open thread – August 17-18, 2018

It’s the Friday open thread! The comment section on this post is open for discussion with other readers on anything work-related that you want to talk about. If you want an answer from me, emailing me is still your best bet*, but this is a chance to talk to other readers.

* If you submitted a question to me recently, please don’t repost it here, as it may be in the to-be-answered queue.

{ 1,907 comments… read them below }

  1. AdAgencyChick*

    For managers who have had to reprimand an employee about lateness (or if you’re an employee who’s been talked to about lateness):

    1) Did it work right away? Did it have a sustained effect? I feel like if my boss ever talked to me about coming into work on time, I’d be EARLY for at least the next several weeks, if not months.
    2) If you don’t have time cards, how do you keep track of the employee coming in on time so that you can impose necessary consequences?

    For reference: although my company doesn’t have a well-defined start time, nearly everyone shows up by X hour, and this employee regularly shows up 30 minutes to an hour after that. This means that they (gender deliberately obscured) miss weekly team meetings. Plus, because I’m invited to so many meetings, the morning is often the best time for me to meet with them and discuss their projects, which I can’t do if they’re late. So my definition of “on time” is not arbitrary.

    I’m a pretty punctual person myself, so it’s really hard for me to imagine that if my boss told me I needed to be better about coming in on time, that I wouldn’t immediately start coming in EARLY and try to maintain that for at least a few weeks, if not months. This has not been the case with the person I’m talking about.

    I’d say more about details of my conversations with them and what consequences I’ve imposed but I don’t want to out them or myself.

    1. Foreign Octopus*

      I think the lack of a defined start time is an issue here. It isn’t so much that they’re officially late – it’s rather that they’re missing key parts of their job i.e. weekly team meetings and discussion times. I would focus on making sure that they’re there for that when they have to be.

      Although, if someone talked to be about my tardiness, I’d be mortified and make an effort every day.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Since you say that your company doesn’t have a well-defined start time, I would focus on the “you need to be on time for meetings” part more so than “you’re late for work”. Are they recurring meetings or do they come up at the last minute?

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        There are both. There’s a recurring meeting that they are often late for, and also team members (including me) who are in the office earlier may want to have impromptu chats about the work.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          I don’t think you can push back too hard on the “early people want to have chats” thing if there is no required start time, so I’d recommend focusing on the recurring team meetings.

          1. General Ginger*

            “If you want me to wear 37 pieces of flair, why don’t you just make the minimum 37 pieces of flair?”

        2. Doreen Green*

          I think if you expect to be able to have “impromptu chats” about work at a certain time, it might be helpful for you to schedule time for these meetings. If this employee misses your scheduled check-ins, then you have something concrete to push back about, rather than something that sounds like it may seem arbitrary and random to your employee.

    3. JokeyJules*

      has it been explained to this person that while the company overall has lax start times, they MUST be on time for meetings?

    4. Trout 'Waver*

      Is there a clear business need for this person to have a fixed start time when the company culture doesn’t have one? “The morning is often the best time for me to meet with them” is a preference and not a business need.

      If the company doesn’t have a well-defined start time, then you’re going to kill that employee’s morale by imposing one. Doubly so if you’re doing so because of a preference you have and not a business need.

      1. AnonToday*

        It’s not really a preference; if a manager is booked in meetings most of the time but is available first thing in the morning, then that’s just the reality for that team. This employee is also missing meetings, so she’s already gone way beyond a reasonable interpretation of “no set start time.”

        1. Kelsi*

          Whistlers at work…


          I have a phantom whistler lately who’s driving me insane. They’re far enough away that I can’t tell who it is, and whenever I try to wander that way and suss it out they’ve stopped. They’re like the Flying Dutchman of annoying office mates and it’s killing me.

        2. Kelsi*

          Whoops, sorry, was trying to leave a top-level comment and failed spectacularly. It’s the whistler destroying my mind!

      2. EditorInChief*

        “The morning is the best time to meet with me” is absolutely a business need. I’m her boss, I’m busy and that is the most convenient time for me, her boss, to talk to her. That’s a business need to get the work in my department done. And I need her in morning meetings in order for her and her colleagues to collaborate on what they’re working on. Not all departments in a company have the luxury of coming into work whenever they feel like it. My team members who work with our counterparts in Asia come in later and leave later. My west coast people start work at 6-7 am to keep east coast hours. I had a person who had your attitude about showing up to work on time and I ended up firing her.

        1. Gail Davidson-Durst*

          Yeah, I have to think that it’s reasonable for a boss to say, “I know the business doesn’t have a universal required start time, but I need all my team members to be here during the core hours of 9-3 [or whatever]. Going forward, can you make sure to be in by 9:00 every day?”

        2. AdAgencyChick*

          I agree, this is why it chaps me so much. I’m not asking this person to show up significantly earlier than others in the office; I’m asking them to show up by the same time that nearly everyone else in the office has arrived.

          If I am booked for several hours straight with meetings starting at X time, and employee doesn’t show up until X:30, that means if I want to meet with them about their projects, I might not be able to do so until very late in the day, and then they’ve lost the whole day to act on my direction if there’s something I want them to do. Not great in the ad world, where tight deadlines and frequent priority shifts from the client are common.

          1. spock*

            You can totally tell them they need to show up earlier, but apart from days with meetings they missed, I wouldn’t frame their previous start time as being “late”. It’s not really fair to chastise them for not reading your mind about that being the time you want to talk to them. Make your expectations clear and go from there.

          2. EditorInChief*

            I feel your pain. I gave the woman I eventually fired several warnings before I had to formalize it in a written warning, followed by another written warning, numerous discussions with her why she needed to be on time, etc etc etc. When she did work it was very good, but all the drama didn’t make keeping her worthwhile.

            It was demoralizing the rest of the team who managed to get in on time. The last straw was the day she missed the kickoff meeting for a new project, came into my office almost 2 hours late, and said, “Sorry, I had a case of the Mondays and couldn’t make it in earlier”.

            1. General Ginger*

              Oh, wow, OK. Sounds like you did everything you could and were very clear on what you needed from her. “Case of the Mondays”? Did she honestly think this was a reasonable excuse?

              1. EditorInChief*

                I almost fell out of my chair when she said that. She was absolutely oblivious to how her actions affected anyone else and thought because she was very talented within her field that it was a ticket to do whatever she wanted to do.

                I think the mistake I made was keeping her around too long and she didn’t feel like there were real consequences. I took her off some high profile projects, which would have freaked me out if I was in her position but she didn’t seem to get it.

                I talked with her at length how sometimes hiring an average/above average employee who is easy to work with, collaborative, etc. is more important than hiring the rock star who decides the rules don’t apply. She was genuinely shocked when I fired her.

            2. Candace*

              Wow. I am someone who hates early mornings, and on days when I have no meetings, I come in around 9:30and stay till about 6 or later, plus I also spend about an hour most nights doing work. On days when I have an early meeting, I’m there. Now, two things – I am the boss in my area, as an academic dean, and I have flexibility. We also do stagger our hours to maximize office coverage – my assistant dean is usually in by 7:45 and out by 3:45 or 4, so it works having me come in later. Secondly, I have a medical issue – chronic, lifelong insomnia, for which I take medication, and sometimes it still doesn’t help. So sometimes, I take 2 hours of vacation time and go back to bed – but never if I have a morning commitment. If you have team meetings and have talked to the person, you have every right to fire them if they can’t straighten up and fly right.

          3. ChachkisGalore*

            Ok so I would really caution you to try and get out of the “this really chaps me so much” mindset. It’s really not fair to hold this employee to your personal standard of lateness when the explicit policy so far has been “no set start time”.

            That’s not say that you can’t ask them to their behavior going forward (I totally encourage you to do so and think it’s an entirely reasonable requirement), but again, it’s really unfair to be holding their past behavior against them (the general lateness, not the meetings stuff) on the basis of “they should have just known to do this thing, that is actually/explicitly NOT policy”.

            This isn’t a I shouldn’t need to make a policy for employees to know not to punch their coworkers type of situation. There is a policy in place and you are asking them to do something differently (which, again, is fine!).

            1. AdAgencyChick*

              I realized I wasn’t clear on the fact that I have had multiple conversations with this person about the issue already. I don’t want to reveal more details than that in terms of what consequences I have already talked about, but this isn’t the first time.

              1. ChachkisGalore*

                Ok – that is different! If you can’t tell – I’ve been penalized for not psychically diving my boss’s preferences before :-)

          4. Bagpuss*

            I think the key is to be explicit about what you need.
            e.g. “While we try to be flexible about start time, I need you to be in the office no later than X, and you need to be on time for all scheduled meetings. At the moment , the fact thst you are not here until Y means that you’re not available when I need you to be to set up the work for the day, and you are also often late for scheduled meetings, which causes major issues with deadlines as it’s often not possible to reschedule the meeting till much later in the day. Being in the office no later than X and ready and awaiting at the start time for any meeting are both requirements for this role, and if you are not able to meet them that is a major performance issue”

            In term of how you monitor it, would it be practical to call them,(if you have fixed phone lines on desks,) if you aren’t able to check personally ?

        3. General Ginger*

          “The morning is the best time to meet with me” =/= “The morning is the only time to meet with me”. Unless it was articulated to this person as a business need, i.e, “our core hours are X to Y, I know we have flex time/staggered start times, but my team needs to be here by X”, then it’s a preference.

        4. Trout 'Waver*

          I disagree here. I’m a morning person. My ideal meeting time is 7:00 am. Core hours start at 8:00. Could I, as the boss, insist on meetings at 7:00 am? Absolutely. But my employees wouldn’t like it. And resorting to “I’m the boss so I say what goes” is the boss move of last resort.

          Flip this one around and look at it from the employee’s view. Imagine if you took a job that was promoted as having no set start time and largely flexible hours. Then your boss starts scheduling mandatory meetings for before your preferred start time because “most people are here at that time” and “it’s the best time for me”. That’s quite literally the exact opposite of “no set start time”.

    5. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Missing weekly team meetings is baaaad. I also think that this person should arrive in a timely manner for you to be able to touch base on their projects, but without a set meeting time (can you set one?) that’s a grayer area. That missing team meetings is concrete.

      I have not had to manage a chronically tardy person, but when I’ve seen it done, it has rarely stuck for more than a week or two. I had a woman on my team who was repeatedly spoken to, but because her boss arrived later than she did, it just kind of… fell away. I once had a boss whose boss imposed a start time, and he would walk around and put Post-It notes on people’s doors if they weren’t there by 9:30 or whatever time he set. I don’t recommend that. But my boss’s refusal to regularly come in on time seriously messed up her credibility with this guy and she got forced out (for lots of reasons, but her lack of respect for his requests was part of it).

      But as far as keeping track, honestly I would put this person on an official PIP after the next missed team meeting. Make it about meetings rather than start times. Plan a morning meeting that works for you to check in on their projects, and if they miss that more than once, time for a PIP (or whatever consequences you’ve imposed).

      Also, ugh, I’m sorry. Flexible times are wonderful, but skipping a weekly team check-in regularly is Not Good.

      1. ToS*

        This. Also listen for why they are late – I’m presuming they are salary and not hourly. If there is a bona fide reason, give them a week to sort it out, document that, and hold them to it so they are not late for their meetings. Set CORE hours that start at or before team meetings are scheduled. For early morning consults, are you able to text, call or email them? That may reinforce that there is a strong interest in their availability.

        Do they stay later? You could also mention that being off-schedule to the point of being asynchronous is affecting how the team interacts with them. This is especially true if they can close a door to focus and get work done.

      2. Le Sigh*

        I feel like a PIP after the next missed meeting might be jumping the gun, especially if the employee is otherwise doing good work. I could be wrong but I don’t get the impression OP has had any conversation about missing these meetings. Granted, I think it’s kind of a given to not miss them, but it also feels like OP has gotten really frustrated with something that, to the employee, might feel like she was supposed to read boss’s mind since it wasn’t a stated policy. I’d start with a conversation laying out what she needs and when she needs to arrive by, then take it from there.

    6. WellRed*

      I second the lack of defined hours as a problem but more so than the lateness. I am flabbergasted that someone would regularly miss team mtgs. Even if they suck it’s never s good idea to not put your face in front of co-workers and bosses.

    7. EddieSherbert*

      Have you told them what “on time” means to you/your department, why it’s important, and explicitly told them this is now a requirement of their job (versus implying it)? I also have flexible work hours and it would be… very weird… for me if my manager started hounding me about when I come in and giving me a “start time.” I probably wouldn’t get it if they weren’t VERY explicit because that’s so out of the norm for my office.

      I mean, missing a weekly meeting regularly is obviously a problem! That point should be self-explanatory.

      But I’d be confused about the rest of the weekdays (why do I have to be here by 8? Because Manager might want to talk to me? What???).

    8. The Other Dawn*

      It seems to me like you need to tell this person, “I need you here by X time and this is why.” And then hold them to it and deliver consequences if necessary.

      I don’t think it matters that the rest of the office doesn’t have an official start time–if your teams needs an official start time to run efficiently, that’s what you should do. IN my company, some departments don’t need to be here by 8 am; however, others, like the call center, need to be here at a certain time in order to serve customers.

    9. OtterB*

      Agree it’s probably partly a matter of not having a well-defined start time.

      Also, did you ask the employee why they are often late? I have sometimes over the years had to wait until my special needs daughter was picked up by the school bus or by her transportation to work, and the timing on that varied from year to year. I could make arrangements to be in earlier if particularly needed (e.g. staffing the registration table for a workshop beginning at an early hour) but didn’t arrange it daily. In my extremely flexible office it didn’t matter, but if it had, I would have had a hard time complying.

      Depending on their reasons, could you institute a “in by X hour on days Y and Z” so that they are there for the team meeting and another specific day for a one-on-one meeting with you, and let them continue the more flexible schedule on other days?

    10. Red Staplers are awesome*

      I had an employee that I needed to be on time for her shift as she was taking over phone duties from the previous person and there was no overlap. I’m like you, I could not understand why she didn’t immediately change her morning routine to be on time. After several discussions, I finally got her to get through the door on time, but then she’d spend the first half hour getting coffee, cleaning the kitchen, using the restroom, etc. so then we had to have discussions about that. I offered repeatedly to switch her to a schedule where we had overlap and being exactly on time was not such an issue, she declined. I did eventually fire her, but it was multiple discussions where she’d say “oh, ok” like it had never been brought up before. On the other hand, the firing did not surprise her. At all.

    11. Not Maeby But Surely*

      Mostly reformed (at work, anyway) chronically late person here. The first time my boss brought it up to me that my tardiness was a problem (and we’re talking only up to 20 minutes, but average of less than 10 minutes, late), I immediately started getting up earlier, and yes, was no less than 5 minutes early for the next several weeks. I was also very apologetic any time I was late after that. For the employee to not take corrective action right away, to me, indicates a flippant attitude about the whole thing. If you’ve already been very clear about your expectations, including saying, “I need you to be here by X time, like the rest of the team,” then you’ve done your part, and escalating consequences would seem to be appropriate. Barring some sort of extenuating circumstances, I guess, but you’d probably have mentioned them if they existed.

      1. NinjaForToday*

        See, where I’m at 10 minutes is Late, and 20 is LATE. Completely not acceptable on a regular basis.

        1. Not Maeby But Surely*

          I totally agree with you! But the OP indicates their problem employee’s “late” is 30-60 minutes. I made the designation to point out that people get in trouble even for being less late than that.

      2. The Other Dawn*

        I agree. I used to be chronically late, and now I’m consistently early. It took my many years to change my mindset, but it finally happened. Part of the problem was that I always had bosses who didn’t care if I was late or not, even though I really should have been there by a certain time, and came in after me anyway. So it just didn’t matter to me. I don’t even know what flipped the switch for me, but it took…many years.

        I managed a chronically late person once (front reception desk so she needed to be on time) and it was horrible. Even though I was chronically a half hour late at that time (my boss didn’t know/care), I was still in before her even though she was supposed to be in before me. I spoke to her many (MANY) times, changed her start time several times, gave her plenty of chances to tell me if there was some extenuating circumstance, and it never improved. Maybe for a couple days, but that was it. (Problem was my boss wouldn’t let me fire her, so there weren’t any consequences and she knew it.) It eventually came out that she was working several jobs and was up most of the night, getting maybe two hours of sleep. But she never mentioned it. Just said “OK I’ll do better” and then didn’t. It completely baffled me as to why she wouldn’t just say she’s got another job so she wouldn’t have to get spoken to so often. It’s not as though she would be revealing something intensely private, IMO. She had a flippant attitude about it and since there weren’t any consequences, it didn’t matter if she came in on time or not.

        1. AdAgencyChick*

          I get why she wouldn’t say that working another job is the reason she’s being late. If I were her I would expect the answer to that would be “quit your other job,” not “we can work around that.”

          (Which is not to say that she was right to continue to be late despite your talking to her so many times)

          1. The Other Dawn*

            I get what you’re saying and maybe some people would say “quit the job”, but I definitely wouldn’t have told her to do that. Neither would my boss. We were very much a company that would work with people and she’d seen that; we worked with her on other things not related to being late, but appointments in the middle of the day and stuff like that.

            1. irene adler*

              Some companies have a policy that they will fire the employee if they find out moonlighting is the reason employee cannot consistently make it to work on time. That’s the policy where I work.

        2. WellRed*

          If she had told you the reason, that still wouldn’t have changed the requirement she show up on time.

        3. Decima Dewey*

          Our branch’s chronically late staffer is really contrite when he’s admonished about it, always promises to do better, but “better” never materializes. Every morning begins with a call from him saying he’s on his way. Sometimes he gives an estimated arrival time. Odds that he’ll arrive by the time he’s designated aren’t good.

    12. Bea*

      This is fixable with core hours established. Otherwise it’s hard to say they’re late when they’re not given any structure for start time!

      Everyone I’ve spoken with eventually slips back into the habit at some point. Until it comes to their job being at risk.

      1. Washi*

        This is exactly what I wanted to say. Just because the company doesn’t have a fixed start time doesn’t mean you can’t set core hours for your team if not knowing when people will be in means that it’s hard to get work done. Saying that they need to be in the office between 10-3 is perfectly reasonable IMO.

        1. Trout 'Waver*

          But going from no set start time to core hours is removing a perk, and a pretty rare and valuable one at that. Don’t get me wrong, core hours is still better than fixed starting time. But it still is the loss of a perk.

          1. OhNo*

            At least any place I’ve ever worked, having no set start time just meant there wasn’t a hard-and-fast rule that you had to have your butt in your chair at a particular time or you’d be fired. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you can come in whenever you want, and no one I’ve ever worked with has interpreted it that way. Based on a couple different places I’ve worked, “no set start time” could be interpreted as:

            – You should be working by 9am, but you can get in whenever (or work remotely)
            – You should be in the office between 10 and 2, but you can start as early or late as you want
            – You can set your own start time, but it should be consistent
            – Your manager will set your start time based on business needs

            So I don’t think the OP would be removing a perk as I would normally think of it. And even if they are, perks are for performers! If the employee is really missing team meetings and causing other problems by coming in later than everyone else, it’s perfectly fair for the boss to place limitations on this particular perk.

            1. Trout 'Waver*

              That’s a Catch-22, though. She’s missing team meetings because they’re scheduled before her preferred start time. If she were to perform and thus earn the perk, she’d immediately not be performing if she used the perk.

    13. NinjaForToday*

      I’ve termed people for excessive tardiness. We’re a butts in seat kinda place, though. Mostly call center. I talk to them to find out the underlying issue, tweak schedules if needed, reiterate performance standards and how they are missing targets (if they are) because they are not here a full day, reiterate that they have cost themselves money by not working a full day (this only works if they are hourly), let them know how it’s using up their PTO (we fill in empty spots with PTO to make 40 hours), etc. I’ve also recommended they go to HR if it’s a medical thing and see about FMLA. Usually they will get it together and be on time. If they don’t, we coach again. If they still don’t, they get a box with their belongings in it, a letter about COBRA, and instructions on how to get their W2 in Jan.

    14. Ann Furthermore*

      I would tell them, “I need you here by X time, and this is why.” Also make it clear that this is a verbal warning, and the next step will be a formal written warning, and then a PIP (or whatever the progression of events at your company is). Also, make it clear that things happen every now and then (horrible traffic, bad weather, etc) that make people late, but those are one-off type things that happen to everyone, and that’s not what you’re talking about.

      My husband runs a machine shop, and they all start at 6:30. That means he expects everyone to be there, punched in, ready to work, at 6:30. Not 6:31 or 6:33, 6:30. It doesn’t matter how good someone is, if they scoot in every day a minute or 2 late, it’s going to tick him off. And he’s the boss, so he gets to make the rules. He is the most punctual person in the universe. He is never, ever, ever late. Ever. So he’s not expecting anyone to do anything that he doesn’t do himself.

    15. Matilda Jefferies*

      I agree with the others that you need to be specific about the need to be on time for team meetings and 1:1’s with you.

      But also, do you have the option to be more flexible when there are no meetings? Or to move the 1:1’s, even by half an hour? Even if it’s not the *best* time for you, if it’s a *possible* time for you, it would help if you can offer any kind of flexibility at your end as well.

      Story time: I have indeed been “spoken to” about lateness by a manager at a previous job, and it had zero effect on my ability to get to work on time. My children’s day care at the time opened at 8:00, and it took me from 65-75 minutes to get to work from the day care, depending on the state of public transit on any given day. It just wasn’t possible for me to get to work for 9:00. I couldn’t move houses, or change day cares, or make the subway run on time, no matter how angry my manager would get. And her insistence that I had to be Butt In Seat at 9:00 every day regardless of my personal circumstances was really damaging to our relationship.

      So if you haven’t done this already, please ask your employee about their morning routine, if there’s anything preventing them from getting to work by a certain time on certain days. You don’t need details, but it would be great to get a general idea of what’s going on with them outside the office. Maybe you can work something out that they start at X:00 on meeting days, and X:30 on non-meeting days? If you can set a tone of “let’s work together on this,” rather than “you have to do what I say because I’m the boss,” you’ll probably get better results.

      (Aside, this was a professional position with no specific customer-facing requirement – this was entirely my manager’s preference. I know it’s not quite the same in your office, but I’m speaking from the perspective of someone who has been in your employee’s situation. I hope it’s helpful.)

      1. Being on Time is an Enviable Skill*

        Also speaking from a late persons perspective: (i don’t expect anyone to be happy or accepting of this, but understanding the mindset can help plan a course of action with more accurate expectations)

        I had “flexible time” but was told i was pushing it. Ok… so i will definitely be careful not the be any later! Got it! No. It was i had already gone past the line, there was irritation at my actions and then at my lack of understanding/course correction.

        It also caused me to be irritated because i was soing what i was told was alright, but it wasnt outside of unusual circumstances. From my point i was doing what i was told, but that still left me sitting around some days with no boss or a boss that wasn’t directly interacting with me. Since im not an early bird this was discouraging and felt petty.

        Be clear on what you NEED v what you want at a minimum. Some of us are, for lack of a better word, kind of dense and need very clear and direct communication, probably even confirmed in writing. This does not excuse us from following through, but removes misunderstandings between multiple busy adults with different communication styles.

        1. Annie Moose*

          ^^ couldn’t agree more.

          Of course your employee shouldn’t be missing team meetings, and it should be obvious that’s not okay, but if you haven’t specifically told her that, then she might be under the impression that you don’t mind as much as you do. And if you want her to be in before the meeting to make sure she has time to be ready for it, tell her that too.

          “I need you to be on time for team meetings. It’s not okay to miss them or be late for them. In fact, I’d like you to come in at least ten minutes earlier than the team meeting time so you’ll be prepared for them.”

          As Alison often says, if you haven’t directly said this to her, it’s entirely possible she hasn’t picked up on your hints yet!

    16. The Other CC*

      I’ve been a part of department-wide “conversations” about lateness (which really were directed at one or two people who would roll in 10-15 minutes after the start time most days of the week) where management reminded everyone of the late policy* and said they were really going to start cracking down on late arrivals, really! But the late employee(s) didn’t start coming in any earlier, or maybe they made a good-faith effort the first week and then reverted to their regular schedule. Not sure if it was because they hadn’t been reprimanded one-on-one and thought they were really fine, or they just didn’t care very much, since there weren’t meetings or anything that they were missing, and they’d just work 10-15 minutes less on their lunch breaks.

      Personally, I am often later to work than I would like, since I sleep poorly and struggle to get out of bed every morning. I am actively taking medication and adjusting my sleep habits to address it, but I still need to set 10 alarms every morning if I’m going to get up in time for work. Could something like that be going on with your employee? Not that it’s your problem to solve their personal issues, but perhaps there is background context. It’s not super-important that I be at work *right* at the start time (and in fact I often beat my supervisors in), but if someone did have an issue with my tardiness I would respond better to a manager who approached me with the attitude of “Is there something going on that is causing you to be tardy?” vs. “You need to stop being late effectively immediately!”. However – I would never be half an hour to an hour late as a matter of routine, and I would never miss a scheduled meeting with a supervisor! That is just crazy.

      *The late policy when I started was that if you came in after the one-minute grace period, you had to wait 1/2 an hour to clock in. A few managers before that, if you were late by more than one minute, you had to pay a $50 fine. Now it’s kind of fuzzy how long the grace period is and if you should or shouldn’t clock in if you arrive at say, 9:03, so I think management has chilled out a bit on this one.

    17. publicista*

      I am likely projecting, but I would also make sure that the employee (if you’re going to have the conversation) does not have a medical issue that is causing them to be late. I have a chronic stomach issue that, no matter what time I wake up, hits me around the same time every day. And it happens to be the time I need to leave for work in order to be on time. I forced myself to have the awkward conversation with my new boss (who is not into sharing personal details) about why I would sometimes be late. I think he understands it now, though I still email on the days where it’s going to be a significant problem and cause me to be more than 15 minutes late.

      1. Kerr*

        Yes, please make sure it’s not a medical issue! Or another serious problem. It sounds like you’ve had conversations already, but if they were of the “make sure you’re on time, can you do that” nature rather than “do you have a problem I should know about”, you might want to ask. Many, many people will not volunteer that they have a medical problem, especially if it’s mental health related, unless they have to.

        TBH I sound like your employee. I’ve hit a bad period of chronic lateness, and have been late to meetings (this is BAD). It’s definitely not 100% voluntary and has nothing to do with not caring, nor can I just show up early after being “spoken to” (believe me, I’ve tried). It’s frustrating as heck.

        That said, if you’ve been clear and there’s no particular reason for being late to meetings? Yeah, that’s a problem.

    18. The Person from the Resume*

      I knew a chronically late person or at least she was chronically late for work. She was dedicated once she was there and often wanted to stay late which was problem because of security we needed two people to lock up and second person had to stay late with her to perform the lock ups.

      It was completely habitual in that apparently this had been happening for like as long as she had been working there 10-20 years. I almost felt like it was too late at this point to get her to change. I also think her root cause was that she was truly a night owl and just didn’t wake up early.

      That said, I think you make a great point. Some people would be mortified by being told by their boss they were late and do things to fix it. They don’t sound like one of those people. Missing meetings and not caring? Or missing meeting and still not being able to solve the lateness problem?

      That said I think you may be at the point of a PIP leading to firing if they cannot be on time and make it to meetings. I suspect this person will need to be convinced of serious consequences before a change is made. You may not be even be able to force the change on them.

      I’m in no way saying they are incapable of change, just that they don’t care enough to make what could be for them a very difficult change.

    19. Dragoning*

      Honestly, I’m never late on purpose, so the first time or two a boss pulled me aside to say “hey, you were really late this morning, what’s up , you can’t do that,” it didn’t change anything, because I’m late only when my alarm doesn’t go off, or the road flooded, or something else.

    20. Nellie the Elephant*

      I think it’s fine to set informal expected start times with your employee, even if there aren’t specific meetings, because the rest of the team are generally in at that time, you could say they need to be in when the rest of the team is in, and one person being later than everyone else can have a negative impact on the team. You could also say ‘Often I need to speak to you about specific projects, and when you’re not in before x time, it means that these conversations can’t happen in a timely manner, and it affects work for both of us’. They also may not have realised how unprofessional it looks, so you could point that out.

      You can also set informal timesheets. I had an employee who did have a set time of 9.30, but would frequently turn up between 10.30 and 11. I asked them to start keeping a spreadsheet of start times, and send them to me at the end of each week. It just allowed us both to see patterns and fluctuations, so we noticed when particular days were difficult. Once they saw these patterns, and they were having to write down their own start times, they became much better at monitoring their own timeliness. This also requires the employee to be honest about their start times. If you notice they put a start time of 9am, but you know they actually walked into the office at 10, you know you have a bigger issue than just tardiness.

    21. Everdene*

      Without a defined start time I would be very unreceptive to someone telling me I’m late. If you need the whole team in my a certain time each day then you need to set that standard and hold them to it. Getting annoyed at people not coming in as early as you, in my experience, often corrolates strongly with the people who slink out at 4pm on the dot every day and ignore the fact work continues to happen after they leave.

      Missing team meetings is another matter and this person should be held accountable to that. It is worth checking whether that meeting time is achievable foe them. In a previous job I had to attend a monthly meeting in another city. I was often late because I had to catch the first train of the day to get there on time and any delays made me late.

    22. Amylou*

      I can be late quite often and I’m a bit of a night owl, but I’ve never had the kind of job where I had to have my butt in my seat from 9-5. I do try to keep a semi-regular schedule though. No time cards. If I have a meeting though I am always on time. That’s just rude to be late for a team meeting.

      At a previous job I was often “late”, but I frequently worked late (until 6:30/7 instead of 5:30, and occasionally have events to attend in the evening), so it wasn’t really an issue. If someone had then told me I am often late and should be “on time” when there were never officially working hours set, that would have felt a bit unfair and rubbed me the wrong way (based on how much work I did). It would be good if you could frame it as a business need: like, on Mondays you need to be here by 9 for the team meeting, on Fridays let’s schedule a 1–2-1 at X time (what was your informal chats). I find it much easier to be on time, if there’s actually a need to be on time for something (a meeting or a shift or strict working hours). And if they are not on time, then you at least have something concrete to follow up on.

      (The only time I missed the start of one morning meeting, was when I was the only team member who worked a company event until 11pm, with another all-evening event the next day – I simply didn’t manage to drag myself out of bed on time for a 10am meeting with the prospect of two consecutive 14-hour days of work… did get a talking to about that per text when I texted I was going to be late, which felt unfair and pissed me off)

    23. ChachkisGalore*

      1.) I’m a chronically late person (to regular things like work). 2.) I’ve been in roles where butts in seats and mattered and ones where it hasn’t. In the ones where it hasn’t… Nothing makes me lose respect for my boss quicker than a boss who lets their personal preference guide disciplinary matters rather than actual business need.

      I think your situation has two distinct aspects. Missing morning meetings isn’t being late. It’s missing meetings. Employee needs to be there for meetings – whatever time they start. Full stop

      Part 2. Not being able chat with this employee in the morning. I think you can address this but I also think you need to reframe how you’re approaching it. Your company has a no-set-start-time policy – but the thing is YOU do have a general start time that you need your employees there by. That’s usually ok even in flex environments. Different depts have different requirements. Due to your schedule this is what is needed for your dept to run efficiently. So when you talk to employee I think to approach it more as this is a new policy, here’s the reasons, I’ll need you to be on board with it (and either explicitly say or at least be clear in your mind that you’d be having this same talk with any employee who was coming in past x time regularly), rather than going at it with the idea that they’ve been “late” (aside from the meeting stuff), because you can’t really be formally late if there’s been no set start time.

      1. Basia, also a Fed*

        As a person who is chronically late (but not when I have a meeting), and has also had to manage people who were chronically late, I think this is perfect.

    24. M. Albertine*

      I would start with “Hey, you’ve been missing/been late for team meetings. What’s up with that?” Give them a chance to explain if there’s a reason, (re)establish your expectations, make a plan for going forward.

      As a separate but segueing topic, bring up that it would be good to have daily check-ins on their workload for feedback/input, what time would be good to do that, let’s put a recurring appointment on your calendars. This person might need a formalized check-in instead of the informal one that works with your other employees. Then if morning is indeed the only time you both can get together, you’re establishing the expectation that the employee is present for these check-ins and you can handle it the same way you’re handling the team meetings: as an expectation of the job and not a function of butt-in-seat.

    25. Not So NewReader*

      Details of your conversations? More than one conversation? Consequences, not just 1 consequence?

      This sounds like it has been going on for a while.

      Generally, this scenario happens if people are concerned they have not made their point perfectly clear OR if they fail to follow up with consequences. This is generally speaking, so it may/may not apply to you.

      I think you are going to have to decide how much longer you want to do this with the employee. Can you deal with another year of this? No? Then use that as your motivator to stay on track.

      This paragraph here could be telling: “I’m a pretty punctual person myself, so it’s really hard for me to imagine that if my boss told me I needed to be better about coming in on time, that I wouldn’t immediately start coming in EARLY and try to maintain that for at least a few weeks, if not months. ”

      Try to maintain it for a few weeks if not months? Really? If any boss ever told me to be on time, I would assume that meant for the rest of my life with a the company, not just a few weeks or months. Gently suggesting, that you look at your expectation here. If you want her to change her habit for the rest of her time with your department she needs you to say that out loud. Make sure you are not speaking in a manner that makes it sound like “it would be nice if you could arrive a little bit earlier”. This is too vague and it is not instructive, it’s too soft a statement.

      As far as “catching her”, well you do “catch her”. She is not at the morning meeting and that is everything you need to know right there.
      Tell her that your expectation of everyone is to arrive at x time. Let her know that she absolutely cannot be missing meetings with you. Give this to her in writing if you think that would help. Have her sign a copy, if you think that would make an impression.

      I could be misreading but you sound unsure of your ground here. I am thinking that you might benefit from a chat with your boss. Tell her what is going on, what you have done so far and go over your thoughts on next steps. Bonus points for explaining how it is impacting their productivity and quality of work. It’s really important to know our bosses back us when we have to make big decisions such as putting someone on PIP or firing them.

      I kind of have to chuckle to myself. This employee should never get a retail job because if they’re one minute late they just lost their job. Do they want the job or no? I have had 14 plus hour work days, simply because I wanted the job and so I had to put in the time required. This job may not be a good fit for this employee. Some jobs require a person to be self-policing, self-regulating. They have to check their own work, keep track of their own time, and they have to hold themselves accountable every inch of the way. If she is not able to do that then she might be with the wrong employer. If it were me and I had several conversations about this already I probably would tell her this directly, “If you cannot get a handle on your arrival times, then this might not be the workplace for you.”

    26. annejumps*

      I guess they need it explained that for all intents and purposes there IS a defined start time annnnd it’s when this meeting starts.

    27. Jaydee*

      The easiest to address is that this employee is late for or missing meetings that are either standing meetings or scheduled/notified in advance. That’s really clear what the expectation is and really measurable as to whether that expectation is met. “Weekly team meetings are scheduled for 9:00 on Tuesdays. You don’t get here until 9:30, and you miss the meetings. [Or, you are still getting coffee/putting your jacket in your cubicle and don’t walk in until 9:10 and disrupt the meeting.] That’s not acceptable. You need to be sitting in the conference room, ready to go, at 8:59 every Tuesday morning. Is that something you can do?”

      The harder part is that you and team members might want to have impromptu chats about work early in the morning. If that’s a legitimate business need for everyone to have access to each other for impromptu in-person conversation at certain times of day, then you need to establish an expected start time or core hours or something like that. Otherwise, if you want to maintain the flexible start-time thing, there might need to be other ways of communicating that don’t require real-time, face-to-face conversation first thing in the morning. Send emails, leave voicemails, schedule time later in the day to talk.

    28. Lucille2*

      I have managed teams like this where start times are not a set time, but up to the individual (salaried employees) to manage their schedule effectively. I have also run into similar issues, and below are some recommendations:

      1: Establish clear expectations of the job. Employee is expected to be in the office consistently during normal business hours. If they have a need to come in later than most (child care, long commute, or working with global teams that require late meetings), then they should clear that with you first. And they should expected to be in office for a full day (8 hours). I usually told my team that the start time was flexible, but I expected them to be in office to support their clients (internal or external) and be on time for meetings during business hours. If an employee wanted to come in at 7am and leave early, then they were expected to be flexible for meetings that needed to happen at 4pm.
      2: Start time should be consistent on a daily basis. I need to know when I need to start worrying. If the employee needs to start late on some day, there should be an email to their manager. This should be the exception not the rule. If late start requests are happening once a week or more, another discussion needs to happen about expectations.
      3: Have a conversation with HR about expectations of employees time in office (assuming they are salaried). I had an issue with an employee, and my HR basically told me there wasn’t much I could do to enforce a start time or even require this person to be in office for 8 hours. Their guidelines to me were similar to above. It’s good to know your company’s policies before enforcing some expectations. In my case, HR did agree that if there are meetings they need to be present for, as manager I can set a pretty clear expectation and hold my team accountable.
      4: Do not recap any meeting discussions that have been missed. Also for impromptu discussions. If the employee insists on coming in later than everyone else and misses valuable discussions, they are accountable for that. Let them know they miss these opportunities which could impact their work.

    29. OnTimeManager*

      As a manager who has had to deal with a couple of employees with chronic tardiness, I can say that those who would come in early after being talked to by their boss are normally the employees who wouldn’t be chronically tardy in the first place. It’s especially tricky when the behavior pre-dates you because the flexibility that comes with this behavior is often seen as a perk and asking them to come in earlier feels like you are taking something away.

      I will say, that correcting this behavior seldom corrects itself right away and it’s important to focus on how this behavior negatively affects the tardy person via reputational damage, loss of assignments/responsibilities, etc. That’s what’s been effective for me. Of course, you have to then follow through on those repercussions, which many managers are loath to do (a recurring theme on this site for sure! :) ) Once there is an actual incentive to come in on time (and sadly manager expectation isn’t enough), the behavior will often get better.

      1. Decima Dewey*

        There’s a persistent rumor in our library system that there’s a 15 minute grace period and that as long as you come in within that time period it’s fine. Two Grandbosses, Payroll, and HR have stated in meetings that there is no such grace period. Also, except for Fridays and Saturdays, official start time is 15 minutes before we open to the public. That means getting the circulation computers up as well as the cash register for fines. So coming in 10 minutes after the official start time is not cool.

    30. designbot*

      When I had this problem with an employee, I didn’t even talk to him about lateness specifically. I was annoyed by late starts and on time to early ends, too much time making oatmeal and small talk in the kitchen, by him not being at his desk when I needed him… what I was really annoyed about was him not taking enough ownership of his work, and so that’s what I talked to him about. I specifically told him, I don’t want to have to monitor your comings and goings, I want to be able to just trust you to do the job. I’d say I saw small improvements within a week, and substantial improvements about a month in.

    31. Brightlights*

      I had an employee who was regularly late in ways that impacted her deadlines. I put her on a PIP and nearly fired her- she got to her last straw and I told her that if it happened again she would be terminated. She was transferred to another manager upon my promotion and continued to do the same thing. She was not fired but continued with us until the end of her contract. I couldn’t say why; I was no longer with the department.

      Just show the F up, people. Reasonably on time. It’s not that hard.

    32. Student*

      So, any crime (or deliberate rule-breaking, in this case) has three elements. Means, motive, opportunity. To manage this problem, you need to deal with at least one of those – preferably more.

      Means – it’s easy for them to skip this meeting because it is the first one of the day, and the company doesn’t have a well-defined start time. If you want to tackle the problem here, move the meeting time to a time they can’t so easily skip. You can also require a specific start time, either for this employee or for your team.

      Motive – why is the employee skipping the meeting? Are they afraid of what they’ll hear, afraid of talking to you? Do they view it as a waste of their time? Are they trying to avoid getting more work? Is there something specifically unpleasant about the meeting that they are avoiding (such as annoying co-worker dominating the meeting, meeting runs late, meeting goes off agenda easily)? This isn’t necessarily where I would start, but I’d at least reflect on whether the meeting suffers from any common meeting problems.

      Opportunity – You haven’t done anything but reprimand them. So far, a reprimand isn’t really sticking. It’s not, apparently, hurting their job performance or work quality substantively to skip these meetings (at least, not hurting them enough to miss meeting content that they prioritize the meetings themselves). They aren’t getting enough beneficial stuff out of the meeting to want to attend, either. So, up the penalties/consequences for not being at the meeting. Maybe that means just not making time for them outside of the proscribed meeting, so they have to show up if they want your attention or want their weekly assignment info. Maybe that means something harsher than a reprimand in your org. Maybe that means they miss out on the best assignments because they don’t show up. They miss deadlines and you don’t bail them out. There are many options like this.

    33. Courageous cat*

      I’ve been talked to about lateness and I was on time for a very long time afterward and very paranoid about it.

      I’ve also talked to an employee about lateness who just… didn’t really change anything at all. Unfortunately he was indispensable in his position at that exact time, and he probably knew that.

    34. Drama Llama*

      As someone who dealt with this issue regularly, this is best addressed during recruitment by hiring someone who is inherently punctual.

      I don’t say anything if someone is late occasionally due to unforeseen circumstances – we’ve all been there, done that. But if you’re dealing with someone who simply doesn’t value punctuality, it will be an ongoing and persistent problem. Sure, once you talk to them most people will make an effort to come earlier. In my experience, though, they will eventually slack off and start coming in late again. Habits are hard to break.

      If anybody is chronically late then management will find out, even if there aren’t time cards. If our store opens late we will get complaints; I do random CCTV checks; and I drop into the stores unannounced. I also communicate with our staff regularly about the importance of being on time to their shifts so the expectation is clear from the start.

    35. LV426*

      If your company doesn’t have set hours that people are required to be in the office I can see why your employee is setting their own schedule. Flexible schedules are a bonus to salaried workers. However, as a salaried employee who has a manager that sets early morning meetings, I make it a point to show for the meetings at the time set. But if my manager asked me to show up early just because he or she might want to meet with me to discuss my work for the day I’d seriously reconsider staying in my position and would probably go job hunting.

      For me I would express specifically to your employee that they MUST attend scheduled morning meetings and that being late and missing these meetings is not negotiable unless the employee has a valid reason such as a doctor appt, or other unpreventable issue. It would also be good if you could speak with the employee and find out which days the employee can come in early for check ins instead of requiring every single day they be available in case you want to check in. If you need to impart important details on a project they are working is it possible to send them an email on what you want to convey?

      If you ultimately decide that you want this employee in the office no later than say 8am then sit down with the employee and very clearly say, “I know the company doesn’t have a set time but due to the nature of this department I’m now requiring all employees to be in the office by 8am. All meetings that are scheduled must be attended unless you have a good reason such as a scheduled day/time off or an emergency. ”
      Make sure that you are very direct in your expectations and clear on the fact that this is what the job is going forward that if they can’t meet those requirements then perhaps the job is the right fit for this employee. You may even want to do a write up as just a formal notification of the changes in the job requirements. Not necessarily writing up the employee but giving them the written notification and having them sign it to say they understand the policy you are setting. Then if the employee decides not to follow the policy and continues to be late you have set the grounds for PIP and or dismissal.

    36. LPUK*

      Probably too late to be read but here goes. I feel this one deeply because I am an owl not a lark, in common with a significant proportion of the population, and we seem to be discriminated against in the corporate world in the same way introverts are (which i also am -a double whammy).

      This is a real metabolic difference which is sometimes at odds with corporate hours policy ( which have a tendency to be set by the owls in the business who love to get up early!) it’s very difficult for me to get up, always with the aid of an alarm, driving while groggy is not the safest and when I get to the office early, I don’t get much useful thinking done till nearer 10am ( but i’m Fantastic in the afternoon, which is why i’m consistently a high performer) .

      I deal with this by seeking out jobs/ companies with no defined starting time, aiming to arrive at my desk no later than 9(ish),never being late for a meeting and ensuring I never miss a deadline and deliver consistently great work ( I know your employee isn’t currently meeting this standards). If my boss suddenly started saying I needed to be in at 7 that would be a really big problem for me – it would absolutely affect my performance in the role and my health as I would be fighting fatigue all the time. I am really upset that people are egging you on to make a unilateral change to work conditions without at least exploring why this employee is consistently late and whether there are some accommodations you could negotiate – eg late starts a couple of days a week, guaranteed attendance at weekly meeting, some teleworking if possible… but perhaps the most important is the recognition that your preferred working hours are just that – a personal preference, not a sign of True Morality. There are up to 40% of the population hard-wired for afternoon/evenings, so as a manager, it’s definitely something to be aware of when setting meeting times. Of course your department may be one where certain early starts are necessary – if that’s known owls tend to self-select out of the role ( which is a key consideration for me when considering new roles – why wouldn’t I select a role that enables me to give of my very best), but that wasn’t the case here.
      Finally, your employees reported behaviour does indeed suggest a different, more disciplinary approach as she’s ignored instructions to be on time, but if she produces otherwise good work, it’s still worth going in with an exploratory attitude first.

    37. ATLibrarian*

      Just tell the person they have to be on time for meetings. And schedule the one-on-one meetings ahead of time. I’m in an office environment that’s not front facing, and I never pay attention to when my team gets in. I don’t care as long as the work gets done. They let us know when they’re running late, but as long as they’re not 15 minutes or more late, I don’t need to know except that people get concerned about accidents. It might be because I’m in metro-Atlanta. I can leave my house every day at the same time and one day it’s 1 hr 15 minutes to work, and the next it’s 2 hours. I don’t know how anyone commuting in Atlanta could NOT be late at least one day a week. A coworker once told me it took her 90 minutes to get home one night. She lives 7 miles from work. Traffic had been that badly snarled by an accident.

  2. Quirk*

    From Monday I am going to be looking after a keen and bright new graduate. We have a daunting time ahead of us.

    I’m going to be teaching him a new programming language, one significantly more demanding than the languages he’s used before. I’m going to be teaching him a domain, a toolset, a workflow. All of these are prerequisites for understanding the system I work on, which he is to be trained to work on too and will eventually have to come to understand intimately.

    It’s going to be overwhelming, and there are limits on how much I can shelter him from the complexity, but I have already some vague plans as to tasks which are both educational and somewhat useful, and I am lucky to have a project manager who understands that training new people takes time. Still, it would be good to hear other people’s thoughts on how to make this as successful and pleasant as possible.

    1. Junior Dev*

      With the toolset and workflow can you have him complete some fairly trivial tasks to get the hang of it? I just taught a guy to make pull requests on GitHub by asking him to make some updates to the readme for my project, no coding or running of programs required.

      1. Quirk*

        Yeah, I actually have a tiny configuration file change set aside for him to do which is actually relevant and useful. The change is trivial but he’ll need to go through the proper process. I’m least worried about teaching him the process to be honest, though I guess that’s also going to be part of the new information fire hose.

        1. Junior Dev*

          Is the proper process written down? Is it up to date?

          If it’s not you could add that to his list, because 1) he’ll also learn how to document things 2) writing it will cement it in his brain better.

    2. queen b*

      Do you have job aids or links to YouTube videos they could watch in case they have questions? I find that after an initial training session the people I train like to go back and work on it themselves, whether by looking through materials or just doing it themselves. It may be helpful to set up some sort of training environment, where you have started the code but he can go in and finish it. Good luck!

      1. Quirk*

        Videos not so much. The system has quite a lot of documentation, but this is something of a problem in places as not all of it is as up to date as it could be.

        I have an internal tool I wrote recently and I am planning to get him to develop new features for it – much safer than putting him on complex production code. He can break and fix things there.

    3. Quirk*

      Oh, feel free to rant about terrible training you’ve experienced in the past, by the way, it’s always good to be reminded what not to do.

    4. rubyrose*

      1. Tell him up front that he has to take notes on everything for which you do not have written documentation. If he later come to you with a question that you know he should have taken a note, or that is in written documentation, ask him what his notes say.
      2. After giving him instructions on what you want him to do, ask him to repeat them.

      1. Quirk*

        This is a good thought. Thank you. I think training him to take and organise notes is probably key to helping him get there.

        1. General Ginger*

          I would second the “have him take notes” wholeheartedly, but the 2nd point would drive me bonkers. It’s patronizing.

          1. Quirk*

            Yes, I am not so keen on the second part myself, but I don’t want to focus on the negative and put people off who are coming up with things I haven’t really considered. :)

        2. emmelemm*

          Seconding what rubyrose said, and maybe this is my curmudgeonly “kids today” moment, but it seems nobody takes notes any more, or even writes on paper. Try to get him to do this, as it will be really helpful to him.

          1. rubyrose*

            What’s bothering me is that I’m seeing 40 year olds who don’t take notes!! I don’t consider them to the kids.

      2. Baby Fishmouth*

        Be careful with #2 – I would find it incredibly patronizing to be asked to repeat instructions like I’m a child. It would sour me to the training even if everything else was going well.

        1. rubyrose*

          Fair enough. I should have been clearer. I would not ask that each and every time. But if my person starts showing that he does not follow the instructions, or gets only the first few steps and flounders, I would ask him to repeat the instructions. Or I would start having to give him the first 3 steps, then have him come back for the next 3, etc., instead of giving the all at once.

      3. Jake*

        Yeah, first time you say that to me as a grown ass adult is the first time ill wit a job on the spot.

    5. Ben There*

      A roadmap can be really helpful, not only to new hire, but also to you and to your supervisor. You can make add as much detail as you need to and it can be fleshed out as you go along, but having a written expression of the broad categories of what needs to be covered to complete his training (bonus points for indicators of how they fit together, or why they need to be done in a certain order where that applies!) You really only have to add detail as you arrive at certain milestones. It can be very useful to the trainee, to understand what they have to learn, what is/is not expected of them at various stages,etc. It can help you keep track of where you are/what you’ve covered as you juggle training and doing your regular job responsibilities. It also helps you keep supervisor updated on how far training has advanced and how much more there is to do. Don’t overthink it, but this training is basically its own project and like any other project, would likely benefit from a clear, written plan!

      1. Quirk*

        This is also a good thought. Unfortunately the project manager is off on holiday for the next couple of weeks. Once he gets back though I think having a meeting to sort out a roadmap is a good plan. It might even be better to handle the roadmap after getting to see how he copes initially.

    6. Hlyssande*

      Keep an eye on them to try and recognize when they’re feeling overwhelmed and take breaks from whatever bit is being overwhelming. There’s a point where there’s just too much info at once and a walk to get some water or a bathroom break can really make a difference.

      1. ChachkisGalore*

        Oh my goodness… so much this!!! Just remember (and I only say this, because this is how someone tried to “train” me once) – you can’t treat someone’s brain like a trashbag that you can just shove info into indiscriminately and as quickly as possible.

        Try to present things in an orderly manner and give them a break to absorb things – even better if you can come up with some lighter projects to give them the chance to put some easier concepts into action before moving onto the move advanced concepts.

    7. only acting normal*

      Most of our “keen and bright” new graduates are terrifyingly adept at picking stuff up quickly (only the keen and bright ones mind, some of the others are… not). You give them a task you expect to take a week and they come back 2 hours later looking for more work.
      As long as he genuinely is keen and bright, and you have adequate time carved out in your daily schedule for training him it should be ok.
      Maybe find out how he learns best (watching/shadowing, book-learning, doing a real task with supervision) and weight the training that way. (E.g. I’m a better autodidact than apprentice: I struggle to learn by watching someone, or being told verbally, but I am awesome with learning by doing or using written reference material).

    8. Not So NewReader*

      I have trained a lot of people. Granted it’s not the same as what you are training on but there are some general ideas.

      1) Answer the question that is asked. NOT the question you THINK he asked, but rather the exact question he did ask. This sounds straightforward. I cannot tell you how many times I had to revisit this rule. It is so easy to think they are asking about Xs and they are actually asking about Ys. Pause for a moment to make sure you know if he is talking about Xs or Ys, then answer.

      2) People find the same pitfalls. If something gave you difficulty it is likely that it will give him difficulty to. Say so. Tell him you had a hard time with it and then show him how you overcame that hard time. My work lent itself well to making up stupid reminder rhymes. Sorry, I cannot give an example here. But they were really stupid 4 line poems that I made up off the cuff to remember certain things. People laughed at how silly the poem was, but they remembered. It was helpful with some stuff. Never underestimate the power of telling people that you also had a tough time with something. Not only does it make you appear more human but it also helps them to calm down and realize, “This is actually a little tough.”

      3) If possible give him examples to keep. Give him a binder to put the examples in. Make sure each example has a title. “This is what to do when the zebras get loose” or “”Here is how to handle arguing elephants”.

      4) Stopping points or break points are so very useful. Depending on the work and depending on the employee’s point in progress I did one of these two things: I set stopping points OR I told them to stop if they thought there was a problem.
      On setting stopping points, I kind of based it how far along they were in learning the process. “Okay you seem like you have a good handle on steps 1-7. Do them and then stop let me know that you are ready for step 8.”
      On deciding to call for help with a process. “I think you have a good handle on this, so go as far as you can. If you have a problem or concern, stop and let me know.”

      5) Above all else, think out loud. I am mostly introverted. I think quietly to myself. Try not to do that. Let him see you work through a problem. People learn how to look at problems by watching us look at problems. When we think out loud we are showing them how we break a problem down in to manageable parts and we show them what paths we use to find solutions.

      I have never met anyone yet who did not sharpen me as a trainer. Each person has something that they will show you about teaching others. They usually do not realize that is what they are doing. He will show you what methods work best for his way of learning, it’s fine to keep using his preferred methods over and over in different questions.

    9. Lucille2*

      Been on the trainee’s side of this. Some suggestions I’ve found useful below:
      – Create some exercises that your trainee can complete on their own one a weekly or so basis. A lot of people learn best by doing, and gear the exercises around real-world scenarios they would work on without any risk tied to it.
      – This is a great time to teach some good coding habits. And I mean clean, organized code that another programmer can come in and easily work on.
      – Point him in the direction of some useful self-learning tools. There is a wealth of knowledge out there searchable by google. If your company has any e-learning resources like, this can take some of the load off your plate too. He’s coming from grad school, so doing some self-learning shouldn’t be too much of a stretch for him.
      – Remember that learning the new programming language is his responsibility, not yours. You’re simply providing guidance. I say this mainly to keep your own frustrations in check. It’s great that your project manager understands what you’re working with.

    10. Piano Girl*

      My previous job had a very steep learning curve – complicated software, multiple entities, etc. it was good to know that everybody finds it daunting.

    11. Qwerty*

      Off the top of my head from my days of mentoring college grads and interns:
      1) In addition to taking notes, have him update the documentation as he learns things. If there are steps missing from the documentation, or information that is vague, it’ll be helpful to the whole team and any future new hires if that info is updated, plus being able to describe a process demonstrates understanding it. The guideline my team used was to leave the documentation in the state you wish you found it in.
      2) If you don’t already have a code review process, set that up now. Include him as a silent reviewer on the pull requests for more experienced people, so he can see examples of how to do things and ask questions like what does that symbol mean and why is X better than Y?
      3) Seconding the suggestions to start with small items and work your way to larger ones. It’s helpful to have some easy wins early on so he doesn’t just feel like he’s drowning in new information.
      4) Once he gets past the small items, start responding to questions with where to look to find the information or a probing question to help him figure it out. Don’t do this for all questions, but just enough to help him learn. Eventually
      5) Trying working on his machine before his start date. New hire machines almost always have software/plugins/licenses missing and this is the easiest way to flush out the missing components.
      6) Do you use a universal coding standard or a company specific one? Link to this in your documentation
      7) Make sure that you are approachable!! If you aren’t getting questions from your new hire, then check in with him, and preferable designate one or two other people as “backups” for if you are busy. Explain what your preferred communication method is (IM, email, in person, etc). I’ve seen so many trainees flounder because they felt like they were interrupting if they bothered their mentor with a question. The first couple weeks really need to have a “there are no dumb” questions vibe.

    12. marmalade*

      Regarding the new programming language, can you earmark a few days to teach that to him and get him to write a little game in it or something? Then you can work through refactoring, coding principles, writing tests, github stuff, etc. That’ll help ensure that he has a good working knowledge of the language, but also that he’s starting off on the right foot re: coding quality, problem solving, programming principles etc.

      I did something like this when I started a grad developer role, and it was incredible. I can’t advise it enoug!

    13. Student*

      Successful and pleasant are sometimes mutually exclusive goals. The system is unpleasant and the training options to deal with that are limited. Own up to that and focus on successful rather than pleasant.

      Also, in my experience, plan for short-term failure here. Failure is actually a great teacher for complex systems like this. Teach him the right way. Plan for him to try doing his own thing, failing, and then having to explain the way you do a thing. It’s okay for him to fail, and should even be expected. If he’s not failing, he’s not trying enough on his own, and he’s not exploring the system enough. Part of that is supporting him through failure – making sure he knows it’s okay for something to not work out, and helping him figure out how to handle that failure positively. If you ream him out or make fun of him for inevitable failures during training, that’s what turns a lot of people off.

    14. Minocho*

      If there is an official “documentation” repository of some sort, this is a great time to create/improve/update it with regard to this system – an extension of the taking notes suggestion. I am definitely a learning by doing person – I’d rather get thrown into the deep end, especially if I know I have a life preserver a few feet away I can swim to if I find myself drowning a bit. I know that doesn’t work for everyone, so when teaching I also try an approach where they shadow me on troubleshooting something they wouldn’t necessarily be ready for on their own. I try to explain why I’m doing what I’m doing, and my troubleshooting thought process. If this system involves a lot of communication with tech support, team members or end users, they can also see how you interact, and begin to learn about the people involved as well.

      A shiny new graduate may not know how he/she learns best – but they’ve just come out of academia, so they may! Ask! They may be able to guide you as well.

      Whenever I have a chance to teach something, I know that this will be my chance to prove that I not only can do something, but I really *understand* it. If I don’t understand it, look at it from different points of view and present it to someone else in multiple ways, I can’t teach it – so I look at teaching as an opportunity to look for my own weaknesses to work on too.

  3. Foreign Octopus*

    So I saw something on Pinterest this morning that made me set down my cup of tea a little hard. It was the image of a tweet about how to get an interview and it went like this:

    1. Find out the name of the recruiter.
    2. Call the recruiter and say that you had a voicemail from them asking to schedule an interview.
    3. Schedule an interview.

    I was like nooooo don’t do this. This is bad. Alison says no!

    1. Tiny Teapot*

      “How to not get an actual interview” or “how to offend many people at a place you want to work, and probably won’t get to”

    2. Amber Rose*

      “How to get blacklisted by every recruiter and many employers by proving yourself sneaky and untrustworthy.”

    3. PB*

      OMG no! We know who we want to invite for interviews, and we do it by email, and they have no idea what schedule we do it on. This is awful. It’s a really good way to get yourself written off at a place you want to work.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      Set fire to resume and cover letter for this company, for this and future jobs. Watch them burn. Chuckle softly to self.

    5. Persimmons*

      I can’t help but wonder if they heard the anecdotes about vocalists getting a record deal this way (Martina McBride was one).

    6. irene adler*

      But then once the caller’s name is given, the recruiter will say, “I’m sorry, I never contacted you. And no, I’m not going to schedule that interview. Have a nice day. Good-bye!”
      (and that’s assuming caller actually reaches the recruiter and does not get routed to the voicemail)

      Lots of recruiters are using email + scheduling apps to set up interview appointments. So there aren’t any voicemails to return.

      Most likely the caller’s motives will be quickly found out. Which makes them look pretty bad to the recruiter.

      1. Matilda Jefferies*

        Right? Like, how dumb do they think the recruiters are? They’re not going to look up the caller’s name and see if they actually did leave a voice mail?

        “Oh, dang! I clearly put this person’s resume in the “no” pile, but now they’re calling me to say I didn’t! Obviously, this random stranger knows my mind and my applicant tracking system better than I do – I will schedule an interview immediately!” LOL.

    7. Cruciatus*

      Relatedly, yesterday on nbcnews dot com they had an article about the hidden job market and how to tap into it. I won’t link to it here, but it’s under their business section still.

      1. Observer*

        That’s annoying and poor advice. But the advice to actually lie and act like the recruiter / hiring manager is a dope is a whole different level of bad.

    8. The Dread Pirate Buttercup*

      I was advised this early on. I decided I’d rather not work for a place where I knew things like this worked, even if I could bring myself to do it.

    9. Bea*

      I would assume I got the number wrong if I were the recruiter. Apologize for the mistake and not interview the person.

      It doesn’t work. They won’t have your resume to cross reference. Rolling my eyes hard at this.

    10. Not really a Waitress*

      Ha! This reminds me of one I saw that said How to get a Job like Beyonce. Show up and say “I work here now.”

      1. Zennish*

        That would probably work if you actually were Beyonce, and if it were a record company. There are very few Beyonces…one, at last count.

      2. ella*

        Last I checked, Beyonce doesn’t apply for jobs anywhere, and basically never has. She was in Destiny’s Child by the time she was like 16.

    11. BRR*

      I wonder if the creator of this wonderful idea ever considered that one minuscule issue of the recruiter possibly knowing who they want to interview? When I was single, I would receive initial messages from people online with the subject “Re: Hi.” That is a guaranteed way to make it on my sh!t list.

      1. Observer*

        Yeah, the second I see re: anything is the subject line from someone I don’t already know, it gets deleted unread.

    12. Miaw*

      Which recruiter is stupid enough to fall for this?
      If they are stupid enough, do u really want to work in a place run by idiots.

    13. Just this once*

      I actually kind of did this once – my roommate and I both applied to the same place for seasonal work, they called and left a message on the machine asking to schedule an interview (back in the days when roommates shared landlines), but they didn’t specify who they wanted the interview with. We decided to play dumb and we both placed separate return calls scheduling an interview. The day of my interview I sat down with the manager and while we were making introductory small talk the receptionist came in and said she could not find my application materials anywhere (guess they had called my roommate). The manager waved her away saying that was fine, he would interview me without them. Both my roommate and I ended up getting hired.

    14. Jadelyn*

      Oh my god that would have me immediately not only trash their application, but mark them down as “never interview” for any positions in the future as well. Don’t track me down, call me, and then LIE TO ME! That’s three strikes right there.

  4. I can't eat sandwiches*

    It seems to me that a lot of the commentary lately has involved worst-case scenarios or conjecture about details not in the OP’s letter. Do you find this type of discussion helpful or do you think it derails the thread?

    1. WellRed*

      Annoying and unhelpful. I had someone point out myriad worst case scenarios on a simple comment I made that were nit referenced in the letter and would not have made a difference in the advice given.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      Eh, for most human interactions the correct answer is ‘either extreme is ridiculous, you need to be in this middle range.’ For example, ‘no nonwork conversation ever’ doesn’t really relate to how social animals actually function in groups. At the other end, someone is so obsessed with turning every work conversation into a dissertation on how Han shot first* that people start to avoid interacting with them, with is not functional for a workplace. The correct middle ground range between these points that counts as ‘professional’ will legitimately vary, not just between individual preferences, but between workplaces. I think a lot of worst-casing is just “in my view/experience if you’re to the left of this line the behavior is okay, but to the right of this line it’s not.” With the right context you can make almost anything okay or not okay, so people throw out contexts.

      *Han shot first. The rightness of the obsessive position is not the issue here.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Hmm. To go briefly meta–With more context from downthread I am shifting my position on this. But it’s because examples like Politics OMG! and What If They Have Dropsy? resonate–and those are more worst casing than my initial interpretation.

      1. ExceptionToTheRule*

        I can confirm it does. I very rarely delve into them anymore to read, let alone comment. Friday open thread is usually the exception.

        1. Windchime*

          This is kind of where I’m at, too. There are either hundreds of derailing conversations (“I love your handle!” “Oh, thanks, it comes from TV Show X!” + 300 comments about X) or tons of repetitive comments, basically re-stating what Alison said. But the worst are the assumptions and the accusations that the OP is “hiding something” by not giving enough information.

          It’s exhausting. I read the posts and Alison’s advice, maybe a few comments. Once the repetition or derailing starts, I quit reading.

          1. a1*

            I’ve noticed a trend to bend over backwards coming up with all sorts of reasons to give the subject of the letter the benefit of the doubt, while doing the opposite for the LWs themselves (bending over backwards to come up with all sorts of reasons NOT to give the LW the benefit of the doubt).

    3. anon for this*

      Annoying and unhelpful, and it derails into a lot of hand wringing and anecdotes that aren’t useful.

      But I can deal with that or scroll. What I’m finding irritating is that “popular” or “well-known” commenters get away with things that other people get dogpiled for. Or if you disagree with their advice, you get bombarded with white knights defending them and their commenting history. Just because someone gives what you think is reasonable advice doesn’t mean I can’t disagree with them.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I think to some extent that happens because when someone is a regular commenter, you have context for their words — from their previous comments, you have an idea of where they’re coming from and in that context, it’s human nature that it’s going to be easier to give someone the benefit of the doubt. But I do think you’re right that it can result in what you’re describing.

        1. anon for this*

          I just know that it’s made me less likely to comment or read the comments because I don’t want to have to worry about getting dogpiled at because I politely disagreed with someone and didn’t have three years previous knowledge of their commenting history.

          1. Lily Evans*

            Yeah, I’ve noticed that a lot lately, the expectation from “regulars” that everyone in the comment section should know specific details about them as an explanation for why they interact a certain way. And it’s not even the specific commenter half the time, it’s other regular commenters jumping in to defend them based on their posting history. It feels very clique-y.

            1. a1*

              Well, sometimes it is the specific commenter, too. I see posts that start with “As you know, I am currently dealing with X” or “You all know I am/did …” And I’m thinking “No, I don’t know.” And it’s not even in reference to something said elsewhere in that thread, but something they’ve been discussing for weeks on Open Threads or something. Sorry, no, I don’t read every word you write.

        2. JamieS*

          I think it routinely results in what was described.

          I normally see 3 things happen:

          1. Commenter is blatantly rude/unhelpful/breaks rule and people excuse it with something like “Commenter said X but I know they meant Y even though they blatantly said X”

          2. Comment is ambiguous and could be ok if good intentions are assumed and taken badly if bad intentions see assumed. A lot of times good intentions are assumed for some and bad intentions are automatically assumed if it’s an “other” commenting even if the good interpretation is much more likely.

          3. The comment isn’t rude/unhelpful/etc. but someone disagrees and they’re dog piled for daring to disagree with the “cool crowd”.

          1. President Porpoise*

            4. Regular commenter post 30+ comments in a thread defending their position, thereby making it look like most commenters agree with their position, if people aren’t paying attention to who says what – and then religiously replies aggressively to anyone who disagrees, regardless of whether the disagreement was posted in a respectful/considerate manner.

            5. Certain regulars snipe at each other all the time, and may pull in historical debates for extra spice. Not fun, not helpful, and I like to see a wide variety of experiences and viewpoints in a blog that gives advice for many almost universal dilemmas.

          2. Lily Rowan*

            I know I basically did a combination of 1 and 2 the other day, and it was totally unconscious. I said, “X poster said ABC,” someone else was like, “No, ABC is totally reasonable, but they actually said DEF,” and I had to go back to read the original comment to realize it was true! I had totally unconsciously translated their actual comment into something much more reasonable.

            I don’t know if it helps to think people aren’t doing it on purpose, but that was definitely true for me recently.

            1. JamieS*

              No it doesn’t really help to think the problem is caused by people being unable to comprehend a comment before replying. Everyone makes occasional mistakes, maybe misreads a word or skips over an important sentence, which is understandable but considering how often it happens if lack of reading comprehension is one of the main causes that’s extremely concerning to me and not remotely comforting.

      2. Les G*

        Cosigned. I’ve found myself at the bottom of dogpiles, or had comments removed, while favorite regulars who left equally rules-violating comments were off the hook. It starts to feel cliquish.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I’ll try to pay more attention to that. Sometimes there’s inconsistency just because I don’t see everything — so a comment that I’d remove if I saw it stays up because I didn’t see it. But I’m sure I do bring my own biases to it as well. (That said, I consider you a favorite regular!)

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Unfortunately I looked into them last year and none of them (that are compatible with WordPress) are great. The obstacle is that they all will automatically remove a comment after it gets a certain number of flags, which I thought was really open to abuse.

              There is a workaround, although it’s a bit of a pain — you can flag a comment by replying to it with something like “Alison look at this” and including a link. The link will send it to moderation and I’ll see it pretty quickly. Some people do this and I really appreciate it.

              1. Les G*

                I agree that the flagging-then-removing system sounds…not great. The catch 22 is that, as you say above, you can’t be everywhere at once and miss offensive comments. But the self-appointed moderators reinforce the problem folks are talking about above. So maybe you could encourage folks to lean more heavily on the links option?

                1. Vanellope*

                  I can’t remember what website it was, maybe feministe? But their work around was to have commenters request a giraffe – when things got out of hand just literally say “I think we need a giraffe in this thread” and that way I believe moderators could either search for the word or have it flagged and know where to they were needed. Basically any word unlikely to come up in regular conversation. It seemed to work pretty well over there!

    4. Robin Q*

      Agreed that this is very unhelpful. I think if the “I can’t eat sandwiches rule” was more abused by it would help-often the derails start with people arguing with the original commenter about how their suggestion is rude to a very specific, narrow subset of the population.

      1. Snark*

        It can get kind of performative, too: watch me, the Wokest Commenter Who Ever Commented, issuing a blistering takedown of this un-woke asshole who said a Problematic Thing! BOOM MIC DROP

        I generally find that if I assume that posters in this commentariat are commenting in good faith and with good intent, I’m not often disappointed.

      2. JamieS*

        I’ve noticed that too. Along the same lines it’s extremely annoying to make a post and a large chunk of the replies are about some exception to what was posted.

        I’m convinced that, depending on who it was that commented, if someone made the comment “In general 8 year olds are shorter than adults” that half the replies would either be people posting about someone who was 6’2 at 8 years old or calling the person who originally made the comment a bigot because some 8 year olds can be taller than some little people.

    5. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I’ve also noticed a lot of catastrophising and “what about”s, and honestly, it drives me away. Well, first I roll my eyes a lot. But yes, unhelpful. I particularly find it grating when someone says something like, “Well, maybe she acts this way because she was a victim of X when she was a child,” or, “She sounds like she has a disorder so you should give her a break.” I find it dismissive of the OP who is trying to find a way to solve a problem and doesn’t need to be lectured on empathy and understanding. I walk around with empathy every day, it doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to get irritated with the person who cut me off on the highway.

      1. BRR*

        Same here. It feels like the prompt is to figure out all possible scenarios. It’s a wonderful thing that people are considering additional perspectives, but we don’t need to take it as a challenge to consider every possible thing.

      2. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

        I can’t agree with everything you’ve said here. I find the catastrophizing of what-ifs terribly unhelpful.

        For some reason we are all very capable of understanding that 1 or 2 people might be struck by lightning every year, that doesn’t mean we are all doomed to be called sparky if we leave the house when it rains, but when it comes to some of the topics here the first instinct is to go to the least likely outcome.

      3. Les G*

        This so hard. I swear some folks view the questions as creative writing prompts. It’s not helpful to the OP who wrote in, and I would never consider writing in having read the comments because I know I’ll write 10 paragraphs trying to explain everything and someone will still find a way to speculate.

        1. anon for this*

          This. I have an issue I’d love to write in about, but seeing the trend in comments and some of the feelings about my particular topic in previous comments, I’m wary about writing in. I’d like Alison’s advice, but I think the comments and speculation would make me upset. I asked for advice once before in an open thread and the what-ifs and speculation was awful.

            1. General Ginger*

              Kind of piggybacking off of this, how do you decide which letters to publish together? What deters me from writing in, and what I think contributes to some comments shenanigans is when there is a really “mundane” letter (my coworker whistles all the time) alongside a really heavy one (my boss pushed me and says it’s because of a phobia). When I see posts like that, I pretty much know to skip the comments, because they’re going to ignore the whistling coworkers and make wild speculation about the boss/employee.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Do you mean within a short answer post? I look for an interesting mix. The large majority of readers don’t read the comments at all, so primarily I’m looking for what will make a good mix of content, which is a different question that what will be optimal for the comment section, unfortunately. (And it doesn’t make sense to cater the content to the comments section because commenters account for such a small proportion of overall readers.)

                1. Detective Amy Santiago*

                  Have you ever considered making top level ‘threads’ for the short answer posts. Like, you make a comment that says “Discuss #1 Here”, “Discuss #2 Here” etc? That way each individual letter has it’s own separate area.

                2. General Ginger*

                  Thanks, Alison. I’m going to +1 to Det. Amy’s suggestion — maybe setting up dedicated comment threads.

                3. Basia, also a Fed*

                  I agree wholeheartedly with the Detective above. Sometimes when comments get out of control on one letter, it’s too exhausting to try to pick through the other comments to find the ones on the other letters in which I’m interested. If Alison started a comment thread for each one (“Discuss #2 here” – great idea, Detective!), it would be so much easier to navigate the comments.

          1. tra la la*

            Same here. Way too hard to frame the question in a way that doesn’t feel too specific but also doesn’t trigger all kinds of speculation.

      4. Not a Real Giraffe*

        My absolute favorite line of late is, “I know we aren’t supposed to armchair diagnose here, but [insert armchair diagnosis.]”

          1. soon 2be former fed*

            That post was amazing and should be required reading for all internet commenters.

        1. krysb*

          If I used what I read here, I would have to assume that I’m the only person in the world that doesn’t have some sort of anxiety disorder.

      1. Washi*

        I think it’s helpful only if it is more than like 5% likely to be true AND changes the advice. But a lot of times it’s “this could be a symptom of depression” or something, and it just doesn’t change anything to speculate on that.

        1. Snark*

          I like the “if it changes the advice” distinction, but it can still be irritating if someone just leaps out in the universe of the unknown. Speculation really needs to stick to reasonably, defensibly filling in gaps between facts presented by OPs, not inventing new facts and factors not mentioned.

          1. On Fire*

            Abusive relationships, mental illness and substance abuse seem to be the usual suspects when this starts. I think that’s common to many online boards, though. I see it a lot: “My partner and I had an argument – ” “YOU’RE IN AN ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP RUN AWAY.”

            1. Snark*

              “OP, have you read Gift of Fear?”

              *not to cast aspersions at that very fine book, but it’s just sort of become a trope.

              1. bonkerballs*

                Oh God, yes. And I know I can be a somewhat contrary person, so the fact that that books has come up so very often in the comments has pretty much guaranteed that I will never read it.

            2. LJay*

              Yeah, I’m hesitant to post things about my relationship online because people automatically jump to “abusive relationship”.

              I’ve been in abusive relationships. I’m not in one now. I’m in a relationship with healthy boundaries, and that includes my significant other sometimes expecting me to compromise sometimes by changing the way I do things, just as I sometimes expect him to compromise by changing the way he does things.

              Asking how I can better remember to close a shower curtain after I use the shower doesn’t mean I’m in an abusive relationship. It means my boyfriend likes the shower curtain to be closed, while I have no strong feelings on the shower curtain position, so I would like to remember to close it for him.

              Somehow it’s okay to ask your coworkers to completely change all their toiletries and cleaning products, but if you ask your significant other to do any one thing it shows that your relationship is problematic.

          2. OhNo*

            I definitely agree with the “if it changes the advice” distinction. There have been multiple times when I’ve written a long comment or reply, just to close with, “But none of that affects what you should do”

            … And then I usually delete the comment, because why waste comment space on something that’s not actually helpful and doesn’t change the advice Alison has given?

            It’s not necessarily bad to have comments reminding you to consider X, or asking “what if Y, would that change how you felt?”. But when half the comments are like that, and each one has a string of “that’s ridiculous/unhelpful/beside the point/armchair diagnosing/sandwiches!” replies, it gets old in a hurry.

    6. Amadeo*

      I think it’s pretty derailing and unhelpful to the OP in most instances, to be honest. It doesn’t seem to be limited to just a repeated handful of people for *every* one, but there’s a predictable handful of people for almost each ‘hot button’ subject that repeatedly do it.

    7. Snark*

      Yeah, it’s gotten frustrating a number of times lately – especially when there’s a contentious social and political issues at play, I feel like half the comment thread tends to devolve into advice column fanfic and performative callouts. We know what the OP tells us, and getting way off in the weeds of speculation does nobody any good.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yesssss. If anyone has advice on how I can better manage this (with the caveat that I’m not online 24/7 and additional moderators are not on the table right now), I’d love to hear it. A perfectly worded comment rule? A heavier hand with banning repeat violators? I’m very open to input on this.

        1. Robin Q*

          Could you just take a few days to moderate a little more heavily? There are lots of repeat offenders with this and if you’re around to catch it quickly and point it out hopefully it will die down. It might not have to be something ongoing.

            1. Lily Rowan*

              Also maybe having comments only open for a set period? Like, you know you’re available to babysit the comments for four hours today — the likely-to-be-controversial goes up at the beginning of that time period and comments are closed at the end of it.

              1. Zombeyonce*

                This could be really problematic because there are commentors all over the world in many different time zones, and they’d either be left out of commenting completely or Alison would have to set aside hours for every single post, which would quickly add up to more time than she’s awake in a day.

                1. caledonia*

                  Again, you are never going to please everyone.

                  What if Alison keeps comments open for 1 or 2 days? (Oh! what if people are on holiday/on a work retreat in the woods/in a coma etc)

                2. bonkerballs*


                  I don’t know that that would really do anything since it seems to me the vast majority of comments on a particular post would be over by then. I mean, I’m in the US on the west coast. If I’m reading at work in the morning, I’ll refresh the comments pretty frequently to see what’s new. But by 3pm or so? Commenting seems to be pretty much over by then.

              2. FD*

                Yeah, I like that idea. I think CA leaves them up for a period of days–which lets people in time zones comment–and then closes them to save moderator time.

            2. Qwerty*

              It would also be good to do this a few days after a post gets a lot of attention or you are featured regularly on a new site. Those instances seem to bring in a lot of new commenters that change the general tone/culture of the comment section.

            3. AcademiaNut*

              I like this, and I also really like it when you remove an entire problematic thread or subthread to tidy up the comments.

              A lot of the issues I have with the comments are not trolls or outrageous individual posts, but patterns. Time-zone wise, I tend to come into the comments when they are full, so to me it’s blindingly obvious when a couple of regulars have gotten into a sniping match, or one poster feels very very strongly about an issue and is posting half the comments, or the what-about-sandwiches posts have spiralled out of control.

            4. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

              If you do decide to do a reset, you don’t have to do it this week. You can wait till you have some extra free time.

              And maybe save up a few of the particularly fraught letters to release then.

        2. Snark*

          I think both approaches have merit. Writing a rule is tough because some speculation – or at least, reasonable filling-in of obvious gaps in information provided – is pretty necessary for you to issue advice and for us to discuss it. But….

          “Please limit speculation on facts not presented by letter writers to reasonable, defensible assumptions based on what information is provided. Posters making a habit of unwarranted, sweeping speculation about facts not in a letter will be warned and may be banned.”

          And, frankly, I think a little more elaboration on the benefit of the doubt rule could be warranted too.

          1. Observer*

            I’d probably modify to include that the speculation should make a difference to how you approach the problem. Because sometimes the speculation is defensible but still derailing because it really doesn’t matter.

            eg The mommy who talks her head off about her perfect kids. The speculation that she’s dealing with insecurities of her own is very defensible. But it’s really incredibly useless because it does nothing to change the OP’s approach.

            1. Snark*

              I really like that litmus test: is this speculation likely to result in a conclusion that is actionable for OP or someone else in a similar situation?

              There’s a difference between:

              “She’s clearly dealing with personal insecurities about being a mom. It’s incredibly misogynist to just assume she’s being this way because she’s annoying and self-centered.”
              “Keep in mind that a lot of behaviors like this are rooted in personal insecurity, so when you talk to her, I’d take the approach of….”

              1. Queen of the File*

                Thank you for this clarification. I tend to see speculation as people looking for empathetic context (unless it is on the way extreme end of the WTF meter) and so I sometimes have trouble figuring out what exactly is annoying to people. It’s helpful to see an example.

          2. Lissa*

            To me, the problem isn’t when one person speculates. It’s when 12 more people jump in to agree, lecture the OP on empathy, and talk about their own experiences with abuse, bullying etc. as though it is *obviously* what’s going on. Then people read the comment section, see ALL the comments about it, and kinda forget that actually nothing in the original letter said for sure the person was food insecure, suffered from depression etc. So it really can take over, as opposed to being mentioned as one possibility of many with some useful solutions.

            1. Washi*

              Yeah, I notice a similar thing whenever there’s a question about pretty basic work expectations, like being on time/paying attention in meetings/being polite to your coworkers where people jump in some argument about how that is oppressive or maybe someone has a rare medical condition that won’t allow them to do that.

              1. Washi*

                (I’m thinking in particular about that letter where the person’s employee kept falling asleep in meetings, and I was baffled by the number of comments about how it could be because the meeting is really boring, or because the employee has insomnia, when regardless, you just shouldn’t be regularly falling asleep at work!)

          3. paul*

            Rules without a means to enforce them don’t do much good though. The fundamental rules of commentating here seem pretty sound to me and not all that atypical. It’s just that one person trying to moderate a fairly popular blog, that doesn’t even use registration, is a recipe for what the commentary here has become.

        3. Annie Moose*

          I certainly don’t think banning speculation would be a good idea (you’ve got to do a little extrapolation to talk about a letter!), but maybe a rule asking people to minimize their speculation and not argue over things that aren’t actually in the letter?

          Of course, merely writing a rule doesn’t make people follow it–but it can make it easier for us commenters to be like, “hey, this seems like excessive speculation which is against the rules” and hopefully nip things in the bud. (similar to the “don’t argue the same thing in every comment thread” rule)

          1. Snark*

            I like the idea of mentioning arguing about facts not in a letter, because that’s been happening a LOT lately.

            1. OhNo*

              Not gonna lie, I like this idea a lot just because I feel like every time I got to point it out, I’d write, “Objection! Counsel is arguing facts not in evidence. Judge Alison, I move that these remarks be stricken from the record.”

          2. ChachkisGalore*

            I think I agree with you… I think some level of light/minor speculation can be helpful. There are definitely times where I’ve read a letter, come to a conclusion about the subject of the letter, then come down to the comments and read someone’s take on the behavior that never even occurred to me (in the vein of, it could be insecurity about her role as a working on mom rather than straight up kid narcissism causing the recent mom-oversharer letter). That sort of speculation wouldn’t change what I’d do about the situation, but it would absolutely change how I did it or how I approached it.

            It definitely gets to be too much sometimes – it’s not really helpful to hear crazy theories based on things decidedly not in the letters at all or very, very rare/unlikely explanations. My bigger issue though, is the speculation that goes too far PLUS the commentor digs in and defends this idea as the only and absolutely correct interpretation of the situation at hand.

            So yeah I like the no excessive speculation idea!

        4. anon for this*

          Would you consider putting something in bold at the end of each letter and at the top of the comment section? Maybe if people saw the rule after you gave your advice, it might stop some of it? I think people are less likely to click a link to read about commenting rules tbh.

        5. shortbread*

          An upvote/downvote system would probably be really helpful. I feel a lot of the dog-piling comes from people who just want to “+1” or “this”.

          1. anon for this*

            I think this would make it worse. Because then the crowd who is well known and loved would get all their comments automatically upvoted and those comments aren’t always necessarily the most useful, insightful, or relevant.

          2. Detective Amy Santiago*

            I’m not a fan of up/down votes, but I do think implementing “featured comments” could be a potentially useful thing that happens on another blog I read that has an active commenting community.

            Basically, Alison can move up comments to the top that provide exceptionally useful information for the OP.

            On the post the other day about the restaurant changing policies to try to decrease the number of overdoses that were happening on site, this comment came in later, but was very informative and balanced and I wish it had been higher up.


            1. caledonia*

              But is a debate between (some people) enough not to try new ideas out? That thread is about 18 months old now. Also, the original comment about up/down voting is from 2014!! The site has *definitely* evolved since then.
              And to be honest, I think instead of random debates in threads/posts a better place would be a proper standalone post one day.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I still find the reasons discussed there compelling reasons not to do it, especially the point about how it tends to homogenize a community. I don’t think those points are out of date. (I also don’t think up-voting would solve the biggest problems.)

        6. Emi.*

          I think expanding (and more strictly enforcing) the armchair diagnosing rule would help, and a heavier hand with topics that are likely to become contentious (like the LITERALLY NAZIS thread from a couple weeks ago).

          1. Lissa*

            great example. The politically charged ones get this way a lot, because some people immediately assume “contentious/disagreeable political views”=”people want to literally kill me” and then respond as would be reasonable if someone wanted to kill you, and get super angry when someone suggests a less extreme reaction. And I mean…I understand why, in this political climate, this happens, but to my mind it still doesn’t make it useful or necessary to be in this comment section. It also gets really really performative with people getting tons of agreeing/cheering comments for a short, blunt, black and white response suggestion.

            1. Jaguar*

              Yeah, that’s by far the biggest problem, in my opinion. There are comments on here that can’t even remotely be considered sensible, and the “people are trying to kill us” discussion a while back is the prime example. It’s really discouraging. I used to like to comment here because I would get a lot of thoughtful new perspectives, but I’ve gotten half-way through a posts over the past year-or-so now and felt, “why am I even bothering?” and closed the browser instead (I just had the compulsion on this post, in fact). It’s hard to offer conversation in good faith when you expect the responses to be in bad faith, whether that’s ideological arguments, assuming ulterior motives for taking a position, deciding topics are off limits, etc. I don’t think the edge case/worst-case-scenario stuff would be so bad because if the people suggesting them were operating in good faith, they could be reasoned out of it. The bad faith version is, “How dare you suggest that OP’s uncomfortably with [minor situation] doesn’t mean their life is in danger!?”

          2. BenAdminGeek*

            Emi, I think this is a great idea – focus more on contentious topics (where possible, I know Alison doesn’t have all day every day) and police those more heavily. I agree the LITERALLY NAZIS comments were very frustrating as someone who wanted to engage in the issue.

        7. Hiring Mgr*

          Isn’t some speculation always going to occur though? Unless you limit the questions to those that are chock full of all the details. But i guess some of it is over the top (maybe you shouldn’t get Bob that Greatest Dad mug because he lost a child, was abandoned hismself as a kid, could never have babies, might have misophonia, frizzy hair, etc..)

        8. On Fire*

          I’m going to offer this and then step away, because it’s my third comment.

          One of my favorite blogs specifies in its rules that comments should be succinct (it recommends 100 words max), and then bluntly says, “If you’re commenting more than three times a day, it’s too much.”

          I frequently see commenters coming back to defend or expound upon or simply rehash their point, in either the same thread or a separate thread of the same post. I immediately start collapsing or scrolling.

          That would be my suggestion: an honor system that posters only comment X times on each topic. So for a 5-short-questions post, one could comment twice per question, but then that’s it. Move on.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I’ve thought about that! My reluctance is that there have been some really great exchanges in the comment section that wouldn’t have occurred with that rule.

            1. JokersandRogues*

              Maybe just that they can’t post the same thing with no change more than once? Sometimes people get so caught up, that they think people aren’t listening so they repeat (maybe not verbatim, but in spirit) the same thing.

              1. JokersandRogues*

                And hit Send too soon. Maybe call it “Belaboring the Point”.

                We got it, Stan, we got your point, really, the first time, the subsequent 10 weren’t necessary.

              2. LJay*

                I think this is a good rule. I know I get caught up in doing this sometimes, and I know of a few other offenders, too.

                It’s hard for me to shake the instinct to respond to every relevant thread with whatever insight I think is important, or to not tell all the people I think are way off-base that I think they are way off-base. But ultimately it doesn’t help the OP at all.

                I think the “no arguing about information that isn’t actually in the letter” and “don’t post more than one comment with the same main idea to the thread” would cut down on a lot of the issues in the comments.

            2. Cat Herder*

              So Alison, what’s your aim in having comments? Are you hoping for addtional advice that enhances/adds to/deepens your own advice? Interaction between readers? Focused discussion? Vigorous debate? Enjoyable chit chat? Interesting tangents? I’ve seen all of these. And enjoyed all of them at one time or another.

          2. Lissa*

            I don’t object to a back and forth, or people commenting a few different times. But there are a few commenters who will do this in what feels like a really aggressive way because they come in and make like 20 comments all at once on different top-level threads, so like every single person who comments with a response about why they think apples at the potluck are a good idea will have that person reply to their comment with something that’s basically like “No, you’re wrong, apples are terrible and you shouldn’t even think about them.” Or even “Like I said, apples are absolutely awful for Reason X and Y.” Like, if they have responded that way to one or two and made their own top-level comment about why apples are a tool of the corporate devils, fine, but going through and responding personally to everyone who has a different opinion just seems like a massive amount of overkill.

            1. President Porpoise*

              This is what I meant above. It is super annoying, and honestly pretty offensive to people wo are commenting in good faith. There are a handful of regulars in particular, and it is off putting.

              Nuanced debate? Sure. I’m fine with a sub-thread between a few commenters where they dig down and explore an issue in detail, but bludgeoning everyone who disagrees with you into silence on a who post, I think, is a violation of the ‘be kind’ rule in its own way.

            2. Annie Moose*

              Yeahhhh. Two places in particular I noticed it recently were on the Narcan thread and the museum-tour-Nazis thread. You had the same people saying the same things fifteen different places, often responding to each other with the same arguments.

              This is already against the rules, though, so maybe just being more aggressive with that particular rule?

              1. LJay*

                Yeah. I’ve definitely seen two commenters discussing/arguing over the same thing with each other in multiple different sub-threads and it definitely makes the opinions seem more prevalent than they actually were in the post.

                I’ve seen a few times where a poster says, “A bunch of people said XYZ in the post on ABC,” and then Allison goes and looks and says “Actually only one or two people said XYZ. Everyone else was saying TUV.” However, when the one person saying XYZ said it 25 times in the post, it can seem like that point had more agreement than it actually did.

        9. Hiring Mgr*

          I would volunteer to be a moderator, with the ability to edit or remove comments as needed. Or better yet there could be a site-wide vote and the top three candidates are the official “mods” for AAM. I’m happy to arrange for campaigns, debates, etc among the commentariat

          1. Detective Amy Santiago*

            Can I be your campaign manager?

            (also this is def a joke for people who aren’t familiar with Hiring Mgr)

        10. FD*

          I feel like a few things that might help include:

          1. A post reminding people about comment rules, and maybe giving examples of comments done well and (fake–wouldn’t be nice to call people out that way) comments not done well. A lot of people probably haven’t read them if they’re new–your traffic has been growing lately!

          1A. Ideally something that includes why we shouldn’t armchair diagnose people. I thought the Captain Awkward post recently was awesome–maybe ask if you could piggyback off that?

          2. Plan for which posts are likely to generate extra moderation needs, such as anything that is likely to cause a lot of speculation. and try to schedule them for days when you have time to do extra moderation, but not on the same days or you’re likely to get more trolls on those days.

        11. Courageous cat*

          I will say a tricky part of banning is the fact that people don’t get replies to their comments unless they specifically go back to that thread. Being able to receive comment replies (which I feel like most sites’ comment setions do – don’t know how it works on WordPress) would make that a lot easier.

          Basically, I would hate to get banned after having had warnings and not seen them because I simply didn’t go back!

        12. More moderation!*

          I know you said that you can’t hire moderators, but this seems like the only real solution to this, and would be something I wish we could head towards. The site is popular enough now to warrant it, and with the large volume of ads, it does feel (rightly or wrongly) like a money-maker, where an additional moderator should be part of the package.

      2. Annie Moose*

        “advice column fanfic”

        EXACTLY THIS! Especially if there’s anything remotely political or social justice-y that could be tied to the letter. You get all this speculation about the LW’s gender, and mental illnesses, and country of origin, and political or religious leanings, and childhood, and… okay, a little bit of “hey is it possible that X is a factor?” can be helpful, but when you’ve Decided all these characteristics about the OP and their situation that aren’t actually in the letter, and then you’re sixteen nested comments deep arguing over it with other people… it’s out of control.

        1. Snark*

          It’s funny – it’s a hard phenomenon to strictly define, but when I call it “advice column fanfic” everyone’s like “oh yessss I know just what you mean!”

          1. soon 2be former fed*

            Forum fanfic period is so annoying, it’s speculation on steroids and presented as truth. It happens on reddit and another forum I frequent.When I challenge fanfic writers, I get accused of having no imagination or not really being engaged. Ugh.

    8. Wannabe Disney Princess*

      Incredibly unhelpful and extremely derailing. I understand filling in the blanks to give solid advice. But, lately, the leaping to extreme conclusions has made me just skim through the comments (or practically skip them entirely). I know it’s frustrating when LWs leave out important details, but most of the time the conjecture revolves around minutiae that is neither relevant nor has any impact on what the LW should do.

    9. karou*

      I’ve noticed a lot of speculation about where OPs are from based on their spelling and word choices, which I think is derailing and mostly doesn’t matter unless it’s a legal issue. I also worry that such speculation could “out” OPs trying to stay as anonymous as possible by identifying their location.

      1. Jaydee*

        Right? Legal issues like “oh, it sounds like you’re in the UK, so maybe FMLA doesn’t apply” or “generally employers aren’t required to X…unless you work in California” are one thing. Or when tied in to broader topics it can be useful, like the other day’s discussion about geographic differences and task-focused versus relationship-focused communication styles. But jerk bosses are jerk bosses and lazy coworkers are lazy coworkers whether you live in Sheboygan or San Diego or Saskatoon.

      2. Detective Amy Santiago*

        I disagree that it only matters if there is a legal issue being discussed. Cultural norms are very different depending on where you are and that context can make a big difference in what is appropriate advice.

    10. Jadelyn*

      I’m going to deviate from the general opinion here and say that, in moderation, I actually find it helpful. It really depends on the particulars of how it’s done, and there is such a thing as too far with it, but I feel like a lot of people are saying “How dare you offer an alternative perspective that might help the OP see things differently or take into account other potential factors?!?!”

      Like, the mug thing. Is giving it necessarily, definitely, 100% certainly going to provoke an age discrimination lawsuit? No. But giving the OP something to consider, that not only would that gift be in poor taste/less than professional, it could be used against them in the future? What’s wrong with that?

      1. Snark*

        I mean, you’re not wrong, and obviously there’s a lot of gray area here. But the likelihood of, in your example, an age discrimination lawsuit? It’s incredibly low. Like, vanishingly, negligibly tiny, even if it’s nonzero. Is raising the potential for a lawsuit likely to be actionable by OP? Probably not. I can get on board with “…and it could even be viewed as ageist” but not speculation about a lawsuit.

        1. Jadelyn*

          Eh, I’ve seen fired employees sue over the tiniest, stupidest things before, so I guess it’s not as much of a wild reach to me as it might be to others. People get reeeeally vindictive when they get fired, sometimes, and they’ll latch on to anything – not even trying to win so much as just trying to force the company into a settlement for the cash. So for me, from the stuff I’ve seen, it wouldn’t even surprise me to hear that a former employee is trying to sue for age discrimination based on being given a “dad mug” by a younger employee.

          And yesterday, in that thread, it really felt like people were dogpiling on, mainly to nitpick wording because of the way the comment had been phrased, more than contesting the actual fact that the gift would have been potentially ageist.

          But anyway, I agree that there’s a ton of grey area in this, which is what makes it so hard to quantify and moderate – it becomes an “I know it when I see it” sort of thing, only we all have different ideas of the threshold for it, and you end up with a mess.

          1. Snark*

            For what it’s worth, I agree that that wasn’t advice column fanfic. I wouldn’t be surprised to read an AAM article about it, even if I also wouldn’t expect to see it actually happen.

      2. Detective Amy Santiago*

        I tend to be a “what’s the worst thing that could happen” type of thinker in all areas of my life, so I don’t see a problem with the worst case scenario comments either. If people take those as fact, I can see where it becomes an issue though.

        1. Snark*

          It’s not that people take it as fact, but “what’s the worst thing that is likely to happen” is a lot more useful than “what is the worst thing that could possibly happen.” When we get really into unlikely, farfetched speculation, it sucks the air out of the thread.

          1. anon for this*

            Yes. To add an example from a different site I read, someone was asking about coming out in their workplace and the “worst thing” scenarios people commented with went from “you’ll find you have homophobic coworkers and you might find some relationships and situations more difficult than before” to “a homophobic coworker could murder you”.

            Which, the first suggestion is reasonable and likely, but the second is not likely and was not really useful to bring up in that particular conversation. There’s a maybe 1% chance of that happening.

      3. LJay*

        Yeah. I like it in small doses.

        To some extent, to get outside opinions and get things brought to our attention is probably the reason most people read the comments.

        Especially when the question is pretty much, “Is it just me or is this a really bad idea?”

        Especially when they come from people with actual expertise in the area. Though it would be nice if the comments were sourced with a link or something. A reference to a case where calling someone Dad led to an actual age discrimination charge is better than someone saying, “This is a thing that could happen,” especially in the internet where anyone can claim to be anything.

        I think it’s when it gets piled onto with every single person pointing out that hey, that’s like really ageist. Or arguing whether calling someone “Dad” could be age related discrimination when you can be a Dad when you’re 18 or even younger. And then these sub-tangents bury any other actual comments to the letter.

        Or when they invent speculation that is far outside the realm of possibility, like “What if Bob lost a child and the Dad thing makes him break down?” when Bob has been actively participating in the Dad thing for months and having a “world’s greatest dad” mug specific trigger is not really a thing.

    11. Lissa*

      I think it’s a problem when it takes over, and turns into a huge back and forth in many top level threads. I think *one* top-level thread that’s easily collapsed about “This could be abuse, food insecurity, PTSD” isn’t the worst. But when, for instance, somebody responds to every instance of someone suggesting a harsher response with basically “you monster, this could be a response to an abusive boss!” it is unhelpful.

      I REALLY liked Alison’s solution on a letter a few days ago where she had the commenters put all suggestions related to (in that case) health initatives in ONE comment thread, so people could collapse it and move on. I wonder if something like *that* could be a solution, though I’m not sure how it would work. Because Alison would have to know intuitively what would be likely to be speculated on and put it near the top of the thread. But yeah, it’s not the existence of these that’s a problem, it’s when they leak into the entire page, to my mind.

      But I’m picturing something like “a commenter thinks that Fergus’ change in behaviour could mean he’s in an abusive relationship – suggestions specifically for helping him if this is the case can go here.” or something more elegant.

      1. caledonia*

        I liked that solution about wellness/health comments as well and even though I default site wide collapse on comments it made the thread so much better to read.

        1. ChachkisGalore*

          Whoah – you just blew my mind! I didn’t realize that was an option. I’ve been skipping the comments more and more, but I’m going to figure out how to do that and maybe try again.

            1. I can't eat sandwiches*

              Yes, please. Especially for us that use Private mode on phones to eliminate the spammy popups.

            2. anon for this*

              Please! It’d make scrolling past 100+ comment threads I’m not interested in so much easier!

      2. KX*

        I think the problem is threaded comments, where you end up with all these nested replies to specific people instead of a list, from oldest at the top to newest at the bottom.

        Threaded comments get chatty and personal and hard to track. When each comment is a top level comment, you can still respond to other commentors, but you have to keep track a little more carefully. Nonthreaded comments don’t drift off topic as easily either, and they are much easier to revisit and find where you left off, and there is a lot less repetition.

        In the olden days it was all nonthreaded comments and chronological message boards. Threaded comments to multiple levels make a confusing mess.

        Is it possible to experiment with threaded comments on some posts and unthreaded comments on others? Or limit the levels to top thread + one sublevel?

    12. soupmonger*

      A thought on this: why do you have comments at all? Do you need them?

      Sounds as if you’re having issues with comment reporting systems, and you don’t want to get into heavy moderation. With both of these immediate options ruled out, why not simply run a business advice blog without comments?

      1. Observer*

        Allison has addressed this in the past. The reality is that the comments can be extremely useful – to the point where they’ve occasionally been the catalyst for new posts.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        On the whole, I think the comments are far more of a positive for the site than they are a negative. People often get really useful advice from them, and the conversations themselves are often interesting or entertaining.

        I also think there will always be problems with it, because it’s a comment section! It’s a very large group of strangers from all different walks of life and with different frames of references and styles of communicating. It’s going to be messy. I’m okay with that!

        But if there are relatively straightforward ways to make it a more pleasant/useful place to be, I definitely want to find those. I have no expertise in managing a comment section this large — it’s not what I started out to do, and I’m figuring it out as I go along. I’m also always balancing the question of how much time and resources it makes sense to invest in managing it. Given that only a small proportion of readers read the comments, it doesn’t make sense for it to be a major priority for me, relative to other projects … but if there are things I can do to improve it that don’t take an enormous amount of time/resources, I definitely want to.

        I hope that makes sense!

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            My ad network did an analysis where they studied which parts of the page most people spent time on, and very few went into the comments. That’s definitely changed the way I think about how to manage the site.

            1. hermit crab*

              That’s super interesting! (I find this whole thread fascinating, actually, and I love these sorts of meta-discussions about how the blog is run and how the community interacts. Thank you for engaging on them!)

        1. neverjaunty*

          You can’t improve a comments section with hands-off moderation. It’s just not how anything on the Internet works. In all candor and with great respect and affection, you’ve leaned very heavily on most of the commentariat being good-hearted (contentious, to be sure, but good-hearted), and that just doesn’t work in the long-term. The choices really are 1) spend time moderating, 2) don’t spend time moderating and have the comments section degenerate, or 3) close it down.

          There’s a reason most popular sites rely on volunteer moderators.

          1. Miso*

            Yeah, I really wish there were some extra moderators. And after that, a rule that forbids people who are not moderators from trying to moderate. Personally, I find the tendency of the commenter to moderate each other here extremely annoying and off-putting.

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            There’s no practical way to make moderators work. I’ve looked into it, and you can hire companies that provide moderators but they’re priced for major companies with much larger budgets than this site’s. And I’m not comfortable with using volunteer moderators on a site that earns revenue for me. I’d be open to it if there were a practical way to do it, but there doesn’t seem to be.

            1. Caledonia*

              Then that leaves you with option 1 – spend a bit more time moderating and cutting out the behaviours you don’t like. And I’m not talking about 24/7….
              There isn’t a magic solution.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Yep, that may be. Unfortunately that would mean cutting out paid work to make the time for it, which I’m probably not up for doing. I will keep thinking!

            2. neverjaunty*

              Completely understandable – but then you’re looking at option 3. Or option 4, I guess, which is “have a cesspit of a comments section”. But there’s no magic way to have a great commentariat while spending minimal tome moderating.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I don’t know, I think it did work for many years but maybe the site has finally grown past the point where that can continue to be the case. That said, I continue to think the comments here are far better than most comment sections, even with all these frustrations, and would definitely not call them a cesspit. They are messy and they can be annoying but they’re on the whole more good than bad. My problem here isn’t that I think the comment section is a nightmare that must be dealt with, just that I’m thinking about ways to improve it.

                1. neverjaunty*

                  It’s not a cesspit yet, but it’s grown and it’s a lot more negative than it used to be. There are people in this thread who are telling you that they’ve found things off-putting or are reluctant to comment (and those are the ones sticking around to tell you). The site is already lightly moderated and doesn’t make it easy to flag problems.

                  “Other places are worse” is true but, uh, not very encouraging?

                  It’s your site and you of course get to decide what’s the best use of your time. I’m just observing that ‘hoping polite encouragement will solve things’ has never been a successful model for moderation on the Internet.

                2. caledonia*

                  Then I’m sorry Alison but you can’t really complain if you aren’t actually willing to change or improve anything.
                  And the comments *have* descended into chaos more than once in the last year and is a MAJOR reason why I rarely comment or engage anymore.

                3. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  That’s all fair enough! I have relatively low standards for a comment section because it is … a comment section. They’re by definition messy unless you bring a very heavy hand to them. And yes, some people will dislike them and move on and some people will enjoy them and stick around, and I think that’s the way of having a comment section. It’s not possible to make everyone happy. But I’d like it to be as good as possible relative to the amount of time and resources I can sensibly invest … which is limited.

                  Anyway, not complaining really, just musing about possible ways to manage things differently and it’s interesting to hear people’s input.

            3. a1*

              And I’m not comfortable with using volunteer moderators on a site that earns revenue for me.

              That’s an interesting take. I am a volunteer moderator on a couple of sites that make revenue (and even was one on a political discussion group). It helps the website “powers that be” because they only have to “worry” about their handful of moderators and not all the 100s or 1000s of comments/posts each day. And yes, it does take some time/work to manage the moderators or find the right fit, but it seems to have been a great success on these other sites. But again, it’s your site so do as you see fit.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Okay, will you talk to me about this? I know it’s a common model, but it seems ethically iffy to accept volunteer labor when I’m earning money from the broader site. Can you tell me a bit about your take on it?

                1. a1*

                  I do it because I really enjoy the sites. I’m visiting and reading there anyway so I figured why not help out? I will say, that all the ones I’ve done that with put minimal requirements on us. We’re not expected to be on all day, we have minimal rules to enforce (like here), we don’t edit posts for content so if even one sentence in a longer post should be moderated we hide the whole post, I could get into more minutea here, but that’d be too long. The biggest thing is we all know this is a volunteer gig, if we want out at any time we can leave. If the site owner/leader wants us out or changes their mind on moderators, we are out. That said, some of us have been modding for a couple years, some a couple months.

                  One of the sites has 20+ volunteer mods* and we have our own offsite chat groups (e.g. Skype, WhatsApp) to discuss actions on the site, if needed, and coordinate coverage. We also message the owner/leader when needed, but that’s not often after the initial set up anymore.

                  * I don’t think you’d need that many, that site has lots of subforums.

                2. There All Is Aching*

                  Also, volunteer moderating is a great way to give back to a content-packed site we get for free. I have a feeling the people who would volunteer for this are the folks who are heavily invested in the health/quality of AAM and would be happy to help out for all the years of not having to pay for this alone.

    13. caledonia*

      – I think that when Alison puts a reminder on threads at the top (because it’s blue) is an active reminder and tends to work well.
      – I thought that the thread with the health/wellness comments altogether also worked well.
      – I also think this blog has become an echo chamber and clique-y over the last while and has been a major reason for my own less regular comments.
      – the sheer volume of regular commenters who comment on every single post, ever single day and often repeat what Alison says is very tiresome.

      I also think that Alison is looking for a unicorn solution which solves all the problems (at least that’s how it comes across) and although doesn’t have the time for it on a regular basis some more frequent moderating would help.

      Making a standalone comment about how to flag comments on posts would help, since having a flagging system is not an option and I’ve only really seen Alison mention it in comment threads which not everyone reads or expands so will miss it.
      Stop having regular commenters moderate to extreme. It’s nice and helpful to point stuff out but sometimes it goes way beyond that and leaves a bad feeling.


      1. OhBehave*

        I’m with you on those who repeat what Allison says – so tiresome! Often it’s the first comment to a post. I agree with your other points but this one has always stuck out to me.

    14. PrettyMuchALurker*

      I think I will be the voice of dissent in the thread and say that I’m not really sure that I understand all the angst on Allison’s part about people veering off topic or speculating too much in threads. When people have conversations with one another, they very naturally segue into other topics, and IMHO, that’s actually a sign of a very healthy commentariat. You’ve got people coming to your site and reading your advice, not just because they are interested in what you have to say about how to make their lives better professionally, but also because they are interested in talking with each other and have started to develop relationships with each other if they are long time commenters. People making jokes, etc., makes the comments fun to read. If comments are open, that implies a desire for people to interact with each other and to communicate with each other. Conversation generally organically deviates into other topics unless you’re in a structured environment like school or, well, work. :)

      I think if getting a bit off topic is seen as derailing or undesirable, then shutting down comments might be the way to go. After all, NPR did it.

      I may be an outlier, though, as see Allison mentioned that most people don’t read the comments. That’s pretty much what I’m here for, so I appreciate that some people may just be all about the advice and not care about the social aspect of the site at all.

    15. Drama Llama*

      Alison published two of my letters. Each time there were commenters who made incorrect assumptions or overly focused on some small irrelevant detail of my letter which I found annoying and unhelpful.

    16. The Other Dawn*

      I think *sometimes* it can be helpful, but for the most part I think it’s derailing. Some people read so much into the letter that isn’t there and when there’s absolutely no hint of anything being there. I find, too, that there is so much nit-picking of language lately. And sometimes when someone–LW or commenter–is asking a question an attitude of, “How can you ask such a stupid question? You should know better.” Or there’s a lot of assumptions made about the LW’s or commenter’s motive for asking. For these reasons I tend not to participate in the weekday posts as much as I used to. I still read the main posts, but I bypass many of the comments, whereas I used to read all the comments. I guess, to sum it up, I find it exhausting here sometimes.

    17. Anon for this one*

      I find it very unhelpful and kind of demoralizing. I asked a question about American workplace norms and it immediately descended into “Weird, that’s illegal in my country, have you thought about fixing that?”/”Ugh can’t you hoity-toity Europeans be surprised silently for once, you think you’re so much BETTER than us”. Never mind that I’m not even *in* Europe and neither of those are helpful or encouraging to non-American posters. It makes me hesitant to share my opinions and experiences. For a commentariat that prides itself on respecting everyone and championing minorities, it can get pretty hostile sometimes.

  5. Asking for a friend*

    What do you consider job hopping?

    Moving every year? Every two years? Every three? Moving laterally versus in an upward trajectory? Something else that’s specific to industry and cannot possibly be compared from one job-seeker to another?

    As a late-20s millennial, I’m having a terrible time figuring this out.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      This will vary a lot by industry. In some industries, you are expected to change jobs every one or two years. In others, you’re expected to change jobs no sooner than once every 3-5 years.

      Really, though, if you’re in one of the latter types, it isn’t one one-year stint that will make you look like a job hopper—it’s what appears to be a pattern.

    2. Not Today Satan*

      I think the trajectory matters–are you moving up? If so, I wouldn’t hold that against you looking at your resume. You gotta do what you gotta do to get paid. If you moved laterally every year, I’d side-eye, but I know life is complicated so it probably wouldn’t disqualify you, I’d probe in a phone screen.

    3. Roja*

      I’ve struggled figuring it out too. I work as a freelancer in the arts and “change jobs” with startling frequency (semester and shorter gigs being not uncommon, as well as holding multiple jobs at once). Over the last year I’ve been hired on the spot by two different people so I guess whatever I’m doing is working. But someone just looking at my job history would think I’m seriously unreliable, and that’s not at all the case.

      1. Persimmons*

        This is why it’s so important to be explicit in your resume about what is contract work and what is permanent FT work.

        I’ve seen resumes that were so muddled regarding which jobs were short-term and which were not. Rather than call the applicants and walk them through the timeline, the team just pitched the resumes in favor of applicants who made things clear.

        1. Roja*

          Yeah, now my resume talks about the freelance work I do rather than listing every place I work–that would take too much space. But if there’s some great resource you can point me to on referencing contract work, I’d like to read it. I’m all for continually tweaking it to make it better. But no one has pitched my resume as yet–generally they don’t even want to see it. I’ve only ever gotten jobs from word of mouth and networking and most of the time the resume, if they even want it, is merely a formality.

          1. Moonbeam Malone*

            I don’t know how most freelancers list it, but I put “Self-Employed, Freelance,” as a single section on my resume with bullet points regarding specific projects/clients. But I don’t use my resume to get freelance work either – it’s geared toward applying for full-time studio jobs. (I’d love to see other artists or other freelance and contract workers weigh in on this.)

    4. Not in US*

      It really depends on industry. Often every 1.5 years to 2 years early on is normal but the more senior you get often the longer the stay that is expected. When I worked in advertising it was every 1.5-2 years either because I chose to move or there was a layoff. I’m in academia now, I’ve been here 7 years and moved 3 times (4 jobs) with one lateral move. But its all the same institution so it’s not an issue and the lateral move was after several years in one position.

      I think when looking to make a lateral move, if its after a short time in a similar job, you have to be really clear about why it makes sense to do that. My lateral move gives me experience I wouldn’t otherwise have so it make sense and I had been in my last job for years. I would question a lateral move without a clear reason why if it was less than 2-3 years.

    5. Quill*

      I know I stuck in a pretty awful job for 2 years because I was afraid that if I never worked anywhere more than 6 months I’d never be hired…

      I haven’t had a full year contract job ever (awful job was salaried – should have been a warning sign that they were going to salary a 23 year old but I thought it was because they were a small company and didn’t want to pay someone to do payroll for an occasional hour or two of overtime…) but at this point, I’m 26 and in a completely different industry than I started out in and if anyone thinks that my resume reflects flakiness rather than just the reality of the job market, I question if they have the judgement to hire or manage anyone.

    6. fposte*

      Pretty much the last. Basically, it’s whether your history means that you’re likely to be a short-termer and whether it suggests that you’ve had enough long-term growth for what I’m looking for. Can’t really be measured in the abstract.

    7. Bea*

      Industry and position dependent!

      I trust nobody who holds jobs in accounting for only a short time for example. It takes a full year to cycle through everything and multiple years to insure you’re doing it all correctly.

      However customer service jobs, a year or two here and there makes sense given the nature of that position.

      Higher ranking, management positions. If you’re jumping around, it looks bad. I almost assume you’re pushed out in many places.

      Marketing or sales, I see like customer service. A couple years here and there makes sense because you need difference to spark creativity I’ve noticed.

    8. Shark Whisperer*

      I think its very very industry dependent. I am in my late 20s and have not had a job that lasted more than three years and I have only once had someone in my industry comment on it. Much more commonly I have been told that people at my level tend to only stay in a job for about two years. At the upper levels, the stays are a bit longer, but still typically only 3-5 years.

    9. Lisa B*

      There’s so much context, it’s hard to say. A lot of it matters if it was internal to the company or external. I have seen resumes that show a lot of jumps in the same company, but they’re clearly all higher in responsibilities/title, so I tend to think “wow, the higher ups really like this person! They must do good work!” A lot of jumps between different companies is a different story, and those are the ones I question suspiciously.

    10. Zennish*

      Like everyone says, very industry dependent. In libraries, two years tends to be an acceptable minimum. In academia, five year moves may mean you’re being denied tenure, so that will be a red flag for some. They aren’t super worried about lateral moves, especially if you have a reasonable “I wanted to take on new challenges/learn new skills” explanation.

      And, as also mentioned, the more it becomes a pattern, the more it’s likely to be seen as, well, a pattern.

  6. Bright red sparkly shoes*

    Oh my god I have been dying to share this. I’m in a group on FB for my profession and this is one of the posts that was shared regarding hiring. WTAF?


    Specifically: the trick question I was taught is to ask them, as part of the normal interview questions: “What character in ‘The Wizard of Oz’ do you most identify with?” (Note: NOT their “favorite” character, as most will pick Toto, believe it or not!) You’ll likely get a nervous chuckle and a look of disbelief, but just assure them “There is no ‘wrong’ answer … just go with it.”
    Besides giving you an idea how they might handle a situation they were not expecting, WHOM they choose will be a glimpse into how they perceive themselves. For example, Dorothy is a good person who feels a bit disoriented and lost, and is doing the best she can. The Good Witch (of the East) is a problem solver and always does the right thing. The Wicked Witch (of the West) does things for shock value and doesn’t like following rules. If they choose the Cowardly Lion, Tinman or Scarecrow, they might feel they are deficient in the same area that the character was, and asked the Wizard for help. And … if they choose The Wizard himself … uh, oh, can you say EGO? You don’t have to ask them WHY, as the likely response will be “I have no idea, it is the first thing I thought of.” And, of course, it is far from scientific. But it does make the interview “change gears” a bit, and they might open up to you a lot more than they ordinarily would be likely to do.


          1. Murphy*


            “Dorothy, because she’s not sure what kind of crazy world she walked into and she just wants to go home.”

        1. General Ginger*

          Agreed. “Sorry, don’t know anything about the Wizard of Oz, but I’m definitely most like a tree and leaving now”.

    1. Foreign Octopus*

      Oh my god, no.

      I’d say this is a question from people who don’t understand how to interview properly.

      1. Student*

        This kind of thing can be useful… as an icebreaker, to get the interviewed person over nerves and silliness and such. This particular question is over the top even for that, but you get the concept. It gets them talking about something common and low-stakes, out of their own heads. I stick with more basic stuff rather than silly entertainment-philosophy, personally – like asking about hobbies or travel or whatnot.

        It’s not a good test of how they’ll do in the job, and it doesn’t give you deep, secret insight into their personality or their work ethic.

        1. jay*

          I may be in the minority but I really like these questions. For one, it is something people are generally unprepared for, so gives you an insight into how they think on their feet.

    2. AdAgencyChick*

      WOW, is that a silly question.

      I’d like to think that I’d have the presence of mind to give a smartass answer if asked this, but I bet I wouldn’t actually.

    3. Amber Rose*

      That is reading way too deeply into how people enjoy entertainment. There is no way this is giving anyone valuable insight into anything.

    4. Sammytwo*

      We have a standard list of questions we can choose from. One of them is, when you pick up the newspaper, which do you do first, the Sudoku puzzle or the crossword? Um, no.

      1. Quill*

        Sudoku puzzle. Crosswords are often heavily weighed down by questions about trivia that’s older than me. (Example: “Pretty Woman” actress. Is it Audrey Hepburn? Marilyn Monroe? I don’t know, the movie came out before I was born.)

        1. ThatGirl*

          I’m sorry, I have to laugh at this because… Pretty Woman isn’t *that* old, Julia Roberts is still acting, and Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe made movies in the 50s and 60s, not the 90s. Like, not even in the same era.

          I understand not everyone has the same cultural references, and your larger point is just fine, but pulling out that particular example struck me as odd and funny :)

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            See, I liked that example because I used to start with Sodoku for the exact same reason, and I saw Pretty Woman in theaters when it came out.

            … I also have limited knowledge of the rivers of Europe. Much prefer the “synonym for” types of questions.

          2. Quill*

            This was a little more on the nose, because it’s more about the fact that I very seldom retain any knowledge about actors or movies than my actual age.

            I have legitimately seen a cowboy movie, and asked “is that guy John Wayne?” when it was, in fact, a movie without John Wayne in it.

            I’m all for trivia but I legitimately don’t know how people did crosswords before the internet.

            1. RegularPosterAnonForThis*

              Before the Internet (and the proliferation of cable and on-demand shows), there weren’t so many niche markets in entertainment. And before the vast libraries of historical content were available for streaming, you saw what was on, because that was all that was on.

              The general public shared more media/cultural experiences in common.

        2. Matilda Jefferies*

          Heck, crosswords are weighed down by questions about trivia that’s older than me as well – and I saw Pretty Woman in the theatre when it first came out! I don’t know who is writing crossword puzzles these days, but I assume they’ve been doing it for a really long time.

          1. hermit crab*

            Also: baseball. So much baseball. Nearly everything I know about the sport is from crosswords.

      2. LCL*

        The crossword, obviously. Sudoku is a new gimmick. And I, uh, never figured out how to do it. Numbers should stay numbers and letters should stay letters, as God intended.

      3. Jadelyn*

        …for an increasing number of candidates, the answer is going to be “Who actually picks up a physical newspaper these days?”

        Also, I’m really curious. What information is this supposed to give you that will tell you whether the person is going to be good at the job? They’re both puzzles. It’s just about which *type* of puzzle they prefer, words or numbers, and preferring one doesn’t mean they’re deficient with the other, so…I just don’t see this netting any useful information, ever.

        1. Observer*

          It’s not even true that it shows a preference for words vs numbers. In many cases, I’m not going to touch the crossword because I know it’s going to be full of tons of references I don’t know. Why would I do that instead of a sudoku that I have a chance at completing?

      4. The New Wanderer*

        1 Word unscramble
        2 Sudoku
        3 Crossword
        4 NYT Crossword

        Word unscramble and sudoku are on the edge of the paper I like to fold down to do the crosswords, that’s why I do them first, and I save the NYT Crossword for last because it’s the usually hardest.

        As for the Wizard of Oz question, yeah, no one is going to parse “who do you identify with” differently than “who’s your favorite character” because you usually have a favorite because you identify with them. Please just ask me what kind of tree I’d be, because “Deciduous, which is why I’m leaving.”

    5. Tara S.*

      This is like asking someone their astrological sign in an interview and then giving weight to their answer. I get finding a question personally interesting, but basing professional hiring decisions on something like that it terrible.

    6. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I was once asked, in a group, who my favorite Disney character was. Lots of people said Ariel or Belle or Cinderella or Dumbo or whatever. I said Mickey Mouse because he’s steadfast yet he changes with the times, or something like that. The interviewers liked that answer. I got the job.

      The interview was for the Walt Disney World College Program. In that context? Interesting question. In any other? Don’t ask this.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          Mickey is the best. Why has he been popular for so long and among so many people? BECAUSE HE IS THE GOAT.

          Not like the goats from your other post, though. Mickey stays away from weed.

      1. General Ginger*

        Team player, willing to work for very little pay, comfortable wearing a uniform all the time… this is probably an answer that’ll get you hired, but do you really want that job?

      2. Ender*

        I’d say the munchkins coz I played one on my school play. I also played a jitterbug a few years later.

        1. Easily Amused*

          Oh the birds and the bees and the bats in the trees can’t do what the jitterbug does… LOL! Me too!

      3. designbot*

        They’re just trying to go about their day, and do their best to get the crazy girl out of their neighborhood when she drops in unexpectedly. Helpful, efficient, diplomatic… you’ll do great!

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        The Wicked Witch of the East.

        I think I’ll go with the Witch of the South, who is mysteriously unheard from. I could tell the interviewer what I do, but then I’d have to kill them…

        1. Qwerty*

          The Good Witch of the South is Glinda. The movie merged her with the unnamed Good Witch of the North, but her appearance and color scheme still matches the South. Glinda plays a role in most of the entire series, but I think the Good Witch of the North only has the one short scene.

    7. Nervous Accountant*

      Shockingly many were agreeing with th post and some were kind of snarkky to me when I said WTAF.

    8. Totally Minnie*

      I’d be tempted to lie and say I’d never seen the movie and see how the interviewer reacts.

      Honestly, though, if someone asked me this question in an interview I would be seriously reconsidering my desire to work for that organization. There are so many better ways to find out what a person is like and how they are likely to function as an employee. Anything about what movie character I identify with or what kitchen utensil I think I am or any of those “out of the box” questions are going to make me have concerns about this workplace.

      1. Nervous Accountant*

        I did ask. The OP said that he lets it go if they’re under 40. But over the age of 40 and

        “I’d wonder a bit about what else is “off” about them. But, of course, it would not automatically mean a rejection.”

        Seems like majority of posters agreed with this question or other tactics (handwritten cover letter etc).

        They also mentioned that this works for new grads/new to the field. So. Smh

        1. Quill*

          That almost makes it a potential way of enabling discrimination – if you have never seen the Wizard of oz, it could be because you grew up outside of the U.S., because English is your second language, because you have a neurological condition that can be triggered by watching films, because you have a phobia of monkeys…

          Don’t base hiring on people’s pop culture awareness!

      2. Xarcady*

        I’m in my 50s and have never seen the movie all the way through. It was in the theaters long before I was born. As a small child, I would try to watch it when it came on TV, but either my parents made me go to bed in the middle of it, or my brothers would change the channel. So I think I’ve seen most of it, but in little bits here and there, and never all the way through in one sitting. I could probably answer the interview question, but that’s because I read all the books when I was a kid.

        1. Ender*

          I’m in my 30s and same. Seen bits, been in school plays about it, but never actually watched it all through. Read all the books too. And if you’ve actually read the books you’d know identifying with the wizard isn’t a sign of big ego at all!

      3. General Ginger*

        I have actually only seen it once, and only with Dark Side of the Moon playing. I’ve never watched it other than that. I’d probably have to say “Roger Waters”.

    9. MuseumChick*

      Wow. Basing hiring on a kind of personality quiz that was popular in the early 2000s is not a great way to hire people.

      1. Kat in VA*

        Interestingly, my last interview started with (after the usual pleasantries), “What are your hobbies outside of work?”

        He then went on to explain that learning about people’s hobbies gave him insight into what kind of person they were.

        I was a little taken aback (I’m used to STAR type questions), but went with, “Well, if you’d asked five years ago, I would have given you all the sports – snowboarding, dirtbiking, rock climbing, hiking, rollerblading. But since a snowboarding accident, I now spend all my my time reading and playing guitar.”

        Which evolved into a discussion of the book that I’m reading, which is “Who’s Afraid of Schroedinger’s Cat?” – a book that deals with a lot of quantum, theoretical, practical physics and other mind-bendy stuff for laymen, which he thought was amazing (apparently). Then it ALSO turned out that he played guitar as well – and my specific flavor, which is nylon-string classical. Then he listed some of his favorite players/duos and one was a concert that the husband and I had gone to, and so we talked about that.

        So it was more of a conversation than an actual WHAT’S YER FAVORITE COLOR (followed by, “The book says if you say ‘purple’, then you’re XYZ and thank you, goodbye”) but I will admit to a tiny frisson of apprehension when the very first question was something entirely not work-related.

        (side note: I really really like this job, really really like this boss, and really really hope they hire me, but that’s a different story.)

    10. Persimmons*

      My first instinct is to say “that guy who hanged himself on set” but that’s not on the list.

      1. SparklingStars*

        I’m pretty sure they debunked this as being an urban legend – but I do like how your mind works.

      2. Marthooh*

        I would say, “I identify with Aunty Em, of course!” And smile.

        And they would say, “Oh, look at that sweet little old lady… why, she wouldn’t hurt a fly!”

        And I would smile even more.

    11. Birdbrain*

      Are they hiring someone who writes those Buzzfeed quizzes? “Which Wizard of Oz character are you REALLY”?


      1. Falling Diphthong*

        The rare context in which this actually makes sense as an interview question. They could move onto “What sort of tree are you?” and “What Golden Age silent film star are you?”

        1. Anonymosity*

          “Choose your avocado toast and find out who your Avengers soulmate is!” I literally took a quiz almost exactly like this the other day. So fun when you’re just farking around online, but my eyebrows would shoot up into my hair to get any of this in an interview.

          Mine is Captain America, btw. ;)

          1. Birdbrain*

            I’m suspicious of that test’s validity, because Captain America is clearly *my* soulmate. ;)

    12. I'm A Little Teapot*

      It’s been probably 20 years since I’ve seen that movie. It terrified me. And that person clearly hasn’t seen the followup musical, Wicked.

      Aside from that, I may actually ask how it’s relevant? Which would be appropriate – I’m an auditor. I’m supposed to be skeptical.

    13. It's me*

      I have actually always thought of myself as one of the flying monkeys thank you so much for asking

    14. Falling Diphthong*

      When we were about to see Wicked we discovered that my son had never seen or read The Wizard of Oz, and so my spouse and I gave him a plot summary over dinner. Fortuitously, as the play assumes that you are familiar with the outlines of the other story to give context to events.

      So not only is that breakdown of personalities very specific to the questioner and how they view the characters, the answerer might not even be referencing the same version of the story that the questioner has in their head.

      1. CS Rep By Day, Writer By Night*

        Yeah, the only answer I’d be tempted to give would be to break into “As Long As You’re Mine” starring me as both Elpahba and Fiyero.

        Thinking about that though, I’d love an interview where they asked my which Hamilton character I identified with. Just so I could jump up and yell AARON BURR SIR at the top of mu lungs.

        1. Arielle*

          I would be sorely tempted to shout, “Hercules Mulligan I need no introduction when you knock me down I get the f*ck back up again!”

          Although the real answer is more along the lines of, “He looked at me like I was stupid, I’m not stupid.”

          1. General Ginger*

            “Immigrants. We get the job done.” If I were a bumper sticker kind of guy, I’d get one of those.

    15. Quill*

      All of these are even worse than most “personality test” questions and actually tell you nothing… especially in an interview, where people are going to be telling you whatever they think is a correct answer, and balancing not wanting to seem like they’re bragging or minimizing their flaws with leaving a good impression.

      Sometimes people just identify with the wicked witch of the west because they like pretty shoes.

      (Also, minor thing: Glinda is the good witch of the South, the wicked witch of the east is currently a house-squished waffle. I would definitely sink my chances by pointing this out to the interviewer.)

    16. Mombi's Severed Head*

      Can I choose Mombi from Ozma of Oz? She’s the evil queen who magicks pretty women’s heads so she can put them one in place of her own, depending on the look she’s going for that day. It means I’m good at trying to relate to different people and see from their perspective, and also a little bit evil.

      1. MamaCat*

        Hate to be pedantic, but they combined a couple of characters for Mombi in Return to Oz. Princess Languidere owned all the heads in Ozma of Oz, and Mombi was the mean old witch in Marvelous Land of Oz who transformed Ozma into a boy. But wouldn’t that be cool to bust out “Princesses Languidere” to that question to see how they’d react? She’s super adaptable. :D

    17. TonyTonyChopper*

      I am rolling my eyes so hard I’m surprised they are still attached to me. Like anyone with half a brain doesn’t know what answer the interviewer is looking for. No one is going to say “Oh, the Cowardly Lion is my spirit animal!” even if that might be the case

      My sarcastic response – I would tell the interviewer that the Good Witch wasn’t the Witch of the East, and then go into detail about how it was one of my favorite books as a kid and start asking questions about the differences between the book and the movie, since, obviously, the interviewer is also a huge fan.

      1. Matilda Jefferies*

        I would 100% correct them on that as well – not because I’ve read the books, but because I’m both a pedant and a smartass, and because I’m also really bad at hiding what I’m thinking. If it were a real interview question I could probably suppress the urge, but for something like this – you can bet the first thing out of my mouth would be “The Wicked Witch of the East wasn’t the good witch, she was the one squashed by the house. Glinda, the good witch, was from the South.”

    18. The Dread Pirate Buttercup*

      Not that I’m agreeing with the question, but my instinct is to go with the Glinda or the Wizard, if we’re sticking to the film, because they’re the ones who pointed out, “Look, you have the resources to fix your perceived problem all along.” And as I type this, this film clicks into place as the ultimate Depression-era propaganda. “You’re not starving! You’re just looking at it wrong! Wallpaper is delicious and nutritious!”

    19. Very tired*

      This makes me want to respond with information about the book, how it’s a political commentary, and that it’s interesting that children’s literature seems to gather a lot of that subgroup, just like the Mother Goose stories. I wonder what that says about me.

    20. LuJessMin*

      Heh, I was in some sort of leadership training course, and the leader had us introduce ourselves and our favorite movie. Most folks chose “Gone With The Wind” or “Casablanca”. I chose “Fargo”. Coworker sitting next to me shook her head and said, “I always knew you were different.”

    21. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      I think questions like that are only useful when the reason why is more important than the actual character they chose and it’s not already considered a given like in your example. Not everyone is going to interpret characters the same way. Is the Good Witch really that good…is the Tinman really “deficient”?

      I choose Wizard because I identify with a person who likes to help others, as if by magic, without getting any personal credit. That’s why I use the quote from the movie, “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.” It’s a bit strange to think that Wizard = EGO.

    22. Observer*

      SOOOOO much wrong with this. It’s bad enough on its own, but not even asking “why” makes it 10x worse. The reality is that people are going to react very differently to different characters. Like the Wizard – you could say “ego” but someone else could say “someone who got in over his head and found a way to make it work for him”.

      Never mind the people who actually don’t know anything about the Wizard of Oz, or who’ve read the book rather than having seen the movie.

      And none of the even touches the issue of these “trick” questions.

    23. Anonymosity*

      The Wizard would be a good example of someone with imposter syndrome.

      I have answers all ready for this kind of crap question but no one has asked.

    24. OlympiasEpiriot*

      Well, I’d blow that interview both because I have never actually seen the whole movie (and the books were banned from my home by my parents due to the author’s terrible, genocidal racism) and I would think that was a ridiculous question.

    25. Afiendishthingy*

      OMG i got asked this question at an interview recently!!! I said scarecrow and I did not get the job. If I could use emoji I would be using the crylaugh one here. I’ve moved on!

      And Glinda the Good was the witch of the NORTH not the east. The witch of the east was the one the house fell on. (Incidentally my BIL suggested I should have said I was the witch who got crushed by the house. Which would have been funny and at least as effective.)

      1. Afiendishthingy*

        And when they asked me I was totally thinking “Alison would never ask me this stupid question”

    26. Becky*

      I want to know how they would recommend interpreting if someone named a character from the book who doesn’t appear int he movie…which would probably stump the interviewer.

      Or (me being 4’11”) the munchkins, because I’m so short. :P

  7. hermit crab*

    My coworker brought in his three-year-old son for a brief visit today. Said three-year-old just introduced himself to someone and announced, “I’m a very distracted guy.” You and me both, kid. You and me both.

    Happy Friday, everyone!

    1. ChaufferMeChaufferYou*

      Adorable. There was a little boy walking around the botanical gardens the other day announcing, “I’m a valuable cowboy!”
      Yes you are, little partner.

    2. Jack Be Nimble*

      We’re in the midst of Bring Your Kid To Work day and a child very seriously informed me that he works here and his job is typing on computer.

    1. What's with today, today?*

      I haven’t read the article yet (I will), but I feel the need to share that our local vet is a Scientologist and has Scientology videos playing in the lobby of the vet clinic. Small town Texas too, not California or something. It just always makes me giggle.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Be prepared to be horrified. I read it last night with ever increasing jaw-dropping disbelief.

        1. What's with today, today?*

          No idea. He didn’t try to recruit us, but we eventually switched vets b/c he was price gouging. Flu shots for dogs in Texas? Nope. (We contacted a vet friend at Texas A&M vet center who confirmed that while flu can be a problem for dogs in the north, it’s not here. The friend said that is “classic price gouging.”)

          1. Lyman for President*

            This is actually how I confirmed my vet was good! The daycare I took my dogs to occasionally was really pushing canine flu vaccines, and so I called my vet to ask about them and they said “they are a thing, but we don’t do them here because they are mostly a waste of money for clients”.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      “Onetaste” in the context of this thread makes me think of the bug in the Wizard of Oz later books, who made a pill that you could take in place of eating a meal and was offended that this never caught on.

      “Orgasmic meditation” induced an eyeroll, and then when “company” was appended I dislocated something.

    3. Rat in the Sugar*

      Whoa, this has just about every hallmark of a cult that I know. We’re hitting so many points here:

      -“Lovebombing” at initial encounters
      -Separation from friends and family
      -Destroying your sense of money (money isn’t important to you but funnily enough the group sure needs a whole lot of it…)
      -Forced revealing of personal weaknesses
      -Ritualized sex
      -Communal living with other group members
      -Proclaiming the group as the only true source of spiritual fulfillment

      …ugh, what part of this is NOT a cult?? They’ve got the predatory formula down pat.

        1. Rat in the Sugar*

          EVEN BETTER. All they have to do is start selling timeshares and they’ll have hit some kind of predatory trifecta.

          1. Detective Amy Santiago*

            Honestly, I was shocked this hasn’t been discussed more in the media because of how bananacrackers inappropriate it is.

    4. OhGee*

      This article was too much, hoo boy. Without getting too TMI, I feel really bad for people who get sucked in to sexuality-heavy cults. It’s so easy to grow up sexually repressed/without healthy models for sexuality in the US, and I get the feeling people get pulled in to this stuff because it’s the first time anybody made them feel like sex was a positive thing.

    5. Jadelyn*

      I’m 3 paragraphs in and my eyes are bugging out of my head.

      (And as a Bay Area native, I’m internally screaming at them “THIS IS WHY THE REST OF THE COUNTRY THINKS WE’RE ALL WHACKJOBS! YOU ARE WHY WE CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS!”)

    6. TechServLib*

      My city is listed in the article as one that they’re trying to expand to in the next two years. NOPE NOPE NOPITY NOPE.

    7. LGC*

      I mean, I WAS planning on being productive the rest of the day, but I guess that’s not going to happen…

      (I’m about to dive head first into this article.)

    8. Rachel B.*

      Finally catching up to this article, thanks, Det. Santiago. Third paragraph in and I am horrified. Why would anyone EVER think this was a reasonable idea, and at work, no less??!!!?

  8. JokeyJules*

    Anyone have any good “I would NEVER hire this person” stories?

    Had a man call this week demanding to speak to the hiring manager so she can let him know he has been hired. He had only completed a phone screening for a highly technical position. Then he informs me that he will be working out of my office so I should try to make a good impression for him.

    1. Foreign Octopus*

      I once started a phone interview with a candidate who I quickly discovered was conducted the interview on the toilet. I nearly threw up in my mouth when I heard his bowel movements reaching their destination. He was quickly put on the no-no list.

        1. It's me*

          I still don’t think this would ever be ok? I would try and reschedule before taking a phone interview on the loo

          1. MuseumChick*

            I have a couple of friends with the condition. Sometimes, it’s to late/there are no other options. They certainly don’t want to talk to someone while sitting on a toilet but they also don’t want to ruin their pants.

            1. Holly*

              Urm, it’s okay to pause the interview and ask if you can call them back if it’s an emergency. You should not be on the toilet while on a phone interview, IBS or not.

            2. The New Wanderer*

              I have hung up on someone when this happened to me. Blame it on a lost cell connection. DON’T subject someone to unnecessary unpleasant noises.

            3. Courageous cat*

              This is honestly absurd. There is no situation in which the other person would prefer to listen to someone using the bathroom rather than just be called back at a later time.

              Like, if someone was having a conversation with their boss in person and had an attack, they’d say “I’ll be right back” and go into the stall alone instead of pulling their boss in there to finish the conversation during, right?

        2. Totally Minnie*

          If you have to be in the bathroom during your phone interview, check to see if your phone has a mute option. That way, they only hear you when you want them to and they won’t have to hear the ambient bathroom echoing the whole time.

        3. Ann Furthermore*

          Yes, but you have a Mute button, or the option to say, “I’m so sorry, I need to step away for a moment.” I have stomach issues sometimes and I would never, ever do that.

          1. Washi*

            Or just hang up in the middle of your sentence and pretend you got disconnected. It’s true that there aren’t a lot of good options in this scenario, but audibly pooping in a phone interview is not option #1 (or #2 haha)

        4. The Person from the Resume*

          It seems to me that a lot of the commentary lately has involved worst-case scenarios or conjecture about details not in the OP’s letter. Do you find this type of discussion helpful or do you think it derails the thread?

          Not helpful. Really, say: “I’m sorry I have to step away from the phone for a second.”

        5. What's with today, today?*

          Wrong! I have severe to dibilitating Crohn’s Disease. This would never be okay.

        6. Courageous cat*

          I’m honestly kind of speechless at this comment.

          Yes, you absolutely have a choice not to be shitting during an interview. There is never a situation in which that will be acceptable.

      1. Yorick*

        I have really bad nervous belly. I always start needing to go when I’m about to have a phone interview. It gets worse because they always end up calling a little late and it gets worse and worse. I can usually wait until it’s over, but it’s agony, and at least once (first call for current job) I did have to answer the phone on the toilet.

        It feels awful, physically and emotionally. I always hope they don’t notice, and if they did I hope they’d be sympathetic.

        1. BRR*

          I have a nervous belly as well. I take Imodium before interviews (I’m not sure if this is brilliant, way too extreme, or a little of both).

      2. Foreign Octopus*

        I just bounced this over to my mum who has pretty awful IBS and asked her what she would do. She replied that she would never, under any circumstances, answer the phone whilst on the toilet or continue her conversation whilst going to the toilet.

        I don’t think it’s unreasonable to not have to talk to people whilst they’re on the toilet no matter what the circumstances.

        It’s similar to letters we’ve had here in the past about people trying to continue work conversations in the bathroom. It’s just not the environment for it.

        1. Rat in the Sugar*

          Yeah, I have IBS and have actually had a few pants-ruining accidents (not to be TMI, just illustrating that I understand how urgent things can be sometimes) and there’s NO WAY I would answer the phone on the toilet. I mean, if I had a stomach bug and had to puke or if the cat was trying to strangle herself on the blinds or someone started hammering urgently on my front door or whatever the hell else might suddenly happen, I’d just quickly say something like “There’sanemergencyberightback!!” and throw the phone down. Emergencies happen and a reasonable company won’t hold it against you.

        2. Lissa*

          Yeah and I mean….I don’t think it’s a reasonable expectation for someone conducting a phone interview hearing “noises” to be OK with it because of potential medical issues.

    2. Not Today Satan*

      I was interviewing for a client services role at a nonprofit. A candidate was 15 minutes late and kept talking about how he wanted to get rich and own a hospital.

    3. AdAgencyChick*

      The art director who smelled so bad that my eyes were watering as soon as I walked into the room. I couldn’t wrap up that half hour fast enough.

    4. Detective Amy Santiago*

      My boss at a staffing agency was looking to hire another internal office person. She mentioned that she liked the resume of someone who used to work for the same LargeCorp I used to work for (that had multiple divisions/locations) and knew it was unlikely I would know this person.

      I knew them. And I also knew that there was no way they would be a good fit for the position.

      I also happened to be friends on FB with this person. Who proceeded to message me and ask me for advice about preparing for the interview because they knew I worked there. And when I said that based on our experience working together that I didn’t think they were a good fit for the internal position, but we would schedule them for an interview for possible placements, they then argued with me for more than an hour about why I was wrong.

      Needless to say, that file was marked as “Do Not Hire” in the database and I blocked them on Facebook.

      1. Consulting Gal*

        I dont think you should have told him he wasn’t a good fit via FB. I wouldve either ignored him or gave a generic answer.

    5. Emmie*

      My network asks me for referrals to my WFH job. When I ask them what interests them about my company or the job they’re looking at, people tell me it’s because they want to WFH.

      1. CynicallySweet*

        This is just lazy. Even if that’s their primary motivation, do a google search at least

      2. Emmie*

        Right? Tell me why you’d be good at a particular open position. Then we can talk about whether you have the discipline to exceed goals while working in your home.

    6. PB*

      I received a cover letter recently from someone who assured me he was “the best possible candidate” as he “far exceeded all of the requirements.” And he did not. Rejected without a phone interview.

    7. An anonymous librarian*

      I’ve been in public libraries for over 15 years. I had a phone interview last week in which the candidate mansplained the entire concept of library programs to me while repeating the same stories over and over and insisting that he was the only person in the country who could possibly fulfill all the job requirements from our posting, and ended the call by saying he was excited to move across the country and start working for me soon.

      Reader, I did not hire him.

      1. JokersandRogues*

        How shocking that you didn’t hire this person….not.
        I mean, really, why wouldn’t you want to hire someone who is already being a condescending twit before they even get to the job? /s/

    8. Holder of the visa sponsorship*

      I called a potential hire demand that we immediately file for their green card and argue with me that their ‘friend’ had immediate sponsorship from the company. 1. This was during an initial conversation (no offer in hand) so I could figure out if there were any red flags that would create issues with green card filing down the road. 2. I managed all of the visa sponsorship for the company. There was no ‘friend’ that was given immediate green card sponsorship because it’s against company policy. 3. This wasn’t even for a particularly hard position to fill. All of the nope. The hiring manager went in another direction.

    9. anon for this*

      A fangirl who REALLY wanted to meet this one famous author I used to work with. The cover letter mentioned how she was such a big fan and write fanfic and went to cons, and I could just envision the nightmare of her getting this author’s contact info and never setting professional boundaries. I’ve seen others similar to that for other authors or celebs (they’re usually passed from HR as a “look at the rejection of the week!” trend, nothing that makes it to a phone screening).

      I’ve gotten really good at reading between the lines of people who want editorial jobs because they “just want to read books all day” or because they think the job is a backdoor into getting their novel published. If your resume talks a lot about your favorite books and your MFA program, you’re going in the rejected pile.

      1. The Person from the Resume*

        I want to read books all day. I want to choose the ones to read, though, so I am pretty sure an editorial job is not for me.

        I have a friend who works in publishing and in addition to working like 60-80 hours a week, he hasn’t read a book for pleasure in a long time.

        1. anon for this*

          I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve had to tell people that reading books is so rarely part of publishing and editorial. Aside from a book reviewer, I cannot think of a single job in the industry where you read books all day.

          I can’t even bring myself to read for pleasure anymore. Knowing what goes into each book and the business end has sort of killed most of my love of reading. I have friends in TV and movies who feel the same way about their industry. A friend works on some very popular, high profile TV series and says she hasn’t watched a show for pleasure in ages.

          1. Book Reviewer*

            And speaking as a book reviewer, I’ll say you don’t always get to choose what you want to read, either (although I’ve been fortunate about that in a general sense, certainly). I’d hesitate to call it a job, though: There are very few people who can actually make a living on it. I won’t review for free, but I’m getting pocket money from it. There are even some book review editors who must supplement their income.

            I just got an email from the prestigious book reviewing organization that I belong to; it concerned a spreadsheet of publication contacts for book review pitches. The email noted excitedly that most of those publications even pay!

            1. anon for this*

              Oh, for sure. We pay for reviews, but it’s definitely not enough per book to make a living on it. Usually the deal is a small check and a copy of the book in exchange for the review. Official book reviewing is harder than people think. It’s not quite the same as writing a review on amazon.

              I do know two reviewers who have made a steady job out of it without needing to supplement their income, though. But they’re the exception to the rule, and their situations are unique to begin with.

              1. Marion Ravenwood*

                That’s been my experience in the music industry; often your ‘pay’ is the ticket to the gig (for live shows) or a preview copy of the album, plus a small payment. For the people in my scene, which granted is quite small, it’s definitely not enough to live on alone – most people I know do it either alongside another job or have financial support from family members which allows them to do it full-time. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy it and I know I’m really lucky to do it, but it’s definitely not as glamorous or easy as people think it is.

                1. anon for this*

                  Yes, and sometimes the turnaround is short. So, for book reviews, it’s not a leisurely read at your own pace deal, but we need this in 48 hours, so read, review, write asap!

                  A lot of book reviewing is skimming, too, tbh. If we need a review in 24 hours, I know reviewers are skimming instead of reading for every tiny detail.

          2. No Bees on Typhon*

            Heh, my husband works in the movie and TV industry and we always use that as justification for our Netflix and expensive cable package habits. We’re “supporting his industry”.

      2. Marion Ravenwood*

        In a similar vein, I’ve known music journalists who handed over their demo CD to a major artist. In a press conference. Nonononononono. (And I know music is subjective and all, but the demo was… not good.)

    10. Anon for now*

      We gave someone a phone interview once. The whole interview was really uncomfortable, and only got worse when we got to the “Do you have any questions for us?” portion. One of his questions was, in essence, “What’s the point of even having this position?” His contention seemed to be that middle management is useless and he didn’t think we needed this position. He also believed that managing just involved “telling people what to do and they’ll do it.” And he had management experience.

      1. A tester, not a developer*

        I once had someone describe my job as ‘going to meetings and telling people what to do’.

        He was shocked that he wasn’t selected to be the infill for me while I was on maternity leave. Even though he’d only been with the company for about 4 months…

    11. Doloris Van Cartier*

      I was once in an interview where someone asked their best and worst trait (ugh, I know!) but the answer was so odd, I’m so glad they did ask it. Their worst trait was that they had received comments in their previous reviews that they wore inappropriate clothing and she went onto to say it was because she liked wearing shorter skirts and dresses because she thought women shouldn’t wear pants and she liked showing off her legs. Of course, there are two women in the room, myself included, wearing pants, so that was interesting. She also had all kinds of boundary issues which for the job she was applying for was a huge red flag so she didn’t end up getting the position.

      1. SarahKay*

        Soooo I’m in the UK, where pants to us = panties to you. When you said “she thought women shouldn’t wear pants and she liked showing off her…” my mind jumped somewhere rather less appropriate than ‘legs’ and I started thinking ‘OMG, no, please, no!!!!’. Very relieved when the sentence ended in “legs” and I remembered the pants/panties translation.

        1. Doloris Van Cartier*

          I just read it with that in mind and laughed so hard I almost spilled my water. That would have really made the answer even more uncomfortable than it was.

        2. I Just Stole $0.12 From My Employee With This Comment*

          I worked at a place where the dress code specifically mentioned requiring underwear, and the reason was a previous employee who liked miniskirts and hated underwear.

          1. LPUK*

            I worked with a woman who made a point of telling me she went commando when wearing pants in the office… which she did quite regularly. She also told me she mowed the back lawn naked. I was young and didn’t see this as the poor boundaries flag that it was. Instead I invited here to go to a supplier event ( tennis) with me, watched her drink up the bar and then be escorted out of the tent to puke by my Account Manager, and then had to drive through the city with her standing on the front seat out of the sunroof trying to chat up lorry drivers! Good times.

    12. TonyTonyChopper*

      The person I once phone screened for an HR manager role who not only had our company (global healthcare company) confused with a local construction company that specialized in medical facilities (mistakes happen), but then argued with me when I explained to him that we weren’t the same company and did completely different things. I mean got really rude and condescending about how he knew exactly who we were because “we” did the renovation of the hospital he was working at.

      Oh, and the lady who was obviously going through major drug withdrawals during our interview.

      1. Alli525*

        WOW to both of those.

        On the first day of on-site training at a long-ago job, I looked out of the window and saw a man clearly nodding off (from use of heroin) in one of the defunct phone booths that still litter NYC. I really should have taken that – PLUS the earthquake that occurred on my first day of actual (non-training) work – for the omen that it was, and run like hell from that company.

    13. Quill*

      At a previous job, we received this fax about an open position, more or less verbatim.

      “Hi, i am [name] and am looking for position with [description of my field] company. Please consider my resume attached.

      – Sent from my iphone”

      Needless to say, the resume did not follow, and my boss called me in to try and figure out how to open an email attachment from a fax machine while I tried to explain to him that it was a text message…

    14. NicoleK*

      I don’t have hiring duties at this time, but I would never hire these two people
      1. My current coworker (in her job for 5 years) who needs as much hand holding as a new hire
      2. Former coworker who bragged about how awesome she was, thought Excel was the solution to our data problem, and never delivered on many projects that she promised.

    15. SarahKay*

      Previous company, I managed Customer Service and Reception / Switchboard for a department store. We were looking for a new part-timer, with very specific hours.
      Purely by chance I was the person covering switchboard when someone called about the part-time job. I told her the hours and was met with a flat “Oh, no, those hours won’t work form, they’ll have to be changed.” I politely explained that no, they were the hours we were looking for, and they couldn’t be changed. To which the caller responded in a sharp tone of voice “Who do you think you are, to tell me what the hours will be?”
      “I’m the manager for the department” I replied.
      A rather chastened called asked if, perhaps, I could send her an application form.
      We did not call her for interview.

        1. SarahKay*

          I did, because at the time of the call I was too taken aback by the whole thing to actually say to her “No, I’m sorry, you’re clearly not suitable”. If I had it to do again I’d have just declined her there and then, because however rude she was, I do feel bad for letting her take the time to apply when she was never going to get that job.

    16. Beancounter in Texas*

      I once had an opening for a full time accounts payable job. I received an email from a candidate that attached a 3+ page less-than-stellar resume. His email contained two sentences that specified what hours he would work (less than full time) and that he’d be working from home. I was not that desperate.

    17. Cube Farmer*

      Was hiring for a Chief Llama Wrangler. We were in dire need so the receptionist passed a call to me from an experienced individual. When I answered, he huffed and the following conversation took place:

      Him: I already spoke with a receptionist. I need to speak to a man!

      Me: Sir, I am the Llama Wrangler Manager.

      Him: No, you don’t seem to understand little lady. I’m not going to talk to another receptionist or secretary or whatever you are. I need to speak to a man. The man hiring for this job.

      Me: Sir. I am the person hiring for this job. If hired, you would work directly for me, a woman.

      Him. Unintelligible mumbling. I’ll call back when I can talk to a man.

      Me: Sir, don’t bother.

      I truly don’t think he could wrap his head around how a woman (little lady) could be in my position in the male dominated field we were in.

      1. Rat in the Sugar*

        Whaaat, how could you not hire him?? When are you ever going to get another chance to hire a time traveler from the 1950’s??

      2. voluptuousfire*

        I would have put him on hold for a moment then picked up and said “This is a man, how can I help you?”

        Kinda like when a rep in a call center who receives a customer complain and the rep tells them they can’t do x because of why and when the customer asks for a manager, they put the customer on hold then come back on “yes, this is the manager.”

        You could have been a man for that few moments to tell this guy to kiss off. :D

      3. Observer*

        Was this guy a time traveler? I mean, even 20 years ago, who on earth used the term “little lady”?!

        1. Liza*

          I had a male candidate refer to me as “little lady” in a phone interview! Spoiler alert: we did not invite him for an in person visit.

      4. Minocho*

        I was interviewing intern candidates. I was going to be the supervisor, as I was the only software developer in house. I introduced myself as the programmer who would be supervising the positions, then we interviewed, talking about this candidates experience, schooling, and technical knowledge. Then he asked, “So, you’re, like, the HR lady, right? When will I talk to the technical guy?”

        “Well, as I stated, I will be the supervisor.”

        “Oh.” Blink blink. “You can do that?”

    18. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

      I had a guy who said, in an interview, “I am hungry. I’m ready to eat some HEARTS.” The other intervewer and I were so stunned we just laughed and joked along with him. To this day I picture him in a suit, tie, and blood all over his mouth with an evil grin.

    19. ella*

      I work at a library. My desk is behind the circulation desk, and I can often hear conversations that happen there. Somebody came up to the desk asking if we were hiring, and when the clerk said yes (and tried to direct them to the application website), they started talking about how much they’ve always wanted to work in a library because they love books and how everything is wrong with libraries now because they’re less about books. He also had ideas for how we should reorganize the books.

      Surprisingly, I am not going to hire somebody to work in the library (and interface with customers!) who seems to agree with every single Buzzfeed article ever written about the impending death and irrelevance of libraries and who wants to revamp our entire building and all of our policies while earning $11/hr.

    20. voluptuousfire*

      A candidate did a technical interview with my company and we rejected him since he didn’t do well and was rejected. He sent an email to the recruiter to essentially say why we were wrong and to complain about “the interviewer” and how she couldn’t possible know what she was doing. His entire email was sexist, negative, rude and even a little racist. (His interviewer was a woman of color.)

      All of this because a woman interviewed him. He didn’t even call her by her name, just “the interviewer.” He also called her bossy and stubborn, which in the context of the email was definitely gendered.

      We dodged a bullet there.

      1. JokersandRogues*

        That was so telegraphed I’m not even sure it was a bullet you dodged. Maybe a troll taking a really slow swing so you have time to run around and kick it in the back of the leg?

    21. Anonymosity*

      A list:

      –Coworker from Hell, the one who was so mean she made a salesman cry and quit after three days (this pre-dated my *short* tenure at the company). She made another one quit while I was there. Her sales numbers were good, but I don’t ever want to work with her again in this life or any other.
      –Bullyboss from Exjob. Lazy, plus a bully.
      –The guy who sent a rambling, handwritten manifesto to OldExjob with his driver’s licence reproduced at the top of the page. Not the picture; the entire licence.
      –A coworker from the deli in CA who flirted with all the male customers despite being engaged and ran off with one of them (he dumped her, hahahaha).

      I would, however, hire the CA coworker who hid in the walk-in during an armed robbery. Everyone made fun of him, but I think that was actually pretty goddamn smart and told him so. And I’d also hire either of my most recent exes if the job were a good fit for their skills, since I know they are punctual and conscientious people.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I was thinking a walk-in might be a good choice in a tornado if there was nothing else. A tornado hit below us and I got to realizing there are not a lot of cellars here…. Walk-ins can be quite handy.
        I do agree that hiding in the walk-in during a robbery was an excellent idea.

        1. What's with today, today?*

          24 people survived the F5 Joplin, MO tornado in a walk in beer cooler. 169 people didn’t survive that tornado.

          1. Anonymosity*

            Yep. My nephew was in it, however, and he and his friend survived in a bathroom, though the house did not.

    22. Very Hungry Caterpillar*

      After I spoke to a guy during a phone screen this week, he showed up at our front desk, demanded that the secretary tell him where my office was, refused to leave until he had proved he was he best person for the job, and said he would wait in the lobby for me to leave so he could talk to me on my way out. Security was called. Sorry dude, I don’t care how qualified you are, you’re never ever getting this or any other job here.

      1. Observer*

        I always wonder what’s going through the heads of people like that. Do they really think that they are going to be able to FORCE you to hire them?

    23. Independent George*

      This is similar to a Seinfeld episode. Maybe your candidate decided George had some good ideas when it comes to workplace norms. George has an interview, isn’t sure where he stands after the interview, and in true George Style, over analyzes. Since the hiring manager is on vacation for the next week, George decides to show up and let everyone know he’s the new hire. It’s a great episode, but a definite Alison no-no.

    24. Ender*

      A friend of mine works in HR and interviews a lot of people. One guy said his biggest achievement was getting his wife pregnant on their honeymoon :D :D

      1. Charlie Bradbury's Girlfriend*

        My likely external response to that: *nervous laughter*
        My internal response: “Eeeeeeeeeeewwwwwwwww nooooooooooooo. why. why. why.”

    25. Happy Lurker*

      I had one candidate for a seasonal position get angry with me that I would not pay them cash. I explained it was a regular job, with a paycheck with taxes taken out. I was accused of stealing from them and then they told me they would find out where I lived and come to my house.
      Dead stop. They sounded totally unstable and I was nervous that they would.
      Yeah, rejected.

    26. Drama Llama*

      I had an applicant who talked himself up like every achievement/strength was the equivalent of climbing Everest to accept his Nobel Prize. So instead of saying “I started learning English when I moved here at 16 and learned to speak pretty fluently within a year”, he said “I made The Great Achievement of acquiring the Highest English Skills Possible only after studying English one year, demonstrating my Best Excellent Language Skills” (caps are my own, but I’m sure he would have added those if he were communicating to me in writing).

      Or, saying “One time I achieved the Highest Possible Amazing Sales Achievement of selling $x, which was the Most Highest Achievement out of everybody else who had ever worked there in the history of the company” when he meant to say “I got the highest sales results that week”.

      When it came to discussing salary he asked for a “pay raise” based on his “excellent sales results at his last job”. He was disappointed when I told him pay raises were based on achievements at our company, and not someone else’s.

      Yeah, he didn’t get the job.

    27. Kiwi*

      Hiring a teapot designer. This guy answered my first question with a 5-minute monologue about how important it was to glue the spouts on and how excellent he was at gluing. I let him finish, asked my second question. A short answer, then 3 more minutes about spout gluing. I asked a third question, more monologue about spout gluing. I cut him off mid-sentence and ended the interview.

    28. Eve*

      I was hiring for a office position for a company that also had a store. I always had the interviewee go to the store first and I went down to bring them up.

      After the interview went normally and the person left the store person called me to tell me what happened before the interview.

      Interviewee: The floors are really squeaky.
      Store Person: Yes, it’s a very old building, but they are too historic to replace.
      Interviewee: Same at my house so I don’t invite any fat people over.


    29. TheTallestOneEver*

      I’m an IT program manager and was hiring a technical team lead. I was one of two women on a five person interview panel. The first round of interviews focused on the technical expertise of the candidates. In response to one answer, a candidate was using a lot of jargon related to IT and federal agencies. After responding to one question, he looked at me and said to the men on the panel,”Look at her. She has no idea what I’m talking about.”

      Uh, yeah I did, dude. I understood every word, every acronym, all of it.

      We didn’t hire him.

    30. Amy*

      We had two advisor positions open, one required bilingual Spanish skills. Interviewing a bilingual applicant and reach the portion of the interview where we ask a few questions in Spanish and get a sense of conversational skills. Applicant looks terrified and says she’s not prepared to do that. I say understandingly, “fine we also have a nonbilingual position so we’ll continue in English.”
      She says, “Absolutely not, I’m applying for the bilingual position that pays more”.
      I share a glance with my co-interviewer, “…well shall I ask you the Spanish questions then?”
      She says “No, I’m too rusty but I promise I’ll be ready by the time I start. Trust me.”
      We did not hire her for either position.

    31. La Croix Drinking Monster*

      I once interviewed a potential co-worker (I did the screening interviews and it was a very close-knit team so I needed to not hate them) who had graduated relatively recently (within a year, I think). His resume was light on work experience, so I asked him some college questions, too, including, “What was your favorite college class?” I often had to add “not related to your major” because people tend to interpret this as an opportunity to claim they loved accounting or something, instead of a question to gauge personality fit.

      Anyway, he told me he loved an intro philosophy class, then proceeded to explain who Kierkegaard was, completely unprompted, the way you’d explain Kierkegaard to, say, an alien who just landed unexpectedly on Earth.

  9. How to help this employee?*

    This week’s column re:employee potentially in an abusive home situation was really timely for me and a good reminder to go back and read Marie’s comments from 2012, too.

    On Monday, one of my remote workers was verbally harangued by another organization’s manager. We don’t report directly to them, but we do stock teapots in their store and are always supposed to defer to them. I’m certain my employee was caught off guard by this new manager who she had never met and might have become defensive, but there was no need for him to have treated her the way he did. He unnecessarily escalated what didn’t need to be heated in the first place.

    I have another store that needs a teapot merchandiser. I don’t want her to feel punished in any way, but I don’t want her around this guy. He’s an ass and she doesn’t deserve to be treated that way.

    The kicker is that I’ve suspected for awhile that she may be in an abusive relationship at home and after she got home that day her partner (or someone posing as him) called the store and threatened physical violence against the manager who had been so terrible to her. The store manager said he knows that wasn’t her and that it’s fine for her to return to that store. I’m the one who isn’t comfortable with that. She is vulnerable and in a very difficult situation. To add further insult to injury, she was then robbed and sexually assaulted later this week.

    I don’t want to take away her sense of agency by making this decision for her, but she seems fairly anxious right now and I’m not sure she’s in a frame of mind that can make quality long term decisions right now. I want to create an environment where she can just focus on her job and not have to look over her shoulder wondering if this manger will give her a hard time again. Is it okay to make this decision for her?

    1. Monty's Mom*

      This sounds so terrible! I’m so sorry for your employee! Could you maybe offer the option to her, rather than making the actual decision, and see how to proceed based on her reaction?

    2. TonyTonyChopper*

      I’d maybe ask her first, but frame it in a way that she doesn’t feel like it is a punishment. “Hey, I know XXX manager is hard to deal with/is unnecessarily stressful to work with/etc, and we have an opening a different store with a more reasonable (or whatever) manager that would really benefit from your skills/experience. Would you be interested in taking the new client?”

      That way you aren’t deciding FOR her, it should boost her morale, and it makes it easy for her to say yes without feeling like she’s complaining or being problematic.

      1. How to help this employee?*

        I like your suggestion of framing how this other option could also benefit from her skills—that is completely the case and that gives her a way of saving face, too. If the other store really needs her, then she’s not running away, she’s being an asset. That’s something that might really speak to her sense of purpose.

    3. Matilda Jefferies*

      Good grief, that poor woman. Even if she is not in an abusive relationship (and I’m doubting your assessment at all), she’s had a hell of a week.

      I would say no, you can’t make this decision for her. But you can certainly ask her – something along the lines of “Hey, that other manager is an ass, and I don’t want you to have to work with him regularly. Would you be interested in a position in X instead of what you’re currently doing?”

      Or even offer to deal with that manager yourself from now on. It would actually be a kindness to all your staff, if it’s something you can easily take on – I’m sure they would all appreciate knowing that you’re willing to protect them from crap like that.

    4. CynicallySweet*

      Talk to her about it! Make it clear it’s her decision either way, and lay out the options. And then accept her answer. She may have legitimate reasons for wanting to stay at that particular store that she doesn’t want to tell you, so it’s important that you accept it if she says she wants to stay.

    5. Headshrinker Extraordinaire*

      That poor woman! I think if you present it the way you have here (you want her to have a comfortable working environment, the manager didn’t treat her well) and let her know that there’s another location that could use her, it might be a relief to her. As long as it’s not presented as a punishment she’ll hopefully feel like her manager is looking out for her.

    6. Reba*

      This will sound more aggressive than I mean it to, but: reconsider your feeling that she is not capable of making good decisions about her own life, and you…. somehow are?

      I get that people do things under stress that are less than optimal. But you can’t protect her from having regrets and taking decisions over big things (working conditions) out of her hands, when you have the opportunity to address it collaboratively, seems patronizing in the worst way.

      Let her know that you want to be supportive, that you believe in her work and want her to succeed, and lay out the options. Let her have some agency here. It’s great that you are looking out for her.

      1. How to help this employee?*

        No, your point isn’t aggressive. I can that side too which is why I’ve been torn. The robbery and assault was what left me really shaking my head. This woman can’t catch a break and she doesn’t think she *deserves* a break. From that angle, I just wanted to wave a wand and make the one problem I have any power over go away—the threat of this rude, verbally abusive manager. But yeah…it comes with the assumption that I know best what she needs right now and while I *might* have some good ideas, it’s far from guaranteed mine are best for her. I’ll offer her her options and see where it goes from there.

  10. Interview Pet Peeves*

    As someone who has been interviewer and interviewee many times: Give your interviewee a few minutes of softballs while they get their bearing. And for the love of God, at the very least open up with a quick overview of the role. It’s astounding how many interviewers sit me down, I’ve barely had a chance to catch my breath, and they open with, “tell me about yourself,” expecting me to give them an elevator speech when I don’t know them from Adam and all I know about the job is the description, which is often not really accurate.

    Also: for some reason twice an employer has asked me, “What do you think this job will be like?” I seriously don’t know what they’re trying to get at here (these aren’t mind reader jobs) so I just throw it back at them. It’s always the people who skip giving an overview of the job, too.

    Another peeve, but a smaller one: Asking what I know about the org. It always feels like a quiz to me, and I don’t know how much detail I should go into. From my experience as interviewer, if the candidate doesn’t know what your org does it’ll come out in other ways.

    1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      Huh. I’d say that “tell me about yourself” is a reasonable softball to open with.

      But when I interview, I do start by giving some information (introducing everyone who’s in the room, talking about how the interview will work, etc.).

      1. Interview Pet Peeves*

        I think that it’s too broad and kind of asks the candidate to sell themselves to you too early in the process. An explanation of the role followed by “what about this role interests you?” gives them room to describe their skills/experience/interest in a more natural way, imo.

        1. CheeryO*

          But presumably you have an idea of what the position is and you can give a little elevator-type pitch that relates your background to the position. I don’t think anyone expects a super detailed, hardcore pitch at that point in the conversation. It’s just a way to get things started.

          1. Interview Pet Peeves*

            And that is what I do. But there are lots of candidates who either a) aren’t as interview-savvy as us or b) get nervous in interviews, and for most just those qualities don’t mean that they wouldn’t be an excellent fit for the role. That’s why as an interviewer I try to make candidates as comfortable and excited about the role (as opposed to just nervous about impressing me) as I can within reason.

      2. Yorick*

        “Tell me about yourself” is just too broad. “I’m Yorick and I like long walks on the beach.” I mean, even if I can keep it together and keep it work related, do I tell you about my past work experiences? What I’m looking for in my career? What kind of worker I am?

        Also, if the job explicitly has multiple parts (I’m thinking academia, where you’ll do research and teach), make sure you specify or ask about each part separately. “What’s your biggest weakness?” is hard to answer when I don’t know what to apply it to. I asked once if they wanted to hear about teaching or research or what and they said “your biggest weakness in life.” Uh…….why do you want to know that I have no food willpower?

        1. Murphy*

          Oh yeah, I got asked once “What annoys you?” I said “In general, in life?” “Yes.” Uhh…

        2. College Career Counselor*

          Perhaps it’s wrong of me, but I would not ask you to tell me about yourself. I would have assumed you were a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy.

    2. Murphy*

      Yes! I once got asked what I thought the company did. This was an interview for an internship. I completely understood what they did, but they got overly nitpicky with my answer, at least for an internship interview. It definitely felt like a quiz, and I wasn’t sure that I’d passed.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        Oh god, HR made me cry in an interview one time many years ago because they kept pushing and pushing on what I knew about the company. I still have no idea what they were looking for.

      2. A username for this site*

        My husband had a college interview like this. The alum conducting the interview spent most of the interview quizzing him on the particulars of the university and then condescendingly explaining the answers to him when he couldn’t answer. The questions were ones that were just not appropriate for an incoming freshman to be answering. Like, he would say, “Oh I am really interested in the teapot program, it’s one of the best in the country and I’m fascinated by teapots and teapot design sciences,” and the alum would chuckle, “It’s actually the 7th best program according to Higher Education Insider and I don’t understand how you could have applied here without knowing that. I bet you don’t even know the secret code word for breakfast burritos in the dining commons, you ingrate!”

        He left not wanting to get into the school and was glad he was rejected.

    3. Baby Fishmouth*

      I once was asked to prepare a presentation as part of the interview. I walked into the room, the three interviewers introduced themselves, and then they asked me to please do my presentation before they asked any questions. Needless to say, I bombed that interview because doing the presentation before saying anything else did *not* put me at ease.

      1. Interview Pet Peeves*

        Ugh, that sucks! Yeah, so many interviews are done in a way that basically just screen for people who are really good at interviews and at ease in situations like that.

        1. Baby Fishmouth*

          The worst part was I was supposed to prepare a 20 minute presentation, about a process very specific to their department/organization, including slide decks etc., with no guidance. It took me hours to create it, even longer to practice, and while I was at the interview it became clear I was being interviewed to meet a quota. They already had a person (from within their department) in mind to hire for the position and they were TRYING to screen me out with the presentation and very specific questions that only someone in their department could know.
          I’ve never been so mad in my life.

          1. Doug Judy*

            Something similar happened to me once, but no electronics were allowed, just printed materials. So I got a large poster board printed at Kinkos and individual hand outs. I spent every night for a week working on it. Then the second I walked in the room they had me give it. No introductions, not time to calm settle nerves. I didn’t get it. They should have asked me the actual interview question first then did the presentation. Instead I had four strangers just staring at me. Even if you were giving a presentation to a client there would be some exchange of pleasantries first, not walk in and immediately start a presentation.

            1. The New Wanderer*

              Huh, now that you reminded me, I was asked to do a 45-min presentation as part of a day-long interview process. Other than meeting with the recruiter to get set up for it, it was the very first thing I did before I even met or was personally introduced to basically anyone (I introduced myself as speaker but there were a dozen people in the room and a few on telecon so going around the room didn’t make sense).

              I didn’t get it either but I think that was more a function of not doing well in a few of the face-to-face interviews afterwards. Which would have been helped by them being a little more clear up front about what they were looking for (specific deep knowledge base) vs. what I thought based on the job description (mad research skillz and ability to learn on the fly).

    4. Not in US*

      I have the experience of having people come in for an interview who did not do any research and don’t know or understand what we did. So I have and do ask what someone knows about the company / department, etc. I had a candidate argue with me once that our whole division didn’t have an online presence – it did, a significant one. I see this as what should be a softball question. It should be easy to answer.

      I also tend to start with something like tell me about yourself or tell me about why your interested in the job – are also softball questions. If you can’t tell me why you’re even interested, then why are we here? I do agree that “What do you think this job will be like?” isn’t a fair question and that would tick me off.

      1. Interview Pet Peeves*

        Like I wrote above, I think “what about this role interests you?” is different and better–it’s narrower. I answer “tell me about yourself” as if they had asked me “what about the role interests you” but not everyone is an experienced and comfortable with interviews as I am.

      2. Washi*

        Yeah, I’ve gotten something along the lines of “what do you know about our organization” a lot, as well as “tell me about yourself” and I’ve never found it off putting. They’re both on most of the lists of common interview questions you find when you google, and I would consider them softball questions. (Versus nitty gritty behavioral or technical questions.)

      3. LJay*


        I don’t ask people what they think the position will be like, but I have been a part of interviews where people clearly did not read or understand the job description at all and seemed to have no idea what it would entail.

        (Like, it was a back of the house position dealing with minutia and paperwork and one of the candidates kept on effusing about how she loved working with the general public and meeting different people each day. In this job you would only meet a couple new people a year if new people got hired into the department we worked with. And I went days without talking to people. I’m an introvert and it was too low interaction with people even for me.)

        We go over the position in the interview, and reinforced to her that it would be solitary work sitting and doing data entry on a computer in an office alone, and she still continued to emphasize how much she likes interacting with the public. We screened her out because of that.

        We went back and checked the job listing and it wasn’t wildly out of line so we have no clue where they got it from.

        Also, it was for a company that most people in the US have at least heard of. It has a webpage. It has a Wikipedia article. Most people have at least a vague idea about what we do. The amount of outright wrong info people spit out when asked what they knew about the company in an interview was crazy to me.

        I always do ask people what they know about the company I work for now. This is to see if they did any research whatsoever to prepare for the interview, really.

        And I ask them what drew them to apply for the position, because if you applied for it there must be some reason why you chose this job to apply for over another one, right?

    5. Totally Minnie*

      I agree with this. I always start interviews with an overview of the position and our office, and then I ask the person what experience they have that they feel would be relevant for what I’ve just described.

      1. Interview Pet Peeves*

        That sounds good. I think a lot of interviewers really have lost sight of the fact that it’s just an incumbent upon them to sell themselves to the candidate as vice versa. That’s why I start with a summary of the role and org-partly to give them some time to get comfortable, and partly to get them enthusiastic about the opportunity.

        1. Lisa B*

          *blink* You know…. it has not dawned on me to go into an overview of the role. There’s a basic one in the job description that we post, and the positions we hire for are very regular for those in our industry…. but that makes a lot of sense, even just for a few minute, short-spiel. Never thought of it. Thanks!!

          1. Interview Pet Peeves*

            Happy to help! As someone who’s been interviewing a lot lately, it’s been surprising to me how off the descriptions can be. Not that they’re totally wrong, but one line might be worded to make it seem like one aspect is a huge part of the job, when really it’s minor. Or the description might not mention something significant to the job at all. So I think the role being described by a human is very helpful!

            1. WalkedInYourShoes*

              I am interviewing as well and have found that when I had my 2nd phone interview with a high-level manager, this manager mentioned that the job description is incorrect. Well, I had to automatically switch my mind and answers quickly to address the questions asked. Successfully, I did well. I totally agree that it’s important to share what the responsibilities of the role is. If the interviewer has not explained the role, I ask, “What type of engagement or support would you like to have from this role?” The answer most likely does not match the job description.

          2. nd*

            I do think it’s important. Even with a job description and posting, you can add a lot of context to the position in person that you can’t really do on paper. And it gives them the candidate the chance to ask initial questions. I usually like to start out by giving a high-level overview of our organization, where the position fits in, then an overview of the work itself.

    6. CynicallySweet*

      As someone who gets incredibly nervous before interviews I would have appreciate someone doing this for me. And as a perpetual over-thinker, ‘tell me about yourself’ is a spiral that immediately freezes me for a good half a minute

    7. FaintlyMacabre*

      One place where I worked would ask about your pets in the interview because it was a softball question and more to the point, it was a veterinary clinic. Even people who didn’t currently have pets could answer and if you were going to be a good fit in the clinic, you would have enthusiasm for the question. It also helped weed out the people who were slightly less suitable. “Uh, I had a dog growing up.” “Tell me about it!” “Uh, it was black?”

  11. Nervous Accountant*

    Yall, I’m freaking out.

    My work bestie is going on vacation starting today.

    Next week a lot of managers are out. 3 on vacation.

    Friday? Literally NO MANAGER after 3 PM. My boss doesn’t work on Fridays, one mgr leaves early for Sabbath, and the rest either have a half day or vacation.

    And 10 new people starting next week…5 on my side. This’ll be a great opportunity to develop my Mgmt skills but “)@;&:&/@/ I’m totally being my username.

    1. Utoh!*

      My manager has been out all week and it’s been the best one of the year. She makes me so crazy due to her indecisiveness and OCD about certain processes and policies. Not looking forward to her return.

      1. Nervous Accountant*

        Lol I love mine! We had our differences in the beginning but he has had my back and I have his!!!

    2. Nita*

      Ten new hires, wow! But take a deep breath. Are you supposed to do anything about the new people? Other than welcoming them and letting HR do the initial orientation, that is. I don’t think anyone would expect them to hit the ground running, so maybe you can start by giving them some training materials, and walking them through the basics.

      1. Nervous Accountant*

        Well, we’ve developed a 10 day long training that breaks it down to the hour. they’re on different teams, their individual team leaders are responsible for them. I won’t be doing this alone thank goodness. I’m still nerv tho . .

        1. EmKay*

          Sounds like things are locked down pretty tight and I expect them to go smoothly :)

          You can do this!

  12. Doug Judy*

    I have a phone interview screen on Monday. I talked to the HR contact to schedule my interview and when she sent the confirmation email O notic d her title was HR Intern. Now I’m paranoid that I’m not a serious candidate and they are letting her practice on some of the less qualified applicants. Is this a thing or am a psyching myself out for no reason?

    1. Combinatorialist*

      I would not be at all surprised if they are having the HR intern handle some of the logistics and other people will interview you (possibly, as well). I would not read into this that you aren’t a serious candidate.

      1. PB*

        This would be my assumption, too. Scheduling is a great thing to put an intern on. You can’t have them manage personnel conflicts, negotiating raises, and so forth. I suspect you’re fine, Doug Judy.

    2. The Dark Fantastic*

      You’re psyching yourself out. That’s not a thing. They’re most likely just letting her handle some straightforward stuff (like scheduling). She’s just doing some routine admin. It’s fine. Don’t overthink it!

      Good luck!

    3. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Nah. Phone screens and scheduling are good starter tasks for someone in HR. You are way overthinking this.

    4. Snark*

      Yeah, you’re psyching yourself out. Stop looking for tea leaves to read. They’re letting the intern handle routine boring scheduling, is all.

      1. Doug Judy*

        She said she’d be doing the interview. But it could just be some simple questions too and nothing too specific.

        1. KE*

          Recruiter here– I’ve let HR interns participate in interviews and ask questions. If she does the interview entirely by herself, that’s a little unusual, but doesn’t reflect on your candidacy. Depending on the company, they might be extending offers to interns soon, and giving them substantive work to really evaluate their skills. Plus, given the growth in master’s programs in HR, she could very well be a graduate student with some career experience under her belt.

          Good luck with your interview!

          1. Washi*

            Yeah, I have a friend in grad school whose title is intern, and she definitely does some initial interviews.

          2. LJay*

            Also, it’s a phone screen, not a full interview.

            In my current company, phone screens are pretty much used to make sure you actually “show up” to the interview by calling or answering your phone on time, to go over the job description with you, let you know what the salary range is, let you know how our hiring process works, ask if you have any questions, and ask if you are still interested in moving forward in the hiring process now that you know more about the job and the pay range.

            Also to clear up any potential logistical issues, like “From your resume it looks like you’re currently in Chicago. Are you aware that the position is in Dallas?” Then they can go, “Oh yeah, I actually am in Dallas now but forgot to update my contact information,” or “I’ll be relocating to Dallas shortly,” or “I was wondering about remote work” which the screener could tell them is not possible for the position, or “I am willing to relocate for the right offer,” where the screener could let them know that we don’t offer any sort of reimbursement for relocation for this position and ask them if they want to move forward.

            They’re not really doing anything subjective that would require nuanced judgment, just asking questions and reporting back to the hiring manager, or relaying information the hiring manager has asked them to relay.

    5. Anonymous Community Teapot Director*

      This sounds like the type of task I would delegate to an intern for all candidates. I don’t think it speaks to their perception of how qualified you are – except that they want to interview you, which is a positive sign.

    6. Bea*

      It’s a phone screen! It’s easily scripted and the best to wet interns feet in. It’s not a sign. Treat her like she’s full HR and kill the interview!

    7. CynicallySweet*

      This is a thing, but not anything about you. More like HR is swamped and it’s easy to give an intern a list of names to e-mail and set up a time for. Take a breath, you are fine, it’s highly likely everyone getting a call got an e-mail from that exact same intern

    8. Swinburne*

      I wouldn’t worry – frankly, on the other side I feel it would be more work to sort a “serious” pile, a “hell no” pile and a “intern practice” pile.

  13. Junior Dev*

    Freelance writing question: how is a magazine article supposed to be structured? It’s 1400 words and I have about 3 disconnected sections written that I’m struggling to get into a coherent whole.

      1. Reba*

        Yeah, sometimes you just have to kind of take a left turn, and subheads or “chapters” can work really well to shift gears. It helps if you can tie them all up together at the end.

  14. ANON ME*

    My manager passed out Girl Wash your Face to our team and we are tasked with doing the book study together. She’s so excited, and I’m so not. We have a team of mostly women and 1 married man. He has to read it too. She told him it will help his home life. Thoughts???

    1. Foreign Octopus*


      Does this book have any relevance to your job? Is a book study group something that will benefit your role? Or is it an attempt at team-building?

      1. ANON ME*

        So far I’ve only flipped through it, and I haven’t even cracked the study guide, but the full name (I probably should have listed the full name) is “Girl, Wash Your Face: Stop Believing the Lies about Who You Are So You Can Become Who You Were Meant to Be.”

        1. General Ginger*

          Is your org. Christian? I just checked and it’s the #1 in Christian Living Self Help subcat on Amazon.

    2. Combinatorialist*

      Because his home life has to have a woman in it? Because all women have the same experience? Because we are all being held back and need to fix that?

      This seems very sketchy. I mean, it sounds like 100% my kind of book but if my manager had us read it together, I would be very displeased.

      1. TonyTonyChopper*

        I swear if I had a dime for every time my husband gets “relationship advice” from his overwhelming female coworkers (who have met me all of 2 times) I’d be able to quit my job.

        PEOPLE STOP ASSUMING EVERY WIFE IS UNHAPPY WITH HER HUSBAND! I am really happy in my marriage and while my spouse is a bit (ok, a lot) unconventional… I LIKE HIM THAT WAY! THAT IS WHY I MARRIED HIM! And it’s not like we’re newlyweds. We just had our 8th wedding anniversary. I mean I’m not saying that is some huge feat, but it is long enough to reasonably assume if I was unhappy I would have left by now.

        Sorry – will stop ranting now. Just a HUGE pet peeve of mine (obviously).

        1. RegularPosterAnonForThis*


          I generally assume that because my husband is respectful, a good listener, and has very high emotional intelligence, these women are using him as a proxy to vent all the things they wish their own husband would do differently.

        2. Kat in VA*

          See also: the female coworker who, upon meeting you, gushes that, “Oh, Husband has told me soooo much about you!!” Me: bewildered smile, “Oh, that’s…nice?” while glancing at Husband who looks utterly baffled. (His poker face is garbage. He was surprised as hell.)

          When Husband later says in response to my inquiry, “I barely talk about you, I have literally no idea what she’s going on about.”

          And proceeds to tell me that she’s constantly giving him relationship advice, but in the vein of, “If you want to keep Kat happy, you should do X, Y, and Z or you’re never gonna make it!” He just blew it off in the vein of “This woman is giving me hints again, that’s nice, where’s the TPS report I need?”

          This woman has been divorced three times. I’ve been with Husband for 30 years. It’s baffling. She’s gone now, which is a relief, but I thought it was an odd way to introduce herself.

    3. EddieSherbert*

      Had to Google it… yeah that’s weird. If you have to team book club, there are a MILLION self-help books out there that are not gender-specific.

    4. Rey*

      I have heard good things about this book, but I would be surprised to be instructed to read it at work. And I thought it was generally aimed at women, so I’m surprised that your manager didn’t choose something that would be a better fit for your team.

    5. Persimmons*

      Also had to Google…by the name, I was guessing you’d been given free Benefit or Lush products.

    6. LawLady*

      Yeeeeeeesh. No. I’d be iffy on self-help type books at work in general, but one with an explicit religious slant? No thank you.

      And it’s not at all about the kind of growth that is work-related (like “How to Win Friends and Influence People”). It’s about living an authentic life. Is your manager terrible at boundaries in general?

      1. What's with today, today?*

        Yes. She also thinks she has it ALL figured out (she doesn’t). I hadn’t even picked up on the religious bent yet, we are pretty lapsed, super liberal Catholics, this should be interesting. My husband had major eye rolls about this.

        1. ANON ME*

          Aw crap, my login went back to my default name. Y’all pretend you don’t see that. Going Anon again…