problem employee or youthful hijinks, music in a shared hotel room, and more

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

1. Is this new hire a problem employee, or is it just youthful hijinks?

This isn’t the most important question, but it’s turned into the Yanny/Laurel of a networking group. We love your site and we’d be honored to hear your thoughts!

We’re divided in opinion over the recent behavior of a new hire at one of our workplaces, a small company in a technical niche industry. New Guy is just out of school with no previous experience in the field and this is his first industry job. New Guy appears to be bright based on his degree, and he expresses eagerness to move up from entry level very quickly.

New Guy is in his training period. Last week, he approached a coworker (a member of the networking group) about training with them. Coworker assumed New Guy had been directed to do this as part of his training rotation. It turns out that New Guy did this on his own initiative and didn’t clear it with his coordinator, who had other plans for him. New Guy was sent back to his original assignment once this was discovered. Coworker was embarrassed but learned a lesson about verifying assignments before proceeding.

Here are the positions: Some feel that New Guy showed hustle and moxie and find this be a hilarious no harm no foul episode. Others feel New Guy abused the trust of Coworker to get out of an assignment that apparently wasn’t to his liking.

Descriptions of New Guy has some spidey senses tingling. He has very limited knowledge of the field, as expected of an entry level person (we all start somewhere!), but appears to believe that which he doesn’t understand is easy to accomplish. He’s disparaged employees who have trained him to Coworker. And his attempt to reassign himself demonstrates less than straightforwardness in his dealings with others as his response to misleading Coworker was reportedly along the lines of caveat emptor.

Company reputation in this field depends on the honesty and transparency of employees in the way work is performed. Reputation plays a large role in how contracts are awarded. The perception of not being above board can lead to lost opportunities, and legal liability for actual dishonest conduct.

So far New Guy’s direct manager is unaware of this incident. Team New Guy feels this should be treated as youthful hijinks and not mentioned unless something else happens. Team Play It Safer thinks it’s a case where discreetly alerting someone better positioned to observe/monitor New Guy’s workplace interactions is warranted. What do you think?

If it were just the attempting to reassign himself, I’d say that was quite naive and showed he doesn’t understand how work usually works yet — but that he was corrected and hopefully understands going forward, and that this is within the general scope of “stupid stuff people do when they’re brand new to working” but not highly alarming (just embarrassing). But combined with the other details you shared about him, it does paint an overall picture of someone who not only doesn’t get it (which is fine and understandable at entry level) but is also a bit of a jerk (not fine, and not at any level but it’s especially ridiculous at entry level).

Either way, though, his manager needs to be told what happened — not in a “we’re going to get New Guy in trouble” way, but in a “his manager needs to be aware of this in order to properly manage him” way. I’d be pretty annoyed if I were his manager and no one told me this happened.

2. Sleeping hours and quiet when sharing a hotel room

I’m in an industry where hotel room sharing is the norm. I’m writing to ask, what are best practices around behavior when sharing hotel rooms with a coworker? Some things seem obvious (change clothes in the restroom, don’t use their belongings). I’m interested in norms around noise and sleeping hours. Some people prefer sleeping with the TV on or listening to music in the morning. I prefer quiet and actually can’t sleep with either of those things happening.

I recently shared a room with a coworker (who is in general a great roommate and great person) who gets up to start getting ready at least an hour before I’m awake and plays music. He plays it at a respectful volume, but it’s a small hotel room and I still can’t sleep. He’s shared before that he really enjoys/needs sound throughout the day and (although I feel like this could be accomplished through headphones) I want him to get what he needs. The first question is: how do I handle this in the short term? The second question is: would it just be better for us not to room together in the future? Our team travels for work four to six times a year and I’m sure that there are others whose sleep schedule/noise preferences are more compatible with ours. If that’s the case, should I talk to him, our office manager (who books rooms), or our manager, or some combination of those folks?

I’m not sure there’s any such thing as playing music “at a respectful volume” when someone else is still asleep in your shared hotel room. And yes, he could wear headphones if he needs music at all times, even when you’re sleeping. It’s kind of you to want him to get what he needs, but when you share a room with someone, a need for sleep trumps a desire to enjoy music. That’s especially true when the other person is a coworker and you’re on a business trip, since there’s such a high need there to respect boundaries and personal space.

Tell him that you appreciate him trying to keep the volume down but it wakes you up anyway, and ask that he use headphones until you’re awake. Ask if that’ll work for him or whether it would be better to find different roommates. If he doesn’t agree to it, then, yes, talk to the person who books rooms and say you have incompatible schedules and would like to switch in the future.

3. Getting gender right when we’ve never met in person

My conundrum has to do with gender. I remotely connect with people all over the world for online events. We are given the connection through any number of means, from a coworker to LinkedIn to website chat. Sometimes we don’t know the gender of the person, even after speaking and emailing back and forth. This causes problems with pronouns and properly addressing someone. Think taking notes on conference calls that are sent out to all attendees: “Carol asked Cory when the proposal would be sent. Cory stated tomorrow. Carol thanked Cory, then asked him/her when he/she would need a response. Also, think in terms of conference call introductions: “Carol has been with Teapots Unlimited for 15 years. He has been Cory’s counterpart for five years.”

What is the best way to clarify this? Is there a polite way to ask if Carol is a Mr. or a Ms.? Since we aren’t perfect and won’t always get it correct, how do we handle it when we are wrong and use the wrong pronoun when directly addressing or referring to someone?

Do you have people register for these events in any way? If so, can you include a field for pronoun preference? There’s a move toward explicitly asking people what pronouns they use, and while it’s not widespread yet, it’s increasing and it would solve your problem. It’s true that there are still lots of places/fields where that would be considered an unusual thing to do, and where organizations would worry that it would read as an explicit stance on social justice issues that they don’t want to take an explicit stance on. But in a context like yours, it makes such good sense that it would be silly not to do it.

In any case, if you do get it wrong, a quick “Sorry about that, thanks for the correction” is all you need, although you could add “one of the drawbacks of doing everything online!” if it makes things feel more comfortable.

But also, those notes you described are really, really detailed! Consider moving just to the upshot — so in your example, you’d just note, “Cory said the proposal would be sent tomorrow and needs a response by Wednesday” and get rid of all the back and forth. Notes aren’t meant to be minute-by-minute accounts; they just need the upshot, and that will cut way down on your need for pronouns too.

4. Can I use a possible promotion to get a higher salary offer from a new job?

I’ve been working for an online retailer for over a year. After becoming burned out, I began looking for work at other retailers. I was recently offered a job at a different company making about a dollar more than I make now. But here’s the problem: I may be up for a promotion at my current company. This promotion would pay much more than the other company is offering me. Unfortunately, nothing is concrete because I’m competing with a lot of very talented people. Also, I’ve been passed over for promotions many times in the past year. Is it unprofessional to call the other company and let them know how much my promotion would be paying? Would this information convince then to offer me a higher salary? I’m excited to work for this new company, so I’d hate to turn it down just because I may or may not be offered more money at my current job.

Nope, don’t do that! The promotion sounds like it’s far from being a sure thing, so it’s not going to be compelling to the other employer. (It’s sort of like saying “I applied for a job that pays more” — they won’t really care unless you actually get offered it.)

If your current company had already offered you the promotion, you could use that as part of salary negotiations with the new company, framing it as, “I’d love to accept. My current job just offered me a raise to $X — would you be able to meet that?” But you can’t use a promotion that’s just a maybe at this point.

5. Can we charge a new hire who flaked for the cost of her training?

We hired an employee who was being trained by the person who was leaving. We trained her for a week, then she didn’t show up and had excuse after excuse for a week while we held her job. We now have no employee or anyone to train the new one. She showed up and wanted her check immediately. Is there anyway we can charge her for her free training and wasting our time along with the person’s salary we paid to train her?

Nope, you cannot. That would be illegal. You’re required by law to pay her for the time she spent working for you, even though it was just training time. It’s incredibly annoying when something like this happens, but you’re better off seeing the occasional flakey new hire as just part of the cost of doing business.

{ 465 comments… read them below }

  1. Alianora*

    #3 – The preferred pronoun option is probably best. But if you need something to default to in the meantime, “they” might be less likely to offend than picking either “he” or “she” at random.

    1. Grammarian*

      No, that would not be a good idea, because it shows poor grammar “They” is a plural pronoun, not a singular one. As the Facebook group says, people will judge you when you use poor grammar.

      1. Story Nurse*

        Dear Grammarian: your information is outdated. Please see: (scroll down to the discussion of “Can they, their, them, and themselves be used as singular pronouns?”)
        “The use of they, their, them, and themselves as pronouns of indefinite gender and indefinite number is well established in speech and writing, even in literary and formal contexts. This gives you the option of using the plural pronouns where you think they sound best, and of using the singular pronouns (such as he, she, he or she, and their inflected forms) where you think they sound best.”
        “Back at the end of 2015, Bill Walsh admitted the singular they into the Washington Post style guide, and the attendees at the American Dialect Society annual meeting voted to make the singular they the word of the year. Now both the AP Stylebook and the Chicago Manual of Style have updated their style guides to be more accepting of they as a gender neutral singular pronoun.”

        Language changes! Isn’t that wonderful? Since you are so devoted to correct grammar, I’m sure you will be glad to know that these authorities in the field (certainly much more significant authorities than “the Facebook group”) all agree that there is absolutely nothing wrong with referring to a person of unknown gender as “they”, and now you can update your personal inner style guide to reflect that.

        1. Alli525*

          Thank you for this! Even the NYT is now respecting “they” as well as a panoply of other/new pronoun choices.

        2. bohtie*

          as a person who uses “they” as their pronoun (see how easy that was, “Grammarian”?), I’m really grateful for this post. Thank you.

        3. Software Engineer*

          I’ve been using “they” as a singular non-gender specific pronoun for 20+ years. I was informed by my English teachers that I was “wrong”, but I refused to use a male pronoun by the default. I’m thrilled to see that the rest of the world has caught up!

      2. Sugar of lead*

        There’s actually a precedent for “they” as a singular animate gender-neutral pronoun. Certain trans people prefer it over he and she, and it’s largely entered modern usage as a gender neutral pronoun, as suggested above.

      3. Fake Eleanor*

        People will certainly judge you when you make grammatical choices they don’t like, though that doesn’t make it “poor grammar.” Singular “they” has a long history of unexceptional use, and the fact that a vocal minority of language peevers don’t care for it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be used. If you’re not inclined to use it, that’s fine, but you have no standing to correct other people who choose to, and harping on it means your judgment is suspect.

        It might prove to be a bad fit in this circumstance, however, because it’s trickier to use “they” to refer a specific person, now that it has become a relatively common preferred pronoun.

        OP #3, if you can ask everyone for their preferred pronoun ahead of time, that’s the best way to go.

        1. TootsNYC*

          and I will bet you a nickel–no, a whole five bucks!–that all the people who judge you on “they” will have used it themselves, and will have read right over it somewhere as well.

      4. Schuyler*

        Language changes all the time, and using “they” is bucking heteronormative and transphobic behavior. And most if not all people use “they” when unsure of a person’s gender. I think it’s a lot less clunky than s/he or other variants. Inclusive language is a good thing, especially since the grammatical rules in place now evolved from a cisgender world view.

        Having said that, here’s a question for the OP: Why not simply ask the person what pronouns they prefer? Then you can just use she, ze, him, or whatever that person is comfortable with, and you don’t need to concern yourself with it any longer.


      5. Kat*

        Hi, that is actually incorrect, but a common misconception. “They” can be used as a singular pronoun.

      6. pleaset*

        A singular “they” is fine in English in the US, especially by people who are otherwise good at grammar.

        If someone makes a lot of other grammatical errors, using “they” this way might reflect badly on them by other people who don’t know that it can be use that way.

        1. Artemesia*

          I hate ‘they’ as a singular; it grates like less rather than few for discrete items and other grammatical atrocities BUT there are things more important than grammar and we don’t have a better option to accomplish those important things at the moment, so ‘they’ it is.

          1. Specialk9*

            It’s cool to have pet peeves, but this one is factually incorrect. It is grammatically proper to use they as singular pronoun. It has been used in English formal and informal publications, in formal and informal speech, for over 700 years. It’s been formally accepted into grammar. You don’t have to let it go, we all get to have our things, but yours doesn’t have the facts behind it.

          2. They/Them*

            Do you view “you” as a grammatical atrocity? It conjugates verbs in the plural just like “they”. Otherwise the pronoun is thy/thou for singular, but I’ve never heard someone with an issue with “they” use those or ever argue against the use of “you”, so really it’s more of an issue non-binary genders and not in how it conjugates verbs.

      7. A.N. O'Nyme*

        The Fourth Edition of Practical English Usage begs to differ, citing a long history of singular “they” use including this example from an old British password form: “Dual nationality: if the child possesses the nationality or citizenship of another country they may lose this when they get a British passport”.

        1. Ro*

          I respect your point, but I don’t think grammarian “is espousing transphobic sentiment”. They just have a different preference for pronouns. They are not denying a trans person the right to use a different pronoun.

          1. They/Them*

            Except they’re actively arguing about it not being a good idea to use they. People who argue against “they” never argue against “you” so it really is transphobic sentiment but are using “grammar” as an excuse. Completely ignoring that it has been used for years and language changes.

          2. Not a Mere Device*

            Grammarian may not be consciously or deliberately transphobic, but that sort of microaggression hurts even if it’s not intended as an attack. It’s likely to come across as “I care more about arbitrary rules of grammar than about not offending or misgendering people.”

            If Grammarian said “it shows poor grammar” to, or around, a trans coworker, that person would have no way of knowing whether the underlying sentiment was closer to “I’m having trouble getting used to this, and prefer neopronouns like zie/zir or ei/em/eir” or “why can’t they be happy with ‘he’ or ‘she’?'”

            I would far rather be judged by overly strict transphobes for thinking that a usage that was good enough for Jane Austen is good enough for me, than by trans people for misgendering them and acting as though doing so made me superior.

      8. Wendy*

        Not to pile on here, but this argument is factually incorrect and a huge pet peeve of mine. In addition to other great points people have made, I just want to quickly point something out.

        I’m a copywriter and content creator. I use “they” as a singular all the time. I use it because I often write about hypothetical people. For example,”an individual” or “a patient” becomes “they” as the pronoun. So sentences might go:

        When “a patient” is in need of surgery for (condition x), “they” may need to consult with (specialist y).

        They is the correct singular pronoun there. It very often is. You probably see this being done all the time and don’t even think about it. Writing that uses they as a singular pronoun when the gender is unknown or unspecified is a very common thing and always has been.

        This argument is tired, offensive, and factually wrong.

  2. Cornflower Blue*

    I love the idea of having a field for pronoun use!

    I live in a country where names ending in A are both masculine OR feminine (as in, for example, Ramila is an acceptable name for a girl OR a boy), so it would be super helpful for me if our directory had some way to tell if Ramila Fernando is a man or a woman ahead of time.

    1. Lumen*

      A coworker and I have uncommon first names that are pretty neutral. We’ve laughed a lot together about how clients and others who haven’t met us in person assume our gender, and the different ways we deal with it.

      However, neither one of us is trans. And neither one of us has experienced trauma related to being misgendered. So for us, it’s something to laugh about. For many people, it’s painful, upsetting, and stressful every time.

      If I could simply click on the profile of my coworker in some shared platform and see their pronouns, I would love it. I wish this were normalized more. I’ve started including my pronouns in my description on social media, even though I’m cisgendered, just to try and normalize it more. It hurts no one and can help avoid some embarrassing mishaps AS WELL AS not traumatizing people.

    2. Sally*

      I have a female friend who has what is typically a man’s first name. So in her email signature it says “Ms. Firstname Lastname.” And I have also seen “Mr. Dana Lastname.” That kind of thing is really helpful.

      1. Kat*

        This might sound awful but if I had a unisex-seeming name I would probably not clarify it with a “Ms.” and just instead enjoy any preferential treatment I got from people who thought I was male. Unfortunately my name is quite effeminate!

        1. Just Another Techie*

          I have a foreign name, and to most Americans, my name reads as male (although in my parents’ country it is very very obviously a feminine name). I never correct people and just enjoy the benefits. I also (somewhat pettily) enjoy people’s discomfort when they meet me in person.

          1. tusky*

            Not that you need anyone’s approval, but I don’t think it’s gross. If people are going to make assumptions based on your name, that’s on them!

      2. Zip Silver*

        Actually I know a Payton that does the Ms. thing. I thought it was strange until I read your comment just now, I guess she got sick of being confused for Payton Manning

      3. TootsNYC*

        If I’m not mistaken, the “official etiquette” way to do this is:

        (Ms.) Firstname Lastname

        The rule is that one never uses a courtesy title for oneself, because it’s conceited.
        And so putting it in parentheses indicates it’s an aside, not your official pronouncement of your name.

        1. SunlightOnLeaves*

          I like this approach. At my workplace, we’ve been adopting the convention of asking and stating pronouns regularly, as a way to promote non-binary inclusivity. I include at the end of my email signature “she/her/hers” and am thinking of updating that to “she/her/Ms.”

          Although I’m still struggling with including this signature in emails to vendors, as everything goes more smoothly when they assume I’m male (tech field).

      4. many bells down*

        My daughter’s first name is a common male name in another country. It’s not a common name for girls or boys in America. But somehow, even when I start a sentence with “my daughter (Name) …” people will immediately refer to her as “he”. It’s especially strange to me since very few kids here of any gender have that name.

      5. Erin*

        I’ve taken to using my very feminine middle name with my first name. I’ve seen Erin used as a males name and I’ve had my name misspelled as Aaron.

    3. Nanani*

      The panoply of linguistic and cultural backgrounds that exist in the world means there’s probably nobody on earth who can accurately guess gender based on name for every name there is.

      Also, as a woman who has often received correspondence with “Dear sir,” “Mr (my name),” and same for my women colleagues and supervisor, I think remembering that the working world is not 100% cis men is always valuable.

      1. PB*

        Yes. My mother, having received one too many letters from a local dealership addressed to “Mr. Lucinda Smith,” sent an angry letter asking why they assumed that, as a car owner, she must be a man? She received a very apologetic reply.

        1. Lumen*

          I recall reading about someone receiving mail addressed to “Dr. and Mrs. Lastname”.

          She was Dr. Lastname. And also Mrs. Lastname. Because… get this: women… can have… doctoral degrees.

          1. Ann Nonymous*

            I man and I used to date is now married to a woman who has her PhD (he cheated on me with her but we’re all cool now). My new dh and I are friends with them socially. I take a small perverse delight in sending them mail (invitations, Christmas card) addressed to “Mr. Joe and Dr. Josephine Smith”.

            1. Armchair Expert*

              Technically, this should be ‘Dr Josephine and Mr Joe Smith’ since the higher title takes precedence. Which I’m only mentioning because it may annoy him even more.

      2. Kelsi*

        Though Kelsi/Kelsey is mostly a girls’ name in the US now, it was a boys’ name (with the ey spelling) for a long time. Add this with the fact that my last name is a common nickname for a male first name (think Bill) and I get a TON of stuff addressed to Mr. Kelsey Bill/Mr. Bill Kelsi. Sometimes I’ve gotten official phone calls asking for Bill, and I have to clarify whether they have the wrong number or whether they are actually trying to reach me.

    4. GlitsyGus*

      I work with a lot of international folks in different countries and it can be tricky to know which names are generally male or female in certain regions. We also have a couple of trans and genderfluid coworkers. I totally agree it would be very helpful to just have folks put out there what they like. We used to have a company directory that included people’s pictures, and that helped a lot, but it has gone by the wayside.

  3. Dino*

    For people who like to sleep with noise but are rooming with colleagues for whatever reason, sleep headphones are a lifesaver and cheap ones are $20 on Amazon. This doesn’t help OP2 but it may help other folks with similar conflicts.

    1. Just Employed Here*

      I just use regular cheap in-ear buds. Yes, they break much quicker than with normal use, but I still get a good several months’ use out of each 5 € pair.

    2. a good mouse*

      I second that! Sleephones have gotten me through many noisy hotel rooms and shared room experiences. I used to try to use ear buds but they would fall out and be uncomfortable because I’m a side sleeper. The pair I use how are like a turtlefur headband with flat ear pieces in them.

      1. TheNotoriousMCG*

        Yes – I love sleephones. I have a pair that is Bluetooth and I play a white noise app through them

        1. Ashloo*

          Can you share a link to the ones you like? I work nights and it would be awesome to get my alarm delivered only to me with bluetooth. My husband says it doesn’t bother him, but I’m sure not hearing it would be nicer.

        2. Specialk9*

          I just bought a pair of Bluetooth sleep headphone headband. I’m not sure why this never occurred to me as an option. I use a $50 Bluetooth ear bud at night, with an ear hook that swivels and changes ears whenever I turn over. This sounds much more restful!

          1. Courageous cat*

            I’m dying to know, because I’m clearly not picturing this correctly: what do you mean it changes ears when you turn over?

            1. Specialk9*

              There is an over-ear hook that can rotate so it can be used on the left or right ear without having to reseat the whole ear hook. (Look up Motorola Boom.) It makes for a simple ear transition so I’m not gouging the ear bud into my pillow side ear.

              1. Andraste's Knicker Weasels*

                Ohhhhh! I was like Courageous cat and confused. I thought that you meant that the earbud itself would, like, extract itself from your ear and somehow move across to the other ear and settle in. :D

              2. Ann Nonymous*

                Wearing these sounds painful. But I have oddly-shaped ears, apparently, as earbuds will absolutely not stay in – they sprong out – and even the over-the-ear type frequently fall off my ears.

                1. many bells down*

                  I’ve got those ears too. I just had an MRI and the earplugs kept falling out. My husband has a sleep mask that also has headphones in it. Like a headband he wears around his face.

    3. GlitsyGus*

      I was going to also suggest, as a light sleeper myself, silicone ear plugs. I swear by them when I have to share a room with someone.

      I agree that the person who likes music in the morning should use headphones, but as a “meet in the middle” if the light sleeper wears ear plugs it does give a little more room for error on the part of the person getting up earlier not having to feel like they need to be mouse-quiet.

  4. Iris*

    Re: OP 3
    Is there a particular reason why you need to note any gender at all? Of course, you may be monitor for something like inclusion, when knowing that women are not being left out is important. But otherwise, using “they” as a non-gendered *singular* pronoun is increasingly common. I’d suggest this. Then if you communicate further with either of these people, or the need for this info becomes important, you can just ask them.

    1. JamieS*

      It sounds like the primary reason for OP’s concern is simply that they don’t want to risk offending someone by calling a woman ‘he’, a man ‘she’, etc.. Using they is a good alternative but not everyone’s a fan of the singular they and it can potentially become confusing in conversations involving multiple people.

      1. Mad Baggins*

        If absolutely necessary, and there is no passive-voice structure that can accommodate a lack of pronouns, why not just use the person’s name again? “Belinda blinked and picked up Belinda’s book.” It’s a bit awkward but it might be safer than assuming a gender.

        1. BronzeFire*

          I just binged MDWAP, and this is the first reference to it I’ve encountered in the wild. Thanks!

            1. AliceBD*

              Justcurious, I suggest googling the letters on a non-work device as it should be the first result. The name of the podcast is NSFW and not appropriate in many contexts, which is why we’re not writing it out here. It is a hilarious podcast, however, and I definitely recommend it if the description sounds at all like your thing.

      2. Akcipitrokulo*

        There is a convention that may help of using initials in minutes?

        Otherwise, use they.

    2. purple otter*

      They don’t necessarily have to, but imagine the embarrassment by both parties when OP3 accidentally says “he” instead of “she” when referring to “Carol,” ESPECIALLY IF Carol has an “ethnic”/non-Western sounding name (think African or Asian names where Westerners have so much trouble identifying as male or female).

      As someone who’s been mistakenly addressed as Mr. instead of Ms. way too many times because I have one of those confusing Asian names, I’ve had to proactively sign my emails as “Ms. Firstname Lastname” and correct event organizers ahead of time if they print “Mr. Lastname” on my nametag.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        Yeah, there are so many situations where just knowing the person’s name gives you no clue at all on gender — whether it’s a unisex name in English (Jamie or Taylor, etc.) or a culture where I don’t know if they have gendered naming norms or what they are. Just asking everyone seems like a great plan!

      2. JessaB*

        Why would Carol necessarily be a woman, in the last decade or so the gendered spelling of common names has dropped away. Carol vs Carroll for instance.

        In my childhood I could get away with being annoyed at people misgendering me, my first name legally is Lesley. I used to groan and say “ey,” not “ie” or “as in Anne Down not as in Bricusse or Nielsen,” and the minute I spelt my name everyone knew I was female.

        But nowadays Leslie Jones, spelt as back in the day only males spelt it, is a woman. And that’s cool and great, but at my age I see ‘ie” and have to clamp down and remember that Ms Jones is a woman. And that in other instances I need to check before I presume.

        So Carol, I presumed was a man from the beginning.

          1. So long and thanks for all the fish*

            I was actually really confused reading this question since I’ve never heard of Carol being used as a man’s name!

            1. Andraste's Knicker Weasels*

              Karol (with a K) is used in Poland and Slovakia. Pope John Paul II’s birth name was Karol Wojtyla. If I see Carol, I assume they’re female, but if I see Karol, I expect them to be male (but potentially female using an alternate spelling).

            2. NotAnotherManager!*

              The actor who played Archie Bunker on “All in the Family” and then Chief Gillespie in “In the Heat of the Night” was Carroll O’Connor. I have usually found that guys named Carroll do not spell their name Carol/Carole, though I’m sure that’s not always the case.

          2. Dusanka*

            Carol (C or K) also means CHARLES throughout Eastern European countries and languages. It doesn’t exist at all as a women’s name. It was the original name of Pope John Paul II :)

      3. cryptid*

        Genuine question, not facetious: IS that embarrassing? I get misgendered often and while it can be exasperating and irritating, I don’t find it embarrassing and I hope most people aren’t embarrassed when they do it to me – willing to be corrected and committed to using the right pronoun going forward, but not embarrassed. Appearance doesn’t neatly correlate to identity and we all have to assume we misgender at least some people some of the time without ever getting feedback about it (the person in line at the grocery store, a driver on the road, etc). It’s not a thing to be embarrassed about, just correct going forward if corrected with a minimum of fuss. (Ex: “Sorry, my mistake, THEY will do the llama wrangling since their degree is in ruminant studies”)

        1. Emily K*

          I have a small female dog, and because most people default to “he” when it comes to dogs, I often have variations on this conversation:

          Stranger: Oh, so cute! What’s his name?

          Me: Her name is GirlyDogName.

          Stranger: Oh, she’s a she, I’m sorry!

          Me: Oh, it’s alright, I don’t think she minds.

          1. So long and thanks for all the fish*

            Same! Sorry for the off-topic, but why on earth do most people default to “he” with dogs? I know it’s a masculine noun in German (and maybe other languages?) But when asking about an individual dog in English, this makes very little sense to me.

          2. Kat*

            I am late on this but I have a similar experience. I have a big black dog and people automatically assume she is a boy, even when I tell them her name is Luna. “Oh Luna, what a good boy!”. Luckily, all she cares about is the “good” part, and she’s just happy to get attention.

          3. Andraste's Knicker Weasels*

            I have the opposite because my male dog is a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, which apparently is seen as “girl” (probably because of the ginormous eyes, long ears and perpetual puppylike appearance).

            I’m still surprised by it because I’m so used to people assuming “he” for dogs.

            1. AMPG*

              That’s actually might be some leftover cultural memory of Lady and the Tramp, since I believe Lady was a breed of spaniel.

          4. Cornflower Blue*

            Hah, I have the exact opposite! I have a small white fluffy dog (Maltese) and everyone assumes that he’s female. Some of the best reactions I’ve gotten when I’ve corrected people:

            “But he can’t be a boy, he’s too cute!”

            “But he’s so cute! Is he gay?”

            “Are you sure?”

            Yes, lady, I have had this dog for eight years, I’ve had him neutered, he has peed his markings all over the territory, I am *sure* he is male – or if he isn’t, he has yet to tell me otherwise.

          5. Story Nurse*

            I decided not to correct any gendering of my child until the child is old enough to pick a gender. Oddly, it wasn’t until really getting into that habit that I stopped correcting people about the ostensible genders of my cats, who will never care no matter how old they get.

        2. Librarian Ish*

          @cryptid: I wish people wouldn’t get embarrassed about mistakes, but I think it plays into the same embarrassment about *any* mild social faux pas. I also get embarrassed when I say “you too!” to the ticket salesperson who said “enjoy the show!”

        3. ket*

          It’s not embarrassing if it’s done once & people correct and move on, especially if you have a fairly traditional gender expression. It is embarrassing if, say, your boss continuously misgenders you (or mispronounces your name) because it indicates they don’t care enough to get it right — it’s a sign of disrespect. I don’t mind if people mispronounce my unusual name the first time. I’m annoyed at the guy who keeps saying it wrong despite being on an advisory committee for our program and despite corrections. Sure, it’s not a big deal, but if I were his boss he would not keep defaulting to the wrong name every time we meet, after the correction.

          If you’re trans or have a non-conforming gender expression that gets into a whole ‘nother set of issues.

        4. NotAnotherManager!*

          It shouldn’t be, but there is a subset of the population who will jump down your throat for even the most honest of mistakes, even if you apologize and correct your usage immediately. I think it makes everyone more conscious of their mistakes and, for some people, less willing to risk making a mistake – kind of like the person I used to work with who used a legitimate but unusual pronunciation of a common name but would icily tell anyone who use the more common pronunciation, “It’s fehr-GOOSE, not FUR-gus!” like you were an idiot for not knowing and yell at you if you made the mistake a second time. Technically correct, but she made people feel like crap for an honest mistake.

    3. Student*

      When it’s important to get gender/pronouns correct, and you’re too embarrassed to ask the person directly, there’s at least one good substitute in the working world.

      Ask the person’s direct manager. Or a close colleague you have in common. Chances are pretty good that the person’s manager knows the answer and has dealt with the question before, and the manager isn’t going to be as invested in the issue as the person you’re trying to identify correctly. Sometimes you can also just send the manager the copy you want vetted, not outline the exact gender-related issue, and ask them to proof it for use of their people’s names, if you’re super-uncomfortable with the real question.

      I’m all for asking people respectfully and directly though. Just coping straight to: “Sorry, I’ve never met you, but I’m trying to get this copy right for you. What pronoun should I use?” works. People with gender-neutral or gender-crossing names are well aware they have an ambiguous gendered name, they deal with this all the time, and are likely to just tell you the right answer without any sort of angry blow-back as long as you don’t make it a big deal.

  5. Close Bracket*

    Is there an option C for OP one? Could new guy be neither awesome nor terrible but sort of ordinary like most of us, and the correct approach is to review his training plan with an eye towards his actual interests and future development?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s definitely possible that he’s not terrible (although the fact that he’s disparaged employees who have trained him isn’t a great sign), but either way the correct move is to let his manager know what happened so that she’s aware that he isn’t quite up to speed on professional norms.

    2. Engineer Girl*

      Did he know about the training before reassigning himself? If so, that’s a huge problem. Will he also abandon work assignments he doesn’t like?

      I would also be concerned about him disparaging others. People that publicly put coworkers down are a problem.

      People that think they know more than the people training them are usually full Dunning-Kruger incompetent. And they are unwilling to listen to correction because they think the other person is stupid.

      I’d alert the manager for further observation. This will allow for course corrections before he REALLY gets himself into trouble.

      1. Myrin*

        Did he know about the training before reassigning himself?
        I think he did! OP states that “[o]thers feel New Guy abused the trust of Coworker to get out of an assignment that apparently wasn’t to his liking”, which wouldn’t make sense if he hadn’t even known about the assignment beforehand.

        1. Engineer Girl*

          That’s other people mapping motives – a dangerous move. Feelings are not factual and should not be actionable.
          What can be proven is that new guy did or did not know about the other assignment before approaching coworker. The training coordinator would know that. That’s what should be raised to the manager.

          1. Mookie*

            No, there are generally norms regarding what Hurts Someone’s Feelings or not and using people or disparaging others falls under no-brainers in terms of “actionability.” Someone being rude is factual; feelings are factual, they happened, and the solution is right there. Managers and higher-ups are the arbiters of whether the person littering the office with rude things needs to knock it off. Civilization decided that that’s how it works a while ago, and we’ve been chugging along ever since. There will always be disagreement about what does or doesn’t constitute offensive behavior, but usually we err on the side of the New Guy needs to tone it down several notches and take his cues from his elders.

            1. Colette*

              I mean, people can feel that he was abusing the process without him actually having abused the process. Think about the last time someone cut you off in traffic. You may think she’s a thoughtless jerk, while she might think that she’s changing lanes to avoid hitting an unexpected stalled car/ about to miss her exit and thus pick up her child late/be late for her specialist appointment. The fact is that she cut you off. The motivations are highly dependent on where you’re sitting.

              People can be hurt by things that are not in any way intended to be hurtful. They can be hurt because they want something the other person doesn’t want to give. They can be hurt because they think they are entitled to things they are not entitled to. Or they can be hurt because someone was deliberately or thoughtlessly rude. But all of those people will likely say that the other person is being rude. Rudeness is not factual – it is an interpretation of behavior. The behavior can be described factually, but rudeness is dependent on context.

              1. Jesca*

                Um, cutting someone off in traffic is actually never excusable especially the example of them being late.

                I think here we can take the OP at their word in the sense that they were asking as a disinterested third party. Like, “Here is this situation I heard of, how would you respond?” In that vein, the manager needs to know, because breaking boundaries so early and so clearly is quite a massive red flag. It is a sign that someone is likely going to up it even more next time and so on and so forth until they are busted. Sometimes even then that won’t cause them to stop. But notifying the manager now is of the most importance.

                1. The dude tried to skirt his responsibility without really seeming to understand why that was wrong but then 2. Told the person he tried to dupe “Ah caveat emptor!” That is not a good sign. It is about as bad a judgement as cutting across heavy traffic to your exit so you won’t be late to pick up your kids (in a metaphorical sense of “damage” and fallout in the respective situations)

                1. Anon for now*

                  Btu the OP was saying what SOME people’s impressions are. Others had a different impression. They did not say whether the employee actually knew that there were other plans for his training. This isn’t doubting the OP’s word. Based on the information presented, it is entirely possible that the employee thought that he had time for this additional training due to a miscommunication. He still needed to be corrected and informed that he cannot arrange his own training, but if he only did it once it could be an honest mistake. If he is acting like a jerk in other ways people are less likely to give him the benefit of the doubt.

            2. Yorick*

              Feelings are not facts, as Rupaul says. I can have feelings or thoughts that don’t match the reality of a situation. If that’s so, my feelings don’t trump reality.

              In this case, the feelings are coming from people in the networking group who were told the story by Coworker. So they are just guessing at what his motives are and could be really wrong.

            3. Lora*

              No, I think what EG is saying is that the entire training process and its non-negotiable nature may not have been make sufficiently clear to Gumption Boy. It may be that Gumption Boy needs to have things made excruciatingly, agonizingly clear before he clues in. Neither we, nor the co-workers ascribing malice to what may be ignorance, know if this is the case in real life. The training coordinator is the person with this knowledge, and others are merely speculating, perhaps irresponsibly, but in any case the manager does need to know what she is dealing with in this guy so that in the future when she needs to assign him work, she can say, “Gumption Boy, you need to do X by Date, here are the steps to take, I will check in with you on Other Date to see how you are progressing.”

              1. Ego Chamber*

                “the entire training process and its non-negotiable nature may not have been make sufficiently clear to Gumption Boy.”

                Fair point. All the training I’ve had for any job has been non-negotiable, but I do remember that not being entirely obvious to some of the new hires I worked with—there are 2 types, 1) the ones who have literally never had a job before and 2) the ones who think they didn’t need training. I hope New Guy is in group 1 because having to deal with anyone in group 2 sucks a big rubbery one every time, right up until they get replaced or (surprisingly common) promoted.

          2. Myrin*

            I’m not sure I’m following – the sentence reads to me like OP and her coworkers know by now (although they probably didn’t at the time it was happening) that New Guy had been informed of the “other plans” his manager had for him but decided to basically reassign himself anyway. If New Guy simply hadn’t known about his manager’s plans for him at all, there’d be no reason for Team Play It Safer to even bring this up because it would be demonstrably untrue. (I think the use of “feel” might be misleading here – the others feel that he abused coworker’s trust; they don’t feel that he already knew about the training plan, that’s something they either know or don’t (or, I guess they could know he had no idea about the training but not believe him but IDK, is that likely?).)

            1. Anon for now*

              It sounds to me like they knew that there were other plans but don’t necessarily know how clearly that was conveyed to New Guy.

      2. Glowcat*

        I agree. I think the manager needs not only to know but also to have a conversation with him, because if New Guy learns that he can get away with his behaviour “because he’s young and we’ve all been young” it will just get worse. Even if he’s really just being naive, because you don’t get savvy out of the blue.

        1. Luna*

          Agreed, and I don’t think being young is an excuse at all- if anything when I was in my first job I was much more concerned about following rules because I wanted to make a good impression, and I knew that I didn’t know anything about being in a full-time office environment. This guy is clueless at best, arrogant and entitled at worse.

        2. Tuxedo Cat*

          I agree. Otherwise, he’s left believing what he did was okay. It’s a disservice to him as well as his coworkers.

        3. Blue*

          Agreed. I initially understood that New Guy was seeking out additional training beyond what was assigned to him, which falls into the “ambitious but misguided” category, for me. If he was doing it specifically to get out of work he didn’t want to do, that’s another story. Either way, it needs to be made clear to him that going rogue in the workplace has consequences.

        4. Dust Bunny*

          Yeah, I don’t know why there is a debate about telling his manager. Even if it was a naive and innocent mistake, his manager needs to know so he can be [gently] corrected.

      3. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        People that think they know more than the people training them are usually full Dunning-Kruger incompetent. And they are unwilling to listen to correction because they think the other person is stupid.

        Yes, to me this is one of the worst warning signs. I’ve met a few people who were very resistant to being taught or trained by someone they couldn’t personally respect, and they invariably wound up being nightmarish to work with.

      4. Nita*

        Agreed. Maybe I’m biased by a recent experience, but the guy sounds sketchy, and like he could cause problems if management isn’t alert to his desire to cut corners. The attempt to reassign himself – OK, he’s taking initiative for his training, his boss talks to him about doing the other training first, and that’s that. But why did his co-worker assume the request for training came from management – did the new guy purposefully lead him to believe that? And then there’s the fact that he thinks he knows it all, and is bad-mouthing his co-workers.

        A couple of years ago I was on an assignment and it was a very small team – me, a couple co-workers, and a temp. The temp had never met most of the old-timer team. We did all the work, and then I walked the entire site with the temp to make sure everything was locked down properly. Only, the team that came in the next day discovered that some equipment was not locked down, which was a pretty big problem. Weird… but I thought maybe the building custodian had tripped something before the second team came in. And then I found out from the project lead that the temp had reached out to them, badmouthing the rest of the team and claiming none of this would have happened if *he* was team lead. Obviously I’ll never know what happened, but a small part of me wonders whether the temp didn’t take the initiative to trip that equipment to see if it gets him a promotion.

        1. designbot*

          I suspect that what New Guy did was just so far outside of the norms that it never would have occurred to Coworker to ask, because of course a trainee’s assignments came from management.

      5. Confused*

        This whole letter was unclear. Was the “unapproved” training with a different coworker in place of his regular training/work? If so, that’s an issue, but if not…I’ve been in jobs that would be mad that I DIDN’T go to another coworker if they were working on something I wanted to learn…something something “shows initiative”. If dude wants to learn X, coworker knows X, and it doesn’t get in the way of dude’s work on Y, I fail to see the issue.

        The fact that he is a jerk is a separate issue and should be shut down immediately.

        1. A Reader*

          I agree with your take on this. I have also worked at places where your manager would very much like to hear that you decided to learn outside of your scope of work (while completing your usual assignments, of course). So I don’t think reaching out to the other coworker for training on a topic while also completing the standard training is necessarily a bad thing. Based on this alone, I think it’s a matter of the new guy not being aware of company culture.

        2. Anna*

          It’s pretty clear from the OP’s letter that he wasn’t cleared. Coworker assumed New Guy had been directed to do this as part of his training rotation. It turns out that New Guy did this on his own initiative and didn’t clear it with his coordinator, who had other plans for him. New Guy was sent back to his original assignment once this was discovered.

          1. Yorick*

            But I don’t think this necessarily means that he was shirking the original assignment (that could just be how some in the networking group took it). “Sent back to his original assignment” might just mean “told to only do his original assignment.”

    3. Bryce*

      I could definitely see it as “after that faux pas small things are being filtered through a larger lens” but by that point I think it’s out of our hands as readers to evaluate. The surrounding stuff bumps his action from “newbie mistake” to “yellow flag” and while I agree it could be more of a Banana than an Ochre, it’s splitting hairs. The question wasn’t “should this guy be fired” but “should his manager be made aware of this incident”.

      1. Alternative Person*

        I agree.

        Whether these things are newbie faux pas or something more calculated, the manager needs to be the one to deal with the situation.

      2. designbot*

        Agreed. Firing would be a harder call, but informing his manager is an easy one. This to me was the biggest yellow flag there, especially when combined with his attempt to reassign himself: “appears to believe that which he doesn’t understand is easy to accomplish.” For me this takes it from guy who didn’t realize he couldn’t just investigate areas he was interested in on his own volition to, thinks he knows better than the people assigning him work.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      OP gives option b as to monitor him more closely, not to show him the door this afternoon.

      Ten years from now he could absolutely be on AAM sharing humorous self-deprecating tales from his first job out of college, and the 27 different unique ways he found to combine cluelessness and gumption. Right now, I think his behavior has enough “the marvel of ME!” to it (to be clear, I think an oft-encountered feature of young people who were good students) to be worth casting an extra eye over his work.

      I frequently come back to Rumsfeld’s comment about known unknowns and unknown unknowns–the former you know to research and account for, the latter trip you up because you didn’t even realize there was something in your assumptions you had to check. Right now he’s in the unenviable position of not realizing how much he doesn’t know, while surrounded by people who do realize how much he doesn’t know.

    5. Chatterby*

      I read it as he felt his current training was inadequate to poor (prompting the comments about his trainers) and he approached someone he already knew from the hiring process to ask for additional help. The person he asked then assigned him some stuff he started working on.
      That feels pretty normal to me and lot less “he’s trying to weasel out of things”.
      If this is the case, it should be assessed whether 1) the training actually is bad and 2) that he has enough work, at a sufficient level, to keep him occupied (I know it can’t all be interesting in an entry-level job, but the drudgery should be balanced, or else you risk losing people).
      I could be reading that wrong; it’s entirely possible he saw this other person had a project he wanted and manipulated his way onto it because he wants to strong arm his way into a quick promotion at the expense of the person he used, but his being completely new to the work world makes me think this is less that and more of a new person not realizing there are hoops and hierarchies he needs to go through to prevent people from feeling slighted.

      1. Observer*

        Given the rest of the context the OP provides, I don’t think it’s likely. But even if you are correct, this is still something that the supervisor needs to be looped in on.

      2. Confused*

        I guess I just don’t understand what happened or what the issue was. If he knew the coworker from a networking thing, I don’t see why it’s an issue, as long as it doesn’t get in the way of anyone’s work, for them to work together. Like I am not sure how this is a problem unless he’s abandoning his other work, which then is the actual issue – he’s not doing the work he needs to do, not that he’s looking for additional opportunities from the other guy. Also if he is not engaged by the training, that’s also a separate issue and as long as he is performing well…I still do not see a problem. I don’t understand why everyone is in their feelings. Nothing of note happened except that he is a jerk, which is a separate issue. If he is not getting his work done AND is trying to do other things, that needs to be addressed. But why lead this letter with the non-problem then? Unless he is never allowed to work/be trained on projects without written permission? If so, that sounds like an awful work place.

        1. Anna*

          He’s new and abandoning training to find something more interesting to him. When you are new to a job, you usually don’t have a good idea of how useful something is to you or not. Rather than actually getting used to the job he was hired and is being trained to do, he is deciding on his own about what he should train on before he’s up to speed on his role. That’s the issue. I’m not sure what is so confusing about this.

          1. Confused*

            I mean, if he is literally skipping out on his training sessions or not completing his work, that sounds like the real issue, not that he’s decided to learn something else. The letter was worded confusingly IMO – if the real issue is that the guy is skipping his necessary work and being a jerk to others, what does the other guy even have to do with it other than that he’s somewhat involved?

      3. Commander Shepard*

        Absolutely! Everyone is weirdly jumping on this guy for doing what most places recommend – asking for help, showing interest in the work etc

    6. Lily in NYC*

      I was so turned off by OP1. All I got from that one is that everyone is sitting around gossiping about their new coworker.

    7. Duffman*

      I honestly can’t figure out how asking a different person for training falls into “hijinks” so the whole post has me confused.

      1. Someone else*

        I took as the boss told the guy “This week Taylor will train you on ABC.” Then on day two or three or whatever, the guy decides, meh, I’d rather not. Goes to Alex of his own volition and says “Hey Alex, would you train me on XYZ?” And Alex assumes boss sent the guy there for that, rather than guy having blown off Taylor. It is undetermined if the guy’s job ever would’ve entailed needing to be trained on XYZ at all, so best case sounds like he just took initiative in the wrong direction and jumped the intended order of his training. Worst interpretation is dude thinks he gets to just assign himself to whatever he wants, whenever he wants.
        I think that’s the debate in the office:
        Did he do a theoretically could’ve been reasonable thing through wrong channels/just completely misunderstood the norms for his new role? Or was he knowingly circumventing the process to see if he could get away with it? (or something in between)

        1. Confused*

          I mean, that’s an issue. I understood it as the guy was being trained, asked his coworker to be trained on something else in addition to what he was being trained on, and somehow that was an issue. Training can be slow sometimes and when your trainer has their job to do as well, you’re often left with a lull. If the guy is refusing to do his assigned training or work, that is an issue – not that he wants to learn something else.

    8. Student*

      Managers are not, by-and-large, punitive monsters. They’re people, and they’re more likely to be conflict-averse people than people who want to fire employees for minor issues, as far as I can tell. Telling managers about stuff concerning their direct reports is keeping them informed, not tattling!

      Tell the manager about it. Don’t ask for a specific action on it, but tell the manager. It was a weird thing, at minimum. The manager can then choose whether to shrug it off, look into it more, have a Discussion with Gumption Guy about workplace norms, keep more of an eye on Gumption Guy for other warning signs, or whatever the manager deems appropriate.

      The manager isn’t going to fire him over this. At worst (for Gumption Guy), the manager has an awkward conversation with him, and he gets mildly embarrassed at work, and he learns how training is supposed to work at this office. That’s… not really a huge deal. But it means you aren’t willfully withholding info that his manager needs in order to manage him correctly.

  6. nnn*

    For #3: If you are reluctant to ask for pronoun preference, you could also have a mandatory checkbox for title (Mr./Mrs./Ms./Miss).

    Also, in general, you can edit away from pronouns:
    – “Carol thanked Cory, then asked when a response was needed by.” (or, if you’re going to be pedantic about ending a sentence with a preposition, “…asked what the deadline for a response was.”
    – “Carol has been with Teapots Unlimited for 15 years and has been Cory’s counterpart for five years.”

    It does take some contortions, but it’s doable. I have a client for whom everything has to be written without pronouns, because in their official reports they deliberately do not mention gender to protect the privacy of people who have filed complaints and such, but they also strongly reject the singular they. It’s a challenge, but if you’re in a bind, it can be done and often doesn’t sound terribly unnatural.

    1. JamieS*

      This is just my own curiosity but does your client also require name changes, especially in cases of a fairly gendered name such as Sally, Robert, Jennifer, etc., or are there just no names involved at all?

      1. nnn*

        There are no names involved at all, since this is a context where people are protected by privacy laws and/or whistleblower laws, etc. People are referred to as “the complainant” or “the applicant” or “the respondent”, etc. If things get complex, they use”Subject A/Subject B/Subject C” The obfuscation of gender is just an additional privacy measure, to avoid disclosing any unnecessary information whatsoever about people whose privacy is to be protected.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I wouldn’t do a mandatory checkbox for title, since there’s an increasing number of people who don’t use any of those titles. If you’re going to add a field, you might as well go straight to what you want to know, which is pronoun.

      1. Usernames are hard*

        And also because ‘all over the world’ will include Europe and if you’re processing information about gender you will have to be GDPR-compliant. You’ll need to comply with a bunch of regulations if you want to use such a checkbox in Europe.

        1. Apollo Warbucks*

          Is there a higher standard needed for processing data about gender. I thought gdpr applies all personal data equally.

          1. MsSolo*

            Gender comes under personal data, which can be covered by consent, legal obligation, and a few other options. As you say, same as other personal data, like name and address. Sexuality comes under special category (which requires explicit consent), alongside things like political affiliation and disabilities. So gender doesn’t require anything more than the other personal data, but it does require the same kind of consent etc as the rest of the personal data, which means people need to know you’re using it alongside their names.

          2. Akcipitrokulo*

            Depending on context, gender could be sensitive personal data not just personal data.

          3. Specialk9*

            They were just saying that gender is one of those pieces of data that are considered “private” for EU citizens/residents, and thus you will have to use stringent privacy protections for that data. Which for a lot of people would make them go, ennh, never mind.

            Gender is also US private – PII -data, but even with LOTS of PII training I think most people don’t realize that. They think of religion, social security number, personal phone, mother’s maiden name, etc. But also the stakes are lower with PII than GDPR.

    3. Globetrotta*

      Using titles creates another layer of complexity for women that don’t want to be defined by their marital status.

        1. gisted*

          But Ms. also comes with it’s own set of connotations and baggage for women on top of the Miss/Mrs issue.

          1. Lumen*

            That’s true. I know that by choosing ‘Ms’ there is a certain subset that will sneer or roll their eyes and say to themselves “Ugh, a FEMINIST.”

            Or they instantly assume it’s ‘Miss’ because only a non-Mrs would use Ms. And many people still believe a married women going by ‘Ms’ is morally suspect. What is she hiding? Does she want people to think she’s single? Omg what a Jezebel. Etc.

            The whole thing is frustratingly fraught, and it shouldn’t be. Also, yes, it shouldn’t matter what a minority of idiots assumes about you based on your honorific, but… sadly, some of those idiots are in positions of authority and power.

            And as Dino adds: what about Mx? What judgements are made ahead of time if someone chooses or asks for that option? And what if the option doesn’t even exist?

            More *clap emoji* inclusivity *clap emoji* now *clap emoji*

            1. TheNotoriousMCG*

              I have to say – I’ve never been in a situation where I’ve felt like someone would thing ‘ugh a FEMINIST’ when I put Ms – but maybe it’s regional? I’ve spent most of my time in the Midwest/south regions though, so if that were to be the case I feel like I’d have run in to it. Have people honestly made moral assumptions if you pick Ms? That’s cray (also seconding the inclusivity emoji chant, that’s great)

              1. Temperance*

                FWIW, when I correct people that I am not Mrs. Booth, I do get it. I’m in the northeast, and from a pretty conservative area.

              2. Lumen*

                Well… I just said people have made those assumptions. I’ve sat there while people made these comments about women going by ‘Ms.’, and this was in the south/midwest.

                I hear you and I appreciate the support of inclusivity, but sometimes hearing the “that’s never happened to me!” response can be really demoralizing or undermining when someone is talking about an experience they’ve had. Even if you personally haven’t experienced it, or noticed it happening, that doesn’t mean it’s a rare occurrence or confined to a certain region/industry/etc.

              3. Blueberry*

                I’ve heard it, but not recently (I live in a liberal city but grew up in a fundamentalist church), and am hoping that attitude is disappearing.

                … well, I also saw some reactionary on the Internet grumble about ‘Ms.” the other day, but, well, reactionaries gonna react.

              4. PlainJane*

                I was wondering about that. I remember people making comments like that about, “Ms.” in the 1970s and 1980s, but I thought it was the standard now. I’m both glad and sorry to learn otherwise–glad to be better informed but sorry people still have an issue with women using a title that doesn’t indicate marital status.

              5. Anna*

                I think that’s less of a Thing now, but it used to be a Thing back in the day. I had a teacher in 4th grade (mid-80s) who was Ms. Bell and I remember my grandmother and dad and mom making tsk tsk noises about it.

                She was a lovely woman who didn’t believe me when I said my dad was born in the Philippines because I’m a white person. He was. It was on a Navy base. /end non sequitur

              6. Jennifer Thneed*

                I have heard plenty of people say that Ms is only for unmarried women, and that married women use Mrs. (Which is dumb and misses the point entirely, which is that marital status is beside the point.)

                Now, none of those conversations were recent because I stopped participating in them ages ago, but I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to hear that some pe0ple still say/think that.

          2. curly sue*

            Very true. There’s no such thing as an unmarked woman – every choice becomes a statement on how the person performs femininity rather than having any kind of true neutral state. (Same thing with wearing makeup vs not wearing makeup, etc.)

            1. Lumen*

              Skirts, no skirts. Heels, flats. Long hair, short hair. Jewelry or not. Pierced ears or not. Handbags and backpacks. The list is so very, very long.

          3. only acting normal*

            The baggage associated with Ms is ludicrous when considering the origin. Miss/Mrs/Ms are all short for “Mistress” which was originally an honorific for a woman with a skilled job or supervisory responsibility, *not* to do with marital status at all.
            (Shame it didn’t stay like that.)

            1. Jennifer Thneed*

              Ooh, TIL!

              I was going to disagree with you, but I went to check my facts first and I was wrong. Wikipedia tells us this: ” “Ms.” began to be used as early as the 17th century, … ” (and for the same reason we’re using it now).

        2. name*

          Unfortunately Ms is considered offensive / off in some countries and parts of cultures too. Not so much as it used to be but you’d be surprised. The last company I worked in adopted a firstname / lastname policy for all email signatures, business cards and company reports etc. They had a presence in about 49 countries and although there were some mixups in gender etc, these were usually treated as amusing and a lesson not to take things for granted etc. Apologies were routinely offered and usually accepted with grace. The firstname/lastname format was universally accepted and endorsed by employees who were consulted and even people with PHDs etc were happy not to have Dr as their title even tho they had earned it.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Wait, “Ms.” is offensive? I don’t want to derail, but would folks mind bringing this up in the open thread?

            1. Thlayli*

              Yes I could also do with some more info about this, I’ve never heard of the concept of Ms being offensive (or indicating someone is a “Jezebel” as mentioned above). I’ve only heard of it as the female equivalent of Mr as in it doesn’t signify married. i wasn’t aware of any “baggage” surrounding it and I’d like to know more.

              1. MsSolo*

                I know there’s some baggage around it being used by divorcees and widows, but I’ve only come across it once in real life where that’s been an issue (a friend had a form returned because she hadn’t provided her maiden name but had used Ms, which resulted in a very frosty phone call about what Ms actually means)

                1. Falling Diphthong*

                  Yeah, this is all stuff I might expect to encounter in a film set in the 70s, but no one has ever blinked at Ms. (Which I use, if it arises; it mostly doesn’t–I definitely find the no-blink defaults are Mr and Ms, with Miss or Mrs denoting an older person who is fussy about that so whatever, call her what she wants to be called.)

                  I also get a lot of “Miss Last-Name-on-Order” from tradespeople, in both New England and the Deep South, even though the context means they assume that I am married to someone in the family whose full name is on the order.

                2. Andraste's Knicker Weasels*

                  My goodness, what would they think about little old married Ms-me, who doesn’t HAVE a maiden name??

              2. Justcurious*

                When it was first used it was considered kind of a joke. It then became a thing and sort of signified your company was “progressive”. I would say younger people now eschew any gendered pronouns.

                1. MJ*

                  Yeah — I don’t know that I count as younger anymore, but titles I use in order of comfort:
                  – None at all

                  My pronouns are she or they, for what it’s worth. (That is, I’m equally comfortable being referred to as she/her or they/them.)I can see titles going out, honestly, as a wider range of gender identities come in and the culture changes in general.

                2. Not a Mere Device*

                  “Ms.” as a title is older than almost anyone commenting here–it dates back to the 1920s, and was first used to address women whose marital status was unknown to the writer. So, if the library had a book for “Jane M. Device” they might send a card to “Dear Ms. Device” rather than guessing. Women started using it for themselves, deliberately, to say “my marital status is irrelevant” in the early 1970s–anyone who is still resisting using it for other people is explicitly identifying as anti-feminist.

                  Also, I’m seeing forms with the options of Mr., Mrs., Ms., and sometimes Dr., but not “Miss.” Apparently more women feel strongly that they should be addressed as Mrs. than strongly prefer Miss.

          2. Engineer Woman*

            Really? Where in the world / in what cultures is “Ms.” offensive? It seems appropriate to use for someone who kept maiden name after marriage. Miss refers to unmarried women, Mrs. to be used with Married-surname and Ms. us used with Maiden-name (but married). No?

            1. Audrey Puffins*

              Miss = unmarried.
              Mrs = married.
              Ms = I’m female and my marital status is no one’s business but my own.
              People do have their own ideas of what Ms means (some people think it signifies a divorcée), but it really is just a female equivalent to Mr that keeps a woman’s relationship status private.

              1. TL -*

                Here in NZ – I’ve been told – Ms is used to denote being divorced.

                They also have Ms/Miss/Mrs noted on driver’s licenses.

                1. BeeJiddy*

                  As an NZer, I agree with your first point – I switched to Ms. after being separated and I know it’s a common association here. However, I don’t have my title mentioned on my driver’s license. Maybe it is something you can do but I have never seen it.

                2. Kat*

                  It is true that there is confusion and sometimes controversy around using “Ms”. People will think you’re a “difficult feminist”.

                  To be honest I am a difficult feminist! (Not difficult because I am a feminist, but someone who happens to be both difficult and a feminist – separately).

                  However I am a married woman and prefer to be addressed as Miss.

                3. TL -*

                  @BeeJiddy – oh, maybe I was told wrong, then. (I’ve only looked at one or two driver’s licences here.)

              2. Mookie*

                Well, not to all speakers, anyway, and it’s a difficult bias to excise out as an individual. I hear the tone some men of a certain age adopt when they “ms” people. Very pointed and buzz-y, emphasizing the zee / zed with big eyes, like they expect the woman they’re speaking to will get stroppy if she thinks even for a moment she’s being called “miss.” And then there’re the judgmental joker types, who play Let Me Guess? with middle-aged women, trying to determine which never bagged themselves a spouse or which is a black widow. (And then there’s the interwebs, where men without ‘nyms are their first or full or surname, but women, especially when they’re getting a dressing down, are always Ms Somebody.)

                As a woman in my 30s, this is why I resist the title, prefer the pronoun route, and go by my surname at work like all my colleagues do.

                1. Doodle*

                  Oh wow, that description of how some people say “Ms.” is dead on. It’s a real thing for sure.

                2. Thlayli*

                  I emphasise the zz when I say it. What’s wrong with that? How else u gonna distinguish it from miss?

                  I don’t widen my eyes though.

                3. Just Employed Here*

                  As a woman just out of my 30s who did a PhD when I was younger but didn’t continue my career in academia, I used to joke that I did it to avoid the Miss/Ms/Mrs question altogether.

                  And now I live in a society where titles are considered pretty archaic and there is only one third person singular pronoun anyway…

                4. Lora*

                  ” the tone some men of a certain age adopt when they “ms” people.”

                  Yeah, the appropriate response to such people is actually “You know what? Fk You”.

                  Grumpy old Ms Lora who has zero time for these a-holes.

                5. Andraste's Knicker Weasels*

                  @Thlayli: It’s not just emphasizing the zzz; it’s obvious over-emphasizing and the wide eyed look, usually with raised eyebrows and maybe a hint of a smirk. It’s like they’re issuing a challenge passive aggressively.

                  “(introduced) Nice to meet you, Miss Smith. (introduced).”
                  “Nice to meet you, Mrs. Robertson.”
                  “(introduced)(does eye/eyebrow thing etc) Nice to meet you, MIZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ Chandler (maintains eye contact)”

                6. Andraste's Knicker Weasels*

                  Ugh, messed the last part up!

                  “(introduced) Nice to meet you, Miss Smith.”
                  “(introduced)Nice to meet you, Mrs. Robertson.”
                  “(introduced)[does eye/eyebrow thing etc] Nice to meet you, MIZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ Chandler. [maintains eye contact]”

              3. Which Witch*

                That is not the universal understanding. It may be your intention when using it, but depending on culture, it can be understood to mean more than that.

              4. Scubacat*

                In my part of the world, it means that the woman is either divorced (a bad thing) or widowed ( a sad thing). It is not used to indicate n adult woman with no loaded relationship information. I have strong preferences about disclosing no information about my relationship history. So I don’t use titles.

            2. name*

              I’ve mainly found it can cause some problems in what I would consider repressive regimes and particularly where you are having to deal with government departments of those regimes. On one project that went for about a year that I was involved in, we were sent a list of words we were to avoid as it would ping internal IT filters etc. So you had to refer to ‘political unrest’ rather tan what was happening etc. While Ms wasn’t on the list we also asked to avoid it internally after a high up at the other end complained. I don’t want to make a list as people draw really xenophobic and generalised conclusions when it is usually people at the other end not wanting to get in trouble by breaching some arbitrary standard. But nevertheless it does occur, can cause offense and is nothing to do with Jezebel etc. This has strictly been in a professional setting and usually with people from multiple countries trying to avoid upsetting , offending etc other parties. Or getting them in trouble in times of ‘political unrest’ / regime change etc

            3. a good mouse*

              As a working adult (especially in a male dominated industry), I hate when anyone calls me Miss because it sounds so diminutizing, like I’m about to be called Little Lady. I have no interest in marriage, which shouldn’t define my title for the rest of my life.

              Luckily it really doesn’t come up much, outside of some registration forms. But when given the choice I always go with Ms.

              1. Catalin*

                On the flip side, same status (working adult female), I’m completely okay with being called Miss. In the US South, it’s a bit expected. In the UK, it’s a bit like ma’am. In fact, I believe the daughter of a baron is called the honorable Miss (Name). I’m personally content to be called Miss Catalin LastName, but I would not assume the same of a female peer.

            4. Hannah*

              I have only seen it with Women who have a social standing, and are usually very formal. I worked in a high end flower shop (bouquets, table settings, etc) in college and after for extra cash and the free take home flowers. This is the only place I have experienced it but also the only place I have really had a lot of contact with people who have that type of disposable income. For some women it is like saying their name wrong think lauren vs loren.

            5. Turquoisecow*

              I think some women would find it offensive to be addressed as Ms./Miss/Mrs. when they are, in fact, doctors.

              (Same is true for men, I think. Doctors tend to sometimes be quite protective of that title, given all the work it takes to get it, and being demoted down to Mr. or Miss, tittles that everyone is able to use, could be offensive. )

              1. Invisible*

                Not just “Dr.”, also titles like “Dean,” “President”, etc., so a mandatory title preference doesn’t really clarify gender. The general guideline I’m teaching my kids is you use the highest ranking title that someone qualifies for.

        3. Turanga Leela*

          I am fascinated by this discussion. “Ms.” totally solves the Miss/Mrs. problem for me, and I use it all the time—I’m in a conservative field, and when I write, all men are Mr. Lastname and all women are Ms. Lastname. I use Ms. for myself too (and will politely correct people who call me Mrs.). It’s so interesting to hear from everyone who sees baggage in “Ms.” or thinks that it connotes divorce or feminism.

      1. Dino*

        And not inclusive at all for nonbinary folks if OP’s org doesn’t offer a Mx. or other gender neutral option.

        1. NP*

          Exactly! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made myself be Dr. Nonbinary Person rather than be forced to put Ms. Nonbinary Person.
          Plus you have to make sure you include all of the lesser ones like Rev. as well. Seems more trouble than it’s worth.

    4. Good, Cheap, or Soon. Pick Two.*

      There are an increasing number of women who refuse to use Ms, Miss, or Mrs. The movement is particularly popular among women who have earned a higher degree, who go by Dr. First Last instead of Mrs. First Last. The push actually has a lot to do with eliminating this type of required field from forms used in professional settings because identifying gender in a professional setting tends to be a bad idea. The most common non-gendered form you run across is Mx.

      1. JamieS*

        Can someone with a professional title using that title really be considered a movement against using Ms./Mrs./Miss in general? Regardless of gender, if someone who’s a doctor uses the title Dr. that just sounds like someone using their proper title to me.

        1. Julia*

          It does. Although I guess some people think Dr. = default men, so female doctors would be considered subversive for using it instead of including information that states they’re definitely female?

          1. Thlayli*

            I cant imagine anyone has the attitude that is subversive for a woman to use Dr without including info for gender – what a strange concept. Have you encountered this or are you just guessing?

            I’m a female Dr and have never encountered issues using Dr except in Germany where a full title is “Mr Dr” or “Ms Dr” and even then it was just “I just need to fill in this box to give you a hotel room” not “I think you’re being subversive”.

            That aside, I really do think we should have a big discussion about titles on the open thread it’s so interesting seeing people’s different attitudes I had no idea any of this was such a big deal!

            1. Julia*

              I was really just guessing.
              Germans really love gendering everything – we also have giant issues with the title Ms. Not because we find it offensive, but because we did “neutral feminine title” differently. Until some years ago, you could be a Fräulein (Miss) or a Frau (Mrs.; also just means woman), until someone decided to use Frau for all adult women regardless of marriage status, as one would use Ms. in English. This means that the majority of Germans is convinced that every adult woman MUST be called Mrs. I’ve put (Ms.) behind my name in my email signature, I’ve told people I go by Ms. (before I got married and even after) and in most cases, it does not work. One person resorted to calling me Miss LastName instead. I’ve had the same problem with French speakers, where Mademoiselle seems to have been mostly replaced by Madame for everyone.

              1. Glowcat*

                Same in Italy! “Signora” (married) now seems to be default, as some think “signorina” is offensive as in “I’m sure you’re looking for a man”; I personally think it’s more offensive to assume I should be married, but, alas, my opinion was not asked.
                To complicate things further, we also have masculine and feminine versions for most words, including titles… in theory. Surprise, surprise, the feminine version of a lot of (high-level, high-prestige) work titles does not exist. Huge debate. People yelling on TV. People proposing absurd and offensive “feminine versions”. Meanwhile, the salary gap goes unnoticed…..

                1. Julia*

                  Apparently in French (according to one of my teachers), they call older women Mademoiselle to flatter them, as in “you look so young” – not sure how true that is for people other than my one teacher.

                2. Just Employed Here*

                  @Julia: Yes, I can confirm this. I’ve had to convince a francophone boss *not* to do this in German (calling an important woman, whose relationship status was unknown to us and not relevant for this at all, Fräulein “to flatter her”….).

                3. Julia*

                  @Just Employed Here: Wow. Good thing you did it, too. For those who don’t know, calling someone Fräulein in German these days is usually reserved for parents when their daughter is annoying them (“You come here this instant, Fräulein!”), kind of like a female German version of the word “buster”, so it would have seemed pretty insulting.

                4. the gold digger*

                  I asked my Mexican co-worker what “vato” meant.

                  “It means ‘dude,'” he answered.

                  “So ‘vata’ is a female dude?” I asked.

                  “What? No! There is no ‘vata!'”

                  Which is why I now call my female co-workers “vata.” (Even though I hate being called “dude.”)

                5. oviraptor*

                  Julia saying that Fraulein is used by parents to call their annoying daughter’s made me think back to being in school. Starting in 7th grade we could elect to take German class. As such addressing each other as Herr or Fraulein as part of learning the language. (This was a long time ago and Fraulein was still acceptable. Now I feel old… :) ) Anyway, one day in class we we’re divided up into groups of 2 and working together on some sort of worksheet. All of a sudden we hear (one of the nicest students in our grade/class – who happened to be male) exasperatedly exclaim to his (female) classmate “Nein, Nein, Freulein!”

              2. Myrin*

                I honestly think our issues with “Ms.” have anything to do with how we as Germans do it but rather with the fact that simply no one knows about “Ms.” being a thing; if pupils were taught in fifth grade, where you learn about forms of address in English, that there’s a way you can address all women regardless of marital status, I don’t think it would be much of a problem.

                1. Myrin*

                  Also, I had to smile at “until some years ago”, which makes it seem like this is a new development – it has actually been the official use since the early 70s (in the west, at least – Google tells me the east used it until Mauerfall-times).

                2. Julia*

                  I didn’t look up the exact year, that’s why. ^^; Plus old habits die hard for some people, so Fräulein was still being used inofficially.

                  I did think it was just not knowing the word “Ms.”, but that doesn’t explain the enormous amount of resistance I get every time I explain that no, I really do go by Ms., and it’s not polite to call me anything else other than my preferred title. Since I am sure people copy-pasted my name in emails (my maiden name was very hard to spell), surely they could have copied the Ms. part as well, and looked it up if they didn’t know it instead of insisting on Mrs. or Miss.

                3. Myrin*

                  @Julia, I also only know that because I’ve talked about it here before and looked it up back then. ;) (And also because I’ve spoken with my mum about it before and it was very obvious when it changed from one Zeugnis to the next.) I’ve thankfully encountered only about three people (I’m being literal here, I don’t think it’s been more than that) who in all earnesty tried to address me as “Fräulein”, which I find very lucky since I go berserk at it I hate it so much aaah

                  Anyway, now I’m not sure if I’m understanding you correctly – did you communicate with other Germans but in English? In that case, yeah, that resistance is just rude and not okay. (Although I also know plenty of folks who are like that with everything. “Oh, I don’t know this word? I MUST REJECT IT.” Literally seen it with technical equipment like no, dude, that’s the thing’s name even though you’ve never encountered it before, please use it so as to not confuse everyone else. Jeez.)

                4. Julia*

                  I must ask my mother about this, but she is in her sixties and got married very young, so she would have been called Frau anyway.

                  I don’t usually communicate with other Germans in English (only on this site apparently :D), but I worked somewhere with people who didn’t understand German, so sometimes one of the other Germans would talk about me as Mrs. XY, or I’d receive an email from another German-speaking person to the organisation, so they wouldn’t know I speak German. Does that make sense?

                5. Just Employed Here*

                  As a foreigner in West Germany in the mid-to-late 1960s, my mom was taught that you are Fräulein until you are either (about) 25 or married, whichever occurs first.

              3. Thlayli*

                Haha that makes sense – I wondered why she just asked if it was Herr or Frau and left out the Fraulein.

                1. Thlayli*

                  I mean… I wondered and assumed that Frau meant Ms nowadays not just Mrs – glad to know my assumption was the correct one

              4. Environmental Compliance*

                On a slightly related note in the use of the word Frau….

                On a high school trip to Germany, one of my classmates was asked if he wanted to go on a train trip to a neighboring town to sightsee with a couple of the guys from our exchange class. He told them he’d have to ask his Frau, because he thought that Frau meant Teacher.

            2. Academic Addie*

              I’ve encountered it a little bit in the deep south, where there’s cultural preference for referring to women as Miss FirstName. But it’s more surprise that I wouldn’t prefer the obvious honor of being referred to as a lady, and would prefer to be referred by my title. It’s not meant unkindly (but I’m still Dr. LastName).

              1. Tuxedo Cat*

                I’ve encountered this multiple times in the Northeast (female faculty are called upon as “Miss! Miss!” whereas male faculty might be referred to as “Last name! Last name!”) and even among my partner’s family. They somehow remember he’s a PhD but forget I’m one (or forget that I didn’t take his last name).

                1. Academic Addie*

                  I think that’s a little different – that seems like outright sexist disrespect. But in the Deep South, there’s a tradition to refer to all women older than you or in a position of power over you as Ms. FirstName. It’s certainly a sexist tradition, but the type of benevolent sexism where the person doing it really believes they’re being respectful. It makes it hard to correct, because students tend to be mortified that there’s something (being called my actual title) that I would prefer, and would consider more respectful.

    5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I would lean against requiring people to check a title box, but I like the idea of an optional field that requests a person’s preferred pronouns and allows that person to fill in their pronouns. Some folks have it in their signature, now, but that trend doesn’t seem to have yet mainstreamed.

      But I also agree with Alison that the notes sound waaaay too detailed, and some of this may be fixed by just hitting the main points.

      1. NP*

        Really anything gender-related is better with a field rather than a check box. You’d think you’d included them all and then you get an employee who, say, uses xie/hir pronouns *or* they /them, and that is when you realize that on the form you make them choose only one and xie/hir isn’t one of the options.

        1. Akcipitrokulo*

          Or if want to have options – have radio buttons:

          (.) he/him/his
          (.) she/her/hers
          (.) custom [free text field]/[free text field]/[free text field]

      2. Dweali*

        Not to derail too much further but how does the email signature look when people put in their preferred pronouns? Something like “Sandy Doolittle (she/they)” or listed differently?

        1. atalanta0jess*

          mine is like this:
          My Name, Credentials
          Pronouns: she/her/hers
          Contact info

        1. rldk*

          YMMV, but in my experience it is always clear when someone is seriously responding versus not. Even if it’s a less common pronoun like xe/xir/xirs (rhymes with she/her/hers), usually it’s presented like this, with no additional fanfare unless it’s an explanation of pronunciation. People who ask for things like the link you shared are almost exclusively cis folks who are being obnoxious and not taking it seriously.
          The line is only what you consider “outlandish”. If you consider xir outlandish, then yes I’d say there are some ‘outlandish’ pronouns you should unequivocally entertain.

          1. Czhorat*

            “What if someone wants to be called your majesty” is the pronouns version of “I identify as an attack helictopter”. It’s deliberately choosing to be abrasive to push back against a marginalized group merely seeking to be addressed with respect.

            1. Specialk9*

              This exactly. People who have seriously considered suicide over gender identity don’t generally pull nonsense like this – it’s generally people in a place of privilege.

              It’s like when white people insist that it’s fine to use the N-word or criticize the hair of POC even after being educated on why it’s so painful and fraught. Because sometimes taking 3 seconds to think about someone else’s struggles and pain is just too hard.

        2. A Nickname for AAM*

          I think this also seems like an HR nightmare, honestly. Custom pronouns are going to take a while to get the hang of for even the most well-intentioned people, but if you promise that all custom pronouns will be honored and then people make errors, it seems to be opening your company up to HR complaints.

          1. tusky*

            I’m honestly puzzled by this argument. People change names all the time–when getting married or divorced, or requesting to go by “Jim” instead of “James”–and nobody seems to question whether that is reasonable. Why are personal pronouns any different? Plus, choosing not to honor personal pronouns out of the desire to avoid HR complaints is just opting for a different kind of HR complaint (it’s like telling someone, “I’m afraid I won’t pronounce your name correctly, so I’m just going to call you ‘that guy’ instead”–how is that any less offensive?)

            1. Blueberry*

              I wrote a long comment and accidentally lost it, so I’m just going to heartily agree with yours.

          2. Blueberry*

            As the saying goes, “even a dog knows the difference between being kicked and being stumbled over”. A simple mistake is not going to get someone complained of to HR; deliberate continued hostile misgendering which *would* get reported to HR is the same sort of continuing hostility which already gets reported to HR in other contexts (and which reportage is often pushed back against with similar “what if” arguments, along the lines of “but what if he makes a mistake and she *thinks* he’s hitting on her, so it’s safer to not har rules against sexual harassment” or “but what if he makes a mistake about what language the other guy speaks, so it’s safer to not investigate complaints of racism,” and so on).

            Besides, the alternative is deliberately misgendering people. Leaving aside the ethical reasons not to do so, I don’t think it would be good business.

          3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I think it falls under the “things that express respect and require very little labor/effort to achieve” umbrella.

        3. tusky*

          I would turn your question around: why shouldn’t we refer to someone with whatever moniker they request? What exactly is the harm in referring to someone as “his majesty”?

        4. Blueberry*

          I would rather deal with one disingenuous twit who says he wants to be called “Your Majesty” than hurt and drive away multiple people by deliberately misgendering them.

        5. NutellaNutterson*

          But “His Majesty” is an honorific/title, not a pronoun. So that belongs back in the “choose between Ms./Mr./Captain/Monsignor” list of terms that comes before a name.

    6. Alton*

      As a non-binary person, I’m not a huge fan of being forced to select a title because it almost always have to select a binary option. Very few forms have Mx. as an option.

    7. AnneNotCarrots*

      This wouldn’t matter as much in an ordinary workplace, because I’m not sure how many employees it would I apply to, but I don’t go by Miss/Ms/Mrs because I’m The Reverend AnneNotCarrots.

    8. MsSolo*

      I think it’s less relevant here, but face to face (especially in a customer service position) asking someone for their preferred title can be a good way of establishing someone’s preferred pronouns if you have a suspicion that asking them outright could set off a transphobic rant and trigger other members of the public. Nine times out of ten they’ll say “you’re majesty” and you have to laugh like you’ve never heard the joke before, but you can pass it off as checking if they’re a Dr and avert the impending crisis that could leave other customers in tears all over signing someone up for a store card.

  7. heckofabecca*

    OP2: I’m a very light sleeper too. If you want to do more to offset your roommate’s noise: earplugs and/or white noise? I recently went on vacation with my mother, who snores, and earplugs were a lifesaver. However, they can be a pain to wear (literally… small ear problems!). The white noise app on my phone helps smooth out stray noises (car going by…) that would otherwise wake me up. Not sure how much good it would do against actual music though.

    You seem very nice! Good luck and I hope you’re able to get to a good solution!

    1. GlitsyGus*

      I use the moldable silicone ones. They are way more comfortable for small ears, as well as to not have something poking weirdly into the side of my head while I sleep.

  8. Diamond*

    A roommate playing music for an hour or more while I’m trying to sleep would rage-inducing! That’s incredibly obnoxious. You can definitely tell him he needs to wear headphones, as he should have been doing all along.

    1. Mad Baggins*

      I am similarly baffled at the assumption that anyone would play music if they got up earlier than whomever they’re sharing a sleeping space with. Unless you know for a fact they sleep like the dead and have no problem with you moving around, the default should be “be as quiet as possible while others are sleeping.” Nobody *needs* to listen to music without headphones!

      1. Myrin*

        Yeah, I’m astounded that apparently he… just did this? Like. What is the rationale here? Is he completely oblivious to normal human interaction?

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          The number of people I have known who make noise while others are sleeping without concern for those others is large enough that it shouldn’t continue to astound me, yet it does.

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Yeah, I call BS on him having to have the music on while he’s getting ready. I guarantee you that if he was in a room with, say, a six-month-old baby that he was the caretaker of, instead of with OP, he would’ve somehow managed to get his teeth brushed without the music.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I totally agree with Alison—there is really no volume that is “respectful” if it’s morning hours and your roommate is asleep. He should wear headphones, and if OP can tolerate them, OP should try out earplugs.

      And if your company is going to make you room with coworkers, they should help facilitate the process by soliciting preferences re: noise/lights, lights out, lights on, etc., so that it’s easier for coworkers to find someone who matches their rooming preferences.

      1. Jen S. 2.0*

        All of this. In the moment: “Jason, I’m planning to sleep in a little more. Can you use headphones until about 830? Thanks.” Company should also solicit sleep preferences to help find compatible roommates.

        1. Czhorat*

          THe company shouldn’t assign roommates in the first place.

          If you’re sending me somewhere for my job, pay for me to have my own private room.

          1. LovecraftInDC*

            Agree with that completely. I’d happily go from the company-standard 3-star to a 2-star if it meant having my own private room. I’m a pretty social person, but I definitely value my alone time. (Grew up as a latchkey kid, college dorms were miserable for me and even after I got married we definitely had to establish complimentary sleep schedules so I could occasionally just be alone).

            After 8+ hours of conferencing or training or working, it would kill me to have to continue to be “on”.

          2. GlitsyGus*

            That is ideal, but for smaller companies, like when I was working with small, nonprofit arts organizations, it isn’t always possible from a budget perspective.

    3. Artemesia*

      I chortled at the idea he was playing it ‘respectfully’ — hard to imagine a bigger FU than me playing music in a shared room while my roommate is trying to sleep. It is either a hostile or narcissistic act. ‘His need’ for constant noise? Puhleeze.

      1. Sugar of lead*

        Well, I have SPD and I’ve learned that other people’s need for constant simulation trumps my need not to be in pain, every damn time. There was a letter a while ago where a new hire didn’t like the music being played in the office. Everyone really roasted her in the comments when all I could think of was a job I left after a month because the noise hurt too much.

        Yeah, this doesn’t surprise me at all.

        1. Thlayli*

          I sympathise with your situation but the two circumstances are not at all comparable. Playing music in an office during working hours is not at all the same thing as playing music in someone’s actual bedroom while they are actually trying to sleep.

          1. Jack Russell Terrier*

            They are different, but that doesn’t make playing music in an office ok. When as a society did we decide that sound, constant sound anywhere, was fine and those who don’t like are strange. I think it is entirely reasonable for me wish that I am not to be forced to spend all my workday with someone else’s music choice. Why is silence such a problem? It should be the default and those who wish music, white noise etc should be the ones to wear earphones – then they get to listen to what they want.

            1. Allison*

              Right. I love music and podcasts, they help isolate me from my environment and help me focus, most of the time. However, it’s my noise, that I choose and control. If I had to listen to someone else’s music choice, that I had no control over, that would be quite different.

            2. Millennial Lawyer*

              You would have hated my former job. It was very very dull repetitive clerical work (think alphabetizing) and headphones were NOT allowed under any circumstances. Thus, there was one radio which was set to an easy listening station that played the same songs every day. When summer temps came, they would always try to change it to the rap station and it would cause huge drama.

            3. Retired accountant*

              But there is rarely silence in an office, and music softens the impact of conversations, sneezes, squeaky chairs, etc.

              1. the gold digger*

                I would rather have conversations, sneezes, and squeaky chairs (even slappy shoes) than forced music.

                1. I am pretty sure I hate everyone else’s music because everyone else has really bad taste
                2. I cannot concentrate with music playing

      2. Gazebo Slayer*


        (I’m also baffled by the idea that there are people who leave the TV on while they sleep. I despise TV-as-background-noise even during the day, but while sleeping…?!)

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          I dated some of those people. They literally cannot fall asleep unless the TV is on. There are a lot more of them out there than one would think. Reason number 99537237 why I stopped dating and trying to find a partner.

        2. Anon for now*

          I can’t sleep if it is completely quiet. I get caught up in my own thoughts. I need something to focus on that gets me out of my own head. At home, that is putting on a rerun or movie I have seen before that is interesting enough to keep me from thinking about everything I have to do but not engrossing enough to keep me awake. If I am sharing a room with someone, it is an audiobook with headphones.

        3. rldk*

          I’ve noticed this with people who grew up in urban areas – they’re so used to sleeping with background noise that now there is such thing as “too quiet”.
          I grew up in the woods (aka Very Silent) but have lived in an urban area for almost 7 years, and I find myself struggling to sleep when I visit my parents. Not to the point of needing a TV on, but it takes longer.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            I did grow up and spend most of my life in urban areas, and I agree that I sleep better with the noise of cars, freeway etc in the background.

            An ex lived a few blocks from the train tracks (freight train, not a subway) and I LOVED the sound of a train in the night. It felt very calming to me, possibly reminding of the overnight train trips I’ve taken as a kid and college student.

            But a TV is something I cannot do. I guess I can see your point that if I’d grown up with people standing outside my window talking into the wee hours in the morning, I’d have to have that background noise. But thankfully, it wasn’t done when I was growing up; not as a regular occurrence, anyway.

            1. nonymous*

              I wouldn’t be surprised if the TV thing was more about how the household operated as the individual was growing up. For me, it was that bedtime was ~8P (and then 9P and 10P as I got older), but on the other side of the wall someone was watching TV loudly until ~1A.

            2. Gazebo Slayer*

              I grew up in the quiet woods but now live in the city; I’m used to traffic and trains going by every ten minutes, but the sound of someone talking in the same room – whether live, TV, or radio – keeps me awake and drives me nuts. I grew up in a house with news/talk radio as background noise and even as a kid I found it irritating and would turn it off if no one was in the room. (It wasn’t on late at night, though!)

    4. Alternative Person*

      This. If you’re a noise in the morning person, you either suck it up or you use headphones. You don’t disturb the person you’re sharing with.

      1. Allison*

        Right, this is something most people learn in college, if not before, but then again, some people manage to never share a bedroom with another human until adulthood – no sleepaway camp, no shared bedroom in college, no siblings they have to bunk with while on vacation. Must be nice.

        1. the gold digger*

          I listened to that podcast from San Quentin. They talked to some death row inmates. The death row guys said, “Yeah but at least on death row we don’t have to share cells.”

          1. GlitsyGus*

            I love that podcast! The episode on how important, and how difficult, it is to get a good cell mate was great, and reminded me way too much of college dorm life. Not that I ever wanted to go to prison, but after that I had yet another reason to avoid it.

    5. Thlayli*

      This! How someone can assert that they “need” music is beyond me! He enjoys music and that’s fine, so do most people. He enjoys it more than most, that’s fine also. But use flipping headphones! I have never met a music lover who didn’t own a fancy pair of headphones. And you can buy cheap ones very easily.

      This is a case of “your rights end where someone else’s rights begin.” And in this case OP’s literal need for sleep far outweighs roommate’s bizarre desire not to wear headphones.

      1. Nanani*

        Wrong. I need white noise of some kind to sleep any sort of soundly, and often use music for it when a fan is either unavailble or unacceptably chilly.

        Not everyone sleeps the same way.

        This doesn’t change the fact that “needs quiet to sleep” ought to be prioritized and the other guy needs to use headphones, but just saying that “nobody NEEDS this because I don’t get it” is bullshit.

        1. Millennial Lawyer*

          Nanani, that’s not the situation here. He says he “needs music” when he’s AWAKE and getting ready! “He really enjoys/needs sound throughout the day.”

        2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          OP’s roommate said he needed the music to get ready for work, though, not for sleeping.

    6. sunshyne84*

      I really want to know what music they are playing and exactly how loud. That would make a difference to me. Maybe they could play soft waterfalls or piano. I think I could manage to sleep through that. At least it isn’t a blowdryer…

      1. Lora*

        Oh, word. Music I can often snooze through, but the screaming noise of a blow dryer makes my head explode.

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        If they started playing the sound of running water, I might as well get up, because there’s no way I am sleeping through that.

  9. Mad Baggins*

    OP 4: Someone did this on the Office, if you want a barometer for how bad this would be. (It did not go well and definitely burned all the bridges with current employer)

    1. Beatrice*

      I did it when I applied to my current job. It wasn’t a promotion, though, it was just an off-schedule raise, and my new job was a transfer within the same company. I had just completed a major project that went very well and was highly, highly visible. I simply said that I’d applied for the transfer instead of staying in my current job and asking for a mid year raise based on my hard work on the project, and the last time I’d gotten a mid year increase, I’d gotten D%, so while I appreciated their offer for a B% raise, I was hoping we could do something closer to C%. It might have been a misstep, but I got most of what I asked for – New Job really, really wanted me.

      1. anonymouse*

        But you (and I) already got the raise. In my case, I got a letter saying “Thanks to your performance we’ve decided to raise your salary to X starting next month.” And I used this fact – but not the letter itself – as a basis for my salary negotiation with the new company.

        OP#4 just has “we might maybe give you or one of these other 10 people a raise”.
        That’s a big difference.

        1. Mad Baggins*

          Exactly. Beatrice, I think your situation is quite different from the one in The Office and OP’s because (1) you’re matching a salary you already have (2) it’s the same company so your current salary is actually relevant.

          I’m thinking of when Regional Manager Josh leveraged his promotion at Dunder-Mifflin (which they structured branch closings around) in order to get a better job at Staples. So when they were ready to go public with the layoff news, he gave his notice and sent them scrambling. Sounds much worse than what you did!

    2. WeevilWobble*

      Josh actually had the promotion though. And he didn’t actually do anything wrong no matter what Jan and Jim think.

      1. Anon for now*

        I think they are talking about Dwight trying to get a raise based on the fact that he had a phone interview at another office.

        1. Mad Baggins*

          True, I forgot about that!

          To be fair, they restructured the entire northeast including office closings and layouts around him taking that promotion. So the fact that he took that promotion and marched it to a competitor as leverage is pretty scummy (I would argue it’s “wrong” but I suppose it’s not illegal or lawsuit-worthy).

  10. NextStop*

    “He… appears to believe that which he doesn’t understand is easy to accomplish.”
    I do not understand this mentality. If something’s so easy, why don’t you know it? Surely the reverse makes more sense (anything you don’t know is hard)?

    1. Mad Baggins*

      I know, this thought process is so easy to turn on its head. But I find that most people who think this way are a bit self-centered, and think that because they don’t see the difficulties and complexities of an issue, there must be none. They really struggle to see things from other people’s perspectives and tend to devalue others’ opinions, if they think about them at all.

      1. Anon for now*

        One possibility is that he knows the basic theory of how it is done but has never done it himself so doesn’t realize that looking easy on paper and being easy to accomplish are not the same thing.

    2. JamieS*

      I see two possibilities. Either the guy has a know-it-all attitude which often doesn’t make for a successful entry level employee or he’s learned other things related to the job easily enough so he’s assuming he’ll be able to continue learning new things at about the same level of proficiency.

      Also, you can’t really determine if something is easy or hard for someone to learn unless they’ve been specifically exposed to it. If they don’t know it due to lack of exposure that doesn’t mean it’s hard for them to learn. It just means they aren’t aware of it.

    3. PizzaSquared*

      Eh. I have certainly encountered things that I didn’t know, but could easily figure out on my own, while the powers that be thought it required extensive “training” to teach me. This guy does sound like a jerk, but it’s not unthinkable that people can quickly figure out or pick up things they don’t currently know. Surely not everything that I don’t know is hard. A ton of those things are easy but I just haven’t encountered them yet.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I think it’s the attitude that’s problematic—I have not yet met someone who had the mentality described who was not a bit of an asshole. I think we all end up having to learn things on our own that are relatively straightforward (or easier for us than our supervisors/trainers assume), but most people I know don’t come into a training experience assuming that it’s easy to attain competency on [any topic].

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        I think especially right out of school, people might be accustomed to being one of the people in the class (or training group at the ice cream stand job) who got it the first time it was explained. It’s an accurate observation on their part, but they don’t yet realize how limited the circumstances are under which they’ve tested that assumption.

      3. A Nickname for AAM*

        I worked with someone who would make up random specs and would get mad when someone couldn’t fit them.

        My favorite was when she wanted to hire a company photographer. “I want him to do 15 minute sessions to do headshots with each of the 15 employees, plus an hour or two of candid photos. I’d like this to take 2-3 hours and cost us about $100.”

        So she wanted to compress 4 hours worth of headshots into an hour, and pay about a tenth of the market value of the services, and then wondered why no photographer would “accept” her job.

    4. Jemima Bond*

      This concept is mentioned one of the Dilbert books as a pointy-haired-boss thing!
      Think along the lines of a boss saying to a client that of course we can rush you a dozen of our deluxe lustre-glaze teapots by tomorrow, because he doesn’t understand teapot manufacture and thinks you can get that speciality glaze done in just a couple of hours,
      My line manager does this. He’ll ask me to request information because “we must be able to get that!” but he doesn’t understand the legal restrictions so I have to try to explain that it’s a bit more complicated than that. I have on occasion failed to convince him and had to request the information and just wait for the request to be rejected. But any satisfaction of “I told you so” is cancelled out by all the time I’ve wasted and the annoyance that he doesn’t understand legislation he should!

    5. Alternative Person*

      I encountered something like this in the form of a retail manager a few years back.

      He didn’t learn (m)any of the various in-store processes and he didn’t think he needed to know them because he knew people who knew how to do them. It didn’t matter that not very many people actually knew how to do these processes or were not authorized to do them because they were low level retail people not supervisors, let alone managers, he simply assumed that because he knew people who knew them, they must be easy.

      For the most part they were, but some also fell into the category of the manager should really be handling it.

    6. Heynonniemouse*

      Honestly, it just makes me think that the guy has a great future in management ahead of him.

      1. Girl friday*

        Me too. Sounds like a forward, flexible thinker interested in many aspects of the company.

    7. Precisely*

      I’ve trained people with this mindset. First day of training “and now we do x,y, and then z…” interrupted to have the trainee point out “Oh but why don’t you do A instead? It’s much better/more accurate” without stopping to consider that if A was better/more accurate there is a very specific reason we are using other methods instead that aren’t someone who has been on the job a week and has limited understanding of our work processes has discovered the inefficiency in our process using only their gumption and know how.
      These are always the same people that overwrite my project time estimates (decreasing them significantly) and destroy my project timelines when they grossly underestimate the amount of time work tasks will take them.

  11. AcademiaNut*

    I’m in academia, where room sharing is common, with the added complication of trips involving extensive jet-lag. Listening to music without headphones (or sleeping with the TV on!) is definitely not appropriate when you are sharing a room.

    If it’s normal sleeping time (say, 10pm – an hour or so before work starts) it’s reasonable to use the washroom, flush the toilet and wash your hands, take a shower before going to bed or before leaving in the morning, gather your belongings to leave for the day, get a drink of water, listen to music with headphones that don’t leak sound, and use a screen (computer, phone), or read with a small portable reading light. At the borders of those times, I’d say it’s also reasonable to use the kettle or microwave, or a bedside lamp, but you shouldn’t at 2am.

    If your roommate is sleeping during the day, you can move around, but should try to keep the noise down. You can also make tea, organize your stuff, and use bedside/table lamps without feeling guilty. You avoid watching TV or make phone-calls (unless absolutely necessary). Taking your cellphone down to the lobby is a good option.

    In general, I’d say that things like watching TV or having guests in the room should only be done at the mutual agreement of the people sharing the room.

    1. Engineer Girl*

      I agree that pre determined quiet hours and shower schedules make for good roommates. Also agreed on lights out times. That includes the TV. You may also have to negotiate light levels in the room. Some people need full dark and some need a nightlight. Soft earplugs and a sleeping mask work wonders. I also have “sleep machine” on my phone that plays various comforting sounds.

      Playing music while someone is sleeping? Who does that? Ear buds give you both what you “need”.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        I figure that expecting complete darkness and total silence when sharing a room isn’t practical. Reasonable quiet and reasonable darkness are much easier to accomplish, and if you need it quieter/darker than that, you get out your earplugs and face mask.

        My most annoying roommate situation was someone who was up until the wee hours of the night, with lights on and moving around enough to keep disturbing me through earplugs, and then proceeded to sleep through the morning session.

        1. Engineer Girl*

          Expecting and needing are two different things. That’s why I carry a sleep mask and ear plugs.

        2. Mad Baggins*

          Or eating crunchy potato chips at 2AM.

          Then when we have to get up at 5AM, “Did I keep you up last night?”

    2. MLB*

      I will never agree with being forced to room with a colleague on a work trip. I understand it saves money, but if you’re on a work trip, your time in the room is for unwinding and since you’re not at home, you shouldn’t have to share that space. I had to share a room with a co-worker once at my last company and it was miserable (and we were friends outside of work). She goes to bed at 9, and I need tv to sleep. So we compromised and shut the lights off at 10 (I normally went to bed at 11 or later) and I left the tv off so it took me hours to fall asleep every night.

      1. nonymous*

        Academia is weird in this way. It’s pretty common for the travel budget to be a fixed amount ranging from $0 – X, with the expectation that staff will get additional funding to make up the difference from other sources such as the conference host, professional societies and, uh, the grant that pays their salary/stipend. Obviously if the travel expenses are coming from the same grant that supports salaries, every $1 spent on travel is a $1 that is taken from compensation. And since it’s difficult to know how much travel will cost in a given year, plus any institutional rules about travel expenses (which can end up inflating the cost of travel) and most people I know will just take the max salary/stipend and then pay for travel on their own. Plus the academic conferences I’ve been to are incredibly intense – people won’t stay for the whole conference, but on the days they are on-site it’s common to have networking activities until 10 or 11P – it can actually be more comfortable to share a room b/c there’s space to spread out and you can talk shop in PJs. Although getting a bunch of people together for an AirBnB house is an even better experience.

      2. PlainJane*

        I’m with you, but here in academia (at least in my little corner of it), most work travel is seen as a perk rather than a necessary evil. Conferences and workshops are often seen as mostly benefiting the individual employee rather than the employee doing what is necessary to keep skills current to benefit the employer as well as themselves. And of course money is always tight, and travel budgets are usually at the bottom of the budgetary priority list.

  12. Good, Cheap, or Soon. Pick Two.*

    OP #2, I admire your kindness and gentle nature. If someone had started playing music an hour before my alarm was scheduled to go off during a work trip, my professional reputation wouldn’t be the only thing at stake. I would be in the market for an alibi. Who does this? He just randomly fired up the sound system? There is no respectful volume on a sound system if there is another human being asleep in the room! The respectful volume is Off. I love music but I also know that you can get an amazing pair of noise canceling headphones on Amazon for under $50 bucks.

    1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

      I am stretching my role as devil’s advocate as far as it’s possible to go here, but I had a friend who “needed” music on in the shower where there is no other means for checking the time. 2 songs is the right length of time, any longer and there ran the risk of being no hot water for any other users (not a hotel issue – I hope!).
      I can’t help wondering if the shower itself would be enough to wake you if it’s an hour before alam time? It certainly has been in nearly every hotel I’ve ever stayed in – in which case, the music just becomes a means for keeping me awake, not waking me. (And I’m unlikely to be able to drift off for a decent rest in 45 minutes that close to getting up time)

      1. Alternative Person*

        It depends on how you sleep, especially in strange places. Even at my flat, I sometimes wake up early because someone is running a 6:00 am wash cycle or it’s raining very hard. In strange places, it’s ten times worse because I’m hyper aware of how everything is not how it normally is.

        1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

          Oh yes, that could even make it worse. Especially if the hotel walls are thin. I can’t see OP knocking on the doors of the adjacent hotel rooms politely asking THEM to keep the music at a respectable volume as well!

      2. Safetykats*

        I’m wondering what in the world your friend was doing in the shower that they couldn’t keep track of time? Because also just knowing how long it takes to wash/condition/shave/exfoliate should give you a pretty good estimate. No particular call to be losing yourself completely in a bathroom shared with a coworker.

        1. curly sue*

          Even if someone’s a shower daydreamer, there are little waterproof clocks you can suction-cup to the shower stall. We got one for my 10 year old when she was losing track of time in there.

        2. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

          Blind as a bat shower daydreamer.

          (I share the terrible eyesight problem – can’t shower with glasses on, can’t see a clock display without them, so I have a degree of sympathy. I admit I’ve lost track of time in the shower when I’m in pain and I just let the hot water soothe for probably longer than normal – never on a business trip though)

        3. LCL*

          Two songs and there wouldn’t be enough water left. That is not very much time. I would be hard pressed to take a not rushed, full cleaning including conditioning my hair in that length of time. Even if there was a clock I could see. That place definitely had water heater issues if a shower longer than 7 minutes would deplete the supply of hot.

    2. TheNotoriousMCG*

      I mean, it doesn’t sound like anyone had a sound system here. It sounds like the roommate had music on their phone at a low volume while they were getting ready in the bathroom. As a morning podcast-listener (and person who generally doesn’t like getting ready/doing mindless things without a podcast to listen to) I can get how that person would think the volume was low enough to not disturb their roommate and be wrong. It sounds like a fairly reasonable person was more disruptive than they intended, and that their reasonable coworker/roommate should have a short convo with them about it if they room together again.

    3. 5 Leaf Clover*

      Ditto. Being woken up triggers some rage chemical within me – I pretty much never feel angrier than when someone has carelessly disturbed my sleep. I doubt I would keep civil in this circumstance.

  13. neverjaunty*

    For OP #1, I would be hella side-eyeing Team New Guy. Reasonable people may disgrace about “gumption”, but add on his badmouthing and his attitude and his causing problems for somebody else, and then compare that with the utter excuse-making it takes to dismiss unprofessional conduct as “youthful hijinks”, as if the guy were an eight-year-old ringing doorbells and running away.

    Don’t think anyone needs Team New Guy’s permission to escalate, btw.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Yeah, I wasn’t bothered by the anecdote until we got to the point where New Guy is complaining to Coworker about the trainers. Anyone can make the first mistake re: training, although if New Guy tried to arrange it to shirk a prior responsibility, then it’s suspect. But the other wrinkles sound like jerkitis, not hijinks.

    2. 5 Leaf Clover*

      Haha, agree that it’s that ugly beast gumption rearing its head again. I just googled “seek out a mentor” and there are like a bazillion hits.

    3. Ozma the Grouch*

      I hate gumption SOOO much. And since I’ve become “management” I hate even more how people like this are suddenly being protected and not called out for their questionable behavior until it’s gone too far. OP #1. Please please PLEASE talk to his manager. They want to know. Even if this is just one blip that never ever gets repeated again and this kid turns out to be a stellar employee from here on out. Managers want to know about these things. This is insubordination. This is troublemaking. This is a person who is making other people, people of value to the company, feel bad. Management wants to know so that they can do their job.

  14. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#5, although it can be extremely frustrating, this is unfortunately the cost of doing business. And for better or worse, it’s often better to have someone leave early on, as it keeps you from investing additional resources beyond what you put into training.

    But trying to revoke payment or charge for someone else’s time or otherwise avoid paying the new hire who flaked is textbook wage theft. So don’t do it.

    Give her her final paycheck for the time spent in training, and send her a note informing her that her employment has been terminated for job abandonment (you don’t have to do the letter, but it will give you documentation for keeping track of your separation timeline for your records). Then put the person on a hiring blacklist, and feel free to share with others in the industry your experience with her (in as neutral a tone as possible). I’m sorry you were put in this stressful position. :(

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I recommend the letter with delivery receipt for the sole reason of having documentation to deny if she applies for Unemployment.

      1. TheNotoriousMCG*

        ^ Seconded. My HR Dept has a form no call/no show letter that gets created when someone NCNSes for a certain number of shifts in a row and a copy gets put in their file with the receipt of the certified mail attached to it.

    2. SophieChotek*

      Yep, agree with PCBH. Especially in entry-level service industries we go through so many employees that don’t make it past the initial few weeks of training. It’s unfortunate, but I think sometimes a job that seems “okay” or even “fun” from the outside ends up being more work than they anticipate. Better to lose them now, than deal with a bad employee that calls in sick, etc., a lot just because they don’t feel like working!

  15. Stellaaaaa*

    OP1: I have no idea how unique this is to my workplace, so filter this as you will, but I have a problem with people who try to make arrangements with other employees rather than looping a manager in from the beginning. That right there tells me that the newbie either actively didn’t want management to know, or he’s too tone-deaf to the basics of employment that he didn’t think management would want to know/probably find out anyway.

    People who get away with hiding things from management will keep doing shady things. Management needs to know that the newbie attempted to reassign himself without permission/instruction from the people above him. He thinks that peer-level coworkers will cover for him, while he’s pretty sure that approaching management and asking for a new assignment wouldn’t have been received well. There’s a reason he didn’t take this request to management. I would also worry about an employee that thought he could simply start working the assignment of his choosing, under the assumption that management would either be cool with it or never find out. Follow his thought process through to its natural conclusion and it doesn’t lead to anything good.

    1. Middle School Teacher*

      Yup. This letter really reminded me of the one where the person said they took initiative and got fired for it.

    2. Emily K*

      It could be just a difference in the environment employees come from, assuming they respond to correction.

      The cultural norm in my office is for the junior staff to coordinate directly with each other, and it is up to each junior staffer to keep their own manager appraised of what they’re working on, with who, and the junior can always pull in their own manager when they need a decision above their pay grade to be made, or need backup in resolving a conflict with another junior.

      Our general philosophy is that all work should be assigned to the lowest-ranking person who can be trusted to do it, and then that person is indeed trusted to manage the process and just provide their own manager(s) with status/summary updates unless they need more support. So “making arrangements with other employees rather than looping a manager in from the beginning” is exactly what we’re expected to do when we see work within our scope that needs to be done.

      We actually did have one manager a while back who tried to get everyone to CC him when assigning work to his direct report, and it just never stuck because it was so contrary to our culture that people tried but couldn’t remember to do it consistently. I could see the reverse situation happening at a more hierarchical company, where someone used to working directly with peers and only looping in managers when necessary wouldn’t think they were doing anything wrong or might initially have trouble breaking the habit.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        > It could be just a difference in the environment employees come from, assuming they respond to correction.

        Good point in general. As far as OP goes, this is his first job out of college, and it might be his first job ever. At most, he’s had the kinds of jobs you get as a teenager or college student.

        He has no excuse for this. This is classic entitlement at work.

    3. Grapey*

      My workplace is the opposite – we encourage cross team collaborations and get a sideeye-esque “…can’t you just ask him yourself?” if we go to our manager with that kind of request. Every workplace has their own communication style, and I think OP shares mine evidenced by how Coworker “learned a lesson about verifying assignments before proceeding.”

      Nobody verifies assignments at my job – that would be a huge waste of time if we all had to shift to a “make sure the other person actually can work with you” environment.

      1. Nita*

        It’s pretty normal in my office too, and would not raise any eyebrows under most circumstances. Unless, let’s say, the employee already has an assignment and they ditch that in favor of the self-selected voluntary training, which kind of sounds like what happened – but maybe the new guy was planning to do both?

    4. Confused*

      I think this is environmental – my manager wants me to actively work on projects and does not need me to ask permission. In fact, I’ve never worked anywhere where what OP1 did would be considered shady.

      1. Decima Dewey*

        Bur during training? New Hire may want to learn cool thing other coworker is doing, but there may be reasons their manager wants them to learn to do tedious but essential thing first.

  16. Lau (UK)*

    OP3. A singular they is a good option here, as well as if there’s any doubt about a person’s preferred pronouns. It can get a bit clumsy until you’re used to it, but gets easier with time. In emails you can edit til it makes sense.

    Full disclosure, I play roller derby, where in Europe we use “they” by default, and identify our preferred pronouns at initial meetings. My partner is also trans, and I’ve witnessed the distress caused by being misgendered.

  17. Tau*

    OP1: I admit that my opinion on this matter is that New Guy’s manager will know a lot more about his attitude, work ethic, and whether similar problems have cropped up in the past, and judgement on the matter from bystanders should probably take a back seat to informing the manager no matter what that judgement is. You don’t want to go “oh, he just didn’t understand professional norms” if manager has already had three private talking-tos with New Guy about not trying to get out of assignments he doesn’t like and told him the next time he does it he’s out.

    1. Stellaaaaa*

      Yep, a manager can’t identify a pattern of problematic behavior if no one brings incidents to her attention. If it’s a one-time thing or a lesson that is learned the first time, it’ll fade into the background soon enough.

    2. Myrin*

      Yeah, I don’t understand the regularly brought up (not in this letter in particular and not on AAM in particular, but in general) attitude of “Oh no, we can’t loop in Person’s boss unless we know for sure Person has done absolutely everything wrong and was 100% malicious during all of it!”.
      Person’s manager is presumably a human with a brain and a resonable amount of competence and thus can form thoughts and make decisions based on the information at her disposal; even if told something negative/alarming, she can decide whether this is part of a larger pattern that needs to be monitored or whether it was just a one-time misjudgment. It’s not like you’re going to doom New Guy to death via guillotine if you so much as mention your observations to his manager.

      1. Julia*

        I agree, but I also think that a lot of people probably have had bosses who told them “so what? Go deal with it yourself” (I had one) or who overreacted and almost fired the person being complained about. I’m not saying it makes sense, but it seems pretty understandable to me. :(

        1. Glowcat*

          I agree on the principle, but if this specific manager was such I think OP would have said so. It would be a good explanation for why New Guy Team wants to let this go.

        2. irene adler*

          Agree. I had a co-worker whom I had to inform when employees were not filling out the paperwork correctly. My doing so should have resulted in “gentle reminders” from her to the employees, reminding them to follow the paperwork rules. Nothing more.
          Unfortunately, she told me that her go-to response was going to be “defcon 1” no matter what. No intermediate steps. So no point in my letting her know what was going on.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        I never fail to be astonished that no tattling is a thing at work. It matters if Fergus didn’t actually do the safety inspection and just copied over the one from three years ago. Of that Bettina asked for her overload of assignments to be redistributed to everyone else on her team, then cried because none of her teammates would stop working to help her with a jigsaw puzzle.

        1. ArtK*

          My sons’ elementary school had a great rubric: ‘Tattling’ is to get someone in trouble; ‘reporting’ is to keep someone safe.

  18. Bea*

    I feel your pain #5 but there is never a reason to not pay someone for the hours they’ve worked for you, despite fact they cost you more in the end.

    Your reaction of wanting to withhold pay makes me wonder if there wasn’t a more personal reason the person flaked on you like that.

    I once quit after a week of training because the office was a nightmare but didn’t drag it out at all. I also was young and too full of anxiety from that hellish week to demand payment at all.

    The fact someone gave notice, then had exactly two weeks too train the person and that is the only person who can train the replacement sounds like the new person was possibly overwhelmed by whatever position this is. In all my years I’ve learned dropping into a role like that is not easily done by many of us. So I do wish you luck in finding someone to take over the job given the rough hand dealt.

    1. Stellaaaaa*

      This is just my experience so OP’s mileage may vary, but if OP doesn’t know that she legally has to pay an employee for training, that makes me wonder what else OP/her management team doesn’t know. Are workplace safety regulations not being followed? Are other wage laws being ignored? OP thinks it’s potentially legal to force this employee to pay the departing employee’s salary for that week. She actually thinks that the employee stole a week’s worth of free training (to what end? is she going to run to a competitor with a whole week’s worth of brand new skills?). That’s not a company anyone with options should be working for.

    2. Marzipan*

      It did raise some red flags for me that the OP’s company were so quick to want to do this.

      OP, it’s true that sometimes new employees do just flake out very quickly (and, if they’re going to, it’s arguably a good thing they get it over with). But if someone does leave this fast, there’s maybe a space to reflect on whether any aspect of their new-employee experience might have put them off in any way, and what could be done to fix that. What signals might a new employee be picking up about your workplace, and do those signals reflect the values and ethos you want for your company?

    3. Naomi*

      As Alison sometimes has occasion to point out, that’s not really what the notice period is for anyway. It’s not unusual for a departing employee to finish their notice and be long gone before their replacement is even hired. So while it sucks that the new hire flaked, having to train a new employee without the input of their predecessor is a really common situation OP should plan for in future.

    4. Rebecca*

      I wondered about this too. The replacement worker was hired, so evidently went through the interview process (?) and were deemed acceptable for the job. If anything, perhaps the OP could ask why the replacement quit so abruptly, if the OP is interested in making the next replacement successful.

    5. NP*

      I’m also unaware of much training that’s truly useful and valuable outside of the company given during the first week at a job. Like most of it is, hey, here’s the copier, and this is our file system, and here meet A and B.
      Even in the best scenarios, you just learn how the system *should* run and not how it actually runs, or how to fix it when it breaks.
      And a good interviewer should be able to suss out whether your experience is a week working with Filemaker Pro vs six months on a project or 5 years of experience working with it daily.
      The OP is flattering themselves if they think they were bestowing a thing of great value worth charging for.

      1. Antilles*

        Agreed. In every industry I’ve ever heard of, the ‘training’ you get in the first week is usually pretty company-specific and/or generic enough to not be particularly useful on its’ own.
        I think the OP is more frustrated than anything else – we spent a week teaching Jane the timesheet system and our copier and the basics of how we write reports…but she left and now we need to start over from square 1 with our next hire. Which can be frustrating, but is also part of the deal with running a business – people leave at inconvenient or unexpected times; you just need to make sure everything is efficient and streamlined enough to handle the curveballs.

  19. Jemima Bond*

    LW#1, that is the sweetest kindest way I can imagine of saying “I share a hotel room with a coworker sometimes and they are noisy and I considerate, what can I do?” It’s absolutely reasonable not to want music or the tv on whilst you are trying to sleep!

  20. Al who is that Al*

    #2 – I’m dismayed to find that you work for a company so cheap you have to share hotel rooms, it’s only the norm as long as people accept it.

    1. Non-Prophet*

      Sharing a hotel room with coworkers is something I hope I never have to do. But in some industries (higher ed, certain non-profits), it’s very common. I’m not saying that it’s right the right way to treat employees –I don’t think it is — but just explaining that room sharing could very well be common practice across the industry, and not just for OP’s particular employer.

      1. MakesThings*

        Firstly, I love your user name, and secondly- yes, this is normal in the non-profit sector that I have seen. In one well-known organization, I’ve heard of director-level people sharing rooms.

    2. MLB*

      I pretty much said the same above. I had to do it once, the co-worker was a friend and I still hated it. We had vastly different sleep schedules and if I don’t have the tv on to fall asleep it takes me hours because I can’t turn my brain off. Not to mention when you’re on a work trip, the time in your room is time for unwinding and you should be able to do it in private.

    3. ambivalent*

      Is sharing a room with a coworker so unusual? I work for a very large (for-profit) company with amazing benefits in general. When we go on normal work trips we get our own rooms, but for department offsites they make us share rooms. Probably because there are ~100 people in a department and they can’t find hotels where they can block out that many rooms? The VPs get single rooms I think. I don’t like it, but I thought it was normal even for companies that treat employees well. Isn’t it? Is it really so weird and cheap to do this? Not sure because my only other experience is in academia, where sharing is certainly the norm.

  21. Agnes*

    I’m a little taken aback by the idea you have to change clothes in the bathroom. I occasionally share rooms for conferences ( academia), and I don’t parade around in the nude or anything, but I just change clothes by the closet or suitcases.

    1. Which Witch*

      I would do that when sharing a room with a friend, but not when sharing with a colleague. Unless they had already dressed and left and were not coming back any time soon, I suppose.

    2. Anne Elliot*

      I came down here to say that too! It struck me that changing in the bathroom was dropped in there as an aside, something it’s “obvious” you do, and I thought, “I don’t do that.” (Should I?) I don’t travel for work but I do travel regularly with close non-family friends (same gender) and the group of us share hotel rooms, changing up who stays with who on various trips. In my experience, it’s a given that you don’t put your kibbles and bits on display. Beyond that, you do the hotel room dance, where when one person goes is in the bathroom the other person deals with underwear, or when you rummage through your suitcase/intently put on your makeup if your roommate is changing her bra or sitting on the side of the bed facing the other way probably changing undies. I wouldn’t care in the least if a roomie wanted to go into the bathroom in pajamas and emerge fully clothed, but I would assume they were unusually modest (totally fine!) not that they were observing the understood protocol. Are we out of touch?

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        I have no problem stripping down in front of friends/family, but wouldn’t in front of a colleague. They’re in different groups for me, and I am a different person for both – Friend EC has no problem with nudity or helping with a complicated formal bra situation*, but Colleague EC would like to maintain a specific professional image, and that image doesn’t include me clumsily dancing in my undies trying to put my pants on and not fall over.

        *shout-out to the friend who buttoned me in and out of my wedding dress a ridiculous amount of times so I could breathe

      2. Lindsay J*

        Close friends is way different that coworkers.

        I would be really surprised if a coworker stripped down to her bra and panties while I was in the room. I wouldn’t be upset or offended in any way. I mean, I did drum corps in high school which involved group showers with a bunch of people that were varying levels of acquaintances. But I would think it was a bit odd that they were just going to not observe the general custom of not showing your underwear or private parts to a coworker.

        I would absolutely not think that they were unusually modest for using the bathroom.

        Then again, I find the idea of being forced to share a room with a coworker odd to begin with.

        A friend, especially a close friend, is a totally different story. I would barely think about it.

    3. Courageous cat*

      Yeah, although for me it totally depends on the person. The main coworker I’ve travelled with (a male, and I’m female) I could change in the same room as with no issues, although it wouldn’t be directly in front of him or anything. This is because we were good friends in general.

      I have also shared rooms with females that I am not close to and I would change in the bathroom or wait until they were taking a shower or something.

    4. Tableau Wizard*

      I’m going to be sharing a room with a colleague for a conference in July. It’ll be my first time sharing a hotel room with a coworker and we’ve only known each other for a couple of months. I 100% will be changing in the bathroom every time.

      I also will probably be packing specifically to make this as easy as possible.

      1. OP2*

        Yes—I 100% think that changing in the restroom should happen on work trips unless both parties have specifically said they’re ok with it and even then I would feel wary. (And this is from someone who has no issue whatsoever changing in front of family and friends.) In the age of sexual harassment and cell phone cameras, I think changing in private protects both parties from being taken advantage of on lots of levels. Even though I adore and trust my corworkers, to me, changing in the restroom is an easy action that could prevent a potentially awkward or horrible situation.

        1. Invisible*

          I think it’s a rude way to occupy a single bathroom that 2 or more people are supposed to share for bodily functions that require a bathroom, but we can agree to disagree. I know I’d be pretty annoyed if I desperately needed the bathroom in the morning (to pee) and someone was changing in it instead of changing outside the bathroom while I’m in it and therefore can’t see them anyway (or instead of under the covers in their bed if they really wanted privacy).

          1. Drew*

            That’s what this new-fangled invention called the “knock” is for. “Hey, I need to use the terlet; are you going to be much longer?”

          2. Kate 2*

            Seriously you can’t hold it for 5 minutes from start to finish?? Or knock, as Drew says and they can wrap a towel on and let you have the bathroom. I think it’s incredibly rude to expect someone to undress in front of you just in case you MIGHT have to use the bathroom for the EXACT SAME 5 minutes they are in there.

    5. nonegiven*

      Yeah, don’t take up time in a shared bathroom to change clothes. Put on your underwear and gtfo of the way.

  22. MondayAnon*

    LW2-You sound incredibly kind and accommodating, but you also deserve to get the sleep you need. Especially on work travel, which is already so exhausting. I’m curious which industries consider hotel sharing the norm. I work for a non-profit think tank and we are expressly forbidden to share hotel rooms.

    LW3- I would think a quick Google search would be helpful in this situation. I send a lot of cold emails for research, and if I am ever unsure I try to find a LinkedIn profile or something else related to the person. Maybe google “name, company/industry” and see what you find.

    1. TheNotoriousMCG*

      I work for a large national food and beverage company where managers frequently go on support trips to other properties for large events and it is the norm to have roommates. Especially for some events that we do, we’re competing with attendees and spiked hotel prices for space, so it would be almost impossible to give everyone their own room.

      1. WellRed*

        We do events but have a hotel room block and preferred rate for attendees and employees.

        1. TheNotoriousMCG*

          I’m talking about events like the Kentucky Derby and the US Open. We have blocks of hotel rooms, but we also have hundreds of support managers to house

  23. kitty*

    OP2 – your coworker is being inconsiderate and rude. As Alison says, someone’s need for sleep overrides the other person’s wish to “enjoy” sound.
    P.S. No-one “needs sound”, so you can ignore that piece of BS justification from your coworker!

    1. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize*

      I stopped sharing hotel rooms with a friend who needed complete silence in order to sleep. She unplugged the mini fridge, TV and anything that made noise. If I got up in the night to use the bathroom, it woke her. These days I suggest noise cancelling headphones for her because it’s her issue not mine.

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        I think there’s a difference between unplugging everything in the room for quiet and simply wanting your coworker to stop playing music early in the morning.

      2. Tardigrade*

        That’s taking it to an extreme that most people (who merely expect reasonable quiet, not actual “complete silence”) would not.

      3. Courageous cat*

        Ooof, I can’t imagine that. I have to have some white noise (ideally an AC or fan running), I cannot imagine what it’s like sleeping in total and utter silence.

        1. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize*

          She was an only child, they lived in the country and her parents didn’t believe in having a TV and were always reading. It was a very quiet house. I on the other hand can and have slept through medical emergencies, involving paramedics, ambulances and lots of commotion. Silence keeps me awake.

    2. SKA*

      I also prefer to get ready for the day with music playing, but my husband is usually laying in bed while I’m in the bathroom (one thin wall away) getting ready. He is *awake* and I am *married* to him, and I still feel like it would be rude to play music.

      I can’t imagine having the nerve to play music while a coworker was sleeping in the same room.

      1. Kat in VA*

        I’m in the same boat. My husband showers at night, I shower in the morning, and I generally get up a full hour earlier, although we leave at the same time. I very much like having music to listen to while I put on my makeup and I very much use my BT headphones. I don’t play music while I’m showering, either – although I will if no one is sleeping. That’s just being courteous and I’ve been with him for 30 years! No way would I EVER inflict that on a coworker. If for some reason I forgot my headphones or whatever, I’d just suck it up and play music in my head or whatever. That guy is just plain *rude*.

  24. Alton*

    #3: One benefit of asking for pronouns is that if you do end up seeing one of these people or hearing their voice, you don’t have to make a judgment call about whether Stacy is a man with a “feminine” name and you’ve been misgendering him or if she’s a woman who has a deep voice. Situations like that can be especially awkward for trans people, and once someone gets it in their head that they’ve been misgendering you and that you’re “really” a different gender than they initially thought, they always seem to get really confused when you try to explain that they had it right the first time.

  25. Bookworm*

    “Is there anyway we can charge her for her free training and wasting our time along with the person’s salary we paid to train her?”

    …really? I get that you’re out of a new employee and now no one to do the work of that particular role but I honestly wonder that if this is your attitude there’s a reason why the new employee flaked out and found another option during that week or so of training. I could understand the reasoning for charging for the labor of training (although I agree with Alison you have to pay her for showing up) but the person’s salary, too? I wouldn’t want to work for you, either.

    1. Just Jess*

      What’s sad is that multiple employers write to AM with this exact same question. If Alison has published answers before to questions like this then how many does she receive and choose not to post?

      Also, now I’m imagining employers with poor leadership and terrible communication who are plotting ways to recover salaries from the pool of actively disengaged employees that they’ve created.

  26. Delta Delta*

    #1 – Based on the information we have here, it sounds like communication could be better on this team. They hire a new person and manager makes a training/shadowing/whatever assignment. New Employee – for whatever reason – approaches Colleague and asks to work with them. Colleague, none the wiser and a member of the team, goes forward with that only to find out there’s a different plan. Seems like Manager probably should have alerted Team “We hired New Employee. He’ll be working with Tangerina for the first week as he’s going to be primarily focused on the Llama Concern. From there we’ll phase him in with Lucinda in Teapot Calculations.” If Tangerina didn’t know the plan, and Lucinda didn’t know the plan, chances are New Employee may not have fully known the plan. His asking to shadow Lucinda may not have been borne out of ill will at all.

    1. Sara without an H*

      I’d wondered about that, too. It sounds as though there’s a lot of gossip going on, but not a lot of purposeful communication.

    2. Perse's Mom*

      In my office, the whole team might know there’s a new hire coming in, but the only ones who would know the training plan are those who are directly involved – the manager, the new hire, and those who will be doing the training. A new hire might ask general questions of other people (where’s the breakroom again, what time does the building open/close, etc), but that’s it – anything else gets redirected to their trainer or lead or supervisor.

      Even when it was less formalized, it would still be someone with authority emailing or walking the new hire over to someone to train.

      Unless it’s the norm at OP’s company for random new hires to assign *themselves* to a random coworker for training on a random set of work…? I’m sure there are companies where this is a thing, but if OP’s company isn’t one of them, why didn’t this ring any alarm bells for the coworker who was approached by the new hire?

  27. Sara without an H*

    OP#1, while I think your networking group is over-interpreting the situation, I agree that the manager needs to be informed. Like Alison, I’d be very annoyed if one of my new hires was committing cultural fouls all over the work place and nobody told me about it.

    As to why he’s doing this, there are a lot of variables, but most of what you describe could be chalked up to youth, naivety, and cockiness. He’s young, good at school work, and probably has been told by every adult in his orbit that he’s brilliant, talented, blah, blah, blah. (I’m speculating here.) But his manager needs to know so that she can nip this kind of behavior in the bud. Now.

    1. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize*

      There are a lot of unspoken rules in every office and not all of them are the same. That is what flies in one office is severely frowned upon in another. New Hire does need to be spoken to. No one wants to be the bull in the china shop, not even the bull.

  28. Hiring Mgr*

    #1 sounds like he’s overcompensating for a clear case of impostor syndrome. Of course we only know the facts second hand, since none of us actually know or work with the parties involved (although since we’re anonymous commenters it’s possible that we do, however we most likely won’t know for certain so it’s better just to assume we don’t). But who among us hasn’t tried to bluff their way through a situation with a measure of cockeyed swagger. New guy sounds like the Anthony Bourdain of your industry

    1. Kat*

      The Anthony Bourdain of their industry? That’s taking it way out to left field.

      The new guy sounds like every self-important new hire or intern I’ve ever had. He sounds like someone who wants to move up without paying his dues.

    2. VintageLydia*

      Anthony Bourdain had decades of experience in both cooking and story telling before he became what we all knew him as. His cockiness and swagger were deserved.

      1. LCL*

        I suspect Anthony Bourdain was always Anthony Bourdain and always that way. He didn’t get famous for it until he had been working for decades and started publishing. Hiring Mgr has a point. Which doesn’t change any of the good advice to tell the new guy’s manager.

  29. sunshyne84*

    #4 I think you should really look at the people who were promoted over you and have an honest moment with yourself about your likelihood of getting promoted now. If you’re the last person out of the group then maybe you have a chance, but usually if you’ve tried a few times they just don’t want to give it to you and maybe you do need a fresh start somewhere else. Even it they only promoted based on seniority I’d just leave and go to the other job. You don’t want to risk losing both opportunities.

  30. Imaginary Number*

    #2: Is changing clothes in the bathroom really considered the respectful thing to do when sharing a room with a coworker of the same gender? I would feel that would be more on what’s more comfortable to the person changing, unless a roommate specifically expressed discomfort. I’m not saying walking around with everything hanging out is a good idea, but I would think discretely changing next to the bed shouldn’t be a problem.

    1. Cat Herder*

      I’d always assume that people prefer more privacy than less privacy, unless they tell me otherwise. It’s a matter of BOTH individuals’ preference, not just the one changing. Me, I wouldn’t care, but plenty of people do.

    2. VintageLydia*

      Not all of us are straight. And some of us prefer more privacy than others. I wouldn’t care, even though I’m bi, but my roommates might. I err on the side of more privacy to show I wouldn’t take offense if they rather not change in front of me. But I’ve been lucky enough to only have to share rooms with friends who’ve known me for ages so it hasn’t actually been a problem.

    3. VVM*

      I would be a little weirded out if my co-worker undressed in front of me. It might be common with close friends but it’s a bit too much to show in front of a coworker/acquaintance.

    4. Lindsay J*

      I think so.

      I feel like it’s generally a polite thing to assume that nobody wants to see my naked body unless they have explicitly asked, or explicitly opted into a situation where they knew it was a possibility (like going to a nude beach, entering the locker room at a gym, etc).

      Assuming that my coworker did not have a choice as to whether they wanted to room with someone or have a private room, they didn’t so much opt in as were forced into this pseudo-intimate situation with me. I assume they do not want to see my naked body. And, as it’s generally not all that inconvenient to just change in the bathroom, I feel like changing in the bathroom is the polite thing to do.

      Putting the onus on them to say, “hey, can you not do that,” doesn’t seem fair to me, since they might not be comfortable with making it a thing, but also might not be comfortable with seeing me naked for whatever reason.

      Like, I don’t necessarily think that it is disrespectful to change in front of a person you’re sharing a room with. But I do think it is definitely more respectful to not so so unless you know that they are okay with it.

    5. smoke tree*

      With a coworker, I do think it’s better to err on the side of caution, unless you’re friends outside of work and know the other person is okay with it. You’re both there because you have to be, so it doesn’t hurt to be extra considerate.

      1. Kat in VA*

        I agree. Note that you’re changing in the bathroom, if coworker responds with, “Eh, no big, you can change here” go ahead and do that (assuming your comfort level is such that you would change in front of coworker). If they indicate assent or indifference, then change in the bathroom.

        I change from the skin out from whatever I’ve slept in (or, conversely, whatever I’ve worked in that day), so when I’m *changing*, I’m going all the way down to the buff and then dressing again. I definitely would want to give a coworker a head’s up before I get to my skinny bits. That’s just courtesy.

        1. nonymous*

          It’s interesting reading the thought processes people have on this topic. fwiw, when I’ve changed from skin out, I usually do other stuff too like a bio break or shower, so it made sense to change in the bathroom. But I’ll switch outfits by my bed – it doesn’t show any more skin than a bikini.

    6. Jennifer Thneed*

      I don’t know, and I hope never to find out. I hope that the only people I ever share hotel rooms with are my mother, my sister, my wife, and my very oldest friend. (I’ve done some work travel and didn’t have to share. I also hope never to do work travel agaain.)

      I’m curious to know whether any of the folks commenting on this particular topic are men. Men are supposedly okay with nudity together, but I suspect that that’s actually a dated idea. Do modern high schools still have group showers in the boys’ gym? (My HS still had group showers in the *girls* gym, but that was in the 1970’s and the school was on the older side at the time.)

      1. Drew*

        Dude squad!

        When I have shared rooms with coworkers on trips, the most I’ll do is strip to shorts/underwear in the shared space; nudity is for the bathroom and ONLY for the bathroom. That seems to be pretty common among the people I’ve shared with, although a few weren’t even comfortable with shirts off … and one ran out of the bathroom, wrapped in a towel that wasn’t as comprehensive as he thought it was, to catch a call from his then-pregnant wife – but he took the phone back into the bathroom immediately and didn’t hang out (so to speak) in the common space.

        I did have one friend I was sharing a hotel room with who was totally OK with changing right in front of me, and vice versa, but he’s career Army and we had been running buddies for a while by then, anyway, showering at his place or mine before heading to our respective jobs. I don’t think I’d be that free with a coworker no matter how close friends we were. And I’d much rather just have my own room to start with.

  31. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize*

    LW1 Bring it to the attention of the manager. We had a new worker and she pushed back against all the “boring” parts of her job. Her manager didn’t take a firm stand and as a result two years later we still get “Oh, I don’t know that.” when she is asked to do her actual work.

  32. purple otter*

    OP3: I think a lot of commenters are missing that OP3 says they connect with people “all over the world.” As someone who has an “ethnic” sounding name to Western ears, I’ve had plenty of people mistakenly address me as Mr. instead of Ms. in emails and even on phone calls before they hear me speak or before I respond with my email signature “Ms. Firstname Lastname”.

    I think the easiest way to solve the problem is to have an optional preferred pronoun dropdown box somewhere, or just ask. It would cut down on embarrassment by all parties, especially in international settings where many names don’t sound masculine or feminine to Western ears.

  33. Cat Herder*

    OP3, I would just use each person’s initials and not worry about pronouns. They’re notes, not a formal report. Additionally, it can become confusing which “she” or “he” or “they” or “zhe” is being referred to. Initials (or some other abbreviation that makes it clear to anyone reading the notes who’s being referred to) eliminate this problem.

  34. Fabulous*

    Seems like several people have already noted this for #3, but THEY is the way to go.

  35. Persimmons*

    I’m married to someone who needs music and TV to sleep (yes, I said “and”, not “or”). We’ve agreed as a couple that it’s better for me to sleep with earplugs and a mask than for him to attempt to sleep in silence and darkness, which would require coking him to the gills on Ritalin until he was in danger of liver failure. Been there, got the T-shirt.

    That said, he would not subject a coworker to his issues. LW #2’s colleague needs to get his own room.

    1. MLB*

      Thankfully my husband can fall asleep anywhere because if I don’t have tv to fall asleep it takes me HOURS because I can’t turn my brain off. I don’t suffer from anxiety, but when it’s completely quiet that’s when my mind goes into overdrive.

  36. No pronouns, please.*

    I would NOT want the pronoun option at all. People assume I’m competent in my field, which I am, when they assume I am male. When they learn I am female, they chuckle and make some sexist remark that they think is funny. (It is not.) From that moment forward, they question my work history, my capabilities, suggestions I make in an online meeting, etc.

    1. Alton*

      I think that’s a valid concern, but one that can mostly be solved by making self-identification voluntary. I would never suggest making pronoun-sharing required because there are reasons people may not feel comfortable, such as if they’re trans and aren’t ready to out themselves.

    2. Positive Reframer*

      I get the thinking on this. Assume that you don’t know people’s sex and then you are less likely to be sexist (although people who hold their impression of someone’s gender with any degree of skepticism probably aren’t as likely to be sexist.)

      It sounds like for the OP in this case that gender is just the start of the issue though. Working with names based in many different languages means people probably aren’t pronouncing things correctly either. So I’d think about adding a whole OPTIONAL identity section. Preferred name, preferred pronunciation, and something regarding gender. (If going the title route I’d think about the option Mr. vs. Miss/Ms./Mrs. so that any female title gets lumped together as that is presumably what you are trying to determine rather than marital status.

      I do think that in many cases we are at a weird place where gender apparently matters very much but also isn’t supposed to count for anything at all. Same with race and sexuality. I wonder what history will have to say about this era of identity in crisis.

  37. Not a Mere Device*

    LW1: I’d vote for looping in this guy’s manager, and noting that his attitude when he was called out on having reassigned himself was “reportedly along the lines of caveat emptor.” That’s someone who thinks the rules don’t apply to him–including basic rules like not lying to your coworkers. “Caveat emptor” is a used car dealer’s excuse; if that’s actually his attitude, it means he can’t be trusted when he says “I counted the boxes of teapots,” or “yes, I know how to run a TPS report, I’ll have it for you tomorrow.” The best case here is that he joked instead of offering an apology or explanation, and is now going to have to explain that when your “explanation” for ignoring instructions is to jokingly tell people you can’t be trusted, they’ll believe you.

  38. Goya de la Mancha*

    #1 – “and he expresses eagerness to move up from entry level very quickly.”

    I get the feeling that this guy is of the mind set that he is too good to start at the bottom. So the “eagerness” to move up quickly really isn’t a surprise and doesn’t mean that he’ll actually deserve to move up. I would personally tell his direct report if only just to keep an eye on him. Who knows, maybe he’ll get the idea and start improving, in which it would be helpful for his boss to KNOW that he has vastly improved.

    1. Luna*

      I think that is a very common desire (who doesn’t want to move up from entry-level) but it is especially common for younger workers to misunderstand or not have the experience yet to get that “moving up” is often easier said than done, and being smart and working hard does not mean you’ll get an automatic promotion. There can definitely be a bit of “I’m too good for this” attitude involved, but sometimes is just naivete about how work works.

  39. gingerbird*

    #3 I am a woman with a first name that is traditionally masculine. Having a field for title or pronoun is super helpful. I don’t know how many times I have gone into a meeting or a job interview and have gotten “I was expecting a man” followed by akwardness.

    I’ve always wondered how to prevent this in a resume or a.cover letter, but everything I have thought of seemed weird.

    1. nonymous*

      Headshot on LinkedIn and as avatar on semi-professional sites (think github) or personal website you have works well. It doesn’t even have to be a real picture – I have a couple acquaintances who use a cartoon (think like Sarah Anderson comics).

  40. VVM*

    People being unnecessarily noisy is my pet peeve. Showering, toilet flushes, etc are all fine as normal living sounds, but when people get into things like music or talking on a cell phone around other people it really grinds me gears. No one wants to hear your crappy music, either early morning in a hotel or from some guy on a bus. It’s amazing how little awareness some people have for others.

    1. Courageous cat*

      God, I am having a sudden flashback to a situation that I don’t specifically remember, but must have happened multiple times. Trying to sleep, and the other person picks up their phone to talk to someone in their hoarse sleepy voice, and they try to take it somewhere far away like the bathroom or closet or whatever and they’re only saying a few words here and there but you cannot sleep over it and it’s grating as hell, somehow *especially* because it’s just a few words here and there.

      Ok glad I got that out.

  41. Oxford Comma*

    OP #2: I too work in a field where room sharing on work trips is the norm. Of late, I’ve started paying out of pocket to have my own room because I have so many sleep issues, but I can’t always do this.

    My suggestion is to have a frank conversation with this person or with any other future roommates to set up expectations: noise, light, TV/music, temperature. You can frame it like,

    Existing roommate: “I like rooming with you. While I thought I would be okay with you playing music in the morning, I’m finding it’s not working for me. Would headphones or ear buds work for you?”

    New potential roommate: “I would be happy to share a room with you. Here are my needs [list them]. What are yours?”

  42. moss boss*

    I’m in the travel industry, and we often end up sharing hotel rooms or other accommodations for weeks to months at a time when we are leading trips. There are a few general etiquette rules, and past that everybody seems to find their own jam.

    Noises relating to your job duties (e.g., one roomie has an earlier breakfast time than the other and needs to organize and shower) are always acceptable, with the caveat that you try to do as much as possible before lights-out at night. If you get to sleep in, your role is to either be helpful to your roommate or stay very quiet in your bed in the hopes that you will fall back to sleep.

    TV/radio/music/blinds open or shut should always be discussed between individual roomies. Other things like “do we flush the toilet at night, or keep it quiet?” also fall under the “best to just discuss it”.

    I assume that OP2 is in an industry where sharing is the norm, but not frequent. Etiquette things like changing in the bathroom flies right out the window when you’re always sleep deprived, in a hurry and are sharing with the same person for weeks on end.

  43. Observer*

    On the gender issue, I am amazed at how often this comes up.

    It’s generally not that complicated to ask for preferred pronouns or look at a salutation field. But if that’s not practical for some reason, just use the singular they. And, please let’s not get hung up on the mythical grammar rules. As so many others have pointed out, there is a LOT of history and precedent. Even if there weren’t this has become so common that judging people for “poor grammar” over this is a FAR worse problem than ACTUALLY using poor grammar. Being pedantic and refusing to recognize common idiomatic use of language doesn’t make you look educated. It makes you look obnoxious – and ignorant, as well.

  44. LCL*

    OP #1-the other reason to tell New Guy’s manager is that if management doesn’t start modifying his behavior his coworkers might. But when coworkers try to correct other workers’ behavior they do so using their own techniques and motivation and usually without a plan. This is a recipe for angry workers, lost tempers, accusations of everything under the sun and retaliation from coworker being policed. Also, if you allow too much self policing the more abrasive get policed for their abrasiveness and their real shortcomings overlooked. And this self policing also causes people to unleash their inner bully. This type of situation becomes an example of human behavioral instincts at their worst, not their best. Let management manage.

  45. A Nickname for AAM*

    OP4: This is something that unfortunately happens in my line of work a lot. We need to send hires to basic certification classes, and unfortunately, because a lot of them are younger, part-time, and entry level, they don’t work out once they start working, for things as simple as they discovered the job wasn’t for them, or as complex as they turned out to be completely irresponsible and pathological liars. It happens.

    However, because we’ve been burned on these things in the past, it makes people nervous about hiring anyone, period, because hiring a new person costs money in training! And then, once they’re hired, they hold off on training people to make sure they “work out” before they spend any money on them.

    Do you know what makes people quit jobs? Being denied the tools they need to do their job and treated with suspicion, and working in an environment that’s consistently understaffed because every new hire is nitpicked until they’re passed over.

    1. Kat in VA*

      This sounds like an impossible situation. I have no answers for you, but just wanted you to know that…it sounds impossible. :(

  46. Librarian Ish*

    OP#3: Sorry, can’t read through the whole comments but hopefully not duplicating too much. Some recommendations:

    – Where possible, be upfront and confident about including your pronouns when you introduce yourself. If pronouns are important to someone, it will give that person a clue that you 1) understand and 2) are willing to learn their pronouns

    – If you have a field to include pronouns, make it easy to change later. Consider making this a free-text field instead of choosing “she”, “he”, or “they” – and for god’s sake don’t make the options “male” or “female”

    – Be very, very careful about not pressuring someone to state their pronouns in front of coworkers. I’ve been in the situation of having to state my pronouns at work when I’m not out as trans yet, and I needed a moment to calm myself about purposefully misgendering myself at work so I could remain closeted until I felt comfortable disclosing my transition. People’s journeys are complex and might not make sense to you from the outside, but be gracious and kind and it will work out. You’re already starting from a respectful place, and as a closeted transperson, I thank you!

  47. Kim, aka Ranavain*

    Honestly, I don’t understand why you need to know peoples’ genders in order to do virtually anything with them. Use “they” and move on. One’s gender identification isn’t really a relevant thing in like 90% of human interactions. I hate when a company or organization even asks for gender, because unless it’s directly related to the product or service (ie, joining a women’s group), why do they even need to know? It’s just another data point for them to sell or build some stereotype-ridden model of who I am and how I act. Nah, I don’t need that.

  48. Noah*

    #2- get dressed in the bathroom? You’re kidding, right? Seriously, do people actually do that? I’m not getting dressed in a foggy bathroom. I do come out in my underwear, though.

    1. Aisling*

      There’s no reason to make it sound as if it’s a crazy thing to do. Just because you don’t, obviously doesn’t mean everyone does, based on the comments above. Try remembering that not everyone thinks about things the same exact way you do.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        If you already have to share a hotel room with a random coworker, then I think “Only hotels with well-ventilated bathrooms will be considered” is right off the table.

        1. Jennifer Thneed*

          Honestly? Every hotel room I’ve stayed in has decent-enough bathroom ventilation that the mirror stays clear. But then again, even if it’s not visibly foggy, probably the air is still moist enough to make pulling clothes on uncomfortable.

    1. Nia Moone*

      An oversight. :-) I really want a Caution:Gumption sigh.

      I’m Coworker from #1. I wanted to clarify a couple of points. I haven’t commented before so I apologize if I do something wrong.

      No one is gossiping about New Guy at the office. The only people who know are those who were directly involved, so me (Coworker), the training coordinator, the other employee whose job was shirked (yes, shirked), and New Guy himself. Very little was said at work. I felt icky about the interaction afterward. I mentioned it to my networking group, made up of professionals at similar levels in related professions, on my own time. No one in the group knows New Guy or can identify him.

      Thanks so much for Alison’s and everyone else’s advice. My first stop is to ask if the training coordinator had a conversation with the manager. If not, I’ll endure the social awkwardness.

Comments are closed.