I’m supposed to do a 90-minute presentation at an interview, no one at work acknowledges my life events, and more

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

1. Company asked me to put together a 90-minute presentation for an interview

Is it unreasonable for a company to ask candidates to put together a 90-minute presentation?

A recruiter on LinkedIn reached out to me about a specific market research management position at the headquarters of a Fortune 500. A few phone interviews later with different people and the hiring manager, they want me to put together a 90-minute presentation based on a real-world business situation with real data as part of the evaluation process with one week to put it together.

At this point I’m considering withdrawing my application. I average 60 hours a week in my current role. I get up between 4:30 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. every morning and often don’t get home until 8 or 9 p.m., factoring in traffic for my 50-mile commute. The only time I have to do any errands, attend appointments, or spend time with my family is over the weekend, and even then because it is a global business I could have to put in some work. I’d imagine that many of the other candidates for the role are also under similar time pressures.

In one of my previous management consulting roles, a 200-billable-hour market research project could result in a 45-minute tops presentation of key findings and recommendations. I really don’t have time to put together key findings, much less research of substance, for 90 minutes while working full-time unless I take days off from work, which are too valuable for this.

I’m thinking of bringing all this up, but maybe it would just make me look bad for future opportunities that could be had with this company?

Asking candidates for a 90-minute presentation is insane. That’s the length of a feature film.

I don’t know anything about your industry, so who knows, maybe this is commonplace in your field — but I’m really skeptical that it is, because that is incredibly long.

For what it’s worth, it’s very unlikely that they’re expecting the same thoroughness or nuance that you’d put together if you were actually on the job — but it’s still way too much time investment to expect from a job candidate.

You could try saying, “In my experience, putting together a high-quality presentation of that length and on this topic would take many hours, and unfortunately my work commitments won’t allow for that. I’d be happy to show you ____ instead, if that would work.” (Fill in the blank with the closest thing you have that would work, like a redacted version of a previous presentation or anything else you have that will get close to what they’re likely trying to assess.) Be prepared, though, for them to assure you that they’re just looking for a quick-and-dirty version and don’t expect you to put in more than an hour or two of prep. If that happens, then you’d need to decide if you can do what they’re asking in that amount of time or if you want to stick with a firm no (which is likely to take you out of the running).

But as long as you’re polite and reasonably cheerful about it, it shouldn’t make you look bad to them for the future — unless they’re entirely unreasonable, in which case it doesn’t make sense to go through contortions to avoid that anyway.

2. No one at work acknowledges my life events

Is it weird that no one seems to either offer condolences or congratulations to me during major life events? My father died in 2015, and only one person in the office offered any condolences (a card was signed by about half the office). In the past few weeks, I informed the top leadership of the organization that my wife was pregnant and that I would like to take paternity leave after the baby is delivered. Not a single member of the leadership team replied with congratulations, or anything else, for that matter. This doesn’t seem to be universal towards all employees — another gentleman who had a loss in his family at about the same time received (appropriately) a lot of support. I, on the other hand, got a written reprimand for taking too long for an emergency OB-GYN appointment with my wife.

Is this weird? I’ve had a hard time working in this office over the years (it’s an engineering organization with a VERY Midwestern culture, and I’m a non-engineer from the East Coast), but I’ve never seen anything quite like this in terms of a cold shoulder during matters of life and death for employees. Other workplaces I’ve been would offer congratulations or condolences for employees as a matter of course. Am I being frozen out? It’s hurtful and strange, and my Spidey-sense from outracing rounds of layoffs in my dot-com days is going off like crazy. Should I be worried about my job as we prepare for baby #2?

What are your relationships with people like aside from this? Is this is symptomatic of a larger chill you’re experiencing there, or is it just one weird thing in a landscape where your relationships otherwise seem pretty good? If it’s the latter, I might just attribute this to the notorious social weirdness of (some) engineers (sorry, engineers!) and not worry too much about it. But if it’s part of a broader pattern, I’d take a look at where that’s coming from: Have you made efforts to build connections and relationships with others there? Have you tried but been rebuffed, when other people seem to succeed at it? If so, what’s your sense of where that might be coming from? What’s your relationship with your manager like? Does she seem happy with your work? Was there any context for the reprimand for the emergency appointment, like that it caused a workflow problem or that it came from an always-rigid-about-rules manager, or was it out of nowhere? I’m giving you a bunch of questions rather than an answer, but that’s because the wider context matters so much here. If you reflect on all this, hopefully it should give you a better idea of what’s going on and what it might mean for you.

3. Referencing a boyfriend’s connection to the company in an interview

Should you reference your boyfriend’s connection to the company in interviews?

I am currently interviewing for a fantastic marketing position at a world famous company making, let’s say, teapots. The position requires marketing specifically towards the company’s craftsmen, who work out in the field and have no direct contact with head office, where the role is based. Head office staff do not know the craftsmen individually, and there are thousands of them.

By chance – the role came to me via a recruiter – my boyfriend happens to be a current craftsman for this company. I was able to receive a lot of insider information from him because of this and I have used it wisely (not creepily) in my first interview. I mentioned briefly my personal connection to the company and then moved on to more concrete connections, like having worked for a direct competitor and in the teapot industry generally.

My question is, particularly in a second or third interview with more senior staff, should romantic partners be mentioned at all? Does it help or hinder having this connection? I am interested in the role in spite of, rather than because of, the connection if anything and would have applied regardless. However, having the connection does mean I have a unique insight into the needs and challenges of the company’s craftsmen than other candidates may not. This is particularly useful when building a marketing strategy.

This is a company that very much promotes a company culture where staff live and breathe teapots, and are evangelical about them. In this context, I wonder if having a romantic partner attached to the business, and having spent personal time prior to the interview attending his teapot making classes, could be framed favourably in interview? Or, should I leave it out altogether and rest solely on my career experience and aptitude?

Leave it out. It’s definitely possible that you do have insider insight into the needs of the company’s craftsman, but there’s just not enough substance to “my boyfriend is a company craftsman and we’ve discussed this” to be a plus in an interview. It risks coming across as a bit naive and overstated, and that could hurt you.

What you can do, though, is to use whatever insider info you have as background information that can help you give stronger answers in the interview. (Just be careful not to over-rely on what your boyfriend has told you — since if it turns out that he’s an outlier in some of his thinking and you wrongly assume he’s representative of others’ own thinking, it could end up leading you astray.)

4. I was rejected for a senior position but I really wanted a more junior job

I went to a networking event for UX designers, where I met someone who passed my resume on to their HR department. The HR department called me to do an initial phone screen, which later I found out was for a senior position. In hindsight, I should have told them that I was interested in a more junior role, but my confidence was so boosted that I decided to go forward with the interview process. The interview process consisted of three interviews. During my final interview, I had to do a design challenge, which I think was my downfall and they rejected me.

Would it be in bad taste to apply on their website for a junior role that was recently posted, or should I wait 3-6 months? I would like to add that I have heard from other designers that they rarely interview candidates who apply online, and that it is most always through word of mouth and networking. I’m a little frustrated that the HR department submitted me for a senior role instead of asking me which position I was interested in applying for. However, it was my responsibility to speak up, which I didn’t do, so I am entirely at fault. What do you recommend?

Well, you’re not entirely at fault! They looked at your resume and determined you could make sense for the more senior role, so I wouldn’t blame yourself too much here.

Go ahead and apply for the more junior role, and then email your contact there and say something like, “I wanted to let you know that I’ve applied for the X role, which I think might be a better fit for me at this point in my career than the Y role I interviewed for earlier. I’d love to talk further about it if you think that might be the right match.” (In other words, don’t just apply and leave it at that. You want to give them some context for this second application so they understand your thinking.)

5. Can I use vacation time during my notice period?

If I’ve had my vacation approved already and then give my two weeks notice, can they take it away?

They can. A lot of employers have policies that you can’t use vacation time during your notice period (usually because the point of the notice period is to spend that time transitioning your work, so they want you there to do it). But other employers do allow it, and some that don’t allow it will make exceptions under some circumstances. I’d start by checking your employee manual to see if it says anything about this.

(Do note, though, that if they don’t let you use it, they might be required to pay it out when you leave. That varies by state, but you can check what your state requires here.)

{ 501 comments… read them below }

  1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#5, unless your soon-to-be-former employer is awful/toxic, or there’s no way you can reschedule your notice period (e.g., start date for next gig already set; the vacation is a milestone event), then I’d try not to end your 2 weeks while on vacation. It can engender misunderstandings about your exit, which can escalate in ways that become A Thing (not necessarily a bridge burning, but still A Thing).

    1. Drama Llama*

      I agree. Most jobs require a hand over period of leaving behind important contacts/passwords, letting people know where you are on specific projects, etc. If someone departs suddenly without doing any of those, without saying a decent farewell to their colleagues, your manager will at least wonder what happened – and at worst, you are leaving with a really bad last impression.

    2. Sled dog mama*

      My previous employer had a “only vacation/PTO scheduled prior to notice” policy. But my in my profession 6-8 weeks is a common notice period so I would imagine that YMMV.

      1. Antilles*

        That really depends on the time frame. For your 6-8 week notice industry, that seems like a fair policy.
        However, for the more typical 2 week notice, it’s pretty common (and actually reasonable) for the employer to ask you to cancel your PTO entirely even if it’s pre-scheduled – after all, they only have ten total days available to download any information from you before you’re gone forever, so being on PTO for a couple of those days is a pretty big deal.

        1. Quickbeam*

          I once took a very idiosyncratic job with the understanding that the retiring nurse would train me for 2 weeks. I ended up only getting one day and then she took the rest as vacation. It took me years to get up to speed since she was the only one in the role. I really needed her hand off and I didn’t get it. It’s important.

    3. What's with today, today?*

      Interesting. In my experience, most people take any unused vacation time during their notice period. So, your last day in office is May 15, but your official last day is May 30. Maybe it’s my industry because this is pretty common.

      1. JS*

        I haven’t noticed this in my industry but I have definitely noticed this at my current company and its weird and definitely leaves bad feelings for people who are left to do the work.

        At a previous job I took two days off during my notice period but only because I was relocating across country and I needed to take care of some affairs.

      2. Samata*

        But is that you give notice on the 15th, leave on the 15th but paid to the 30th or notice on the 1st, transition until the 15th and then paid until the 30th (if you have the PTO)?

        Just curious, because unless its something where they take a standard notice of this happening unless it was an industry in which the don’t allow you to stay but pay out PTO balance.

      3. EvilQueenRegina*

        Where are you? That’s not unusual here in the UK, but sounds like it might be in the US?

        1. Safetykats*

          Not usual at all in the US, in my experience – unless you are giving enough notice to cover your time off and your transition. The only time I’ve seen this done is with senior staff taking retirement; they are sometimes given an agreement to take accumulated time off over some period of time during which they work on an intermittent schedule to ensure transition. The downside for the company, of course, is that during paid time off you continue to accrue paid time off (and to receive other benefits). It’s therefore very much to their benefit to have you just leave once you’re done working, and pay you out for time accrued.

          1. Safetykats*

            FYI, it WOULD be normal at some companies where I’ve worked, if you gave your notice and announced you were going on vacation, for them to tell you your services were no longer required and schedule your last day for the day before your first vacation day. So maybe recognize that could happen.

        1. Emily K*

          Except if your last day is officially the 30th, you get to keep your benefits going for an extra 15 days, which is pretty sweet. COBRA is expensive compared to employee premiums.

      4. memyselfandi*

        Me too. In my state they would have to pay it out to you anyway so it is the same difference.

      5. A tester, not a developer*

        Yep, it’s definitely a thing at my (large, financial services) company too! We also have really long notice periods though, so no one feels like they got someone’s work dumped on them.

      6. JanetM*

        I have seen that at my university with retirements: give notice several months in advance, transition during the last month physically worked, then burn accrued annual leave. I don’t think I’ve seen it with resignations where only a couple of weeks’ notice is given.

    4. Beth C.*

      I would say it can also depend on how much time we’re talking about.

      If you need a day or two for doctors appointments or something, that might be doable, since that will have minimal effect on your transitioning your work, but leaving a full two weeks earlier than your official end date may not be OK since that will change your abilities to get others up to speed on what they will be taking on.

    1. LouiseM*

      I was wondering this too! I’d guess it’s partly something to do with ask/guess culture, which AAM commenters seem to know a lot about!
      Conventional wisdom and stereotypes would suggest that East Coast folks tend to keep more to themselves (to the point of seeming rude and standoffish to folks from the Midwest or the South), while Midwesterners tend to be chattier. But East Coasters (again, stereotyping) also tend to be more direct, so maybe they would be more apt to offer condolences in person where the shier Midwesterner would be more likely to sign a card? I dunno.

      1. MyBossSaidWhat*

        The East Coast is not a monolith. I’m originally from the Northeast and now live, um, further south. Here, directness is not appreciated and neither is the concept of healthy personal boundaries!

        1. Phoenix Programmer*

          See I find this rude. NE not = healthy and right and everywhere else = not.

          When you move you need to adapt to the local culture. If you can’t then move back. NE was not for me but I don’t lrese t the NE culture from a SE perspective when I talk about why it did not work for me. Exame I don’t say “NE people are rude” I say “NE had a different approach to strangers and I did not mean well.”

          1. Phoenix Programmer*

            Man phoned all thumbs “Dont present NE culture from a SE perspective” and “I don’t mesh well”

          2. Sylvan*

            Mm, I’m Southern and it is fair to say that directness is not always appreciated here! We also can be a little too personal.

            I wish we would mix the two together for the best of both worlds, but my ~*thoughts on culture*~ are probably better suited to an open thread.

            1. Anonymoose*

              Frankly I *love* the cultural discourse on the AAM threads. So no judgment from me! :)

        2. Database Developer Dude*

          MyBossSaidWhat – I KNOW, RIGHT???!?!?!?!?!?!? In my current office, they talk about going to naked spas, and pole dancing…thank God for earphones….

      2. Specialk9*

        I assumed it was largely ask/guess culture, and being indirect vs direct in communications, and in comfort level with emotions being expressed. Maybe also with a helping of the current stream of geographical resentment (coast vs flyover states, city vs rural) that is at a high – or low – point right now. Also simply not having local connections, some places the ‘we know your mom’ thing is a big deal.

        1. Phoenix Programmer*

          I am very direct and from the south and now live in the Midwest and use to live in NE. Frankly I found NE just as indirect and backstabby as anywhere else I lived. Most people are not comfortable with confrontation and being direct.

          1. Luna*

            Yeah I’ve lived in the NE my whole life and I wouldn’t describe it as direct at all.

          2. LawLady*

            Ha, I keep reading NE as “Nebraska” which tells you exactly how midwestern I am. (a lot)

          3. Anonymoose*

            Try living in PNW where it’s both direct and guess (quite an adjustment), dependant on gender (where men are the more indirect, women are direct but still depend on the guess structure for social cues) as well as whether your relationship is merely professional/acquaintances (guess) or personal (direct). As someone from NorCal, it took me about a year to change my speaking habits, and I admit that it was a rough year.

            1. Anonymoose*

              Oh, and google Seattle Freeze for more detail. Locals hate the name but as an outsider who became someone with the same habits, it’s entirely accurate.

      3. Alton*

        I think it depends a lot in the region. My experience was the opposite–moving from the Midwest to the Southeast, I was shocked at how much chattier and accommodating people were.

      4. Turquoisecow*

        East Coast born and raised, as are all my husband’s relatives and most of mine (some migrated to the Midwest). Most of the people I know are nowhere near as direct as I’d like them to be, and some people use that lack of directness to manipulate other people who can’t just say what they mean. So, that stereotype is definitely not universally true.

        1. Specialk9*

          That’s kind of the definition of a stereotype though, right? :D

          ‘I drew some dots between people and my brain recognized some patterns bc that’s how human brains work, but it’s not a perfect portrait of every person in that group’ is how all stereotypes work. It’s like saying that not all Italians are emotionally expressive — well yeah of course not, but it’d be odd not to notice the distinct trend. We laughed at My Big Fat Greek Wedding because of the big trends (even as it was a story about two individuals who didn’t fit into the trend line and were looking for a better fit).

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I think people conflate NYC (which I’ve found to be way more direct) with New England. There’s a strong tendency toward indirectness in some NE groups/populations—I call it the “gentleman Yankee” vibe.

          1. Anon For This*

            Yeah! Northern New England has its own mix of direct and indirect. People are very polite in a traditional small town kind of way, but when it comes to certain things, they’re more direct than in most places. That’s all I’ll say. You’re not supposed to write about the culture of the area unless you go back several generations there, which I don’t.

            I grew up in an east coast city where assertively speaking your mind is highly valued. Being reserved is considered rude. As a more introverted person, I worked hard to fit into the culture and avoid offending people by being too quiet or just too reserved in what I said. It’s not an NYC kind of directness, though. It’s more of a boisterous empassioned extroversion that’s the norm. Polite yet loud, if that makes sense.

            Anyway, I’ve lived all over and having adapted to that culture hasn’t served me as well in other places. At this point, I just accept that I won’t really fit in anywhere and I do my best to get along with people despite being from somewhere else.

            1. Anonymoose*

              I have a buddy from NH and I gotta say that your description for him (polite yet loud/selectively boisterous) is spot on. :)

              1. Anon For This*


                Actually, I was talking about two different places, but I see that wasn’t clear. I grew up in a mid-Atlantic city (polite yet outspoken) and later lived in a certain part of NNE that I won’t mention! Hehe. Both are great places. I’m just being cagey about NNE because people who are from there tend to feel strongly about how it’s described by others. It has a unique culture, so I respect that.

      5. Flower*

        It’s funny – I’d agree that the stereotype is that east coasters are more direct and midwesterners more indirect, but I don’t agree at all that Midwesterners are stereotyped chattier than East Coasters (who would keep to themselves). I’d flip that around – East Coasters being friendly and chatty and prone to small talk (not on the street, but otherwise), with Midwesterners “not speaking unless spoken to” and chatting only with family and close friends, definitely not strangers. That said, in small towns everyone knows each other so maybe that’s where this comes from? The idea that the east coast has lots of big cities and the midwest mostly small towns? Not sure.

      1. Jerry Vandesic*

        My wife claims I have a Midwestern accent. I told her that there was no such thing, but she disagreed.

          1. chomps84*

            @Princess Consuela Banana Hammock Yes! My (not very prominent anymore) Chicago accent is definitely different than the accent my Iowan and Kansan friends had.

          1. MsSolo*

            Heck, if you sign, you’ve got an accent – sign language is incredibly regional (often more so than spoken languages).

            1. Anonymoose*

              I had no idea!! I figured from language to language but thought it would be universal within that language. How interesting!

        1. Penny Lane*

          Well, Jerry, linguists say that everyone who speaks has an accent. Your wife is correct. There is no such thing as a “neutral” American accent.

        2. Antilles*

          There is definitely a Midwestern accent.
          However, the Midwestern accent is the most common among TV journalists, acting schools, etc. Also, the original English pronunciation guide was written by someone from the Midwest (Ohio, to be exact).
          So essentially, you (and most other Americans!) are so used to hearing the Midwest accent that it’s unconsciously considered ‘no accent’ because it’s the default that you’ve heard all your life.

          1. Penny Lane*

            No, there is no such thing as a “midwestern accent.” There are several accents within the midwest – Chicago is not Minnesota and Minnesota is not St. Louis.

            1. Antilles*

              True, but the difference is fairly subtle – the difference between an Ohio accent and a St. Louis accent isn’t anywhere near as pronounced as the change between a Midwesterner and Tennessee or Boston or Texas.

              1. Kathleen_A*

                I’m really not sure that’s true. I grew up in California but live in the Midwest now, and there’s are *huge* differences between, say, Chicago and Evansville, Indiana, and Lansing, Michigan. Heck, there’s a big and obvious difference between northern and southern Indiana. It’s hard to quantify whether these differences are “as pronounced” as that between Tennessee and Boston, but they are enormous. You don’t have to have a well-trained linguistic ear to hear them, because they are obviously and flagrantly different from each other.

                1. AngelicGamer aka that visually impaired peep*

                  This is so true! I spent a few months in Evansville, IN and they were like “you’re from Chicago, right?” on hearing the first few words out of my mouth. When you’re holding a clipboard trying to get a job done, it made it a lot easier to get people to stop and figure out what the heck I was doing there. :)

                2. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

                  I grew up close to Evansville – what a kick to see it mentioned in the comments. If you really want to hear an accent change without traveling very far, just cross the bridge over to KY. :)

              2. A Teacher*

                Grew up in “central Illinois” which is to say a really wide area in Illinois and a lot of Chicagoans and suburbanites describe anything South of I-80 as “Southern Illinois” which is not true. Heck, Peoria and Springfield, two not really small cities are pretty centrally located. There most definitely is a difference in speaking styles from North to South in Illinois at least– North = faster speaking style; different but similar terms (i.e. pop vs. soda); even how you say certain words–when I worked in the burbs and where I grew up we say Shi- cog- oh. Where I live now (still in Illinois) most people say Shuh-cog-oh. The Midwest is a huge region so to say Midwestern culture, well what does that mean? Where I grew up we’re really liberal; where I live now less liberal; parts of the state of Illinois pretty conservative…

                1. chomps84*

                  @A Teacher- We (Chicagoans) don’t call everything “Southern Illinois.” We call everything “downstate.” It’s different! ;-)

              3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                Uh… I disagree. I have a bunch of Midwestern family, and their accents (Chicago v. Ohio Cincy v. Ohio Columbus v. Ohio Cleveland v. Pittsburgh v. St. Louis v. Wisconsin urban v. Minnesota) are extremely distinct and pronounced, imo. The only two things that seem universal among Great Lake Midwestern accents is the vowel shift and some of the vocab.

                It’s like the difference between a Virginia and South Carolina accent. I’m not sure comparing Midwesterners as a monolith to Boston is a one-to-one comparison. Even Texas has multiple accents, depending on where you are in the state.

              4. Rachel*

                Southerner -> mid-Atlantic here. Midwestern accents sound very pronounced to me. Vowels are pronounced differently (more nasal). Think Fargo (the movie) for an extreme example. I think the “no accent” accent is further east, like Northern VA.

            2. Traveler*

              Even within the states they vary. There are widely varying accents even within Ohio – Cincinnati vs Toledo vs Marietta. I’m from the middle of the state and I can tell when someone speaks if they are from a different part of Ohio vs Wisconsin vs St Louis vs Chicago. It might be subtle to someone from outside the state, but pronunciations and even words can vary widely in Ohio.

          2. Anonymoose*

            Actually, these days most larger US film and TV productions have California accents. As a Californian, I’d prefer it not to be the case as it makes for rather homogeneous entertainment. And yes, we can definitely tell the difference between a west coast and midwest accent. I, for one, am a huge fan of letting actors speak in their true style where the script allows. Having Thor speak in any sort of american accent would give me the heebie jeebies. ;)

            That said, I would agree that TV journalists are midwestern/NE-ish.

        3. Specialk9*

          My father worked hard to get a generic Midwestern accent, like TV anchors use. So it exists, in the same way a Southern accent exists. Also like a Southern accent, there are big regional variations – so someone from Appalachia and Texas and N’awlins will have different accents, but you kind of have to be immersed to recognize the differences. Accents seem to be fractal that way – the more one learns, the more variations one (esp an expert) can hear.

          1. Kathleen_A*

            I think that the generic Midwestern accent is very similar to the “received pronunciation” that used to be universal on the BBC in that you actually rarely run into it in real life. Both General American and RP English were based on existing, real-world accents, but the reality is that most people who have these had to work to acquire them.

            1. Specialk9*

              Oh that’s interesting. You can definitely hear NPR hosts morph into that NPR cadence. (Eleanor Beardsley was the most hysterical, and painful, transition that way — painful for me I mean.) So the generic accent as something with a life of its own, irrespective of region. That’s an interesting idea.

              I read a fascinating BBC article that basically said that modern American is close to how British aristocrats spoke during the American colonial period, while the modern English accents, broadly generalizing, are close to the lower class accents of the time.

              1. Kathleen_A*

                In case I was unclear, I didn’t mean they *sound* alike, because of course they don’t. But one way they are alike is that they are both accents that aren’t found very often in nature, as it were. :-)

            2. I'd Rather not Say*

              There’s a book by Edward McClelland called How to Speak Midwestern that explains all this

            3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              The “generic Midwestern” accent is based on middle Ohio, though, so there are native speakers of the accent. But you’re right that most news anchors (public radio excluded) have to train to learn that accent. Conversely, most television shows are recorded in an LA/SoCal accent. It’s fascinating to think of how much manufacturing goes into what we see/hear as the default.

              I always wonder how people learn/acquire public radio voice. It’s distinct in the same way that “spoken word poetry voice” is distinct.

              1. Kathleen_A*

                Yes, I’d also heard it was/is from middle Ohio. I’m not sure exactly what part, though, because I’ve talked to people from “middle Ohio” who don’t sound much like that! Ah, well.

                1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  You know what, I think I’m wrong. I think it’s actually from Akron/northeast! But not the current northeast accent—the one that was more common in the 1970s.

          2. Anonymoose*

            I love this topic.

            I didn’t realize until a few years ago that I can audibly differentiate between southern accents and their origins. I have never been to the south. It’s so strange! I think more than anything it’s from reading as much fiction as I do. Authors try really hard to get the dialogue to read exactly as it sounds (eg phonetically), so now when I hear someone drag their vowels a certain way, or completely ignore a consonant I totally know where they’re hailing from. It’s kind of a neat (but totally unused) skill.

            I heart books for-evah.

    2. OperaArt*

      Just guessing here. I was raised in the Midwest and went to college on the East coast (Philadelphia). Sterotyping—Midwestern communication styles can be more indirect, and East coast can be very direct. To a Midwesterner, the East coast style can appear abrupt and brusque to the point of rudeness. To an East coast person, the Midwestern style can appear convoluted and veiled.

      1. Artemesia*

        And when you get to the South double that. It is almost like the Middle East in its indirectness. People get blackballed without realizing it. People are gracious to your face, but not behind your back. I remember a friend who told me that he had been in the city we both worked in for 5 years before he realized that not only did his acquaintances not agree with his points of view, but that they were deeply insulted by most of what he had to say in political discussions at parties. I learned a lot about trees and sports as social life often stayed at that level except with very intimate friends.

        1. CS Rep By Day, Writer By Night*

          Raised on the East Coast (NY), living in the Midwest (WI) and my main client is located in the South (AR). The amount of code switching I do on a daily basis is frankly exhausting.

    3. Violette*

      As OperaArt mentioned, very indirect.

      I’m in the midwest and I read OP2’s letter with some confusion… what do you mean nobody acknowledged the events, when half the office signed a card? For awkward midwestern engineers who may be uncomfortable knowing what to say… signing a condolence card seems like the way to let the OP know that their thoughts are with them without having to have a conversation.

      As for the baby… well, if the baby isn’t here yet, there may be another card circulating right before/after the birth. ;)

      1. Marion Ravenwood*

        I agree. I’m in the UK, so this may just be old-fashioned British reserve, but unless I was very close with the person I wouldn’t offer congratulations or condolences in person – it would feel too intrusive for me otherwise, especially the latter (even with good intentions, people handle a death very differently and I wouldn’t want to unintentionally upset anyone). However, I would of course sign a card as part of my wider team, or from the wider organisation for someone I knew well.

        1. Sam.*

          This is exactly it for me – unless I’m really close with someone and have a good sense of how they deal with loss, I’m going to err on the side of caution and not risk upsetting them in person. (I did, however, grow up in the US South and currently live in the Midwest, so…)

          1. Llama Grooming Coordinator*

            I mean, I’m from the Northeast and I’d do the same. Especially at my job, where things can get out of hand VERY quickly if someone gets inadvertently upset.

            1. Turquoisecow*

              I’m on the Northeast and I’m not an engineer, but I’m also reluctant to bring up non-work topics in a work setting, especially if I don’t know the person well. Also, I know everyone reacts differently to loss, so while some people may be deeply offended if I don’t say something, others will be quite upset just by my saying “sorry for your loss.” I usually err on the side of keeping silent, and trust that my signature on the card conveys my thoughts.

              1. Anonymoose*

                If you did this with me, I would be so appreciative. Especially if it’s bad news – I’m just trying to keep it together and get through the day. At least with a card, I can digest my feelings in private while still appreciating the sentiment. But more than anything, I’d prefer if people pretended that it didn’t even happen because I likely just want to move on.

          2. Karo*

            I’m from the Northeast and I’m the same way. If we’re close friends I’ll express my condolences once and then never ever mention it again for fear of catching the person off guard.

            1. Specialk9*

              Yeah, just in case someone grieving had been distracted for just a few minutes at work, and I wouldn’t want to make them cry.

              But a friend told me how awful it was not to have coworkers acknowledge when his grown son died, so now I try to power through those worries, and put an annually recurring note on my calendar for people I’m close to, to mention their loved one. People seem really happy to have someone remember.

              1. Stacy*

                Definitely borrowing your kind thought to put a recurring note on my calendar. Thank you for mentioning it.

              2. Triumphant Fox*

                That is a lovely thing to do. I feel like I really drop the ball with those kinds of things – I stress about what to say and then end up saying nothing, when anything would have been better.

                1. Cosine*

                  Might have been better, but not necessarily. Personally, I find it deeply uncomfortable and upsetting when people bring this stuff up at work – I prefer not to have it acknowledged at all. I’d be very upset if someone had a recurring calendar reminder to commiserate with me over the death of my loved one! That’s like setting an alarm to upset me.

            2. a name*

              I’ve done team condolence cards at work, and I always mail them to the person’s home address, even if they’re already back at work, for this reason. They can be emotional in private that way.

          3. Allison*

            Same here, I don’t like to draw a lot of attention to myself when a family member has died, I don’t even tell people unless I absolutely need to, and that’s really just my boss, everyone else just knows I’m going somewhere to be with family – of course then they think I’m going on some super fun adventure, and it’s slightly scandalous that I’m taking time off work for it, but to me that’s still better than having them know the truth. And while I like celebrating important milestones with family and friends, I think I’d only want my coworkers to know the really big stuff.

            1. Kathleen_A*

              For myself, I’d prefer that people know if something really big and sad is happening in my life because if I seem a little off or distracted (or if, God forbid, something makes me cry at work – which can happen), I want them to know why, at least in general terms. I don’t want a big deal made of it, and I’d rather not be coaxed into conversations about it, but yes, I do want people to know. Just in case.

              But YMMV. I think as a general rule, secrecy isn’t anybody’s friend here, but beyond that, what works for one person may not work for another.

        2. Nita*

          That’s what I’m thinking. Also when there’s a death in the family the person may take bereavement leave, and let’s say we’re not even in the same department so I don’t know exactly when they’re back. So I run into them a few weeks later, and at that point it feels odd to offer condolences – not wrong, exactly, but somehow not right either unless I know them really well.

          1. soon 2 be former fed*

            Kind condolences are always right. I lost my mother a couple of months ago, condolences are still welcome. I would think less of someone who knew of my loss but did not acknowledge it. Think about the grieving person rather than your awkwardness, and it will be OK.

            1. Penny Lane*

              You’re assuming all grieving people find comfort in platitudes from coworkers. Some do, and some don’t. Some prefer to focus elsewhere to get through the day and the well-meant “sorry to hear about …” just reminds them anew of their loss.

              1. LBK*

                Right, when I went back to school after my dad died it’s because I was trying to assemble some form of normalcy so that I wouldn’t just be sitting there wallowing in sorrow. The whole point was to be distracted rather than reminded.

            2. Specialk9*

              I’m so sorry to hear about your loss. A couple months ago is still so very immediate.

              I’ve seen a lot of Facebook blog posts about how hurtful it is when people say the wrong thing. “It’s all for the best”, “It’s God’s will”, etc. It makes me worry about saying something wrong. (Which, I mean, is historically probable for me!)

              1. Totally Minnie*

                The statements you mentioned here are super problematic and made me feel worse rather than better when I was a teenager grieving for a parent.

                If you do decide to say something to a grieving person, try to stick with things like “I was sorry to hear what happened,” or if you knew the person who passed, you can say something kind about them, but don’t try to make the person feel better. You can’t, and a lot of the things people say in an attempt to comfort end up feeling really minimizing of that person’s pain.

            3. Claire (Scotland)*

              When I lost my father, the last thing I wanted when I returned to work was for people to talk about it. However kindly meant, condolences just made me feel worse and made it so much harder to get through the day. I GREATLY appreciated those colleagues who just got on with things and didn’t make me dredge up my emotions and perform grief to their expectations. THAT was awkward to say the least!

              Think about the grieving person is good advice – but you really can’t assume all frieving people need or want the same thing!

        3. Academic Addie*

          That type of reserve is, to me, a hallmark of the Midwest. I’m from the Midwest and currently living in the US South (and have for years). The amount of strangers who will comment on a pregnant belly or ask about something they heard through the grapevine still shocks me.

        4. Anonymoose*

          I’m in the US (west coast) and I wouldn’t personally go up to someone and discuss life or death with them unless I knew them quite personally. It’s not that it’s awkward for me, it’s likely awkward for them. They’re likely just trying to get through the day keeping it cool (death), or staying awake and not being grumpy (new baby). I would never presume to force them into a social situation that would be uncomfortable for them. I call that polite. *shrug*

      2. VioletEMT*

        This. The condolence card is acknowledgement.

        The write-up over the emergency appointment is a bad manager.

        But also keep in mind that people might not have shared the reason for your impending leave – just that you’ll be on leave. The reason for FMLA is and should be private. It’s not anyone’s story to tell but yours, so people may not know if you haven’t told them.

      3. Susan Sto Helit*

        If someone mentions either good or bad news directly to me then they will receive my congratulations or condolences as appropriate – because that’s a clear invitation that they’d likely me to know, and it’s fine to comment on it.

        I’d probably never volunteer ‘I was so happy/sad to hear about your xxx’ unprompted though, because you don’t know if that’s a welcome conversation. You go based off the other person’s cues.

        1. soon 2 be former fed*

          I can’t imagine a kind acknowledgment not being appreciated. I don’t like to keep mentioning my mother’s recent death like I am fishing for condolences, but those who know and say something nice are good in my book.

          1. Genny*

            Some people use work as an escape from whatever sad thing they’re going through. They want to have that one place where they can be distracted and not think about the pain. For those people, having colleagues constantly offering condolences would defeat the purpose of using work as a distraction.

            1. LQ*

              Yeah. I had this after a loss this year. People would (very kindly) say something and I’d dive in to cut them off with a “HOW ABOUT THOSE TPS REPORTS!?” because don’t finish that sentence I’m not ready and I’m going to fall down a 30 minute grief hole that I really wanted to just escape for a little while. Luckily they caught on after the third time I did it to someone and passed word and a card around. The card was nice and the giver very thoughtfully gave it to me at the end of the day along with some tea when everyone was already out the door and left right away leaving me with some quiet.

          2. Falling Diphthong*

            “I can’t imagine.”

            You should try, because some people really do function differently and find even kindly meant inquiries a way to drag them into an emotional morass when they are just holding it together. (I’m leaving aside the kindly meant ‘Let’s analyze the cause of death so I can assure myself this definitely couldn’t happen to me’ version of consoling.) Sometimes condolences are not offered because the person is practicing the golden rule.

            1. On Fire*

              Agreed. When I was in a management role many years ago, an employee texted that she was going to be out sick (migraine, IIRC). When she returned to work the next day, she was upset that I hadn’t called to check on her (although I did respond to the text). Well… if I’m sick, *particularly* with a migraine, I do NOT want to be disturbed by someone calling to ask how I’m feeling. So I was doing the golden rule.

              And although it’s been close to two years since my dad died, it’s still an emotional jolt when someone asks how I/my mom are doing with it, and I (privately) have a mini-grieving session all over again.

          3. Sylvan*

            Not talking about it is a relief for some people, so I try to figure out what people are looking for, what they’ve seemed thankful for others saying, before I say anything.

          4. ArtsNerd*

            I’m truly sorry for your loss, soon 2 be former fed. Grief’s an asshole and I hope your community is providing you the support you need.

          5. Claire (Scotland)*

            I posted about this above, but I hated every single time someone at work stopped me to say something when I returned to work after my dad died. It felt like they wanted to make me cry and feel shitty (I realise rationally that’s not remotely true, but it was how it felt at the time). I just wanted to get on with my work and have some normality in my life, and I resented every time that was shattered by some well-meaning person who said something to bring up all the bad feeling again.

            Not everyone deals with grief and loss in the same way, and expecting others to appreciate something just because it helps you personally is not reasonable.

        2. Penny Lane*

          If Fred from Accounting (whose father passed away last week) pops into my office to go over the teapot accounts receivable reports, unless I know Fred *really* well, it would seem to be to be only common sense that what is holding Fred together is the fact that he has teapot reports to focus on, and not let his mind drift back to his father’s death. So no, I’m not going to necessarily bring it up and run the risk that I’ll upset him.

          1. CMart*

            Exactly. The compassionate thing that I think most people try to do is be mindful of other people’s situations. When Fred comes to check on the A/R reports, I’m not going to somberly ask him “how are you doing? I’m so sorry about your dad” when all he wants is a report, but I’m also not going to cheerfully pipe up “Hi Fred! How was your weekend, do anything fun?!”

      4. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

        Heh, one of the reasons Scandinavians do a lot of business in the Midwest is because the culture is somewhat reminiscent of our own. It’s still American, but easier for us to grasp than most other American regions’ cultures.

        I sent an email to a peer this morning: “I would really appreciate (if you have the time) if you could look at Thing X for me. I’m the first to say I’m far from an expert on the topic and having an extra pair of eyes would be immensely helpful.”

        1. Genny*

          Not for nothing that the Midwest is similar to Scandinavia. A lot of Scandinavian immigrants ended up there (especially in Minnesota and Wisconsin). Immigration patterns in the U.S. are super interesting. :)

        2. Specialk9*

          I would understand that you were making a direct request, in a roundabout way, but I could see how some might read that as ‘this is super unimportant, maybe look at this after vacuuming out your purse’. Culture really is a thing!

          1. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

            Haha, yeah, it’s definitely something one has to know.
            Even most managers will be roundabout when asking you to do something.

            A senior manager at my firm asked me for help last Friday and sent me this email:
            “[Staffing Manager] said you might have some hours to spare today, might it be possible for you to help out with this task?”

        3. Sunshine on a Cloudy Day*

          I’ll preface this by saying that I mean no offense, nor do I mean to indicate that my “way” is the right way…

          When I (as northeasterner) think of a stereotypical “midwest” style of communication, my first thought is “words, so many words, too many words – that don’t really tell me what I need to know to do my job”. Which is probably what my initial reaction would be to the above email.

          However, I’m definitely working to beef up the niceties (or at least what I consider the “niceties”), particularly when I realize that I’m communicating with someone that I notice triggers that “too many words” reaction.

          It’s interesting though, I’m probably on of the least aggressive, non-confrontational people you could come across – its just that my natural communication style/preference is to be as clear and objective as possible because in my mind that’s what prevent conflicts/misunderstandings.

          1. CS Rep By Day, Writer By Night*

            When I fist moved to Wisconsin from upstate NY, my bosses had to coach me on heavily on adding what I call “puffery” to business correspondence because I was coming off as abrupt and rude to the clients.

            We have a difficult client at my current job whose headquarters are in New England, and at least once a week someone will chalk their rudeness up to them being from the East Coast. I always pipe up and remind them that hello – I’m from the East Coast too!

          2. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

            It’s a habit thing!
            I’ve spent rather a lot of time in the US, and it was a huge culture shock.
            Swedes, generally, will not say hello to people they meet on the street, in the elevator or at the door. (Rude, I know!)

            That habit took such a long time to break for me!
            As you know, even culture varies and so some people are direct here and some are annoyingly vague.

            I do think the fact that Scandinavian aren’t very hierarchical plays in though!
            We don’t use titles or formal speech, we’re on first name terms with everyone, except for the Royal family.

            There’s even a funny story related to that that happened at my firm.

            Every year, newly promoted junior consultants go on a week long training. We used to have one just forthe Nordic countries, but a few years ago, The Powers That Be decided we should attend the EMEA one.

            It was… not a success. They started out by saying “well, now that you’ve been promoted, you might get to speak with a partner. Has anybody here spoken with one of the partners.”
            And all the Nordic consultants raised their hands and were completely because why would we not speak to them?
            Generally, communications don’t need to go through layers of managers. If a partner needs my help, they’ll tell me themselves.

            They will do their own reimbursements and handle their own admin.

            It’s not that there isn’t a hierarchy, but I think we pay less attention to it.
            We end up too informal sometimes, which is almost as bad.
            We’re so obsessed with consensus that decisions can take ageeees.

        4. Pebbles*

          As a Minnesotan descended from Scandinavian immigrants (4th generation, so it’s been awhile) I understand exactly what you’re asking for there!

          I sent pretty much that same email this morning to a coworker in Norway.

        5. Specialk9*

          I’m curious how the advice on this site – summed up as ‘think first, then use your words, but kindly and at the right time’ – comes across with that cultural background.

          Does it work for you, with a little extra puffery (thanks CS for that term)? Or is it like ‘wowwee, that would *never* work here’ and that feeling of fascination of watching wild animals?

          I’m really really curious about this!

          1. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

            It absolutely does!
            Common sense works in most places :)

            But any words that aren’t praise are better used in private (though that’s true in most places too!)
            And you’d at least pretend to consult pretty much everyone before making a decision about something :)

      5. matcha123*

        Yeah, I don’t know what to say when someone has a death or is pregnant. I don’t say much because I don’t want to offend them with the wrong reaction.
        (“She didn’t seem remorseful enough when she heard about my grandma’s death.” or “She didn’t seem happy when she heard I was pregnant.” are some of the things I imagine.)

        1. Allison*

          Same here, I suck at offering graceful condolences or congratulations, so sometimes I say something very basic and sometimes I don’t say anything at all. It’s not that I don’t care, I’m just bad at words. Maybe I would get better with experience though . . .

        2. Anonasaurus*

          My (silent) reaction to someone telling me they’re pregnant is generally “on purpose?” Yes, even to women my own age (in our 30’s).

          I don’t know if I feign excitement enough to be really be convincing, but I’ve never had a complaint about smiling and saying “Congratulations!” and letting others take over the conversation – or, if they’re talking to just me “Congratulations! How excited are you?!”

          1. aNon*

            I have the same initial silent reaction. A friend from high school told me she was pregnant and I had a moment of “oh no, what are you going to do?” She’s married, has a house, husband and her have good paying jobs, they’ve been together for years. Absolutely zero reasons to be concerned for her being pregnant but I still default to pregnancy being a shameful secret and mistake since that’s how it’s viewed when it happens for younger people. My default view of a lot of my friends is much younger than we actually are so these things are so shocking and scandalous when they happen

          2. Loose Seal*

            I had a co-worker tell me she was pregnant and when I said Congrats she launched into a diatribe about how it wasn’t a good time to be pregnant, they already had 3 kids and didn’t know what to do, and she just plain hated being pregnant. I was so taken aback — we weren’t particularly close so I wasn’t expecting these sort of confidences — that I’ve been gunshy about assuming congrats are in order ever since even though I’d assume most people would expect a congrats if they are telling you they are pregnant.

            So now I usually stutter through a hesitant congrats that probably sounds very weird to the pregnant person/partner.

        3. puzzld*

          I have a friend who worked for an abortion provider for several years. Her first reaction when she hears someone is pregnant is “OMG I’m so sorry. ” She claims that it takes an act of will to tamp down on that response even now 20 years later.

          1. Specialk9*

            Ok that made me laugh really loudly in my office.
            (And I’m pretty ambivalent on the topic.)

        4. On Fire*

          Pregnancy can be especially fraught if it’s unplanned. I have a friend who was very outspoken that she Did Not Want Children. And then she got pregnant (yay antibiotics and birth control). When she told me, I was very cautious. I think I said something like, “Are you okay?” or “Is this a good thing?” Luckily, we were close enough that she knew why I said that, and she said, “We’re happy about it; it’s just a shock.” So then I offered my (sincere!) congratulations.

        5. Turquoisecow*

          And those are legitimate concerns, because I have heard people comment both those things!!

      6. a1*

        I think the point is that other people got more support than they did, so it seems like they are getting singled out with a half-assed token kind of thing, or not at all, vs others.

        This doesn’t seem to be universal towards all employees — another gentleman who had a loss in his family at about the same time received (appropriately) a lot of support.

        So, if these same people are OK offering condolences or congratulations to other people in the office, the argument that the office doesn’t do these things, or doesn’t know how to approach someone, etc. It’s an imbalance.

        1. CMart*

          OP just might not be as close with their coworkers as the other gentleman who had a loss. Sometimes these imbalances happen and it’s not a deliberate thing, as every individual involved makes their own internal calculation about whether it’d be appropriate to offer congrats/condolences, but when viewed in the aggregate it can seem like a deliberate, planned slight.

          The woman I sit next to is pregnant, as am I. She’s a couple months ahead of me, so I got to see the stream of people trickling by to offer their congratulations, who pause a moment when passing to chit chat about the baby etc… She’s also been with the company for 8 years compared to my one year. I’ve had a few people cheerfully congratulate me, but nowhere near the deluge of happiness my neighbor received.

          And that’s okay? She has established relationships with a lot of the people in our department. I’ve maybe said hello in the kitchen a time or two. I certainly don’t attribute it to an office-wide freeze out toward me.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            This. People who have worked together longer or have shared something previously are more inclined to appear closer or more friendly. Appearances may not be the same as what is actually happening. It could be that people are not that involved with each other anyway. That said, like OP, I would have a second thought about this whole situation. I think it’s hard to work with people who ignore life events. OP, I hate saying this but it could be that your workplace culture is not for you. I would do a self-check it if were me, am I doing something that says, “keep your distance”. For example, if I have missed too many other people’s life events then this one might be on me.
            Another good exercise to help maintain perspective is to ask yourself “What do I want them to do?” This one is tricky at least for me because sometimes my answer was “nothing”. How ironic, I expected something and all I wanted was nothing. I gave me a little reality slap over that one.
            Last. In some workplaces if you get one or two people who seem friendly/concerned you have done very well. It’s just the nature of the place where everyone remains disconnected.

      7. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Hear, hear! When my dad passed away five years ago, there was no card whatsoever. (It is important to point out that I hadn’t wanted a card, and was dreading coming back from a bereavement leave to a card and a procession of sympathetic coworkers, so was very relieved when neither of those things occurred.) A card signed by half the office is quite an acknowledgment in my book.

        Agree on the baby too. I’ve never seen a “congratulations on your pregnancy” card. I think people are afraid to jinx it, if you will. So there’s probably a baby card in the works.

        1. Autumnheart*

          My department has “congrats on the baby” cards/mini showers a week or so before the parent-to-be is scheduled to be on leave. A card goes around, a collection for a gift card, maybe a happy hour or a cake. All very optional and informal.

          We did have one instance many years ago, where a coworker lost the baby about a week after the office celebration (at 35 weeks, completely out of nowhere). That really sucked. Maybe the office got in the habit of further hedging bets as a result, it’s hard to say.

    4. Delta Delta*

      I wondered this, too. I’m a originally Midwesterner and can only assume it somehow includes casseroles.

        1. OperaArt*

          Hot dishes, Jello salad with various vegetables and fruits suspended in it, and “bars.” (Channeling every childhood potluck in North Dakota.)

      1. MamaGanoush*

        Southerners are the Queens of Casseroles. It is A Thing. Casseroles with sugar and pork products. Yessssssssssss.

      2. Specialk9*

        I recently found an Instant Pot recipe for lasagna casserole. It’s SO good, and so much easier than making an actual lasagna, and fast! I’m such a fan. (Northerner now)

    5. Mookie*

      Aggressive passive aggression, but in an agreeable go-along-to-get-along sort of way, and a staggering lack of uptalk (excluding the Dakotas).

      I never feel so self-assured as when I dip into the dialect and default manner of forbearance of my extended kin. I have no questions and I am polite in low-key knowing everything that ever was. If you ask me what I don’t know, I concede the point to save me the trouble of trying and failing to make you understand what you’re not built and bred to understand. I am reasonably confident this shortcoming of yours is not really your fault, but I’m also detached enough to accept that it’s no business of mine, anyhow. All you’ll pick up on, though, is what pleasantly bland company I am, letting you always get ‘your way.’

      1. Terminally Dull*

        I’m from the Midwest- Wisconsin- and if the OP is perceived as anything close to a stereotypical East Coaster they’re probably slightly unnerved by his mannerisms. Loud voices that sound firm and pushy to a bunch of Midwesterners have them wondering why X or Y is angry all the time. (When I worked at a catalog call center it was not unusual for someone to get off the phone with an East Coaster and say “why do they always sound mean even when they’re happy?”) I worked with a woman from NYC for a few months after college and everyone at the job thought she was abrasive, intrusive and, yes, mad much of the time. I’m sure we were frosty and remote in her eyes.

        But yeah, a signed card means they were offering condolences.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          Kansan engineer married to a non-engineer upstate NY-er, and I think the OP is stumbling into a weird cultural area where the regional culture is more indirect, and then engineers are less personal. The OP sees it as uncaring, but I give space & if you want to bring up feelings about your dad at work, that’s in your court to do. Otherwise, I’ll sign the card. (Also – if half the office didn’t sign the card, they may have been OOO, not informed, read the email & forgot, etc. Unfortunately, I don’t always prioritize these things at work.)

          1. a1*

            Except they offered lots of support to another coworker, so they are only less personal to LW.

            This doesn’t seem to be universal towards all employees — another gentleman who had a loss in his family at about the same time received (appropriately) a lot of support.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        This sounds like people look down on others as if they are less than somehow. This is sad.

    6. PaulBunyan*

      Not saying that this describes OP – but the only person I’ve ever heard complain about “VERY Midwestern culture” was someone who, like OP, was from the East Coast and had this attitude like she was better than everyone else because of it. It was like she thought she was an ambassador from the East Coast here to bring all these old-fashioned Midwesterners into the future. Note: this is in a major Midwest city where many very successful businesses & Forturne 500s have started, everyone at this company is well educated and perfectly capable. She would frequently complain about our “Midwest culture” and say she didn’t like living in our city because of it, which obviously rubbed people the wrong way. She would frequently talk about how all her friends in the area were also from the East Coast because she just couldn’t be friends with people from the area. She even called herself and all her friends “expats” as if it was a foreign country. I could go on and on with examples of all the times she belittled the Midwest.
      Not saying OP is like this person, but the comment of the office being “VERY Midwestern” reminded me of her. Nobody likes someone who looks down on people because of where they are from. It might be worth thinking about your attitude about your office’s and your area’s culture and whether or not it is a good fit.

      1. Terminally Dull*

        Yeah, that’s another good point, especially if he’s in a major city like Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Chicago or Madison. They have culture and education and paved roads even and do not need to hear 24/7 how the East Coast is better because.

      2. Music*

        This is a really strange comment, given that there’s not a hint in the OP’s letter that she’s like this. I’m sorry you had a weird coworker once a long time ago, but what does that have to do with this?

        1. PaulBunyan*

          I don’t see why it is strange? I would disagree, there is a hint in the OP’s letter that they may harbor some attitudes like this. It’s in the comment starting this thread noting that it’s odd that the OP writes that their office has a “VERY Midwest culture” while they are from the East Coast. Putting it in all caps like that communicates to me some negative feelings about their area’s/office’s culture. The OP is wondering why it may seem like people are not going as far to acknowledge their life events as they are to others. It was an extreme case, but my coworker was disliked for this attitude and if OP has a similar attitude, which like I said I get the vibe from with their phrasing, it could be an explanation.

          1. serenity*

            This is your speculation, and more than a little uncharitable towards the letter writer.

          2. MamaGanoush*

            It sounded to me like VERY Midwestern = friendly, but the OP was not feeling the friendliness. In other words, VERY Midwestern isn’t bad, it’s just that they aren’t being Midwestern with the OP. That’s what I sensed.

            1. Specialk9*

              But ‘very Midwestern’ isn’t necessarily actually friendly, it’s a surface friendliness but if you didn’t grow up with the same unwritten rules – thousands of them – you’re likely never going to make real friends, and people will think bad thoughts about you behind their smiles. It’s a deep loneliness and isolation, surrounded by politeness.

              I suspect that’s what people mean – not that there’s anything wrong with the culture, but it doesn’t have a mechanism for outsiders to integrate unless they already have a similar culture.

              1. lawyer*

                People say literally this same thing about every region of this country, in my experience. I’ve heard this same comment about the south and the Pacific northwest. Maybe the answer is more like “every place has unwritten rules and customs that are hard to navigate when you come from some place else, and it can feel really lonely and isolating.”

                1. Mike C.*

                  Yeah, I have friends from all over the country and it turns out that despite oddly localized mannerisms the differences aren’t all that significant.

              2. AnotherAlison*

                Hmmm. I don’t know if I agree it’s surface friendliness, but I’m a keep-to-myself type of person anyway. To me, the difference is that if I’m jogging in my local area, strangers will nod, wave, or say hello. In another part of the country, people look at you like you have two heads if you acknowledge a stranger. To me, that’s friendliness. Sure, we’re not all going to meet at the coffee shop and become best friends, but I feel a lot less isolated when I can at least have a few words of conversation with a cashier or Uber driver.

          3. Not So NewReader*

            The problem with stereotyping is that it puts up barriers and slows down the ability to have real relationships. Just because native region is not a protected class does not mean stereotyping is helpful nor does it mean it’s okay. Lumping people into any type of a group and saying “all X’s stick to their own group” is not going to help an “outsider” become part of the group or build a relationship with anyone in the group. OP, maybe if you think about them on an individual level you can gain traction here. Granted, it would be one person at a time but it might work.

        2. chomps84*

          @Music I disagree. I used to live in Chicago (it’s where I’m from) and I met my share of East Coasters who were snobby about how much they disliked living there (In Chicago, America’s third largest city!) And since the meaning of “very Midwestern” is pretty vague, I can see why people thought that.

      3. Susie Cruisie*

        Ditto. Not accusing OP of anything but I have worked in several offices where there were a few people who did not celebrate the life events of their co-workers but were upset when their own passed unrecognized. I’m in HR, so I’ve even had them come to me with complaints about it, as though the company “owed” them the celebration they saw others receive. While it was explained that the company had our own official plan, the bigger celebrations were handled by the employees themselves. When they realized they had failed to make the interpersonal connections with their co-workers, they realized why their own events were not as recognized as others.

      4. JustaTech*

        I’ve been on the other end of this and it’s just as hurtful. A few jobs ago my coworkers were sitting around the lunch table talking about how great the Midwest is and how nice all the people are and how people from “back East” are snobby and stuck up and cold. They went on and on until I packed up my lunch and said “I’m sorry you all think I’m a jerk,” and left.
        Yes, I’m from the East Coast, but I’m also shy and an introvert. And to make the whole thing extra absurd, we were all living on the West Coast.

      5. Flower*

        Really? I grew up outside of Chicago and spent 13 summers in northern Minnesota growing up, mostly surrounded by people living in the twin cities, many of whom grew up in other parts of the Midwest. Discussing Midwestern and especially Minnesotan culture in a slightly disparaging but still loving way or talking about “Midwestern culture” or “Minnesotan culture” sometimes in a complaining sort of way is absolutely something I grew up with. This letter didn’t read insulting to me at all. Besides, how do you explain the old PBS mockumentary “how to speak Minnesotan”?

    7. Jill McCoy*

      In my experience, a Midwestern culture abhors and punishes directness and is heavily focused on small niceties and pleasantries, to someone’s face. Saying anything slightly negative about a person, project, whatever is a risky endeavor. Hierarchy needs to be respected and you need to adjust how you speak when talking to someone with a title senior to yours. It is more important to be seen as nice and to be liked than it is to be smart and good at your job.

      1. Birch*

        This is the best shortest description of Midwest culture. Just add in that you’re never allowed to eat the last bite.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Who does eat the last bite? Or does it eventually get tossed in the trash?

          1. Autumnheart*

            Depends on how good it is, and how much food is present overall.

            If it’s a tasty dish, the last bite will be consumed by someone who announces, “I’m taking the last piece! Hope nobody wants it!” If it’s not all that good, there will be at least one, probably more than one, fractal piece that eventually gets tossed. If you bring a dish to a potluck and less than half of it gets eaten, you need a different recipe, at least for that audience.

            Part of the complexity of bringing a dish to a potluck is that sometimes what sounds good in principle doesn’t work out in practice. That quinoa cucumber salad could be damn delicious, but if it’s cold and snowy outside, everyone’s going to want the heart attack special and the chili, that’s just how it goes.

    8. LW #2*

      Midwestern culture, as I’ve experienced it.

      – Warm on the outside, much harsher behind closed doors.
      – Indirectness. A lot of indirectness, combined with (at least locally) a general grumpiness. Huge reliance on unwritten rules, some in direct contradiction to written policies.
      – Asking questions formally encouraged, but informally discouraged. Again, you’re expected to know.
      – Noticeable deference to hierarchies, and not only formal ones.
      – A degree of racial insensitivity. UNIVERSAL consensus from non-Caucasians here and outside the office. I have a multi-racial family as well.
      – Euchre.
      – College football.
      – Hunting season as nearly a state holiday.
      – A certain ideal of masculinity (real men talk about cars, etc, real men don’t read, real men vote Trump… Early on, I had several people comment on my “interesting” attire which was pretty unremarkable in my last East Coast setting).
      – Some of the above might seem minor, BUT if you don’t show enthusiasm for any of them, it definitely makes a difference, and I’m not talking about handing out PETA literature or anything).

      1. Traveler*

        I’ve lived all over the US, and the unwritten rules bit is unfortunately everywhere. It’s just part of being an outsider in a new culture, and is all the more fraught because the people that have lived with it their whole life don’t have the outside perspective much of the time to even know they are following unwritten rules.
        Some of this seems to be localized to where you are. Polar opposites (loving Trump or hating him, loving cars or not caring about them, hunting or not) are pretty typical in the Midwest which is why they are such battleground states in election years. I wonder if its possible that you’ve just stumbled on an office where like have hired like?
        I’m very sorry to hear about the racial insensitivity. That shouldn’t be happening anywhere.

        1. Specialk9*

          It’s true that tripping over unwritten rules happens everywhere. Boy howdy does it! (Army brat here) It is easier in places with more diversity of origin, and I’m vaguely thinking port cities, military, big cities. But admittedly I only have the knowledge I have, and it’s far from universal.

      2. chomps84*

        @LW #2 – do you live in a small city or small town or something? Just curious, because some of those thing seem familiar to me as someone who grew up in the Chicago area, but some of those things really code as rural/small town to me. (e.g. no one really cares about hunting season in Chicago).

        1. epi*

          I agree, from Chicago and this is all off the mark. Most of this is rural stuff, not Midwestern stuff, and even in rural areas not everyone is like that– even if they stay quiet about it so as not to rock the boat. With regard to some of it, if the OP is signaling to their coworkers that they consider this Midwestern stuff and assume they all endorse it, then they are being *very* insulting.

          1. chomps84*

            @epi-exactly. I’ve lived in DC for 7 years now and people make all sorts of weird generalizations about the midwest, most of which are not based on their own experience there and I’m always like “you know Chicago is the third largest city in the country and it’s metro area is bigger than DC’s, right?” Because they assume midwest=rural which is not true.

        2. KMB213*

          Agreed. I’m in a much smaller city, but a city nonetheless (Cleveland, OH) , and at least half of those are decidedly not things here. (And I’ve lived throughout the country and am a POC, so it’s not like I’m just blind to them.) Indirectness, euchre, and college football are the only three I’ve experienced moreso here than anywhere else. A lot seem like they may be specific to OP’s workplace, too.

      3. Ennigaldi*

        Yup, this sounds like rural Midwest more than city Midwest. It can be confusing until you get used to listening to what people are trying to communicate, rather than what they’re saying, if that makes sense. With my rural WI side of the family, socializing centers around food and football. With my family in Chicago, communication is much more open. If people are acting passive-aggressively toward you (not congratulating you on a baby on the way is a MAJOR snub), the best way to deal with it is to be relentlessly cheerful and try your best to read what they’re communicating to you by HOW they say things, not WHAT they say.

      4. PaulBunyan*

        Like I said above, a lot of this comes across as really condescending to me. Obviously things like racial insensitivity shouldn’t exist anywhere, even though sadly places across the country suffer from it. But if your coworkers are getting the sense that you’re looking down on them for being excited about hunting season or college football, then yeah they aren’t going to go out of their way to try to be your friend. If you feel like you don’t fit in the culture of an area then consider moving. It doesn’t mean that you’re wrong or they are wrong, it’s just about fit. I don’t mean for this to sound rude or harsh at all, it just seems like it would be incredibly hard to be happy in a place whose culture you seem to dislike so much.

      5. Flower*

        A lot of this reads as rural Midwestern (or just plain rural) – I will admit one of my biggest gripes with rural Midwesterners is that some of them seem to think they are the only true Midwesterners – growing up outside of Chicago, I’ve actually faced that feeling many times and will admit annoyance at it.

        1. Flower*

          Though “a degree of racial insensitivity” is I would argue baked into most of the US in regionally different ways. (Speaking as a white woman, though, so maybe not best judge)

      6. Michaela Westen*

        Blech. Some of the reasons I left Kansas.
        “A certain ideal of masculinity (real men talk about cars, etc, real men don’t read, real men vote Trump” – *just* the kind of man I want to marry! :p
        That whole ignorance-is-a-virtue attitude is bringing down our country. :(
        BTW, I grew up in a Kansas town of ~200k. Not rural, but seemed like it.

    9. Penny Lane*

      I worked in the midwest HQ of a company that was taken over / merged with an east coast company (household names you’d all recognize). I am originally from the east coast so I can move between the two. Basically, here’s what happened: The east coast people would have a meeting and there might be vehement and blunt disagreement over whether to do X or Y. Then, the meeting would be over and the person advocating X would say – hey, wanna go to lunch? – and the person advocating Y would say – sure – and they’d have lunch together and have a grand old time. And then the next day they’d argue again over X vs Y. It horrified the midwesterners – because they were so polite to a fault that they’d concede doing Y over X just to keep the peace, and then they’d swallow all of their emotions and their convictions that X was really the right thing to do for the business. From my POV it was an excessive “the way to win respect is to tell them what they want to hear” from the midwesterners whereas the east coasters were more “the way to win respect is to stand by the courage of your convictions” (assuming of course you have logic, data, etc. to back them up).

      1. Specialk9*

        That’s fascinating insight.

        The one thing I’ve experienced everywhere I’ve lived (and with all our exchange students) is that one thing – often one small thing – that just makes your head explode that people do things THIS way. It’s that thing that breaks a rule you thought universal, and makes you feel like you’re among people who are fundamentally different. It’s a feeling you can push through and end up ok, but if you haven’t moved a lot to different areas, it can sneak up on you.

    10. matcha123*

      I’m from the midwest, too and I wonder. A big city like Chicago is going to have a different culture from Grand Rapids, which is going to be different from Cleveland…
      But, I assume the OP meant that people seem passive aggressive or indirect?

      1. Future Homesteader*

        Don’t get me started on Grand Rapids culture :-P (source: grew up there)

        1. Sarah*

          Ooh, please do tell about Grand Rapids culture! My dad’s family is from there and I’m always struck by how incredibly different it is from where I grew up outside of NYC. (And frankly, as a butch queer Jewish woman-type person with leftist leanings, I haven’t had the world’s best experiences there.)

          1. Future Homesteader*

            :-( I’m sorry, but not surprised, to hear it. It’s gotten quite a bit better, tolerance-wise, in the last decade or so, but it’s still a very *unique* culture. Even my friends who grew up in Lansing and especially Detroit don’t quite get how…monolithic it can be. When I moved to Big East Coast City, I was thrilled to be there, and also gobsmacked (in a good way) by how open people could be about….everything. I could literally go on for hours (and have) about what it was like growing up there as a non-Christian, let’s just say that even in my public schools, I was still regularly told I was damned, by both teachers and fellow students alike.

      2. KMB213*

        Agreed. I live in Cleveland, and most of the what the OP described as “Midwestern culture” doesn’t apply to the culture here at all, but go an hour or an hour and a half outside of the city to some more rural areas, and a lot of it does.

        In my experience, though, Cleveland has more in common (culturally) with other Rust Belt cities, like Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Buffalo, than it does with the rest of the Midwest (and even with some other parts of Ohio).

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Clevelander here too. I read a book last year, American Nations, that did a really good job explaining this difference. The city was founded by the migrants from the NorthEast. (Or, as the author calls it, “Yankeedom”.) Apologize if I’m telling you something you know already, but, for example, all the “Western Reserve”s in places and institutions’ names around here originate from “The Western Reserve of Connecticut”. So yeah, the city really is different from the rest of Ohio. But, yeah, I agree with what you said about the far suburbs 40-50 miles out being all casseroles and Trump posters and mass confusion at seeing anyone not of the Irish-German-English background.

    11. Jotpe*

      Yeah, in *my* midwestern culture there would be no notion of *not* having a baby shower or sending flowers to the funeral, so the idea that a “midwestern culture” might lead to a lack of warmth or recognition of personal events is baffling.

      1. Terminally Dull*

        Yeah, the places I’ve worked parties would be big, which is why I think it’s cultural. I think he’s seen as stand-offish or pushy or East Coast beats Midwest.

        1. Terminally Dull*

          Or, the person who said something, trying to feel him out, came away with the idea that he didn’t want more than a card.

        2. Clare*

          I find it interesting that there are so many people taking offence to the OP’s comment about stereotypical Midwestern culture, and are getting defensive in a way that is insulting to the OP and stereotyping all East Coasters.
          The OP says that recognition is common for “insiders” just not for him- so if you are from the Midwest of course you would be a part of the parties- but you would not have an accurate view of what it is like for outsiders.

          1. Jotpe*

            Well, “midwest” like “east coast” is a big tent, and it’s not like these are impermeable boundaries. My parents are from the midwest, I grew up on the east coast, and I settled in the midwest during college. Am I an insider or an outsider by your definition then?

            Personally I don’t think we know enough to know if this matters. LW could be an outsider by virtue of being an “easterner” or because s/he didn’t go to a Big Ten school or because s/he doesn’t participate in the Game of Thrones chatter or because s/he didn’t attend the company picnic the first year s/he was there or or or or or… and that’s if the issue is insider/outsider and not just personalities. I’d be more inclined to put my money on a cliquish work environment than some kind of cultural difference.

    12. puzzld*

      Well the behavior referenced by OP2 is very typical of my western edge of midwest (or is that eastern edge of the west?) office. Unless you mention your “life event” to me directly I won’t be mentioning it to you. Even if your loved one died in a hail of bullets on main street with Newscenter1 on the scene… I might offer you a cup of your favorite beverage and wait for you to say something… but that’s it. The assumption is that if you wanted to talk about it you’d say something. Boundaries? Hell yeah. We’ve got them. 10 feet high and a mile wide. We are perhaps a bit more standoffish than most, :) but yeah. We usually ask the employee if they want a going away / baby shower whatever. If someone is out because of a death/medical emergency in the family, we’ll ask if they want that information (and what level of detail) shared… Then we mind our own business. It can seem cold. I know I smarted when no one asked how I was doing during my cancer treatment, but in fairness, I didn’t bring it up to most of the co-workers. Now if you spill, people will be openly caring and concerned, but if you keep quiet we might do a quiet act of kindness if we thing you won’t find us pushy.

      I can’t conceive of a reprimand for a longer than expected emergency appointment. That’s harsh.

      1. Safetykats*

        I’m wondering if OP’s management understood the nature of the appointment? I once had a staffer get beyond upset with me when I questioned whether they were going to be able to meet a deadline, given their recent schedule (which included a lot of paid time off). Turned out she was in treatment for breast cancer, and I was terribly insensitive and uncaring. Which really is not true, but I was not among the group of people with whom she had shared her condition – so all I knew was that she had been taking a lot of PTO. I think that people sometimes credit their management with a sort of omniscience about things they haven’t directly shared, which is probably a mistake, as it’s likely that your management isn’t privy to the general office gossip, or at least tries hard not to be. (On the general principal that your health/ relationship/ personal issues are none of their business unless directly shared.)

      2. Ennigaldi*

        Yup, now that you put that into words I totally do this – unless we’re good friends I won’t bring anything up unless you do, because it’s not polite to pry! On the other hand if you come to my house I will keep offering you things to eat until you accept, and if you don’t I’ll feel personally deficient.

        1. Michaela Westen*

          I have so many food allergies there might not be anything in your house that I can eat. I would try to find a way to not make you feel deficient! :)

    13. chomps84*

      I assume Northeastern culture is more direct and Midwestern culture is less direct and more based on unwritten social rules. Although I’m sure it depends where in each reason you are.

          1. Flower*

            This may or may not be what Pollygrammar meant, but the video linked in my name is what I use to describe Minnesotsan culture (I did not live there long term, but know many Minnesotans and have been introduced and reintroduced to this video at least five times by Minnesotans, most of whom loudly declare the accuracy of it). He’s also written a book that updated some of the references and technology.

    14. Indoor Cat*

      I’ve lived in Ohio my whole life and I have no idea. Direct / indirect? Ask / offer? Model first / explore and correct teaching styles?

      That last one is a huge thing that I’d never recognized until someone pointed it out, and it can have a serious effect on morale; I used to believe that Asian and Arab students and employees were super over-sensitive when it came to critique and correction, but then I learned that 1. modeling an entire process in one go while they observe, 2. then letting them attempt it without my interruption even if they make a mistake, 3. then giving feedback at the end, 4.then having them try again was considered the most respectful teaching style.

      Not to generalize all Asian or Arab students, of course! But the, “try it and I’ll correct you as you go along” method led to students becoming demoralized, or even feeling insulted, because they felt they were being judged on something I hadn’t taught them yet– so either I was an unfair teacher, or they were not intuitively smart enough to grasp the subject or process. Whereas the students I knew who grew up in the Midwest, including third gen Asian American students, seemed fine with the “jump in the deep end and we’ll troubleshoot as we go” style, since many Midwest k-12 schools already teach that way, and didn’t feel judged.

      I’m not sure how these teaching styles compare to West Coast or East Coast, though.

      Which probably isn’t OP’s issue, since he doesn’t seem to be a manager or in a teaching or leadership position.

      Actually, what OP describes is super weird, and it makes me wonder if there is some prejudice going on in that office. Is he the only person who isn’t Christian? Is he an ethnic minority? Does he have an odd hobby he brought up once and, like, it weirded everybody out? Because in my experience, congrats and condolences often are too excessive around here, rather than lacking. Like, private introvert-types feel uncomfortable with the level of attention drawn to their personal lives. So, if people are ignoring congrats for a new baby and refusing to acknowledge his father’s death, I actually think it’s more likely to be passive aggressive than if he was in a different culture.

  2. LouiseM*

    OP#3, I would avoid mentioning your boyfriend. Aside from the reasons Alison already touched on, I’d worry about that a potential conflict of interest or questionable work/life boundaries were at play.

    1. MarkA*

      Here in the UK, I think, withholding such a potential conflict of interest could lead to dismissal once employment has started.
      Different legislation, so interesting to note the different approach.

      1. Doodle*

        I think the idea is that she’s already mentioned it once (thus giving them notice of a potential conflict that they can follow up on or not.) Here it wouldn’t be a legal issue (usually) but definitely many companies have policies on the issue. But if the OP already told them in the first interview, she should be all set.

  3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#2, I’m so sorry you’re feeling cold-shouldered by your colleagues. Based on your descriptions, it sounds like folks are indeed being inconsistent in how they’re communicating support.

    One thing stuck out to me in your note, though. You mentioned that after your father died, only one person offered their condolences. But you also mentioned that half the office signed a sympathy card. In many of the offices I’ve worked in, signing a sympathy card is the same as offering verbal condolences, because no one wants to continue to trigger someone who may be hurting by bringing up condolences repeatedly. So I wonder if perhaps you’re receiving acknowledgment that you may not be noticing because it’s not communicated the same way to you as it is to others?

    I completely believe that you’re receiving different treatment, including less recognition/empathy for important things happening in your life when compared to your coworkers. But part of me wondered if there may also be a mismatch of communication norms?

    1. LouiseM*

      +1. I’m sure some readers here would actually prefer a card signed by coworkers to personal condolences. I completely understand why this seemed like a slight, but I’d try not to lump this in with other issues.

    2. paul*


      On a large team I think I’d rather they just sign the card than have a dozen+ people all come up to me at different times and give me their condolences.

    3. MarkA*

      Although, at first glance, it would appear a mismatch, there are so many other factors at play before being certain.
      It may have been the holiday time, others may have longer service, be more know to the team, worked with them, others may even know the partner.
      Good advice, as always, buy Alison to get the OP delve deeper.
      It may be the OP has a more sensitive nature (nothing wrong in that) and people have picked up it could be more difficult to deal with.

    4. Mookie*

      Agree about the card. Spontaneously mentioning it in passing when the opportunity is there or making a special effort to acknowledge the loss would, for some people, feel like they were rubbing your nose in a burden you might rather not want to shoulder at work. It’s not true for everybody, but work is often a temporary escape from the more visceral intensities of that kind of pain, and it would be a violation of that ‘safe space’ to taint it with reminders of one’s personal life. My default approach is that the loss is yours, it’s private unless you say otherwise, and you have the right to manage it without my interference or input.

    5. Sunshine on a Cloudy Day*

      I’d also take a look at who is initiating these “personal events” items – it might be inconsistent, but you also might see a pattern.

      This situation actually sounds a lot like my old office (in NYC). It was a fairly large company, though not huge by any means (2000 across a dozen or so office). There were certain central policies in place (ie: the company would send, aka pay for, flowers after a death in the family or send a baby gift after a birth), however it really just depended on whether or not your boss (or sometimes your boss’s admin) was on top of that kind of stuff and requested those items.

      I was the admin to several people, each with their own team of direct reports. One of the women that I supported was very on top of this sort of stuff. She knew everyone’s birthday and just seemed very on the pulse of the outside lives of her direct reports – so I constantly submitted requests for personal events items and I know that she made a point of speaking directly to her direct reports about personal event situations (offering condolences/congrats, etc). However, another woman that I supported… was not so great at this stuff. Personal life stuff just didn’t really register to her unless she was told very specifically/directly so she rarely requested these sorts of things (and I’m guessing rarely offered condolences/congrats). I tried to help out – if I heard about something that qualified for a personal event item I would make a point to ask if I should request one, but I wasn’t very involved with her direct reports so I’m sure things happened that I was unaware of and therefore went overlooked.

      Part of this was company culture – they definitely could have been more proactive about making sure everyone is aware of these policies and promoting a consistent approach, but they didn’t. They let managers sort of create whatever culture they wanted within their individual areas.

      1. Specialk9*

        It should be noted that there is a gender thing there – I have never expected a male manager to be a social manager too (beyond the email prompted by the automated HR bday/work anniversary reminder)… But women managers ARE expected to be social managers as well.

        And I’ll admit that I’m the social manager of my cis/straight marriage. To be fair, my address book bulges — big family and I keep in touch with friends from decades ago. So it makes sense for me to do the social management. But I’m not blind to the gender aspect there either.

        1. Sunshine on a Cloudy Day*

          Ugh – there absolutely were some ugly gender stuff going on at that place. The female managers generally seemed to manage this stuff on their own (well, would specifically delegate these things to their admins), whereas the male managers generally expected their admins to handle this stuff for them (sort of autonomously).

          It was actually interesting working for one of the few female managers that didn’t really conform to that. I don’t think of less of her for it. I just think some people/managers are more on the pulse about this stuff (or at least value the appearance of being on the pulse – ie they delegate that responsibility as a whole to someone else). I’m sure it’s gendered to a certain extent (and the division/expectation of labor absolutely is!), but I also think its just part management style (how warm/involved you are in your team’s personal lives). I’ve had male managers who were very clear advocates of a heavily “involved” team, though whether they actually did any of the work – emotional or physical – is a different story.

    6. Specialk9*

      “a mismatch of communication norms” is an excellent way to put it. I also thought that was likely. It can be helpful to realize that it’s a mismatch of unwritten rules.

      (Though if the mgr who wrote you up knew that there was an emergency related to your baby, that’s a deeply dick move.)

    7. Traveler*

      Yes. I have signed many a sympathy card and felt sincere sympathy for the person grieving, but I would never walk up to someone at work and spontaneously bring it up. I have no idea how they are processing their grief and whether or not that would be welcome and wouldn’t want to contribute to a negative experience for them, especially at work.

    8. Grizzzzzelda*

      Yeah I would take the card as half your office expressing their sympathies.

      I lost someone very close to me to suicide a few years back. I was told of the death while I was at work and , of course, broke down, left early, and took a bereavement day to grieve and another to go to the services.

      When I returned to work, so many people came up to me to offer condolences and I broke down every time. I probably spent more time in the bathroom sobbing than I did at my desk that first week back. I would have much preferred a note with signatures than 30+ people coming up to me saying “I am sorry to hear about your loss. How are you doing?”

      I’d be curious if OP is often giving congratulations and condolences to other people? I feel people tend to mirror behaviors, so if OP isn’t one to acknowledge other people’s life events perhaps coworkers feel that OP would rather not have their life events acknowledged?

      Also- after some experience with friends going through miscarriages…I tend not to congratulate pregnancy unprovoked until very, very late term. Yeah if someone says “I’m so excited! I am 4 weeks pregnant.” I will say “Congratulations.” But that’s really it until the baby is born and healthy.

      I don’t have any excuse for the write up those. That’s pretty messed up.

    9. smoke tree*

      This sort of thing is really tough to navigate at work, because it’s a very emotional situation but everyone has their own preferences for how to handle it. Personally, I am in the camp of never wanting to discuss highly emotional topics at work, so I wouldn’t want to field verbal condolences, but I would appreciate a card. It is possible that if the LW is relatively new in the office, coworkers are erring on the side of caution, and are more demonstrative with those they know will appreciate it.

  4. London strategy consultant*

    I am somewhat surprised for a strategy consultant to be taken aback by being asked to do a case study-style interview. They’re very much par for the course in consulting.

    I agree that a 90-minute presentation is overly long, but not so much to make this company a loon-style outlier. (And for consulting jobs that do group-style interviews, 90 minutes would be absolutely reasonable.)

    OP has noted that as part of the exercise, the company has already given her the data she’s expected to use, rather than ferreting it out. So AAM is right when she says that it’s extremely unlikely they’re requiring 200 hours worth of prep work.

    In my view, coming back with AAM’s wording (“putting together a high-quality presentation of that length would take many hours, and unfortunately my work commitments won’t allow for that”) is going to take OP1 out of the running. Instead, if OP *must* say something, it should be along the lines of “a high-quality 90 minute presentation on a topic like this typically requires 200 hours of preparation; are you expecting a deliverable like that, or should I only use the data you’ve given to me”?

    1. Princess Cimorene*

      If this is the industry standard, then I really like your edit to the wording.

    2. dramamoose*

      I was wondering if they may have confused the times. Perhaps the interview itself is 90 minutes, and the presentation is only supposed to be about a half hour, with the remaining time being for questions about the case study or general follow up interview stuff? I’m also curious about what data they’ve been provided. Are we talking serious in depth figures, or just general overviews? My (brief) experience with market research showed me that a lot of that data is difficult to get without vendors providing data or information from the business itself, maybe it’s being provided but otherwise I would be surprised if they expected the candidate to find it out on its own.

      1. Techie*

        I don’t think a case study with a 90 minute presentation is a loony outlier. Quite the opposite: a 90 minute presentation that requires 200 hours of preparation sounds like a loony outlier to me. Clearly there is a huge difference in expectations here, and you need to discuss it with the employer to understand what they want.

        I have been in this exact situation: a case-study interview, where the total interview was 90 minutes and the case study was 30-45 minutes. They told me in advance that they expected the case study would only take me 1-2 hours to prep, which means they have reasonable expectations. It actually took me 8 hours, in part because I had to research some new technologies, so I consider it still within expectations.

        1. tamarack and fireweed*

          I’m reminded of the quote attributed to Churchill (maybe. this is the internet after all) that goes about like this. When asked how long it took him to prepare a speech, he said it depends: for a 15 min speech, one week; for a 1 hour speech, 2 days; and if there was no time limit, he could start right away.

          But flippancy aside, there certainly are occupations where in-depth presentations are frequently part of the job application process. Research and academic positions typically require them, up to maybe 45 min plus questions. And I’d expect anyone considered for a senior strategic post can expect them.

          This said, 90 min to me is an odd (and bad) format. 30 min plus questions is about as dense as most want to go. The university where I am recently hired on dean and provost positions, and final-round candidates’ presentations were essentially unlimited (just by “we have this room for 90 min / 2 h”): the good ones all stuck to 40 min max, plus extensive, interactive question time, and the ones who took over an hour were quite obviously inferior. It’s been pretty much drilled into me that sustained attention over 45 min isn’t practicable in most fields. If you talk longer, I’d expect a 3h / half-day workshop that’s interactive, allows free movement and collaboration, and has breaks. So unless there’s a well-known 90 min presentation format in your industry that’s standard, I’d say you should ask for clarification about this expectation.

    3. CoffeeLover*

      +1 They’re testing your ability to storyboard and present. Can you take some data and communicate some findings in a way that makes sense. Can you answer questions in a professional and confident way. Do you have a good presenters persona. They’re not testing the accuracy of your conclusions although they should follow logic and not miss anything obvious/crucial. Spending a bunch of time doing proper research would be a waste – just focus on the materials they’ve given.

      When I was interviewing for consulting, I was given 30min and a bunch of materials to prepare a 30min presentation. A 90 min presentation (or something close to that) is going to take a full evening and it is a little ridiculous, I agree. It’s a reflection of the industry though (which IMO is pretty ridiculous) and it’s very very common. I think you should either decide if it’s something worth spending time on, or if you’d like to drop out of the running. Unless you’re truly skilled and sought after – then you’ve got some pull and can ask the kind of questions Alison suggested.

    4. Beatrice*

      I’m trying to imagine listening to multiple 90-minute presentations on the same topic, using the same data, delivered by the whole pool of candidates I wanted to interview. Even if it was only three or four…x_X

      1. Techie*

        If it’s a highly specific topic requiring detailed subject matter expertise, the pool of candidates might be very small.

    5. Bowl of Oranges*

      Yeah, this sounds very similar to an interview and presentation I had to do for a consultant position at a marketing company (though the presentation was a little less than an hour with a time for role-playing questions). I believe in the case of my interview, the purpose was primarily to test my presentation and communication skills in as close to real world scenario as possible.

      I like this wording to get more clarification about what they’re expecting.

    6. Lil Fidget*

      My friend was asked to do a 90 minute presentation for an interview too (not even in consulting) so this is a real thing that happens. I was horrified on her behalf.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        I’ve been asked to do 45 minute talks (not including leaving 10 min for Q&A) as part of interviews. To me that’s within reason, but 90 minutes seems really excessive: potentially a disproportionate amount of prep work, and the audience probably doesn’t care after the first 30 minutes.

        There’s also no way to really show you can take complex information and condense it into a short yet informative presentation, which I think should be a better benchmark of ability to communicate. Either you’ll end up conveying wayyyyy too much information for something with no business impact b/c it’s purely for an interview, or you’ll have to come up with a lot of useless filler. Both versions are a huge waste of everyone’s time, unless the majority of the job is literally doing this exact thing. (Like, teaching a college-level class.)

      2. Autumnheart*

        I’m not a consultant, but to me it sort of feels like, “We need a presentation on this topic, so do free work for us under the guise of interviewing for a position.” Like the kind of company that wants you to build them a whole marketing campaign as an interview assignment, and then a month later you see them using the marketing campaign but they never call you back.

    7. Anonymoose*

      I’m more concerned that they want real-world data. Isn’t that a data breach since they’re likely competing companies?

    8. Josh S*

      I’m in Market Research as my profession. If I were asked to do a 90-minute presentation on ANYTHING, I would ask “Why so long?”

      Not because it’s too long of a presentation to be asked to prepare, but because no well-crafted market research/insights presentation should take 90 minutes to deliver. Brevity is quality.

      Now, as part of my work, I’ll likely go through enough data and find enough “nuggets” of interesting material that could fill 90 minutes several times over. But in Every. Single. Instance. in my professional career, the meat of a presentation can be had and delivered in 30 minutes or less if presented well. Sure, you may get questions that take you beyond that as you go. But if you’re clicking through slides for 90 minutes, you’re doing it wrong. Particularly for a Fortune 500 Marketing organization, presumably presenting to SVPs or Sr Brand Managers. Ain’t nobody got time for 90 minutes!

      And frankly, “putting together a high-quality presentation of 20-30 minutes” would take me LONGER than putting together a high-quality presentation of 90 minutes, because simplifying the message and making the slides clear and concise is the challenge.

  5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#1, I find a 20-minute presentation to be a big ask in the hiring process (but possibly ok if it’s during the final final stages and field-relevant). Even a job talk would be ok. But a 90-minute “real” business presentation? At perhaps not the final stage? No; it’s totally excessive.

    1. London strategy consultant*

      PCBH, as I recall, you’re a lawyer? I work in strategy consulting but have a JD, which was a deliberate choice, so I had my first experience with consulting interviews while classmates were doing law firm interviews.

      Trust me, consulting interviews are *much* more rigorous and substantive. (Law firms do extended “fit” interviews, albeit a lot of them.) 20 minutes for a consulting interview, even in early rounds, is absolutely normal. You can buy books on how to prep for them.

      The only thing even slightly out of the ordinary here is the length of the presentation OP1 is being asked to make. And frankly, even there, I suspect she can tease 90 minutes out of the data she’s been given. When you were doing law school exams, you could probably have written 90 minutes worth of analysis based on the hypotheticals you were given.

      1. JR*

        So I read the letter assuming the OP was expected to gather the data, which I think is totally unreasonable. If the data is being provided, then I think 90 minutes is excessive, but the exercise itself isn’t crazy. But OP, are you sure the presentation itself is supposed to be 90 minutes, or might that time include (extensive) Q&A, discussion of your process, introductions from everyone watching the presentation, and possibly other interview questions?

    2. Jenny Next*

      I agree. And call me jaded and cynical but given that it’s “based on a real-world business situation with real data,” I wonder if they are trying to get free consulting work from the applicants.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I suspect there wouldn’t be much value-added from the “free work” from the applicants, though. Whenever we get letters from folks who want to bill for their time after not being hired, it seems that the work product is not really what the employer is seeking. In my experience these kinds of requests are more like a practice exam—they come from wanting to see how someone approaches a task. When they’re onerous, like this request, it seems to indicate alack of awareness of, or a lack of caring about, the burden on the applicant.

      2. Oxford Coma*

        This was my immediate thought. That amount of detail is insane for an interview–they’re using LW.

      3. Specialk9*

        I also was wondering if they were trying to get free work out of a specialist.

        1. slick ric flair*

          It’s very, very unlikely. The vast majority of companies are not going to go through all the trouble of faking interviews for a 90 minute presentation from a job applicant who they have no idea of their capability to save a couple of bucks.

    3. Tau*

      Also, what exactly are they trying to gain through the 90-minute presentation that wouldn’t be possible through a 20-minute one, or through the OP talking about how they’d put such a thing together?

      …apart from free consulting work, as Jenny Next suggested, which was also where my mind went. OP will have to know if, in their industry, this kind of work done by an outsider would be useable but given that they talk about the billable hours it would take to put one together…

      1. Artemesia*

        Saying ‘what you would do’ and being able to actually do it are vastly different. If presentations are important then the more realistic the better. 90 minutes is long, but a real presentation with data sounds critical for the role. I have a lot of experience with people who tell us ‘what they would do’ but who can’t deliver the goods which is why we made sure our hiring process included two difference performances for the two most critical performance roles the job entailed. But this was just for the 3 finalists. Earlier in the process the discussions in the phone screen were of the ‘what would you do?’ variety.

        1. Lil Fidget*

          Yeah but you can see how they would actually preform in 20 minutes, IMO. The other HOUR of time is just disrespectful.

    4. Kuododi*

      I come from a different background. (community mental health) so I don’t necessarily have the same perspective. I have found a fairly common thing with interviewers is to ask for a written hypothetical case report and treatment plan using a fictional client study. Those are able to be knocked out in 30-45min tops. Noone in my field would ever be expected to do any type of 90min prolonged report for any reason as far as the hiring process. Now if a clinician was being asked to do a training/CEU type presentation, 90 min would be well within the reasonable limits.

      1. Cedrus Libani*

        I can see asking someone to give a sample class, if they’re being hired to give trainings – but in that case, they’d already have a class that they’d done many times before, so it’s not such a big ask.

        Giving a 90 minute talk full of custom analysis on a real, client-specific dataset, however…that’s a LOT. If you walked up to me at my actual job on Monday and told me I’d need to do such a thing by Friday, I’d be dropping everything else to make it happen, and I’d be inclined to have a pointed word with your chain of command about it.

        In my field (science), we do give job talks, which are usually an hour or so. However, you get to decide the topic – you’re showing off a project you have already done, and probably already presented to a specialized audience, so you just have to tidy it up and throw in some background slides. We also frequently give candidates some relevant materials and give them half an hour to talk through how they’d approach a problem. But that’s the interview!

        1. Lil Fidget*

          Agree, it’d would be okay to ask a trainer or a teacher, who presumably already has such presentations, to perform one even if it was an hour or more (which still seems like a huge waste of the interviewer’s time though, if nobody elses) – but asking them to use your data or scenario, meaning they have to write it from scratch, is completely nuts.

    5. Dancing Pangolins*

      I’ve been in a similar situation recently, different field though. I was asked to create mock-up designs for a project and give a 10 minute presentation with 50 minutes for Q&A with the hiring committee. It may not seem like a lot, but the project required at least 15 hours of work, plus prepping the presentation and boiling it down to 10 minutes — which was very hard. Now I don’t have children, but I still felt the ask was too much, perhaps the manager not realizing the work that goes into something like this. BUT, I really needed this job (not just it would be nice to have a new job) AND I knew that the manager and the team were great, and the job fit was perfect. So I did everything I could to knock it out of the park — which I am told I did as we are at the references stage. I typically agree with Alison on wording, but I do think in this case it might take the OP out of the running, or at least come out behind other candidates. So my thoughts for the OP are: consider what’s at stake? Do you need this job? Is it a good fit for you? Is it a step forward in your career? If you withdraw, will you regret losing this opportunity? Also, could it be that they allotted 90 minutes so they have time for Q&A? Maybe a 30 or 60 minute presentation would be enough? Anyway hope this was helpful! Good luck to the OP!

      1. Lil Fidget*

        To me, the timing here makes the case different. Knowing how much work it was to prepare 10 minutes of content, can you imagine doing an hour and a half? I feel like that would take months.

        1. Dancing Pangolins*

          It probably depends on the field. In mine the adage “if I had more time, my letter/presentation would be shorter” applies. I would have spent less time on figuring out how to pare things down just right, and could have easily filled 60-90 minutes talking about the branding and design decisions I made. I doubt that in the OPs case, she will need to present for 90 minutes and then take questions.

  6. Stellaaaaa*

    OP2: I’m not saying that you’re like anyone in the example I’m about to give. I just think it may be useful to know why people at work don’t make equal emotional displays toward everyone.

    I’m somewhat selective about who I express any empathy or sympathy toward. When Jane’s dad died, of course I felt sad for her, but I didn’t say anything to her. She’s the kind of person who takes any minor social interaction and tries to spin it into a 15-minute conversation and I just don’t have the specific energy to sit through a long monologue about funerals, wills, and a sick person’s last few days in the hospital. Jane also has slight boundary issues; she’s on the edge of social decency so it’s hard to teach her when it is and isn’t okay to speak to others about sensitive issues. When Anne’s dad died, Jane immediately started telling Anne what Anne’s dad’s REAL diagnosis probably was, and then asked a lot of invasive (she probably thought she was showing sympathy) questions about how Anne’s family was handling the funeral planning and the death overall.

    After all that, I became even more secure in my decision not to comment on anything in Jane’s life. It would only make her think that she could say whatever offensive and unwanted crap about my life events. She sees an open door, kicks it in, and DOES NOT LEAVE.

    The thing is, she’s very nice. She’s obviously coming from the right place with all of this. It’s just not something that anyone else should have to deal with when they’re already going through a lot. Is there anything about this that resonates with you? Is it really that important for you to find emotional support at work for non-work life events? It’s my experience that if you need it enough to register that you’re not getting it, you may be sending out a vibe that you’re expecting a touch too much from people.

    1. EvilQueenRegina*

      This does bring back memories of Exjob. My grandad (who had effectively taken over as father figure since my dad left when I was 10), died, my coworker and friend Ariel was hospitalised over long running health issues and Cruella’s partner left her in the same time period. What you’re describing with your Jane does sound like something Cruella would do – she was always cornering people who didn’t want to or have time to be cornered and given them a long monologue about her ailments and all her exes, some of this going back about 40 years, and it had got to the point where some people did actively avoid her because they didn’t want this. If someone had had an illness or a death she would launch into her own stories from about 1991 and people didn’t always want that.

      The honest answer is that our coworkers probably did express more sympathy towards myself and Ariel than they did towards Cruella, and I think Cruella did perceive it that way. There were times when coworkers would ask me and/or Ariel how we were doing and not bring up Cruella’s breakup, and Cruella would respond to this by giving us death looks and/or refusing to speak to us for about 2 hours. Looking back now I wonder whether maybe I should have tried harder to make sure Cruella got a bit more acknowledgement. but at the time I was trying to deal with my own feelings and keep dealing with all the work stuff while we were short staffed, and I just didn’t have the emotional headspace to deal with it when Cruella pounced on everyone who walked in and went into a long spiel about how she’d got into her ex’s facebook account and seen where he;d called her a rude name.

  7. LouiseM*

    OP#2, I do wonder if this is an engineer thing. My ex was in a closely related field and at his job, which he actually quite liked, people really avoided discussing personal matters. If someone had an important professional milestone, that was celebrated, but things like weddings were barely acknowledged. To me, it seemed rude and uncaring, but the engineers seemed to prefer it. Interestingly, he now lives in another country and has posed on Facebook about how some of the things that he says at work (even though he is a private and reserved person by U.S. standards) come off as too touchy-feely. For example, asking questions about when the baby is due and if the parents know the sex is seen as majorly OTT by many of his coworkers. So it’s truly a cultural thing.

    1. Princess Cimorene*

      But the LW says that other people at the job do receive sincere acknowledgement, so this doesn’t really work.

      1. LouiseM*

        They just said a coworker who suffered a personal tragedy received support. That could mean a lot of things. It doesn’t have to mean they got flowers or whatever.

    2. Kathy*

      Yeah, engineer here. I work in a position that requires me to communicate with the other departments, and I’ve learned that they’re oversharers. I do not want to know all the gory details about your medical problems, your love life, your finances, everything. But there are some people that cry “not fair!” if I talk to some people about “personal matters” and not them, so I find it easier to just… not talk about anything personal with anyone ever. If I talk to Jane about her boyfriend problems, then Sarah thinks she can come talk to me about how her husband is destroying their finances. I just don’t… care. Which then means that by the time someone is announcing something like they’re having a new baby, I’m just like where is the card I can sign, I do not want to go say “congratulations!” and then get roped into 30 minutes of baby talk.

      Now, I don’t know if that’s because I’m an engineer or because a lot of my coworkers take oversharing to a whole new level, but that’s how it is from my perspective.

      1. Joan Crawford's Look of Surprise*

        From my experience, it’s not just an engineer thing. I find that people try to make the workplace way more than what it is. They try to shoehorn all sorts of personal milestones into social events as a weird way to get people to bond, when civility and respect is enough for most people. They figure that seeing that we work together 8/5 (or whatever hours you work per week), we’re suddenly at a place to where we can be like friends, which can veer into boundary-crossing issues.

  8. Storie*

    Op #1-I feel you. In my industry, reading material and writing an analysis of it is the common second step in an interview process. Sometimes, multiple items to the tune of 2-4 hours spent on each. During a year-long job search, this fact of life drove my husband crazy on my behalf. So. Many. Hours. Not to mention, all the free work in terms of my thoughts and suggestions to improve the work. It’s maddening and I really did start to resent these people throwing the work at me with no regard for my time, all on a speculative basis. To be fair, the ability to analyze this material is key for being able to do this job and taste is even a huge consideration. But the attitude of —spend a whole week writing for us to show how badly you want this—began to sour me on the whole field. Maybe it is industry standard in your field—however, it also could indicate a lack of regard for you as a human being at this company. I would stand firm in not doing it and be confident, and see how they come back.

    1. Wendy Darling*

      I wish we could get everyone together and refuse to do this crap. I’ve had it with companies who have only had HR screen my resume wanting me to do 3-8 hours of data analysis before I even get the opportunity to speak to the hiring manager. I would genuinely rather code on a whiteboard during an interview than spend all my after-work time for a full week working on a pretend project just to get the opportunity to be considered for an interview.

      Bonus points for the garbage recruiter who basically demanded that I do a 6-hour homework assignment within 36 hours of receiving it, because apparently I don’t need to sleep or go to my current job.

        1. Storie*

          Totally candidate hazing!
          If competition wasn’t so tough and jobs scarce these days, maybe those in my field could refuse. But for now, it’s suck it up.

      1. Lil Fidget*

        I really do wish all job applicants en masse would agree that none of us will spend more than an hour or two on any interview prep. That ought to be more than sufficient! But there’s always some eager beaver who works 48 hours unpaid which means the rest of us are all on the race to the bottom.

        1. Wendy Darling*

          Yes, with the dreaded “Oh this should only take you an hour or two!” and then you end up spending 15 hours on it over a weekend to make it into something you’re comfortable with them using to evaluate your candidacy, because you can do SOMETHING in an hour or two but it’s sure not anything presentable.

  9. Drama Llama*

    OP3 I was informally in charge of organising flowers/gifts/cards for employees’ major life events. Eventually it became difficult to track everyone’s milestones. It was fine when we were a small team. But as the company grew bigger sometimes I would hear about a new baby months after the birth. Or I might hear about someone’s wedding in the middle of a big pile of work and it will completely slip my mind. It could potentially cause a lot of bad feelings if I inadvertently didn’t acknowledge someone’s big event, so I put an end to it altogether.

    While your own milestones are a big deal to you and your family, it becomes one of many milestones of many employees when you’re in the management team. It won’t be anything personal against you.

  10. Sami*

    OP#2: I just came across this on my Facebook memories. I hope it resonates with you.

    This I believe is true—

    “It’s easy to feel uncared for when people aren’t able to communicate and connect with you in the way you need. And it’s so hard not to internalize that silence as a reflection on your worth. But the truth is that the way other people operate is not about you. Most people are so caught up in their own responsibilities, struggles and anxieties that the thought of asking someone else how they’re doing doesn’t even cross their mind. They aren’t inherently bad or uncaring — they’re just busy and self-focused. And that’s okay. It’s not evidence of some fundamental failing on your part. It doesn’t make you unlovable or invisible. It just means that those people aren’t very good at looking beyond their own world. But the fact that you are – that despite the darkness you feel, you have the ability to share your love and light with others – is a strength. Your work isn’t to change who you are; it’s to find people who are able to give you the connection you need. Because despite what you feel, you are not too much. You are not too sensitive or too needy. You are thoughtful and empathetic. You are compassionate and kind. And with or without anyone’s acknowledgment or affection, you are enough.”
    ~ Daniell Koepke

  11. MK*

    OP3, I would advise you to reconsider the notion that “having the connection does mean I have a unique insight into the needs and challenges of the company’s craftsmen”. Your boyfriend does not speak for all company craftspeople and as an employer I would be very dubious about you basing an entire marketing plan on one person’s feedback.

    1. MicroManagered*

      I agree here. I could see *maybe* mentioning that you are familiar with all the great benefits the company offers through personal contacts you have within the company–but even that would be a light, throwaway comment. It would not be an indicator of why a candidate is qualified for a position.

    2. LQ*

      Agreed. I’m working with someone now who is trying to do that and he’s so very very wrong because his wife was not good at the job because it wasn’t what she thought it was. (And frankly even if someone is good, because they are good they may have a different experience.)

  12. Pangolin*

    My company, which is in engineering, has candidates above entry-level prepare an hourlong presentation as part of a day of interviews. This is usually on some aspect of their previous work (so, for instance, a graduate student might present on their research). This is my first real industry job, so I assumed it was par for the course, but question #1 now makes me wonder whether it’s not. How much does it depend on industry/location? How long are such presentations normally? Is it different because (it seems) that OP #1’s question seemed to have the topic dictated to them?

    1. Julia*

      I don’t know, bug presenting one’s own research or work results seems like less prep work than analyzing and presenting data one has received. Most grad students probably already have a presentation about their research somewhere, even.

      1. Wendy Darling*

        Although the hard part is coming up with some work that you’re allowed to show if you’re not a recent student. I had an organization ask me to present a data analysis I’d conducted in the past but everything I’ve done in the last 5 years is covered by NDAs for various companies and I know this may come as a shock but I do not typically conduct large-scale data analyses for funsies in my free time.

    2. MamaGanoush*

      Faculty positions in higher ed will have a presentation on one’s research (presentation plus time for grilling — uh, Q&A — an hour or so altogether) plus often teaching a class. The class can be for an on-going course — you take over class for that day, either teaching what’s on the syllabus or perhaps something closely related. That’s for candidates who make it to the campus visit, though, not at an initial interview. (It may be different for faculty in the sciences, but that’s how it works for the humanities.)

      1. Nesprin*

        That’s how it works in the sciences too. For research intensive, substitute teaching a class for giving a chalk talk about what your first grant proposal would be.

    3. Antilles*

      It definitely varies by industry and even within the same industry. My first job in engineering had that exact same policy* where you’d give an hour-long presentation on the topic of your choice as part of a full day of interviews. However, even within that industry, they were far and away the exception; most companies only do a couple hours of interviews and have you sort of talk through things – you’d still be expected to talk through your graduate research, but in a sit-down way. Looking back on it, a lot of the people in that company spent significant time in academia, so my theory is that they fell in love with the idea of “more data, more data, more data” on their hiring process…even though as far as I can tell, the turnover rate at the company was broadly similar to others in the industry, so it’s not really clear if the full day of interviews and presentation and etc actually helped provide more useful data or just muddied the waters.
      As a general thing however, even having any presentation is uncommon in most industries (including engineering). The usual process is something along the lines of: (a) 15-30 minute phone interview, (b) couple hour long in-person interview, (c) reference checks, checking transcripts, etc, (d) potentially another 1-2 hours of interviews, (e) offer letter. And to be honest, it’s fairly common for companies to skip steps (c) and (d).
      *Side note: Such a detailed process is sufficiently rare enough in the engineering community that I’m legitimately wondering if we worked for the same firm. Is yours a civil/geotechnical/environmental firm?

    4. Genny*

      I think a key point to consider is at what level they’re requiring this type of investment. After the phone screen and before in-person interviews? That’s way too much, especially since I haven’t had a chance to evaluate whether or not the company is a good fit for me. As part of the final interview when they’ve narrowed the list to the top 3-5 candidates? That seems much more reasonable.

      1. Lil Fidget*

        Also they let you bring whatever you already have (I still think an hour is kind of long – who even wants to sit through that?? How much more do you learn about the candidate after the 20 minute mark or the 40 minute mark?). In this case, and others I’m aware of, the assignment was structured to require the applicant create a whole new presentation from scratch, which is what really pushes it over into unreasonable IMO.

    5. Viki*

      Depending on your field and industry. In academia (my field) you had to present your research and then do three mock lectures for a mixture of students and others to gage teaching skills. Each lecture was about an hour.

      1. Tertia*

        Yes, but that’s typically the last stage of the process and required of only the top candidates. Like Genny said above, to me the reasonableness of the request depends on what stage they’re at. The fact that there’s only a week’s notice makes me think that they’re not yet to the final stage, but obviously I don’t know the field.

        1. Viki*

          Exactly, maybe they hire fast? There’s a bit too much unknown for me to go-yup unreasonable given my own background.

          It’s hard from my opinion to ever know if the presentation is too much, because my field (at my university), it’s the norm, and most post-docs applying for teaching positions have the mock lectures more or less ready to go and repeat until they secure a position. So at the beginning, there is a lot of prep work, but they can just reuse for various stages.

          It appears to be not the case in OP’s field but I can’t speak of other norms.

    6. Close Bracket*

      Over the course of my life, I’ve been on a dozen or so interviews for engineering positions. All but the most recent required a talk.

  13. Greg M.*

    I’m trying to figure out what I could even present for 90 minutes and I can just think of “Why the address system in the Stargate Universe makes no sense and it just gets more confusing the further you go into the series”

    1. Greg M.*

      “Sir, this is not really relevant to the position, what are you-”
      “Shh… Jenkins he’s just about to talk about Lost City. I love that episode”

      1. Greg M.*

        “And this is where you find out that the Stargate Addresses are actually a language. each glyph has an associated noise. Now this makes sense so you can vocalize addresses easily but….. Then it’s revealed that Ploclorush Taonos means ‘lost in fire’ which makes no sense at all because the gate would have been placed before the planet became an inferno……”

        1. The Vulture*

          I really want a thread on what obscure/specific topic people could do a 90 minute presentation on. I think personally my brain would overheat no matter the topic, but my job doesn’t include much presentation and I’m pretty sure 90 minutes straight is more than I’ve ever talked ever.

          1. Autumnheart*

            E-commerce retail. I could bore the shit out of you all day long on that subject. To me it’s really interesting.

          2. Lora*

            Oh my gosh, lots of things! I’m the stereotypical introvert and I could tell you about stuff for hours:
            -transmissible spongiform encephalopathies
            -biofilm signaling mechanisms and how tissues evolve from single-cell pelagic organisms
            -fermentation critical control parameters and noncritical controls for troubleshooting
            -contamination investigations and remediation
            -vaccine mechanisms and percolation algorithms used to describe epitope spreading
            -natural products chemistry and secondary metabolites and small molecule bioengineering
            -designing and tuning optical sensors using open source materials
            -crop genetics and US agriculture policy (I get REALLY wound up about this)
            -biofuels design and energy yields per acre of various crops and their customization to different climates

            Fortunately it’s my job to take an interest in such things.

        2. kitryan*

          I… I think I love you :)
          Mine could be why the “Darmok” episode of Star Trek Next Gen doesn’t really make sense considering how the Universal Translator should work (but is still a good story). I think I could go for an hour plus on that.

    2. Alternative Person*

      I would watch that. I could easily do 90 minutes on how Moffat ruined Doctor Who.

      I was trying to think of how 90 minutes would get something more than something shorter but honestly, anything over half an hour seems onerous to me, outside of top-level roles at least.

      1. Nic*

        I would sign up for that panel. This might make a good open thread discussion!

        Both of these, actually…

      2. Greg M.*

        I’ve watched Dr Who, Sherlock and Jekyll. I’m convinced I just watched him write the same character in three different iterations.

    3. Traffic_Spiral*

      “Hello, my presentation is titled ‘Why Colin Farrel Should Resume the Role of Grindelwald and Johnny Depp Should Disappear.’ There will be slides.”

    4. Genny*

      Yeah, 90 minutes on any topic is really, really long. I could see 20-30 minutes of presentation and the rest of the time on Q&As and feedback. But 90 minutes of pure content with one person presenting all of it seems almost impossible. At some point, the presenter is just going to be adding superfluous information to pad the run-time.

      1. Lil Fidget*

        In an actual 90 minute presentation, if you were trying to have the audience actually RETAIN something, I’d say at least half of that time should be devoted to small group discussion, Q&A, or an activity. Nobody can learn anything from staring at slides that long – you’re just going to zone out. But I assume based on the way the question was phrased, OP didn’t have the option to break it up too much.

        1. Genny*

          That’s a good point. From a pedagogical perspective, this is a terrible method of getting people to retain information. I can’t imagine sitting through that as the interviewer and being able to pay attention past 20-30 minutes. I’d definitely stop being able to retain any additional information.

          1. Penny Lane*

            I used to have to give day-long presentations on complex subjects to audiences of between 15 and 50 people — some of which did not have English as a first language (though all were very fluent). It is absolutely imperative to have: multiple high energy presenters rotating in and out, frequent stretch breaks, meeting materials where people are encouraged to take notes or doodle, manipulatives for people to play with, materials around the room that are large and stimulating to look at that reinforce the points being made, provocative Q&A/discussion sections, and exercises that require the participant in some way to review/build on what he’s learned, teach the material to someone else in the room, and come up with his own implications/next steps once the seminar is done. “Teach it to someone else” is really the core here – you learn far more by internalizing and teaching the material to someone else than you do just sitting back and listening.

    5. LBK*

      Seriously, I have no idea how you create a 90-minute presentation out of almost anything that doesn’t just devolve into rambling and repetition. I mean, most podcasts I listen to are 60-90 minutes and that includes interviews and segments on several different subjects. How the hell do you present on one topic for that long?

      1. SignalLost*

        You know A LOT about the subject and are passionate about it. At this point, I could easily do 90 minutes standing on my head on three subjects (costuming, editing/writing, the Palestinian conflict) and at least a half-day on disasters. The more specialized the topic, the harder it is to get that length out of it, though. Like, what I know about web protocols for video encoding is a reasonable amount, but I couldn’t get more than ten minutes out of it without broadening it to web protocols generally.

        1. LBK*

          I am fascinated to know how one ends up an expert in both costuming and the Palestinian conflict.

          1. SignalLost*

            A passionate love of very fancy dresses and clothing, a hobby of sewing, and an equally passionate love of disasters and war history. :) I’ve been sewing since I was eight, and I do a lot of steampunk and costume/cosplay stuff, because I’m a nerrrrrd and I love conventions. I did my Masters on Palestine because I find conflicts fascinating. (I have also extensively researched the Mau Mau rebellion, the bombing of Cambodia, and genetics with an eye to why socially undesirable traits are genetically desirable; my current pet project is World War I, particularly Gallipoli (since I know a surprising amount of the historical background) and the Zone Rouge.) I am a nerrrrrrrrrrrrrrrd.

      2. Wendy Darling*

        The only topic I can do 90 minutes on is “What are language attitudes and how do yours expose your secret internal racism”, which… I feel like “your subconscious bias: let me show you it” does not make people want to hire me.

    6. Guacamole Bob*


      In my organization I can’t remember seeing any presentations longer than about 30 minutes, unless it turned into more of a back-and-forth discussion that deviated from the original slides. Training is a bit different, but even there a single person standing in front of the room with a PowerPoint deck wouldn’t usually go past an hour without some time for Q&A, switching off to a different person, etc. How does anyone stay interested for 90 minutes of the same slide deck? If the detailed content is really that important, isn’t a written report that people can go through on their own more useful? Doesn’t a super-long presentation inevitably waste the time of some of the people hearing it, many of whom only need part of the content or a higher-level view?

      What’s that quote where someone apologized for the long letter but said that he didn’t have time to make it shorter? Distilling the important bits of something down to a more reasonable time frame is an important skill.

      I’m really glad I ended up in an industry where 90-minute presentations aren’t the norm.

    7. SignalLost*

      “Hello, my name is SignalLost, and today I will be presenting on the general pattern of major disasters, specific and detailed reference to three events, which are the Hinckley fire, the Halifax explosion, and the Mountain Meadows massacre, and examining the failures and successes of information transfer in all three, with reference to other disasters ranging from Storm King to Hurricane Katrina. I will probably go over the time limit.”

      1. Galatea*

        Listen if you give this speech, I will be right there in the front row taking notes.

        1. SignalLost*

          *squee!* I used Mann Gulch in a PowerPoint I did for my toastmasters club a couple months ago, I have diagrams!

        1. SignalLost*

          No lie, Hinckley is on my bucket list as part of the Roadtrip of Disasters. I have a PowerPoint proposal for a fellowship for that trip, the moment I get into a PhD program. James Root is kind of my best example of my theory that in a disaster, people with no outside information do well, people with some outside information do poorly, and people with all the outside information are usually running away from the scene before the disaster happens but also perform fairly poorly. If you want to survive a disaster, look at what is actually happening and what your actual resources and options are.

      2. turquoises*

        sign me UP!! Seriously. I would like to hear you talk about these things :D Tell me you have a blog?

    8. chomps84*

      Ha! This is hilarious. I never really paid close enough attention to that aspect of the show to notice this.

      1. Greg M.*

        oh it gets ridiculous. wait until we try to rectify the fact that stargate addresses change with the fact that stargates auto dial each other to update each other’s addresses.

  14. babblemouth*

    OP1: Very few people want to listen to a 90 minutes presentation given by one person, let alone be the ones giving it. How about reaching out and asking if the 90 minutes includes some time for a Q&A? That could alleviate some time, as well as make it a bit less exhausting and thirst inducing.

  15. All. Is. On.*

    Is is a faux pas to ask for time off during your notice period? Since I’ll be moving to a different country the day after my last day, I’ve asked for a few days during the (very generous) notice period. They gave me the days without any issue, but I’m wondering if it was rude or unprofessional to ask.

    1. Legalchef*

      I think in general it’s not a great look to ask for days during the notice period, especially if it’s the more traditional 2 weeks, and especially “a few” days, which is a fairly large chunk of a 2 week time. If you already had time scheduled, that’s different and generally people account for that when giving notice (ie having your last day be 3 weeks in the future instead of 2 because you had a previously scheduled vacation). The expectation is that if you need to have time to deal with stuff before starting your next job, that you do that after your 2 weeks are up.

      But you said you gave “very generous” notice, so depending on how long it might be fine.

      1. All. Is. On.*

        I gave six weeks (in the country I’m living in, three weeks in the minimum you’re expected to give), and I’m taking two days in the final three weeks to sort out cancelling phone/internet etc. since those businesses close at 2 pm and it tends to take a long time. They didn’t seem to have a problem with it, so I think it’s OK!

        1. hbc*

          You’re fine. They want two things out of a notice period: time for you to wrap up your stuff, and time for them to prepare for your leaving. Since you’re giving them more than the standard/minimum for both even if you take away those vacation days, there’s no issue.

      2. EvilQueenRegina*

        I remember at a previous job, my one coworker had found a new job (this is in the UK and she had a four week notice period). She had a specialist medical appointment for her 3 year old son and had booked the day off for this before she secured the new job and handed in her notice, and the date happened to fall within her notice period. Although she had previously agreed it, Exboss then tried to tell Coworker she couldn’t take this day as leave. She then tried suggesting that Coworker work an extra day that week to cover it (that coworker was part time and worked 3 days per week). Coworker then appealed to HR and was told that the leave could be denied only if there was a business need to deny it – which on that occasion there wasn’t, so Exboss gave in and let her take the day.

        In context – there were pending layoffs at that job and Coworker was one of the people who had secured work elsewhere. Exboss had been encouraging people to apply for other jobs, however once people started getting them and were intending to leave before 31st March 2011 (the date the existing funding for our roles was due to expire) she wasn’t very happy about that, and was trying anything she could to keep us in our old roles for as long as possible. This caused bad feeling in the office.

        1. MLB*

          See that’s when I would say that I’m taking the day off as planned, or I’m leaving now. I don’t think that you should schedule any time off during your notice period, but if you’re providing more than 2 weeks and something significant comes up, the job you’re leaving really has no leg to stand on when it comes to denying you take it.

        2. tangerineRose*

          “had a specialist medical appointment for her 3 year old son”, “Although she had previously agreed it, Exboss then tried to tell Coworker she couldn’t take this day as leave.”

          What was wrong with Exboss??? This seems like the kind of thing you give someone time off for, if it is at all possible. (And I don’t have kids.)

    2. Trisana chandler*

      I’ve taken my last two weeks as vacation with my upcoming resignation. But seeing as I gave six months notice (of the resignation) and it’s so I can travel across the world for a wedding, my boss seems ok with it.

    3. London Actuary*

      To give a different perspective:

      It’s very common in my area to resign then take all your accrued leave in a block at the end of your notice period – so you get a holiday between jobs but don’t have a gap in being paid. There’s also no problem taking leave as usual during your notice period here.

      I work in London and most people in my industry are on 3 month notice periods.

      1. cncx*

        yeah i work in a country (switzerland) with mandatory notice periods (3 months is the norm, some places have six) and it is normal here to take whatever is left of your paid vacay at the end. discussing what to do with your leave is part of the “I quit/you’re fired” talk and it’s normal for people to take vacation at the end of their notice.

    4. A*

      In the US, when notice periods are typically 2 weeks (maybe up to 4), it’s outside the norm as you’re expected to transition during that time. If you’re not in the US and are complying with your contract or custom and/or are giving more than a month of notice in the US (e.g., going to grad school and notify the business months earlier), it may not be a faux pas.

      1. What's with today, today?*

        I live in Texas and have seen this done many, many times. For example, you put in two weeks notice but aren’t in the office the second week of notice because you are using up existing vacation. I’m guessing from the comments it must be pretty specific to my industry.

    5. Alternative Person*

      I don’t think it’s rude/unprofessional, people leaving often have things that need to get done. Like you though, I’d err on the side of giving a longer notice period or timing my notice period to give me the days I need, situation permitting.

      (this can depend on your company’s policy on paying out accrued time off/the need for a break between jobs/how much you can control your tongue now that you’re on the way out, so I guess, check and clarify company policy if need be)

      1. All. Is. On.*

        I’m keeping my tongue under tight control as I’ll continue to be working for them freelance indefinitely! :)

      2. Lil Fidget*

        Yeah my personal rule is to provide ten days of in-office time to wrap up / handover stuff, but they don’t necessarily have to be contiguous – so if I have to take a pre-scheduled leave, I just add those days back on to the other end of the leave period. I’ve never had a problem doing this.

  16. American in Ireland*

    #OP2. I’m from the Midwest, and now experiencing what you describe as an American in Ireland. Nobody addresses problems directly, instead resort to gossip and passive aggressive behaviour. And based on AAM comments, this is a common experience for East Coast natives coming to the Midwest, and I have sympathy for you. But it is a real thing, it has even been dubbed “Minnesota nice” ie nice to your face but complain behind your back. When I saw the Minnesota Nice slogan in the Minneapolis airport recently, I am thinking guys that isn’t a compliment. I’m sure this is not unique to Minnesota, but the use of the slogan is why I’m highlighting MN.
    Based on what you describe, though, I would characterize what is happening as passive exclusion rather than passive aggressive. It hurts, yes, and it will affect your ability to get promoted in the long term, but I don’t think your job is at immediate risk. UNLESS the reprimand is part of a larger pattern. Aree you being excluded from important work-related communication? Is your work being assigned to other people? That would be more concerning.

    1. EE*

      I apologise on behalf of my countrymen and countrywomen! I think of us as being very straightforward.

      After seeing the Foil, Arms and Hog sketch “Never Take An Irish Person Literally” I saw that perhaps our straightforwardness is a little more complicated than I’d realised… I do hope that my French boss understood that when at the team meeting this morning I said “[Boss] always has plenty of free time” I meant the opposite.

      1. American in Ireland*

        I would have interpreted that as a sarcastic dig that Boss has plenty of free time because Boss doesn’t do any work. But didn’t hear the delivery which makes a difference. As far as being straightforward, that is very true if you know the meaning behind the words, which are often opposite. But someone from the outside doesn’t know that “yeah sure I will” means no, and tomorrow means next week maybe if you’re lucky. Anyway,, I think my particular work situation is jading me. Labour laws are strict here and that plays into it, companies use passive aggressive techniquies to get them to quit instead of paying redundancy, happened to my Irish husband and others at ex-job.

    2. alice*

      I’m an American in Ireland as well! I’m not exactly from the midwest (Colorado – does that count?) and I’ve definitely experienced those things here. People are quick to complain in private but when the time comes to send an email to HR (an email! not a formal grievance or anything serious!) they all get cold feet and say they don’t want any part of anything that could rock the boat. I’ve seen this in regards to pay disparity, discrimination, and easy things like coordinating time off with a coworker. It’s bizarre. This is totally off topic but I had to jump in.

    3. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

      Hey! Lifelong MN resident here. I’d say “Minnesota nice” can either be a compliment or not. My experience is that the niceness and help is real- your neighbor may snowblow your driveway without you asking, or a stranger may give your car a jump, give you the last Office snack, or refer you to their doctor if you are seeking a specialist (no joke, on Saturday a lady at my gym just gave me a great dermatologist referral).

      The passive aggressiveness is another side of the coin, and is, I think, deployed when someone isn’t nice back. For instance, if you didn’t recognize your neighbor helping you and never helped them back (even if no one ever asks, which can be frustrating), you don’t share office treats when others have, or if you use a more brusque or abrasive way or tone socially.

      I think it’s a Minnesota thing to recognize and return these kindnesses even if no one ever asks, so it can be an adjustment for transplants from more direct places. You just have to try to keep the ledger even. For instance, our neighbors have invited my wife and I out for dinner, so I invited them to come over to watch the World Cup since we have ESPN and they don’t.

      1. Joielle*

        Another Minnesotan here, and I definitely agree with this! It is a sort of surface-level niceness a lot of the time – doing little favors (like the snowblowing), smiling at people you pass on the street, unfailing politeness. The sort of things that act as social lubrication but don’t create any real closeness.

        Personally, I don’t see this as a problem… it makes your day better to be nice to people and have people be nice to you! But I think people can see it as fake to be nice to someone you don’t really want to be close to.

        And the passive-aggressiveness is also real, when the instinct for unfailing politeness bumps up against a situation where you need to say something unpleasant. It is the worst.

        1. Luna*

          I think it’s also confusing for people who don’t understand the motivation behind the types of favors you mentioned. If someone was offering to do those things for me (like snowblowing) I would be thinking “how nice! this person clearly wants to become friends.” But they don’t really want a relationship beyond this little game of exchanging favors, which can be hurtful to someone who is new to the area and excited about the prospect of making new friends (once they finally figure that out, which can take a while).

    4. Trout 'Waver*

      Minnesota Nice does not mean being duplicitous. “Minnesota Nice” means treating people you don’t like as well as the people you do like, but with a certain detached coolness.

  17. AdAgencyChick*

    #5, if you have a preplanned vacation and you get an offer, it shouldn’t be that hard to negotiate a later start date with the new company to accommodate giving your notice the day you get back from your vacation.

    I’ve never worked for a company that allowed use of PTO after an employee resigns, even if the PTO was previously approved. Once you’ve resigned, a company wants to spend as little money on you as possible. That includes not wanting to pay you for days you are not working. (I am curious to hear from people in California, though — given that payout of unused vacation days is a requirement there, do employers tend to allow PTO during the notice period?)

    Plus, as PCBH noted above, if the last few days of your notice period are vacation days, the rumor mill is likely to draw the wrong conclusions from that.

    1. Genny*

      I’m not in California, but my employer pays out PTO. They also don’t let you take PTO during your final two weeks. They’ve explained why before, but I remember thinking it all sounded convoluted. Oh well, at least the PTO is paid out.

  18. Bigglesworth*

    OP 5 – I’ve only tried to use my vacation once during my notice period, but that was while I was working in food service. I had planned to take 2 weeks off to go on a camping trip and help with my sis-in-law’s wedding. This resulted in having only 4 days left at the company. I think because I was a strong worker, on the path to promotion, never missed a shift, etc. (typical issues food service managers face wth their employees), I received nothing but well wishes. Not every industry is like that, though, and I could completely understand why a white-collar employer would revoke vacation time during your notice period. It sucks, but you’re almost done with the company.

    Congrats on the new job!

  19. Lynca*

    OP#2- It could be an engineer thing but just not the cold/aloof mannerisms people expect.

    You specifically state you’re a non-engineer. As another non-engineer that works with engineers, I’ve seen and experienced a certain elitism? (I think that’s the best way to put it) towards the non-engineering staff. Even though I’ve got a degree, a license in my particular field, and do much the same work, I sometimes feel like I don’t matter as much as the engineers since I’m seen as “less prestigious” and doing “grunt work.”

    I’ve seen it manifest in different ways: people not wanting to address me directly because I’m not an engineer, trying to go over my head, people giving me a serious cold shoulder, etc. It’s something I’ve had desensitize myself to in order to be successful. I know far too many people like me that let the behavior of others cause a chip on their shoulder or sink into an “us vs. them” mentality with the other non-engineering staff. I had to stand up for myself more than I should have had to in order to build the respect I currently have and point out we work together for a reason. If this is part of a larger pattern of being professionally snubbed, it’s a very big deal and took me years to solve for myself.

    1. American in Ireland*

      Oh yes, that would play into the insider/outsider thing, being from East Coast and not being an engineer. It is indeed difficult, and you will have to put yourself out there more, while at the same time having a different communication style. Also, beware flaunting your favorite East Coast sports teams, people are very tribal about “their” teams.

      1. Lynca*

        It may be more the specific type of engineering I work in but the tribalism is big when it comes to what school you went to and not as much the sport teams. I’ve known engineering shops that wouldn’t hire you as an engineer unless you went to X school or something more prestigious in their minds. I’ve seen that a bit in my field but nowhere nearly as prevalent.

        Getting used to the communication styles is part of it but I think managing expectations is a little more key. In my office the card is much more important than the verbal condolences. I did get a lot of verbal interest in my pregnancy, but we’re a small office and people here get excited for people having their first kid. My wedding wasn’t a big deal and that’s okay.

        1. Environmental Compliance*

          Husband is an engineer, and we moved from one Big 10 school (native to the area, both graduated from that school) to a region who really really loves their Big 10 school. Some of them still get really testy & passive-aggressive about the competition and it’s been 5+ years since they graduated. Since Hubs also went to a big name for engineering/ Big 10 school, they can’t harass him too much about academics, so they went to sports. Hubs finds it hilarious since he doesn’t care much about sports (enjoys watching, won’t be offended if ‘we’ don’t win), and if our team does do well, he wears his university polo to work the next day to see how many people won’t talk to him.

          As a STEM non-engineer that worked/works with engineers, one of my old bosses also went to a third Big 10 school that had a main rivalry with my school…..and we just low-key picked on each other in (very obvious) good fun. In current job, the engineer went to same Big 10 school as Hub’s coworkers, and we just good-naturedly remind each other when each other’s teams lose something. It never gets anywhere near to the condescension/disrespect level that Hubs has experienced in his workplaces.

          TL;DR: Engineering offices can be very weird about outsiders, can confirm.

    2. MyBossSaidWhat*

      Omg I missed you were a transplant. I am as well, and have seen actual fear and anger on locals’ faces when they realized I am Not From Here. Too late for me – the whole “brutal physical attack” thing really chilled my relationships with a lot of people. But I wish that before I moved here, I had found some way to learn that there’s just a way to approach people here, a perception about newcomers that you need to dispel upfront in order to be tolerated. It’s so frustrating because I don’t know how I would have gotten this information. While I understand the logic behind the Newcomer Hatred now, it was just really bizarre when I first moved here

    3. Naptime Enthusiast*

      Ooooof yes, good point, Engineering/STEM elitism is real. I’m sorry you deal with it at work, I thought it ended after graduation for most people.

      1. SpaceNovice*

        Nope, it keeps going after, too, especially if that person is a woman working in a technical role. I’ve got friends, a tester and a UX Designer, that have both experienced being treated as “lesser” simply because they weren’t software engineers. As a software engineer myself, I know it’s a bunch of crap. UX and testing are some of the most critical parts of making software that not only people like using but actually does what they need to do.

    4. Sophia*

      I can completely confirm this! I am an Engineer and work in heavy construction in the NE.

    5. Lora*

      Oh yeah. The elitism due to schooling is quite common. For example, Bose does not hire anyone who didn’t go to MIT. One of their founders went to MIT, and although he has retired, it hasn’t changed much. But yeah, pretty much if you’re not an engineer or the Process Dev scientist telling the engineers what to do, you’re support staff and …weeeeellllll not exactly Lesser because we do appreciate good CAD people, but it’s a lot like how you appreciate it when the secretary uses your favorite restaurant for the meeting catering and helps with your expense report, sort of thing. You’re appreciated and adored but not the same way as “Oh I’d love to work with Chris/Dan/Jeff/Andy again, he’s really good!”

      This varies significantly from company to company and even site to site though. Gilbane is nice to everyone as a rule but also crazy busy – if it’s them I would chalk it up to “too much to do, just spaced it”. Fluor varies site to site a LOT: some Fluor groups were fine, some were flaky, one I had to fire halfway through the project and beg other companies to bid on repairs. CRB is very elitist in this regard; they are great on conceptual design, terrible at execution and they get really really salty if you point it out to them (even if you’re the client). Jacobs somewhat less elitist but only somewhat – but they are also consistently quite good on both design and execution. Parsons is…I dunno if I’d call it elitist but in my region they have a History with certain clients that makes them chilly to certain roles and warm to others. Like they NEED certain roles but they don’t want to pay the going rate so they end up with high turnover in that particular role, always, and they don’t really invest in people who do that stuff – they assume you’ll leave.

      But yeah, this is a real thing in the world, for sure. I get flak for having gone to a local school which has a good rep overall but not in engineering specifically, and I did a sort of weird secondary degree at that – my undergrad was hard science, not eng.

      1. Specialk9*

        I totally buy that this is a trend, but I’m laughing bc the only two people I know who work at Bose also didn’t go to MIT.

  20. MyBossSaidWhat*

    OP #1: Soo… open position, real-world situation, real data; please do a 90-minute presentation that “simulates” a major business deliverable. Am I reading that wrong?
    So much entitlement from this hiring manager! Run don’t walk.

  21. Cautionary tail*

    OP#2, As a lifelong engineer, working in almost pure engineering environments for 25 years, I’ve found that some people gravitate to this field precisely because they relate to inanimate objects like bridge and other infrastructure problems to be solved, rather than to people and people’s lives. I have worked with people for five years or more, discussing all sorts of engineering issues, before learning they have a child. Sometimes the person who sits next to me goes through the entire day without saying good morning, goodbye or anything in between. We will however exchange IMs and emails about work topics. A person retired from here 6 months ago and the happy retirement card is still wending through the office and at some point will be sent. A person quit two years ago and the party will still happen at some time (no it won’t). The bottom line is that in my experience, some engineers just don’t like interacting with others. Don’t take it personally, they don’t.

  22. Colin*

    At my company, some of our time off is paid out when you leave, and some isn’t. Once you give your notice, you’re only permitted to take the time off that would have paid out if you didn’t use it. That way you can’t keep all your paying-out time off and burn the time off that doesn’t pay.

  23. misspiggy*

    My problem with OP1’s situation is that no sane person would want to sit and listen to a presentation for 90 minutes. It could be a typo, it could be that the presentation slot including discussion is 90 minutes, and it could be that the person running the interview is a loon. It should be fairly easy to find out which it is with a quick query.

    1. Lil Fidget*

      I’ve actually also heard of this request from friends of mine. It was definitely legitimately 90 full minutes on a topic that the hiring committee chose (so my friend couldn’t even use an existing presentation). It was nuts.

    2. tangerineRose*

      “no sane person would want to sit and listen to a presentation for 90 minutes.” This!!!

  24. LW #2*

    Hi –

    Thanks for asking those clarifying questions. Here’s my responses:

    What are your relationships with people like aside from this? Is this is symptomatic of a larger chill you’re experiencing there, or is it just one weird thing in a landscape where your relationships otherwise seem pretty good?
    – Symptomatic. The shunning (which was the actual word used by a former coworker here) started almost immediately after arriving. It’s been a very difficult workplace for a variety of reasons, many I can’t go into, but the office has a reputation for being closed-in, and virtually every “outsider” (again, a word used by the person in charge – I am not kidding) has left after a couple of years. If any0ne is familiar with Janice Harper’s book “Mobbed”, that’s a pretty accurate description of what’s happened to several people before me (other people have took demotions to get out), and I seem to be on the blowtorch end now. I’m here because of family, but that’s becoming less and less of a good reason.

    Have you made efforts to build connections and relationships with others there?
    – For about the first 2-3 years, yes. But they were with other “outsiders” – the insiders were pretty impenetrable.

    Have you tried but been rebuffed, when other people seem to succeed at it?
    – Yes.

    If so, what’s your sense of where that might be coming from?
    – As far as I can figure out, the insider/outsider dynamic. I did precisely what had always worked in every other workplace – came in with a lot of enthusiasm, tried to be helpful, was chatty, but it all bellyflopped.

    What’s your relationship with your manager like?
    – Not great. Managers are insiders, and I’m not. No support, no training, nothing – but again, that’s not universal in the office. Favorites get all the training they need.

    Does she seem happy with your work?
    – Up and down. Currently in a down cycle.

    Was there any context for the reprimand for the emergency appointment, like that it caused a workflow problem or that it came from an always-rigid-about-rules manager, or was it out of nowhere?
    – Out of nowhere, although most of the reprimand referenced things from months and even years before. I was in a state of shock – how had they held on to all of this for so long?

    More context about the condolence card thing – by comparison, one Midwestern engineer got a lot of in-person condolences for the death of her dog. And the half of the office not signing? EVERYONE sings everything in this office. It’s one of those cultural markers people here take pride in. So for half not to sign said a lot.

    And as for what I meant by “Midwestern culture”:

    – Indirectness
    – Warmth on the outside, but harshness behind closed doors.
    – A heavy reliance on unwritten rules, sometimes in direct contradiction of written policy.
    – Asking questions is officially encouraged, but unofficially discouraged.
    – Very unforgiving (people hold long grudges over tiny things).
    – Lots of cultural in-group markers (college football, Euchre, hunting, conservative politics).
    – A definite sense of what “real men” are supposed to do and say and talk about (cars, etc).
    – A definite racial insensitivity (and I have a multi-racial family).

    1. Phoenix Programmer*

      Just speaking on the regional culture side – conservative politics, “real men”, talking behind your back, and racial insensitivity I have witnessed everywhere in the US from Maine to Florida to Missouri and California. Everywhere. Also in general business leaders lean conservative as that gives them the most money back. Generally.

      I think if you can stop thinking of “the Midwest” as a homogeneous not/anti you bucket it will help some.

      I live in a smaller town on Midwest who voted Trump (although are embarrassed about it now) and I still spout my pro-gun control, athiest, LGBT agenda whenever politics come up. People have been fine with it.

      That said the culture of your specific office sucks. Is it possible just your department? I will say that my first team never got over the fact that I was hired over their first choice but it turns out the company was cool once I left that toxic department.

      1. Delphine*

        I still spout my pro-gun control, athiest, LGBT agenda whenever politics come up. People have been fine with it.

        I think this heavily depends on who you happen to be. Probably helps to be white, for example. Because I would certainly not feel safe talking about my beliefs in a small Trump-voting Midwest town.

    2. soon 2 be former fed*

      Lifelong metro Chicagoan here. What you describe isn’t any Midwestern culture I know. Sounds like you unfortunately landed in a toxic atmosphere that has nothing to do with being Midwestern. Good luck on getting out, which is your best option here.

      Oh, I’ve experienced many deaths during my working life. It’s not useful to engage in comparative condolences. Take what you get and leave the rest alone. Things will not always be totally equal.

    3. MamaGanoush*

      Ah, ok. So the problem is not that it’s midwestern. The problem is that it’s an F’d up workplace.

    4. Millennial Lawyer*

      It sounds like a cultural mismatch at this office and you don’t seem to like it very much. Why do you care how enthusiastically your colleagues interact with you re: your personal life, when it sounds like you don’t even like your colleagues on a personal level? What you’re really looking for is a work environment where you feel like you fit in. The whole office signing a card isn’t going to get you that.

      1. Pollygrammer*

        Not everybody has the freedom to just pop over to a better job. Most people don’t, in fact.

        And the issue with unfriendly coworkers isn’t just about unfriendliness–it’s about feeling insecure in your employment, your ability to do your job when you need people to collaborate, your potential for promotion, your references when you do leave. It’s a big deal.

        1. Millennial Lawyer*

          That’s a little bit sandwichy – I don’t know anything about OP or whether it would make sense for OP to leave his job. All I know is that OP is clearly struggling with a culture fit.

          Plus, I wasn’t saying it’s not a big deal – I was saying that what OP is talking about is a larger issue, and feeling like he’s fitting in isn’t necessarily going to come from more people signing a card.

    5. Environmental Compliance*

      Native Wisconsinite here – that’s not the norm for us Midwesterners. Well, we do like our euchre and football, but we’re usually pretty happy to teach you how to play because you can never have enough euchre friends, or enough people over for football parties, since we don’t know how else to cook but for 100000 people, and someone’s gotta take home the leftovers.

      As a non-engineer (but STEM) married to an engineer, and who lived with several engineers….yeah, sometimes engineers are a bit….interesting. I’ve experienced some of the elitist culture others mentioned above. But really what it sounds like here is that the workplace itself you’re in is toxic. Hopefully you can get out to somewhere better soon.

    6. Myrin*

      Thanks for the very detailed answer, OP!

      And oh my, it sounds like the problem with your job is much, much bigger than your coworkers’ not acknowledging your life events. It really sounds like you may need to leave to become happier in the long term, and I also feel like you know that already when you say that family is becoming “less and less of a good reason” to stay there. Which I totally understand; in fact, I’m almost in awe that you’ve lasted that long at what sounds like a very dysfunctional workplace.

      In your shoes, I’d look very hard at what actually does make you stay there – as far as I can see, you don’t list any positives in either your letter or this comment. Even if this is a very unique opportunity career-wise, I’m sure you can find something where your quality of life will be infinitely better. Good luck!

    7. Phoenix Programmer*

      Hmm. I had a long thoughy out post and I am not sure where it went but I will just say that you will do yourself a favor if you stop thinking of the Midwest culture as = homogeneous bucket of just the same as my crappy office culture and instead have an open mind.

      Signed – liberal atheist in small Midwest town who has lived in NE, SE, and abroad and witnessed racial insensitivity, talking behind your back, and gendered politics EVERYWHERE in Equal quantities.

    8. Phoenix Programmer*

      From the office perspective I think you need to leave or go to a different department. I had that happen to me in NE – I got into a car accident my first day of work and my boss never forgave me for that. Write-ups with stuff from months/years ago. Policies applied unevenely to me. I had all the same stuff. I recommend getting out. The problem is not the Midwest it is your boss who has probably poisoned your co-workers too. I once had a coworker from that same job call me months after I left crying and apologizing that she didn’t speak up but that she was afraid of she was nice to me boss would start being mean to her too.

    9. Penny Lane*

      Cultural in-group markers are just as strong in any Northeast urban/metro area as they are in the midwest. They are just different markers, that’s all.

      As for a sense of what “real men” are supposed to do and say and talk about – there are plenty of just-average-Joe guys in big cities who also believe guys are supposed to talk about football and hot chicks and leave the cooking and cleaning to the women.

      I suspect you are conflating urban vs rural to Northeast vs Midwest, and I also suspect you are conflating different social classes. Trust me, if I go to NYC, there are “cultural markers” for affluent, metrosexual men (the NYTimes, the Met, yoga class), and “cultural markers” for the guy with the hard hat who says youse-guys all the time.

    10. GreyjoyGardens*

      It sounds to me like your workplace is insular and toxic (the two go together). There are insular, closed-off, we-don’t-like-outsiders places everywhere in the world – it’s not just a Midwest thing. I’ve known very clannish and cliquish workplaces in *San Francisco*, which is a city where almost everyone is from somewhere else! Sometimes this just happens; a young company or group of new hires has a bunch of people who just dig right in and form a clique, and it’s downhill all the way.

      Start looking for another job. In my experience this doesn’t get better unless there is a complete housecleaning and new management.

    11. CurrentlyLooking*

      Lifelong Midwesterner here. This does not reflect typical Midwest values or culture. It is just a bad workplace.

      The lack of condolences and well wishes seem particularly out of the norm (even for engineers.)

    12. Wibbets*

      OP, I think you answered one of your own questions: it is not weird for people in your office to fail to acknowledge your life milestones because you know you’re on the outs. You don’t fit in, you dislike the office culture (maybe the entire regional culture?) generally, and neither of these things will ever change. Given that you’ve been an “outsider” for years, though, I’m not sure if your job is at risk–is there really anything different about how you’re being treated right now? Or is that you’re finally fed up with being a perpetual outsider?

      I question, though, whether it’s fair to ascribe the dysfunctional culture of your office to its “Midwestern-ness.” Surely, there must be other offices nearby staffed by decent, non-cliquey people where you could fit in (or at least not be treated so differently).

    13. J.B.*

      That sounds more like a bad office than a regional issue. The not consoling you in person does sound typical for engineers, if they don’t feel they know you well. (Fear of being awkward and saying something worse is common.) It sounds like your boss is not going to work with you though.

      Since you already want to take FMLA you are best off staying where you are for now. It’s also not uncommon for firms to judge dads who take time off more harshly than moms. However once you are back from leave, look look and look some more. You could also gently inquire of HR whether FMLA would cover some appointments, say that you don’t want to get written up again in case of emergency. That might motivate HR to do something about it. (And not make your manager happy but there’s not much of a relationship to hurt.)

    14. matcha123*

      OP, I’m from the midwest, but a pretty diverse city. I am experiencing almost the exact same thing as you, but I’m living overseas. I lived in a city with over a million people for the past decade and the people were like how you described in your post, minus the football/euchre/hunting.

      The freeze out made me incredibly depressed. This was a country I really wanted to enjoy living in. The weird thing? Now that I’ve moved to the capital, the people from the first city now kind of see me as one of them in a way. Kind of weird.

      As to your situation, it depends on how much effort you want to put in. If you want to get in their favor, you can bring in treats, do a lot of guessing to anticipate things, and try to blend in.
      Or, you can do what I’ve done which is to acknowledge that I’ll never be one of them and just try to be friendly to everyone I encounter. Even on my bad days I try to go in with a smile. If your spouse if from the area, maybe they can help you brainstorm solutions to problems you’ve encountered at work.

      I can totally understand the frustration at being frozen out for being different.

      1. Penny Lane*

        I’ve lived in the midwest for 30 years and I never heard of this euchre thing you are talking about. And the sports fandom for professional sports is really no different here than in the major east coast city where I grew up. Either you like sports, or you don’t. Same darn thing.

        1. AngelicGamer aka that visually impaired peep*

          Penny, are you from IL? I am and I didn’t learn about euchre until I went to college in Beloit, WI. I was taught how to play and now can be a pretty good player depending on the cards.

    15. Lynca*

      As someone else that works with engineers but isn’t one, I was wondering if this was garden variety elitism. But this raises a lot of red flags that the environment is just toxic. The “culture” you describe is pretty much textbook to a lot of the toxic workplaces seen in other letters. Especially the reprimand out of nowhere, referencing things that happened years before.

      It’s already making you think “Midwestern”= these undesirable traits. Which is not healthy and you should be looking for work outside this very terrible job.

    16. Eye of Sauron*

      Thanks for the clarifications. I’m from the Upper Midwest and have lived, traveled, and worked extensively all over the US (and internationally)

      – Indirectness
      Yeah, this is midwestern, I’ll give you this one.

      – Warmth on the outside, but harshness behind closed doors.
      See the above post about Minnesota Nice- It’s less about harshness though, it’s more about you (in the global sense being an outsider) I’ve seen this in other areas as well

      – A heavy reliance on unwritten rules, sometimes in direct contradiction of written policy.
      This is pretty universal IME

      – Asking questions is officially encouraged, but unofficially discouraged.
      Are we talking about work? This sounds like a local to your work culture

      – Very unforgiving (people hold long grudges over tiny things).
      I’ve seen this happen, I’ll give you this one.

      – Lots of cultural in-group markers (college football, Euchre, hunting, conservative politics).
      This is pretty universal although the markers may be different, the phenomenon is typical in every region of the US

      – A definite sense of what “real men” are supposed to do and say and talk about (cars, etc).
      Not necessarily a Midwest thing, I think this one is pretty locale specific, ‘real man’ expectations are going to be different if you are in a liberal urban setting vs. a small town setting. Trust me the small town guys in the Midwest are judging the Midwest City folk just as much :)

      – A definite racial insensitivity (and I have a multi-racial family).
      This one is a little different. Here’s my observation (I’m not claiming it’s right, but it’s what I’ve seen). On first glance the Midwest is pretty homogeneous and pretty white. I think some people from the outside see that as an indicator of racism and segregation. What they don’t see is that a lot of people have just never had the opportunity to be around people of different races. So now you have people who haven’t spent any time with POC and when they do, they are curious, a little wary, and perhaps scared (remember all they probably know about POC is what they’ve seen on TV and movies, I think we can agree this isn’t the best representation in a lot of cases). I’ve also seen POC come into these same homogeneous areas and assume that just because there aren’t a lot of POC that the reason must be racism or that they aren’t welcome, so a natural defensiveness is adopted, then confirmation bias starts to enter the picture.

      Now all that being said about race, there are places where things are really segregated in urban settings, and there are racists everywhere so there is that.

      So all this to say, I’m not sure that this is a particular Midwest thing it sounds like your workplace might have a particular insular culture regardless of locale.

      1. LBK*

        What they don’t see is that a lot of people have just never had the opportunity to be around people of different races. So now you have people who haven’t spent any time with POC and when they do, they are curious, a little wary, and perhaps scared (remember all they probably know about POC is what they’ve seen on TV and movies, I think we can agree this isn’t the best representation in a lot of cases).

        The idea that they would need to have been around POC before in order to just treat them like any other human beings is blatantly racist. A POC is not a wild animal whose habits you must learn before you can safely interact with them.

          1. LBK*

            No, I don’t think i did. It’s frustrating when racists are granted interiority that they do not extend to POC.

            1. Eye of Sauron*

              Actually I kind of did. But ok, people are never scared of the unknown, including POC, they are all just bigots.

              1. LBK*

                The idea that a POC is “the unknown” simply because their skin is a different color is wildly racist and I can’t believe I have to explain that. There’s nothing “unknown” about a POC that requires being afraid of them unless you already believe POC are somehow separate from white people and not, just, y’know…human beings.

                1. Eye of Sauron*

                  You seem very intent on not understanding what I’m saying so to avoid any further angst I’m going to bow out of this discussion.

                2. LBK*

                  I understand perfectly what you’re saying, but if you don’t want to think about it and would rather continue defending why racists treat POC like another species, then I agree we have nothing to discuss.

                3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                  I am an immigrant (white) in the Midwest. I live in a large city that is fairly diverse, but it is still sometimes problematic. And I had an SO for two years who lived in a small, 99% white Midwestern town like the one Eye Of Sauron’s comment is referring to. The people in the town didn’t even know what to make even of me, because even though I looked mostly like them, I didn’t talk like them. “A different species” describes it well. I one hundred percent agree with what you, Sue Wilson, Bea, nonprofit fun, and others said in this thread. It’s 2018, there’s Internet in every house, two hundred channels on each of these people’s TVs, two cars in most of their garages that they can use to visit other places to see how other people live, and they are afraid of a POC because they hadn’t seen one before and are therefore confused as to where this person is fully human and isn’t that totally understandable?! No, it is not. They are not confused or afraid of the unknown or whatever. They are perfectly happy being insiders and freezing out the outsiders, and if the outsider happens to be color-coded, good. All the easier to freeze them out. And then blame the outsider? from Eye of Sauron’s comment that you were replying to: “I’ve also seen POC come into these same homogeneous areas and assume that just because there aren’t a lot of POC that the reason must be racism or that they aren’t welcome, so a natural defensiveness is adopted, then confirmation bias starts to enter the picture.” Come on.

                4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                  Also, to add to my previous comment, in the US, unless I’m mistaken (I’ve only been here 20 years and some change after all…), POC aren’t “the unknown”. There’s quite a bit of history involved, and not in a good way.

        1. Bea*

          Thank you for this.

          I’m from the PNW and we have only recently had an increase in diversity in the last ten or fifteen years. It’s extremely racist to act like “the only POC I’ve seen was on tv and they were X way so I’m sooooo scared about those folk!!”. Wut. This is the same terrifying idea the war mongering hateful people start leaning on when burning down Mosques and attacking Muslims. “I’ve never seen or known anyone but I know someone who looked like you did bad things so you can’t be too careful, eh?” NO HELL NO.

          I believe fighting being called out for bigotry and racism is the worst at this state. Just admit you’re scared and letting bigotry steer you and work on erasing those horrible boogymen you let build up in your imagination over the years. These are fellow humans not grizzly bears wandering into your city. Also all white heavy populations still seem to pleasantly forget that means all your crime is currently committed by people who look like you. So much for the idea bad people are going to be the strangers with darker skin. Argh.

      2. Sue Wilson*

        I think some people from the outside see that as an indicator of racism and segregation. What they don’t see is that a lot of people have just never had the opportunity to be around people of different races. So now you have people who haven’t spent any time with POC and when they do, they are curious, a little wary, and perhaps scared (remember all they probably know about POC is what they’ve seen on TV and movies, I think we can agree this isn’t the best representation in a lot of cases). I’ve also seen POC come into these same homogeneous areas and assume that just because there aren’t a lot of POC that the reason must be racism or that they aren’t welcome, so a natural defensiveness is adopted, then confirmation bias starts to enter the picture.
        Dude, come on. It is racism and segregation. Like what you’re implying is that the history of POC in the midwest is slim, and lmao no. I think it’s perfectly find to believe that with some effort those Midwesterners would be more open, but like…it’s not confirmation bias on the part of POC. You are literally describing people who are more likely to engage in constant microaggressions. Ignorance changes the calculus for dealing with racism, but it does not make something not racist.

        1. LBK*

          Ignorance changes the calculus for dealing with racism, but it does not make something not racist.

          Exactly. Someone who’s never met a POC but is happy to sop up terrible stereotypes and falsehoods as portrayed by conservative politicians and news outlets to form their view of them is 100% still a racist.

        2. ArtsNerd*

          Ignorance changes the calculus for dealing with racism, but it does not make something not racist.

          +1. Contemporary racism is rarely hateful, in my experience. This is the kind of misunderstanding(?) that leads white folks to believe that talking about racism is racist. I could easily give a 90 minute presentation on the false dichotomy of bad/good=racist/not-racist and how it harms white people’s understanding of oppressive systems.

          1. Specialk9*

            Rarely hateful? I’m Jewish, and in 2017 I put bulletproof glass over the big windows of my rental, and got my viciously hurting C-section self out of the house to get my newborn a passport in case we had to flee. I’m not sure your estimation of how much hate is involved in the current thrust of proud open bigotry is quite accurate.

            1. Observer*

              While ArtsNerd is flat out wrong, your example doesn’t impress me. Anyone who thinks that things are worse than they have been seems to have forgotten the events of the last few decades. The 90’s wasn’t that long ago – and it was then that the NYC police department OFFICIALLY allowed a crowd to murder 2 people and rampage for 3 days to “let off steam”. The only reason that it was stopped was because some of the images coming out of that mess were a bit over the top even for a press that REALLY didn’t like Jews *and* someone in the police department decided that he’d had enough of watching policemen being treated like trash. That same police force ALSO later declined to enforce a court order to protect a store that was being targeted for purely racial reasons (the store owners were Korean). And in 2015 Hillary Clinton claimed that the man responsible for both of those fiascos is a “leader to be looked up to.”

              1. Rachel*

                Ah, yes, the 90s, when policemen could beat the living daylights out of a man on camera and get away with it. Oh wait, that’s today too. Let’s not forget the mob violence that often ended in lynching that was so common in the 20th century.

                I’m a millennial who was born in the 90s, and I think this era is one of the most racist times in human history. We are NOT past racism.

          2. Observer*

            Contemporary racism is rarely hateful, in my experience

            If you REALLY believe that, then your experience is very limited AND you have not been paying attention.

            In the last month, we’ve seen the police called on black people for:
            Falling asleep in the common room of their dorm
            Having a barbecue in the park
            Moving out of their AirBNB – supposedly because they didn’t wave
            Shopping in Nordstrom – AFTER they paid for their purchases!
            Moving into his own apartment
            Being in a Starbucks waiting for a friend to come in.

            And these are just the ones that have hit the news.

            Do you REALLY think that this stuff is NOT “hateful”?!

            When Helen Thomas told a group that Jews should “Go back” to Poland and Germany, that was not as dangerous as having the police called, but it was every bit as hateful. When an elected public official tried to “explain” back youths targeting Jews by claiming that these young people are legitimately afraid of being pushed out of the homes by Jews, that’s NOT hateful? When a different EPO claims that the Rothschild’s are controlling the weather to benefit themselves at the expense of everyone else, that’s NOT hateful?!

            Again, these are only the things that hit the papers. This is just the tip of an iceberg.

            But, you REALLY have to be hiding under a rock to believe that contemporary racism is not “hateful”.

            1. ArtsNerd*

              Wow, I phrased that sentence terribly. I’m really sorry, and it was indeed flat-out wrong.

      3. nonprofit fun*

        “I’ve also seen POC come into these same homogeneous areas and assume that just because there aren’t a lot of POC that the reason must be racism or that they aren’t welcome, so a natural defensiveness is adopted, then confirmation bias starts to enter the picture.”

        Please do not opine about the state of racism in the Midwest if you’ve never been a minority here. You’re assuming that POC who are uncomfortable in the Midwest just don’t understand the culture here, which is so insulting to our intelligence. I am a lifelong Midwesterner, a person of color, and a religious minority and the racism here is real and constant. I grew up in the same region but am still treated as an outsider.

      4. Pollygrammer*

        This is a very insightful, understanding comment. A lot of Midwesterners seem to be taking offense at the generalizations, but having lived in Ohio and Minnesota a lot of them ring true to me. Lots of Midwestern traits are great! Some of them are not! Adjusting can sometimes be hard! That’s the case for literally every region of the world, though.

      5. Specialk9*

        Heavy reliance on unwritten rules – I’m going to push back on that as a universal. Insular places can get away with lots of unwritten rules, but it’s hard to pull off in a cultural mixing bowl. You can have pockets of subcultures, but most people meet people from other pockets even then. You can keep lots of unwritten rules going best if people stay put over generations.

        Cultural in-group markers go along with unwritten rules. People love to have in groups and out groups, but it only really works if you can enforce the walls of your group and keep people from moving.

    17. Luna*

      That sounds like a terrible work environment, I’m sorry you have to deal with that.

      If this is your first and only workplace since you moved to that area, it would be worth finding a different job there first before deciding you need to just up and move. Maybe you will encounter the same problems elsewhere, but it might be that this company is just toxic.

    18. NW Mossy*

      Yeah, this one’s a bad fit for you, and it doesn’t sound like you’re the only one, either.

      It reads like you’re trying to put together a narrative that explains all of these behaviors you’re observing, but at a certain point, the why behind these behaviors don’t matter. What matters is that this isn’t a place where you’re going to find the working environment you want and need to thrive. You’ve clearly had professional success in joining a work culture successfully – take those skills into a new place, and shed this one like a snakeskin.

    19. Former Retail Manager*

      Very helpful additional info…thanks for that OP.

      To be blunt, it sounds like they don’t like you, will never like/accept you, and don’t care if you leave. It’s time to put this place behind you and move on to a more functional work environment. Best of luck.

    20. Bertha*

      LW #2, when I started reading your letter, I thought to myself “Whoa, this kind of sounds like the engineering firm I worked at in the Midwest” and then you said it was an engineering firm!

      While I am from the Midwest, I was also not an engineer. Now for me, it was a little bit different, because I just constantly had this tangible feeling that “I just don’t fit in here.” In a one person department, I was often (probably) unintentionally left out of things; and when my dad died, I didn’t even tell anyone aside from my boss because I just didn’t feel like it was something I wanted to share at this workplace. And I’m not really a private person, it was just part of the whole “I don’t think I quite fit in” feeling I had. Of course, some of the other issues you mentioned weren’t a problem at all (we were in downtown Chicago and had a very diverse workforce) .. but there was always something I couldn’t put my finger on about the culture that really bothered me. In retrospect, I think it was that they were so stiff and rigid on a lot of things but pretended to “have fun” at other times. It was insane how many people had to approve emails that were sent out company-wide (and only a few hundred employees), for example. Engineers can be socially awkward for sure, but I know there was a point where I wasn’t imagining being left out. It wasn’t always intentional, but it still happened.

      I don’t know, but I can say, I was in the position for six years and it took me nearly that long for me to realize that the source of my depression was my job. It’s hard to be in an environment where you don’t feel like you can be yourself, or you don’t feel like others appreciate you for who you are. Overall, I’m so much happier working in an environment where I finally feel like I “fit in.”

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        My family is hardcore into euchre. You are taught to play at a young age, and then at some point you figure out that Grandma has been cheating the entire time, lol. We had euchre tournies on the bus to and from sports/band events.

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Haven’t played it for fifteen years myself, but I’ve seen people do it, old habits die hard I guess!

      3. AngelicGamer aka that visually impaired peep*

        Yep. I have to play it on my phone because my Euchre friends are in another state now. :)

    21. ArtsNerd*

      I’m sorry you’re getting so many comments denying the regional specifics that you are experiencing. It sounds like your specific employer is toxic and you should indeed look for a healthier work environment. At the same time, your experiences that, locally, people are racially insensitive or have specific in-group marker or specific gender expectations are real.

      These exist elsewhere (of course!) but they look different in different areas. And it doesn’t begin to negate the fact that you’re having trouble integrating and navigating in this specific local culture. And (of course!) you can’t throroughtly communicate the qualifications and nuances you surely hold in a format appropriate to a blog comment.

      We certainly can’t tell from here whether a move is in your best interests, but a new workplace definitely seems to be. From your elaboration it’s pretty clear that they’ve done this to others which, in a roundabout way, is actually pretty nice because it makes it absolutely obvious that this isn’t about you. It’s them. No need to second guess that — it’s them. You are in no way obligated to “overcome” this work culture to succeed here. Find a work culture shows interest in seeing you succeed and helps you to do so.

      1. Luna*

        +1. So many comments denying the LW’s experience, or assuming that he is the one at fault!

        1. Observer*

          I don’t think (most) people are denying the experience or claiming that the OP is at fault.

          What it seems to me is that the experience is real, and it is not the OP’s fault. It’s just that the OP seems to be ascribing the wrong cause. Mostly, that doesn’t matter – they are not being treated well, and they have a very valid complaint. The reason why it’s relevant is because it changes the OP’s options. If it’s truly just a regional thing, then the OP only has two choices – live with it or move away. If it’s more workplace specific, then the OP can aggressively start looking for another job in the area, unless they are in a very niche field, or their employer is pretty much the only game in town.

    22. American in Ireland*

      I am going through all of this right now. The two other non-Irish co-workers and I the only ones excluded from “all group” coffee mornings. (The other two have since left, and I am nearly gone) Enthusiasm, tried to be helpful, chatty, bellyflop, yep. Training and help for the favourites, radio silence for everyone else. When I tried to ask if I had done something (very diplomatically), I didn’t get an answer and the cold shoulder intensified. I can only hope not all jobs will be like this. One thing that did help though was starting SSRIs. It didn’t change the situation, but my anger has dialled back and I just don’t care anymore (but still wish it were different because I like the work, but not the people).

      1. Specialk9*

        I’m sorry you’re dealing with that. I had a similar experience in a small-big town on continental Europe. I had previously lived in a number of countries successfully, and thought I could win people over with cultural sensitivity and optimism! Instead I got depressed and defeated by how thoroughly people didn’t want to connect in any way.

        I later, when I Was Done, learned that I should have found a new job, and joined a specific kind of sports club, but I didn’t know that. I hope for the best for you.

    23. Delphine*

      I definitely don’t think it’s you…unfortunately, it sounds like this is a workplace problem. I’m sorry you’re having to deal with that!

    24. Lora*

      Ugh, this sucks, I’m sorry. In my experience the racial insensitivity was proportional to distance from a major city or multiple universities, but yeah, this sounds horrible. Just spitballing here, but does it seem like racists feel free to air their opinions because they figure if you are white you will agree? I get that a LOT: oh you are from Rural Red State, let me air my political grievances with Metro Blue State where we both now live because blah blah whatever.

      It just sounds like this is going to continue sucking for you. There’s genuinely good people in the Midwest, but if they were your colleagues you would know it, because you’d be drowning in Cream Of Mushroom Soup casseroles and various rice krispy treat formulations. There wouldn’t be a half-signed card, there would be like three trays of lasagna, a couple plates of brownies awkwardly presented by the nerdy engineer colleagues with a “uhhh my wife made this for you…heard you were going through a rough time…” before they bolted for the door. THAT’S Midwestern culture when you work with decent humans, even engineers without social skills.

      East Coast engineering firm culture is more like, “oh, your dad died? Bummer,” and the company reminding you that you are entitled to exactly 3 days of bereavement leave, have 5 days of PTO in your bank, and one of your colleagues buying you a beer at Happy Hour. And as The Woman in the group I usually ended up doing the emotional labor of reminding the nerds that they should send flowers, finding out where to send the flowers, sending them a link to the app, sort of thing. The bigger companies actually offer concierge services for this because they know we are bad at it…

    25. Short & Dumpy*


      Just leave this job. Really. It isn’t universal, but everything you’ve described IS more prevalent in the Midwest (at least upper Midwest) than other parts of the US IME. My family moved to ND over 30 yrs ago…despite being one of the kindest people you’d meet who volunteers an insane amount, donates to a ton of local charities, and at this point having lived most of their lives there, etc, my mom STILL gets comments that “she can’t XYZ because she’s not from there”. It drives me nuts.

      I’ve lived in quite a few places in the Midwest…and a lot of places not in the Midwest…and it’s certainly not universal so it wouldn’t hurt to try a different office if you otherwise like the area. My current office in a bigger city in the Midwest is great…but it is also a known outlier and I experience the exact same things as you whenever I try to get involved in a different part of the community such as volunteering. This isn’t something I’ve encountered nearly to the same degree elsewhere. (I’ve moved an average of every 3 yrs for the last couple decades so I have a lot to compare it to.)

      You’ll notice that most of the people saying that they’re a proud liberal and it’s just fine in the Midwest are FROM the Midwest…where you are born is more important to than anything else to a lot of people here. Not all, but enough.

  25. Phoenix Programmer*

    OP #2

    You say East coast but I assume you are NE coast? My experience is that SE and Midwest transfer pretty well. On the other hand when I moved to NE I experienced much of the same issues you describe. A lot of it is around the cultural nuances around how we first meet people. And once you mess that up most people are not willing to get past it. I will also say that a lot of NE mannerisms are seen as rude on Midwest and SE such as: not holding the door for people behind you. Not using sir and ma’am for service workers. Not making City chat with service people etc.

    1. LBK*

      I will also say that a lot of NE mannerisms are seen as rude on Midwest and SE such as: not holding the door for people behind you. Not using sir and ma’am for service workers. Not making City chat with service people etc.

      Literally none of that matches my experience living in the NE for more or less my whole life. So it seems everyone sees what they want to see based on their stereotypes of the region.

      1. Lehigh*

        I’ve lived in the NE my whole life as well, but I thought those did make sense. I would feel rude calling a service worker “sir” or “ma’am” unless we had already established good rapport–otherwise I would expect it to come across as sarcastic or condescending.

        People around here do hold doors sometimes, but there are also plenty of us who don’t want to hurry to get to a door someone is holding so it’s kind of a matter of judging the distance and how much pressure you’re going to be putting on the person behind you.

        And some people do make chit chat with service workers, but it’s widely varied. If that’s expected as a matter of course in the SE or Midwest, that would be a valid difference.

        1. LBK*

          Honestly, I can’t think of a context in which I’d need to say sir or ma’am to a service worker unless I were trying to get their attention, so I’m not sure what to make of that one. But I’ve absolutely never run into the door thing; I actually think about this on almost a daily basis because the Dunks where I get my morning coffee has an awkward double-door setup and there’s always a little dance trying to figure out who’s holding the door for whom if someone’s going in and out at the same time.

          I recently heard someone describe the northeast as friendly but not warm, which I think is accurate. People do chit chat in my experience, but they aren’t going to feign a genuine interest; we’re all understanding that it’s a pleasantry.

          1. Lehigh*

            I’ve not traveled much in the SE or Midwest so I could be off, but I’m picturing it the way you would use someone’s name. IE if they ask, “Anything else?” I say, “No” or maybe “No thank you” but not “No, ma’am.”

            I was thinking of holding the door for someone coming behind you, so like if I see you’re halfway across the parking lot do I wait at the door to let you go ahead of me and/or to pass off the open door to you. Some people do, for sure. But plenty don’t.

          2. Lynca*

            From the SE: I’ve known some people that get really up in arms about not providing a /very/ formal “sir or ma’am” to interactions with strangers. But that seems to be an age divide issue from my experience. I find myself falling into the habit because my parents raised me to think that’s the /very polite/ answer. But it’s just kind of outdated.

            I wouldn’t expect my kids to say “Thank you, ma’am” instead of “Thank you/Thank you very much/etc.” Both are polite.

            1. Penny Lane*

              I was on a forum once in which this topic was brought up, and a southern woman used as an example – if you asked your child if he had taken out the trash, he was expected to say “yes, ma’am.” That even a simple “yes” would be rude. The rest of us thought that was insane. We just wanted to know if the trash was out, and so “yes” or even “yep” or “yeah” (delivered in a pleasant tone) was more than sufficient. She couldn’t believe it.

              1. Lehigh*

                Yeah. I went to a friend’s house once and his step-dad made him say “Yes, sir” and “No, sir” to him. I think they were from further south (not sure where exactly) so it may have been regional but as a northerner it made me feel like his step-dad might not be very nice.

              2. Lynca*

                My parents thankfully never expected me to say that to them. My dad was even in the military and he was cool with just getting yes/no answers.

                It was really more “you don’t know this person, they are providing a service, and you should be very polite to them” situation for me. But I know people that expected that from everyone, especially kids. I got disinvited to a friend’s house because I didn’t say “yes ma’am” to her mother. Literally never allowed to come over again.

        2. Specialk9*

          I’m a Southerner military best, so I felt really comfortable thinking I had awesome manners and these Northeastern Yankees didn’t. They were always so surprised by my sir/ma’am, they must be impressed by my manners.

          But, it was here in this commentariat that I was rocked by this insight, which I’ve now has confirmed many times. In the Northeast, using “sir/ma’am” is polite with strangers (eg service workers), but with someone with whom you’re friendly, it’s a rude distancing mechanism (‘no no we’re not friends, but I’m too polite to say so directly… SIR’). I had thought I was being polite (and frankly was feeling a bit superior), but I was accidentally being impolite.

          Also, everybody holds the door here, in my experience.

      2. Phoenix Programmer*

        Hmm that was my experience living in PA, ME, and NJ. People wanted you to hurry up and get through the line. Also when I used sir and ma’am up there I got a lot of are you military? Questions so I stopped using them.

        1. LBK*

          Talking to the person while they’re ringing you out seems like it qualifies as chat to me? But no, you’re not going to stand there and have a 5-minute conversation with someone after they’re done checking you out, if that’s what you’re expecting. But I worked as a cashier in Boston for a long time and didn’t find that people were particularly opposed to small talk. Aside from living here now for almost 8 years, I grew up in CT and went to college in DC (which isn’t geographically NE, really, but I think is fairly similar culturally).

        2. chomps84*

          I grew up in suburban Chicago and lived there for a few years after college and I never used sir or ma’am. I always think of that as southern thing. I do not think it’s a midwest thing.

    2. Glomarization, Esq.*

      Not using sir and ma’am for service workers.

      This is the exact opposite of my experiences living and working in Philadelphia.

      1. Phoenix Programmer*

        Fair – this was living in ME. Whenever I used sir or ma’am I always got questions about being military and when I said no people gave me a quizzical look.

        1. Lehigh*

          Yeah, up in New England that would really stand out, especially outside of the cities.

        2. Glomarization, Esq.*

          “Sir” but especially “ma’am”/”miss” are essential social lubricants in Philadelphia, seriously.

          That and men letting women on and off the elevator first.

          1. LBK*

            I’ve heard the elevator thing come up here before and I find it fascinating. How do you even let someone else off the elevator first if they’re behind you? Or is this only when you’re equidistant from the door/the elevator is not crowded, and otherwise proximity takes precedence?

            1. Glomarization, Esq.*

              It’s not complicated. The men just move aside if they can, or don’t if they can’t.

            2. Luna*

              As a woman the elevator thing drives me crazy. Just get off the freaking elevator people!!! Seriously we don’t care.

            3. e*

              1-2 men wedge themselves in the front corners and hold their arms in front of the door, while other men refuse to move.

              I am not used to this and often don’t realize why everyone in the elevator has stopped, which creates some wonderful awkward moments – especially when I wave them forward and they will. not. go.

      2. Specialk9*

        To be fair, some of my PA friends are total Southerners, which makes no sense. They listen to country, have traditional southern manners, have a southern drawl. It’s brain exploding but I’ve seen it.

    3. Phoenix Programmer*

      This has been a fascinating thread. I think in general though if you go to a place thinking x/y/z stereotypes it shows and people keep you at arm’s length. Most places and people have more in common then not.

      That said it is important to do your research about a places culture to try and make a good first impression.

  26. The Other Dawn*

    RE: #2

    I wonder if the other employees who get support/condolences/congratulations are native Midwesterners. That could be why OP doesn’t get the same level of acknowledgement.

    I’m from the Northeast, as is my cousin. She moved a little further south years ago, and is now in a Mid-Atlantic state. She moved there to be with her husband, who is native to that area, and she hates it. Even though she’s been there for 25+ years, she still has a very small circle of friends. She said that people treat her as an outsider because she wasn’t born there, while her few friends (natives) are treated much differently than she is. She said that people aren’t very welcoming and are kind of standoffish when they know you weren’t born there, and aren’t open to letting people into their circle. And I have to say, I feel it when I visit her. When I go to the store, the cashiers are very friendly until they card me for beer and see I’m from out of state; the attitude changes. Not unfriendly, but cool. When I go to a candy store near my cousin’s house, the employees watch me like a hawk as I walk around the store. I don’t look any different than the other people walking around.

    As Alison said, maybe OP is doing something she doesn’t realize she’s doing. Or maybe she’s in an area that just isn’t accepting of non-native people and nothing will change how she’s treated.

    1. The Other Dawn*

      Just noticed that the OP posted more details. So it seems like a mix of what I mentioned above, engineers that don’t interact (based on what others are saying) and a crappy workplace. OP, I’d figure out if you really want to stay there and deal with this everyday. Personally, unless it was some really awesome job with opportunities and great pay, I don’t think I’d stick around. Even though it shouldn’t matter as long as you can do your job, it does–it’s where you spend a good chunk of your life and affects your morale.

    2. GreyjoyGardens*

      IME there are insular, “if you weren’t born here or even if your PARENTS weren’t born here you will never, ever belong” all over. Cities tend to have less of this mentality because of the influx and outgo of people is happening all the time, but there are still places where roots are valued over wings.

      Where I live, most people are from out of the area, out of state, or out of country – immigrants are the norm, not the exception. Very very few people have deep roots – we might be born here, but our parents were definitely not. But we still get cliquish workplaces here and there because that just happens.

    3. Penny Lane*

      “When I go to the store, the cashiers are very friendly until they card me for beer and see I’m from out of state; the attitude changes. Not unfriendly, but cool. ”

      See, I don’t want the cashiers “to be friendly.” I’m not there to make friends. I want them to be polite, and I’ll be polite back, and please just ring up my groceries so we can both move on. That’s true friendliness – not the faux pretend-I-care-about-you nonsense.

      1. Specialk9*

        I believe it’s an illustration to explain the broader issue. People being polite and then chilling based on state of origin, and connecting that to other behaviors one has noticed. How I interpreted it at least.

  27. Nanani*

    LW 2-
    Is it just you being singled out by getting zero acknowledgement when everyone else does get it? Or is it the office-wide norm for these things not to be made into A Thing at work?

    Because it doesn’t really matter what’s “normal” in the world at large. What really matters here is whether your own office is singling you out for different treatment (very bad sign) or whether it just doesn’t mesh with your preferences. In the latter case, you might want to keep this sort of thing in mind as a “culture fit” question next time you try to change jobs.

    I would not advise trying to get people to celebrate life milestones if it’s not normally done. As you can read in the site archives, LOTS of people prefer less mixing of work and not-work lives.

  28. essEss*

    Unless your company is too small to qualify for FMLA, your wife’s prenatal appointments with the OBGYN would be covered under FMLA. If you file them under FMLA leave, then it is ILLEGAL for you to be written up for the appointment.

  29. Rookie Manager*

    One of my team is currently in his notice period and I have encouraged him to take accrued leave before his finish date. He hadn’t done this so I will have to pay the leave out of my budget. Instead he has been on sick leave for almost the entire notice period, this has left us without handover documents and clients in limbo. Personally I am sorry he needs to be off sick, professionally he’s made my life much harder.

    Anyway, at my organisation staff are encouraged to use up leave on a notice period.

    1. Lil Fidget*

      My goodness, I might ask him to extend his leave period if you didn’t get what you needed. I’ve also personally gone back to a prior job when circumstances prevented me from doing the handover I needed during my notice period. I don’t think it’s crazy to ask this person to end well.

      1. Rookie Manager*

        To be honest I’d like to just draw a line under this and let him leave. His sick line extends two weeks past his finish date so I’d just have to keep paying him longer to not work.

  30. Exhausted Trope*

    OP2, I feel for you tremendously. A previous workplace of mine was like yours. Everyone’s life events and achievements were acknowledged except mine although I took an interest in every event.
    During my time there, I sold a home and moved to a new city, expanded my job responsibilities significantly, and even applied to a new department, without so much as a question from anyone. However, even coworkers’ new outfits and hairstyles were lauded and discussed throughout the department.
    I concluded that my colleagues just did not want to build a relationship with me although our duties significantly depended on each other’s work.
    I made a point to stop feeling hurt and to mentally “divorce” myself from my office. These people were coworkers, not friends.
    My “divorce” became final when I was laid off later that year. Not that you’ll be but…

  31. Candid Candidate*

    Re: OP #1. I recently did my first presentation for a job interview, and before that had never heard of it as part of an interview process. I was asked to do a 45-min presentation of my “work portfolio,” but I had already given them my writing portfolio (I work in marketing.) Needless to say, I was a little lost on what to present and nervous as hell going into it. I decided to do a sort of “STAR” presentation, giving a Situation/Task/Action/Result format for each of my previous jobs. Even with 10 years of experience in my field, I only had about 15 minutes worth of material for a presentation when all was said and done! Thankfully, the team that I was presenting to interjected often to ask questions and that made it much more of a dialogue than a formal presentation, so ultimately the allotted time-frame was much more relaxed. They liked the presentation enough that they did offer me the job, I accepted, and I start in a few weeks. It all worked out okay, but good grief, I wish employers realized that when you get to a certain point in your career, spare time to come up with a 45-min (let alone 90-min!) presentation for a job interview is extremely unrealistic! Yikes.

  32. Addison*

    OP 2: I feel you. It’s super awkward because people will deck out the offices of people who have birthdays with balloons, big happy birthday paper signs, confetti, flowers, gifts, a card etc – people in offices right next to me, or even the girl I share an office with who sits at a desk right beside mine! But when I had my birthday, nobody but my boss said happy birthday even though I had been kind of lamely dropping hints about it all week. I don’t really make my birthday out to be a big deal, but I’m going through a rough time right now and was *kind* of hoping for a few cheerful “hey, happy birthday”s, but I got completely overlooked. I ended up in tears three times throughout the day because of that and not even my own family bothered with a text. Then a couple weeks later I was asked to help but up a birthday banner for someone in an office next to mine. I said no thanks, I’m busy and just left the whole thing alone because I didn’t want to seem like… I dunno, a brat. They also all invite each other to lunch and get each other starbucks basically every day, but never offer anything like that to me even though we all work closely together and interact all day every day. It’s really soured me to the people I work closest with and I typically just ignore what they have going on and don’t mention to them what’s going on in my life anymore, ever. Except for my boss, for PTO reasons or whatnot. If your office is cliquey and already picked their “crowd” I would say just try to shrug it off so long as they’re still treating you professionally. It sucks, but what can you do?

    1. Exhausted Trope*

      Addison, you really jogged similar memories for me that I guess I had buried. My birthday was ignored completely in my office but others had flowers, cards and gifts left on their desks and sometimes snacks and decorations. It really left a bad taste in my mouth for a while. The office clique is tough to deal with and nearly impossible to break.

  33. Q*

    Michigander (LP) perspective on #2: if you’re around here, you’re /probably/ not being shunned. Work is very much work for most people here (in my experience), as in, personal lives don’t enter into it much except between particular coworker friends. The emergency punishment is bullshirt, though.

  34. Gotham Bus Company*


    If your company or boss is the type to immediately fire anyone who gives notice, then use all of your vacation and “suddenly” quit upon returning.

  35. Close Bracket*

    >I might just attribute this to the notorious social weirdness of (some) engineers

    Please stop promoting this stereotype. The notoriety is not deserved. Yes, there are some engineers who are crusty old salts. There are also some teachers, accountants, and HR managers who are crusty old salts. You would not have said that about teaching, accounting, or HR, though. The modern engineering work place, by which I mean over the last 20 years or so that I have been part of it, places great value on getting along with others, even making teamwork skills part of peoples’ reviews. The overwhelming majority of engineers are quite social and have typical social skills. Many of them are even quite charming.

    1. Not a Morning Person*

      I have a different experience and a different perspective. I agree that many stereotypes need to be eliminated because then only exist to discount others. I also believe there are stereotypes for various careers and they exist for a reason, that many of the people in those careers share certain perspectives and interests. It’s not a 100 percent sharing of interests and perspectives; after all, we’re talking career fields with hundreds of thousands of people so there is bound to be a diversity of interests and skills. But there are perspectives, education, experiences, and interests in common for a significant portion of the people in the same career field. My spouse is an engineer and he comments on it often from his perspective that many of the engineers he works with come to work, do their work, and go home, without much expectation or interest in sharing personal stuff. Again, not 100 percent, but enough that he has commented on it at every place he’s worked (he tends to be a bit more social than the “average” engineer). To say that many of them are “quite charming” is, of course, true; but that doesn’t make it untrue that so many have a tendency to be more reserved and less social than someone who chose a different and more people-oriented career field. It doesn’t mean that all engineers are more introverted or crustier or weirder than people in other professions (there’s enough crustiness and weirdness to go around in all professions); it means that when you have a large group of people with common interests and experiences that there will be things they have in common and that are noticed by “outsiders” who have other interests, experiences, and perspectives. A few of the engineers I know actually “own” their differences and talk about themselves proudly because of those differences. It makes sense that people who choose a career field, get education and experience in that field, then work in that field, will have quite a few traits in common. We all want to be individuals and judged on our own merits, but we all seek connection and we connect mainly through the ways we are similar. (This is longer than I thought it would be…I’m trying to make sure it comes across as respectful of differences and aware of similarities and that both things can be true, especially when you are considering people in all of our many and varied and contradictory ways.) Just because a stereotype exists, doesn’t make it bad on its own; it’s bad when it’s used to discount or negate someone. Also, stereotypes don’t make sense when applied to a single individual, because as soon as you provide a list of characteristics, it only takes one difference for an individual to be able to say, “wait, I’m not ‘that’ so this stereotype doesn’t fit me.” They only make sense when you are thinking about large groups.
      Even with all this, it sounds like the OP is in an office culture that doesn’t fit his preferences and this office culture is beginning to impact his life negatively outside the office, as well. OP, it’s not you, it’s them. Find a way to be at peace with this or a way to get out. I’d recommend finding a way to get out. Good luck.

  36. Shawn*

    For the OP in #2….

    I am a tech writer who has worked with many engineering companies over the course of my career and it has been my own experience that the non-engineers are indeed treated differently. I often put in just as much time and work as the engineers yet, my name is often left off of the congratulatory thanks at the end of projects, etc. It’s not specific to just one company either. This is often the case. I can’t of course say that this is definitely the case in your situation but, all too often engineers are the only ones treated with respect at the companies who employ them.

  37. MissDisplaced*

    #1 I’ve had to make some marketing presentations for job interviews, as well as take some writing sample tests. Typically though these wind up being about 15-30 minutes MAX. I did however have a series of writing tests where there was a full hour allotted (and needed). 90 minutes seems pretty excessive to me, unless you have a very high level executive position.
    #2 Life Events: Well, I never really expect anyone at work to do this. Really. I mean, it’s nice and all if they do give you a card or something… but I don’t expect it and don’t feel left out or sorry if it wasn’t acknowledged. I think some workplaces aren’t as social as others and you probably shouldn’t take it so personal, OR if you do like a more social workplace, this company may not be the best fit for you.

  38. stump*

    re: #5, I have a fun anecdote for this.

    At my old retail job, I had a coworker who put in her two weeks and had already had a trip arranged (like, tickets purchased and hotel booked) months beforehand. She was a lower level manager and planned on using PTO she had banked for that time. She knew this normally wasn’t legit according to company policy, but she asked our store manager if that was okay since she booked everything months ago and got a, “Yeah, that’s fine, go ahead.” Weeks later when she got her last paycheck in the mail, she noticed she didn’t get paid for the PTO she took. So she called the store, got the assistant store manager, who told her a politer version of, “WTF, of course you didn’t get paid for that! I don’t know why Store Manager told you that!”

    Store Manager was a toxic jerk and also not that bright (and was both wrong on a lot of corporate policy and just made up her own personal policy that she preferred better), so it’s 50/50 on whether she deliberately misled Former Coworker or just had no idea and told her whatever she thought was and just happened to be wrong.

    The real kicker is that Store Manager told everybody afterward that Former Coworker intentionally scheduled a vacation during her last two weeks and thought she should’ve gotten paid for it with PTO because she was spiteful and didn’t want to work her last two weeks. I didn’t find out the truth until years later (during my own Last Two Weeks, incidentally) when Former Coworker came in to shop and I caught up with her while I was stocking. By that time, Store Manager had “retired” and was working part time stocking and setting up planograms and saw me talking to Former Coworker a few aisles away, so I think she knew what was up.

  39. stump*

    I have another fun anecdote for #2.

    This happened while I was a weekend receptionist at a gym that my mom also worked at (teaching fitness classes during the week). We didn’t work together, but all our coworkers knew we were parent/offspring.

    When my mom’s mom died, she got a signed sympathy card for losing her mother, but I got absolutely no acknowledgement for losing my grandmother. Nothing. Not even a half-assed mention on my mom’s card. So when I saw her card sitting up at the front desk for everyone to sign with no mention of me, her offspring who had also lost the same person, in sight, I signed it too out of spite/for the lulz.

    My mom thought it was pretty funny, but I don’t think anybody else got clued in at all aside from my one coworker who worked the same shifts I did.

  40. PTO*

    Vaguely related to #5. My current employer does not have a written policy about paying out PTO upon termination. Should I ask for them to create one? I have talked to two former employees, both of whom got their PTO paid out in their final paychecks. But since it’s not a written policy, it seems like it could be discretionary.

  41. AB*

    OP#1 – My husband recently interviewed for an IT Project managers job and when they asked him to start explaining a solution to a problem in the interview and asked him to write his solution on the white board he soon realised they had only got him in to pick his brains to a problem they had. As expected there was no job offer forth coming. he also conveniently left a key step out of his solution. Expecting a candidate to prepare a 90minute presentation is not acceptable.

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