there.

          And people in general are more likely to go out of their way for someone they know and like. Being in the same location offers more opportunities to be likeable (outside of work transactions).

    4. NW Mossy*

      The customer-facing section of my org recently experimented with hiring people who were fully remote from the start. We’ve seen success with folks who had been in-office going remote, so they were willing to extend offers to remote employees.

      Sadly, the experiment really hasn’t gone well. One was already let go for poor performance, and the others are clearly fighting an uphill battle to be at the same level as their peers in office. From water-cooler chatter, it sounds like new hires will now have to base in one of our two main offices. It’s really hard to succeed in this role without the ability to build a strong internal network fast, and that’s a whole lot easier when you can leverage face-to-face interaction.

      There certainly are people capable of doing that totally remote (a former teammate of mine is one), but it’s something of a special skill that takes effort to develop. It’s a lot to take on in addition to a whole new job, so it makes it very hard for new employees to succeed that way unless they have a proven track record in a previous fully-remote position.

  20. Penelope*

    Sounds like #1 was following the advice commonly given here: wait til you have a firm offer before negotiating for concessions.

  21. laylaaaaah*

    OP#2 – If it turns out to be an attention thing (and I expect it is), are there less visually intrusive ways for her to fidget during meetings? I used to do something very similar with my split ends in school. Now, I’ve developed a system of alternatives- I play with my necklace and engagement ring (which, while small and unobtrusive, both have a bunch of different shapes and textures), I draw dozens of tiny flowers on a notepad, I write down ideas and notes and to-do list items in smallish writing and scribble in the gaps around them. Someone else in the office has a stress ball, and we both tend to fiddle with our lanyards a lot.

    It might be an idea to take a quick look at alternatives to talk through with her, if the problem is to do with needing to move around and have another locus of concentration during meetings- or even to just suggest she finds other ways of fidgeting on her own. In the long run, you’ll probably do her a lot of good.

    1. laylaaaaah*

      (Obviously along with the stimming etc., you’ll want her to actually be /looking/ at the people who are talking, rather than down/away. But that’s a lot more manageable for me when my hands are doing something that’s intricate but doesn’t need me to be looking at it. The notepad-based options are especially good for this, because they’re much more easily disguisable as work.)

  22. MyBossSaidWhat*

    OP#1 – please get professional help. Just because a candidate tries to negotiate terms of employment, you feel betrayed?
    By your logic, everything that you didn’t tell her during the interview, that you just expected she do for you, you were lying about.
    Further extreme stuff does happen, and she may not have felt comfortable detailing an impending divorce, family member’s cancer, or whatever.
    I worked for someone with your attitude in the past. I can’t say too much right now, but the actions resulting from their attitude are now being hashed out in court. Please reconsider your mindset.

    1. WeevilWobble*

      I think you are projecting your own issues with your former boss on OP in a really unfair way. This is disproportionately harsh for the minor sin of being upset that her favored canidate is not going to work out.

      1. Czhorat*


        I don’t quite agree with the OP here, but their frustration is understandable.

        “Get professional help” is a really hostile response

    2. Myrin*

      I don’t think telling an OP to get professional help is very in line with the commenting rules (unless the letter is specifically about mental health in some way, which we’ve had in the past; this is not such a case).

    3. Specialk9*

      Harsh. I disagree with the OP, but in a gentler ‘you should reframe this’ way. Your phrasing is unkind and extreme.

    4. MyBossSaidWhat*

      I stand by what I said, and I didn’t mean it to be harsh. It’s highly concerning that the OP is unable to separate a business decision (whether Candidate would take Job and on what terms) from someone’s character/integrity. OP is making the situation oddly personal, which isn’t healthy and flags some potential boundary issues. Yes, my old boss obviously stepped over the line big-time – there was an unhealthy “employees are MY PROPERTY” attitude. But I’m sure they got that way over time.
      OP seems career oriented so learning to compartmentalize and grow a thicker skin are something a professional can help with.

    1. Czhorat*

      There’s selection bias in that we primarily hear horror stories. I’ve worked with some very good recruiters who actively listened to my needs and only presented me with opportunities if they seemed like a good fit. It’s like any other role in that there are good ones and not very good ones

    2. Specialk9*

      I was recruited for a job at the same time I was looking at two others. I chose the other job, but was so impressed by that recruiter I’ve stayed in touch for years. I just sat down with her for a quick chat at a conference, and in a few sentences she blew me away with helping realize a disappointing career shift was actually setting me up for long term success. Good recruiters are worth their weight in gold. Bad and middling recruiters are certainly more plentiful though!

      1. laylaaaaah*

        I think part of the reason is that if you’re not in recruitment to make money, you burn out really, really quick- even if you’re in it because you love helping people find a job that suits them. So all the bright, helpful sparks (mostly) go off into internal recruitment/HR, and the ones who aren’t ground into the dirt by the experience are, on the whole, the less pleasant sort.

    3. Fabulous*

      I’ve gotten a number of jobs through recruiters, mainly by cold-calling me too. They happened to call at the right time and got me an interview I may not have had otherwise. Both have turned out to be decent, long-term jobs and I’ve even gotten hired full-time after the fact twice. Yes, there are always some bad seeds, but just take any interaction with a grain of salt.

    4. SpaceNovice*

      It really depends on the quality of a recruiter.

      Bad recruiters are annoying. They’ll message you about jobs all over your country that are no where near where you want to live. Or they think they’ve narrowed down to your target area, but it’s actually still two hours of traffic.

      I’ve gotten two jobs through internal recruiters reaching out to me and making me aware of a position that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise.

      1. a1*

        I’ve had a lot of experience with recruiters not listening to location. Let’s say I was currently in PA, but had family in MI. When they’d call with a job and ask if I would relocate I’d tell them “I’d rather stay here (PA), but would look in MI since I have family there.” Them: “Oh, this job is in TX” … then a few days later they’ll call back with “I know you said MI, but how about CA?” Me: No. … a couple of days later “I know you said MI, but how about NC?” and so on. Look, I could understand if they were calling about OH or IN or WI since they are neighboring states to MI, but CA? NC? Stop calling me! I think I actually told one that, nicely, of course.

        1. SpaceNovice*

          Oh my goodness, that’s ridiculous! Cold offers are one thing, but trying location after location after you told them your preferences? Wow.

        2. The New Wanderer*

          They probably had a note next to your name saying “Willing to relocate, prefers MI” without the necessary “will not consider any other location.”

            1. Jennifer Thneed*


              I’ve gotten the same jobs from the same recruiter, in the same week.

              1. SpaceNovice*

                I think I’ve had that happen to me, too. Or multiple recruiters for the same job. That’s not anywhere near where I live or even remotely what I do now. Or needing 15+ years of experience. Or something that I USED to do but have obviously transitioned away from.

                On the other hand, you get the recruiters that are laser guided missiles who precisely execute a good match. (Whether or not the rest of the staff can bring the match home is another question. Sigh.) LinkedIn crawling of contacts’ contacts, checking the internal database for all recently submitted applications, checking in on promising contacts a handful of years later (complete with detailed notes), going through job boards, reading unsolicited cover letters/resumes if they’re especially promising, and attending local targeted job fairs: these are all things a good recruiter might do. A bad recruiter just checks off a few keyword tickyboxes and spam people to death until they finally get a bite.

                Good recruiters are worth their weight in gold.

  23. Delta Delta*

    #3 – Fix this. Fix it now. Tell your boss you feel left out and be open to ways to fix it. This will not end well if Boss is not aware of this issue.

    My tale: very similar physical office setup. I tried to assert myself and get involved in conversations between Boss and Coworker so I could be included. Coworker was threatened by the fact I tried to participate and, I am not kidding, would talk over me – increasing her volume so I could not be heard. Boss was unaccustomed to my attempt to participate and would not quiet Coworker. I gave up. Coworker used this power and control to attain a promotion. I was unaware a promotion was available because Coworker effectively used her proximity to Boss to keep me away from him, so I did not know this information. I left, and when I gave my notice Boss said he’d do anything to keep me. But he was unwilling to rein in Coworker, which was a dealbreaker. He was also unable to acknowledge that there was a problem that he had helped to create and could not see how this created a really toxic situation.

    1. Myrin*

      Not so willing after all to do “anything” to keep Delta Delta, eh, boss? What a frustrating situation, I’m really sorry and hope you found a better place to work!

      1. Delta Delta*

        It was frustrating. In hindsight, I should have spoken up to Boss much sooner and said something. But the truth is that most of the things they were discussing were not especially important (eg blue pens vs. black pens, where to order lunch for the monthly birthday celebration), and I figured I didn’t need to be a third wheel in a conversation that didn’t really have to do with my actual work. I did eventually point out to Boss during a rare time that Coworker was not around that she often actively screamed over me so I couldn’t be heard. He didn’t seem to care. My caution to the OP is that if her boss is like my boss was, eventually there will be a wedge that can’t be overcome and OP may find herself looking for a new job.

        FWIW, I have subsequently run in to Boss in public, who has made comments like, “boy, I sure do wish you were still around [and cites various reasons].” It’s like he genuinely doesn’t get what happened.

        1. Irene Adler*

          He doesn’t get what happened because he doesn’t understand why the idea of him reigning in the co-worker is important.
          I have a similar dynamic where I work. The guys are all ‘in the loop’ and I’m not. Tried talking to the men in charge (because there are no women) and my issue (not receiving essential info to do my job yet all the guys are privy to this same info) was dismissed as a non-issue. I guess the expectation is that one of the guys will fill me in. But, they don’t. I do get “I guess no one told you….” when I ask my boss about what’s going on with things. And I have to be savvy enough to bring up the topic or else I’d never find out anything. Yet, nothing changes.

          I have pointed out how this adversely affects product, causes unnecessary delays, might result in serious error on my part, but still, it’s a non- issue. Welcome to the 1970’s.

        2. OP3*

          I relate a lot to the bit about the unimportant conversations – individually it’s not critical for me to be there for all little things, but it adds up over time to a more troublesome dynamic. I’m sorry to hear your situation got so rough!

    2. Specialk9*

      That sounds incredibly frustrating! It sounds like your mental story is that this coworker schemed to cut you out. I can see how from her (and boss’) viewpoint things might have looked different – that she was involved in a conversation with someone, you walked up and tried to interrupt and so were being rude.

      One of the things I’ve started applying from Alison’s work ethos is the power of speaking up, in a way that people can listen to. I wonder if you had directly talked to the boss, they might have understood why you made a habit of walking up and butting into what felt like private conversations, and why they should make an effort to include you. Until you make a business case (I would like to learn, and have input ), they’re going to operate on social rules (ie don’t interrupt).

      I’m not saying this in anyway to criticize, but because sometimes a reframe of the situation helps you draw a different conclusion, and lets you identify a lesson learned that is actionable, that you can actually do something with, instead of just feeling angry. My partner is the master of us, he pulls something out and my whole world you shifts, and then I actually have an idea of what I can do with that, instead of just going in circles like I had been.

      1. Kate 2*

        She did do that though, talking directly to the boss alone. And even if you *think* a coworker is interrupting (which is sometimes necessary) raising your voice to the point of screaming is not the way to do it. Which it really didn’t sound like Delta Delta was doing anyway, it sounded like she was trying to join the work-related, relevant to her conversation and not interrupting (talking *while* coworker was talking).

  24. AvonLady Barksdale*

    Re: OP #1… The night before I left my last job, I asked a co-worker if the company had extended an offer to a candidate she liked. “We did! And then she came back and asked for $15k more than what she said she wanted! I can’t believe it!” She went into a whole tirade about this woman’s character, and she added that the CEO questioned the candidate’s integrity. (So, you see, I’ve heard this before.) My response was that the woman probably had another offer, or she realized we didn’t pay benefits (!), or she simply wanted to negotiate. Questioning her character based on a figure she gave before she knew the specifics of the job made leaving easier; I felt like I was surrounded by unreasonable, even unprofessional, people. (Well, I’d known that for a while, but this was one of the last straws.)

    A job offer is not a gift or honor bestowed upon a person. A potential employee has the right to weigh certain things and, yes, change her mind at the offer stage. Better she should do it after the offer than after her start date. You can always say no to her requests and let her weigh her options again.

  25. Argh!*

    LW 3, have you tried just standing up and walking over? “I couldn’t help hearing what you were saying about the blue teapots. I have a few ideas about that.”

    If it’s really a boys’ club and the desk placement was created to enforce that, you may just have to work on your resume. If it’s truly the desk placement, they may welcome your input if you just start chiming in.

    1. Shiara*

      The LW says she has: “I’ve tried walking over and participating a few times, but that feels like just butting in where I’m not welcome.”

      And it’s true that she may want to just try to get over that feeling and keep butting in, but I do think it’s worth raising with the boss, just to flag the dynamic/see if there’s something that could fix it easily (like her and the boss switching desks).

      1. Argh!*

        Feeling like you’re butting in isn’t the same as actually being unwelcome. If it becomes a habit, that feeling should go away. If everything you say is ignored, or the others walk away when you arrive, then that’s a signal that *they* think you’re butting in. There’s a huge difference there.

        1. OP3*

          Yeah that’s a good point; I wonder how much of that is just me feeling like I’ve violated a social norm when they didn’t think it was weird at all, and how much is them actually feeling that I’m being intrusive. Definitely something to pay attention to on my end!

      1. Specialk9*

        But I could see how they would feel like she could was butting in. We often rely on social norms until we realize the business norm. Ie don’t interrupt or butt into private conversations (social norm) vs I would like to learn and have been a chance to have input as a member of this team (business norm). I think the direct conversation with the manager is a great way to make sure it’s being addressed as a business thing.

  26. Probably Nerdy*

    Letter #2 freaks me out – I play with split ends, put my hair up and down, pull out my eyebrows and eyelashes, scratch my skin, doodle, mess with my cuticles, and fidget like a toddler. I’ve tried a lot of things – therapy, anxiety meds, silly putty. I bet I am super annoying in meetings…. :|

    1. Bea*

      It depends on your colleagues. We all used to do things like this in meetings that were dragging and lacked focus at my former place of employment. I only have one on ones now except sparse all company gatherings. Those are more engaging and I’m not paying attention to others to look at their quirks.

      The OP never noticed even now it’s a case of “I’ve seen it, I can’t unsee it.” many of us don’t notice and so it’s not an annoyance!

    2. MassholeMarketer*

      I’m SO glad I’m not the only one that uses silly putty in a professional environment! My desk is littered with random fidget toys to help me focus.

    3. anonagain*

      I don’t know what kinds of meetings everyone else is going to, but someone could pull *my* eyebrows out and it still wouldn’t be the most annoying part of the meeting.

      I hope your anxiety becomes more manageable, even if you never fidget any less.

  27. Samata*

    I do think its standard wording and open just means open and the OP shouln’t change wording OR get upset when people end up saying not.

    Things can change. I am open to relocating, sure. But if the offer comes up short, I get the sense the expectations of the role are different than I thought, or the environment or hiring manager don’t line up with me, etc. etc. etc. then I am no longer open. Saying you are open to relocating doesn’t mean you are DEFINITELY in if offered, it means for the right opportunity you would relocate, but you don’t have enough facts at the present time to say a hard yes or no.

    1. TheCupcakeCounter*

      This. I also wonder if the candidate spelled out the reasons for asking for full-time remote work. I can see having a different reaction if the candidate explained that based on the current offer they would prefer not relocating due to costs/area/whatever but would work remotely for that salary vs just countering with not relocating/working remotely. By giving the reasons why it would open up some different negotiations.

      I don’t think the OP needs to significantly change their wording but maybe preface the relocation question with a “due to the nature of this role we would need the person who fills it to be located here in X city to work onsite…is that a problem?”

  28. Glomarization, Esq.*

    OP#1: The fact that she is going back on her word does make me question her integrity.

    Well, that escalated quickly. OP#1, you asked if the candidate would be open to relocating. Based on their “yes,” you made an offer. But the candidate did not feel that your offer was enough to overcome the costs/inconveniences of relocating across the continent with no immediate possibility of working remotely. This was a business negotiation where the two of you couldn’t “come to a meeting of the minds.” It wasn’t personal and there’s nothing in the narrative that you presented that would make me question the candidate’s integrity. (In fact, they come across to me as someone who knows what they want and can stick to their guns in negotiations.) You simply didn’t find mutual satisfaction, that’s all.

  29. Ainomiaka*

    Related question to 4- is there a way to say “I will not apply to x company, but would be interested in other opportunities” that won’t get you on a recruiter blacklist? I get why it’s sometimes confidential, but. . .

    1. Jennifer Thneed*

      I do this all the time and I have not stopped hearing from recruiters.

      There is a local company* who I won’t even consider, and I tell recruiters why, in case they’re wondering why nobody wants to talk to them. I’ve watched their offered hourly go up over the years, too. Actually way back when, they routinely offered less than anyone else, as much as $5/hour less and I wondered how they hired anyone and figured that explained a lot of the problems there. Then they got to reasonable figures, and now they’re offering really high figures, but still having trouble filling seats. I WONDER WHY? (Spoiler: I don’t wonder why.)

      * The company is our local power company, PG&E. The reason I won’t even talk about those positions is NOT because they had a pipeline explode about 10 years ago that destroyed houses and killed several children, in a neighborhood quite close to a good friend’s family. I mean, that was a horrible tragedy and all, but that’s not why I won’t even consider them. It’s because of the way they have fought in court to avoid taking responsibility for the deaths, when we were seeing stories in our local paper every other day about how they didn’t even have records for pipeline inspections because the corruption has been so bad for so long. The records were so bad that they weren’t even sure where all the pipelines *were*!

  30. mf*

    #1: Did you only ask if she’s interested in relocating OR did you also tell her that remote work isn’t an option? Because if you didn’t explicitly say the latter, she may not have inferred that from you question about relocating.

  31. Anonymous Pterodactyl*

    Did anybody else stumble HARD on the use of “matrix” as a verb, and also have no idea how to deduce its meaning from context? Seriously, what.

    1. Rockhopper*

      Yeah, I raised an eyebrow at that. I assume the second sentence is meant to explain and if so, I guess I work in an org that is pretty matrixed. Who knew? Of course, since the topic is hair, maybe it had something to do with Matrix salons and hair care products?

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        It means more than one reporting line.

        I’d never seen the term used before, but I googled.

    2. WellRed*

      Yep. Hate it when people try to repurpose words to the point they lose meaning. Does “matrixed” mean people work on different things with different people? That’s pretty common.

      1. Anonymous Pterodactyl*

        Thank you! That’s a helpful link. I still kind of hate that term but at least now I know what it means.

        Now I’m unclear on what being “matrixed” has to do with the hair issue, unless it’s to indicate that the OP’s direct report is only her direct report some of the time on some projects? Does it imply a lack of firm authority over the report to address problems?

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          ” Does it imply a lack of firm authority over the report to address problems?”

          Maybe? Like maybe it implies that there could some managerial bystander syndrome (“Is it my job to deal with this? She reports to several other managers, as well; maybe one of them should address this.” Or, “If I address this, will my word on it stand if she goes around and talks to the other managers and they say it isn’t a problem?”) The responsibility/authority is somewhat diffused.

        2. Cordoba*

          Why do you hate the term? Unlike much of corporate speak this one is actually very clear. It is derived directly from the established mathematical definition of the word “matrix”.

          This is because the resulting org structure looks like (and is) a matrix. It’s probably the most straighforward term possible to describe the concept to which it refers.

          1. Anonymous Pterodactyl*

            Ugh, I had a comment and it got eaten.

            I will grant that the intensity of my emotions is perhaps a bit curmudgeonly, and I might dislike corporate jargon in general. But even so, the term seems… oblique.

            Once the above links were provided I caught the link to the original mathematical idea, but it wasn’t a meaning I could derive by *knowing* the math, and if you don’t know the math then the term is doubly baffling (“what does it mean?” plus “why is it called that?”).

            I think it’s generally questionable linguistic practice to appropriate a specialized term to describe a different specialized phenomenon. Jargon relies on specialized knowledge, but it shouldn’t (IMO) rely on specialized knowledge of an unrelated field (and yeah, I know that matrices aren’t hugely specialized, but they’re not super basic either).

            And I think there are probably better terms that could be used that would be more clear and immediately understandable. Using “matrixed” in this case comes across like… like whoever coined it was looking for a way to sound fancy, rather than a way to be clear and concise.

  32. Not actually OP3*

    I was so nervous as I was reading that this was my coworker! Both my coworker and I are women, though. We’re in a weirdly-shaped group office that has somewhat forced us into an arrangement where Boss and I sit across a half-height cube wall, and Coworker sits at the other side of the room. Boss does often peek around his monitor to talk to me about problems and projects, and doesn’t always call Coworker over. Coworker’s work is definitely suffering, and I know this plays into that; however, Coworker a) often has her headphones on (full blast) and so isn’t easy to pull over casually, and b) often doesn’t have all the context of the conversation, so it’s honestly become kind of a pattern to not include her. We’re moving to a new office within the year, where we’ll each have our own corner of a more normal-shaped office, but I worry that our same communication patterns will continue if we don’t address them beforehand. Any thoughts about how to navigate this from the included coworker’s perspective?

    1. Argh!*

      Can you say to boss, “Let’s get Lisa’s opinion on this” and then stand up and start walking over to her desk?

    2. WellRed*

      I will assume there’s a reason your coworker and boss can’t swap desks? A lot of people are suggesting that, but having just “consolidated” (administration’s word, not the rest of us sardines), moving desks and reallocating spaces can be …fraught. I like Argh’s suggestion.

      1. Not actually OP3*

        Well, the “reason” would be that Boss really likes his corner/not being totally visible when someone comes through our door, and the fact that we’ll be moving fairly soon anyway. I also like Argh’s suggestion! It will probably be weird (since Boss knows I have the answers he’s looking for), but there isn’t really a reasonable way for him to disagree. I’ll try it out!

    3. OP3*

      lol I relate to your coworker for sure. I don’t think my work is suffering so much (I’m generally a very independent worker aside from times when, because of this situation, I didn’t have the info I need) but I do see things like headphones and context exacerbating the problem. We share our space with several teams, so I wear headphones to help me focus in a loud environment. And then, by the time I realize an important conversation is happening and get over there, I have to ask them to start over so that I can get the full picture, which feels like a waste of time.

      I think Argh’s suggestion is great – if either my boss or my coworker would wave me over or shoot me an IM like, “Hey working through this issue – any thoughts?” when they were starting their conversation it would go a long way I think.

    4. Murphy*

      I had something similar in an old job. My boss, her boss, our admin, and the other people in our sub-unit all had offices next to eachother…and I was all the way on the other side of the building. The job ended up not working out for many reason, one of which was culture fit, and I think a big part of the problem was that I was so far away from everyone so I never really got a chance to mesh with the rest of the team.

  33. Mellella*

    I have a habit of playing with my hair and it’s one I’ve been trying to break. I have difficulty during meetings, at both my last job and this job you aren’t allowed to take notes or have anything in front of you. They designate one of the admins to take detailed minutes and notes and these get distributed to anyone at the meeting, along with any steps or things a person or group needs to do. We don’t have laptops, tablets or cell phones and our own phones must be off and put away during our work hours at all times so we can’t have them in meetings. With nothing in front of my mind wanders and I fidget. I’m trying really hard to break the habit. I have been caught not paying attention before and it’s embarrassing. If the job didn’t have such good management and benefits and was in a non recession proof industry I would definitely look for another job but the meeting thing is really my only complaint. It has been a hard habit to break though.

      1. Observer*

        It actually makes a lot of sense. Note taking can be a distraction. Having someone who does nothing but note-taking and distributes it means that everyone has the same information without slowing the meeting down.

    1. SpaceNovice*

      I’m glad they do the meeting minutes and distribute them with action items, and no laptops/cellphones/tablets is a good set of rules for a meeting (those sorts of things can prevent engagement). But prohibiting cellphones outside of meetings is a bit much, as is taking notes (I absolutely need this to write down thoughts that don’t interrupt the meeting!), and not allowing people to have anything in front of them is absolutely going overboard. I have ADHD and absolutely MUST keep my body subconsciously busy doing something during a meeting, or I cannot pay attention. Period.

      If your management is as good as you say they are, I would suggest sitting down with them and having a good chat about your need to do something with your hands during meetings. Something unobtrusive. They might not be aware that people’s brains might function this way. Also, let them know that sometimes people need to take notes to remember something that’s unrelated to the meeting and wouldn’t be captured in the meeting minutes or to write down a topic to discuss during a later portion of the meeting when it’s appropriate so that the thought isn’t lost. There’s a sweet middle ground to keeping the group focused, and they’ve flown right past it.

      1. Kay*

        I agree with you 100 percent about the notes, having something to keep busy and the company being control freaks.

        I don’t see what’s wrong with the no cell phones at work thing though. If they are personal phones and not work phones I don’t see what’s wrong with the company having a rule against it during work time. I’ve worked in the public and private sector before and I work at a nonprofit now and that rule has always existed everywhere I have worked (and it wasn’t due to security or confidentiality as I never worked with anything like that, or any trade secrets either). I understand employers not wanting people on their personal devices during working hours.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          My cell phone is also my calendar, and that’s true for most of my coworkers as well. If we need to schedule another meeting at the end of the meeting we’re in, we can do it easily if we all brought our phones. Otherwise, not so much.

          1. Observer*

            Eh. Whoever is doing the scheduling can send out a meeting invite. That should take care of it.

        2. SpaceNovice*

          It’s all right to not want people to be on their phones much during work hours; that makes perfect sense. But I use my phone as an assistive device to help me remember appointments (ADHD). My second reason is entirely for good reason, even though it sounds extreme: having it nearby allows me to also get emergency notifications about dangerous weather (tornadoes), traffic, terrorist attacks or violent crimes in progress nearby, family emergencies, bank fraud, and other critical information immediately. I only allow the important alerts through during work hours, of course, but cell phones are the primary delivery system for emergency alerts nowadays. Only places that have security areas that do not allow for cell phones can request me to not have one nearby, and ONLY because they have security measures in place that means it doesn’t compromise my safety (including security staff that monitor for situations and weather).

          (Sorry if that sounds angry or rude! I’ve just been through too many situations where an active cell phone has kept me, family members, or coworkers safe or in situations which have lead to the mass emergency alert systems being built in the first place. That includes active (and mass) shootings nearby, severe thunderstorms/flooding, and tornadoes. All of it has made me reasonably paranoid.)

      2. Observer*

        I mostly agree with you, except for the rule about cell phones. Not having them in meetings is often a really good rule. No personal cells at work is fairly common and not always unreasonable either.

        1. SpaceNovice*

          Oh, I agree that they’re good to prohibit in meetings! But I refuse to not have a cell phone nearby for emergency alerts unless I’m in a higher security area or in an area where information would get distributed quickly. I’ve seen some crap.

    2. Eye of Sauron*

      Oh wow, this is really controlling. How do you make note of something from a meeting that isn’t necessarily part of the meeting contents, but is relevant to a different group?

      Like, I may be sitting in a meeting where they are talking about teapot glaze and somebody mentions that we have to get the new order in because of the price increase deadline and that reminds me that I need to tell Wakeen to look into the coffee pot glaze order.

      I can understand cell phones and laptops, but not allowing personal note taking, that’s just draconian.

      1. Martine*

        Per the person who posted this comment:

        They designate one of the admins to take detailed minutes and notes and these get distributed to anyone at the meeting, along with any steps or things a person or group needs to do. 

        1. Jennifer Thneed*

          But those action items are only the stuff that’s spoken aloud in the meetings. People also get reminded of things they should do, and if they’re like me, they need to write those down now because they won’t be remembered later.

      2. Mellella*

        Whoever needs a reminder says something so it gets put on the to-do list I mentioned upthread.

      3. Decima Dewey*

        Appearing to take notes is how I show I’m engaged at a meeting. The act of writing also helps set what’s being discussed in my memory. Which is a good thing because I have terrible handwriting and often have to rely on my memory to figure what what that illegible word is.

  34. Michele (with one L)*

    I used to play with my hair all the time. It was subconscious and I tried to stop but it was hard to do so. My solution was drastic – cut 18 inches off so I was left with a 2 inch pixie – but it helped. It’s been 5 years and I no longer play with my hair subconsciously.

  35. CBH*

    OP1 – I haven’t had a chance to read all the comments yet. A lot of people can only dream of working remotely. I’m willing to say that she interpreted this job to be as training in NY (relocate for a few days) and then being allowed to work remotely (hence not having to move). She was probably excited at the opportunity to work from home not realizing that this is not a typical work experience in your company. In addition as others have stated you have both put in a lot of time with the interviewing process. Neither of you has made the commitment yet. I feel like this is more a matter of miscommunication.

    1. CBH*

      I’d also like to say with miscommunication…. if working remotely is a rare occurance in your company, it shouldn’t really be brought up in the interview process. Or there should at least be an emphasis that this is a benefit only available to employees with 2+ years and outstanding performance. Again I think this is a miscommunication but I feel like you presented working remotely as a common benefit to entice the candidate, when it really seams to be special circumstance.

      1. Karo*

        I don’t think she did offer remote work, though. It reads like the OP provided the remote work details to us so we could understand where she was coming from, not to the applicant.

  36. Fergus*

    #1 I had a recruiter contact me for a position, he said he could get me X salary. I live in MD the job was in FL. When it came to the offer it was 15K less. So I wasn’t going to relocate for now less money. If it would have been for the original I would have taken the job. Could have been same for candidate also.They agreed on vacation, or salary, or anything and when it was time to make the offer it was a bait and switch, and we have heard about a lot of them. A candidate has a right to say NO at anytime just like the employer does. They make sure you know that in the offer letter that an employee can be let go for any reason.

  37. stitchinthyme*

    Oops, I often play with my hair during meetings –braiding it, that kind of thing. Sucks that others take it as a sign you’re not paying attention, because having something to do with my hands is actually the thing that is keeping me from drifting! If I could get away with it, I’d bring knitting or crocheting, but I’m well aware that that’s not acceptable. So instead I bought a “fidget cube” that I can play with under the table — bit less obvious, and satisfies my need to have my hands occupied.

  38. Raina*

    1. OP says at the beginning of the interview process the candidate is “…looking and willing to relocate.” By the end of the letter this has turned into the candidate having given her word and going back on it … hardly reasonable. The candidate may well have investigated the possibility of moving and decided against it, but is still willing to consider the position. OP’s attitude toward this is now a red flag to the candidate to re-consider interest in this company.

    2. Perhaps it is helpful to make the feedback bigger picture and talk about body language overall and what she physically conveys to those around her … some actions convey disinterest/distraction, etc. Examining her hair can be used as an example.

  39. Malory Archer*

    OP 2 – I’m curious why your boss thought it wasn’t a good idea to talk to your employee about this habit. Did he give any indication as to his reasoning?

    As someone who also needs to keep my hands busy, I certainly sympathize with her, but I’d definitely want to know if a nervous habit of mine was negatively impacting others’ perceptions of me. Definitely let her know – you’d be doing her a service.

  40. Oxford Coma*

    LW #1, I’m not finding it clear from your language whether the applicant knew from the beginning that your company does do at least some remote work. Is the explanation of remote work you gave here (some people do it but not many, not newbies, and we kinda discourage it) what you told her, and at what point in the process did she receive this info?

    If the timeline is that you told her to come across the country for a job, and once she was immersed in the interview process she learned that your company does indeed have remote work…well, she probably feels a bit deceived. In that case, I would push back too.

    1. Dan*

      I’m not sure that the applicant would have felt deceived in the scenario that you described. At the last two companies I’ve worked for, we’ve had plenty of remote workers on staff. But the arrangement is similar to the OP’s — unless you bring a very desired set of skills, 99% of time you are expected to spend the first couple of years in the main office. At least, I’m so accustomed to that where I wouldn’t feel deceived to find out there were teleworkers on staff.

      That said, OP says that the candidate would be “perfect”. At my company, if we want you badly enough, telework can be negotiated out of the gate. OP’s tone is such that I would have thought she would have at least considered the candidate to be the exception.

      It’s like, I’m open to relocation for the right price, but I’m going to negotiate like hell for telework to avoid a cross-country move.

      1. LadyKelvin*

        Just wanted to second this statement. My husband works full time remote with a 6 hour time difference and there are a few people on his team that work remotely on the west coast when the office/job is on the east coast. I’m sure that people are told “oh we have a few other remote workers who you will meet when you work on these projects” in their interview but that doesn’t mean that they can ask to work remotely in the offer stage. In fact, my husband had to beg and plead to be allowed to work remotely and it came after 5 years of being a highly productive and valued employee and then there were lots of requirements, like working east coast hours, etc. It helped that he gave them an ultimatum and said Lady Kelvin got a job and we’re moving. Can I stay on as a remote employee. They knew he would quit if they said no and that they needed him because current politics made it difficult to hire people. Its made pretty clear that you have to work in the office when you join the team, and they even pay to fly you out to interview you. They also have a very generous relocation package and will do everything for you.

  41. Sled dog mama*

    #4 and all the comments make me incredibly happy that I’m in a small enough industry that almost all titles for recruitment pitches read: looking for a senior/junior teapot quality specialist, manufacturer located in big city/suburban area/rural area, salary in line with teapot QA professional organization Annual salary survey and if you ask the recruiter will tell you the company. Of course it also helps that the industry is small and you are likely only 1-2 degrees separated from someone who works there

  42. Amber Rose*

    Willing isn’t the same as definitely going to. I think it’s pretty fair to say that most people who say they are willing to do something have a silent “if it’s worth it” attached.

    I was worried for a second that the hair fiddler was me, but I guess it’s actually a lot of us, judging by the comments. I have wicked split ends and when I’m nervous/anxious/stressed/bored, I search them out and pull them apart. Not as much as I used to, but much like nail biting it’s a hell of a habit to quit. It would be valuable for me to hear if I’m doing it a lot again, since I often don’t even realize I’ve started, I do it subconsciously.

  43. Elizabeth West*

    With the candidate who doesn’t want to relocate, maybe after looking closer at the location, she changed her mind? It’s entirely possible to apply for the job thinking you’d do it and then get turned off later. Or something on her end could have changed drastically and she doesn’t want to bring it up.

    I did this last week. I applied for a job with a government agency I’m not wild about, in a city where I don’t really want to live, in a state whose politics I hate (GA), that’s actually temporary. But it would be good experience, and it pays well enough that I might be able to save up enough to move away (my worst nightmare is getting stuck again). Also, the experience would likely propel me in the direction I want to go.

    Today, I got an email that said they were reviewing my application. I freaked out a little because I’m awfulizing the worst-case scenario and I’m sooo tempted to withdraw from the process all together. So maybe she’s doing the same thing.

    1. patricia*

      Off topic, but native Georgian here (I’ve lived elsewhere as well), and if the city is Atlanta, please know the local politics aren’t nearly as conservative, and there are good people and cool things to do here! I don’t want to derail the thread but if you’d like to meet up in the open thread on Saturday and discuss, I can give more details. If it’s not that city, I can speak knowledgeably about other “metro” areas in the state as well (quotes because everywhere else is…not the size or have the amenities that I would consider a city).

  44. CM*

    OP#5 – I agree that a casual checkin is good, but I think at this point you could also mention that you’re going to start looking around for other opportunities and see if that helps your friend speed things up on his end. I think waiting until you’re close to an offer with another job may be too late, given the slow pace you’ve seen already.

  45. Master Bean Counter*

    #4–I sympathize. I work for a conglomeration of Tea pot manufacturers. Once I was approached for an interesting opportunity in the tea field. The recruiter flat out refused to tell me no only who the company was, but also refused to tell me what their specific tea product was. If it had been tea bags, there was no possibility of a conflict of interest with my current employer. But if it had been tea cups, there might have been a conflict of interest. I flat out told the recruiter that I wouldn’t even consider the position with out knowing if I was putting my current job in jeopardy by applying.

  46. MassholeMarketer*

    I feel like my boss or something wrote #2 because I do this ALL THE TIME in meetings without realizing it. My boss and a few others have brought it up to me and I’ve been trying to fix the issue. My boss and I figured something out that works for us: whenever I start doing it, my boss gives me a pen and in turn I know I’m doing it. At that point, I’ll fiddle with the pen under the table instead. I always need to be doing something with my hands. It’s not that I’m not paying attention – I just get hyper focused on fidgeting.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      There are some links to fidget rings upthread, which are quite pretty and work with a professional outfit. (Spouse and mother of fidgeters here.)

  47. blondie*

    OP2: OMG I pick at my split ends all the time! I can do it for 45 mins straight without even realizing it. Even if my hair is tied back it’s long enough that I can still look at the ends and sometimes I’ll even undo the pony tail so I can look for those split ends more thoroughly.

    It’s so satisfying to find really bad ones and pull the broken part off the end of the hair. I’ll count the number of splits, etc. I know it’s a weird habit but it’s more common than you might guess.

    It’s also a tough habit to break and people who don do it definitely think it’s weird (it drives my family crazy). I do think you should mention it to her as she might not realize so many people are noticing.

  48. MissDissplaced*

    Oooh… confessed hair twirler here!
    I do it when I’m deep in thought or considering something. According to my mom, I’ve done it my whole life!
    Definitely habit!

  49. jo*

    OP4, if this happens again, I recommend you just go for it with the recruiter. It’s true the hiring company might not be one you like, but in case it is, you don’t want to miss out. After all, you shouldn’t have to spend all *that* much time on an application submitted through an external recruiter–that’s the recruiter’s job! They put in the time and legwork on the logistical stuff, and your effort is minimal until it’s time to interview, at which point you know what the company is and can back out if you want.

    1. Kitty OP#4*

      That’s possible I suppose, but my industry is fairly small in my country, there aren’t a lot of large companies, and I’ve never heard of any company doing this before (I’ve been in the industry for ten years). Most of the desirable companies in the industry would want to broadcast that loudly as it’s what would draw more applicants. In fact I’ve only had bad experiences with companies that use recruiters in this industry.

      In this particular case it actually turned out to be the one company I was thinking about that has the poor reputation for toxic work culture, so I suspect they may have had trouble getting applicants when it was posted under their name!

  50. OP#4 - Kitty*

    Thanks Allison for answering my question! That does explain why this is apparently a very common thing, if they are looking to protect their commission. Though I still find it hard to understand why people would apply for a job where they don’t know the company.

    It turns out that in this case, the company was actually the one I was thinking of that has the very poor reputation for toxic work culture (I found out through colleagues because another colleague had got the job). They mentioned that the job had been posted under the company’s name previously and got very few if any applicants, so maybe they realised their reputation was driving away applicants!

    1. SpaceNovice*

      The lengths companies will go to in order to hide from a company’s problems instead of fixing them….

  51. VagrantJuan*

    Re: #1, I’ve seen this from both sides of the table.

    I live in the US, and have for much of my life with 3 short stints overseas. I was living in the US and interviewing with a company in the UK. They made it clear that it was required that I relocate. I was really interested in the job — it was a great opportunity, and I was a great fit — and my wife seemed to be open to it, almost approaching it like “wouldn’t it be lovely to live in England? I think I’d love it!” I went through three rounds of interviews, things were getting serious — they verbally indicated that I could expect an offer — and then all of a sudden the specter of pulling up roots really started to “become real” for my wife, including the realization that Pit Bulls are banned in the UK meaning we couldn’t bring our dog (who is very much a part of the family). Long story short, we were *very* open to relocation when we started the discussion, but by the end of the process we were not. It had nothing to do with the opportunity, and I was never being disingenuous with the company, it’s just that the situation evolved, and feelings changed. Dramatically.

    I’ve also interviewed candidates who were similarly on board with relocation. They went through a number of rounds of interviews, came on-site three times, we set up a city tour with him and his wife, we even had a verbal acceptance from him, but… his wife was a practitioner of a non-mainstream religion, and after visiting the city and trying to connect with other adherents to see what the community was like, she decided that she was not willing to move here because there just wasn’t enough of a community of “her people” here.

    I don’t think anyone went back on their word in either of these cases, and I don’t think there was any betrayal in OP#1’s case either. These things happen. Cost of doing business.

  52. Gotham Bus Company*

    Letter #3…

    I went through the exact same thing in a job I had from 1993 to 1996. That boss deliberately and continually kept me out of the loop so he could later use my “lack of awareness” to justify denying me a promotion. I suspect the same is happening with you.

  53. Jacksonian*

    #4 One thing I’ve noticed with these recruiters is pasting part of the job description of requirements into Google will give you the actual job like 95% of the time. Then it’s up to you if you want to go directly or through the recruiter.

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