coworkers use me as tech support, coworker is demanding thank-you rewards, and more

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

1. My coworkers want to use me as their personal tech support

I started a new job about six months ago where I’m the youngest and most tech-savvy on a team of around a dozen very nice people. Our jobs don’t require a ton of computer work, but even so, I’m very often called upon to help with questions. I truly don’t mind helping with work-related issues and will happily spend some time troubleshooting to identify the problem, since I think it’s part of being a good team member.

However, now I’m also getting a lot of questions about personal things — how to email pictures on your phone is a particularly frequently asked question. Between a few regular culprits and everyone else’s more sporadic requests, I’m asked for help on personal stuff 3-4 times a week. I’ve tried just saying I don’t know if it seems like it will take a little while to figure out, but people seem very disappointed that I won’t even try, and will sometimes ask me if I’m sure, if I can just take a look, etc.

Honestly, it’s more the principle of it than the actual impact on my time. It’s definitely a bit distracting, but I can’t say it has a huge impact on my work. Mainly, I can’t help but wonder if they’re maybe leaning on me too much or coming to me too quickly. When I explain how to do anything, work or personal, they never write anything down, and will often come back with either the same or very slight variation on the same question a week later. When I used to manage people, I would ask them what they’ve already tried, or even straight up tell them (nicely) that they should try googling it, because that’s what I would be doing anyway. I’m just not sure the same tactics are a good idea here, where I’m the youngest and newest on the team, and not anyone’s boss. Am I being unreasonably protective of my time? Is there a way I can politely get out of this or do I just need to suck it up as a team member?

If it was impacting your work, I’d say to be very direct about that — “Sorry, I’m on deadline right now,” “I’m swamped with X today, so can’t help but you should be able to find easy directions online,” etc. And frankly, you can still do that even if it’s not strictly true.

You can also try something like, “I want to teach you how to do this so that you’re not dependent on me. It’s actually very straightforward. (Instructions) Does that make sense for next time?” Or even, “I actually don’t know off the top of my head, so let me show you what I would do to find the answer, so that you have the same tools as I do.” And then if they come back with the same question later, you can say, “Did my instructions from last time not work?”

You also may need to just get comfortable with people’s disappointment when you won’t help, and when people push you to just take a quick look or whatever, you may need to be okay with saying, “Sorry, I really can’t — it would take a while.”

But that said, it’s possible that there’s value in accommodating some of these requests when you do genuinely have the time. It could be the kind of thing that gives you a reputation as a sort of go-to, competent person, or that just helps you build relationships and good will with coworkers. Not necessarily — it’s also possible that people could just use you as a replacement for Google and you won’t get any real benefits from it — but it’s worth considering whether there is value in being helpful at least some of the time, if you’re not too annoyed by it.

Read an update to this letter here.

2. My coworker is demanding “thank-you points”

Our company has a platform where we can “gift” coworkers when we want to say more than a big “thank you.” These thank-you points are worth money, and we can save them up and buy anything from the company shopping mall (they offer a wide range of products up to a couple thousand dollars).

I am a scientist, and there has been a high priority study that started two weeks ago. A technician was appointed to help with the study, and I gave him one task, which took him 3-4 days to finish. There will be more tasks for him to do. Along the way, I thanked him for working hard on the task. But as soon as he finished the first task, he says, “Hey, I would appreciate some thank-you points, you know?” and I told him “umm, I don’t think that is something you ask for” and he said, “I’m not embarrassed to ask. I would really appreciate some points.”

Last year he did something similar and said, “If you give me some points, I’ll give you some in return.” When this happened I said, “Please don’t give me any points in return for me giving you points, that is completely unethical and could get both of us in trouble. I was planning on giving you points anyway so you should get them soon.”

Now that he is demanding points again, I feel this is wrong and he needs to stop. I was thinking about giving him points when the study is completed, but we are far from completing the study, and I felt like it was wayyyyy too early for him to ask for such a thing. It’s true that it won’t cost me my money to give him points, but it doesn’t sit well with me. I am pretty close to this technician at a personal level, and even though he has been working here longer than me, he has come to me seeking advice for not getting promotions, etc.

Do you think I am too sensitive? Maybe this is what motivates him, and that is why our company has such a platform to help out with such employees? To make everybody’s job easier? One part of me says “don’t be so emotional about this, who cares — it’s not my money, just give him what he wants. And make him keep up the good work.” My true self says “this behavior is unethical, and I should not let this happen again, I need to be more adamant about how I won’t give out points just because he demands it and hold out till I feel like he deserves points.” 

I think this is one of those things where people will just use these differently — some people will be comfortable asking for them and arranging trades, and some won’t be. But people in the first category should pick up on cues from people in the second category and not push.

I’d just be matter-of-fact about it: “I’ll definitely give you points at the end of the project, but I wait until then.” And if he pushes after that: “Like I said, I don’t give them mid-project, but I’ll make sure you get them at the end.” If he keeps pushing after that, he’s the one making it weird.

And if you really do think that your company would frown on this, it’s worth telling him that, especially since he’s asked for your advice in the past. You could say something like, “Hey, so that you know, my sense is that the company would actually consider this kind of trade to be unethical, and that they really want points to be spontaneous, not something people ask for. I think they’d frown on this kind of approach.”

3. Should I follow up when I don’t hear back from cold emails?

So after a career change and recertification I’m starting to look for work experience in my new field. It’s really common in this work to take on short-term (1-2 weeks usually, a month max) unpaid work with a business to gain experience, and after doing a few stints at various places you gain connections and more often than not a job offer. Kind of like a paying your dues and getting to know the industry sort of thing.

I’m fine with having to do this, but my problem is getting my foot in the door essentially. These aren’t the sort of things listed on job boards like internships, you have to ask them to take you on. I have very few connections in the industry so my only way to contact businesses is through emails listed on their websites. Most all of my emails go unanswered, and I’m wondering what’s the etiquette for getting in touch multiple times and how to go about doing that. My first email is basically along the lines of “Hi, my name is X, I’m a recent graduate of X, and am looking to see if you take on work placements. I really love X and Y about what you do and would appreciate the chance to learn more.” After sending this and not hearing back after a couple of weeks, is it appropriate to send another email? And if so what? Should the content of my intitial email be different or is there something else about this process that I’m going about in totally the wrong way?

I hate the cold calling nature of it and half of my frustration comes from the feeling that they aren’t even being read at all and are just ending up in some rarely checked inbox.

Don’t follow up. You’re reaching out cold to a stranger and asking them to help you with something; if they don’t reply, assume they’re not interested and move on. Following up again is likely to be annoying (and is likely to come across like you’re not reading cues correctly — the cue being that they didn’t respond because they’re interested.)

For what it’s worth, this is a very strange model for your field to follow, and I’m wondering if this cold-emailing is a standard part of it or if most people are getting their work placements through connections, school, etc. Cold-emailing isn’t normally a strategy that pays off in most contexts, and particularly when it comes to getting work. It might be useful to talk to others in your field about exactly how they went about finding those placements — and lean on your network instead of on strangers. (I know you said you have few connections in the industry, but building one might pay off more than these emails will.)

4. Why don’t hiring managers apologize for rescheduling interviews?

I’m job hunting now and in all three interviews I’ve had scheduled so far, the hiring manager ended up rescheduling. This is annoying of course, especially since the second interview for one job ended up being rescheduled twice. But I’ve noticed this weird and (to me) off-putting thing where the hiring managers always say “thank you for your flexibility” — as if I have a choice (they surely know I, a new grad, can’t afford to be picky). Why doesn’t anyone just suck up their pride and apologize with a “sorry”?

Some people do. I do! But I think you’re reading too much into specific wording. “Thanks for your flexibility” is an acknowledgement that they caused inconvenience.

5. Boss makes us use out-of-office emails and voicemails for short breaks

I’ve finally landed a full-time job in my field after graduating last May, so I don’t know if this is a normal thing or not. I work on a team that spends most of our time supporting clients and working with them to solve problems. Typically, each person on our team is responsible for one area of the client’s needs, but we’re cross-trained to an extent.

Our manager/team lead requires us to put up an out-of-office Outlook message and voicemail if we’re going to be away from our desks for longer than a bathroom break (that’s literally how he’s explained it). Any lunch or other time requires both of these messages, and we get in trouble if he “catches us” (again, his words) not doing either of these. Is this normal? People on my team have different thoughts about it, but this seems way too much to me.

It’s not unusual to be expected to put up an away message on something like an instant-messaging program if you’re at lunch or in a meeting or so forth. But having to set up an email auto-reply and change your voicemail is pretty unusual for such short periods of time.

Do you work in a field where clients get antsy if they don’t know when they can expect to hear back from you? If so, that could explain this. If not, I’d be curious to hear your boss’s reasoning. If you don’t know his thinking, that’s a reasonable thing for you to ask about. Not in a confrontational, “this is stupid” way, but by saying something like, “Is the reason for the out-of-office emails and voicemails when we’re away from our desks because clients have gotten antsy when they don’t know when we’ll be available? Or is there another reason it helps to do this?”

{ 379 comments… read them below }

  1. Fiennes*

    #5 — it seems like requiring out-of-office emails and voicemails for brief, routine daily absences is an extraordinarily inefficient use of employee time. Not to be pessimistic, but this sounds like a boss who is either a micromanager or one with a very poor understanding of his employees’ workflow.

    1. Aphrodite*

      I agree. It would be unsettling for me as a client to get an out-of-office auto reply if it covers lunchtime.

      1. Amber T*

        One of our vendors has this… if I call him and he’s not at his desk (because he’s in the bathroom? He’s talking to Jane down the hall? Getting a snack from the vending machine? I don’t care!), his voicemail says he stepped away from his desk but will be back “momentarily.” He has a different one for when he’s on the phone with another client and when he’s out of the office. Honestly, it’s kind of weird. I don’t need to know his every move, and we have a good enough professional relationship that I know he’ll return my call or email when he’s available.

        1. chocoholic*

          I have had places where my VM said that I was in the office but away from my desk, and there was a different message that would pick up when I was on the phone. I changed it to say that I was out of the office and when I would be back when I was out. It was just that office’s culture. Haven’t done it at other places where it was not the culture.

        2. SoCalHR*

          This at least sounds like it *may* be automated, which makes it less annoying. If he has 3 or 4 set out of offices programmed into his phone and he just has to hit the right button, then that is less of a big deal (and kind of a nice feature) than having to manually set an OOO or VM when you step away for a meeting.

    2. Diamond*

      Yep, seems totally ridiculous to me! And as a client I’d be confused to get an out-of-office-for-lunch automated email.

      1. LouiseM*

        Agreed. Especially if you’re the kind of person who likes to manage their inbox very tightly, it’s a huge pain in the a** to get an out of office reply, and then an actual reply 10 minutes later.

      2. Seriously?*

        I can see it possibly for the phone if people are used to instant response. But e-mail usually does not assume a response within an hour. Personally, I think that the minimum threshold for an out of office e-mail message would be being out for a whole day. Even that is not needed in most professions.

        1. One of the Sarahs*

          Even if was a case of the phonecalls needing an immediate response, it’s surely easier to instigate pick up group systems, where other colleagues take calls when one is away from one’s desk? Or call forwarding?

      3. Pine cones huddle*

        It also would make me think he’s the kind of boss that expects you to respond immediately to every email or call.

        1. OP #5*

          He definitely is that type of boss. I think he’s been yelled at by clients (or his boss?) when clients don’t have instant access to us to solve their problems. It makes me feel guilty for even going to the bathroom or stepping away for air.

          1. Beth Jacobs*

            Hm. Either you’re in an industry where clients really need instant access (I’m thinking something like stock trading) – in that case, the voicemail isn’t cutting it, you need call forwarding. But if your job is like most jobs, those requests can wait a few hours and your boss needs to better manage clients’ expectations. Either way, the voicemail isn’t the right solution.

        2. irony*

          “It also would make me think he’s the kind of boss that expects you to respond immediately to every email or call”

          Yeah, what a jerk

    3. Cafe au Lait*

      I have colleagues who will put up OOO emails on meeting heavy days. The email basically says “I’m around and I’ll respond as soon as I can.”

      I like it as it gives me some idea of when they might respond; the next day opposed to the same day, or even the day after that. I also know to follow up if I don’t hear back in 48hours.

      That being said…I don’t expect to hear back from my peers for a minimum of two hours. Sooner than that, and I assume they were checking email when mine came through and they had time to respond right away. For research-driven inquiries, I mentally file it as “next day.” It sounds like the boss in #5 wants to give the appearance of “We’re on it!” when in reality it’s just going to look silly to clients. OR he’s had a bad client who ended up on an irate tirade when one of the staff didn’t respond in a ‘timely’ manner. Boss now is trying to circumvent a similar issue without realizing that it’s not the communication out but rather a client’s difficult expectations which caused this mess.

      1. Gotham Bus Company*

        I sometimes have lots of work activities outside the office and do something similar (“I will be in the office irregularly for the next month and will check my messages as soon as possible”).

    4. CityMouse*

      This sounds like a huge waste of time. Even with the alternate greeting set up already, changing the voicemail settings is time consuming. Maybe for something like emergency medicine this would matter, but most industries do not expect every phone call and email to be answered asap, so what is the point? Agreed this sounds like extreme micromanaging.

    5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      When I worked for the feds, one of our departments had to do a variation of this (i.e., put up an OO email and change your vmail if you’d be out of office for 2 or more hours—it made sense for that specific department). One employee was so irritated with the change in policy that he started recording long voicemails about the weather that day, how God was good, have a blessed day, etc. It was wild.

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        When I worked for the state as an inspector, we were supposed to update our VMs every week to include our weekly schedule. This irritated a lot of people, needless to say, because we usually had several inspections a week, and the VM would end up being like 2 minutes long. No one wants to listen to that. So of course someone went super detailed. “I am planning to be in at 8:00AM Monday, and will have my morning coffee at 8:05. I will be reading emails until 8:30, at which I will walk down to the garage and get into my car to arrive at my first inspection by 9:00……..”

          1. Mine Own Telemachus*

            There’s an entire subreddit about this called “Malicious Compliance.” It’s perfect.

      2. peachie*

        That would drive me nuts (having to change the voicemail, not your coworker). All the office phones I had required you to re-record your message (rather than having a saved “out of office” one) so it’s not like you could even plan breaks at the same time!

        1. Former Employee*

          Thank you for “beautiful level of petty”. I, too, doubt I would have had the nerve to do that when I worked in an office environment, though I would have admired anyone who did.

    6. Kelly L.*

      Yes! I’m reminded of how some people in the LiveJournal days would dramatically “go on hiatus” for really brief periods of time, which led somebody to make a graphic that said something like, “Hiatus: Gone to Get Diet Coke!”

      1. Annie Moose*

        Don’t fret, those days are definitely not behind us. People still pull that in various fandom communities!

    7. AdAgencyChick*

      Right?! What happens if an impromptu meeting gets called? “Sorry, I’ll be there in a few minutes, but I need to change my voicemail reply first.”

    8. Fergus*

      I would make one for when I have to use the men’s room for a longer time and say. Due to a intestinal distress I am pooping. I will return your call/email after I finish. Can you spare a square?

    9. Turquoisecow*

      I used to work with a guy – he was in a separate office from most of the company and so could get away with this – who had his out of office message on all the time. It said something like “I’m in the office but I’m very busy and I only look at my email twice a day so I might be a while responding to you.” It had a kind of confrontational tone, like “I’ll get to you when I get to you, so there!”

      Whenever I emailed him, usually just to tell him I’d completed some task he’d asked for, I’d usually hear back like within five minutes. I’m not sure if the response was intended for certain people who emailed him more often, but I found it funny that he’d say “don’t expect me to respond right now,” and then respond quickly. I do know that part of the reason his requests were given to me was that was that my boss found him pretentious as heck and couldn’t stand him. He also felt the OOO message was in bad taste.

      Eventually the company closed the small office and moved that guy into the same building as the rest of us. They also gave him a smartphone, so there was no excuse for not answering emails. I’m not sure if any higher ups actually reprimanded him though.

    10. Samiratou*

      Absolutely. I rarely get phone calls and don’t even know how to change my voicemail at this point, and Outlook OOO are for full days, pretty much.

      I have never worked with anyone who has sent an OOO for a meeting or lunch break and would think it extremely odd.

    11. Kittymommy*

      No kidding. I can’t imagine how much time this wastes every single time they walk away from their desks. It would also give me the impression, if I was a client, that the person is never there. I have a feeling it will give the exact opposite impression of the company than the boss thinks.

    12. essEss*

      “When it will take longer to set up the OOO and voicemail message than the amount of time I’d be away from my desk, you are now doubling my time that I’m unavailable to customers.”

      1. Magee*

        I’d maybe phrase it a little less confrontational, but I like the reasoning behind this.

      2. Oilpress*

        I think that may be part of the intention here…to discourage people from bothering to leave their desk if it’s going to be that much trouble.

    13. Amanda*

      My standard voice mail greeting includes, “I am in the office today, but away from my desk. I will return your call when I return.” Then if I am actually out of the office, I will change it to note my return date.

      Email definitely does not need an OOO, unless the response requested will take longer than a business day. Then I appreciate a note acknowledging that my request has been received and a timeframe for response.

      1. CM*

        I was thinking this too — set up a VM that basically says you’re not available all the time. I wonder if there’s a way to set your email to auto-reply if you’re away from your desk for longer than, say, 10 minutes, or if your calendar says you’re busy.

    14. Anon For This*

      For me, it would depend on the type of business. If they don’t handle highly time-sensitive stuff, it would be weird. If they do, I would appreciate it. In industries like media/news, healthcare, some types of law firms, manufacturing (if there are safety risks or other major things that can go wrong), and others come to mind.

      But if it is a time-sensitive industry, changing your voicemail message and setting an email auto-reply aren’t necessarily the best solutions. It would be better to have one voicemail that includes and alternate number to call, and that info could be included in the person’s email signature and company profile if they have one. LW could bring this up with their boss by suggesting these time-saving alternatives.

      1. Decima Dewey*

        I hate OOO email messages. Half the time I get them when I’m just passing along something that isn’t time sensitive, but that I’m required to email someone about. Yes, I know you’re OOO and I know who’s covering for you in case of emergency. It’s just the schedule for the week after next.

  2. Tim Tam Girl*

    I wonder if LW3 has re-trained as a chef, because this sounds a lot like the staging system and I don’t know of other industries that do anything similar. If that is the case, it would be great to hear from industry people about this because my understanding from the chefs I know is that it wouldn’t be unreasonable to ask more than once, especially if it’s a very busy or high-profile restaurant.

    1. Burts Knees*

      I was thinking it sounded a little bit like the entertainment industry, where all the jobs tend to be word of mouth, or posted in private facebook groups that you have to be invited into. Even the official job list that everyone uses isn’t openly available, you have to know someone who has access to it to forward it to you. I cold emailed quite a bit when I first was getting started. I got one interview out of it. I did not get that job.

      1. Patty Mayonnaise*

        Yeah, but I’ve never heard of anyone working for two weeks without pay to get their foot in the door in the entertainment industry. Internships are super important though, and informational interviews can go a long way too.

    2. CoffeeLover*

      Would it be worth going in person rather than emailing? While it’s usually discouraged on this site, I think it would make sense if it’s a chef-like position you’re looking for. Walking around and talking to people works (I’ve mentioned before that both my father and brother recently – as in the last 5 years – got jobs doing this). You don’t to be aggressive about it; just go in and introduce yourself.

    3. Op #3*

      Yep I am a chef. I had wondered how much industry specific advice I would be able to get here because I don’t know if I’ve ever seen any other questions or comments from people in food but I thought it was worth a shot!

      Everyone I know that’s gotten a stage has done it by cold emailing so while it may seem weird to the outside, like basically all other conventions that kitchens have, it is a thing that’s done and with success. Chefs are also notorious for not emailing and being hard to contact which is what prompted me to feel like sending follow up emails. I don’t know enough high level chefs to be able to ask how long you’re expected to wait on a response etc so I mostly feel like I’m flying by the seat of my pants figuring this out.

      1. eplawyer*

        Ask the folks you know who got jobs from cold-emailing what you put in the email. Just like a good cover letter, you need a good email that emphasizes what you can do for the restaurant.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        I’d also hook back to those people who have jobs and to your training program–usually the program would have some feelers out to local employers.

      3. Sabine the Very Mean*

        Do you have kitchen experience besides your education? I too changed careers to become a chef but I went the route of starting as a dishwasher after working as a school teacher for a few years. I was in the dish pit for a few weeks before I moved to prep. A month there then line. Ended as a breakfast chef before going back to grad school. I’d still do a day in the pit. It was fun and it got me the respect of my colleagues. Also, think about doing a fun side gig like a YouTube channel. In graduate school, I made a stoner chef series where I made gourmet munchie food. People liked it.

        1. Anon For This*

          Yes! Dishwashing gigs are a way in. I’ve washed dishes in plenty of places where I could have easily moved up had I had the skills for it (I’m really clumsy due to a medical issue so I can’t be a line cook). There were plenty of times when someone was late or absent or they just needed an extra hand.

          I think the restaurant industry is kind of like entertainment in that there are a lot of people who think very highly of themselves, but there are a lot of flaky people too (sometimes the same people). You have to deal with a lot of being told you’re not good enough, but if you’re the person who’s reliable and steps in when other people don’t show up, you’ll gain respect and opportunities.

      4. Gala apple*

        Can you show up in person to ask to stage? That’s how my brother got a few gigs. Good luck to you!

      5. bohtie*

        I was going to say, “If they’re a chef, then whoever they’re reaching probably checks their email like once a month.” (I’m not in the restaurant industry, but I was married to a chef for several years who probably went through fifteen jobs in the time we were together, so I feel some of the pain by proxy, haha.)

        Could you contact them by phone? People who are terrible about looking at their emails tend to have *some* preferred method of communication, and unfortunately for me, it’s usually phone calls. You may also have luck if you see a place that’s already hiring for paid work, because you know they need bodies, and picking you up might buy them some extra time to interview people.

        It may also be worth your time to have your cohorts, or people with slightly more experience than you, look at the email you’re sending. I remember seeing with my ex that restaurant industry cover letters/introductions, especially for short-term gigs, tended to be… colorful? He mostly worked in bars and pubs, but even at fancier places, the notes he sent out that successfully got him interviews were *very* casual (and in some cases, contained creative profanity — I was like “There is no possible way that’s going to get you an interview, right? Why would you do that?” and within 24 hours he was on his way in for a trail, haha). That may vary from city to city, but it may be worth investigating what the typical tone for these things is, and if you’re putting out something similar.

        Finally, and I apologize if I’m telling you anything you already know, but make sure you get as much face-to-face networking done as you can, because SO MUCH of this industry is “I know a guy who knows a guy.” If other people in the kitchen can vouch for you, that’s gonna push you right up the food chain. So to speak.

        1. Out of Office Message*

          “If they’re a chef, then whoever they’re reaching probably checks their email like once a month.”

          So true, my BIL is a chef and emailing him is pretty much useless. “Hey 15 people, we’re organizing an outing/barbecue/party!” turns into 37 emails over 2 weeks and he’ll be like “Wait what hike tomorrow?”

      6. Kathy*

        I worked as expo for a while when I was in college and would help out with prep and stuff here and there. It’s not difficult to move into the kitchen, but tbh I’ve never heard of anyone hiring for an exec chef straight out of school.

        Something that you can try though is working with a recruiter for the restaurant industry. My ex did this, just because he had went to college originally for something completely unrelated and was technically “behind” all of his peers that started working in dish pits when they were in high school.

      7. Starbuck*

        How is it legal to work unpaid for a week? Is this just another restaurant-industry-ignoring-the-rules thing?

        1. MsSolo*

          I don’t know about the US, but in the UK it’s often framed as an “interview”. A two week long interview, where you provide a lot of unpaid labour. Super, super dodgy. Like, I get that you need to see someone in action in the kitchen, to see how they fit with your other chefs and deal with the stress and the hours, and the interviewee can walk away saying they have experience in a michelin starred kitchen, but it’s still free labour and it’s still closes off the industry to people who can’t afford to go that long without a source of income.

      8. FoodGloriousFood*

        I was at an event last year and met a rep from Poached Jobs – not sure of your area, the current listings seem to have a PNW focus, but I wanted to share!

    4. WS*

      It’s also not unreasonable in this particular industry to drop in a resume in person and be clear that you’re open to filling in/covering shifts/doing trial work for them. Briefly and politely, but it’s a very, very fast-moving and high turnover industry so emails don’t always make it to the “important” pile.

      1. Mookie*

        Yep. Depending on the city or region, staging gigs (for locals and for people on working holidays) can be competitive and some are first-come first-served, so in my experience dropping off contact information and a resumé in person (back door or with FOH staff) garners a lot more than interest and personal attention than an e-mail. It can feel like you’re making a pest of yourself, but people don’t generally bat an eye. The uncertainty of this little dance can definitely be unnerving the first few times, so the LW’s misgivings are really very normal.

        1. Mookie*

          Also, Op #3, if you trained locally it’s worth keeping in touch with fellow students about where they’re getting the most experience.

        2. Op #3*

          I’ve thought about dropping by in person but have always been anxious about seaming annoying or just assuming my cv will get put in a file somewhere and never seen again, so this gives me hope! Thank you!

          1. CMart*

            Having your CV put in a file and never seen again isn’t any worse than sending cold-emails into the void and never hearing again, if the sting of a silent rejection is what’s scaring you. If anything, at least you have the reassurance that they saw you.

            I’ve only ever been in FOH positions, which I know operate differently than the BOH ones, but facetime in the off-peak hours has nearly always been the key to getting a foot in the door to coveted positions. Hell, even grabbing some food and a drink at the bar and being a cool person for the bartenders to chat with is one of the best ways to get someone on the inside to say “oh wait, is OP3 @ Whatsherface from the other day? She was cool.”

          2. Orangie*

            Dropping by can work well, just make sure you don’t ask to talk to someone during a meal rush. That not only won’t help, but they’ll probably light your resume on fire right in front of you and hand the pile of ashes back.

            1. FoodGloriousFood*

              There’s a bit in one of the behind-the-scenes books (Bourdain’s memoir, I think?) where he eviscerates a supplier who would try to cold call during rush. Basically, how can you claim to know what a restaurant needs when you don’t even know when to show up?

        3. Anon For This*

          Right. Another way to do it is to go there on a slow night, sit at the bar, order a glass of wine and maybe an appetizer, make conversation with the bar tender, then tell them you’re also in the industry and give them your card. You can go with a friend if the friend is polite and will help you make a good impression. Show interest in the restaurant, compliment them, ask good questions, that kind of thing.

          But be realistic in your expectations! You generally have to work your way up, as you probably know. But, from what I’ve seen, the kinds of restaurants who will take a chance by giving a higher level role to someone straight out of school are not ones you’d want to work for. A more reputable, well managed restaurant will start someone on prep or something lower level and let them advance while learning from the other chefs and demonstrating their skills. Be prepared to mop some floors and help with the dishes while having a good attitude about it.

          1. Op #3*

            Don’t worry I’m not applying for or expecting higher level roles, a short term unpaid role is about as low level as it gets. I do have friendly acquaintance with a couple bartenders at places I like so I’ll definitely work on my confidence and chat them up for info.

  3. Andy*

    #1 Use Let Me Google That For You ( to answer their questions. They’ll soon learn.

    1. Junior Dev*

      Don’t do this. It’s condescending. I get that the co-workers’ behavior is annoying, but unless you’re ok burning bridges it would be better to politely explain that you don’t have time to answer their questions and help them learn how to look it up themselves.

      1. Cafe au Lait*

        Agreed. I tend to tell tech-needy individuals “Hmmm, I’d need to Google that for an amswer. Here’s the search term I’d use. Why don’t you try it and tell me what you find?”

        Said in a friendly but straight forward manner, it reduces the “solve it for me” requests.

        1. CM*

          I’d do a variation of this for the OP: “I’m sorry, but I realized I’m spending a lot of time answering people’s personal tech questions so I’m trying not to do that at work. But I would try Googling [search term] to find the answer.”

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Yes. This is the sort of thing you pull only when you don’t care that the other person forever hates you for trying to humiliate them. And sometimes you don’t! But that’s not true of the coworkers you’re trying to mesh with.

      3. Mephyle*

        What Cafe au Lait said. And if they need more hands-on help, I would want to walk them back to their computer, show them how to type ‘google-dot-com’ into the address bar, point to the search window, and dictate the search phrase to them. All in a cheerful, helpful tone, very carefully wiped clean of any trace of condescencion.

      4. MJ*

        I know, but man, do I have a pile of intricate daydreams around just this scenario.

        (I do like the ‘hmm, I don’t know but I’ll google it’ answer. That seems a good middle road.)

    2. Important Moi*

      A person’s mileage may vary, but what I finally said to a co-worker who kept asking me to show the same task repeatedly is

      “I could give you the fish, but let me teach you how to fish so you can do this yourself.”

      For a few seconds this person was literally taken aback, but then gathered themselves and was opened to being taught. I assume they know how to do the task and haven’t asked since.

      One could come up with their own analogy if the fish thing doesn’t work for you.

      1. Free Meerkats*

        Something along the Terry Pratchett line of, “Build a man a fire, and he’ll be warm for a day. Set a man on fire, and he’ll be warm for the rest of his life.”?

        1. Ego Chamber*

          “I could build you a fire, but let me set you on fire so you’ll—wait, come back! HR is bored of hearing about me!”

    3. Elizabeth*

      It might not seem like it is a big time suck for you, but it probably is more than you think. I ran into this last year, I started a new position and everyone still asked me to do tasks that related to my old position. Being a time player, I did them thinking I was doing what was best for the company. Turns out I wasnt doing my new job because I was stuck doing my old one. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize it until my first poor review ever.

      In short, once you start saying that you aren’t able to help them, I bet you’ll be surprised at how much time it was actually taking.

    4. Slow Gin Lizz*

      I was always tempted to do this at OldJob where everyone else at the company would ask me how to fix some weird error they were getting. I would say, “I’ll try to figure it out but all I’m really doing is googling the problem” and then I’d google it and send them the most promising results so they could fix the problem themselves (we all worked off-site so I couldn’t actually fix anything for them myself).

      But I wanted to them sooooooooo much. But I also wanted to keep my job, so I didn’t.

    5. Observer*

      Not if you care about your reputation.

      Saying no, politely, is ok. Being snarky is stupid.

    6. Alternative Person*

      Oh Lord, at a previous job there was a very long semi-serious discussion about using that to deal with clients who would, after receiving a very clear, annotated map to our location with five, one line instructions, write back saying ‘How do I get there?’

      In the end we referred back to the map but it was tempting…

  4. HR Expat*

    LW5- this seems really weird to me. But then, I don’t understand why my division puts up OOO messages when they’ve gone home for the night. Especially since I work in a business where no one works past 5pm… I think Alison’s advice is spot on- ask for the background of why this rule is in place to help you better understand, or better be able to push back (if it still doesn’t make sense).

    1. Drew*

      I agree with this. I think that in this situation, you can play the “new to the workforce” card: “Hey, Oswald, I seem to be spending a fair bit of time each day changing my voicemail and out-of-office email settings, which I’m happy to keep doing, but could you explain why it’s needed to change messages when I’m on my lunch break or in a meeting? It seems like most people would understand that sometimes I’ll be otherwise engaged and take an hour or two to get back to them, so I’m a bit confused here.”

    2. earl grey aficionado*

      I’m in the midst of planning my wedding right now and a lot of caterers, photographers, etc. will put up OOO messages overnight with directions on who to contact in an emergency. It’s annoying to get the extra emails but it makes sense because weddings (and similar events) are expensive, emotionally laden, and usually happen outside business hours, so it’s important for the vendors to communicate their availability to clients to avoid freak-outs. I wonder if the OP is in that industry or a similar one where clients get squirrelly and need extra attention. I can even see an OOO email being useful for a lunch break if clients often have demands in that block of time.

      However…changing voicemail? Seeing as voicemail recordings are anxiety-inducing to record under normal circumstances, that would be the breaking point for me. There has to be a better way (maybe including emergency contact info and regular hours in the regular voicemail?). Although, come to think of it, when I had jury duty the courthouse had specially recorded voicemail messages to let folks know whether or not they had to come in. That’s another possibility, I guess.

    3. Gotham Bus Company*

      Before asking the boss about this policy, make sure to leave an out-of-office message and voicemail greeting saying that you’re meeting with the boss to ask about this policy.

  5. Liz*

    OP #1, for the tech support for personal stuff, you can probably refer them to their local library. I basically do that kind of tech support daily and teach classes in tech basics too. Maybe say you don’t want to take work time to do personal projects but you know the local library can help (but check to make sure!).

    We spend all day telling people how to attach things to an email or how to use social media. I get asked about once a week if a person can use the public email on the public computer. Also, who changed the google?

    1. Mookie*

      That was my first thought, as well. Robust local libraries (and college and university ones, as well) have a lot of elementary software and computer-oriented written and video tutorials. This kind of practical knowledge is so widespread and mainstream at this point that it’s a waste of time to draw someone a diagram when many, many other people have already done the work for them. The co-workers can bookmark things they suspect they might need to regularly consult or print them out for easy reference. Not everyone can or is interested in sharpening up their computer literacy skills and that’s fine, but e-mailing pictures is not a Herculean task.

      1. Gotham Bus Company*

        The reply will be, “But I shouldn’t have to bother looking up things when you’re here to know it for me.”

        1. Just Employed Here*

          To which I would reply “I’m actually here to groom the lamas and assist Jane in designing chocolate teapots.” And then I’d get back to my own tasks. No further explanation or softening should be necessary.

          (This is of course assuming you yourself don’t regularly need help with something else from your colleagues…)

    2. Tardigrade*

      Also, who changed the google?

      This is nearly the exact call I received when working a help desk job during college. “My homepage changed and I need you to fix it.” [Walks through steps on how to set the browser’s home page, realizes customer meant Yahoo redesigned their site and tried to explain this to customer, placed head firmly on desk.]

      But to the point, the local library could be a great resource for this.

    3. Pollygrammer*

      Many people will find it really off-putting that a coworker is unwilling to give them five minutes of their time no matter how reasonable the suggested alternatives are. I honestly think it’s probably best to just try to get over the irritation. Think “ok, this isn’t going to take any longer than it would be to make a cup of coffee and I’m building positive relationships.”

      1. AsItIs*

        What when it’s multiple coworkers asking multiple times a day? I think there’s a time to cut off lazy people who can’t be bothered to spend a few minutes to find out things for themselves. They are using the OP like they would click on an app on their phones, not like a person.

  6. LouiseM*

    Is the situation described in #2 common? I’ve never worked for a big company, but I feel like I would find the thank you points system pretty infantilizing.

    1. Keyboard Cowboy*

      It exists at my Tech Giant. With strict rules about trading thank-you bucks (“don’t, and we’re watching you”). We have a few levels including one that doesn’t include cash but CC’s the manager; the idea is to use it when someone does something outside of their job description that you found exceptionally helpful, partially to keep their boss from wondering what they spent all their time on yesterday.

      1. another scientist*

        This is what I came to say.

        OP2, I can empathize that the demands of your colleague rub you the wrong way. It looks like he is demanding extra acknowledgement and compensation for simply doing his job.
        If there is language in a handbook or policy about when to give points, I would start there. If it’s more up the every individual, I would try to explain to the colleague your personal approach to those credits. “I give these out to mark special effort of colleagues above and beyond the normal job duties. Therefore I plan to acknowledge the team at the end of a successful project.” This is a good moment to make sure that you are in fact distributing points in a fair and unbiased way, and that you give credit where credit is due.

        You are not obliged to give him anything that you don’t think is deserved, or to discuss it further in my opinion. You also mentioned this colleague seeking your advice with not getting promotions. I would say unless you have real insights in promotion decisions and you can truly tell him why others are chosen over him, I wouldn’t make a connection here (ie, I wouldn’t tell him “you are pushy and it’s a problem for your career” unless you know this has held him back).

        1. LKW*

          Agree wholeheartedly. Doing your job adequately does not merit thank you points. Completing a significant project, especially with difficult circumstances merits points. Doing work outside of your job, like leading a networking or inclusive group, leading a volunteer day (Pride Day, Habitat for Humanity Day of work), or the like, merits points.

          Doing interim tasks on schedule does not merit points. Additionally, if your company is like mine -you only have a set number of points to dole out within a calendar year to be shared across a variety of team members. If you start doling them out like peanuts – you may not have any left to reward those who truly have earned them.


          1. Snark*

            This is the heart of it, for me. If he had gone above and beyond throughout a project and asked tactfully if LW3 would be willing to toss him some points, that’d be one thing, but demanding monetary reward for completing interim work tasks satisfactorily is really, really out of touch. You don’t get gold stars for participation in the real world, kids.

          2. Sagacious*

            “It looks like he is demanding extra acknowledgement and compensation for simply doing his job.”
            “Doing your job adequately does not merit thank you points. ”

            But the problem with all these arguments is that you do not know what the corporate culture is. It could very well be that employees *are* collecting thank-you points for doing mundane jobs. (I get a whiff of this when OP#2 wrote “[maybe] that is why our company has such a platform to help out with such employees? To make everybody’s job easier?”

            If that’s the case, then by digging in his heels over this issue, OP2 will get a reputation as a stingy, jerk of a manager who no one will want to work with.

            I would say OP should talk to other managers and get a sense of what they do with the points system.

            1. another scientist*

              I did consider this option and I’ve actually seen a supervisor attempt to create extra incentives for an employee who wasn’t very motivated to do their normal job-duties. There are two problems with this. It will only work on the short run, the employee will get accustomed to the incentive-level and not derive motivation from it for an extended time. Also, if you are not throwing incentives towards all the employees who are engaged and motivated (because presumably they don’t need the carrot), you create resentment. If you try to beat this by rewarding generously all around, it will lose its effect on the employees you are trying to target, as it’s not special anymore.

              1. Sagacious*

                No disagreement with what you wrote. I think this thank-you point system is a cheap gimmick, myself. I would have advised against creating it. But the company created it, and employees bought into it. If other managers are doling out points liberally, you can’t fault this employee for asking his manager to do likewise.

        2. eplawyer*

          I might make the connection for him. “You seem overly invested in getting the points. Perhaps the company thinks you are only working for the points instead of having pride in doing a good job.” Or it could be he lacks the soft skills to manage others like his inability to read cues but to push for what he wants regardless of how tone deaf it is. Sometimes managers have to say this is the way it is, but they aren’t tone deaf to the cues they pick up from their team.

          1. Amber T*

            I wouldn’t try to make the connection between points and pride in a good job. This whole point system is unfamiliar (and a bit squicky) to me, but that sounds a lot like “you’re only interested in this job for the money” which, well, yeah. I’d focus on “points for above and beyond,” not just simply doing your job.

            1. Chinook*

              “I’d focus on “points for above and beyond,” not just simply doing your job.”

              I would be tempted to go further and explain that, every time he asks me for thank you points, I am going to instead deduct some from the ones I was planning to give him at the end of the project due to him wasting my time and making me less thankful for his work.

              But then again, I can be mean and snarky when someone acts entitled repeatedly.

              1. Rachael*

                I was thinking this, too.

                Rule #1: You ask for points: you do not get points

    2. Jade*

      I have it at my workplace (big global org). There’s 4 levels of award, one cashless and then 3 levels of varying amounts. It’s really only used when you do something that’s over and above your normal responsibilities, as a way to say thanks. I can purchase items or gift cards with the awards I receive – I really like it!
      All $ value awards must be approved by management though, I assume to prevent the point-trading issue raised here.

      1. ChemMoose*

        We have them at my work. We really don’t get them unless we go above and beyond, and only managers can approve of the points/$. I had a coworker who sounded just like this; pretty much just asking for points all the time. Since the people at the higher levels kept reminding managers that the points exist, asking coworkers for the points rubbed people the wrong way.

        So my advice – start at the handbook and continue with acknowledging that the points are for going above and beyond when a project is complete.

      2. Nerfmobile*

        My global mega-tech company has this system too. Most of the people I work with don’t use it much – only for big things. But one of my co-workers is in another country, and her local team uses it much more actively and in kind of a “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” way. They are a little unusual even at that site, but it does make more cultural sense for them to use it that way than it does in the US, so I think the local management structure gives them a pass on it.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          My company took the $$ reward options out after they realized that whole countries were doing the point-trading thing. It’s now ‘nice note cc’d to your manager’. I worked hard for three years to get these incredible backpacks (that are still in heavy use, a decade later), so I regret that loss (and regret never being able to find these packs again anywhere).

    3. Close Bracket*

      I have never exactly had a points system, but I have worked at companies where you might get some kind of Went The Extra Mile bonus from your manager. They would be along the lines of a gift certificate. The points system sounds like an extension of one of those, where peers can give each other thank yous.

    4. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

      We have something similar. Co-workers semi-publicly thank their colleagues on our intranet, the statistics are collated and prizes awarded every quarter. It’s supposed to be a motivational thing, but given that one of my very close colleagues received tons (we also get monthly stats updates and she was the only one who was in the top 3 every month), but didn’t get any quarterly recognition, it’s actually de-motivational, because the judging panel determined that her “thanks” were for just doing her job (despite the fact that several of them, I *know* were for staying late, unpaid, going above and beyond, etc.), but one of the winners got a single “thanks” for a (in my opinion) inane suggestion for an intranet blog (not kidding – the winners’ reasons were announced at the prize ceremony)
      It’s a way for companies to “reward” their employees without spending too much money actually “recognising” the hard word people put into their jobs.

      1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

        And, yes, I’m bitter, because I gave one of the “thanks for staying late” points, we don’t get paid overtime, and she stayed more than an hour to solve my team’s problem. And the inane intranet post was something akin to “Name our Office Cactus!”

      2. Observer*

        Your company sounds like it’s done a really bad job with it. But, based on what others are saying about their experiences, I’d say that you are over-generalizing.

        1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

          Yeah, I’m overgeneralising about my company in particular – this is just the latest “employee recognition” scheme they’ve implemented, and they’ve all been along the same lines – big public thank you’s and a token trophy is supposed to be a “one size fits all/nobody” motivational tool.

          It may be that OP2’s tech support colleague *is* motivated by big public thanks and prizes, over and above any other motivational tool. I’m not saying OP2 should just bend over and be complicit in immoral/unethical points trading, but consider if the thanks points is what is encouraging tech support to be more involved in the big project.

      3. Michaela Westen*

        “It’s a way for companies to “reward” their employees without spending too much money actually “recognising” the hard work people put into their jobs.”
        This reminds me of companies that give gifts to recognize their employees – and everyone I’ve known who received one said they’d rather have the money. It’s cheaper for companies to give gifts.

    5. CityMouse*

      We kind of have something similar in my workplace. You can nominate someone for an award based on a good act. But everything has to be approved by management to avoid abuse.

      Alison mentions that some employees might be okay with point trading arrangements, but I imagine in most places this would be seen as a huge no no. It is getting a financial benefit based on quid pro quo rather than a true belief in excellent work.

      I feel like LW should shut this guy down firmly “I will not discuss this with you further. If I feel your work merits it, you will get them then and only then.”

    6. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize*

      We had a system at an OldJob in which you got a chip as a form of recognition. Once you collected 10 chips they could be traded in for a paid day off that didn’t count against your regular allotment. Only managers could award the chips. I never hit the magic 10 but I still have 2 or 3 chips stashed somewhere.

    7. PM*

      My company (800 people) has one of these systems. Each point is worth about 10 cents and you get 200 points a month to give out to colleagues. It’s great for building more gratitude into your day and thanking people for collaborating. The recognition is more important than the points. I often trade in the points people give me to get more points to give out to others. And having a web page where I can see a feed of people appreciating their colleagues brightens my day. But repeated lobbying for points would not go over well in my office, that’s not the idea.

      1. NW Mossy*

        I really like that feature of trading your points in for more points to hand out! Our recognition program is set up to allow people to shop among an array of possibly-useful-but-probably-just-clutter home goods as their reward, which has never appealed to me. But paying kudos forward? That I could get on board with.

    8. Feline*

      We have this system at my workplace (corporation with locations around the world), where points can accumulated to trade for real goods or services. It was originally open to everyone, and points trading ran wild in certain departments, with one department trying to save up points for a cruise. When this came to light, policy suddenly changed so that only managers could give points. My manager doesn’t use the system, and I was surprised recently to find that it was still implemented.

      I have friends who worked at companies where the output from thank you systems was weighted as part of the annual review process. So thank you points could be worse!

    9. Old Toby*

      I haaaaaaate this. What happened to companies just recognizing, rewarding, and incentivizing excellent work by providing healthy functional workplaces, comfortable salaries, benefits, etc.? This is why I’m so glad sometimes to have a unionized position (I’m a teacher). There’s no manufactured economy of recognition just begging to be exploited by unethical coworkers, no confusion about how to value the work we’re doing, and no goofy prizes taking the place of our actual compensation.

      1. Anononon*

        But who says it’s taking the place of actual compensation? Of course I’m sure there are companies where it does, but there are also probably many where it’s just one of thing employees get to have/look forward to.

        If my work had something like this, I would enjoy it.

        1. Anion*

          Yeah, it sounds fun to me. I love giving people things, I love expressing gratitude, and while I also love helping people and doing things for them (and do it anyway, all the time) I admit it would be fun to actually get little points/gifts in return, at no cost to the person I helped.

      2. Colette*

        I assume they are also being rewarded appropriately by the company.

        The thing is, some things management doesn’t see or doesn’t value the same way that a co-worker does. If I make a mistake and my co-worker goes out of her way to help me fix it, that’s valuable to me, but less valuable to my manager who just doesn’t have a crisis to deal with. So my co-worker won’t necessarily be rewarded for it by my manager, but I’d like to be able to reward her.

        1. Turquoisecow*

          Yes, there have been a few times where I was thanked by a coworker for helping her understand a task, or helping them by doing my part of a long project quicker than necessary. Those things wouldn’t go on a performance review and probably our manager(s) wouldn’t even be aware of it happening. But a formal recognition from a coworker is still nice.

          1. TootsNYC*

            the program is also a way for those things to bubble up where managers can see them. It’s kind of fun, and there’s “candy*,” so people might be motivated to use it.

            *Actually, having literal candy on the reward list might be interesting! Especially if the home goods are kind of cluttery.

        2. Jady*

          Yeah, this is immediately what comes to my mind. My boss is in another state, and I speak to him maybe once a month unless there’s a specific situation that needs his attention.

          In previous years, I’ve realized that nothing really gets back to my boss. And that does affect my compensation significantly.

          This last year I made a big effort to get my above-and-beyonds right in my bosses face, and the large raise I’d been denied the previous two years was finally given to me.

          In some companies, you have to make a really big effort to sell yourself. People find it awkward to email someone else’s boss saying ‘so-n-so did this really awesome thing fyi’, and it’s going out of their way.

          I really like the idea of a systematic recognition system, where anyone could just pull up a website and click a button for +1 when someone does something awesome, maybe throw in a short comment. It would be quick, convenient, and not-awkward.

          BUT I have to say I really dislike a direct reward from the system. I’d like to see it as another factor in typical annual reviews, that factor into bonuses, raises, promotions, etc.

          1. Alienor*

            I don’t think I’d want to see it as part of annual reviews or raises. My company has a “kudos” system, and the number of kudos that people get is highly dependent on what sort of role they’re in (people who provide visible support to others get more than people who work on individual projects), what culture their department has (some departments are very into giving them out and some aren’t), and even just how popular they are with their co-workers. You could easily end up with a quiet person who toiled away all year on spreadsheets getting zero kudos and being dinged on their review for it, no matter how great a job they did or how much they helped the company as a whole.

      3. KRM*

        We have this at my work, and it’s a very nice way to recognize a colleague who has gone above and beyond for you. We are compensated fairly and have good benefits and vacation, so this system is merely an extra. I’ve gotten points for coming in on the weekend (100% voluntarily) to push a project forward and for helping colleagues who have to take a sick day. I’ve given them to people who volunteer for extra lab jobs and who have helped me out when I have had to be out. It’s just a nice system to recognize some extra effort–it certainly isn’t intended to replace any compensation or benefits.

      4. Jadelyn*

        Like anything, recognition systems can be implemented well or poorly.

        If recognition is in lieu of good workplace policies and fair compensation, then yeah, it’s terrible. But if it’s an add-on, a perk on top of good working conditions, then what’s wrong with that?

      5. President Porpoise*

        Well, my company has something like is described in the letter – and we’re paid very well, have excellent benefits, high levels of flexibility, generally respectful and inclusive leadership/colleagues, so I wouldn’t say that it can’t be used as a good tool. Personally, I generally get several thousand dollars’ worth of gift cards and cash awards through that system each year.

      6. Keyboard Cowboy*

        Let me start by saying my Tech Giant has one of the most competitive salary/benefit/perk/workplace comprehensive packages in the Bay Area, where those things are hugely out of proportion compared to the rest of the US. We still have peer recognition in tiers (awarding real cash, not monopoly money for spending in some catalogue, by the way) because there’s an understanding that your manager can’t and won’t see every amazing thing you do. These peer rewards are frequently used cross-team, by the way, so even less likely that your manager could have pieced together how big your impact was on someone else. I frequently award these to people for helping me out with my issues when it takes their attention away from their own work for a day or more (spread out over a longer period of time, sometimes). In our case, it’s definitely not taking the place of compensation; it’s about the recognition. (And the cash is peanuts – probably around .1% of someone’s annual salary.)

    10. Lindrine*

      We had one at a startup and a similar one at Big Tech Co I worked at. I really liked the systems since it was a more trackable way to praise people. Some of this sounds like company culture, which will vary from place to place.

    11. Damn it, Hardison!*

      The company I work for has something similar. We can give people “awards” in varying denominations, starting at $50 and going up to a few thousand. They are supposed to be given for going above and beyond. The points system makes it seem a bit like a game to me, and therefore less serious, I guess.

    12. BadWolf*

      We used to have a system where you could give a coworker a thank you award where they could pick from a bunch of logo’d ~$25 ish items (some great stuff, some clunkers). You had a limited number you could give and receive — so I think that might have cut down on anyone asking for one. Most of us miss that system.

    13. Allison*

      I’ve worked at two places with it. At my old place, they were “kudos” that anyone could give anyone, managers could give it to their direct reports, or other people’s direct reports, and employees could give them to each other (but contractors like me couldn’t get them). At my current job, points are given to managers to dole out to employees as they see fit. It’s a way to give a little bonus, like a $10 gift card, when someone goes the extra mile. I don’t find it infantilizing, honestly, I actually feel more engaged and encouraged to keep working hard knowing it usually pays off in one way or another.

    14. Turquoisecow*

      I worked for a big company that did something kind of similar. We had some “core values,” and if a coworker exhibited one or more of those values, we could recognize them by giving them a ticket. There was a little stub on the end where you would write both names, and then it went into a box. (You got to keep the large part as a souvenir and some people covered their walls with theirs). At the end of the month, there would be a department drawing where you’d win something (free lunch maybe?) and then a company-wide drawing at the monthly town hall where you could win a gift card and a prime parking spot. Both the giver and the receiver got entered, so there was incentive to hand them out.

      In reality, a lot of people would write and give tickets to their friends, often on the day of or before the monthly drawing, for random things that had nothing to do with work. It was a little bit of a morale booster, but also a little silly. And we did have people who flat out asked for a ticket.

    15. whimbrel*

      We have a merchandise reward system where I work with various ‘levels’ of prize – it goes from ‘small handy outdoor gadget’ to ‘Kitchenaid mixer’ levels. We joke that you’d have to save a VP’s life to get the Kitchenaid. ;) But anyone can nominate any coworker for a reward, and the rewards get approved by management.

      They’re not super common, but I’ve gotten a couple in my few years here for completion of large projects, exceeding client expectations, that kind of thing. I would probably find the points thing kind of weird and oppressive as well.

      1. chump with a degree*

        We have that systme-it’s a third party company and almost everything is crappy off brands or gift certificates to restaurants that are not around here.

    16. Jadelyn*

      My org does something like this – and we’re not that big, about 600 people in two connected companies – but it’s not infantilizing so much as just a way to give your coworkers a more concrete expression of gratitude when they do something nice for you. Saying “thank you” is great, but saying “thank you, and here’s a couple dollars” is better.

      But it’s supposed to be for above-and-beyond stuff, not “completed an expected task” – that, I agree, would be infantilizing. I have received points from a VP outside my department when he needed spreadsheet help and (because I have a reputation as the excel guru) I was able to do some fancy stuff with the report he was working on, because that’s not even a little bit in my job description, I was doing him a favor. I give points to the helpdesk guys in IT a lot, specifically in situations where I have rush requests (I’m in HR, and I have to alert IT to set up email and accounts for new hires, but sometimes it’s last-second) and they put aside other stuff to get my request taken care of quickly. I know the tellers will send points to people in the call center for helping research account issues while they have a customer standing right there with them, stuff like that.

    17. JustaTech*

      We had it when my company was part of EvilCorp. The whole thing was weirdly cutsey (in the least warm-and -fuzzy place ever) and the “prizes” were aweful. Like, get 500 thank yous and get to have lunch with the CEO (who was under indictment). Uh, no thanks?

      I’d rather have the “nice note cc’d to your manager”.

      1. Janice in Accounting*

        “Lunch with the CEO (who was under indictment)” made me laugh out loud, although I doubt it was that funny when you actually worked there.

    18. Basia, also a Fed*

      My company used to do this, and it was discontinued because of people like the OP’s coworker. It was a certificate for 2 hours of leave. You sent an email to the whole company announcing it. There were a lot of rules – you couldn’t combine them together or with other leave, so in other words, you had to work 6 hours the day you used it.

      There was an SOP for it, and it outlined the types of things you were allowed to give it for. Asking for it was forbidden, as was agreeing to give it to each other, and you couldn’t give it to someone for the same project or task that they gave you one for.

      It was highly frowned upon to give it to someone who had given it to you recently, and this is what brought about it’s demise. There was a gaggle of women who were just giving them to each other in a circle, and eventually were abusing it so badly that they were giving them out for things like bringing in cupcakes.

      1. Geillis D*

        I’m gobsmacked to hear about this system – the first thing that came to mind was the Black Mirror episode showing a world where each interaction with another human being is instantly graded. Rude driver cuts you off? you’re a 1. A fellow runner made eye contact and smiled at you? let’s give her a 5, make it 4 because she only smiled for 0.75 seconds. And so on and so forth, with your public score open for anyone to see. It was disturbing in an uncanny-valley kind of way, now I see where the writers got the idea.

  7. nnn*

    An advantage I found in being the go-to tech support person when I was the youngest and newest person (plus my previous job had been in tech support) is that it was a way I could immediately add value as I was still learning the ropes of my new profession.

    If you’re shy and imposter-syndromey like my early-career self was, it’s a lot easier to interrupt people and ask them questions about stuff that seems glaringly obvious to everyone else when you’ve already solved three problems for them this week.

    1. LW#1*

      I felt EXACTLY this way when I first started! And it’s what kept me from rolling my eyes the 3rd time my coworker asked me how to make a new tab in an Excel workbook, because I’ve asked questions that would seem just as obvious to her. The thing that prompted me to write in, which maybe I should have mentioned in the letter, is that the other day my coworker asked me if I could help her with something, and when I said yes, she handed me a bunch of tangled up necklaces and asked me to untangle them. And I’m embarrassed to say that I did :(

      And something about that made me look at all the personal tech requests in a new light, so I appreciate Alison’s scripts for when I feel like someone could be taking advantage of me!

      1. Naptime Enthusiast*

        Ooooh that adds a new dimension to your letter, that’s completely outside the scope of being helpful and now she’s taking advantage of you. I don’t blame you for doing it in the moment since your coworker kind of threw it at you (the task, not the necklaces!) but you can absolutely push back on that kind of request. It’s not a skill or knowledge related task, it’s that she’s lazy. Alison’s scripts will be useful for that kind of situation too!

        1. tangerineRose*

          I like to invoke my manager when someone asks me to do something that’s way out of my regular duties (like necklaces). I might say “I’d need to check with my manager first – she might want me to prioritize other tasks.”

      2. BadWolf*

        Wait — did your coworker specifically bring up a pile of tangled necklaces for you? That’s so weird.

        Definitely helping people out with computer stuff related to their job can be a great leg up. But like you’re concerned about, I think when you start doing tech support things for a coworkers personal electronics, things can get sticky fast. What if they claim that you broke their phone somehow (or even accidentally drop it or something), or you see some dodgy photos, or they ask you to delete something and freak out when you delete it.

        I work in tech, so we definitely brainstorm on ways to fix things at home, but we all know that if we take some advice, we’re taking a risk.

        1. Luna*

          Super weird!

          This does put all the personal requests in a new light. Like you say it can potentially be a problem anyway if something goes wrong, but the necklace thing also makes me think that all the other personal requests are less about tech needs, and more about coworkers seeing the LW as their little helper or own personal assistant. LW, that’s not your job! I would stop helping them with any personal requests. Though it might be beneficial to still help with some work-related things, if not too annoying.

          1. LW#1*

            The comments have made me realize that I can’t lump all my coworkers into the same category. Most of them have been appropriate in their requests and have told my boss that I’m good with Excel, which has gotten me an opportunity to do some behind-the-scenes stuff on projects I wouldn’t otherwise have seen. But there are a few who do see me not as a professional resource, but as their personal helper, and I think those are the people I need to draw some boundaries with.

            1. Czhorat*

              That’s interesting, and can lead to opportunities with some. If you’re adding a tab in Excel, for instance, and ask why they need it, what they’re working on, and make some comment on the content you’re leveraging your technical knowledge to gain and/or display job-specific abilities. That will grow your reputation and make you more a part of the team.

              If it’s menial, “just show me how to ‘X'” that’s different – as others have said, it could move your reputation away from “professional resource” and towards “office lackey”. That’s the risk (and yes, the necklace thing is firmly in the latter category).

              1. LW#1*

                Yeah, that’s what I’m worried about. I think the necklace coworker does maybe think of me that way, as does another coworker (a peer) who keeps volunteering me for additional tasks in meetings (taking notes, party planning, etc.) Those two are definitely the worst, but I’m afraid that their perception of me will influence the way others see me as well. I don’t mind a “tech wizard” rep, and I do volunteer for my share of office tasks, but I don’t want to be known as the person who will do all the stuff no one else wants to do!

                1. Jadelyn*

                  Ooh, yeah, especially if you’re a woman – wasn’t clear from your letter, sorry – you want to push back HARD on being designated as the go-to for the “soft tasks” like party planning and note-taking.

                2. Nanani*

                  Push back on your peer acting like your boss. Nobody needs to take that shit.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          LW, are you by any chance fidgety? Like maybe there was a conversation as you sorted all the paper clips about how you just like to have something to do with your hands, and she lit on handing you this self-generating puzzle ring?

      3. Tardigrade*

        Asking for Excel help is taking advantage of your technical skills, which I think is OK up to a point since it’s been reciprocal for you. Asking for personal favors like untangling necklaces (WTH?!) is taking advantage of your good nature, and that is not OK at all.

      4. Rusty Shackelford*

        Oh, wow. Yeah, that’s not someone reaching out to you because you’re able to solve problems. That’s someone taking advantage of your good nature.

        1. Triplestep*

          Good nature, and young eyes. My step-mother used to ask me to untangle things often because she was over 40 which is when close work starts to become a problem. I realize the LW is not related to the person who imposed by asking the favor to untangle, and it’s different when asked in the workplace. But I think there are probably reasons attached to the request help explain it a bit more than “taking advantage.”

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            It doesn’t matter how much better the OP’s eyes are. That’s an inappropriate favor to ask of someone who isn’t a friend or relative, regardless of “reasons.”

          2. Luna*

            It’s still taking advantage though, even if the person had a reason for asking other than just being lazy.

          3. Bea*

            And more nimble fingers, since it’s not just an eyesight thing. Still you find a family member to help or friend or pay someone if you must, you don’t just bring it to work to hand off to a younger co-worker!

            1. Purple Jello*

              Especially because she didn’t explain what she wanted done until OP agreed. Definitely taking advantage

          4. Spider*

            And that’s what reading glasses are for! :)

            LW, I’d be tempted to say, “Oh, I’m so sorry, but I don’t have time to help you with your necklaces. I’ll send you a link to a great resource, though!” and then email her a link to an eyeglass website.

            1. Jennifer Thneed*

              And you may well be 45+ yourself and not know this, but just in case: once you hit middle aged and get the middle-aged-related eyesight changes, it’s never as good. Reading glasses only do so much.

              (I’ve been wearing glasses since I was 9, and I’m in my 50’s. I have a lot of experience with needing a new prescription and how it feels to get it. Trust me when I saw my eyes are not as good as they used to be, even with good glasses.)

              I’m not looking forward to being 15-20 years older than I am, and my color vision changes. That’s at least partly cataracts, so at least partly fixable.

          5. Observer*

            Still way out of line. They don’t have the kind of relationship that makes it remotely appropriate.

            And from the OP’s additional comments, it seems pretty clear that there is a strong “ask the kid to take care of annoying things for me.” Totally not OK.

      5. nnn*

        Yeah, that necklace thing is a whole other beast. With tech support, at least it’s something they’re trying to figure out to get the job done – like “Where do we keep the printer paper?” or “How do we submit an expense claim?”

          1. Orangie*

            Yeah, on one hand, it’s a super inappropriate request of a coworker. On the other hand, I’m very jealous that she got to untangle a bunch of necklaces; that’s basically my dream job. :)

      6. Elizabeth H.*

        The necklace thing adds a very interesting dimension!

        That’s a rather personal thing to ask someone to help with/to help someone with. If it were a coworker I was friendly with and felt warmly towards, I might take it as a nice gesture that they felt comfortable with me. I’m imagining a scenario like, she was wearing the necklaces, had to refasten the clasp on one, realized they got all tangled, struggled with it, and after little success thought that you might be better at it. Like, early on after I started working with my manager, I accidentally stapled my hand and asked her to take it out of my hand (I couldn’t do it myself so easily) and I thought it was kind of a bonding type moment. If she just kind of handed you necklaces and asked you to work on them that seems weird and very presumptuous – but if it was something she was struggling with in the moment and was appropriately sheepish about asking for help, I would more ascribe it to being over-personal.

      7. Kate 2*

        Sadly LW it sounds like you are being pigeonholed as everybody’s servant, as everybody’s girl friday. I experienced it at my workplace, and wrote about it here before. And as others have said, taking on traditionally “feminine” tasks, or being super helpful can backfire on you, you become known as “friendly” and “helpful” and that’s it, rather than “the best coder” or “a leader”.

        If I were you I would stop helping anyone with their personal tech questions. Answer work-related ones only, and keep track in your head to make sure you aren’t answering 3 of their questions for every 1 you ask them.

        Also keep in mind that helping on-board you to the company and industry with the occasional work question is *expected* as part of *their* jobs. And really, colleagues are always going to have questions for each other some times.

        1. LW#1*

          I should note that my office is almost all women, and my immediate team is only women. I’m not as worried about the gender aspect, although maybe I should be?

          1. Jennifer Thneed*

            Gender is definitely playing into this stuff, and possibly so is age. I strongly suspect that they wouldn’t ask a male co-worker for this kind of stuff. And yeah, those note-taking and party-planning suggestions — why aren’t they volunteering themselves? Why do they think they can volun-tell you? That part smacks to me of a generational divide.

            You say you’re the youngest in the office — how young are you? How much is the age gap?

            In any case, the answer is the same: push back nicely. Be busy. Tell them you can help them at 2pm but not before. And it’s okay to go back to someone and say that actually, you can’t help with this (like the necklaces). And do, please, tell your boss about that necklace incident and that it was not an isolated incident.

          2. Bea*

            They’re more likely doing it because you’re younger and new, maybe they don’t even know what your title is, they just think you’re the office assistant?

            They would be asking a young male to do heavy lifting and minor repairs and most certainly the tech questions you field.

            Notes and party planning can be done by a man too, especially if they then want him to know he’s the assistant or admin, they won’t suddenly protect him because he’s a male. I’ve seen plenty of male office workers in my life at this stage.

            1. LW#1*

              Haha, they definitely know my title, because we all have the same role. I’m younger by 20-40 years than all but one of my coworkers, and have less experience, but on paper we are all on the same level.

          3. Student*

            Women can be every bit as sexist as men. We live in a world where women are under-valued compared to men. In part, this persists because a large proportion of women buy into it and perpetuate it.

      8. Free Meerkats*

        My response to this would have been to pull the pair of wirecutters out of my desk drawer and cheerfully reply, “Don’t leave, I’ll have them untangled in a jiffy!”

      9. Pollygrammer*

        Ok, that sort of thing definitely has to stop. How understanding would your supervisor be if you brought up the situation and asked if you could use her as an excuse? (As in, “boss, can you ask me to spend less time on non-work tasks for coworkers?”)

      10. F as in Frank*

        “And it’s what kept me from rolling my eyes the 3rd time my coworker asked me how to make a new tab in an Excel workbook, because I’ve asked questions that would seem just as obvious to her.”

        LW1, you should consider whether the context behind the “obvious” questions you ask are comparable to the “how to to make a new tab for the third time” questions they ask. When I’m training someone, I expect that they will work to retain the information or write it down for reference. As a new employee you can also have the same expectation.

        A strategy that I’ve had good results with is this: if my work load allows, I answer these requests the first (and any subsequent) time by letting the requestor drive. They are the one working the mouse, typing, navigating; I am the coach. If it makes sense at the time I also ask them to work through their process by asking questions like “what do you think we should try first?”. I am right there beside them offering support. The benefits of this strategy are many and include a reputation of helpfulness with useful co-workers; limited requests from the deliberately helpless/lazy; the person helped generally retains much of the learning limiting repeat requests.

  8. neverjaunty*

    LW 1, the clue here is the people whining “but can’t you take a look?” and making sadface when you politely refuse. Thar’s crossing the line between turning to you for expertise, and treating you like a resource to which they’re entitled.

    1. Sam.*

      This! A former coworker who asked for a lot of tech help got really huffy the first time I told her that I couldn’t stop to help her figure it out right then, but she could find the answer by googling X, which is all I would be doing. She hovered at my office door, pouting, long enough that I eventually ignored her and turned back to my own work. (And no, she never did try to figure it out, which I found kind of infuriating. I didn’t have any special knowledge, and I told her exactly what to do! The fact that she wasn’t even willing to try on her own and instead expected me to do it made me far less willing to help her after that.)

    2. Parenthetically*

      Yes exactly!! “Sorry, I can’t, I’m swamped, but here’s a great resource so you can tackle this on your own” should result in, “Oh, nice, thank you!” if your coworkers are just after your smarts, but will result in, “But it’ll only take a minute, puleeeeeeeeze?” if they’re a bunch of entitled jerks.

      1. Observer*

        That’s actually a key issue. The OP hasn’t been saying “I’m swamped” but “I don’t know.” The former is far oer useful. And it’s really good for exposing the jerks vs the helpless ones (even f it is learned helplessness.)

    3. Phoenix Programmer*

      Yes! OP should tread carefully with this. I work at a large company with a full tech support. I did a lot of tech support type help when I first started since I had the time and wanted to build good will. As soon as I stopped due to other higher priorities people started complaining to my boss that I was “unhelpful”. Really burns my britches to think that coworkers who called me up on the weekend needing personal computer help turned around and complained to our boss.

      I will never be in official teh support again. Never. It’s now codifies in my job even though I am in a system admin II type role with management responsibilities I am also being asked to complete TS support associate I type duties for a good 2 hours a day. It sucks.

      1. Phoenix Programmer*

        Well mangled that last paragraph. *Unofficial tech support. *These duties are now codified in my role.

        Should also mention it is a ton a work. I get zero appreciation for it. And it’s all junior stuff anyone can do.

      2. MLB*

        At my last job I was a Support Specialist for a specific application. When the app was first created, it was me and 1 other person tackling all of the tickets. Our help desk would triage and put them into a folder for us. Once we outsourced our help desk, we were told to have them tackle most of the smaller things, and only escalate the more difficult stuff or stuff they needed special permissions to do. Before that people got into the habit of coming to me personally, calling or emailing to help them. It was SOOOO satisfying to tell people to create a ticket (i.e. leave me alone and follow the process). But I also had my manager in my corner on this one, so that made a huge difference.

    4. Irene Adler*

      I think folks are asking the OP -repeatedly- because it is so easy to do so. And they are lazy and don’t want to look something up or make a note to remember something. Hence, crossing the line.

      Some push back is in order here.

    5. Innocent Bystander*

      At my current job, I am very much in this position. Recently, while I was running payroll, I had someone come to me asking me to fix their wireless problems. I informed him that I was in the middle of payroll, handed them a connecter, and told them to use wired until I was available. This person whined at me (why can’t you fix it now) until I informed him that I could only help him now if he wanted his and everyone else’s payroll to be late.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        That’s where you announce to the office “Guys? Fergus wants me to stop payroll so I can help him fidget with his wireless connection.” And Fergus will vanish under a pile of bodies.

  9. phira*

    OP4: I’ve actually begun to transition from apologizing for things to thanking people for things. So instead of, “Sorry that it’s taken me so long to get back to you,” I usually opt for, “Thank you for being so patient.” It’s something that I started doing in my personal life first, and it kind of bled into my professional life, but I like it there as well; the former can sometimes come across as unprofessional, like I’m incompetent, whereas the latter comes across as more complimentary of the other person than any kind of statement on me. I teach, and student perception of me is crucial to my job security, so if students are regularly getting emails from me where I apologize, it makes me look pretty bad, even if the things I’m apologizing for are entirely reasonable.

    OP5: I am with you; it makes absolutely no sense to have to put up an out of office message for something like a lunch break! I wonder if your boss is old enough that he’s not 100% comfortable with social mores of the digital age, specifically that we all kind of understand and respect that when you send an email, you will likely not get an immediate response. As for the phones? Medical offices, I’ve found, have the best solution. If I call to make an appointment and no one is at the phone, it goes straight to voicemail, and the voicemail message mentions the regular hours and then makes a brief mention that you are getting this message because it’s either outside of business hours OR “we are away from the phone at the moment” or something along those lines before giving the opportunity for you to leave a message. There’s no reason to have a separate voicemail for when someone is taking a lunch break; you just have the single one already set up. I hope I’m making sense, it’s pretty late at night.

    But he is absolutely being ridiculous.

    1. Traveling Teacher*

      I really like your suggestion of using “Thanks for being so patient” instead of a “Sorry, etc etc” Seems so obvious, but I’d just never thought of it–thank you!

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Agreed on #4. I do this, as well, for similar reasons.

    3. Wither*

      I find those “thanks for being patient” remarks really annoying, because it’s not like I had any choice in the matter. You didn’t get back to me! It’s not like I was sitting here being all nice and understanding about it. I WASN’T being patient, I was fuming about your incompetence and then to get this patronising garbage “thank you” just makes me resent the situation even more.

      So I’ve started complaining to those above the people who do this to me. If they apologise, fine, I’ll get over it. If they try to manipulate me with this crap, I complain to their manager/company/whatever because they couldn’t even be bothered to apologise.

      1. Nerine*

        Couldn’t agree more. It’s equally annoying being thanked for your supposed understanding (that the train has been delayed/cancelled/whatever) without being told the reason. Which by definition means you can’t actually be understanding. This seems to be a new thing, because people/companies think it reflects badly on them if they do the decent thing and apologise. It doesn’t. It shows that they understand (ha!) that someone has been inconvenienced.

        The world would be a better place if people at all levels apologised more.

        1. Julia*

          I agree, but I also think this depends on the contest. With trains, I just silently fume, but let’s say I’m supposed to get back to someone with an answer to their question, and I let them know that it might take a while, which they confirm as being okay. In that case, “thank you for your patience” seems pretty normal?

          1. Dr Wizard, PhD*

            It may also be a cultural thing. Where I’m from if someone heavy-apologises in an email then it’s almost expected that you ‘soothe’ in response.

            ‘I’m so sorry I didn’t get that to you. Here it is! Thanks, and apologies again.’
            ‘It’s no problem, really, thanks for getting it to me.’

            Not apologising to that degree is actually quite nice sometimes: you can acknowledge it was an issue, but it takes the burden off the recipient of these effusive apologies.

            1. theletter*

              +1 I’m in the ‘I appreciate your patience’ camp, especially if you don’t know how much damage was caused, if any. Yes, it can be a bit of a power play, but if said sincerely, it acknowledges a person’s virtue rather than implying more dramatic feelings that my not even be there.

              At a certain point in the corporate world, apologies are pretty meaningless. I’d rather see active change – and I’ve noticed that people who fume about not getting apologies waste a lot of energy that could be geared towards more proactive endeavors and make themselves look petty and/or naive.

      2. TL -*

        I don’t mind if it’s up the authority line – my boss’ time is often more valuable than mine and thanks for being patient often gently acknowledges that while I do have to wait, they know that it takes effort and time from me to do so. I do mind if it’s an equal/someone below me. Then I want at least an acknowledgment and sometimes an apology, if it’s warranted.

      3. Sam.*

        You complain to their superiors? Unless it’s a particularly egregious situation, that seems like a massive overreaction that would make me think less of you, not them, if I’m honest. How do you find people typically react to that?

        1. Observer*

          I was trying to find a way to put this. Massive over-reaction puts it well.

        2. Pollygrammer*

          Especially if you’re not complaining about the person actually did but only the tactic they took to smooth things over?

      4. Parenthetically*

        Thinking about it now, I definitely have felt the Jedi Mind Trick vibe from some of those non-apologies, like they’re trying to use the power of suggestion to make me go, “Oh, yes, I guess I am patient and understanding!” or whatever.

        That said, not sure what complaining to someone’s superiors is going to do — are you looking to change the company policy? or get someone in trouble? Because if they’ve been given a script to follow, it’s frankly pretty crappy to throw the LEAST powerful person at a company under the bus to vent your anger at this convention.

        1. Starbuck*

          As someone who does this, what I’m saying is ‘thanks for being patient- to me’ if you were fuming off-screen that’s fine, but if you have the self control not to unleash that on me then yes I’m grateful! Especially if the delay was totally out of my control anyway I’m not going to apologize for that on behalf of someone else.

      5. Jule*

        Complaining to the manager is not having the effect you think it is in these situations.

      6. Ainomiaka*

        To be fair, I feel the same way about an apology if they haven’t done anything to make it better/make it not happen again. They both feel like manipulating me to do extra emotional work for the company. I’m more likely to be interested in doing that if there’s social back and forth or something.

      7. MLB*

        This 100%. When you say “I’m really sorry for keeping you waiting” it sounds sincere and that you realize you’ve kept me waiting for a ridiculous amount of time. When you say “Thank you for your patience”, it just makes me more angry because you’re assuming I had a choice to be patient about waiting.

        1. Not a Morning Person*

          And we do have a choice in whether we are patient or not. We can wait patiently or we can fume and roll our eyes and tap our feet and snap our fingers and huff and puff and complain loudly about how rude others are to keep us waiting.

      8. Not a Morning Person*

        You complain because some people try to be nice and offer their appreciation for your patience? I’m so confused by this reaction to common courtesy.

      9. tusky*

        I look at it differently. I try to operate under the assumption that you (the person to whom I’m responding) *do* have a choice, even if it’s unlikely that you will exercise it. Even if you are angry at having to wait, I recognize that it still requires a degree of patience on your part to not give up entirely. (Sometimes I go with “thanks for waiting,” since that is a more objective statement with a similar meaning.) Plus, I worry that apologizing could come across as insincere, since you might question whether I really am sorry. It also puts the attention on me (with the possibility that you might feel compelled to reassure me) instead of on you. Frankly, though, if I’m responding to someone, like you, who attributes delayed responses to incompetence and views normal expressions of regret as attempts to manipulate, I figure I’ll lose regardless.

    4. Anon cat*

      Your comment for #4 struck a chord with me, and I’m also going to try to stop apologizing so much when there’s nothing actually to apologize for. I’m guilty of saying “Sorry for the delay” when I respond to an email three hours later instead of immediately. I think “Thank you for your patience” is a good idea so I don’t create an expectation that I am always able to be at someone’s beck and call whenever they want because I, too, have my own schedule.

      1. MLB*

        I don’t think either statement is necessary most times. If something is taking you a long time to figure out or complete, you don’t need to apologize about it. Just email back with their answer. The only time I “apologize for the delay” is if it got buried in my emails and I forgot about it. If they ask for an update, just let them know that you’re still looking into it (or whatever reason you haven’t gotten back to them). I often rely on other teams for answers before I get back to a client so I just explain that our data team (or whoever) is still in the process of reviewing and will provide an answer as soon as possible. IMO “Thank you for your patience” in insincere and bothers more than an apology.

      2. Yorick*

        You don’t need to apologize for a delay OR thank someone for their patience after 3 hours, unless it’s an urgent situation.

    5. Glomarization, Esq.*

      I likewise try to avoid apologizing for things that aren’t my fault. And before people chime in with, “Well, she’s a lawyer so of course she doesn’t apologize” — it’s because an apology can actually escalate a situation that I’m trying to defuse, while at the same time it’s often that there are circumstances that aren’t under my control. If I have to re-schedule your meeting or phone call, it’s because something unplanned (or ordered by a court) has pre-empted your matter on my calendar. When I take responsibility for that by apologizing, then I risk just putting myself in the line of fire of a client who (rightfully) feels that their matter is my most important work of the day. I’m not going to sit and have a client fume at me when the person actually responsible for the delay was Judge Smith or the local constabulary.

      My go-to language tends to be things like, “I had an emergency/unexpected meeting this morning, so I appreciate your patience/flexibility/understanding that I had to re-schedule/delay with you. Now that I can give your work the attention it deserves, let’s talk.” If a client presses, I’ll toss some empathetic language in there, but then I’ll bring the focus back to the matter and move business along.

      1. SophieK*

        I use something like “Unfortunately we are short staffed today/the cat is on fire/ my bathtub developed a gnome inestation and I’m sorry it affected you.”

        Because yes, in a perfect world everybody would be understanding about unforseen delays that weren’t the fault of the person smoothing things over, but that’s simply not how people work.

        You can sincerely be sorry someone was adversely affected without taking responsibility. Most people love honesty!

    6. Lola Banks*

      My thoughts exactly on #4. It’s a good way to acknowledge the inconvenience in a scenario where an apology/forgiveness would be excessive.

      1. Ruth*

        If an interviewer reschedules an interview because they made a mistake, why should an apology be considered excessive?

        1. bonkerballs*

          There’s nothing in the original letter to indicate there was a mistake. I believe you’re the OP, so you’d probably know more on that, but rescheduling could be because someone called in sick, because there’s an emergency at the office, because of a surprise inspection, because specific materials that are needed for the interview aren’t available, etc. None of those things are mistakes. It’s an inconvenience, and by thanking you for your flexibility they’re acknowledging that, but meetings getting rescheduled is a pretty standard part of business and so not something I would usually think needs an apology.

    7. SarahTheEntwife*

      I’d prefer “thank you for waiting”, since frankly I’m probably *not* being patient, but either one works.

    8. alice*

      I’m curious about your first answer – did you by chance take that from the Middle Finger Project? Personally I think it’s okay to use when genuinely you’ve done nothing wrong, but like others have said, it will come across as very condescending in other contexts.

    9. OP #5*

      You are making sense, thank you for helping me feel like I’m not super off base in thinking this is strange. I think my boss get yelled at by a client or someone once which led to the policy, but from what I hear it’s been in place for a while. It feels like we have to constantly punch in and out of work

    10. Fabulous*

      I think there is a line when the “Sorry” is warranted vs. “Thanks for your patience.” I usually opt for the Thank You in most situations nowadays, but I usually reply to something right away that I don’t have an answer for just yet, i.e. “I understand your request/question and need some time to finish the task/work out the answer. Thanks for your patience while I attend to this matter.” If it’s been a few days and I’m just now replying, that’s when the “Sorry it’s taken me so long to get back to you” comes in to play.

  10. Drew*

    Off-topic, I know: congratulations to Alison on the release of her book! I got my Kindle notification and downloaded it immediately. Now the struggle is not to read the whole thing on a work night…

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Ahhhhh I’m so excited that you have it! The last few weeks have been craziness leading up to this and I’m so glad it’s here!

      1. Not Australian*

        I had a message from Amazon to say that my paperback will be delivered today, and I’m pretty excited about it too!

          1. There All Is Aching*

            What a great idea and reminder re: reviews. I’m in. Especially since the Mayan shaman letter alone is worth the price of admission. Standing and clapping for Alison — along with all the valuable info you packed in AAM the Book, you’re also giving me hope that I’ll finish my novel soon!

        1. Annie Moose*

          Aw, I just checked and my copy’s not showing up until tomorrow. I’m so excited for it!

      2. Perse's Mom*

        I need to pick it up yet! I’ve got a coworker applying for management positions and she’d love it!

  11. Quickbeam*

    #5 in my business ( a large national insurance carrier) we have to auto reply and update our voicemail for any break in the day except breaks or lunch. This is especially true if we are leaving a few minutes early for the day.

    1. alice*

      So what does “except breaks or lunch” mean exactly? Like doctors appointments or long meetings? I’m pretty neutral on this, but I’m curious about how that affects your workflow. I imagine it would take away an extra 10 minutes each day when you have to do that. What’s that like?

  12. kilocat*

    #5 — if the LW isn’t the only one who feels this way, perhaps there could be a group push to the boss with an alternate plan. I worked in one field where 80 percent of my job was via phone. I had an outgoing voicemail that I updated each morning with the current date (thus it would sound different when I changed it to say “I am out of office from May 1 to May 5”) and something along the lines of “if you’ve reached this during business hours, I will get back to you within (reasonable time frame) if a response is required.”

    Or something along the lines of “You’ve reached Kilocat at Teapots, Inc. Today is May 1 and I may have stepped away from my desk. If this is between 8 am and 5 pm and your request is urgent, I will get back to you within two hours.”

    1. Parenthetically*

      Yeah, this seems a smart option.

      The evil part of me would be tempted to say, “This is LW5 with Llama Groomers Worldwide. I’ll be away from my desk eating chickpea salad and drinking a diet Coke on a bench under the third tree from the road just inside University Park from 12:38 until 1:04. Approximately three minutes on either side of that will be spent walking to and from said bench. I should return to my desk at 1:10, provided it only takes me 3 minutes to evacuate my bladder and swish mouthwash around in my mouth and change my outgoing message again.”

  13. RG*

    I feel like the situation described by OP #2 would be a reason why you wouldn’t want this rewards system. Idk, I feel like it reminds of the rewards you’d get for fundraising in school.

    1. Willis*

      Yeah, it sounds weird to me too, especially if people can just request some points anytime someone thanks them for doing some task. Seems like it has the potential to just reward the pushier people, which would annoy me.

    2. Akcipitrokulo*

      It does sound like it would lead to the popular folks getting more money. Feels icky. Also if your job doesn’t involve much interaction, you’ll get less.

      1. Luna*

        Yeah, every recognition program I’ve seen basically turns into a popularity contest and is more about who is liked best, not who is actually best at their job or works the hardest.

    3. neverjaunty*

      It amazes me that whoever authorized it did not appear to have considered anyone gaming the system.

        1. Seriously?*

          Yeah. It seems like some sort of check needs to be put into place. Like they can only be given out by managers or you only have a certain number per month to give out.

    4. Jemima Bond*

      It reminds me of getting house points at school. If you were in Mr Percival’s maths class you’d get loads because he handed them out like they were going out of fashion. But Mrs Fergus was much more sparing so if you had her for maths you’d not get many. Of course house points had no monetary value and merely went into a count at the end of term and the winning house got a trophy. But viewed through the prism of the competitive zeal and desire for approval of the average 12yo girl (the older ones cba, mostly) you’d think there was a flat screen tv up for grabs!
      In short, I reckon this sort of thing turns employees into 12yo girls.

      1. carlie*

        House points with a trophy? Did… *whispers excitedly* did you go to Hogwarts?

        1. curly sue*

          It’s a pretty standard thing in schools based on a British system, I think! I went to a school with houses and points, though we had pennants rather than trophies.

      2. Parenthetically*

        We had SUCH a drama a few years ago with teachers like this. We were encouraged to give house points for any excellent performance in class, but we had one teacher who categorically refused to give points to her students who got perfect marks — even on difficult exams! — and it was SO discouraging. She ended up quitting in a huff midyear which was great. Another teacher blatantly favored her own children, to the point that it damaged their friendships because people resented them for getting piles of points every week, even though they were actually lovely kids.

        In a workplace setting, I can’t imagine. You’d have to have the healthiest culture ever for it not to devolve into Hogwarts Meets Lord of the Flies, surely.

    5. Falling Diphthong*

      I thought of the wooden nickels given out by my son’s orthodontist. Which I think the youngest patients value saving up to exchange for Valuable Prizes, but don’t do anything for the teens.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Years back a group of us successfully pointed out that having just published a book about how gold stars do not motivate grown-ups, why was the company initiating a gold-star reward system? What replaced it was an early version of the praise thing, where you got a letter in your file summarizing your contributions to a given project.

        2. FM*

          I am, I like to think, a grownup, and I love gold stars. I wish more of my work came back with little sparkly star stickers on it when I did particularly well. It’s visual, cheery feedback that distinguishes between “acceptable” and “nice job!”, which my neurotic little brain can really use sometimes.

          1. SarahTheEntwife*

            Me too! It’s annoyingly easy for this sort of thing to end up implemented in a condescending way or used as a substitute for actual pay and benefits, but many, many adults enjoy small rewards and thank-yous like this. There are a number of popular “gameified” productivity systems that tap into exactly this mindset.

            I still have this little paper ribbon on my cube wall that a coworker made for me years ago as a “prize” for answering the most questions for the year on our reference chat system. It was impromptu and had no material benefit, but it made my day.

    6. Nicki Name*

      Except unlike your school fundraiser, it isn’t tied to any measurable metrics. This sounds like the sort of thing that’s guaranteed to under-reward women and minorities.

    7. Sunshine on a Cloudy Day*

      Yeahhh… I’m not totally against a point/rewards/thanks/recognition system (though I’m not really for them either), but if a company is going to do it – it needs to be thoughtful and well planned. If it ends up turning into a cliquey popularity contest or a barter/exchange system (which I think is likely to happen if not well-planned), it will probably be more demoralizing than helpful.

      My old company didn’t have a points system, but the admins did a thing where we were able to nominate fellow admins for admin of the month (which came with some sort of monetary reward – gift card or something). At first I was super into it and would craft really nicely thought out nominations, but every month it seemed like the most surly/unhelpful admins won. Finally realized the ones who did win were just very cliquey. Maybe they WERE helpful with each other, but I think more likely they would just nominate each other with vague reasons “Olga is so helpful and always willing to go above and beyond”. I finally just gave participating all together when the rudest, surliest, laziest colleague (and I worked very closely with her) won for a second time, when the most helpful and dedicated colleague hadn’t won once.

      Anyway – it was incredibly demoralizing and it would have been much better to not do it all.

  14. Akcipitrokulo*

    OP2… asking to trade is definitely unethical… but just asking if you’d do the points at the same time you’re thanking him? Doesn’t seem outrageous to me.

    I think this scheme is more likely to lead to cliques than genuine thanks!

    Given that… is it possible he’s missed out because he isn’t one of the cool kids and figures doesn’t hurt to ask? If he is pushing it, saying “I’ll think about it, but can we look at x right now’ is fine, but just asking? May be same words, but more feiendly.

    And asking at the point of verbal thanks shouldn’t mean you say no.

    1. Akcipitrokulo*

      PS… also doesn’t mean you have to say yes if you don’t think his work deserved it!

    2. Dr Wizard, PhD*

      I admit I did something vaguely similar in a (terrible) previous workplace. There was an online kudos system we’d been heavily encouraged to use. A coworker thanked me effusively for something I’d gone out of my way to resolve for him, so I did mention I’d really appreciate if he’d formalise that thanks.

      He did not.

    3. Trotwood*

      Trading the points may well be against company policy as well. A coworker of mine got a job at another company where there were a number of positions open because (word on the street was) they’d fired a bunch of supervisors for laundering their reward points like this. I don’t know if it would be considered firing-worthy at my company but it’s definitely not in the spirit of the program.

    4. Aurion*

      Formalizing the thanks doesn’t seem like a big deal to me provided it was genuine thanks for going above and beyond, because that kind of formalization is tracked and will probably be noted for their performance review. So long as the worker genuinely earned it (and not just doing the every day things required of their job), I don’t see a problem with that.

      It’s the quid pro quo and asking for points for everyday mundane things that would get my back up.

    5. another scientist*

      I just realized that this gives me the feel of a self-employed person in the gig economy/creative industry. “Click the subscribe button/leave us a review on Itunes/Like my facebook page” is the basis of people’s livelihood in some industries, and it feels wrong to push traditional workplaces in that direction.

  15. Kitty*

    #1 these people seem a little entitled to me, constantly expecting your time and emotional labour rather than taking the time to google it and learn for themselves, or even remember the instructions you’ve given previously.

    LW I think you’re well within your rights to politely decline to help with so many non work related requests.

      1. Chocolate lover*

        It sounds like kitty is referring to OPs energy or brain power to problem solve.

      2. Parenthetically*

        In this case, the emotional labor component of it is all the stuff around the actual problem — they’re expecting LW1 to do the thinking, problem-solving, troubleshooting, etc. on their behalf instead of taking initiative to do it themselves. It’s the attitude of “I can’t be bothered even trying to figure it out; I’ll outsource the bothering AND the trying AND the figuring it out to LW1.” So she’s feeling like she has to take ALL that on.

          1. deesse877*

            (Nerd moment) it’s called “emotional labor” because the effort isn’t just towards the specific problem to be solved, it’s towards placating or reassuring the other person. They don’t have to try and be cheerful and professional, because you jus absorb and deal with all their anxieties, frustrations, ignorance, etc. You’re doing all the work of keeping things pleasant.

            Term was invented by sociologist Arlie Hochschild, as a means for naming a specific component of stereotypical “women’s work.”

            1. Baby Fishmouth*

              Yes, it can be more exhausting to deal with it than people realize! There’s one woman at work who really seems to get stressed out by anything vaguely unfamiliar and will ask me how to do anything she’s not 100% sure of how to do. Even if I’m not busy, it’s exhausting trying to stay pleasant while showing her how to do tasks/doing tasks for her she could easily Google, all the while responding to her 10000000 apologies and excuses as to why she doesn’t know how to do it. It really is emotionally taxing.

              I’ve tried to tell her I’m busy/tell her to Google it because I’m not sure/tell her I just can’t do it, but then I have to listen to her complain and get stressed out about the task for the next half hour, which is almost worse.

          2. Louise*

            Yeah I think when it gets into the category of “but whyyyyy can’t you just help meeeee” that OP has to deal with it crosses the line into emotional labor.

  16. Akcipitrokulo*

    OP4 – may be a deliberate thing to make you happier :) I’ve seen a few articles advising that when it’s an unavoidable thing or an accident, saying “thank you” instead of “sorry” makes people feel better and have an all round more positive interaction.

    I’m on the fence about it… but looking at it as “they are trying to be more pleasant by following (possibly flawed here) advice to appreciate people” not “they are avoiding apologising!” may make it easier!

    1. Wintermute*

      To me “thank you” is for people that have a choice, and “I’m sorry” is for when you have inflicted something upon someone. “thank you for being patient” is for when they could have yelled at you, or just walked away/hung up, but didn’t.

      It’s disingenuous to me to use “thank you” in a situation where the power differential means your opposite party had no choice but to submit to whatever you did to them.

      1. Miso*

        Yeah, I’d honestly be pretty miffed about a thank you for whatever instead of a sorry as well.

        Honestly, it reminds me of those “Thank you for your understanding!” signs after road construction sites – I wasn’t understanding! At all! You just have no idea how very not understanding I am because you don’t see me (because you’re a lifeless sign) and I don’t have a choice!

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        What if the note includes both? E.g., “Apologies for the inconvenience” up front, and “Thank you for your patience” in the sign off?

        1. Wither*

          The thank you bit is only relevant if they know you have in fact been patient. If they don’t know that, assuming you were patiently waiting instead of ranting and fuming is disingenous. Skip it.

          Just apologise.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            If they’re thanking me for my patience, I know they don’t have my office bugged. Sometimes. Sometimes I actually was patient.

      3. Akcipit*

        Agreed – and this situation there definitely is that differential – but knowing what a (mistaken) reasoning could be in play might help understand it.

      4. Akcipitrokulo*

        Agreed – and this situation there definitely is that differential – but knowing what a (mistaken) reasoning could be in play might help understand it.

      5. Anononon*

        I disagree. Based on the comments in this post, though, it seems like this is another version “you’re welcome” versus “no problem”. There will never be a true consensus.

      6. ket*

        What if you also didn’t have a choice (for instance, you’re a lawyer and the judge rescheduled something, or you were planning an outdoor event and got 8 inches of snow)? What do you say to the people who were inconvenienced?

    2. Wither*

      It may work like that on some people, but for me it just makes me more annoyed and frustrated. Definitely does NOT make me happier. It just compounds the unhappiness with the situation.

      As I posted upthread, I’ve started complaining when someone does this to me, because I was NOT being patient or understanding and thanking me for being so is disingenous and manipulative.

      1. Pickled Beets*

        Women are often told they apologize too much and this is one of the phrases I’ve seen recommended to train oneself into a replacement. It’s something I’m working on because I have a lot of weird power dynamics in my job and am usually the lowest ranked trying to get things done. What would you recommend if both phrases were taken off the table as options?

        1. Myrin*

          For what it’s worth, personally, I actually reject the premise that women apologise too much in the first place. In fact, I’m very in favour of apologies and think that if anything, men apologise too little.
          (Although I seem to be in a generally apology-friendly culture because I can’t say that I’ve observed a tremendous amount of difference between men and women in that regard; I’ve encountered both over-apologisers and too-stubborn-too-ever-aplogise-ers across the board. We also seem to be a bit more casual with our apologies in general, though, which might make a difference – a quick “I’m sorry” seems to be much more of a social lubricant and essentially meaningless apart from conveying “I acknowledge your inconvenience” compared to what I’ve heard about the US.)

          1. Gazebo Slayer*

            “if anything, men apologise too little”

            +1000000. 90% of the “men do/don’t do X, women should do it/not do it too” advice is exactly backward. Women are socialized to be decent people and men are socialized to be rude, entitled, egotistical jerks. Our culture considers male the default, but default doesn’t mean better.

        2. misspiggy*

          I don’t apologise to equals or superiors (unless I’ve made a major error which has affected them).

          It would be bad manners to take a difficult situation out on an equal or an underling. I treat people as if they have good manners (especially when I know for a fact that they don’t). I just give them the bad news: ‘I’m afraid the llamas have gone on strike. Would you like to offer them more hay, or would you prefer to wait it out?’

          I want to frame the situation differently from them as my customer – particularly as a woman working with older men. I try to set up each conversation so that it’s two people working on a shared problem. If they contribute to a solution, I thank them very politely for their time.

          1. Wither*

            That sounds like a diffferent situation, though. Llamas going on strike is not something you are responsible for, so there’s no need to apologise. That’s not the same thing and not what is being talked about.

            1. Bluenoser two*

              That is kind of cultural too, though. Where I’m from, I would absolutely be expected to say “I’m sorry, the llamas are on strike etc.”. It’s short hand for “this news might be displeasing and that’s too bad” not “I’m the head negotiator with International Llama Union and caused the strike myself”.

        3. Pickled Beets*

          I’m definitely not opposed to apologies if they’re deserved! However, I regularly encounter power dynamics that mean if I apologize, I’m setting myself up as submissive to whatever the other party wants to do. Mostly it’s that I’m a woman working with older men, but a few are also folks who use the fact that I’m not 6’4″ to try physical intimidation on occasion. Anyway, I know I’m apologizing too much when I start annoying myself with it.

          Misspiggy, I like the way you handle things.

        4. Wither*

          Women apologising too much isn’t about genuine apologies when somenoe has screwed up, it’s about reflexive apologising for things that are not actually your fault as social smoothing.

          If overcoming that means you are unwilling to say sorry ever, then you’ve justvtraded one problem for another.

      2. Luna*

        But sometimes it is not the other person’s fault so why should they apologize? I often have to wait forever to respond to requests because I need to get the okay from my boss first, and she is soooo slow about everything. Sometimes I do apologize anyway, but other times I get tired of constantly apologizing when I did nothing wrong!

        1. Wither*

          If it’s not your fault, you don’t have to apologise. Why would you? Just don’t thank me for my patience instead, because the chances are I was very much NOT being patient and thanking me for a non-existent attitude is infuriating.

          Or you can just say “sorry this took so long” or something similar, which acknowledges the delay and apologises for it without accepting responsibility, for cases where it wasn’t your fault but the other part was still inconvenienced by it.

          1. a1*

            I would say if you weren’t constantly calling or emailing or hovering (or whatever) while waiting then you were being patient. Regardless of how you felt on the inside, from the outside you were patient.

          2. Pickled Beets*

            Hmm. “Sorry this took so long” technically is an apology from my perspective. I think it’s more about saying something polite that we can all probably agree no one means. For instance, you didn’t feel patient – though a1’s right that the act of waiting was patient – but the apology may also be insincere no matter how it’s phrased. Probably especially if it wasn’t the individual’s fault.

            1. SarahTheEntwife*

              A lot of these apologize I think bleed into the sympathy-apology (i.e., if I say I’m sorry your hamster died, there is no implication that I was responsible), and it’s annoying that English uses the phrase to mean both things. I’m not necessarily claiming that anything went wrong to cause me to take so long answering your question; I’m acknowledging that it was likely annoying or problematic to have to wait so long and sympathizing with that frustration.

  17. Zaphod Beeblebrox*

    OP2 – reminds me of the Employee Of The Year scheme we had many years ago. Simply put, anyone could vote for anyone else, and the person with the most votes won.

    Someone who was on various warnings for conduct, attendance etc went round lobbying for votes, and ended up as the winner.

      1. Zaphod Beeblebrox*

        It, and it’s Employee Of The Month cousin, were stopped soon afterwards…

        1. Decima Dewey*

          Some years back, I got an email saying that X was a runner up for employee of the month, which made me wonder who came in dead last. I worked with the guy at another location. Sometimes patrons would come up to the reference desk with steam all but literally coming out of their ears. Sure enough, X was on the desk, enforcing rules we didn’t even have.

          It turned out TPTB were trying to boost X’s morale, hence the runner up thing.

  18. SomeoneElse*

    OP2: I worked in a large global enterprise with a variety of divisions, including fashion and specialised vehicles, some years ago where we were gifted ‘[company nickname] Bucks’ for going above and beyond. These could be spent on items from the company’s internal catalogue and each offices’ order usually went in about once every 6 months (I think? Infrequent enough to be able to save up Bucks).
    This meant that, as the date for the next order started to creep up, people would straight out ask for Bucks in return for doing things, or even just because they had their eye on a certain item and wanted to make sure they got enough Bucks to buy it. People would swap Bucks: “I’ll give you ten Bucks if you give me ten Bucks”.
    I think this was because we weren’t otherwise allowed to ‘top up’ the Bucks with money to be able to get an item or use the catalogue without the Bucks, but getting something from the catalogue did mean you got a fair discount on some of the more coveted items which sold for £££ in the shops.
    There was always a bun fight at the last minute, and higher-ups always making statements that we weren’t using the Bucks in the spirit they were intended but I think if they’d been a little less strict with how it all worked (or just allowed us to top up with cash), it would have made a good scheme.
    For us in the UK, it often meant we had access to ‘really cool’ items that weren’t even in our shops, so it was a bit of a feeding frenzy sometimes! (Oh, fashion. How weird you are)

  19. PhyllisB*

    Just have to share: I just won a copy of Alison’s new book on Goodreads!! Thank you, Alison!!

  20. Roscoe*

    #1 You’ve been there 6 months. I think you have enough standing now to disappoint people who can’t be bothered to google something on their own. I get for the first few months, its nice to get to know everyone and be as helpful as possible to everyone. But its been long enough. Just ask them if they have tried googling it first and what they have tried, and start saying no. I’d say if its anything work related, you should keep going. Anything personal, like on their phone, let them learn themselves.

    #2 Saying too sensitive seems a bit harsh, but I do think you are just on a different page than him on how these things should be done. I’d kind of investigate though which of you is actually the outlier here. If most people in the office would give these points for what he is doing, maybe you need to recalibrate your expectations of when they are warranted. If most people though are like you and are a bit more selective about giving them out, then maybe just explain to him during one of your talks about promotions and stuff that most of the office doesn’t use the points in the way you are asking him too

  21. Eliza Jane*

    #4: I was amazed by how fast things went from “thanks for your flexibility” to “We’re so sorry!” when I said, “Actually, this is putting a real strain on my schedule. I’m going to withdraw my candidacy. Good luck with the search!”

    I was in a privileged position to be able to do that, but I wish more people who can afford to would do so. Insider info told me that the division to which I was applying had a major recruiting overhaul when upper management found out they’d lost a strong candidate for a position they were struggling to fill because they rescheduled phone screens 3 times. Companies don’t have a strong reason to respect job seekers unless quality applicants hold them accountable.

    1. Naptime Enthusiast*

      I feel that one rescheduled phone screen would still warrant a “thanks for your flexibility”, but everything beyond that should have been a “sorry” unless there was a REALLY good explanation for it.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        Plus offering a choice of times, rather than just 1 and saying “take it or leave it”.

    2. CM*

      I think “sorry for the inconvenience” versus “thank you for gracefully coping with the inconvenience” is the same sentiment. Different people will prefer one or the other but they’re both an acknowledgment that the person who’s saying it is causing an inconvenience and the person receiving it has to deal with that.

  22. Environmental Compliance*

    OP1 – that was me in my last job. For some reason being the youngest in the office (by about 15 years) made me also the IT person….as the environmentalist. I do not know the inner functionings of a giant office copier. I also do not know why certain softwares do certain dumb things. I was already incredibly busy and overloaded, so being asked to fix the copier (it usually just needed paper), set up the department’s social media accounts, troubleshoot highly specific programs (I have never used Teletask)… was frustrating, especially since that’s most definitely not what I was there for, and it started significantly eating away at the time I really needed for my actual job tasks.

    We had an IT department, so I would usually ask first – Did you call [IT person]? I would call [IT person] and ask him to come over and troubleshoot. With things like “the copier has run out of paper, what do” – I’d show them what the error was, where the paper was, and how to load it and ask them if it made sense to them so when it happened again, they could handle it.

    With those that just ranted loudly about how I’m a Millennial and therefore all technology questions go to me – I ignored. With those that I had already shown a couple times how to do something and they in essence refused to learn it for themselves – sorry, I’m just too busy. Maybe call [IT person] and see if he can help you?

    Personally, I’d help once or twice on the same task, and then redirect them to Google, or email them what website directions you used to help them. It’s nice to help out people, but when it comes to things like this, it always seems to end up in them being dependent on you to solve the things that they really should be able to solve themselves.

    (As a side note – there was an older gal at the office who actually knew how to Google things, and was pretty good at figuring out what she needed to figure out. We had an ongoing joke of how difficult Google must be to use. If she heard someone in my office asking about some goofy real basic tech issue, she’d text me “The Power of Google COMPELS YOU!”)

    1. Tardigrade*

      It makes you wonder what these people did before you started working there. Surely the printer ran out of paper before and someone figured it out. I’m still surprised that these kinds of things happen considering technology has been in the workplace for for a couple decades now.

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        The people in my position were often 30 or younger, and there was another position that often had someone in that age group, so I think they just bounced between either of those two until they quit. But I really don’t know how you don’t know how to put paper in a printer when you’ve been working in an office in a job that requires you to print things for 20+ years.

        1. Morag*

          Many people used to avoid it as there always used to be an admin (secretary) who took care of these things as well as all the little things people should google for themselves now. It was a different time.

          1. Environmental Compliance*

            The best part was when the receptionists/office manager would ask me to ‘fix’ the printer when it was out of paper.

          2. Tardigrade*

            As someone young-ish, I consider printers old tech and don’t know much about them because I work in the digital world; I don’t print things. It’s interesting that printers were born and will continue living as misunderstood office beasts.

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        Considering she was one of the oldest in the office, and it usually comes down to the youngest being chosen to be the de facto IT person….yep. I wish she would have said something to the people telling me quite literally that since I was younger I was going to be the “tech person”. It came down to an age thing, and it really shouldn’t have. Though she also knew how to do certain tech things (i.e., unjam the printer) no one would ask her, the “young person would know how to do it”.

        1. Morag*

          Some would find the reference to “older gal” offensive – I’m sure you didn’t mean it to be but FYI don’t use it again as it distracts from what you were trying to say, which was not offensive at all.

              1. Environmental Compliance*

                To be honest, all the women that were of that age group in the office referred to themselves as “older gals”, so I really had no idea it would be offensive. They also called me and a woman that was about 15 years older than me, about 25 years younger than them the “younger gals”. I assumed it was some regional thing and rolled with it. If it’s offensive to people, I’m not going to use it of course, but I am curious now if it was a regional thing or we were all unaware.

          1. Mr. X*

            Some need to not be so sensitive, and don’t tell someone what they can and can’t say.

            1. London Calling*

              I’ll remember that next time someone gets irked over critical remarks about ‘millenials.’ Funny how everyone rushes to their defence and they aren’t being sensitive but those of us over sixty who don’t like the term of reference are told not to be the same. Frankly, ageism in the office is as unacceptable as sexism – and I speak as an over 60 who regularly hears comments about ‘old biddies’ and the like (and not said jokingly either). I haven’t called it out yet because I’m biding my time, but IMO calling someone an old gal is as crass as calling younger women chicks. Women of all ages have enough problems in the workforce even now without having to field stuff like this. We’re WOMEN.

  23. Penny*

    As the young person in my tiny office I have somehow become the printer person and everyone comes to me for their printer problems and I haaaaaaate it. I don’t know anything more about printers than you do, dude.

    1. A Person*

      Someone introduced me to a new hire as the printer expert (because I came from a more technical background) and that was the first thing out of my mouth in response.

      Haven’t had anyone ask me to do anything to a printer since.

    2. Grouchy 2 cents*

      Silly Idea: Find some random parts that look like they come from a printer and keep them in your desk. Next time someone asks for help pull them out and say ooo good I’ve been hoping to find a spot for these extra pieces that were leftover last time. I bet they’ll stop asking!
      (This actually happened at an old office of mine. Folks were in over the weekend finishing a project and the printer went down. They took it apart and put it back together and it worked enough to print their stuff. They handed IT a baggy on Monday morning with the parts they hadn’t been able to put back in. IT was not pleased)

  24. IT Wife*

    OP 1: My husband works in IT and comes across this often. If it’s a personal issue, he tells them he doesn’t feel it’s ethical to work on it during hours where the company is paying him to work on their issues.

  25. Pine cones huddle*

    LW1 — this so so me as well! But to speak to Alison’s point…

    I don’t usually mind helping. I am the kind of person who likes to figure things out. I’ve even been known to read the manual with excitement when we get a new xerox machine. Yes, people ask me about their phones and how to make word do this or that or how to get pictures of their daughter’s wedding from “the chili’s thing”. But I’ve also spoken at some tech conferences and am known to be a bit more user friendly than IT :) People do see me as the go-to tech person. It’s not the worst thing in the world to be admired or spoken about behind your back by people in other departments as “the one who can do anything in excel”. Honestly, I’ve helped people a lot and have gotten some great rewards (baked goods) as thanks.

    All that being said, when I’m busy I tell them or ask them to try me later — and no one has ever acted miffed. If I just don’t know I tell them. Some things can’t be done and I tell them that too. For people that are obnoxious, I shrug my shoulders. For some dude who thinks I can make his copies for him, I point him to the manual (this is different than someone who genuinely is trying to figure out a bulk scanning job on the printer or something). For people who really need to learn how to do something I’m doing for their jobs, I make an effort to train them or direct them to other resources (it’s not helping anyone if someone can’t do their own job). And for the selectively helpless I tell them to google it. It’s helped create an environment where people actually value my help instead of assuming I’ll do it for them.

    There have been times when someone definitely didn’t know how to do something (like mail merge) that was actually a key part of getting some of their work done regularly. And it was a burden on me. I sat down with our manager and let her know what was going on. She was unaware that this person didn’t know how to do many things (like a simple sum formula in excel or printing an envelope or on letterhead — apparently my predecessor and she had an arrangement where they divided up the various tasks that they didn’t know how to do). I told her it was an issue for me and keeping me from getting my own work done on schedule. So we worked to train an ween this person off so much help. Believe it or not, it was seriously stressful for her to have to ask for help and feel like she didn’t have to skills needed to do her job.

    You’d be surprised how good people feel when they know they can do something themselves now instead of like they have to come to someone else asking for help for a part of their job. Nobody wants to feel unqualified.

  26. Bookworm*

    #4: Although they might not say “sorry” it could be that they’re enormously busy (but it would be nice). However, I’d take this as something to keep in the back of your mind. I’d make some allowances but a place that has to repeatedly reschedule might raise a few eyebrows. I’ve also had my application thrown out because I wouldn’t reschedule after agreeing to a set time (and after already rescheduling once). The hiring manager got real pissy.

    At another they canceled a set interview (with a date and time and instructions how to access their office) after they shot a “Oh, BTW, what are your salary requirements in an email and said they would not move forward with a candidate who declined to share this information (my choice, yes, but this also wasn’t clear in the job description and only came up after scheduling the interview).

    Hope you don’t have to deal with that but sometimes you never know.

  27. Frustrated Optimist*

    With regard to #4, I see the OP’s point. I think it would be helpful if hiring managers could say both, “I’m sorry for the inconvenience,” in addition to “Thank you for your flexibility.”

    Otherwise, I agree, it just seems to reinforce the feeling that companies have *all* the power, and applicants have *none.*

  28. Actuary*

    Cold emailing is pretty common in my field. Some people hate it, but the reality is our last two entry-level hires were from cold emails. When you get hundreds of applicants for postings, sometimes it’s overwhelming (not to mention HR rarely is any good at sifting through and finding the best) and that person who cold emailed you and has a decent resume is top of mind. Or we have had a few people cold email and mention they saw we were alumni of their college and reached out. I got a few phone interviews at entry-level this way myself. (Hit ratio is low, but higher than applying through the company website.)

    I’ve also done this as an experienced employee looking for a new job and gotten interviews.

  29. Dust Bunny*

    LW1: If people ask me how to do stuff on their personal phones, I ask what kind of phone they have and if it’s not the same as mine, I tell them I don’t know. Maybe I could figure it out, but then maybe they could figure it out, too. Or they could Google it. But it keeps me from being the “young, tech-savvy person” in the office.

  30. Hope*

    I have a coworker who often asks for help with things that are EASILY Googleable (and frankly, stuff that she should already know how to do for her job). Our general response to her is “have you tried Googling it?” It got to the point that we’re all pretty sure she just literally does not know how to use Google.

    Now she leads with “I know I could probably just Google this, but…”

    I started to feign ignorance about whatever she wants to know, and that has worked really well. Now that I’m no longer a reliable resource, she bothers other people instead of me.

    1. Bea*

      My last boss was a bad. He also grossly underpaid so the talent pool was already terrible to start with.

  31. Moonbeam Malone*

    OP #1 – You can still suggest people google stuff without it having to be A Thing! “Oh, I’m happy to help you if I can. First, have you checked google? No? Okay, you might not even need me! Let’s see what a google search pulls up. That way if you need to find the info again and I’m not available you’ll know how to find it!” Make sure they’re the one that googles it, and not you. They need to go through that motion to kind of learn it. I’m usually pretty open with people about the fact that’s where I usually get those kinds of answers myself as well and it’s not a big deal. This doesn’t mean people won’t still ask you for help, but it might help you gracefully bow out of the heavy lifting of researching every single technical issue.

    1. Jennifer Thneed*

      > They need to go through that motion to kind of learn it.


      Don’t let them stand in your cube while you do the Thing. Instead, walk them back to their desk, make them sit down, and then point to the screen while you tell them what to do. *Do not touch the mouse or keyboard yourself.*

      Extra bonus: you can leave their desk when you want to, instead of hoping they’ll leave your desk.

  32. StanfordGraduate*

    OP1 – I was that person at a job I had in 2013. And years later, everyone still remembers me, everyone loves me, whenever I come to visit, I am their favorite person and they beg me to come back. A little willingness to help goes a long way… From setting a printer, to how to upload a photo on Facebook, how to do a certain setting in Word, look up a phone number for a restaurant, spell check an email, I was doing it all and now I have a huge group of older friends that remember me 5 years later and I can ask them for any favor I want. It was definitely a good investment of my time.

    1. Czhorat*

      Yes, exactly.

      Your professional reputation is built one piece at a time, with each interaction. If you’re the go-to person for a technical question and always find a few minutes to help then that’s part of who you are: someone who’s knowledgeable and – more importantly – helpful. Someone who is good to have around the office, above and beyond your performance at your formal work duties.

      It might be a minor series of disruptions, but it’s also an opportunity for you. I’d suggest you take it.

      1. AnonymousInfinity*

        A coworker brought the OP a jumble tangle of necklaces to untangle (as OP stated upthread). They become upset and persistent when OP can’t help with the minor disruption. There is being helpful when able and then there is being walked on. Both come with reputations.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Right. These aren’t all work-related tasks. Being the go-to person for someone’s drudgery doesn’t help anyone’s reputation.

        2. Czhorat*

          Ah. I didn’t read all of the comments (sorry!) and missed that.

          I agree – that changes things considerably. It goes from “incidental help which will improve your reputation” to “lack or respect in seeing you as a source of grunt work for menial tasks”.
          That definitely changes the calculus.

  33. LawLady*

    LW5: This is so odd to me. I have a job where sometimes responses need to be very quick and clients do expect to be able to reach me. So I have email on my phone and my office phone forwards to my cell. It seems to me that if you’re in a job where a delay of a lunch break is too much, these are more normal approaches. I would be so weirded out by an OoO that said “be back after lunch.”

  34. AnonymousInfinity*

    OP #1 – When you have 1-2 years under your belt at this company and in this role (whatever your role is), I think you’ll regret your coworkers being trained to come to you to do their small things. It’s easier now to shut it down than to suddenly stop knowing or helping in 1-2 years. Helping with requests like “how do I make a new tab in Excel” and “how do I do personal things on my phone” is not in any way niche. The tiny, basic things you’re being asked to do over and over out of sheer convenience for other people aren’t even at the level of “that’s really a question for the Help Desk”…it’s more secretarial, at least where I work, and only expected by those with very little respect for the person in that position.

    As one of the youngest female employees in my office (…I’m in my 30’s), I get a lot of “hey, can you help with….” requests. My rule of thumb is that if a request coming to me would not reasonably be asked of and fulfilled by an older peer (i.e., same or similar job title with same or similar responsibilities), then I politely say, “I can’t help with that. Try Help Desk or Admin.” No smile. No apology. No explanation. If not being sweetly available for the convenience of my peers sinks me professionally, well, oh damn.

    1. Czhorat*

      This is an interesting counterpoint.

      As a middle-aged (sigh) white male with a strong professional reputation that’s not a concern for me, but I DO see how a younger person, a minority, or both would be sending a different message by stepping in with things like this.

    2. Bea*

      Actually her workload should increase in 2-3 years and you can easily “I’m too busy, try the help desk.” at that point.

      I’ve never regretted being a go to person and I’ve been climbing the ladder steadily since I was 19 years old. I’m also always high on the chain of command with more pull than most will ever know. It doesn’t do women any favors to continue to feed the advice that they’ll be stunted or always viewed poorly by doing something extra when asked. It’s about inserting yourself and making yourself a valuable asset to the entire company that also solidifies strong careers.

      1. AnonymousInfinity*

        If a coworker dropped a jumble of tangled necklaces on my desk and asked me to untangle them (as was done to the OP; see upthread), I would be viewed poorly for abiding the request. I could not put that on my resume. I could not include it in a performance review. I could not tell my boss “I didn’t meet Deadline X because Sally Sue needed me to untangle her necklaces from home” and keep my self-respect. It doesn’t do women any favors to be told to oblige outlandish emotional labor expectations to get ahead and build “reputation.” YMMV.

        (The extra work I took on to earn my directorship, where I outrank people twice my age and they know it, was writing 500-page accreditation reports and managing complex databases. The only thing that stood in my way of that promotion were people asking, “But what are we going to do about SupportTasks?! We can’t lose her in that role! She does the little things so well!” My boss disagreed. Not everyone has my boss.)

        1. Czhorat*

          I agree.

          My initial read (Co-workers asking for minor technical help) would still be leveraged in a positive way; this has clearly – at least with some co-workers – crossed over to something very different and much more harmful.

        2. Observer*

          There is a balance here. The OP most certainly should shut down the ridiculous stuff. And should also not allow even reasonable requests to derail her work. So, a hard no to stuff like the necklaces, and minimal availability to the person who asks something like that.

          On the other hand, a lot of the other stuff is good to be responsive to.

          While it’s true that a lot of companies can get hung up on “we can’t promote GreatStaff because they are so good at the lesser job” good companies know better. And, the reputation you’ve built travels to other organizations. On the other hand, if your reputation is built on never doing anything that “isn’t in my job description”, odds are that there won’t be any objections that “she’s too good to promote” because no one is going to consider a promotion anyway.

  35. Bea*

    I’ve only recently stopped being the go to tech source because now my workplace is all my age or around there. I’ll now only get asked things if it’s something we rarely do.

    You’ll learn with time who is treating you like an assistant and who just trusts your knowledge the most. Then you’ll feel better brushing off the leeches and putting your knowledge and skills elsewhere.

    I want to punch the person who had you untangle necklaces though. My boss once asked me if I would mind helping her with a bra strap and I was just fine with that one off personal request but she was my boss, we were close and it was a totally random day and her shoulder was ef’ed up, also when you sign my checks imma do a million more things for you than some peer or slightly senior staffer.

  36. Fabulous*

    #4 – I think there is a line when the “Sorry” is warranted vs. “Thanks for your patience.”

    I usually opt for the ‘Thank You’ in most situations nowadays, but I usually reply to something right away that I don’t have an answer for just yet, i.e. “I understand your request/question and need some time to finish the task/work out the answer. Thanks for your patience while I attend to this matter.” If it’s been a few days and I’m just now replying, that’s when the “Sorry it’s taken me so long to get back to you” comes in to play.

    Or if it’s particularly bothersome matter, like rescheduling multiple times as in #4, I would recommend something attune to “Thank you for your flexibility and sincerest apologies for any inconveniences” to cover all bases!

  37. Mimmy*


    As someone who has little patience for schedule changes and cancellations, I always appreciate hearing / reading a sincere apology along with a good explanation for the change or cancellation. It does not have to be long and specific – a general “an unexpected issue came up” is fine. I honestly don’t want to hear / see a “thank you” unless I have acknowledged and accepted the apology and agreed to the change. If my experience and interactions have otherwise been good, I’d be understanding. However, if it becomes a pattern, the red flags go way up (I’m looking at YOU state mass transit agency!!).

    This is probably coming across a bit cranky, I apologize for that. Things do come up – I get it. However, I value my time. Plus, I can’t drive, so it takes extra effort for me to plot how I’m going to get to a meeting / interview / coffee date, especially when it’s to an area I’m not familiar with.

  38. KP*

    If the LW from “Thank you Points” is a corporate scientist, there is a very good chance they are involved in a pharmaceutical industry. I say this as a corporate scientist in a pharmaceutical industry whose company also uses a rewards program. I’ve noticed that Pharmas have really high standards when it comes to ethical behavior that aren’t necessarily present in other industries. It’s not what a thing is, so much as what it LOOK like. (For instance, and FDA official and I would never even offer to buy each other coffee. Not allowed)

    At my company, it would absolutely be an ethical violation to trade points in this manner. The points have monetary value. They are taxed. Quid pro quo trading looks shady as hell, even if the points are deserved. (Actually, ours our monitored. If my boss sees me trading points back and forth with someone, it absolutely would be followed up on)

    Do not be guilty into giving the technician points. It’s not worth your reputation or your career.

    1. PseudoMona*

      I’m also a research scientist at a large pharmaceutical company, and I agree with you. My company’s rewards point system is for recognizing individuals who go above and beyond their normal duties. It would be extremely against company norms to expect (let alone ask for) points for doing your regular research duties. A quid pro quo point trading set up would get you in trouble.

  39. Menacia*

    I actually *do* tech support, but I draw the line at dealing with coworker’s personal tech issues. A coworker of mine would actually work on personal computers here at work, because he’s that kind of nice guy. The problem here is that if you don’t push back sooner rather than later, it won’t stop. You should absolutely get into the habit of saying you are not available, and suggest they try Google. I want to get OUT of this line of work because I find most people to be really lazy if they know someone with the answers is a phone call away (even though it’s my job, some people take no initiative at all, and I actually have to show them how to do their own job). Frustrating as hell, don’t get roped into it if it’s not part of your job responsibilities.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I had one or two coworkers at each of the OldJobs who would do tech support on people’s personal computers, after hours, at their homes, for cash. I used one of them once to fix my laptop.

      I’ve never seen anyone ask for their personal device to be worked on during work hours. That’s a pretty odd expectation to be honest. For more serious issues, that’s too much time to spend on non-work things during work hours, and for everything else, there’s Google. Agree about pushing back.

      1. KR*

        SO agree. I worked tech support and I had people try to get me to work on their personal computers on the side for money. No, no, no. 1) I’m not a network administrator on your home system and did not set up your home PC and I don’t know how your system is set up. 2) I do not want to open a can of worms when I discover your whole system is screwed up. 3) I have seen how clean you keep your work office and I don’t want to see how you keep your house.

  40. Manager Mary*

    OP 1, I didn’t read the other comments so I apologize if this is a repeat. I’m no longer the youngest person/default IT guru, but what I used to do is help the person in the moment (as is reasonable, of course) and then find a good tutorial online somewhere and email it to them with a friendly note. Like “Hey Fergus, I found this handy tutorial for texting pictures from an Android! Thought you might find it useful so you don’t have to wait on me every time/look it up every time/[insert whatever phrase suits your personality/situation best]. :) ” It reduced the number of requests while letting me maintain my “super helpful person” status. You aren’t under obligation to do that! But if you WANT to keep up that reputation without showing Fergus how to text pictures every week, this could be an option.

  41. Echo*

    LW #5’s company seems to be doing this completely backwards. In a situation like this, they should ALWAYS have the voicemail and autoreply active. The voicemail would say something like “we are supporting another customer at this time. Please leave your name, number, and a brief message and we will get back to you within ____ hours.” and the autoreply would say something like “thank you for contacting Acme Corp. We typically respond to messages within ____ hours.” etc. Could you recommend this to your boss?

  42. Birch*

    Yikes, the points system being worth actual money sounds like a terrible idea just asking for corruption! It’s as if LinkedIn endorsements made you real money. Yikes, yikes, yikes! I would want to opt out of the system entirely to avoid any trouble. It sounds like an ethical nightmare, and how much can the points really be worth if they’re given by peers and not managers? It just sounds like it’s turned into a weird competition.

  43. Sagacious*

    “Perhaps the company thinks you are only working for the points instead of having pride in doing a good job.”

    If the company was upset with this attitude, it shouldn’t have set up the points system. People ultimately work for compensation.

    1. Pollygrammer*

      I worked under a points systems that was only good for starbucks gift cards, and that was bad enough.

  44. bonkerballs*

    #4 The apology debate is always so interesting to me. It seems to me – and there are lots of examples of it in multiple comment sections on this blog – that people fall into two camps when it comes to apologies. Either you think an apology is not an apology until the actual words “I’m sorry” are used or you think an apology has nothing to do with what actual words are spoken, but is all in a person’s tone, sincerity, and actions. For me, if I received an email that said something like “Dear Bonkers, We’re very much looking forward to meeting with you for the Llama Groomer position. Unfortunately, we’ve been surprised by a licensing inspection today and will have to reschedule our interview. Are you available to meet tomorrow at the same time? If that time does not work, please let me know when else you’re available this week and we’ll make something work. Thank you so much for your flexibility. Best, Manager.” it would never occur to me that they hadn’t apologized just because it was missing the words I’m sorry. But I know other people would feel it was super rude. It’s interesting.

    I did want to mention to #4 also – your status as a “grad student who can’t afford to be picky” is probably not a factor in their rescheduling of this interview at all. Mostly because that’s how you see yourself, but they have no way of knowing that about you. You may be a grad student who’s family is independently wealthy. Or one that’s been on lots of interviews and has lots of options to choose from. It’s highly unlikely they’re seeing “grad student” and thinking that means “someone I can jerk around.”

  45. CM*

    OP#2, this person is not shy about the transactional nature of the thank-you points, so there’s no reason you need to be either. Say straight out, “I don’t give people thank-you points for just doing their jobs. If you consistently do good work on this project, I was already planning to give you thank-you points at the end of the project, but please don’t ask for them before the project is over.”

  46. Wendy Ann*

    My last job had a thank you reward system with the prize being small gift cards to either a coffee franchise or subway. If someone went above and beyond for you, you could get a gift card from our office accountant and give it to the person as a thank you and they got added congratulations on the weekly email. I found that it made me less helpful because when naturally-helpful me did something, I got nothing because I had been this helpful all along (and they now expected it from me), but if Lazy Larry did the same thing, he got a gift card.

  47. Observer*

    LW#1 I haven’t read all of the comments, but I’ve seen all of yours.

    What I would say is this.

    Firstly, what NOT to do. Don’t worry about the “principle” of the thing. And don’t say that you don’t know.

    What you SHOULD do:

    * Set limits of the kind of thing you will do. Non-work related, non-computer stuff? Nope. Think about what ever else you want on that list.

    * Be clear about your limits. You can soften around the edges for something, although not for everything. But still be clear. If it’s something you might otherwise do, but you are busy? So eg “I’d like to help you, but I’m on deadline.” Something like the necklaces? No softening, just a clear refusal. eg “Sorry, I can’t do that.” And don’t argue, justify or explain.

    * Push back on being volunteered. Yes, you definitely want to make sure that you take on your share of tasks – but do it on your own terms! So, volunteer on a regular basis. But when CW tries to “volunteer” you, speak up. Be polite but absolutely clear and firm.

    * Figure out who is a problem and who isn’t. Then always be prepared when the Problem CW’s show up. Have some scripts handy as well.

    * To the extent that you can, offer to show people how to do stuff and provide resources. Most people who are not trying to take advantage and are respectful will either try to learn or make it clear that they understand that they have an issue.

  48. Miles*

    #2 I don’t think you should deny him points just because he asked. Of course he’s doing it to get more and the strategy is probably working in a crude way (people who might not have been thinking about it might remember those when he asks) but just asking doesn’t negate the fact that he did good work and helped you out.

    If it was a boss deciding all of your bonuses instead of y’all each other’s, he’d be asking the same way.

  49. Miles*

    #4 “thanks for your flexibility” is the better practice imo. It acknowledges the other (your) party’s moral superiority in the situation without putting yourself (the interviewer) down. As someone who has worked years in customer facing jobs, there are way too many situations where “sorry” invites a grudge that wouldn’t/shouldn’t be there while “thank you” mollifies.

    That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t expect an apology if it was a company’s mistake that led to the rescheduling (and maybe that’s what happened here) but usually it’s a result of either some misunderstanding (thise happen & are unavoidable) or some unforeseen issue that came up.

  50. Former Computer Professional*

    #1 – One of my first jobs, I was the “yes” person. Someone asked me to do something and I’d say “Of course” or “Yes, I can do that!” and do all sorts of stuff that was out of my job’s purview.

    Then, after about six months, came the day I had to say “no.” I can’t remember why it was. The only thing I remember is that the whole office turned on me as if I said I was going to boil everyone’s pets. They all stopped talking to me, because I said “no” ONCE.

    I started job hunting right away.

    1. Bea*

      I got my only write up ever when I had to say “No, I really can’t find time for that. But I asked GM to do it because that’s where I inherited the (BS) task (I wasn’t even properly trained in).”

      I too went and got a new job. Where I’m back to saying yes to everything but if I’m swamped asking for help and saying “I can not do that” is perfectly acceptable. I also make more money now, funny how that works.

  51. Lisa*

    Wouldn’t giving points back in return negate the whole getting of points in the first place?

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