I don’t like writing as a team, I’m embarrassed about photos of me used in work materials, and more

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

1. My team writes collaboratively, and my brain doesn’t work that way

I have recently started a new job that has involved a few collaborative documents. My team often schedules meetings to sit around a table and talk through writing something. While obviously I get by, I can write far more fluidly than I can speak. I find it really difficult to make constructive contributions during these meetings, but make lots of contributions before/afterwards working on my own.

Is this a weird quirk of the group I am in, or is this something that I should work at? And, given that my boss is the one who will call these meetings, how can I address my deer-in-the-headlights tendency in a way that is reasonable?

Ugh, I would hate that too. I can’t write out loud — I have to see the words in front of me, and there’s a weird brain-fingers connection where the words come out of my fingers as I type in a way that they’d never come out of my mouth, especially if I were sitting around a table writing with others. (Truly, writing with a group is hell on earth and should be banned.)

I would aim for making a handful of contributions during these meetings if you can, but it’s also okay to say, “I’m way better at this when I can do it in my head rather than out loud, so I’ll probably send on some suggestions after I get back to my desk too if that’s okay.”

Once you’ve worked there longer, you could also consider asking your boss if she’d be open to sending the project around ahead of time so that people like you who work better in your head can take a stab at it on your own first, and then come to the meeting with suggestions already formed.

2. I’m embarrassed about photos of me used in work materials

I am going to be traveling to a conference and trade show as part of a delegation from my company. On the booth signs and materials printed up for the event, my company used old photos of me. They also sent some of them for the event organizers to put in their literature and the write-ups about each of company in attendance.

I weigh 200 pounds in those photos. I was obese but still small. They are four or five years old. Last time I was weighed, I was 350 pounds and I am even more than that now. I avoid photos because of my weight. I have been obese since high school but never this much. I overeat and am trying to diet, but I haven’t had any luck. The materials and photos were done by interns and they used whatever photos they could find of me.

It’s too late to take them back because my company has already had them printed and delivered and so has the event. I am honestly embarrassed. I don’t look anything like I do in those pictures.The pictures of me aren’t great to begin with and I’m worried about being judged for gaining so much weight. The other people from my company who are attending are thin and in shape. I can’t take the photos back, and I can’t skip the event without putting my job at risk. How can I deal with the embarrassment?

If it helps, most people don’t pay a ton of attention to the photos of strangers in event literature. It’s very, very likely that no one will think anything of it, and if anyone does notice that you’re heavier now than you were in the photos, they’re not likely to spend much time dwelling on it. As a general rule, people are way more interested in photos of themselves than they are in photos of other people … and people rarely pay as much attention to other people’s appearance as we pay to our own. When you’re embarrassed about something in your appearance, it’s easy to think that everyone else is giving it a lot of thought too, but really, it’s very likely that no one will think about it at all! I would just try to wipe the photos from your mind and pretend they’re not even out there. I know that’s easier said than done, but if you can pull it off, it’ll be liberating.

3. My employee keeps getting in my personal space

I co-manage a team of 13 people. One of my newest reports was hired in January. He is probably 10-15 years older than me (I’m 30), and he used to manage two people in a role very similar to mine (with a smaller scope) before starting his own business for a few years and now returning to this industry.

There have been a number of issues since he started, but there’s one I don’t know how to broach: he invades my personal space. Whenever he comes into my office for a quick question he walks around to my side of the desk and stands within a foot of me while waiting for an answer. Even worse, in our 1-on-1 meetings, he takes the chair from the opposite side of my desk and drags it around the side (so he is at a right angle to me, instead of directly across). While this was by invitation during the initial training process so that I could show him things on my monitors, that stage has long since passed.

I’ve tried different tactics, like asking if he had something to show me, needed me to bring something up on my monitors, and even moving my computer over a foot and piling paperwork so that it’s awkward for him to try to sit there, but it’s become obvious I need to address it directly. Any advice on how I tell him he needs to stay on the other side of my desk?

Just be matter-of-fact about it. Don’t treat it like something you feel super awkward about (which tends to make everyone involved feel more awkward).

The next time he walks around your desk and stands next to you, gesture toward the chair and say, “Take a seat! That way I’m not straining my neck to look at you.” If he says it’s just a quick question and he doesn’t need to sit, then say, “Sure! But why don’t you come around to the front of my desk — it’ll be easier to talk that way.”

The next time he starts to draw a chair over, say right away, “Actually, would you mind sitting across from me, where I had the chair? Now that we don’t need to share the monitor for training, it’s more comfortable for me when we’re right across the desk from each other.”

4. Letting a candidate know they missed their interview

I had scheduled a candidate for an interview but they did not show for their interview. The candidate did not call or email to cancel or reschedule the interview. I am no longer interested in hiring them, but I wanted to know a good way to let them know they missed their interview and missed out on this job opportunity without sounding too harsh.

They may already know that and just not care — this may be their (rude) way of withdrawing from the process. But you can close the loop by sending a note that says something like, “Since you didn’t show up for your scheduled interview for the X position, we’re removing you from consideration.”

5. Having resigning employees leave immediately

I’m an intern working in my first “real” job and I’ve been around this company around a year — five months’ part-time fall internship, break, and then a full-time summer. It’s midsize and the finance department is only a few employees total.

In the time I’ve been here, one person has been let go and one has resigned. Both times, it happened immediately, taking effect as soon as it was announced, and so suddenly that no one had so much as a chance to wave goodbye. In the case of the resignation, it was discussed prior with the employee’s direct supervisor, so it wasn’t anything to do with sentiment, and I assume it was the same in the other case. But this style of leaving the company only happens with Finance – other employees who have left have given ample notice, had going-away parties, etc.

Other than this quirk, the company seems to be pretty stellar; it’s got great perks and down-to-earth management and good work-life balance (noteworthy given we’re a software developer). So what’s up? Is this a standard practice for this specific field, or are we just being extra protective of our financial info?

It’s not at all uncommon for departures of finance people to be handled that way (and in some companies, all departures). The thinking is that some departments, and some types of jobs, have more security risks once someone is leaving — whether it’s taking client lists trade secrets or even outright sabotage. Obviously most people aren’t going to commit sabotage, and frankly anyone who wants to take a client list can just do it before they give notice, so the rules can seem a little silly … but it’s definitely a thing that happens, even in good companies.

That said, good companies will still pay people during their notice period, even though they’ve been asked not to be in the office.

{ 175 comments… read them below }

  1. Sami*

    OP 1 — I wouldn’t like that set up either. I think better with a keyboard too. I wonder if you could bring a laptop or iPad with a separate keyboard to your meetings. It’s not the same as working by yourself, but it might help.

    1. Betty*

      Any chance any of these documents could be edited in a system that allows multiple real-time editors (e.g., Google Docs)? I’ve actually used this very productively for writing collaborations, both asynchronously and while talking things through. Everyone can see the same document, with all the live edits being made on their own screen at the same time.

      Even as someone who thinks out loud, it seems like your current system would make it hard to really have iterative feedback– if Fergus suggests adding X, how does Jane go back and edit that language if this is all happening out loud?

      1. Cat Herder*

        Yes, good idea. I wonder if the documents are being written while the group is all together, wordsmithing each sentence? Which is hideous and inefficient. Or is the group talking through ideas, assigning sections of the document, that kind of thing? I really prefer writing by myself, but over the years I’ve had to do a lot of partner and small group writing, and I find that it brings out ideas and approaches I would never have otherwise thought of. It’s a good skill to develop, I think.
        It does sound like folks offer suggestions after the group meets, so it’s not necessarily a problem not to be contributing a lot suring the meeting. Maybe your role is to offer a few suggestions during the meeting and then really edit and write afterwards. OP, is anyone / your boss looking down on you for not saying much at the meetings? If not, it may not in fact be a problem. Check in with your boss to see if it’s ok.

    2. Elemeno P.*

      I am also better when I’m writing, so I volunteer to be the one writing things down. I can be part of the conversation by saying “What about this?” and then typing what I want to say. This works well for my role because I’m a technical writer and will be writing the final version anyway, so people are happy to let me do it, but I imagine it would work well in other situations, too.

  2. Sarah M*

    LW 2, I don’t think you have anything to be embarrassed about but I understand why you feel the way you do. Think of it this way, your company obviously has faith in your abilities if they are sending you to represent them and putting you in printed materials. I hope the conference is amazing for you and goes well. Anyone who judges you is an idiot.

    Also, I hope the intern was spoken to for using pictures of people without getting approval from them first. I would hope attempting to embarrass the LW wasn’t intentional but people can be jerks sometimes. If anyone was in the wrong here it was the intern.

    1. SignalLost*

      Why are you assuming the intern acted maliciously rather than with a brief that said “we are sending photos of delegates A, B, C. Please look in Folder Q for photos.” I’ve never worked somewhere that had multiple sets of photos taken. Maybe if you were there an exceptionally long time. But it sounds like these are the existing photos, not a selection from many years of photos, and assuming malice seems unkind to the intern and cruel to the OP, who also doesn’t seem to have assumed active or passive malice.

      1. Wendy Darling*

        I had a job where everyone had an ID badge photo that was also used as their Outlook profile photo, among other things — these photos were everywhere. And they only ever took the photo one time, pretty much. My boss had been at the company for 8 years and her photo was 8 years old. One of my coworkers had very unremarkable brown hair but in her ID photo she had purple dreadlocks.

        You’d think they would refresh those things occasionally but they really do not!

        1. Jen RO*

          My boss still has Skype set to use the photo that was taken for his first access card – 15 years ago! I don’t think it even occurred to him to change it.

          1. Doctor Schmoctor*

            Some people really don’t think about it. My ID card has a 10 year old photo of me on it. I don’t even notice. And that’s probably the most recent photo of my face in existence. I just don’t think it’s important. If you don’t know what I look like, well, that works for me.

            1. schnauzerfan*

              My ID photo is 31 years old this month. I hated it at first, but it’s grown on me. I’d hate to have to change it now that I’m in the home stretch…

              1. Annoyed*

                Except for my driver’s licence, which someone please remind me to renew before February (ugh), my most recent work ID (except for the university one…more on that below) which of course is of no use to me anymore, is from 1993. If I was still working there I can’t see as it would have been updated.

                When I worked at the university in 2012, the same one I attended as a student, they used the same photo they’d taken of me as a student…in 1980.

        2. Essess*

          People using really old photos on their security badges that don’t look like them any more is a huge security red flag. I have had managers using 30 year old pictures on their security badges. The reason for the picture on the badge is so that someone can quickly tell if that badge belongs to you to be sure you aren’t an intruder. I wish companies would take that security breach far more seriously. How good is your security when you ignore a 50 year old grey short-haired lady is sporting a security badge for a 20 year old long haired brunette.

      2. Confused*

        Exactly. I have to print promo materials of people all the time at my job, we have tried to get updated photos of people but it’s hard and most people don’t care enough. I highly doubt the intern was told that he needed to send everyone’s photo for approval. At my job we would have just used what we have to not waste time since printed materials often have tight deadlines.

    2. Polyhymnia O'Keefe*

      My org uses several-years-old photos all the time for publicity and marketing. Slightly different context than this, but all our participants and staff sign a media/photo release, and we pick the best pictures that represent our programs and use them in our marketing. It’s not that we’d never cut a photo for personal reasons from our “approved” catalogue (of several hundred photos, tagged/sorted by variously-aged participants, specific individuals or staff members, locations, etc), but unless it’s something quite sensitive like a death, we aren’t thinking about that.

    3. Safetykats*

      I’ve never worked at a company that asked my permission to use photos taken with my knowledge at company functions – it’s generally assumed that such photos are fair game, and that if you didn’t want your photo used you would recuse yourself from the photo op. That said, I’ve work for some pretty good-sized companies, so people are usually pretty tickled to show up in photos in the newsletter or slide show. I wouldn’t assume the intern did anything incorrect by using the photos provided without obtaining permission from every individual in the photos.

      That said, if OP doesn’t want their photo used in promotional materials in the future, it’s probably fine to ask that the company refrain from doing so. It may seem a little odd if nobody else minds, but it doesn’t hurt to state that you prefer your photo not be used. Just be aware that in some types of promotional materials it may make you more obvious or noticeable to be consistently referenced as “not pictured.”

    4. Free Meerkats*

      I can’t remember the last time I looked at promotional photos that weren’t me or someone I knew and cared about them. Truthfully, if I see that sort of thing on posters or printed material, I assume they are stock photos.

      1. Artemesia*

        And most important generally people don’t pay much attention to other people’s photos. If the OP can just figure out a tune to hum to herself every time this embarrassing thought enters her mind, she will be better off. Some of the most competent professionals I know are quite overweight and it doesn’t seem to hold them back, because they are great at what they do. I doubt anyone will even notice and certainly not comment. The important thing is the OP’s skill at interacting with potential clients and clients in person which apparently she excels at.

      2. SAS*

        Yeah I wouldn’t worry if I was the OP, stock photos are so common I can’t imagine people automatically trying to match promotional photos with people from the company.

        When I’m having a bad face day I try and make myself feel better by reminding myself people don’t actually care about ME, they’re only interested in my service- whatever physical form that comes in is generally totally irrelevant to them.

    5. Mommy MD*

      Why would it be intentional? They were probably told to just get pictures of so and so. I also don’t think anyone will think twice about the weight.

    6. On Fire*

      I’m not an intern, but I’ve designed my company’s publications for years. And I’ve never asked, nor been expected to ask, anyone’s permission/approval to use their photo. I select the best images available for the purpose of the publication. It’s also highly unlikely that materials were printed and sent to a conference without someone other than an intern reviewing them.

      But I do agree that OP doesn’t have to feel bad about their appearance. It’s a safe bet that 1) most people won’t notice and 2) other people from other companies may also look different from their pictures.

    7. Traffic_Spiral*

      Also, to put it bluntly, if you’re fat, you’re fat. People who don’t care about that aren’t going to think your weight is irrelevant at 250 but then change their mind once you it 300, and if people are going to judge you for being fat, they’re gonna do it at 300 just as much as 250.

      Douches gonna douche.

      1. Confused*

        To be fair…an 150 lb difference is quite noticeable between 200 and 350. 200 is obese, but still “chubby” depending on one’s body type, 350 looks quite different. That being said, OP has nothing to worry about in my opinion since people change their appearance a lot from their photos, and weight gain is extremely common. People might notice but no one will care.

        1. Zweisatz*

          Hey, uh, maybe it’s not constructive to muse about the appearances of different kinds of weight when OP is concerned about this topic.

      2. Dr. Pepper*

        This is quite true. If they’re going to judge, they’re going to judge, and what your weight is now or was then isn’t going to make much difference. Guess what that says about you? Nothing. Not a damn thing. We’ve been trained to believe that the opinions of others reflect upon us, when in truth they reflect upon the person with the opinion.

    8. Falling Diphthong*

      Chiming in with others that there is absolutely no reason to think there was any maliciousness in the photo selection, or anything unusual in not getting approval for the photos from the people pictured. And that people a) respond to the person in front of them, not the photo b) will judge all your possible weights if they’re judgy, no matter how perfect your photo.

      There is a weird mental thing with photos where if you gave most of us two dozen shots of ourselves, we might consider 0-2 vaguely acceptable and hope the others vanished. While other people would consider them all to be “photos of Cersei.” Photos seem to pile drive our self-image somehow.

    9. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      I’m in my publishing department. We have a folder of headshots. I get layout instructions that include: Jim here. Jane here. And I insert the pictures we have in our archive. If Jim or Jane has a problem with the photos, they need to speak up.

      1. esra*

        Yes, this is extremely common in marketing departments as well. If we have your headshot… ever, that is pretty much permission to use it as long as you work there unless you request otherwise or provide a new one.

    10. MissDisplaced*

      I highly doubt the intern did anything with bad intent. I work in communications and employee photos are always needed. We try to find current ones and most flattering ones. Sometimes there is a call for updated photos as well as an approval round, which gives people an opportunity to change them… but it depends on time constraints.

      For the OP, I understand as I’m also photo-shy. The best suggestion I can give you is to take control! Go to a professional photographer and get some good headshots taken that you are comfortable with. A good portrait photographer can pose you in a flattering and professional manner no matter your size. If your company doesn’t have the budget for this, see if someone in your corporate comm department can assist you with at least getting a more flattering photo taken. Many of us have also studied photography and can pull off an in-house photo shoot on a quiet day.

      1. Nox*

        I declined consent of use of my likeness being used in any marketing photos or advertising. I believe that i alone own my image and I’m not free stock footage to show diversity and youth. I’ve been that gal to cause reprints of materials because I enforce the document I signed years ago that declined filming and photographing me. Its like they have us sign stuff and then get mad when someone enforces it.

        1. MissDisplaced*

          I mean “headshots” as there are a lot of conferences, reports, articles, etc., that often require an author photo.
          We do also use employees in other photos for marketing purposes, but those are on a volunteer basis in the employees want to be in them when we’re doing the shoot.

    11. Observer*

      Where does it say that this was done by an intern?

      Also, why the assumption that it was intended to embarrass the OP. I’m betting that whoever did this just wasn’t thinking. But *if* they were thinking, the motive could just as easily be the reverse. (Still stupid but not a malicious motive.) The thing is that no one is going to judge the OP based on the difference between the picture and current reality. Those that will judge, will do so on the basis of their weight, period. It could have happened yesterday, they could have been that weight for the last 30 years. It doesn’t matter – the judgers will judge.

    12. Rachel in Non Profits*

      LW 2
      Chiming in to say don’t worry too much about the photos. I had my name printed incorrectly (like a completely different last name) with a wrong picture (of a completely different person) in a conference brochure, website, and printed materials. I was embarrassed and frustrated, but it turned out to be no big deal. I just introduced myself at the beginning of sessions I taught and in conversations. People didn’t care at all.
      Hope the event is professionally enriching for you.

  3. AgnomenGnome*

    OP3: I have a huge “personal bubble” from years of working practically alone. Because of this, I’ve had a ton of personal space issues at work. I’ve had managers who would scratch my back or squeeze my shoulders in a way that made me supremely uncomfortable. There was another coworker that was waaay too huggy. Whenever this happened I would tell them “Hey, sorry but I have a big personal bubble. It’s important to me and I need you to not touch me”. If it continued, I’d purposely over-react and say “Hey! Bubble!” while making a circular motion around me. The coworker was super cognizant of that once I told her, but I had to wait for the manager to leave for that to stop.
    This was in retail, though, so I could be a bit less professional in certain situations than I would be in an office setting.
    (I also may have cussed at my boss when she bonked on my headphones before I clocked in, but I was caught unawares.)

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        Yes, I work with a lunatic who hugs and cheek kisses and shoulder rubs and smacked my butt walking by.

        1. Julia*

          If someone touched my butt at work, I’d be in HR’s office in a hot second. If my job had an HR department, that is.

    1. Personal Space OP*

      Yikes, back rubs and scratches? That’s NOT okay! This is really good advice though, I may use this wording/phrasing if the issues persists (for now the specific hovering is resolved, but the basic problem of lack of respect has not).

    2. Julia*

      I don’t think you’re the one who’s unusual or unprofessional in that scenario. No one needs to touch anyone at work unless it’s mutually wanted.

    3. Observer*

      Sorry, this is NOT about having a “huge” personal bubble. What’s past is past, but if anyone ever touches you after you’ve told them to stop, you need to go to HR. Even if it’s not sexual harassment (because that person is doing it to people regardless of gender), it’s still waaay inappropriate and boundary crossing, and a decent HR will put a stop to that.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        Right – none of those things are okay in a professional context, retail or office or whatever. You’re definitely not wrong or unusual for wanting your personal space in those situations!

        A huge personal bubble would be “I need people to be more than an arm’s length away at all times,” not “I need people to refrain from actually touching me in an overly familiar way.”

    4. Dr. Pepper*

      I too have a very large bubble and I am NOT a huggy/touchy person. I have been known to visibly wince and wiggle away from people who get touchy with me. I’ve also used physical objects, like chairs, books, tools, etc to block my space off from other people. One thing I learned to keep people (and animals!) at bay without saying anything or relinquishing your ground: swing something. Keys on a lanyard? Swing that around casually, in a fiddly way. Anything you’re holding can become a personal space defining tool. If you don’t have an object to play with, become a hand talker. When people think they may be inadvertently whapped by something (because of course it would be inadvertent!), they’ll often back off. Physically define your bubble and own your space. Some people invade the bubble because they don’t understand that you’re uncomfortable, others do it as a power play. The former get a polite request or the wiggle away, the latter get an object swinging around.

    5. CoveredInBees*

      You may very well have a huge personal bubble, but nothing you described is normal workplace behavior. Scratching your back? What the whaaaaa? That’s so weirdly invasive.

      Also, anyone tapping or boking on someone’s headphones should be prepared for a startled reaction.

  4. Martha Marcy May Marlene*

    #1. You are not alone OP. I would hate it too. I hope you can talk to your boss and get some kind of resolution or something that works better for you. Good luck!

    #2. I’m giving major side-eye to the company for letting an intern choose the photos without needing them to get approved or having someone else double check first. If there had been a check and balance in place OP could have stopped the unflattering pictures from being used and had ones they liked instead or even tried to opt out of having photos. How anyone thought an intern could make the call on their own is beyond me. The OP should have been treated much better.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I wouldn’t assume that no one else looked over/approved the materials; the letter says an intern put them together, but that generally wouldn’t preclude someone else from approving them. But that doesn’t mean the photos would be run by the OP, particularly if she had approved them for use back when they were originally taken.

    2. Mommy MD*

      It’s a trade show pamphlet that will likely be thrown away quickly. Not a wedding album. It’s almost like internal stock photos. I guarantee no one cares.

    3. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      Honestly, I work in the publishing department of a financial company. The intern didn’t choose the picture from some selection. There is an archive of headshots and yes, they can be up to ten years old before hiring and paying for a new photographer, coordinating a photo shoot and scheduling all the people important enough to have their pictures taken.
      If OP is unhappy with the picture, ask to have it removed from the archive, otherwise it will be continually used by people who are told to use it.

    4. Confused*

      I think you misread the post. The photo was not unflattering, it just does not properly represent OP’s appearance. The intern may have never even met OP to know that. OP knew the photo the company had. They knew they would be printed in this material. They could have sent an updated photo but did not.

      1. Observer*

        Well, clearly the OP didn’t realize till after the fact that this would happen. It’s rather unkind to blame them.

        Not that I think that it’s fair to blame the interns who put this together. They just pretty much did what they were told to do, based on what the OP says. The OP implies that there was a rather tight deadline so using what they could find makes sense.

        1. E.*

          At least in my old company, employees can’t just send in a new photo to be used. The only photos used for anything are those taken by the company, and taking them only happened at certain times (not more than every 5 years or so).

    5. beth*

      I doubt this was a case of an intern intentionally ‘choosing’ specific photos–rather, these were the photos on file for LW2, so when the intern was told to include photos of the delegates in the materials, that’s what they used. A lot of companies don’t update employee photos all that often, if ever; it doesn’t strike me as weird that an old photo might be the only available option.

  5. Greg NY*

    It is absolutely terrible for any company to force an employee that gives notice to leave immediately and not pay them during their notice period. The company is asking for future employees to quit without notice. Notice is a professional courtesy, not a requirement.

    1. Teapotty*

      There are some industries that require a departing employee to go on ‘gardening leave’ but this would certainly be paid (in the UK at least). Moreover most people are paid in arrears, so they couldn’t be obliged to forego their last pay even if the firm wanted them to. My old firm actually terminated my colleague’s temporary contact early – not for misconduct, but a difference in opinion – but still paid her to basically not be in the office for a couple of weeks in lieu of notice. I don’t think that they actually had to do that once they dismissed her and it’s the first time that I’ve heard of a temp worker given this courtesy.

      1. Batty Twerp*

        Gardening leave comes with its own set of restrictions too – you are still being paid by Old Company, but no longer required/allowed in the office; this means you CAN’T just go and start at New Company. Since, in the UK, notice periods are typically 4 weeks, rather than 2, gardening leave tends to be used for more highly sensitive positions. (sweeping generalisations – I’ve never been at a company where gardening leave extended down to the grunts)

        1. Akcipitrokulo*

          When I got garden leave when made redundant, it was you got the pay in lieu of notice. So I was paid for the month but not employed by them… Got new job and started it before notice period was up.

          1. Batty Twerp*

            I think that might be the difference between you choosing to leave and the company letting you go. Everyone I know from multiple companies who resigned, it was written into their contracts that they couldn’t walk straight into a new job – but I think that’s because of their highly sensitive knowledge and the gardening leave was a buffer.

          2. Bagpuss*

            That isn’t gardening leave, it’s a wholly different situation.
            If you have gardening leave you are definitely still employed and often then whole point is that you are not allowed to go and work elsewhere.

          3. Edinbugger*

            Yeah, that’s not actually gardening leave, though I suppose your company may have misused the term. The whole point of gardening leave is that you can’t work – hence having the time to garden.

      2. Some Sort of Management Consultant.*

        Yeah, higher-ups in my industry are usually in quarantine for 3-6 months when they leave. But they’re paid for that, at least!

        1. Feral Academic*

          3-6 months! Do other companies in your industry expect that it will take that long before someone can start?

      3. chrome ate my username*

        I’m in the US, and the idea of something called “gardening leave” sounds so delightfully pleasant and relaxing!

    2. Dove*

      OP#5 doesn’t say whether or not the employees are being paid during the notice period, though. And while we can all think of companies that *are* awful enough to kick people to the curb and not pay them during the notice period if they don’t have to, that doesn’t necessarily mean that’s what OP’s company is doing.

      OP might just be unaware of how the pay is handled during the notice period, since handling payroll doesn’t seem like something an intern would be dealing with even if they’re in the finance department.

      That said, having employees who are in the finance department treat their notice period as a paid vacation makes sense to me; unless there’s anything that *needs* that person in the office for a handover, being able to argue that everyone’s treated the same (while still mitigating for potential security risks) is reasonable even if 9 out of 10 employees in their notice period would be just as trustworthy during their notice period as they were before it started.

    3. OP #5*

      Just wanted to pop in and say though I’m not sure of the exact pay protocol (Dove was spot on; I’m not responsible for payroll (yet!)) it is in fact illegal in my country to pay out less than 2 weeks’ salary to a leaving employee. So rest easy! Given even what little I know, it would be highly odd for neither to receive a healthy severance or additional “notice period” pay, as well. In both cases it was a planned departure, just not a publicly announced one.

    4. A CAD Monkey*

      At Toxic Old Job, I was walked out and not paid for the notice period. I was also not paid for any vacation time I still had because it was “determined” I had already used what I earned for the year. It does happen, and it sucks.

  6. The Librarian*

    To letter-writer 1: this is what google docs is for! Collaborative writing is an excellent skill to have and in my org we do it all the time very successfully both synchronously and asynchronously, but it’s a heck of a lot easier to develop this skill if each collaborator can type in either case. A cursor for everyone! That way you don’t need to say what you’re thinking out loud; just type it and ask for feedback immediately when you with a group. It takes a little getting used to, but once you’re there, it can be great!

    Would your boss be willing to try a collaborative doc you’re all typing into rather than projecting a word doc?

    1. Google Docs Fan*

      So true! And you can also comment as well as editing directly, so different levels of seniority get different levels of control. It’s made collaborative writing so much easier for me.

    2. ket*

      You can even project the Google Doc, and try out various wordings. My colleagues seem to have no problem with me sitting there silently, typing out various iterations of things and gesturing for their feedback. (True, I’m in a field where verbal fluency is considered a perk rather than a prerequisite, but still.)

    3. Observer*

      Google Docs is excellent for this.

      If your org is married to MS, though, OneDrive works decently for this as well (at least if you’re using an Office 365 subscription for the org.)

      In either case, a shared document is great. And the nice thing is that it also works well for people who do do well with verbal collaboration, and it allows the group to try stuff out on the spot so you don’t have to go back and forth on smaller changes.

    4. Indoor Cat*

      I love Google Docs. I’m basically a Google Docs evangelist, for this reason. It’s amazing for collaborative writing. And! Ditto for Google Slides! To make collaborative power point presentations.

  7. Free Meerkats*

    Collaborative writing would be difficult for me, too.

    I not only write alone, but I do it best with pen and paper. I can edit it as I type it in, but the initial draft has to flow directly from fingers to paper. Otherwise it takes me much longer and it isn’t as well written, and needs more editing.

    Yeah, I’m old.

    1. A.N. O'Nyme*

      I’m not that old and I usually make my first drafts by hand when I can. True, i type faster than I write, but when I type I take about an hour to get the perfect starting sentence because I want to edit immediately. When I work on paper I just write it down even when I know it’s bad, simply because at least now it’s there and I can move on.
      Collaborative writing would be a nightmare for me too.

      1. Barbara Lander*

        Yes, I am a very good writer and in collaborative situations I used to always be called upon to do the actual writing. Everybody was content to sit back and let that happen. There’s also such a thing as consistency of style. I would really hate this.

  8. Thankful for AAM*

    OP 2, I heard this years ago and though it is about age, I think it makes the point that people really are not thinking about others, only about themselves.

    In your 20s you worry about what others think of you, in your 40s, you don’t care what others think, in your 60s, you realize no one was thinking about you!

    I know everyone in their 20s is not excessively worried about what others think, but I do think there is something to this and it does always make me giggle a bit and it keeps me on track when I catch myself worried in some form about what others think.

    1. Life is good*

      “………it makes the point that people really are not thinking about others, only about themselves.”

      Exactly true! I used to tell my teenaged kids that no one cared that a big zit had cropped up on their face that morning. Everyone else was worried about how THEY looked. Though, I feel for LW #2. I hate my photo being used in promos for the company, and especially obviously old ones. It helps to take my own advice to my kids.

      1. Indoor Cat*

        What’s depressing is, I was way more confident in my appearance before getting much involved in social media. Now seeing people insult / critique aspects of someone’s appearance that I didn’t even notice has made me hyper-aware and nervous about how I look!

        Like, I have a distinct memory of, as a teen, having a very minimal acne-cover-up routine (rather than the full nine yards using, like, four separate products that you see in some videos). It was basically, “put concealer over the zit and rub it in so it more-or-less blends with your skin tone.” Took 2 minutes.

        But then, my Senior year of high school, I saw a meme making fun of “delusional” girls who think that people can’t tell they’re half-assing cover-up, using a picture of the bumpy underside of one of those white-chocolate cookies + cream Hershey bars. And people posting “stealth” photos of these girls at their schools, accusing them of laziness or stupidity or delusional “basic-ness” for not fully concealing acne, and these posts getting tons likes.

        So, even though nobody ever said to me they noticed my slap-dash makeup coverage, I was suddenly very aware that, if there were enough people judging these girls for it to be a viral meme, someone at my school was probably judging me too. So, I dropped $60 on makeup that weekend and spent the whole Saturday watching tutorials, cringing at my utter embarrassing ignorance of…two days ago.

        Anyway, high school was seven years ago. Now I don’t wear makeup at all, or shave, and as far as I can tell it hasn’t impacted my life. But, I do kinda wish I could go back to the blissfully ignorant state of thinking that nobody cares about my appearance. I wish I’d never seen those posts, you know? I’m still, to this day, not quite sure what the ratio of really judge-y people to basically appearance-oblivious people is. But the internet sure makes it feel like everyone’s in the judge-y category.

        1. Life is good*

          Late to reply to you, IC. I am so sorry that you were subjected to crap like this in high school. My kids were all boys, so maybe it wasn’t as big a deal to them. They also were out of school before the whole social media thing blew up. I hate, hate, hate social media, sometimes. It’s way easier for people to be critical of others when they are sitting behind a computer screen and don’t have to actually see the hurt they cause with their words. Those mean girls were jerks. Hopefully, they grew up and became better people. My heart breaks for that teenaged girl you were who had to deal with that. Take care.

    2. Pennalynn Lott*

      A meme going around FB right now is:

      “There are two ways to look at life:

      1. Nobody gives a sh*t. :-(

      2. Nobody gives a sh*t!! :-) ”

      Realizing that nobody gives a sh*t can be very, very freeing. :-)

      1. Dr. Pepper*

        Yes. This is true. It’s very sad and very wonderful all at the same time. Nobody cares. But then again, nobody cares!! Yipee!!!!

  9. Personal Space OP*

    Letter-writer 3 (personal space issue) checking in!

    So far a combination of calling out the behavior (“take a seat” type stuff when he’s hovering) and a strategically placed file cabinet have more or less kept him on the other side of my desk. While he does a better job staying on the opposite side of my desk, he now has a tendency to stand instead of sit, and lean over the desk as far as he can.

    I get the sense it’s a literal power move from him, as one of the other ongoing issues he’s had is a lack of respect toward me and my co-manager and his peers. I’ve had to have a few conversations with this employee (missed deadlines, and inappropriately re-assigning tasks). I’m not quite at the point of needing to put him on a PIP, but it’s something me and my co-manager will reevaluate over the next few weeks. It’s a shame, as he really had quite a lot of technical knowledge and skill, but he’s egotistical and stubborn, so it hasn’t worked out too well since our team is so highly collaborative.

    1. Yvette*

      “I get the sense it’s a literal power move from him” Honestly, that is the first thing that went through my head when I read your letter. Walking around to your side of the desk while waiting for an answer to a question, dragging a chair around to your side of the desk so as to be able to see your desk and monitor from your point of view, those are the kinds of things that a manager might do when interacting with a subordinate. Except he is not your manager. The fact that you are 10- 15 years younger is probably a contributing factor. (Not that it should be.)

      The other issues also speak to a lack of respect of the hierarchy. It seems like he is behaving as though you and your co-manager are his supervisors in name only, that he is really still in charge. I would love to get an update on this.

      1. Personal Space OP*

        I added some more updates and context below, but basically he’s recieved a written warning and has reigned in some of the bad behavior, but I worry it’ll crop back up again.

        I’m willing to start a PIP if there’s not a continued improvement, but internal politics aren’t super supportive of that.

      2. chrome ate my username*

        I’m wondering if it’s also a cultural thing. I’ve worked with a lot of people who do the “huddle around the computer” to collaborate on basic tasks, especially if the office’s workflow involved this for lots of menial things, like using a finicky software suite for pay/benefits/evaluations/training/etc.

        I’ve also worked with people who think this is rude, and would prefer to show you the completed task rather than have you watch them do it. It’s a difference in culture, and it varies.

    2. Whatsinaname*

      I think that you’re correctly assuming that this has to do with him trying to exert dominance over you. However, I’m not really able to gather from your postings whether this has been directly addressed with him as in, do not hover over me, do not come to my side of the desk and sit down when we talk. Some people need to be told in no uncertain terms. That being said, from everyone else you stated he would probably find other ways to sabotage you and in light of the other issues you have with him you really have to ask yourself if it’s worth keeping him.

    3. valentine*

      You can just tell him to stay on the other side of the desk, to sit, and not to lean across your desk. You can specify that the desk is the minimum radius you require. If you have the power to fire him or if your supervisor would support your setting this boundary, you don’t need to play these games with props or soft language that he can claim he interpreted as a suggestion or a one-off.

    4. Myrin*

      I’m with whatsinaname in that I can’t quite tell if you’ve directly said anything about his numerous power moves; I’ve found that showing someone that “I see what you’re doing” can already be enough to curb such behaviour (although he certainly sounds like an especially stubborn case). Generally, I think that with this kind of behaviour, it’s most effective to literally take the power back, like saying in a no-nonsense tone: “Fergus, please sit down. Thank you.”

      But really, it sounds like his when-at-your-desk behaviour is but a symptom of his overall issues with being a bit of an arse.

    5. MK*

      I think it’s perfectly ok to address the standing bluntly: “why are you hovering over my head? Sit down”. Frankly, OP, I think you are not firm enough with this guy.

      1. Personal Space OP*

        I’m a newer manager (only about a year at it) and not being firm enough had been an issue for me when it comes to something not performance related. I can easily talk through issues with actual work, but weird social stuff I find much harder to be firm and not just suggestive on, but I’m getting better at it.

        1. Sara without an H*

          Hi, Personal Space OP — I’ve been there, and I can certainly sympathize. The trouble is “weird social stuff” does eventually turn into performance issues, particularly when you’ve warned the employee about the behavior.

          Something I’ve found useful is to pretend to be looking at the employee on video: What exactly is the employee doing? And what is the effect of that behavior?
          This has kept me out of the common pitfall of giving an employee feedback that’s impossible to act on: “You have a bad attitude in meetings” vs. “When Jane was presenting for her unit, you rolled your eyes and started looking at your phone. What’s the reason for that?”

          From your other comments, it sounds as though “Fergus” is capable of cleaning up his act, but may relapse later on. I recommend that you continue to document so that, if he falls back into his old pattern, you have evidence to draw on.

          BTW, you said that you and another employee jointly supervise this group. Is there any chance that “Fergus” will try to play you and your counterpart against each other? It would be good to coordinate closely with her and with your own manager.

          It’s possible that “Fergus” may clean up his act, given firm and consistent feedback, when it becomes obvious that his behavior doesn’t pay off. But you’ll still need to be very, very clear and consistent with him.

        2. LilyP*

          I can understand how getting really serious/firm about something that feels so minor or subjective would feel uncomfortable. I also get the vibe that when you do get firm this guy is going to get all “why are you ~freaking out~ over this” or accuse you of power-tripping or making a big deal out of nothing — just remember that politely making this really straightforward request is totally reasonable and he is the one who is breaking social conventions and Making It Weird by ignoring you or trying to steamroll over you.

          Things you may or may not actually want to say out loud:
          “I’m glad to hear it’s not a big deal! That means it won’t be a big deal to do it my way from now on.”
          “Actually, you ignoring a direct request is a big deal! I need to know that I can rely on you to follow through when I ask you to do something.”

    6. Bagpuss*

      I think probably you need to be both firm and direct.
      Don’t hint, don’t ask, tell him. And then wait for him to comply.

      e. g. “Bob, sit down. ” (then wait until he does so before you address his query)
      “Bob, leave the chair where it is. if I need you to come round to this side of the desk I will tell you” And if he tries to argue, or ignores you, then repeat. “Bob, I told you to leave the chair where it is. It works better for you to be that side of the desk, but in any case, if I give you an instruction, you need to follow it”

      I think the softer approach, giving him an explanation, (e.g. “Sit down, it’s easier to talk to you without craning my neck” or “don’t move the chair – expect when I need you to share the monitor for training, it works netter for you to stay on that side of the desk”) are fine as a starting point but it sounds as though he may not ‘hears’ them as instructions, more as suggestions, so you may need to be much firmer.

    7. Lance*

      Wait… reassigning tasks? Oh, boy. The personal space things are bad enough (leaning over your desk now that he’s effectively not allowed behind it, seriously? that screams nothing but ‘attempted intimidation’), but reassigning tasks on his own, and missing some of his own deadlines, along with the vibe from the power play (and it without a doubt appears to be one) makes me lean toward saying he should be on a PIP before anything gets worse. All the technical knowledge in the world doesn’t (or shouldn’t) save someone from being an uncooperative ass.

      1. Personal Space OP*

        “All the technical knowledge in the world doesn’t (or shouldn’t) save someone from being an uncooperative ass.”

        Lordy, do I agree with that! I’ve had a few conversations (and written warnings) about these behaviors so far, and even though the internal policy is not exactly supportive of a PIP, the more I think about it (and read these comments) the more I’m feeling that has to be the next step if there’s not a major turn around in the next few weeks. I think any more missed deadlines or inappropriate management-style actions would trigger a PIP.

    8. Sara without an H*

      Hi, Personal Space OP: It sounds as though the personal space thing is just a symptom of other issues. Here are a few suggestions:
      1. Do not let this drag on. You say you’re “not quite” ready to put him on PIP. Why are you waiting? The behaviors you describe, in addition to ignoring your orders about how to behave at your desk (missed deadlines, “inappropriately re-assigning tasks” — what the french toast???), are serious enough that you need to put him on warning fast.
      2. Are you female? If so, please carefully review your verbal and body language for feminine “softeners” — smiling when you deliver instructions, verbal filler (“um,” “sort of,” “I feel”) avoidance of eye contact, laughter, etc. You can ask him politely to sit down once. After that, reminders need to be delivered crisply, coldly, and with eye contact. (“Fergus, I asked you to sit down. We will continue when you do so.”)
      3. His feelings don’t matter. Really, they don’t. You require certain behaviors from him to be successful in his role. How he feels about that isn’t your problem.
      4. His age compared to yours may be part of what’s driving this behavior, but it’s irrelevant. He’s skating real close to outright insubordination. You need to shut it down fast. Loop in your boss, document all transactions with Fergus, and do that PIP.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        I agree with everything here (and what others have said). This guy needs to be on a PIP ASAP. He’s not getting it, or he is and he’s taking advantage of the reluctance to shut down his behavior completely.

        Another point to consider – if a coworker assigned me work to do without authority to do so, I would be pretty unhappy if it continued to happen because management didn’t appear to be shutting that down. I imagine if he treats actual managers as “in name only” he’s probably acting like de facto manager to his peers and that is never good for morale.

        1. Personal Space OP*

          I added some more context below, but the reassignment of tasks was directly addressed with a written warning. Unfortunately at my company it’s actually not considered a “successful” PIP if the person actually improves.

          While I’m okay with him leaving it’s not my decision to make unilaterally to fire him, although now that he’s had a few verbal and written warnings the next step is PIP and termination if there’s not marked improvement in the next few weeks.

      2. Personal Space OP*

        I honestly agree about the PIP, the problem is internal politics. I was told by a mentor in HR that I should continue with verbal and written warnings for the time being, as company culture looks down on departments having “too many PIPs.” It’s very unfortunate as upper management isn’t very supportive of us addressing these types of issues with our team.

        The reassigning tasks issue was addressed with a written warning and the missed deadlines was several conversations. He’s been mollified a bit, as part of his arrogance seemed to stem from his belief he was better than the rest of the team and in a few week period he messed up several things. But I have a feeling it’ll crop back up once he gets back in a good rhythm, and at that point I’m doing a PIP regardless.

        1. Yvette*

          First, thanks for the updates.
          As far as ‘…company culture looks down on departments having “too many PIPs.” ‘ I can sort of see that, depending on what is considered too many. I can see where the thinking might be if there are THAT many (whatever THAT many is) employees on a PIP, then something might be wrong elsewhere, the hiring and selection process, training, management etc. The thought becomes “How are we ending up with all these sub-par people? Sort of like the friend who manages to date one unsuitable person after another, at some point you need to look within! :)
          It sounds like you have it under control
          Of course if they think one is too many, than that is a problem in and of itself.

          1. Lance*

            Yeah, if they’re worrying about seeing ‘too many’ PIP’s, then the answer is not to make it harder to put someone on a PIP; the answer is to figure out why there are that many issues cropping up. Are there actual legitimate issues with staff, an overzealous manager… something else entirely? (and let me be clear, you would not be overzealous in putting this man on a PIP, given his behavior)

            Hopefully he can improve, or at worst your higher-ups will have your back if any further disciplinary action needs to be done.

    9. Observer*

      I’m going to chime in with the others. I don’t think there can be any doubt that this is a power play on his part.

      I also agree with the others that you need to be totally direct and to the point, with no fillers or softeners in your language when he does any of these things. And that you need to be looking at a PIP sooner rather than later.

      I get the sense that a PIP is merely a prelude to a firing, and you don’t want to do that. Two things with that. Firstly, even if it does work that way, given his behavior, it’s really hard to make the case that his technical knowledge outweighs his misbehavior. On the other hand, the PIP doesn’t need to be only a prelude to firing. Properly done, the PIP gives him the clear and unambiguous goals, with the clarity that his job is actually on the line here.

    10. Susan K*

      I would suggest addressing the personal space issue separately from the rest of it. This guy reminds me of some coworkers I have, and I can picture them saying, “Can you believe this? Lucinda put me on a PIP because I sat in the ‘wrong’ spot in her office!” I can definitely see someone who doesn’t respect you and wants to undermine you focusing on the part that sounds ridiculous, ignoring the rest of the issues, and making himself out to be the victim of your unreasonable expectations.

      I’m not saying that the personal space issue is unreasonable or ridiculous — it’s not, and you should definitely speak to him about it. There’s a chance you can resolve it the way Alison suggests, just by asking him nicely to sit, or leave the chair where it is, etc. If that doesn’t work, you’ll need to be less subtle and say, “Hey, I really prefer to have people sit across from me, so please sit over there.” If he still doesn’t comply, then that is an issue of disrespect and insubordination.

    11. Oilpress*

      The sitting at right angles part is interesting to me.

      When my staff sit at a right angle to me, it makes our meetings feel more collaborative and seems to invite more input and opinions from them. We feel more like equals in that configuration. When my staff sit opposite me, our relationship reverts back to manager/employee. They generally default to sitting across from me, though, which tells me that they acknowledge/respect our hierarchy.

      Your employee seems to be doing the opposite. I think you need to address it head on, without dancing around the issue. He should do what you want him to do, and you of course should be respectful and not let that authority go to your head. It sounds like he wants things to be one way, but they’re the other way. Don’t be afraid to remind him. If he’s smart, he will respect you for it. If he’s not, well then you don’t need him anyway.

      1. the gold digger*

        The sitting at right angles part is interesting to me.

        In a class I had in grad school, the professor mentioned that for men, sitting across from each other – making direct eye contact – is considered hostile and challenging. He said if you want men to collaborate, seat them at right angles or facing the same way.

        He said that women find direct eye contact to be intimate instead of hostile and want to see the other person. (I don’t think women find it intimate in a work environment, but – we don’t find it to be aggressive.)

        My husband always wants to sit next to me when we eat out and I want to sit across from him so I can see him. So I have one data point that shows my prof was right.

        BTW – I took this class over 25 years ago, so may not remember all the details and all my prof’s words! I just remember the idea.

        (Not that LW’s subordinate is seeking to reduce aggressiveness – he does seem to be trying to exert power.)

        1. Cat Herder*

          I have my office arranged so that students sit at an angle to me, on the same side of the desk (desk is against the side wall) so we can look at the computer monitor together. I’ve done it that way for many years, in order to make students feel more relaxed. It’s a warmer arrangement.

    12. Dr. Pepper*

      Something I’ve done that helps with the power play personal space invaders is hold an object and swing it about while you’re interacting with them. Not in a threatening way, but casually, like you’re just fiddling or playing with it. But you don’t stop if they start to get too close. Keys on a lanyard or something similar is the best. It helps define your space non-verbally. If they get too close, they’ll get whapped (totally not on purpose of course), and often people will respect an object physically defining your space more than the idea of personal space. It helps you stand your ground because having even a token object between you and the other person can feel like a shield.

    13. Michaela Westen*

      Don’t know if this will help, but I used to behave this way and I wasn’t trying to exert power. I was young and hadn’t been raised with respect or good manners. The times I leaned over someone’s desk or walked around to look at their monitor, I was trying to understand what we were working on. I had people tell me to stop in no uncertain terms – but I didn’t understand why it bothered them at that point.
      Whether he’s being a jerk or just clueless, the solution is the same: spell it out.

  10. Mommy MD*

    I just say to close talkers: can you step back a bit? I need more personal space. It works. I then move on with the conversation.

  11. Junior Dev*

    Regarding #1, my boss wanted to do multiple-hour “working meetings” to create documents when I first started. It was really ineffective for a number of reasons, not least that I can’t focus on other things while I’m having a conversation and it was miserable for me to keep up with.

    I don’t understand people who want to work like this frequently, not just for editing or discussing the direction of a project but for a actually creating things.

    1. Jules the First*

      Someone finally explained this to me as an introvert-extrovert thing. As introverts, we think internally – we write better than we speak off the cuff, and we work our thought out on paper. Extroverts, or so my coach tells me, think by talking. Once I understood this, I realised that I was thinking I needed to contribute to these sessions with perfectly formed prose, when my colleagues were actually looking to break the ideas out. So now I specialise in thoughtful questions during these sessions – asking prompts that move the ideas along and allow me to be seen to contribute without requiring me to write on the spot.

      The other tactic for learning to do this is to take a tv screenwriting class focused on “breaking a story” which is almost always done collaboratively in person around a table.

      1. Clairels*

        To me, it’s less of an introvert-extrovert thing than simply different ways of learning. I’m slightly extroverted, but I’m also a highly visual learner. I need to see stuff written out on paper before it makes total sense to me.

          1. Julia*

            I wonder what being annoyed by the constant dichotomy of introvert vs. extrovert means for my place on that sliding scale. I’m guessing grumpyvert?

            1. Myrin*

              I feel ya. I find the psychological theory around it interesting; the fact that it gets brought up about basically anything? Not so much.

              (Especially since I just… don’t perceive of myself and the world in a way that matches up with -version stuff, so it doesn’t really pertain to me personally anyway. Also, if you’re the same Julia who’s a regular commenter, I don’t think it really is a thing in our culture as a whole; at least, I certainly know that I’ve literally never encountered the intro-/extraversion psychological model IRL, and I can count on two hands the times I’ve heard someone use the adjectives, and even then they’re only used as synonyms of “shy” vs. “outgoing” respectively.)

              1. Julia*

                I am the same Julia! :)
                I may have heard of the terms in class, but I‘m not quite sure. I had one German friend who called herself too introverted for full-time work. I‘m also not sure how frequently they come up in other cultures outside of internet discussion, though.

                People using shy and introverted interchangeably annoy me a lot, though.

        1. Calpurrnia*

          I’m a very visual person too, but didn’t have an issue with this when I used to work in a place that did collaborative writing… We just put the document on the screen, and someone could throw a sentence out and whoever had the keyboard would type it in, then people could suggest wording changes or point out something wasn’t quite accurate as written, etc. No reason that collaboration needs to be “imaginary”; if you’re working on a document, someone should have the document open with screen shared!

        2. Observer*

          It doesn’t really matter. What really matters is that these are just two different – and perfectly valid ways of operating. Understanding this is useful for anyone who needs to work collaboratively.

    2. Academic*

      I find it way more productive to write collaboratively in a meeting than sending drafts back and forth. My line manager and I regularly work like this; we can talk through problems together and discuss any queries that come up and solve them on the spot. It also forces us both to devote time and brainpower to the specific paper rather than snatching it here and there and waiting around for the other to respond.

      I can understand that it might not work for everyone but it’s not inherently a bad working style.

      1. Sarah N*

        Agreed! I actually love writing collaboratively in the same room. I get to do less of it now that I am remote from all of my coauthors, but I find it much more efficient than splitting up drafts. I can totally get that it’s not for everyone, but that’s true of most working style things.

    3. Cat Herder*

      Because you can get different ideas from talking things through that you might not get if you’re all just writing individually.

      I am very very introverted. Many people are not. Seems only fair to take a more extraverted approach to writing now and then. Most writing at work in my experience is set up to favor introverts. Approaching it from the other side, so to speak, is enlightening.

  12. Turquoisecow*

    OP5, my old company often had resigning employees leave immediately if they were going to a competitor. It was a retailer, and the merchandisers especially would often have this happen because they didn’t want them to pass along information about the upcoming weekly sales.

    It was kind of silly because the ads were planned two or three months ahead (at least), although they could change things. If a person had decided to pass on information to a competitor as part of their hiring process, it was likely they had already done so before they gave notice. In some cases, the final pricing information would change fairly quickly as well, so this hypothetical information passed on would either be wrong, or possibly arrive at the competitor too late for them to change their own ads to compete.

    They also frequently broke their own rule if they didn’t have a person who could easily and quickly step into the role being vacated.

    I can, understand why they adopted this policy, but I think it presented them in a bad light to the remaining employees. I don’t know, also, if they paid for the notice period, as I never asked anyone who left in this way. I could see it go either way.

    1. BurnOutCandidate*

      I was a manager for a retailer for almost ten years. My company’s Loss Prevention policy was to let someone go as soon as they offered their notice. In some circumstances, usually extraordinary ones, someone would be allowed to work it out (or use vacation time, if available). The reason had to do with the potential for theft; someone with their foot out the door could wreak havoc with inventory or steal.

  13. Mookie*

    LW2, I know of what you speak very intimately. I think one practical approach to this event, now that the photos are going to be on view there, is to remember what YOU are there for. You’re going to be at the booth and on the floor to speak and interact with people, not be observed like an animal on display to curious and exacting spectators. Whether the content of your pamphlets and write-ups is substantive or is the usual pablum, most attendees are going to ignore the images if they glance at them at all (because otherwise they’d just be reading the whole time, not working and networking). They have the real, live person in front of them. If they’re trying to identify you, they’re going to look for a nametag, not match a face to a Glamourshot. They are not going to be scrutinizing you or anyone else for having aged or changed, having lost a beard, gained a pair of eyeglasses, or finally caved in and got themselves the mullet of their dreams. Half the time we look at these things and all we come away with is Stock Photos of Not-Real People, anyway. What sticks in your head are the people you meet.

    Does that change the fact that your old face, like everyone else’s, is going to be staring back at you for a day? No. Self-consciousness needs no hostile third-party present to eat away at our self-confidence, as you’re probably well aware. Tackling that particular albatross is a longer process than getting through this day. And you will get through it. If what it takes to do that is to ruthlessly focus on the job at hand, the elbow-rubbing and so forth, do it. It’s a ritual I do a lot when, as an introvert, I have to be “on”: I set aside my natural fear of negative attention by courting the most positive kind possible. I’m not great at it, I lack a lot of innate charisma, I probably just look jolly and sound loud, but doing it feels wildly brazen and fun, at least afterwards. Sometimes, anyway.

    Do the job, go to the event. The sum of you is not your goddamned picture and your bodyweight. It never was and it never will be. You yourself can’t fix fatphobia, and especially not in a day and at some boring conference. Don’t even try. Don’t yield to the compulsion to Prove Them Wrong or Defy Expectations. Do the job, immerse yourself in it, plan some tea breaks to de-stress throughout the day if you can, and then walk away and leave those signs there forever more.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      This is a lovely and compassionate comment.

      The other bit of advice I’d offer as a fellow fat person who sometimes feels hella self conscious eating in front of others is to bring some discrete, healthy snacks with you that you can use to sustain yourself quickly throughout the day. I usually go for protein bars, but I’m sure there are other options you can consider.

    2. Confused*

      I make these materials a lot and almost no one looks like their photo! OP will be far from the only one who looks a bit different and no one will care.

    3. Observer*

      The sum of you is not your goddamned picture and your bodyweight.

      This! For all overweight people, and for all the people who judge overweight people, these are words to live by.

  14. love yourself*

    Reply to number 2 is so true! We would ALL be a lot happier if we can remember no one is thinking about us or judging us anywhere close to the degree that we judge ourselves — and if they are, then that’s more about their own issues than us anyway.

  15. Some Sort of Management Consultant.*

    Editing as a group is also a “delightful” concept…

    I’m still scarred by sitting 4 weeks with 6 lawyers finecombing some important documents, where we spent quite a few hours on the topic of “periods or no periods in lists”.

      1. charlatan*

        What was the consensus on periods? I go back and forth but haven’t bothered to look up the correct way to do it.

        1. Close Bracket*

          -Periods if the list items are complete sentences.
          -Otherwise, use commas or semicolons only if the list items themselves contain commas.
          -See what I did there?

          1. Close Bracket*

            Oops, too fast on the smart assery. That first list item isn’t a complete sentence after all. :) lol

        2. MsCende*

          I think the rule is that if each point is a complete sentence, use periods, otherwise don’t.

          The other rule is to be consistent – either use summaries or sentences as points, but not both.

          There’s also something about commas on the next to last item in then list, but I usually ignore that one, so I couldn’t say.

  16. Lcsa99*

    #1 – would it be possible to volunteer to take notes of what everyone is suggesting? If you’re transcribing, you wouldn’t be expected to talk as much and it might help you get ideas while you’re doing the physical part of writing.

  17. The Other Dawn*

    OP 1: I strongly identify with you on this. I write much better than I speak and would have a really tough time having to “write out loud” in a meeting. Some people can do it, and it amazes me, but I can’t. I agree with Alison in that once you’re there a little longer, maybe ask your manage to send around an outline of the project or maybe some of her thoughts for the meeting direction before the meeting. At least then you will have some time to think and formulate something to bring with you.

    OP 3: I strongly identify with you, too. I hate when people get into my personal space like that. I don’t have anything going on that would make me hate it. I just hate it. One of my team members gets in my space like that. She reported to me at another company and we worked together there for 10+ years, so we’re pretty comfortable with each other to say what’s on our minds. The kind of job we have now sometimes requires collaboration and we need to look at something together. Not often since really I can just go into a particular case within the application, look at the activity and then email or IM my thoughts back. But sometimes she needs to come over to point something out if it’s particularly confusing or complicated. She comes around my side of the desk and is typically so close she’s leaning against me. I just tell her, “Dude! Personal space! You’re right up my ass!” She usually jumps back because she doesn’t realize she does it. We laugh about it and it’s fine. But we’ve been working together a long time so it’s OK. I probably wouldn’t say that last sentence to your employee, OP, but I think the first two are just fine. You have to be blunt sometimes.

  18. The Doctor*

    LW #1…

    I’m focusing on Alison’s last paragraph (“Once you’ve worked there longer, you could also consider asking your boss if she’d be open to sending the project around ahead of time so that people like you who work better in your head can take a stab at it on your own first, and then come to the meeting with suggestions already formed”).

    Asking for “pre-thinking” time is a great idea… but why should she need a specific amount of seniority before requesting permission to do her job more effectively? I would say to ask the boss now.

  19. The Other Dawn*

    OP 5: This is pretty common in finance/banking and IT. The thought is that the resigning employee could sabotage the systems or take money or something like that. It also depends on the company, though. If someone resigns at my company, a bank, we let them work their notice period unless we have reason to believe they could do something detrimental to to us. In the fours years I’ve been there we’ve never had a resigning employee leave immediately.

    Now if someone is terminated, I think it’s common in most industries/companies to have them leave immediately, unless there’s some sort of mutual agreement or the person being terminated is for poor fit, a layoff or something like that. I only know of one instance in my whole career where a terminated employee was allowed to stay for a couple months and that’s because he was an SVP and the CEO was being kind. Plus it sometimes can take a long time to find someone to replace a member of senior management.

    1. Lynne*

      OP5 — it sounds like there has only been one instance of an employee who left immediately at the time of his/her voluntary resignation, and that it had been previously discussed. It is quite possible that this was the choice of the employee, who either wanted to move to into their new position immediately or who didn’t want to deal with the drawn-out process of sentimental goodbyes/becoming a lame duck/having curious coworkers ask overly-personal questions about their next steps.

    2. MissDisplaced*

      It’s funny, but I don’t think I’ve ever been asked to leave immediately, even upon a layoff situation. But I have seen this in certain job functions, even within the same company. Yes, typically finance, IT, and sometimes sales are the most common areas for security reasons. Also places with government contracts. It doesn’t always reflect poorly on the company.

    3. Julia*

      If a resigning employee wanted to sabotage the company, surely they’d do it before resigning?
      I definitely understand doing this for fired people, though.

    4. Greenspoons*

      It’s funny but I’ve worked in finance departments and banks and I’ve never seen this. I even worked for a top 10 US bank! But it was Canadian owned so maybe they are more concerned with employee moral then potential theft. We always had nice going away parties. The finance department I worked in recently was at a hospital. They also don’t run employees out the door. It must be so hard to train new employees and replacements at places that do this! I can’t imagine. People are pretty terrible about documenting their processes as they go.

      1. Bea*

        The employees are often staying in the industry, so theft or sabotage won’t even work if you’re in banking. They’ll find out and track you down, your honesty and clean record is pivotal in such an industry. So I see why they wouldn’t bother.

        And security is tight. No way in hell will most try anything funny.

        I think the companies who ask you to leave immediately think about it from a standpoint that now you’re dead weight and won’t be working to your potential. If you’re not in need to finish up a project or hand over certain projects, it’s better to cut the person and keep moving.

    5. OP #5*

      Thank you for your additional info. We’re not a bank (which would presumably be bigger, have more resources & stability) and within the department have open access to all the files/programs so I can definitely accept the security explanation – I mostly just wanted to know if I should be expecting it everywhere!
      I tried to keep it nonspecific, but to be clear, both employees had planned departures; one was terminated due to poor fit (they were informed and told to leave pretty much immediately) and the other was CFO, so they had made arrangements for a temp replacement privately with C-suite.
      I’ll assume it’s a mutual agreement if it happens elsewhere. For this company, it does make some sense (even if we trust our employees).

  20. Mimmy*

    #1 – When I was on a state-level council a few years ago, we were required to do a “reading” whenever we were updating the By-Laws. I know that’s different from work meetings and is probably very common when writing By-Laws and other Board-type things, but it was still very tedious. As someone who also thinks better when alone, I like the idea of coming up with ideas ahead of time – at least you feel prepared.

  21. Seeking Second Childhood*

    Q1 You might be able to get big points without having to talk out loud if you volunteer to type as the team brainstorms. Often talkers don’t like the transcriptionparts.

    If you type on a computer connected to a projector screen, you might even be able to put in your ideas by typing. “Here, see what your think of this:” …put down your words.

  22. Database Developer Dude*

    Collaborative working only works well when everyone’s on board and has the same job function. I’m a database engineer, and I got rolled off the last project I was on partially because I rebelled against business analysts wanting to tell me how to do my job when they can’t even spell computer or database right three times out of five, and a government lead who got his Ph.D. in CIS from one of those degree mills, and thinks he knows more than someone with decades of experience.

    I’m at a much better place now.

    1. JS#2*

      Yes! It’s important that everyone has the same job function–or at least similar functions! My workplace prizes consensus above all, and that often means collaborative writing with people who have really different job functions, skills, and strengths. It’s really difficult and rarely productive.

      1. Database Developer Dude*

        And it makes it easy for resentment to build up. I’m trying to implement best practices for a data warehouse, and I have the one person who’s supposed to have my back undercutting me.

  23. Nanani*

    OP1, I’m sure this set up does work for at least some people, probably the ones who first set it up, but it probably won’t hurt to ask to change it up.

    Before I went freelance, I had one colleague who worked better out loud, using dictation software rather than typing. Going by various translator forums, they were not alone.
    Is there any chance this collaborative writing was set up by someone who preferred speaking aloud, but is no longer there? If so then maybe all you need to do is overcome a little inertia.
    On the other hand, if your colleagues actively prefer this set up, then it may take a bit more work to find a happy medium for everyone. Still do try for it though.

  24. Bea*

    No shows aren’t worth another minute of your time. Scratch therm off the list. Last year I had entire days of no shows and the HR person tried reaching out, each time it was continued radio silence. Even a new hire ghosted us on her first day and took all day to respond with a “oh yeah something came up. Should I come in tomorrow?”

    They know what they did with a very small amount who may have written the day or time down wrong.

    1. Courageous cat*

      Yeah – not only this, but they’re extremely common too. I feel like roughly 30% of all candidates I’ve set up interviews with were no shows. It’s just their way of saying they’re out and they don’t really care about it.

      1. Anne of Green Gables*

        I’ve only had one no-show for an interview and I was really surprised by it. I did email the candidate, something along the lines of “We were expecting to see you at 9am today, I hope everything is okay. Best of luck in your search.” In this case, I did hear back from the candidate–6 weeks later! She said she hoped I’d consider her for future openings. I did not respond.

  25. Rae*


    Weight can be tricky. I had a co-worker go from almost 400lbs to 200 over 2 years, the most drastic was over one summer. We have annual staff pictures and staff changes. One person came in and saw the office Christmas cards and mentioned the new team members. That person thought Fergus was a new team member because his previous pictures were so unrecognizable.

    It was also a policy only to mandate updated badges every 5 years but when his weight was steady security made him update “early”.

    In short, it’s unlikely people will even realize it’s you at first glance.

  26. Writing for Wine*

    No shows aren’t worth an email.

    If a candidate has a legit reason for no-showing (had an accident on the way, kid woke up puking) they would reach out. One of the best employees I ever hired was technically a no-show for his interview. He witnessed an accident and stopped to help. He called later that day and explained what happened and asked if I would still consider him for the position. I did, despite others telling me how ‘irresponsible’ it was for him to miss the interview. Best hire of that year, let me tell you.

    1. calonkat*

      OP4, I like Alison’s response, especially because it has happened to me that the company forgot to TELL ME about rescheduling an interview. I showed up on the day the interview was originally scheduled, interview letter in hand (pre-internet) and was told that the interview had been rescheduled, oops they forgot to tell me, too bad so sad, position was filled. If they’d called (only option then, but it was pre-cell phones too) I could have gotten back to them on the same day.

      I did not mourn that company going out of business a few years later.

  27. Vee*

    Regarding not paying thru the resigning employee’s leave date: here in California if employee gives notice and we want him gone immediately, we have to pay to tge notice date, otherwise it’s considered a termination and the ex-employee is eligible to collect unemployment.

    1. Grunt*

      Some companies are willing to do it, though. My Dad’s retail company fires any salaried manager who gives notice on the spot (for loss prevention reasons) and doesn’t pay the notice period, and we live in California. Company is seemingly fine with those people just getting unemployment.

  28. InVancouver*

    OP2 I’m also obese and also hate all photos of me. But I’m entering a situation where I will have to have a photo of me on the web. I bit the bullet and paid a professional photographer to do a portrait. I interviewed her on the phone and liked her approach. She came to my home and took photos by my window, helped me choose colours, fussed with my hair & this/that scarf. SO much better to be in charge than wincing and hoping whatever photo isn’t too unnerving. I wonder if this would work for you?

  29. Kenneth*

    OP#5, sometimes when a resignation is “immediate”, that person’s manager asked for their resignation rather than firing them. It kind of softens the blow a little, since firings imply you were terminated for cause, which can damage your future prospects. Whereas if you resign, you kind of get to soften the reasons for leaving in future interviews. At my first professional job out of college, my direct manager (at the time) “resigned”. Whereas another engineer on my team was outright fired due to non-performance (as opposed to “not meeting expectations”).

    Whether you’re given the option of resigning as opposed to being fired will likely depend on your position and time of service with the company. And if someone is “let go”, that tends to also be immediate. Such was the case when I was laid off in 2008.

    So if you hear that someone “resigned effective immediately”, it’s possible they were given the option of resigning instead of being fired, since the former tends to look better than the latter. Until you delve into the details, at least.

  30. Kenneth*

    OP#4, how soon after the scheduled interview time did you decide to drop them from consideration? And did you attempt to contact them after the scheduled interview time had come and gone?

    There are numerous reasons a candidate could be a no-call, no-show to an interview. The same if they were actually employed. Immediately writing them off without attempting to contact them to find out why they were a NC/NS to the interview, to me, says you weren’t enthusiastic about them to begin with. Same would be if the candidate called in ahead of the interview to reschedule (regardless of reason) and you decided to drop them as a candidate instead.

    It’s one thing if the candidate was able to provide an update and did not. But you don’t have any way of knowing if that’s the case based purely on the fact they didn’t show and didn’t call later that day or even the next day. Now you won’t hold open a candidacy forever, obviously. But providing no benefit of doubt isn’t a good idea either unless, again, you weren’t really all that enthusiastic about a candidate to begin with.

  31. SavannahMiranda*

    OP 3: Here is what I had to learn to do about space invaders, specifically people determined to walk around to my side of my desk and stand there. Frequently looking over my shoulder at my monitor or otherwise getting in my personal space inappropriately and without authority.

    I learned to stand up. The minute they started making the approach, I stood up. An older employee told me this is what I should do, and I took her advice.

    Standing up stops people, it gives them pause. And it gave me a posture of authority from which to say, “Have a seat” or “What do you need?” in a polite but not necessarily excited tone.

    Frequently simply standing up was enough. It’s animal behavior even the primal part of their brain will understand. Standing represents, this is my territory.

    Stand up, look him in the eye, and converse from there. He will probably stop walking towards you and around to your side of the desk. You most likely don’t even have to do anything else. After a while you can stand up every second or third time. If he reverts back, start again.

    I never had to do it more than twice or three times with my worst offenders.

    If he doesn’t stop walking to join you – oh boy. Then you do have to say, “Stop there” and can even put your hand out. It’s completely within your right to say, “This is my side of my desk, please take a seat there.”

    Please, don’t be afraid to do this. You deserve a clear mind and a calm space without space invaders. It’s important to your job, for you to do your work, and to your employer.

    Stand up. Talk from there. And if keeps coming, politely but firmly verbalize it.

    Good luck. Once you get the hang of it, it will go great.

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