should I penalize a candidate for an infographic resume, my employee is horrified by pests in our old building, and more

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

1. Should I hold a candidate’s infographic resume against him?

I am the hiring manager for a position that is notoriously hard to hire for. We always have to do a national search (in spite of being based in NYC) because the role is managerial, but requires a specific skill set in order to manage the team effectively. I was reviewing the latest resumes and was finding myself really disappointed with the quality of the candidates until the last resume in the batch. The candidate has all the right skills, good manager experience, and works at a company that I have connections at so I’ve already heard good things about the candidate before he even applied.

However….his resume was an infographic resume, which I hate. I actually had to get a highlighter and go searching for all the things I needed to know to make sure he met the requirements I was looking for. I can usually scan a resume and make a decision in less than a minute, but just getting through this resume took me about five minutes. In the grand scheme of things, not a big deal, but I find myself still being really annoyed.

Would it be super petty of me to put him in the “maybe” pile instead of the “yes, interview” pile just because of the gimmicky resume?

It’s not that it would be petty, exactly; it’s that it wouldn’t be great hiring because you’d be making a decision based on something that doesn’t speak to his ability to do the job, in a situation where you don’t have a lot of other strong options.

I am right there with you on thinking infographic resumes are ridiculous and annoying, but if this is a hard-to-hire-for position and he’s one of the few good candidates, you should talk to him. You’re not hiring for his ability to put together an effective resume; you’re hiring for skills and experience and reputation, and he scores well on those fronts. Lots of people get bad job-searching advice, and that may be all that happened here. (The exception would be if you were hiring for a position where it’s key to present information in a way that meets your audience’s needs. Even then, I’d still talk to him since you don’t have many good candidates, but I’d make a point of really testing his ability to do that.)

2. We’re in a historic building with pests, and my employee is horrified

I work in a historic building, on the ground level, in an area full of cabinets and nooks and crannies. Read: A total pest hot spot. I have worked in these kinds of large, old buildings for my whole career and am accustomed to a certain level of presence of pests. Usually there are good guidelines for people’s food to only be kept in specific areas/containers to cut down on pests in people’s offices, but there just are cockroaches and mice, especially visible when the weather is changing and they’re coming in from the cold.

I have one direct report, and they are relatively young, this is their first job out of college. They have (self-reported) OCD and are visibly distraught by seeing dead cockroaches in stairwells, etc. They just came to me in tears because they spotted some mouse poop near the area where our office microwave is. I want to be sensitive to their needs for a healthy and comfortable workspace, and also totally agree that mouse poop near food is another level of concern above cockroaches in stairwells. But I also need to be realistic about my limitations of effecting change in a giant old building that will likely always have pests. I don’t want to come across as too cynical and uncaring, but I’m really not sure what I can do to help make things better.

This is compounded by a total tragedy of the commons in our work space, with a sort of kitchen area that happens to be in my employee’s shared office. Keeping that sink area clear is not the job of our custodial staff, but no one ever steps up to clean the sink, so it falls on my employee to do because they have higher standards than everyone. It’s not ideal, but the sink is also not nearly as bad as other work kitchens I’ve seen (a low bar to be sure!). I honestly don’t see trying to enforce a job roster in our small office area working well, I imagine it might just result in more resentment. I am also relatively new here so I don’t feel like harping on people who have been here over a decade for not sweeping away their crumbs. I guess I’d just love some advice as to how to both help my workplace be better, my employee feel more comfortable, but also be realistic about the nature of work kitchens and also the presence of pests.

The best thing you can do is to be honest about what will and won’t change, so that they have that info and can decide how to handle it. For example: “I know it can seem gross. I’ve these kinds of large, old buildings for my whole career, and it’s pretty normal for them to occasionally see evidence of roaches and mice. I know the building maintenance tries to keep it under control, but a giant old building like this will likely always have them.”

In other words, your role here isn’t to solve their discomfort or to try to find a solution for a problem that (a) isn’t likely to be easily fixed and (b) it doesn’t really sound like you have standing to fix regardless. Your role is to just be clear with your employee about what to expect, and then it’s up to them to decide what they do with that information (which could be anything from working with a therapist to better manage their response, to finding a job in a newer and cleaner building).

That said, is there any chance you can move their workspace? Having to share space with the kitchen is probably making this far less bearable.

3. Is it normal to have super flexible hours in office jobs?

I have a question about workplace norms in white collar/office-type environments when it comes to things like lunch breaks and work hours. I know this is going to vary by employer, but generally speaking: If you have the sort of job/boss where you are trusted to get your work done, is it commonplace for people to not come in until their first meeting or leave after their last meeting of the day? And is it expected that your “lunch hour” does not include travel time to and from wherever you are going for lunch?

I ask because this seems to be the case in many office environments where I have spent time, but I’ve never heard anyone explicitly say so and I fear asking would make me sound like I’m looking for excuses to slack off. Particularly, it seems like a lot of people leave early (3:00 or so) to go to the gym or pick up kids from school or go to happy hour. And it seems like a lot of people take lunch breaks much longer than an hour to run errands or work out, or to travel to and from a restaurant. I get the impression that this is pretty normal and not considered inappropriate as long as it’s not something you do every day (and as long as you don’t opt to do all three in one day!). And I’m assuming maybe there is also an expectation that you will hop on to your email for a bit in the evening to to offset some of the time you missed?

As someone who has worked in some super uptight service/retail environments, I am kind of in awe of the apparent freedom most office jobs seem to permit.

It really does vary by employer. But at many offices where you’re treated like a skilled professional, it is indeed common that that people in some jobs will manage their own hours and their own workload, showing up and leaving at whatever times make sense for their schedule that day. Even in those offices, though, it’s common for not everyone to be able to do that — often more junior staff won’t have that flexibility, and there will often be roles where it’s just not possible (like the receptionist or other jobs where coverage matters).

But there are also lots of offices where this isn’t the case — where hours are fairly rigid and what you’re describing wouldn’t be done, or wouldn’t be done by anyone who wasn’t pretty senior.

More broadly, it’s not typically the case that your lunch hour (or lunch half-hour) wouldn’t include your travel time to and from wherever you’re getting lunch. If it looks like that, what you’re seeing is probably just that people manage their own time and aren’t held to a strict 30- or 60-minute lunch.

If you’re ever unsure of the norms in your office, it’s fine to ask and won’t make you look like a slacker. You can say something to your boss like, “Can you tell me how people usually manage their schedules? I’ve noticed a lot of people coming and going on what look like pretty flexible schedules, but I didn’t want to assume anything without talking to you.” And similarly, “Is there a certain amount of time people usually take for lunch?”

4. Our manager wants us to start working night shifts with no extra pay

My manager keeps decreasing the workforce for budget issues. When an employee leaves, she doesn’t hire for the position at all or she hires for part-time but the workload remains the same. We have an employee on military leave for a year. She has saved her position but has not hired a temp to cover for her.

Recently an overnight employee left, and she requested that each person on the evening shift work one 12-hour shift per week from 3 pm to 3 am. The kicker is that we have to leave early on a day of her choice so we do not have overtime. And this is during the holiday months. We are constantly short staffed. It would seem more fair if she were to request volunteers and reward them by paying overtime. How do we approach her to negotiate this?

As a group. There are power in numbers, and if you all say, “No, we can’t work overnight shifts without compensation (or at all),” it’s going to be hard for her to hold it against all of you. It’ll be possible, but unlikely. Talk to her as a group and say something like, “We’re not able to work night shifts. Some of us find it wreaks havoc on our sleep for days, and others of us have dependents we need to care for in the evenings. Some of us would be willing to do it for additional compensation, but none of us are up for doing as part of of our normal schedule without being paid overtime. We’d like to ask that you re-hire for the evening shift so that the burden doesn’t fall on us.”

5. Should my cover letter mention the person who referred me?

A former colleague recently reached out to me to let me know that there was a position opening up on her team at her new company. She passed along my resume directly to the hiring manager (her boss also), but I have to apply officially to the job posting via the company website. The form includes a space to include a cover letter. Should I mention the colleague by name in the cover letter? Would that help her to make the connection in a sea of applications?

Yes, you should mention that Jane Smith encouraged you to apply for the job. In some cases, that will get your application a longer look than it might have otherwise, or will jog the hiring manager to remember, “Oh yeah, this is the candidate Jane told me to watch for.”

{ 641 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Dino

    No offense but OP#2: Hell no. F$&k no. You need to have grown ups clean up after themselves or move the employee to a different office. “It’s not custodial’s responsibility ¯\_(ツ)_/¯” is not an acceptable solution to this, nor should anyone be accepting mouse shit near food prep areas. Hallways and corners of rooms, yeah. But not in offices or where food is stored/prepared.

    Reply
    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      The OP doesn’t have the authority to make that happen. She has one direct report, which means she’s likely not at a particularly senior level, and she’s new. She can’t make any of that happen.

      Reply
      1. Dino

        OP could at least not insinuate that it’s unreasonable for a person to not be okay with the sanitation situation, or that caring about feces near the kitchen is due to mental illness (even self-professed). And it should be reasonable for working adults to clean up after themselves. This is not a minor concern.

        Reply
        1. Friday afternoon fever

          I don’t think the tone is as harsh or deprecating as you’re reading it. I didn’t get an impression that they thought this was unreasonable behavior — just that they can’t fix the situation. They are sensitive to their employee’s level of alarm, but unable to truly help.

          It SHOULD be reasonable for adults to clean up after themselves, but the world is !filled! with unreasonable adults.

          Reply
        2. HannahS

          I think that’s a pretty uncharitable reading of what the OP said. She literally says “I want to be sensitive to their needs for a healthy and comfortable workspace, and also totally agree that mouse poop near food is another level of concern above cockroaches in stairwells.” As I read it, she included the information about the employee’s OCD to help us contextualize the degree of their distress–if we didn’t know, I’m sure people would be questioning why the employee is visibly distraught and in tears over the pest problem, and it helps us understand that the employee’s cleaning of the sink might or might not just be about pest control.

          Reply
          1. Les G

            It’s not just *their* needs though. Everyone has the right to a safe workplace. Even people who are too cool and chill to be bothered by some dead roaches and vermin droppings.

            Reply
            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              I think that’s an ungenerous reading of that sentence. There are other ways to read it, so I’m going to ask that we not nitpick that and focus on actionable advice for the letter writer.

              Reply
              1. Les G

                Fair enough. An actionable piece of advice I have is: file an OSHA report. This is a serious workplace safety situation.

                Reply
                1. Not So NewReader

                  Yeah, I agree. If the building has known problems then there should be an action plan in place that is followed year round.

                  While I do understand that OP can’t do anything about it right now, OP can bump it to the top of her list to deal with as time goes along.
                  Moving the employee away from the kitchen sounds like a good start. I don’t have OCD and I would seriously consider leaving a job with working conditions like this. I think OP can say to her boss that it’s going to be repulsive to most people to have to sit in a kitchen area and observe rodent poop and bugs all day long.

                  I am fairly rural here. We get critters. It’s just part of maintaining my home to do a critter check each year. Mice can eat wiring, this is a huge fire hazard. I am left with an unsettled feeling that OP has observed so many workplaces with such a casual approach to a serious problem. Are there mouse traps anywhere? Do they spray for insects at all?

                  If they do some things to try to control the problems then it probably would be good to point that out to the employee.

                  I would be tempted to get a can of handy foam (building supply store) and fill whatever holes I could find. They make handy foam with insect and rodent control now. You don’t need a ton of it because you spray the foam in and it expands a lot. OP could at least do her work area.

                2. HarvestKaleSlaw

                  So Les, going out on a limb here and guessing you don’t work in NYC? Because if I had a nickle for every dead roach I’ve seen in a stairwell, I could retire.

                3. Mike C.

                  @HarvestKaleSlaw

                  Having bad enforcement of basic safety and hygiene laws doesn’t excuse the situation.

                4. It's ethical to CYOA

                  Agreed. I think it’s completely unreasonable to have to deal with cockroaches in the workplace, dead or alive, unless you happen to work for Orkin…

                5. Michaela Westen

                  Big cities, tall old buildings – roaches have been there for 200 years. They can’t be eliminated. The best that can be done is control them.
                  If you work in a tall old building, you’re going to see a bug now and then. It’s inevitable.

                6. DaniCalifornia

                  I agree. I work in a historic building. We are still under certain city codes. We had a huge rodent issue and magically it stopped when the owner finally paid for pest control. We had rat babies everywhere and only when his candy stash got chewed through in his desk did he start to care. But the rats were so large I just couldn’t. We also dealt with our pest guy telling us that they were coming in through an area that was completely open and the city had told us to fix and remove vines from. They specifically said the rats would crawl up the vines into the building. And then birds started getting in and bird poop was in our air duct. In the air conditioning unit that is on 9 months out of the year bc we live in Texas. It was gross. Before my boss decided to do anything about it I was 2 seconds from reporting him to the city. Thankfully it didn’t take that. Bird and rodent droppings are hazardous to people’s health.

                7. MJ

                  “It’s also a great way to lose insurance coverage on the building.” – I don’t think it’s good practice to avoid reporting things because of possible consequences.

              2. What’s with Today, today?

                Hiring an exterminator is highly actionable. Not all big, old building have roaches and mice. LW makes it sound like that’s a fact, no it’s just not. Even if they only have a few suites in the building, having someone spray their area will help a lot.

                Reply
                1. Mike C.

                  Yes, this is a solved problem. There are plenty of labs in old buildings and if they can stay clean, so can this one.

                2. Hallowflame

                  I was just about to say the same thing. Having a pest control plan (including regular visits by an exterminator), and following it consistently, can make a world of difference. I have lived and worked in plenty of old buildings, and as long as there was consistent pest control being done, we never had any problems beyond the occasional bug that might wander in through a door that was left open.

                3. Classic Rando

                  Hard agree. My house is from the 1850’s, and our first winter here we started getting mice in the attic. We had a pest control company come in and do a ton of exclusion work with foam and traps, sealing up all the little gaps and pathways in the house. Now the only place they can get in is one earthen floor crawlspace, and they can’t get to the rest of the house from there. We also have a service plan with them so they come in every few months and check things, spray bug repellant, etc, and our old house is practically pest free. So, pushing for some professional pest control would be an excellent idea here

                4. KR

                  I have to agree here. I have worked in some extremely old buildings by American standards (buildings used in the American revolution) and for the most part they have been pest free. When I saw a live roach out here in the new office the first thing I did was call an exterminator. It’s just what you do.

                5. Dust Bunny

                  Yeah, I’m in Houston, which is Pest Central, and I have lived in, worked in, and visited countless old buildings that do not have more than incidental pest problems. We can’t keep out every single tree roach and cricket, but we don’t have ongoing German roach or mouse problems unless people are slobs and the bosses/landlords aren’t keeping up with pest control. That’s just nasty.

                6. Alton

                  I agree. I work in an old building, and I do find *dead* roaches sometimes–but they’re dead because the exterminator is doing their job.

                7. General Ginger

                  Agreed. I work in an old mill building. We have multiple suites, and one is in the basement section, but there is consistent pest control.

                8. saturninus

                  Agreed. And talk to whoever you need to talk to about cleanliness in the kitchen. It’s not OK to leave dishes and crumbs around when there is an infestation. It’s thoughtless.

              3. Sylvan

                Well, I agree with Les G’s comment. My advice would be to at least try to do something about the pests, even if it’s just putting out roach killing bait.

                I used to work in an old, historic building with a pest problem. I’m very hard to gross out, so I wasn’t upset like the OP’s employee. I was, however, feeling… degraded? by being expected to work in a dirty place. There were cockroaches, water came through the ceiling during rainstorms, and nothing ever quite looked clean. I and other employees got sick all the time. Management didn’t do anything about it. I should have reported it to OSHA.

                Reply
                1. Michaela Westen

                  Maybe consult an exterminator if possible. My landlord says those black roach traps make the problem worse.
                  Probably depends on the type of building, type of pest/roach, climate, other variables…
                  My landlord sprays for bugs once a year and as needed. It works.

          2. MCMonkeyBean

            But she also says “I don’t feel like harping on people who have been here over a decade for not sweeping away their crumbs.” If they work in a building known to have problems with cockroaches and mice then people absolutely should be harped on to clean up their own crumbs–especially if their mess is in someone else’s workspace!

            Do you want ants? Because that’s how you get ants!

            Reply
            1. Observer

              To be honest, that line jumped out at me. If people need to be “harped on” to do something that can be expected of a healthy 10 year old, that’s a major problem.

              Reply
            2. Peachkins

              I do agree with this. I think it’s ridiculous that people can’t clean their own dishes. Our office has a laminated sign above the sink telling people to wash what they use. Could be as simple as that for the OP.

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            3. Genny

              I think that’s the issue I’d address first. No one should have to work in a dirty communal kitchen or kitchenette space. The cleaning shouldn’t always fall to one person because no one else can be bothered. I read just a bit too much throwing my hands in the air and giving up from the LW, but I think there are actionable things to do. Move the employee, work with other managers to set up a cleaning rotation (using the mouse poop by the microwave as evidence the current system is working), push for more/better pest control. Even just asking what the employee needs to be comfortable and then letting her know whether that’s something you can reasonably do would go a long way.

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            4. General Ginger

              Yeah, if they’ve been there a decade, they should definitely know that not cleaning up after themselves makes the pest problem worse. Seniority should not allow them to be slobs.

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            5. Izzy

              This! This isn’t even some out-of-sight-out-of-mind kitchen in a basement somewhere, they are literally leaving their dirty dishes in a colleague’s workspace to the extent that that colleague now has to deal with vermin. That’s unacceptable.

              Reply
        3. Ren

          It’s a historic building. It could be George Washington’s Mount Vernon for all we know. Even places like the beautiful Treasury building and Capitol and White House are … fricken old and definitely less than ideal in these aspects in so many ways, even operating full time in 2018.

          Reply
          1. Les G

            Nope, not buying this. I’ve worked in old buildings too and yes, of course, there’s always a level of pest that’s going to be higher than in a newer building, even when the occupants are doing everything they can to keep it clean. That last part is operative, though. This employer is not doing everything they can. They need to hire a cleaning service or the CEO needs to be putting on a damn apron and doing it herself if they don’t have the funds.

            Reply
            1. Artemesia

              One of my first memories of my main career job was coming in to work on a weekend and seeing a shimmering ribbons of ants about an inche wide slithering up two flights of stairs and into the vending machine with donuts and such devouring the goodies within and you could see the part of the ribbon with ants leaving the building carrying their little crumbs back to the nest. So yeah — old buildings are gross. But they got rid of the ants. And no excuse for not being aggressive about mice which is a major health hazard.

              But most of all, no one should have to share office space with a dirty kitchen. The OP needs to figure out a way to get this employee away from the dirty sink where she becomes everyone’s Cinderella.

              Reply
                1. Artemesia

                  It makes my skin crawl still over 35 years later just to think about it. And yeah, it did make me unlikely to buy things from vending machines, particularly anything like a sandwich or pastry.

                1. Tongue Cluckin' Grammarian

                  I’m down for eating insects as long as they aren’t visibly identifiable as insects, haha. It’s hard to shut off that part of my brain that’s been programmed to say “BUGS ARE NASTY AND NOT EDIBLE!” Like bug-burgers. Bring ’em on!

                  @many bells down: Good to know! I loathe pepper in all forms (black, white, pink, bell, etc), haha. I will not go with ants.

                2. JulieCanCan

                  @many bells down: those must be fire ants you’re referring to.

                  I’ve heard regular ants taste like chicken.

                  ; )

                3. Michaela Westen

                  I went to Japan once and they had bags of chocolate-covered ants in the stores. I didn’t try them.

            2. sheworkshardforthemoney

              My current workplace is an old historic building in an old part of the city. Nearby construction sent the rats looking for a new home, our basement. It took a concerted and long term effort with professional exterminators but we managed to get rid of them. You may have to insist on getting pros in to deal with the pests. It can be done, the will has to be there. We are proactive in keeping the rat attractions down (all food is sealed and the place is deep cleaned regularly).

              Reply
            3. Lilo

              I lived in an old apartment building with mice and the crumbs thing stood out to me. That is a HUGE no no for mice. You will get more. Scolding is whatever but maybe some extra training on “this makes the mice worse in your coworkers workspace” is fair.

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            4. Falling Diphthong

              But OP isn’t in a position to force her superiors to do any of those things. Advice is only actionable if the OP has the authority to do it.

              Like, #4 can’t make her employer replace staff who leave. We can all nod solemnly that, yup, that should happen… but unless we’re going to send OP the magic spell-casting tools, that’s unhelpful beyond the “yup, your office is nuts” or “nope, that’s a really normal thing” perspective check.

              Reply
              1. Washi

                Right, I agree that the employer should be making more effort to keep things pest-free, but it sounds like the OP has really limited authority. Also, if the OP’s company is not the only tenant in the building, it can be really hard to get everyone to agree to pest control measures and to keep up the necessary level of cleanliness.

                I do think though that she can go to bat for 1. moving the employee’s workspace and 2. encouraging someone with authority to develop a plan for keeping the kitchen cleaner, since pests are such a problem.

                Reply
                1. TootsNYC

                  she can also be approaching individual people and saying, “You need to wash your dishes and clean up your crumbs–just because we expect some bugs doesn’t mean you can be a slob like this.”

                  You can absolutely say that to a peer, and I think you can say it to a boss, with the right wording.

                2. Anna

                  @TootsNYC Yes to this. You can frame it as a “concern about health and safety” and “is there anything we can do?”

              2. Dr. Pepper

                Yup. It’s really easy to say someone should do this or that, but whether that’s actually feasible or not is a who different story. It’s going to cost a lot of money to get rid of the pests in a historic building, especially where they’ve been tolerated for some presumably considerable time, and depending on the state of the building and the area it’s in, it may not actually be truly possible to fully exterminate the pests. Or if it is possible, keeping them out in the future would be impossible and thus you’ll always be dealing with them. That’s expensive, and likely why the people in charge of those decisions have decided that everyone can just deal with the pests.

                Reply
                1. Winifred

                  It’s not necessarily expensive beyond regular exterminator visits. I work in a 150 year old church abutting “conservation land” so we have tons of mice and had rats burrowing in the playground. We never had a regular extermination service until the mice started damaging our antique church organ. We’ve had an exterminator for a year now and I never see mouse poo on my desk anymore.

                  It’s not clear to me from the letter if the writer has the authority to hire an extermination service or if the roaches are dead for some other reason. No one should have to work in a roach or mouse infested workplace, no matter how old or historic. I sympathize with the employee 100%.

              3. Genny

                It’s actually not clear where LW stands in this organization or how big this organization is. LW is a manager, so she has some authority to push issues up the chain of command. She may not be able to get regular visits from an exterminator, but she can at least push for a better cleaning plan than “my employee always cleans the kitchen because she has the highest standards and she’s forced to work in said dirty kitchen”.

                Reply
          2. On Fire

            The key is that the employee needs information so s/he can make a decision about future employment. I don’t suffer from OCD, but this situation would have me definitely looking for a new job, and potentially leaving *without* a new job. I understand that roaches will happen in old buildings and cities. They still freak me out, and mice are even worse. (Plus, are these mice or rats?!)

            If it’s unlikely/impossible to change, the employee needs to know that.

            Reply
            1. Quackeen

              I’m right there with you. I do not have OCD in any way, but I would not work in a space that has roaches unless something is actively being done about it and there is some expectation that the infestation will be dealt with. I know there are mice in the building I work in, but I’ve never seen one. I can deal with those a little better. Roaches are my “OH HELL NO” bottom line.

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              1. Smarty Boots

                LOL. There are roaches in your building — you’re just not seeing them. They are EVERYWHERE. Your employer or building management is keeping them in check.

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                1. Chameleon

                  Nope. Part of the reason I have no desire to move east of the Mississippi is that I have never once seen a roach where I live or work. They just don’t like it here. (Caveat: I do not live in SoCal–don’t know if there’s roaches there)

                2. ket

                  Yes, there are roaches in SoCal. I moved there from the Upper Midwest and was astounded by the roaches. Crunch crunch crunch. My ex-boyfriend’s apartment building always had a lake of roaches on the ground by the north entrance. The basements at work always had tons of roaches. Crunch crunch crunch. I wore sandals less than I expected to.

              2. Jaid_Diah

                I’d rather have roaches than bedbugs. Roaches can be kept under control with proper food storage. Bedbugs cannot.

                My building gets a regular visit from a pest control service. Their bedbug detecting dog is a sweetie. *sigh*

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            2. Justme, The OG

              Agree. I would see an occasional roach in my old office building. It was tolerable because I knew that administration was taking care of them. If they weren’t, I would have NOPED out of there fast.

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              1. AnonEMoose

                Back in my undergrad days, I worked security on my college campus. Which meant I had the experience of patrolling buildings after the exterminators had been through. Picture the occasional convulsing cockroach in the middle of the hallway, especially near the steam tunnels, and that’ll be pretty close.

                Reply
                1. Justme, The OG

                  I work at a university, it’s a fairly old building. And sometimes when I was the first one to the office in the morning I would see that. Usually in the bathrooms though.

                2. Artemesia

                  When I was doing the data analysis for my dissertation (back in the main frame computer days)I sublet a campus efficiency apt for 6 weeks and moved there with my 11 mos old son. They decided to exterminate in the building (since it was summer and fewer tenants). I asked them to skip my apartment as I didn’t want poison sprayed there with a crawling baby. I returned from the computer center one evening, baby on my back, to discover that all the roaches had come to our poison free apartment to die. The room was full of little bugs on their backs wiggling their dying legs — and I had a baby whose natural instinct of course would be to put them in his mouth. So gross.

                  Lots of sweeping and swearing was done. Luckily I had a playpen for him to sleep in where I could keep him off the floor till the migration of dying bugs stopped.

            3. Salamander

              My primary concern would be some of those roaches or roach eggs hitching a ride on my stuff and coming home with me. Nope. Do not want.

              Reply
          3. Glomarization, Esq.

            I’ve worked in buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, and when there were vermin problems, they called an exterminator and read the riot act to tenants who left their desks in an unsanitary condition. Mice and roaches are not, in fact, inevitable.

            Reply
          4. Izzy

            Having lived and worked in a number of historic buildings, they often have far stricter rules than your average office space about cleanliness in order to avoid this exact problem. Some degree of pest presence is often difficult to avoid, but it’s not usual to dismiss a kitchen dirty enough to attract mice as an unavoidable ‘tragedy of the commons’.

            Reply
            1. Observer

              Exactly this.

              It’s not clear what the OP can actually do. But a shift in attitude would be a good start. It’s not “inevitable”. And it’s reasonable enough to expect that people clean up after themselves that it shouldn’t be an issue to be after people about it, even it they have tenure / longevity at the job.

              Reply
        4. Jasnah

          OP sounds sensitive but also seems to be making this situation, which sounds pretty egregious to me, as a their-employee problem that they can’t help with. Cleaning the communal kitchen should not fall to the employee just because their desk is there. As the person in charge of supervising their work, isn’t this something OP can bring up with her manager or the office manager, so that her employee can focus on what they hired her to do?

          I can see a letter from the employee saying, “My desk is in a filthy kitchen that no one cleans. We don’t even have a custodial staff. It’s gotten so bad that I have to clean it myself just so I don’t have roaches and mice near my desk. I brought my concerns to my boss and she said it was an old building and we can’t make people clean up after themselves. What should I do?”

          Reply
          1. KR

            Well said.OP, I think this is a super reasonable thing your employee has a problem with you you as her manager have the voice to the higher-ups to change things.

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          2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

            Yeah, that stood out to me. I get it that in a place like NYC, and in a historic building, mice and roaches might be inevitable, but the part about the kitchen is not. These are grown-ass adults, not mice and roaches who leave their droppings wherever because they are rodents or insects and cannot help it. How hard is it not to leave your dirty dishes and leftover food all over your coworker’s workspace? whatever happened to the platinum rule, do not do to others what you would not want done to yourself?

            Reply
        5. JSPA

          The “safety” enclosed, single -use mouse traps work pretty well (and if you get to them fast, you can dump the mouse out and re-set).

          However, a dead mouse near the food– even if enclosed; even if it is part of the greater solution– may be harder for people in general, and the self-described OCD person in specific, to deal with.

          Do you happen to have the authority to change or rather shift their hours to 15 minutes later, so that you fairly regularly get in first? If so you could make it your job to bring in, set and clear a couple of mouse traps in the food area. And maybe some roach traps, too ( though those are usually “set and forget” which the report may not be able to ignore). Mind you this is something you can actually ask. Maybe mouse poop is worse than a (fresh) dead mouse. Maybe walking roaches are worse than the knowledge of a roach trap. Maybe not.

          If there’s a risk of anyone getting bent out of shape that you are taking on the job of Maintenance, you come to try getting Advance permission by saying that you’re trying to assess the scope of the problem. My guess is that nobody else will care so long as they don’t have to deal with the traps (but you never know).

          Also, how old is old? If OP is in Europe in a listed building from the 14th century, the challenge is somewhat different than if they’re someplace where an “old” building is a hundred years old.

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        6. Mommy MD

          The entire thing is disgusting. Exterminators should be making routine visits. I’ve worked in old buildings where mice and cockroaches are not bountiful. It’s not a given that being overrun is inevitable.

          Reply
        7. RUKiddingMe

          Yeah. I really don’t like that cleaning the kitchen, after everyone else, falls to this particular report. Why? Why isn’t everyone required to clean up after their own damn self or forgo the privilege of using the kitchen?

          Reply
      2. JamieS

        She didn’t actually say she doesn’t have any authority to make it happen. She just indicated she’s reluctant to do so because she’s worried about others being resentful. Even if her role doesn’t give her unilateral authority to make proclamations regarding kitchen sink cleanliness, it’d probably still carry more weight if she said something, or at least make it clear she supports her report if the report says something, since she’s a manager and the report is new as well as young so more likely to be taken advantage of.

        Reply
        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          She’s new, and she doesn’t sound like she’s in a senior position. She can certainly speak up, but there’s nothing here indicating she has the authority to solve the problem, and a lot indicating that she probably doesn’t.

          Reply
          1. JamieS

            I am also relatively new here so I don’t feel like harping on people who have been here over a decade for not sweeping away their crumbs.

            We might just be having a different interpretation of what OP wrote because the above indicates to me a lack of willingness not total lack of ability/authority. Regardless that’s neither here nor there. Even if she doesn’t have the authority, someone does so it’d still be helpful for her to say something to that person or at least let her report know she’ll back them up if they speak up as opposed to basically saying “I don’t want to risk upsetting others by harping on them”.

            Normally I wouldn’t consider kitchen cleanliness to be a management issue but since the kitchen is in the report’s office it has more of an impact on the report’s working conditions than normal.

            Reply
              1. Sylvan

                You don’t need to be someone’s boss to ask “Hey, would you mind picking that up? We have bugs around here.”

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                1. JulieCanCan

                  I was just going to say the same thing. I don’t think authority is necessary when politely reminding adults to properly clean their dish/cup/utensils after use (in a kitchen that their coworker has to remain in all day!?).

                  If OP isn’t comfortable sending out that request, either an Office Manager or HR/Operations/Head Administrator person – SOMEone – should be handling this. It’s a common issue that many organizations deal with regularly. If adult employees are pissed off about having to clean their dish/cup/fork, well, too bad. Deal with it.

                  I still cannot get beyond the fact that there’s a work area in the kitchen!? I’m not even sure I can picture the setup. And how could people think it’s OK to leave dirty crap in the sink for their coworker to smell/see all day?! Gross.

                  I think I would have laughed out loud if, on my first day, someone led me to my new “office” and we ended up in the kitchen. I know that’s neither here nor there as far as OP’s letter is concerned, but it’s certainly unusual.

              2. Genny

                Presumably the people leaving crumbs have bosses. OP has standing as a fellow manager to bring up the problem to those managers so that they can jointly develop a solution. OP doesn’t have to go it alone and force everyone to change, but she needs to do a bit more than write of her employee’s dirty working conditions as a tragedy of the commons.

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                1. Seeking Second Childhood

                  JulieCanCan I’ll bet it’s not a formal “kitchen” — I’m picturing a large conference room with sink that has long since had the Board of Directors table replaced with two desks.

            1. Glomarization, Esq.

              My reading was more along the lines of JamieS’s, as well. Just because someone is “relatively new” doesn’t mean that they can’t crack the whip a little.

              Also, I’m not sure how long the employee herself will stay. Surely she wasn’t hired to do the kitchen cleaning all the time?

              Reply
              1. Washi

                If they are relatively new and are not a senior position, I imagine that “crack the whip a little” will not go over well. I do think she can bring it up a little more forcefully to her boss though, since it doesn’t sound like she’s really pushed for a kitchen cleaning plan before.

                Reply
              2. Janet (not a girl)

                Actually, being relatively new could work in OP’s favour, if she wants to do it that way. It’s a time-honored way of addressing workplace culture issues, to play the “newbie card” and ask questions about things that everyone else has just gotten used to because they’ve been around for so long.

                OP, start asking questions. I know you said you don’t have the authority to fix the pest control problem (and likely also the cultural problem), but someone there does. Because as you pointed out, mouse poop on the counter isn’t normal, and it isn’t something that people should just be getting used to and ignoring.

                Reply
                1. Pomona Sprout

                  I agree! It sounds to me like the bugs, mice, and filthy kitchen have become “missing stairs” that the old timers are so used to stepping over that they don’t notice any more. The o.p. and her new hire do not and should not force themselves to just accept what is in reality a gross and unhealthy situation.

                2. Seeking Second Childhood

                  I’d be printing out articles about Hanta Virus and handing them to whoever’s the nearest thing this company has to a “safety officer”.

            2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

              So, I have a story to back up what JamieS is saying. My second job in the US, our office did not have a kitchen area or a microwave. my family had just ended up with a spare microwave at home as a result of an apartment move, so I brought it into the office and we put it into a spare cubicle. I then proceeded to never use it, because I was going out a lot or packing sandwiches/salads, either way in the first couple of months the thing was there, I did not use it once. One day, I’m coming back from lunch with my boss and the minute I walk in, one of the employees goes, “Hey, I Wrote, the microwave is dirty. Clean it.” I was new, not just to that job, but to the country, and the person had been there over a decade, so yes I cleaned it, feeling pretty crappy as I did so. Here’s what went differently though. My boss was new too. That did not stop him from pulling the employee into his office, with the door shut, and explaining to her why what she said to me was wrong and she should never do it again. And she never did. He wasn’t even a good manager or a good person, it’s just something that seemed an obvious thing to do I guess? not letting your senior employee treat your junior employee as a free maid service.

              Reply
              1. Anna

                This x 1 million. Being new doesn’t mean you can’t make reasonable requests to people who are exacerbating a pest problem. It means you can’t pull them off a project to work on something else. This is gross and the OP can speak up about it.

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          2. Hiring Mgr

            AAM, wouldn’t you at least suggest that she speak to someone (HR, management, building staff, etc..) who might have some influence? Asking this b/c I didn’t see that in your initial answer

            Reply
        2. Not So NewReader

          A supportive thing she could do is help the employee keep the kitchen clean. I am saying this in the context of OP sincerely does not find many other options. When I have supervised, there have been times where I have absorbed some of the burden on a particular problem because I know it’s above and beyond the call of duty for subordinates to do all of it and I have felt that other solutions were very limited.

          Please, OP, do not read this as a snotty, “Do it yourself!” post. What I am saying is I pitched in and helped my people handle a nasty task as a short term measure until I could get a stronger and more effective plan.
          This not only covers rodents and bugs it also covers toilets, snakes, failing machinery and many other unsettling situations where solutions were not immediately available.

          Reply
          1. Kyrielle

            FAILING machinery. Oh I am so relieved, I read that as falling machinery at first. O.o

            And yes to all of your comment – it is definitely something OP can do. It’s not enough by itself, but the “enough” solutions lie in other people’s hands. OP can advocate for them, but whether that leads anywhere is questionable. It sounds like lots of people have learned to tolerate these conditions in this building, if they’ve been here longer than OP and aren’t acting on it.

            Reply
          2. Yay commenting on AAM!

            I 100% support this and would do the same thing as boss. The problem is, it tends to be distorted by the strongest personality/ies on your team.

            If the strongest personalities are good employees, this is great! They’ll see your example, be thankful that you’re not delegating all the crud work down, and be happier to pitch in going forward: they’ll see you have a lot on your plate, and will start stepping up when they can to take some of the work off your plate.

            If the strongest personalities are bad employees, this is a nightmare! They’ll see you doing the crud work and determine that all crud work should, in fact, be dumped upwards on their boss. The more you do it, the less respect they’ll have for you, and the more liberties they’ll start to take because now you’re the Team Trash Collector: “I can leave a mess/not show up to work/half-ass a job because Boss Trash Collector will do it for me.”

            Reply
            1. Not So NewReader

              That is when work starts getting assigned. I framed it as, “You can chose now or later. Volunteer now or be drafted later. If you do it now, then your turn won’t come up again for a while.” I had a core group of 14. I got lucky really, there was very little problem.
              I do think it helps when they know the supervisor is watching. It also helps if the nastier or bigger tasks are done frequently, it’s less time consuming to handle the task. Not all tasks lend themselves well to this type of tactic, so you kind of have to think about the task and redesign the task/workflow so that everyone is having an easier time of it.

              Reply
          1. Rusty Shackelford

            People who choose not to wash their own dishes will not do so just because of a sign. It’s not like they’re confused about what happens to their dishes. The only sign that might work would be “wash your dishes; any dirty dishes left out in the kitchen at closing time will be thrown in the trash.” And even then, that would only work if someone carried through on the threat.

            Reply
          2. JulieCanCan

            Yes!

            I like “Wash your own dishes or they’ll end up in the trash can” a little better.

            As soon as there are no more dishes for people to use, OP’s report won’t have to worry about anything smelling bad or attracting vermin.

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            1. Seeking Second Childhood

              My problem is I don’t think OP can guarantee the dishes being left out dirty aren’t borrowed from someone else’s desk to begin with.
              I have a serious dirty lens on this: Over the years, many objects have “disappeared” from my desk in various offices. I’ve come in after a vacation to find that someone had been discarding trash in my cubicle’s can (?rather than empty their own I suppose?). And I’ve had things broken IN my office that were intact when I left the previous day.

              Hm… a possible office gift idea: One place setting each, with employee’s name on plate & cup & silverware. Except that doesn’t prevent a truly unpleasant someone from borrowing another person’s stuff anyway.

              Reply
      3. CurrentlyLooking

        Isn’t part of being a manager advocating for your employees?
        Even if the manager doesn’t have much authority, she certainly has more than her underling.

        Reply
    2. Friday afternoon fever

      It’s not ideal but there are buildings that literally cannot be 100% pestproofed.

      LW2 doesn’t seem to have a way to fix this. What do you suggest they do?

      Reply
      1. Dino

        Validate the employee’s concerns. Move her to a different workspace. Do what they can to promote a culture of cleaning. I’m not saying the OP should somehow bug-proof the entire building but saying “the sink just piles up and the employee ends up cleaning it, which I guess works out” isn’t the way to handle this.

        Reply
        1. Friday afternoon fever

          I think honesty about the limitations of your authority is never the wrong way to go. I agree they should validate the employees concerns but I don’t think those are mutually exclusive nor does it sound like their concerns are being invalidated

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          1. Friday afternoon fever

            Oh, yikes — also move workspaces if at all humanly possible. I missed that they shared work space with the kitchenette. That is grosser. I agree that ALL of this is kind of gross and it sucks that LW2 really does not sound like they can do anything. I just don’t think they should be lambasted for this

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        2. Tea Rocket

          I think moving the employee is the best idea. It sounds like an office with a kitchen area (where mouse droppings were recently found) is the worst possible place for them. Between the dirty dishes and the mice, I think a lot of people who don’t have self-reported OCD would struggle to feel comfortable in there. I know I would—I would find people coming in and out to use the kitchen area incredibly distracting, and I also wouldn’t love the mess.

          Reply
          1. Anon for this

            I don’t think this is a workable situation. OCD behaviour don’t disappear easily and the old building can’t be fixed. I think it would be kind of the OP to set realistic expectations and propose to help the employee transition out of the job in a mutually agreed upon timeline (e.g 3 months to look for a new job along with a reference) and plan to hire someone new. In the meantime, maybe propose for employee to work from home if possible.

            Frankly, if I was the employee, I would have quit. I’d be wondering if the pests have laid eggs in my bag/clothes and it goes home with me. Also have a severe fear of mice looking animals. Stuart little and ratatouille are horror films for people like me.

            Reply
            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

              I think it’s more workable than not moving the employee. The employee should not have to work in an office space that is known to have more pests/vermin/health risks, and receiving space from one of her triggers will likely be helpful. It’s possible to move the employee while conceding that not all pests can be permanently removed.

              But the office should also be much more aggressive about dealing with their mouse issue, which is a major health risk.

              Reply
              1. Mary Connell

                If this is in the United States, there are actually about half a dozen cases of bubonic plague each year. And things like hantavirus are also rare, but total close to 1000 cases a year.

                Perhaps the local public health department could provide advice. There is literature available including the short summary paper “Rodent Control and Public Health: A Description of Local Rodent Control Programs.”

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              2. Mommy MD

                It’s also kind of a cheap shot to mention the employee has OCD. No one wants to work in a cockroach, mouse-infested environment. And I don’t believe nothing can be done.

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                1. Janet (not a girl)

                  Agreed, and I don’t think the employee should have to work in the kitchen either, pests or no pests. Even the cleanest office kitchens can be smelly, and they’re going to be full of distractions with people coming and going all the time. There has to be *some* place in the office that would be a better workspace than this!

                2. Salamander

                  I think so, too. Especially the business about it being “self-reported” reads a little snarky to me. I get that the employee didn’t bring in a doctor’s note to verify, but if a person told you that they had a heart condition or diabetes, I highly doubt that someone would use that adjective. If someone tells me that they have a condition, I tend to believe them. I don’t say that “Bob has a self-reported broken ankle.”

                3. Green great dragon

                  I read ‘self reported’ as indicating it wasn’t the OP making assumptions, it was confirmed by the employee.

            2. Izzy

              What? No, this employee shouldn’t have to be “transitioned out” because of this. Why should she lose her job because her colleagues won’t do the dishes?

              Even if the OP doesn’t have the authority to call in pest control off her own bat, there are a number of things she could do here – move the employees workspace, push for a better kitchen-cleaning system and pest control measures, even actually do some cleaning herself if necessary. And even if it’s not possible to completely rid the building of pests, there are certainly improvements that could be made – these conditions would not have been considered acceptable in any historic building I’ve worked in, and that includes 15th and 16th century rabbit-warrens.

              Reply
              1. Kyrielle

                This. Also, if the employee *wants* to leave, yes. I can understand that; I’d want to leave. But no, the employee shouldn’t *have* to leave if they choose to stick with the situation.

                Reply
            3. Ashlee

              No, the employee shouldn’t be “transitioned” out of the job! The OP should speak to the owner and suggest moving the employee out of the kitchen, having working adults clean up behind themselves and try some of the suggestions in this thread.

              A 100% pest/vermin-free workplace may not be possible, but “transitioning” the employee is out is a horrible way to deal with the situation.

              Reply
            4. skunklet

              I was stationed in Southern California in the 90s when there was a hantavirus outbreak in NM, I believe. A couple of folks died from cleaning dried mouse poop. I have zero OCD, I can watch Dr Pimple Popper, Greys Anatomy, etc., with the best of them, but b/c of that hantavirus experience, yeah, I’d have an issue with mouse poop in my professional work space. THEY, whether it’s the business or the bldg’s management, needs to get on the stick and get an exterminator. It’s not that complicated. The employee doesn’t need to transition out at all.

              Reply
              1. President Porpoise

                Yeah, as someone who grew up in northern NM, mouse poop is something I do not tolerate as well as some people here seem to. To me, it is a legitimate potential deadly threat, to be dealt with by professionals.

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            5. Anonymousaurus Rex

              Yep. My spouse is severely mouse-phobic and this would be a job-ending issue for her. That said, I’m pretty tolerant of pests and I would be thoroughly squicked out by this situation. I don’t think the solution is just “building is old, nothing we can do”. Plenty of old buildings can manage their pest issues in a way that those working in them do not routinely have to interact with mouse droppings. At minimum, she needs a new workspace away from the kitchen ASAP.
              And regarding the OCD aspect of this, is that something that could be covered under the ADA? (Assuming that the self-report is a legit diagnosis and not hyperbolic phrasing).

              Reply
          2. Lilo

            I am not a neat freak at all but working in a dirty kitchen would drive me nuts (even a non dirty one, food smells and interruptions abound). Get her out of there.

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            1. Juli G.

              Exactly! The employee is working in a dirty kitchen. Of course she’s doing the dishes. Who can concentrate on spreadsheets when Alice’s crusty chicken plate is wafting through the air?

              Reply
        3. Seeking Second Childhood

          At the *VERY LEAST* make sure there’s a cubicle wall dividing the shared office from the sink area.

          Reply
      2. Sylvan

        Demonstrate that they give a crap about the bug/filth problem? Keep whatever area they can be responsible for tidy. Use insect repellent, bait, or traps if possible. Speak up, should they have the chance to.

        Reply
      3. Observer

        This goes WEEELLLL beyond not being able to 100% pest proof. This is about a company not willing to take basic measure and not willing to enforce basic standards of cleanliness on staff.

        Reply
      4. Decima Dewey

        Agreed that 100% pest proof is not achievable. But this workplace has rodent detritus in food prep areas, and more than the occasional bug or mouses.

        I’ve worked in several library branches, some established by Andrew Carnegie at the beginning of the 20th Century, some only a couple of decades old. Each and every branch was regularly visited by people from the firm that had the pest control contract, and staff at each branch were admonished to take steps not to make any pest problems worse.

        Reply
    3. Drop Bear

      I’ll admit to being at the BEC stage with the whole world today but I agree with Dino – the LW might be new but a shoulder shrug and ‘I’m new and don’t know what to do’ about this is a F**k no for me too. ‘I want to be sensitive to their need for a healthy … workspace’! A workplace free from rodent borne diseases is an effing right (look up diseases spread via rodent droppings – these are not ‘shrug off’ diseases), not a luxury.
      The LW might be new but she’s a manager – so she should manage – manage up, manage sideways (hell, manage in a corkscrew) to try to get the other adults in this mouse-ridden building to sweep up their crumbs, to get a pest control program in place, etc. She might fail but she’s paid to try, not to avoid acting from fear of resentment or some sort of ‘well, you think THIS is bad, boy you should check out X building’, mindset.

      Reply
      1. Not So NewReader

        This is the world of management, in my opinion. Sometimes we have to light a fire under the butts of TPTB.
        I had a well recognized safety issue at work, I have to call the issue X. This is something that everyone would say, “NO, X cannot be happening.”
        Everyone, that is except for the people I worked with.
        I mentioned the issue five times. On on particular day, X was usually bad and I lost my cool. “This needs to change, people are going to get sick, some might die and [other reasons].”I cited famous historical examples of the same problem. I was fed up.
        After that things changed and X was no longer an issue.

        OP has some standing that she does not even realize. Lack of rodent control can lead to fire. I mentioned earlier that I am in a rural area and we have critters. I have watched two houses very close by burn to the ground. I am not an expert but I do wonder if rodents eating wiring was a contributing factor to those losses. (Fortunately everyone go out of the houses each time.)

        Reply
          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

            (suddenly feeling very happy that we gave away our pet chinchilla many years ago. He was only cutting landline phone lines, but we only had him for a year and a half and I am sure he would’ve progressed to the wiring over time.)

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      2. kittymommy

        Bingo. I mean, the LW could have a conversation with the office manager or her own boss about the rodent issue (because as much as I live in utter terror from roaches the mice are a bigger problem) and people leaving the kitchen dirty. This gets into a health issue and as someone else mentioned, airbourne illness, that can negatively affect everyone. Maybe it’s my BEC mood, but grown-ass people should be able to clean up after themselves.

        Reply
      3. Tardigrade

        Yes, I’m with you here. I understand that a new manager probably hasn’t accrued the capital she might need, but if a health issue isn’t important enough to burn it on then I don’t know what is.

        Reply
      4. Lizzy May

        I’m very much with you on this. This is the sort of thing worth spending workplace capital on. Go to bat for your employees so they don’t have to work in a space full of dirty dishes and mouse droppings.

        And as an aside, people who get resentful because they’re asked to do their part to clean up after themselves are the actual problem employees.

        Reply
    4. GingerHR

      I’ve worked in a lot of old buildings. For context, 14th century on. Dead bugs is one thing, but vermin in the kitchen? It isn’t something which should happen, and it’s not something which needs to happen. Some of these old buildings had commercial kitchens in them – where clearly mice aren’t acceptable, so they didn’t get in. Building can’t be made proof against bugs and mice, but you can take steps to make sure they aren’t free-roaming, and it really does sound as though the custodial staff need to step up. And definitely move your employee – even puttimg aside the hygiene, the kitchen is hardly conducive to productive work.

      Reply
      1. Cat wrangler

        There are steps that can be taken against pests, even if the OP asks her manager for support in raising the issue to have some kind of pest control regime put in place which would cost money but the benefits of knowing that you can work in a reasonable environment and the health benefits are immeasurable. I work in an industry which vermin finds very attractive – cattle feed production – but a concentrated programme of pest control keeps them out of the office and just as importantly out of the production area (since it’s going to enter the food chain eventually). I think sometimes if people are used to seeing stuff like mice droppings around, it can be difficult to escalate the concerns as it’s become the ‘norm’ to sweep them up/disinfect your desk, like Fred eats microwaved fish on a Friday and no one says anything to him either.

        Reply
      2. Trouble

        We’re not in an old building but we still have rodent traps and repellers all over the place to make sure we don’t get a problem, especially as the weather turns cold in this part of the world. Just accepting that your facility has so many rodents that poop will be found on the kitchen counters is a no no no to me. If they asked me to work in that room that would also be a no no no. Mice have no control of their bladder. Everywhere they go, they pee. If there is poop, there is pee. Everywhere on those surfaces. Maybe on her desk as they’ll run around the room looking for food.

        This is some sort of infectious disease outbreak waiting to happen, never mind new employee and her OCD. And also, you might never win, but it isn’t unreasonable to pick the person on site to whom cleaning duties would most reasonably fall, and request they clean the kitchen after the lunch period and periodically through the day. We have cleaners here who do these tasks, it’s been reception in other places I’ve worked. Or you need an enforced rota of cleaning. But droppings on the counters can’t be something everyone looks the other way from because it’s not their problem!

        Reply
        1. NYWeasel

          EXACTLY. I’ve worked in historic NYC warehouses (ie pest central), and this letter describes a level of infestation that the tough warehouse workers wouldn’t even put up with. It’s not a “shrug, this is how old buildings are” when you have mouse droppings in the kitchen and dead roaches in the hallways. Yeah, everyone knows that you can’t 100% get rid of nasty pests in a lot of NYC buildings, but it also is not something that you should be *seeing* regularly.

          OP, I don’t think it requires a level of OCD to find visible pest residue alarming. Long term exposure can cause breathing issues like asthma and other health concerns. I can appreciate that you may not have leverage to demand higher end pest control, but I would work with the other managers to see what we could do to jointly clean up the facilities rather than writing it off as a lost cause.

          Reply
          1. MusicWithRocksInIt

            Ugh the dead roaches. Just as a sanity check, I am not OCD and I would be visibly upset if I saw dead roaches anywhere, ever. That is not a surprising reaction.
            My work has a mouse problem, I’ve seen them running around before, but we fight it by all having mouse traps under our desks and a ton in the kitchen. But seeing dead roaches would be a next level freakout for me.

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        2. Consuela Schlepkiss

          All of this. I realize not everyone has heard of Hanta virus, but that is nothing to mess with. And even if OP is not in a region where Hanta virus is a concern, some education about the diseases mice carry might provide some good ammo for talking to their superiors about a proactive way to deal with this.

          Reply
      3. Avis

        Yes! I’m really baffled by the OP’s acceptance that old buildings will be infested. That’s just not inevitable! My current office is relatively new, having been built in 1880, but I’ve worked in older and they have not had pests. I understand full well that older buildings cannot be entirely pest-proofed, but that doesn’t mean an active infestation has to be given free rein. You don’t have to accept this as the price of entry, OP.

        Reply
      4. Dr. Pepper

        I’ve worked on farms, where there is literally nothing you can do to exclude rodents and on some level you just have to deal with them. Everyone usually pitched in to keep any areas where food was as clean as possible because while we all knew mice were just always around, we didn’t have to attract them if we were careful. We plugged holes in the walls, swept up any crumbs, kept food in rodent proof containers, lined surfaces with foil, let the farm cats into buildings to patrol, and a pest control company came routinely to set traps and deal with any areas that got particularly bad. It can be done, but it takes a team effort.

        Reply
    5. Akcipitrokulo

      OP2 – while I understand old buildings do have their own difficulties – I’m wondering if everyone who works there hasn’t started seeing the vermin as a “broken stair”?

      I think it’s reasonable to ask if this level is normal (dead cockroaches on stairs is pushing me towards “no”) or if it’s just become what you (plural) deal with on a regular basis, and is therefore *YOUR* normal?

      Reply
      1. EPLawyer

        Broken stair indeed. “Oh it’s an old building, shrug.” If there are rules about where food can be kept and in what containers, dirty dishes are NOT following those Rules. You need to enforce the rules about keeping the place clean. If OP2 doesn’t have the authority, they need to speak to someone who does. And keep pushing it. This IS worth expending capital on because it affects everyone working there.

        You might get a certain number of pests in an old building. But there should be things in place — like regular extermination — to minimize that. It could be worse is not acceptable.

        Reply
      2. LGC

        That was the EXACT vibe I was getting.

        For reference, I work in a converted warehouse. My org’s two major job sites are in converted warehouses, and we used to have an office in a mid century tower. Vermin is a fact of life for us, but ANY sighting is reason to call the exterminators.

        (And heck, I might be unreasonable, but I’ve basically banned people from eating in my office after we discovered roaches.)

        The vibe I’m getting is that this is that this hasn’t been the case in LW2’s career. Which…I’m sorry, LW2, but the places you’ve worked are REALLY BAD in this area, and certainly your current company.

        Reply
    6. What’s with Today, today?

      Agreed. I grew up in a 110 year old historic Victorian with no pests. I’ve also worked in a historic building. No pests. You need to hire a contract with an exterminator quick. This problem can be solved.

      Reply
      1. Queen Anon

        Yeah, this would be a deal-breaker for me. I’d have to leave the job as soon as I knew – which sounds like it’s probably the first day – and I’d be furious that no one disclosed in the interview that they don’t practice pest control and just allow cockroaches and mice to run around. Pest control in old buildings is difficult, not impossible. This demonstrates a lack of caring on the part of management (both company management and building management) that’s appalling. I’m kind of quietly freaking out about this right now! I’m also in full agreement with whoever upthread advised calling OSHA, because this really is a health and safety issue.

        Reply
    7. Joielle

      YUP. This is disgusting. I used to work in Integrated Pest Management consulting, mostly with old school buildings, and can tell you for a fact that although basically every school, hospital, and office building has some degree of pests, once you’re regularly seeing dead cockroaches and mouse poop out in the open you have a full-on infestation and that is NOT NORMAL. There are absolutely things that can and must be done, including cleaning the hell up after yourselves. Come on.

      This is so absolutely, unambiguously unhygienic and unacceptable that I’m truly shocked at both the letter and the response. OP is a manager so no matter how new she is, she has some degree of authority, and “sorry, your desk will always be covered in mouse pee, nothing can be done” is just not an acceptable solution. I think maybe Alison doesn’t realize how big of a health hazard this is.

      Reply
      1. JulieCanCan

        Thank You!

        I get skeeved out by bugs, roaches, mice, rats, (essentially anything furry that is smaller than a rabbit that isn’t a pet, and anything bug-like visible with the human eye)…..I’m the typical annoying screaming woman who freaks out if a spider is crawling on her arm. I can’t help it.

        After reading the letter and the way mouse pooh, dead upside-down, legs in the air (like they just don’t care!) roaches, etc, seem to be an accepted issue by the OP, I now consider myself lucky for never seeing vermin, bugs, etc, at work (and home!). But is OP’s building normal? I would probably re-think my acceptance of a position if I saw anything pest-related described by OP on my first day, or in the first week of employment. I’ve worked in plenty of office buildings, many of them older buildings in the Boston area and other newer buildings in Southern California…….never have I noticed mouse or rat droppings or roaches or ants. I wasn’t really *looking* for things like that, but one single sighting would be enough for me to cause a stink. No question. I’m sure they existed in every structure I worked in, but whoever handled pest control always did their job well, thank goodness.

        Reply
    8. Polymer Phil

      Outsourced janitors seem to do little more than emptying the wastebaskets everywhere I’ve worked. At a few early jobs I’ve had, I nearly sent nastygrams to facilities managers because paper towel dispensers weren’t getting refilled, etc, only to find that the undone task wasn’t part of the outsourced cleaning service’s job.

      Reply
      1. Lizzy May

        It always come down to whatever is in the contract. The more services cleaners are expected to provide, the more costly the service. You often end up with contracts like the one you’re describing where the cleaners do very little because someone wanted to go with the cheapest contract and knew that employees would pick up the slack.

        Reply
    9. M. Albertine

      I’ve worked in this environment: University, one of the oldest buildings on campus, cost-cutting means janitors do the bare minimum (we had to take out our own trash, clean our own windows, check out a vaccum to hoover our office space, etc.) and the only time vermin was visible was when someone didn’t do their share to keep our space clean.

      It’s everyone’s standing to not have to use a vermin-infested kitchen, let alone DR’s office space. As a new person, it might even be a good opportunity to call an informal office/work space meeting: “Hey, you probably didn’t know this was a problem, but this is what we’re dealing with and I’d like to brainstorm ways of better keeping the space clean.”

      Reply
    10. EddieSherbert

      Yeah, honestly this was my reaction too. I feel pretty horrified on her employee’s behalf. Mouse turds around my office + manager and no one else caring about that would be enough for me to be job-hunting.

      OP, you definitely need to push to at least get your employee’s desk moved somewhere else. If possible, I’d
      suggest pushing for cleaning the kitchen area to get added to *someone’s* job (ideally custodial staff if possible).

      Reply
    11. gk

      Not going to take Dino’s tone but I do agree with the fact that there’s a problem in OPs building with pests and hygiene. The place I work has bugs all over it and the odd mouse dropping appearing and it makes me feel sick – plus there’s a chance it could make me actually sick. Just because it’s like that it doesn’t mean it has to be accepted as the norm – it’s not normal.

      Employers need to invest in giving old (and new) buildings a deep clean once a year. Especially if you have lots of clients coming in and out.

      We have a janitor who does all the day-to-day stuff like trash cans and toilets and he’s great but we’d need a huge team to go through the place and sanitize it and scrape dead bug carcasses of walls and light fixtures (yep you read that right). It’s mortifying when we have new clients visit. These bugs have been here for at least 3 years at my place… just hanging there… dead.

      Reply
    12. L

      This might be a few days late, but OSHA* requires employers to deal with vermin. Also, this is gross.

      1910.141(a)(5)
      Vermin control. Every enclosed workplace shall be so constructed, equipped, and maintained, so far as reasonably practicable, as to prevent the entrance or harborage of rodents, insects, and other vermin. A continuing and effective extermination program shall be instituted where their presence is detected.

      *whether you’re in an OSHA state or non-OSHA state depends on enforcement of this clause. though i would be willing to bet your state DOL likely has regulations if in a non-osha state

      Reply
  2. Greg NY

    #3: PLEASE don’t have the mentality of thinking you would look like a slacker if you don’t subscribe to certain norms. This kind of thinking is part of what feeds the workaholic mentality in the US (assuming that’s where you are). A slacker is someone who doesn’t put their all into their work, the number of hours you’re there doesn’t factor into the equation unless your job output is commensurate with the number of hours you put in vs. the quality of the end product.

    It will indeed vary by employer. At the last two of the three organizations I’ve worked in (which are both very functional workplaces), you are there to get your tasks done. Naturally, some of them involve collaboration with others, some of them involve phone calls or email, and some just involve sitting at your desk. Some of these tasks can even be done at home. There’s no reason you should have to be there during any particular time unless the organization’s culture has certain “core” hours when everyone is expected to be there, or the people you need to work with are only there during certain times. As long as you are clear about when you’ll be around and when you won’t, flexibility should be OK in most organizations. Of course, check with your colleagues and your manager to see how it works in your organization.

    As a general rule, it may take you 50 hours to complete your tasks in certain workweeks, but only 30 hours in others. Unless you are in an organization with very rigid schedules, you should be able to come in late or leave early as long as your work is getting done and your lack of presence isn’t disrupting others’ work. That’s the great benefit in being salaried as opposed to hourly.

    Reply
    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I don’t want to encourage the OP to have incorrect expectations. While there are indeed many organizations that work the way you’re describing, there are also many that do not and where employees are expected to work fairly rigid hours. That’s still very much a thing for many people, and it’s (unfortunately) not accurate to say that flexibility will be okay in “most” organizations.

      Reply
      1. JamieS

        I don’t think Greg’s post is encouraging incorrect expectations though. He’s basically saying to check with management about in-office hour expectations but that in general it’s acceptable to manage your own time so long as you abide by the expectations set by the employer/manager, get your work done, and don’t impede others’ ability to do their work. That sounds pretty reasonable to me and basically what you’ve said in the past.

        Reply
        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          It’s this that I’m disagreeing with: “As long as you are clear about when you’ll be around and when you won’t, flexibility should be OK in most organizations.”

          Reply
          1. JamieS

            Yeah that one sentence as a standalone may set unrealistic expectations. However it’s not really fair to judge a post on a sentence by sentence basis as opposed to looking at the entirety of the message. Especially since the very next sentence said OP should check with their manager first and there were a few caveats throughout that not every office works this way and thst OP should be clear on what’s expected at their office specifically.

            Reply
              1. JamieS

                That’s not what Greg said though. His entire post can be summed up with: as long as the org doesn’t have rigid hours, you abide by any expected core hours, and you’re in office when needed most places are going to be fine with you managing your time but be sure to double check with your manager first. What part of that is bad info?

                Reply
                1. Yorick

                  Well, you can’t expect that you’ll be able to set your own schedule and come and go as you want to in most offices. I find that most people have much more rigid hours than I do, even in my agency.

                2. Colette

                  “the number of hours you’re there doesn’t factor into the equation unless your job output is commensurate with the number of hours you put in vs. the quality of the end product”

                  I’ve never worked anywhere where the job is so narrowly defined that you can regularly work less than a full (37.5 hour) week. When your main project is done, you get to the stuff that has been pushed aside, or clean out that file cabinet that hasn’t been touched since 1992, or help out a colleague who is swamped, or take a training course you haven’t had time for. Sure, there might be the occasional day where you leave early, but it’s not a regular thing in a lot of jobs.

                3. MK

                  What Colette said. Granted, my time as an employee was spent in law practices, which might not be typical, but I don’t imagine there are a lot of workplaces where you regularly end up with absolutely no work that can be done halfway through the work day.

                  Also, your summary isn’t how I (and apparently a lot of other commenters) read the original post.

                4. JulieCanCan

                  OP should definitely *not* use Greg’s advice; seeing as OP is a new, young and inexperienced employee, the fact that he’s asking about this type of thing gives me pause. I can tell you that if I had a new employee ask me about when the earliest they could leave would be, or if they could take a 90 minute lunch, or flex hours, or really any kind of question related to how they could lower their hours spent in the office, I’d be concerned. I’m assuming OP isn’t a trader on Wall Street, an attorney, or in the Entertainment Industry- because 50,60,70 and 80 hour weeks can be the norm in those and other professions and you have to pay your dues for a while before even considering things like flex time. And I don’t wish for everyone to have to work crazy hours and for WFH perks to be a pipe dream, but OP should probably go into his job ready and willing to work as many hours as it takes for him to kick ass and prove he’s a stellar employee that his boss will be thrilled to have on his team. Especially being new, it can take more than the standard 40-45 hours per week to really get a strong grasp on your position and all the job entails. I can promise you that going into a job with the notions and questions mentioned in OP’s letter aren’t going to impress. Again it totally depends on the industry OP goes into, but the thought of “90-minute lunches and taking off early if their work has been completed and doing errands during the day” certainly isn’t the norm for most new people in most offices- and if these are typical of an office’s culture, it’s usually the higher level executives who enjoy these types of perks, not the assistants or junior level staff.

                  Look, I’m not saying offices described in OP’s letter don’t exist (although I’ve never worked in one so lax, I’ve enjoyed things like flex time and company owners with the attitude of “as long as you get your work done, we’ll treat you as the adult you are – we aren’t watching your comings and goings” BUT for years and years I busted my ass and worked crazy hours and barely left my desk/department to use the restroom all day, just to prove myself. And yes, unfortunately that’s what the work culture in the US entails.

                  Maybe I’m bitter because there *are* jobs for young, new employees who are just starting out in the working world in companies that are super flexible with high salaries and low-stress and great benefits and amazing perks……I want everyone to suffer the same way I suffered in my 20’s. Just kidding, sort of. But I am serious about young people going into their first professional job willing to go above and beyond, because that’s what you do. Right? I don’t think we should be encouraging young folks to immediately start trying to cut down on in-office hours and to start extending their lunch hours by 20 minutes on each end. I’m pretty sure bringing up these issues upon being hired will be a turn off to any hiring manager/HR/Onboarding staff. I would definitely internally roll my eyes if a new, 25-year old assistant began asking about this stuff. That may sound bad, but I would definitely be annoyed. What happened to paying your dues? Proving yourself to be a dedicated, hardworking member of the team?

                  Sorry. My age and bitterness is showing.

                5. JulieCanCan

                  *age and bitterness ARE showing.

                  I wish we had “edit” buttons! And “like” buttons, now that I’m on the subject. : )

            1. Jasnah

              I think Greg added in many caveats and hedgings but the overall message as I read it was “it’s usually fine.” I read Alison as pushing back on “usually.” My non-US experience suggests “it might be OK” but I am curious how frequent TRUE flexibility is, and how much that varies based on your seniority/tenure with the company, track record, personal circumstances, the personalities and preferences of those involved, etc.

              Reply
            2. MK

              Judging the post as a whole, the message comes across to me as, it’s usually fine, but check to be sure. And it’s not accurate.

              Reply
              1. JamieS

                Alison has said multiple times, with some caveats added,that it’s generally expected a professional will be able to manage their own time. Now Greg says basically the same thing and it’s suddenly completely off base and bad info? No, that’s ridiculous.

                Reply
                1. Yorick

                  To me “manage your own time” means that your boss won’t give you an exact list of to-do items for each hour of the day. It doesn’t mean you can come in at 10am on Wednesday if you feel like it.

                2. lost academic

                  I think “managing own time” and “managing own schedule” aren’t inherently synonymous, though. We’d all like them to be, but there are other needs and pressures in various organizations that mean otherwise.

                3. Ask a Manager Post author

                  Nope, I haven’t said that! Manage your own time in terms of managing your own workload, yes, but not in terms of setting your own hours. I don’t want to keep debating this so I’m going to leave it here, but I absolutely haven’t said what you’re saying.

                4. MK

                  Greg did not basically say the same thing, no matter how much you insist that your read on the comment.

                  Also, it’s funny that you complained upthread about people taking things out of context: when Alison talked of professionals managing their own time, it was always in the context of “don’t ask your employee to take half a day of PTO for leaving an hour early for a doctor’s appointment” or “it’s not a big deal if people in non-time-sensitive roles are fives minutes lat in the morning”, never “you get to make your own schedule unless specifically told otherwise”.

                5. JamieS

                  Yes he absolutely did say the same thing. What others replied is picking and choosing parts that agree with their interpretation and completely ignoring the parts that specifically mention when managing your own time isn’t the norm.

            3. JSPA

              Problem is, if you go into that conversation with the wrong expectations and tone you can really give a bad impression. Alison already said to ask about norms, without any presumption–which is good advice. Asking “with the presumption” is worse advice.

              Reply
    2. Les G

      This is, uh…not a general rule. Plenty–possibly even most–salaried positions are some variation on 9-5 and you’re expected to stay in the office between those hours. If you’re exempt they have to pay you even if you went home at three, of course, but it’s really not the case that you can work however many hours you want. Don’t make this some sort of bad faith workers’ rights argument when it’s not, my dude.

      Reply
      1. Artemesia

        And nowhere have I ever seen the idea that if you have an hour for lunch you can add the time you need to travel to a lunch spot on top of that. The most important thing as a new employee is always to watch and see what the norms are, how they apply to different levels of employees, who holds the informal power in the organization and who is likely to be on their way out — before experimenting with workplace ‘flexibility.’

        Reply
        1. doreen

          I haven’t exactly seen the “travel time is added to lunch” either- but I have had a couple of jobs where people would go out to run errands and/or pick up food to bring back to the office . They started counting their their hour or half hour lunch break from when they returned rather than when they left. It was acceptable- but I think a good part of the reason it was acceptable was because the people who did that 1) ate at their desks and 2) didn’t refuse to do any work while they were eating. They weren’t necessarily writing reports etc, but they answered questions from coworkers and didn’t let the phone just ring endlessly.

          Reply
        2. LW 3

          I think what I’ve struggled with is an apparent lack of consistency in norms within an organization, but this is likely due to my lack of time spent in these types of environments and my difficulty with picking up on a lot of these subtle unspoken rules and hierarchies within offices.

          Reply
      2. sheworkshardforthemoney

        I worked at a salaried job and the expectation was made clear in my interview that the work hours were a hard 9-5. I could leave or arrive earlier on occasion but the expectation was that everyone was to be in the office by 9. Even the big boss.

        Reply
        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          Same. Of all my salaried jobs, my current job is the only one where I have the flexibility to literally show up whenever I want to. In all my other salaried jobs, I always had standard business hours that I was expected to keep, and if I came in early/late on rare occasion, I was expected to let folks know.

          Reply
          1. Lawgurl06

            Same. I’m in the Midwest and flexibility hasn’t really taken over here like it has in some areas of the country. I do have some flexibility in my schedule if I need it, but I am typically required to keep a set schedule unless I ask for an adjustment to the schedule. This is true for everyone in my work place as well. It is also true of the last 4 positions I have held previous to this one. In fact, those were very very rigid on schedules even though I was an exempt employee.

            Reply
            1. Salamander

              This has also been true for me in all the positions I’ve had. If I needed to take off an hour early to meet a repairman at home, for example, I’d check in with the boss to make sure it was okay and then offer to come in an hour early that day to make it up.

              Reply
        2. Antilles

          Same. This is my experience too:
          “I could leave or arrive earlier **on occasion** but the expectation was that everyone was to be in the office by 9. ”
          I added the emphasis to “on occasion” because that’s really the key: There’s flexibility, but it’s not every day. You’re allowed to show up late due to run to the DMV, you’re allowed to take a longer lunch to run errands, you’re allowed to leave early to get to a doctor’s appointment, you’re allowed to leave early on the day before a holiday to dodge traffic. And we’re not going to sit here with a stopwatch and punch clock on any of those occasions…but it’s still all discrete occasions for specific purposes. Every other day (the overwhelming majority), you should be here the normal eight hours a day, during our standard operating hours of 9 to 5, taking no longer than our typical 60-minute lunch.

          Reply
        3. Turquoisecow

          I worked salary and flexibility for me meant that if I needed to come in late or leave early on occasion, I didn’t have to make up the time, whereas hourly people usually did. I’ve also worked at places where some people worked 8:30-4 and others worked 9-5:30, and that was fine, but there was still an expectation that you’d be at work for those hours every day. If I’d needed to run an errand over lunch (which I never did but some people did), that also was okay on occasion.

          However, people didn’t leave early constantly and still get paid for it. I think it’s possible the the OP might be in an office where different people have different schedules, or different responsibilities, or different arrangements. Perhaps some coworkers leave early or take long lunches but put in early hours or late evenings at home that OP doesn’t see.

          Reply
          1. Arjay

            Yes, and it’s easy to see 50 people coming and going at different hours every day without necessarily realizing that each individual is only doing this once or twice a month. If I have a slow week, I may take a longer lunch one day or skate out a little early on Friday, but I’m still spending, say, 38 hours working. To put in a 30 hour week, I’d definitely need to take PTO.

            Reply
          2. LW 3

            Currently I’m a TA and spend a lot of time in the department of the professor I work for. This is where I’ve noticed people often leaving mid-afternoon or mentioning that they have a meeting and then they’re going to leave to go to the gym, or whatever. It seems shockingly laid back and I would love to work in an environment like this—not because I want to get paid for never being at work, but because the lack of pressure works wonders on my anxiety and my productivity.

            Reply
      3. always in email jail

        Definitely not the general rule. I’ve been salaried-exempt my entire career, and the majority of my job have had very strict office hours that require using PTO if you are going to vary from those hours by more than 15 minutes (horray, government!).
        I will say, I had a job that gave us “travel time” for lunch sort of unofficially. We technically had a half hour lunch (we operated 8:00-4:30) but were given an hour to “account for traffic in the area”. It was in a major metropolitan area so traffic was intense. It was a way for them to unofficially give everyone a perk, and it was appreciated. However, it was made clear during the onboarding process.

        As you advance in your career, you’re sometimes given more flexibility even in strict agencies, because they know that they’re getting 40+ hours out of you. I may have sometimes taken 1.5 hours for lunch, but likely after not even taking a lunch for a couple of weeks, for example. Again, since I was salaried/exempt, it was OK.

        I’m in a position now that has a lot more flexibility (I can come in at 6:30 and leave at 3 one day, or come in at 9 and leave at 6 another), but the expectations are also higher. Usually, organizations that allow that level of flexibility expect the same flexibility in return.

        Reply
      4. schnauzerfan

        We are a public service enterprise. We require a bare minimum of two people in the building at slow times. 3-4 at busier times. We have 10 staff. 3 of us are salaried and 7 are hourly. The hourly people have a firm schedule they are scheduled for 40 hours a week and must take a 30 minute + lunch. They have some flexibility, say they are delayed getting to the office by a few minutes, the can make that time up by taking a shorter lunch or leaving late. They may NOT save up time and leave early on Friday (a day when we are always short) but may take a long lunch if they are delayed getting out in the evening for example. We are pretty rigid in expecting 40 hours a week. If someone needs 1/2 hour for an appt. a bit of flex can happen… bearing in mind we need to meet our minimum staffing levels. Those of us who are salaried are expected to “average” 40 hours a week, and we do but much more erratically. We tend to provide back up coverage for the hourly people, so have to be aware of the days schedule, say there is a training event that ties up 5 or the hourly people. We need to stick close to be back up for those left behind, but assuming a full hourly staff, we might well be out of the building most of the day, perhaps teaching a class, networking, or, yeah taking a long lunch. None of us are punching a clock, but it’s not weird to spend a couple hours wfh or at a weekend event. We are not allowed to take leave in smaller than 8 hour chunks, so if I need to see the dentist, I just go, after assuring that we have coverage. We try not to abuse the flexibility in ways that will annoy those who need to stick to a schedule, and we are the first to get called in if someone needs emergency evening or weekend coverage.

        Reply
        1. LW 3

          It is so cool hearing from people in all different types of environments (most of them apparently much more rigid than what I have seen—but I do live in a famously laid back city)! I figured this would vary a lot from organization to organization and it’s not something that can have a super clear cut answer, but it’s really helpful to read about so many different experiences. Thank you!

          Reply
    3. Jasnah

      Something that I have struggled with as a young adult in the office work world is the idea that I can’t leave when I’m done.

      As a student, or volunteer, or part-time worker, I understood that my job depended on the time I was there, not the effort I put in or results I got: Watch the kids until the parents come back. Study until bedtime. Tutor student for 60 minutes. Then as an office worker, I learned that my job depended on the work I got done, not just what time it was. Sometimes I have to stay late to finish something urgent. So naturally, it follows that I should be able to leave early if I finish early right, because work matters not time? Unfortunately, no. Not just because office hours are 9-5, but because I need to be available in case there is more work or if someone needs help. This is the nature of many collaborative jobs.

      I still struggle with this, because it feels like it should be as Greg says–if work matters not time, then I can work faster and go home–but actually that’s not the case, and I have to recalibrate my expectations. I’d appreciate any other ways of looking at this, because this can really affect one’s motivation to work!

      Reply
      1. I Herd the Cats

        I think this is a really important topic, and something I see younger/newer workers struggling with. If you come into a workplace with more apparent flexibility, and you’ve only worked in environments with set hours, how to navigate? Honestly, I always appreciate it when the interns/associates just ask me. There are aspects that vary, and expectations can be different among different supervisors at the same workplace.

        Re your last point — “if work matters…. then I can work faster and go home–” — a helpful way to reframe that thought is to assume the work isn’t done. For most of us, there are always things to do. For me, for example, there’s low-level paperwork that gets put off forever until I have some merciful downtime. Your job is most likely not a set of boxes to check so you can go home; it’s an ongoing series of projects. I’m not sure if I’m articulating that very well, but it can help you figure out how to manage your time at work.

        Reply
        1. Colette

          That’s a good point. Many jobs have busy periods and less-busy periods – but less busy doesn’t mean you go home, it means you get the less-important stuff that’s been piling up done. Occasionally you might leave early, but it’s not a regular thing (and more likely driven by your personal life than the job itself).

          Reply
        2. Anon For Always

          “For most of us, there are always things to do.”

          I don’t ever have a day when there is nothing for me to do. I have some days where it doesn’t make a huge amount of sense for me to start on an outstanding project at 4:30p.m., because I know to even get started I need to dedicate a few hours. But, aside from that there is never anytime where I don’t have anything to do. I have things I don’t want to do, but, there is never nothing to do.

          Reply
          1. Amber T

            This exactly. I struggle a lot with starting projects towards the end of the day and usually end up twittling my thumbs anywhere from 10-45 minutes towards the end of the day. Sometimes it’s because I don’t have any “short” projects that’ll take me a little bit of time, and stopping them then starting them again the next morning will be more trouble than it’s worth. And honestly, sometimes it’s because I know something will take me 20 minutes tomorrow when I’m fresh, but I’m fried at the end of the day, so it’ll take way, way longer.

            Reply
        3. LW 3

          Yes! This kind of thinking has definitely helped me accept that I can’t just leave when I’ve run out of things to do. In my last job, it also got me to spearhead some downtime projects that ended up being really helpful to my team.

          Reply
      2. TootsNYC

        Sometimes I have to stay late to finish something urgent. So naturally, it follows that I should be able to leave early if I finish early right, because work matters not time? Unfortunately, no. Not just because office hours are 9-5, but because I need to be available in case there is more work or if someone needs help.

        These are points well made.

        And also–at my workplace, there’s a lot of flexibility in terms of coming in a little late. But then *I* am expected to be flexible by staying late when it’s needed.

        I can leave early SOMETIMES, if I can be sure no one will urgently need me.

        Reply
      3. Autumnheart

        I guess I can’t see why it’s a struggle. You can’t leave school when you’re done either, you have to stay in class or on school grounds until you’re dismissed. The same applies to work.

        Work isn’t just about the work you’re actively doing, it’s about being available to your colleagues to help them execute their work. It’s pretty annoying if one’s role is very independent and they basically sit there twiddling their thumbs, but it would get pretty inconsistent in the other direction, and negatively impact office morale, if one person were told, “You can leave whenever you’re done,” and another were told, “But you have to stay until we say you can leave, because you’re in a more critical role”. Different rules for different roles works if the bulk of the team is subject to the same rule.

        Even in my most flexible workplace, we were expected to maintain core hours where we were actively available and responsive. It was still nice because you could work from home, and I could throw in a load of laundry or whatever while my laptop was open, but it wasn’t like, “Go to the beach in the middle of the day and do your work when you feel like”. And in the end, the flexible policy ultimately ended because some people DID interpret the rule that way, and it was negatively impacting company productivity. Obviously, that’s a management problem (people who abuse the flexible policy should be addressed individually), but instead they changed the rule and applied it to everyone in the same way. (Accommodations were made on an individual level where needed.)

        Reply
      4. Jewel

        I’m a bit surprised that you saying studying is time dependent. I always thought of it as learn this particular thing, not spend X hours studying. If I’m quick to learn something then I’m not spending any more time on it than is necessary.

        Staying late when you need to finish something urgent should mean that you either get paid more for spending more time working, or that you get more free time in the future. This is the way it is in Germany for example, it’s the law. Unfortunately, if you’re in the US and you’re considered exempt, you have no actual rights. The power discrepancy between you and the employer means that they get to have more of you when it’s convenient for them and that they also have you around when they might need you, even if it’s not optimal for you.

        If you’re hourly, it’s not much better. Unless your boss is OK with you logging full time hours after leaving early, then you need to stay at the office when you’re not busy just so that you don’t a pay cut. You do get overtime if you work extra, true, so at least hourly workers are not 100% screwed.

        Personally, I think that a monthly or a weekly salary for full time jobs makes more sense. I think no one should be exempt from overtime pay (with very, very limited exceptions) or at least the ability to accumulate extra hours of paid leave every time they work overtime. On the other hand, while people should always be compensated for working extra, they should be allowed to go home when they’re done – so in a way 40 hours a week is the maximum amount of hours you’re expected to work on your current salary, if your employer assigns you tasks that need more than 40 hours a week to complete, they need to compensate the worker. This way the worker is protected.

        Reply
      5. JulieCanCan

        I never understand the “leave when my work is done” concept because I’ve never worked in a position where the amount of work to be done was a 7-8 hour daily thing. I mean, I’m making sure to do everything that absolutely needs to be done every day (everything that legally MUST be done daily or else we’re screwed), but I could keep working for the next 500 hours straight and still not finish half of the work that needs to be done. There are 20 – 30 hours worth of filing staring at me from across the room, 4 stacks of files about 2 feet tall each of data entry to do, employee and client files to filter and scan that will take weeks, reports galore to review then divvy up….all that “extra” stuff that I’ll get to when I “have nothing else to do” -the things I carry over day to day on my “To Do” List and have been writing over and over on each day for weeks/months. I’m totally fine with that – I like being busy and always having something to do – but I’m resigned to
        the fact that I’ll never truly be done with all my work.

        So when people say “I’m done with my work, is it cool if I leave?” does that mean they truly don’t have anything else to do until tomorrow when they get in? Or are they saving certain things for tomorrow so tomorrow isn’t painfully slow and without work to do?

        Reply
    4. FaintlyMacabre

      It can depend within an organization- I am, let’s say, a llama groomer. One of the llama herders tried to get me in trouble with our boss, because I wasn’t coming in “on time”. But while llama herding is very much a butt in the chair, 8 hour shift situation, the grooming is sporadic and my flexible hours reflect that I often have to work weekends and be available for grooming emergencies. (It’s a terrible, terrible thing when a llama is unhappy with its new ‘do and is spitting everywhere). Don’t assume that if some people have flexible hours, it means that everyone has that same flexibility.

      Reply
      1. Danni

        Ours is ‘be in 10-4’ and ‘do your hours’ – it’s very common/encouraged for people to take longish (1.5 hr +) lunches to exercise. (I often might do 9-6 with a long lunch). But it does vary so much so really your best option is just to check company norms with your manager.

        Reply
        1. Falling Diphthong

          It’s also worth remembering that you usually don’t know how much work people with flexible hours are putting in out of sight. It could be six hours of coding or design work. Or “checking email” could be a three hour endeavor of whacking moles.

          Reply
          1. LQ

            I think this is such an important point. There may be a lot of work you aren’t seeing. I had a chunk of time where some people who sat near me got crabby that I apparently wasn’t working until 4:30 every day. Except I was. I was nearly every day in meetings for the last hour and a half or more of the day, so I wouldn’t get back to my office (where they’d passive aggressively shut off my light) at 5 or so and spend another 2 hours working. When they tried to tattle to my boss, well their director and my director/boss overheard they got an earful. But assuming just because someone appears to be leaving early that they are? Eh, rarely a good metric of how much someone is actually putting in.

            Reply
          2. always in email jail

            Or they’re picking up their kids, putting them to bed, and logging back in for a couple more hours of work.

            Reply
          3. Amber T

            That’s just it – our flexibility comes with the fact that we’re almost always on M-F, 7am-9pm generally, sometimes weekends. I’m typically in the office 9-6. I can step out for an hour, hour and a half without anyone batting an eye. I can leave early at 330, 4 if I want occasionally, or come in late because reasons. But I’m also almost always attached to my phone (unless vacation). It’s give and take.

            Reply
      2. Xarcady

        “Don’t assume that if some people have flexible hours, it means that everyone has that same flexibility.”

        This is a very good point. My company is amazingly flexible, in my opinion, allowing for flexible work schedules and work from home. But there are two departments that must be staffed for specific hours every day and one department with a controlling manager who frowns on anything more flexible that choosing to work 8 to 5 or 8:30 to 5:30. This manager is not well liked. Most people cut their lunch break to half an hour, so as to leave half an hour earlier, but she won’t allow that. And there is no apparent reason for this rigidity.

        So even in a company that allows great flexibility, there may be some departments or managers that require strict adherence to a particular schedule.

        Reply
        1. LW 3

          Yup, just came from one of those where I was working on the inflexible team. It was very frustrating/confusing for me, which is part of why I wrote in!

          Reply
    5. Murphy

      Salaried also doesn’t mean you don’t have to put in 40 hours every week. I’m salaried nonexempt and I have to have my butt in that seat for 40 hours a week whether I have 40 hours of work to do or not (usually not).

      Reply
      1. LibraryMan

        And those at the top of the chain may not have the power to change everything to their liking; I’m a Director at a public library, and I started in August. I have found that I cannot change my hours appreciably without upsetting the expectations of my staff, and they will lose their respect for me – which is one of my major tools to get things done.

        Essentially, you should realize that cultural norms of a workplace may persist long after the people that set them are gone, and that pushing back at them will involve some penalties. Only you can decide if the penalties are worth the fight for you.

        Reply
    6. Colette

      If the norm at the employer is different than what you’re describing, the OP will in fact look like a slacker – not just to her manager, but to her colleagues. I’ve worked in multiple organizations (some small, some whose products you’ve used), and that sort of flexibility on a regular basis would not have been OK.

      Reply
    7. Anon For Always

      I don’t even think it’s organization’s with very rigid schedules.

      I am salaried and I have flexibility. But, I couldn’t take more than an hour for lunch on a regular basis or leave regularly at 3p.m., regardless of my work load. Occasionally, taking more than hour for lunch or occasionally leaving early (or coming in late) isn’t an issue.

      I also think your tenure matters. Most places I’ve worked, a new employee taking long lunches and ducking out early would be frowned upon.

      Reply
    8. SignalLost

      True. The week I did over 100 hours made up for the weeks I effectively had 20 hours of work. It’s pretty normal in functional offices. (That said, if you run into an office that routinely expects 60 hours a week, run. Claim not valid for certain positions such as law or finance.)

      Reply
    9. Greg NY

      I will definitely say that the experiences of those who replied is different than mine in the last two organizations I worked in. (The first one had no room whatsoever for flexibility due to the workflow itself, everyone from the receptionist to the president worked rigid hours, that was one reason of several I left.)

      Let me ask a few of you then, what do you consider to be the perks of being exempt? If you put in longer workweeks for no extra pay, what do you get in return if you have little to no flexibility in your own schedule?

      Reply
      1. Jewel

        Being exempt is not a perk, it’s a legal way for employers to exploit workers if they can get away with it. I have friends who are engineers working for a factory. Sometimes they have to work nights and really, really long hours because the factory is doing some kind of maintenance for example. What happens is that all the engineers who bear all the responsibility and who are there to solve complex problems end up getting paid less (and I mean way less, sometimes 2 or 3 times less annually) than all the blue collar workers, both skilled and unskilled, who do do important work, but nowhere near comparable to what the engineers are responsible for. And they all work the same hours because the factory needs to keep going. The only reason the company is paying the blue collared workers overtime is because they have to. They can get away with not paying any overtime for certain positions and they don’t.

        Some engineering jobs are non exempt and they pay engineers accordingly for their time. But they don’t have to, so most don’t.

        Reply
      2. Phoenix Programmer

        When you work somewhere with little flexibility the only perk is guaranteed salary. A lot of places with rigid schedules and salaried employees tend to low work load the hourlies on slow days. Guaranteed income is nice.

        Reply
      3. LW 3

        I have another question for you all as well—how would you ask about this kind of stuff in an interview without sounding like you’re looking to do as little work as possible? (And, how would you ask about it in a way that gets you an honest answer about an organization’s culture? I have a feeling many interviewers might overstate how flexible a given environment is.)

        Reply
        1. JulieCanCan

          I’ve never asked my interviewer about hours or any of this stuff during an interview, and when I’ve interviewed potential candidates at my organization and they’ve brought this kind of thing up, it alerted me to the fact that the person might be a clock watcher.

          You can ask about flex time and maybe what the standard work hours are, but in my opinion if you’re concerned about that during an interview it’s not a great look. The person interviewing you wants you to want the job because of a passion or interest or whatever – but (in my opinion) asking about perks or your eventual ability to come and go as you please will not send a great message.

          I might be alone in this – maybe it’s ok to ask about the office’s general flexibility regarding hours and other issues you’ve mentioned and I’m just being a stickler. That being said, if there’s a way you can figure that out on your own, maybe through Glassdoor or something, you should.

          Reply
        2. SWOinRecovery

          I’m with you on this problem! The most success I’ve had is with the following tactic: during the in person interview, I’ve been able to meet 1-2 people that would be peers. Those meetings are short, but I make sure to ask for their contact info. Then if I get the offer, I shoot them an e-mail asking for a phone call or coffee meetup where I ask those sorts of questions. If your interview doesn’t include any peer introductions, I would feel comfortable asking to walk by the work area and say hi to the team.

          Reply
    10. designbot

      I think one big divide on this is whether you do billable work or not. If your work is billable to clients, your organization almost certainly has expectations around how much each employee bills each week. They may not monitor it strictly, like at my job I don’t review each employee’s timesheet every week. Instead I review billings at the end of the month, and then if something catches my attention I might look into it further by requesting certain timesheets from HR. So there’s a base level of flexibility built in as long as things are running okay overall, but the second things aren’t running okay overall then it’s fully within our purview to hold employees to certain standards.

      Reply
  3. phira

    #2: I used to work in a very old academic building that had a no-food policy in classrooms because of pests. Specifically, it was an old building that had biological labs but wasn’t originally designed for that, so it was easy to get pests inside and very difficult to get rid of them without damaging specimens and experiments. Students of course routinely ignored this policy.

    I never once saw mouse droppings or dead roaches. The custodial staff absolutely was responsible for cleaning the staff kitchen.

    Honestly, this level of infestation sounds like an OSHA violation to me, and at the very least seems to be indicative of organizations not actually putting in the requisite time and money into proper facility maintenance. I get that you say you’ve worked in these kinds of historic buildings for a long time, and that this is normal … but I’d urge you to consider that it’s not really all that normal or unavoidable or inevitable.

    I’m with your employee. I’d be shocked if she weren’t job searching, or stressing unbelievably about jumping ship after too short a period of time with your organization.

    Reply
    1. epi

      I agree. I’ve worked in old buildings, I get that you can’t guarantee no pest will ever get in. But there really shouldn’t be a tolerance for ongoing infestations, especially near food. If cleaning responsibilities are a factor here, and it sounds like they are, then they need to be changed. There can’t be food prep areas no one is responsible for, in an old building with a pest problem.

      Reply
      1. Artemesia

        This. No excuse for having mice. You see a mouse and you do whatever is needed to get rid of the mouse population. I had to fight off the mice who wanted to live in my Prius in my garage every year especially in the fall, but sometimes in the spring too. After they moved into my AC when it was new and cost me $500 to get them out, I took steps to make sure mice didn’t last long when they moved into the garage. Not that hard to do if you want to get it done. It is harder to get rid of bugs, but they can be kept at a minimum with proper pest control and mice can absolutley be dealt with.

        Reply
        1. sheworkshardforthemoney

          I mentioned earlier that I work in historic part of town. The city needed to upgrade water pipes that were over a hundred years old. Because of the costs and disruptions it was done several blocks at a time over 4 years and it’s still ongoing. The rats have spent their time moving along with the construction and finding new homes wherever they can. If my workplace hadn’t actively dealt with them, I wouldn’t be coming into work.

          Reply
        2. Wow some people

          That’s not true depending on what part of town mice and rats may not be something you can get rid of. I worked in a older building on the riverfront and while maintenance worked tirelessly to keep mice and rats out it was impossible with people keeping food at their desks, being in their ideal habitat on the river. But we had a great maintenance who kept the mice and rat poop up and turned the lights on, everywhere Manually on all 30 floors so that we didn’t see the roach run when the lights came on.

          Reply
          1. doreen

            I had a similar situation- the building was practically on the river and there was a garbage dump a block away. Staff persisted in keeping food in their desks and propping doors open. OSHA and every other government agency you can think of were called – and they all agreed it was impossible to completely get rid of the pests under these conditions. We could and did have the cleaning people clean up after them – but there was no way to eliminate them all together as they would run in from street.

            Reply
            1. Artemesia

              You kill them. Every mouse that comes in can be trapped and killed. Obviously that doesn’t keep new ones from coming in, but once in, you kill them. I used to go through a dozen traps in the fall in my tiny garage where the traps ringed my Prius which is carefully designed to be a mouse house. The BMW that sat in the same garage never had a problem. Not saying it isn’t going to be a problem, but aggressive trapping will keep the mouse poop in the kitchen down.

              Reply
              1. Lexi Kate

                Wow, seriously you are talking about a garage or a house and we are talking about an office structure that is massively different starting at the size of the building and how its occupied, and ending with how vastly different it is to trap a mouse in an office building.

                Reply
              2. Anon Anon Anon

                You need to seal the exterior of the building so they can’t get in. It is possible. Then you kill or trap and release the ones that are stuck inside. And consider using a deterrent such as a cat. This is one of the main reasons domestic cats came into existence after all.

                Reply
                1. Seeking Second Childhood

                  @Artemesia & @Anon Anon Anon
                  Doreen said that office couldn’t keep rodents out *UNDER THOSE CONDITIONS* — the employees kept propping doors open.
                  If I were their manager, I’d be looking seriously at PIPs at that point. As well as screen doors.

          2. sheworkshardforthemoney

            We did manage to get rid of them or at least keep them out. It meant caulking and sealing every corner and crevice in an old basement and keeping the traps around. It’s a continuous battle but the days of finding droppings everywhere and having a rat scuttle by your feet are are gone.

            Reply
      2. Jasnah

        If you know the building is old and historically significant, wouldn’t you work /harder/ to deal with pests that might damage precious materials, not write it off as “well I’ve seen worse”?

        Reply
        1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone

          I think what is getting lost here is that the OP likely doesn’t have the authority to do anything here.

          I can’t just call up a pest control company and have them come to my office and I’m a higher level manager. All vendors need to be approved and set up. The most I could do is to tell my office manager that we need pest control and bug them about it if they don’t do anything. I’m also wondering if the OP’s company is the sole occupant of the building. This can add additional layers of complexity to resolving a pest problem. Yes the landlord/owner may be responsible, but it also may be up to the individual tenants to treat for pests. This means they could treat all day long, but the tenants on either side of them don’t and the can’t fully eradicate.

          As for keeping the kitchen clean HAHAHAHA if it were that easy and some random manager had the power to keep a work kitchen clean, don’t you think that power would be wielded? Why does everyone think this OP has any special kitchen cleaning powers that the rest of us don’t have?

          About the only thing the OP might be able to do is to get the employee’s work space moved. But it’s not a stretch to imagine if there was a better space available the employee wouldn’t be in the kitchen to begin with. While this may prove to be difficult for the OP, this is where I would concentrate my efforts as this is the one problem out of the bunch that the OP probably has a sphere of influence on.

          It’s very easy to sit back and say “Well this is what should be done” it’s very different in reality to have the authority to actually do it.

          Reply
          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            Yep. And as the manager of a single employee, there’s a good chance that she’s not a high-level manager at all. And she’s new. She can raise the issue, but she has limited capital here and may have other things she needs to spend it on.

            Reply
              1. Ask a Manager Post author

                I have no idea what her priorities are, but that could be a bunch that she needs to deal with — pay equity, budget, training, who knows. She’s allowed to make her own decisions about where she most needs to spend her capital, and I’m not going to agree that this situation trumps absolutely all of them.

                Reply
                1. Jewel

                  I honestly think that basic safety (this could legitimately be a health and even life hazard) trumps pay equity or training. I’d rather not be paid fairly than be at risk for very serious diseases.

          2. Tardigrade

            Mouse droppings in a kitchen/an employee’s workspace is a health issue and not one to shrug off. Obviously the OP herself can’t hire an exterminator, but she can take this up the chain and keep pushing. I don’t care how new she is: this is worth burning capital on and few things are more important than ensuring safe working conditions.

            If none of that works, then I would suggest that OP and her employee both look for other jobs before they become seriously ill.

            Reply
          3. Mike C.

            This is a rather lame cop out when it comes to legitimate safety issues. Even if she can’t do something about it we shouldn’t be normalizing unsafe and unhygienic working conditions.

            Reply
      3. The Ginger Ginger

        This I what I’m most concerned about! You have a building with known pest issues, and…..no one can be bothered to clean the shared kitchen, or enforce a cleaning rotation in the shared kitchen, or ask the cleaning service to begin including it in their rotation? So you let the cleaning fall to someone with OCD because “their standards are higher”? That is not remotely doing everything possible to prevent pest, AND that’s kind of problematic!

        Reply
        1. Artemesia

          I do not have OCD but have a pretty strong aversion to germs. I don’t wash my hands obsessively many times a day but I always wash them from coming in from having traveled by bus for example. It would drive me nuts to office in a place with mouse crap because I know that mice are vectors for some pretty horrible disease. Roaches are icky but mice are dangerous. It is not unusual or a defect on the part of the Op’s employee that she doesn’t want to be in an office with a dirty kitchen and mouse poop.

          Reply
    2. Yvette

      I totally agree. “I want to be sensitive to their needs for a healthy and comfortable works pace, and also totally agree that mouse poop near food is another level of concern above cockroaches in stairwells.”
      “… THEIR needs for a healthy…”, like no one else needs to be free of rodent feces in the food area and dead cockroaches in the hallways. This makes it sound as though the OP thinks the employee is being unrealistic in her expectations.
      You know how we always say of some letter writers that working in a toxic/abnormal environment skews their idea of what is acceptable? I think this LW has spent so much time in “historical” buildings that they have a skewed perception of what is acceptable.
      I also think that this has to be some kind of OSHA infraction.

      Reply
      1. Les G

        Can’t agree more with this comment. It’s rare that I think Alison’s advice is totally off base, but this is one of these times.

        Reply
        1. Sara M

          Same here. I almost always agree with her… But this level of grossness is unacceptable and I think the OP has to really understand that. And escalate the issue to someone who can fix it.

          Reply
          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

            Yes. At a minimum there has to be a property or building manager. Shift the burden to that person to deal with the vermin—I’m sure they’re required to deal with it under their lease.

            Reply
        2. Nox

          Agree. Very disapointed by the response from AAM. It completely missed the fact that severe pest issues are reportable to OSHA and by no means should be a tolerable thing.

          All those employees are suffering in a filthy environment and increase the risk of accidentally bringing home roaches just by getting stuff stuck in their belongings.

          Reply
        3. Constanze

          Yes, this is such a hazard. No one should have to be subjected to that in their workplace. This is not an issue of politics in the office with a shy manager just being to new to do anything.
          This is NOT OKAY. OP should file an OSHA claim, escalate it to her manager / CEO, whatever… there are plenty of things here that she can do.
          Maybe it won’t help. But there is no way not doing anything because she doesn’t want to ruffle feather is okay.

          Reply
        4. Ask a Manager Post author

          I’m taking the OP at her word that the level of the problem is the same level as she’s encountered throughout her career and that she’s correct that the level it’s at is generally understood to be a thing you’re going to get with these buildings. If that’s not correct, then yes, I’d encourage her to push more — but her authority to do more than raise the issue is likely limited, and pushing this beyond talking with someone once or twice may not be where she chooses to spend her very limited capital as a new employee.

          Reply
          1. Mike C.

            But the idea that it’s “generally understood to be a thing” is completely wrong. It’s a clear health and safety issue.

            Reply
          2. DKMA

            This topic seems to raise very strong emotions. I think the point on limits on the OPs authority are well taken, but I disagree that asking to move desks is the only course of action. To me there are two issues: 1) The pests and 2) The fact that the employee is becoming defacto kitchen janitor based on desk location.

            On 1) Pests:
            -Probably not much you can do, but it may be worth raising to your boss that the pests are a concern, that you’re concerned that the company may be setting itself up for an OSHA violation if it hasn’t taken basic steps to remediate. Hopefully there are steps being taken and you can at least reassure your employee that exterminators, etc are being called, or that management is working with the landlord or whatever.

            On 2) Kitchen cleanup:
            -The manager has much more standing here. It is absolutely OK to stand up for your employee being forced to do all of an unpleasant shared task in order to avoid working in squalor. Asking to move desks is one possibility. Asking for budget to hire cleaning staff, or extend janitorial hours to cover that take are another responsibility. It’s not like there is an inviolable rule that no one can be hired to clean a kitchen.

            Reply
          3. Belle8bete

            Lots of folks have written about things that are “normal in their field” that aren’t okay and need to change….this is one of those things. I’m not trying to question the LW but really, really, this is an actual problem for health and safety and building management.

            Reply
          4. Leslie knope

            This is really bizarre. I’m really surprised that you’re arguing that animal droppings in the kitchen (!!!) is something that could conceivably take lower priority to something else. So people should be ok with mouse poop so the OP can argue for pay equity?

            Reply
      2. Fulana del Tal

        I found this on the OSHA site
        1910.141(a)(5)
        Vermin control. Every enclosed workplace shall be so constructed, equipped, and maintained, so far as reasonably practicable, as to prevent the entrance or harborage of rodents, insects, and other vermin. A continuing and effective extermination program shall be instituted where their presence is detected.

        Reply
        1. Coffee with my Creamer

          reasonably practicable – In historic or very old buildings reasonably practicable gets really loose.

          Reply
          1. Rat in the Sugar

            Yeah but they’re also supposed to have a continuing and effective extermination program and it sounds like they don’t. If OP could at least say “Look, I know it’s bad but we’ve got the traps out so we’re trying to address it” that would be better than nothing.

            Reply
            1. Aurion

              If they can’t even keep the damn kitchen clean such that OP’s poor report has to do it themselves, I don’t see how this workplace is even in the ballpark of “reasonably actionable”.

              Reply
      3. Al

        100% agree. I’ve worked and lived in old buildings, but I’ve never seen anything even close to what LW is describing. It sounds like a nightmare. I can’t imagine that poor employee will stay much longer at this rate.

        Reply
          1. Bowl of Oranges

            OP mentioned she is fairly new. It may not be the first time someone has said anything–just the first time someone has said anything to her.

            Reply
        1. MusicWithRocksInIt

          I am astonished that so many people are so carefree about seeing roaches everywhere and not cleaning up after themselves. In collage I lifeguarded in a building with a very old pool. We were warned there was an ongoing roach problem. I never personally saw one in the entire year I worked there – but man we were all super careful about it. No one brought unsealed food, we all kept our clothes and shoes in sealed plastic bags so the roaches couldn’t get in, we cleaned religiously. If a bunch of collage students can manage that I feel like professional adults can not leave crumbs around when they see evidence of the bugs all the time!

          Reply
        2. Anon Anon Anon

          I’ve lived and worked in a lot of old buildings and just recently dealt with my first ever rat infestation. There were several very obvious risk factors: a hole in the roof, a vacant house next door, and being in a big city in a warm climate. It’s very situational. Rats tend not to live in occupied houses. They make their nests in unoccupied areas, enter homes to forage, but will nest there if it’s the best place in that small area. In my case, I think that fixing the roof trapped a few inside. More came in when the property next door was cleaned up. And then the weather turned cold so they made nests in the warm places and had litters. It got out of hand fast. But calling in an exterminator to seal the building and do some trapping did the trick. There is still a small mouse problem, but no more rats.

          Reply
      4. marmalade

        +1
        I also appreciate you pointing out the framing, “their needs for a healthy and comfortable workspace”, and the fact that they’re new to the workforce. It casts it as if they’re naive, but a healthy, comfortable, and safe workplace is a totally reasonable expectation! Especially when we’re not talking about a minor level of grime, but regular vermin infestations.

        Reply
      5. Lilo

        Mouse poop really is no joke. For instance, pregnant women really should stay away from mouse droppings because if you have parasitic mice, you can pick up the parasite and it harms the fetus.

        I have also worked in old buildings (and lived in one) and agree mice aren’t a default. This place sounds gross.

        Reply
    3. TL -

      I worked in an old building in Texas and dead roaches happened somewhat infrequently but they were always cleaned up by janitorial staff the day they happened (dead roaches lay eggs, too.) Also, it was probably 1-2 a month at most? And frequently several months without seeing one during the winter.

      As for the mouse droppings – yeah, if you’re at the point where there’s droppings in a high traffic area like the kitchen, you’ve got a pretty bad infestation. Even in an older, pest-susceptible building, I would expect the mice to be contained to the walls/attics/storage rooms.

      Reply
      1. TL -

        And the roaches were in dark hidey hole places, like under equipment or in a dark corner, not out in the hallway. I saw more than most because we were right by a rarely used, dimly lit back hallway used for storage; there were never any in the kitchen/common areas.

        Reply
        1. Lexi Kate

          If you have roaches anywhere they are in the kitchen. Most buildings with pest issue work with maintenance/janitorial and security to have the kitchens and break rooms lights turned on and counters wiped down before employees come in to convey the illusion that there are no roaches.

          Reply
            1. Lexi Kate

              if you work in a large office or anywhere near a restaurant there are roaches, if you haven’t seen them you have a good maintenance and cleaning staff. Supplies and Food that come in on pallets always have roaches and roach eggs.

              Imagine all those people with Pallet walls they got from pinterest if they didn’t clean and spray each pallet board for roaches then they could have an infestation.

              Reply
              1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone

                Agreed. I’m not ok with having roaches in my house. But I’m also not blind to the fact that they are out there in the world including; restaurants, bars, retail stores, offices, and most other places that I frequent.

                I take reasonable precautions and hope for the best that I don’t bring them home.

                Reply
    4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      I agree. A certain level of pests may be normal, but the level OP is reporting does not sound reasonable or normal for an old building. I’ve worked in plenty an old creaky historic building, and all of them were extremely aggressive about pest control. Droppings in the kitchen near cooking surfaces is absolutely inappropriate, as is the regular and frequent appearance of dead roaches in the stairwell.

      OP may not have much standing from a new person/hierarchy standpoint, but I would share their employee’s concerns, and I don’t have OCD (and I have a high tolerance for pests when I can’t control what’s around me). We had to keep the sinks empty and store all our food in the fridge to defeat a mice infestation. If there’s a building or office manager, OP may want to consider appealing to them to step in. Or OP’s employee can be shown how to file an OSHA complaint :P

      Reply
      1. Lexi Kate

        I agree I don’t think with the age of the building and depending on where its located (most historic areas have a river/canal/water source of some kind) that make it a breeding ground for vermen and bugs, but this building is not doing enough cleaning to keep it under control. It’s not unusual for a old historic building to have mouse, ant, roach etc pest control things out especially in the kitchen areas. What is even more disturbing is that even with all of the rodent poop, and dead bugs employees are still leaving dishes and crumbs out I can only imagine that many are keeping food in their cubes and mice and rats are just multiplying in a cube somewhere.

        Reply
    5. londonedit

      I don’t think it is always possible to get rid of mice just like that. I also work in a very large, rambling, historic building. We have very clear rules about not leaving food out on desks and shelves, and the cleaners will throw away anything that could potentially be mouse food if it’s left behind after office hours. Kitchens are separate from the work areas and are cleaned every day. Each room in the building has several of those little mouse-poison-tunnel things in the corners. But there are still mice in the building.

      Reply
      1. Green great dragon

        Yes, what struck me wasn’t that there were mice droppings one time, but that there was nothing apparently being done about it. If the letter had said ‘and of course we now have traps down and have deep cleaned the office and reminded everyone to lock food away but we can’t guarantee to eliminate them’ that would be a very different tone from ‘but we can’t eliminate them’.

        Reply
      2. Janet (not a girl)

        Right, but just be you can’t eliminate the problem entirely, doesn’t mean you can’t take steps to reduce it. OP and her colleagues seem to have fallen into the same kind of all-or-nothing thinking here. “Old buildings have pests, nothing we can do about it, oh well! I’m a new employee, so I don’t have any authority, oh well!”

        It’s not true that nothing can be done. The only thing we can say right now is that it looks like nothing has been done so far – that doesn’t mean everybody just needs to sit back and accept it.

        Reply
      3. Observer

        I think that if it were just about the occasion mouse or roach in the stairwells, I’d be “I feel bad for her, but she’s going to have to find some way to adjust.”

        But mice in her workspace AND droppings near her food?! That’s ridiculous. And it is not HER need. It’s basic hygiene.

        Reply
    6. Glomarization, Esq.

      Yes, I’ve worked at more than one historic building, including an indoor-outdoor historic site where a good portion of the building was open to the elements, and part of the visitor experience was walking indoors and out. There were nooks and crannies and hidey-holes for all kinds of wildlife. And when someone reported a mouse, management would be on the phone to an exterminator the next day.

      This worksite is going to be all fun and games until someone gets seriously ill, some wires are chewed through, and some records are destroyed.

      Reply
    7. Birch

      Yeah I’m glad I’m not the only one horrified by the nonchalance in both the question and answer on that one. Vermin droppings near food is a HUGE health concern. Not to mention that it can get into the air, which is really dangerous. If they have roaches, I wouldn’t be surprised if they also don’t care about termites and mold, both of which also can cause health issues. This is way beyond “I saw a bug once in my workplace” and I’m not sure why it’s relevant that OP doesn’t have the power to do anything about it themselves? You don’t need to be able to actually fix a problem yourself in order to insist that it’s fixed. OP needs to get their team together and press the higher-ups to do something about it.

      Reply
      1. Constanze

        You are really not the only one completely baffled by the nonchalance of both the question and the answer. I can’t believe that one might think such hazardous and gross work conditions are acceptable, or even just an inconvenience.

        Reply
    8. Grapey

      +1 to “our custodians were responsible for cleaning the kitchen.” Our custodial staff is also responsible for cleaning our kitchen too. Seems like the answer is to hire a new cleaning company!!

      Reply
  4. OP#1

    OP#1 here…

    I’ll definitely admit to having calmed down a little since I first saw the resume (though I still hate it!). As it turns out, the batch of resumes I got this morning had a number of outstanding candidates who actually pushed the infographic candidate to the maybe pile on qualifications alone (which I wasn’t expecting at all).

    I should also say this is the first time I’ve led the hiring for a role after being involved in the process twice previously so I think I was a bit overwhelmed by the process. I don’t want to be that terrible hiring manager I’ve read about on here!

    Reply
    1. sacados

      If you do wind up moving forward with other candidates, I think it would be doing a real service to an otherwise strong candidate to (nicely) point out how that kind of infographic resume is a) incredibly hard to scan for information and b) is likely to turn off a lot of hiring managers!

      Reply
      1. BadWolf

        Yes — I think pointing out (kindly) that you had to wander around the page with a highlighter could really highlight (ha, sorry!) how hard it was to get that he is a strong candidate.

        Reply
      2. MuseumChick

        I’m on the fence about that. It opens up the possibility of the candidate arguing with the OP about her decision to not move forward with them.

        Reply
        1. Lance

          If they want to argue it, though, then that’s ultimately on them, not OP. And having other good candidates makes that a fairly minimal issue, to me.

          Reply
      3. Forking great username

        And then the candidate can write to Alison asking if the feedback he received was mean, like in yesterday’s letter.

        Reply
    2. Jasnah

      I still think it’s a good warning for anyone reading this letter who is considering an experimental resume format–it’s like a window into the mind of the person receiving it!

      Reply
    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      You can also always ask a candidate for a standard resume! You could easily say, “Hi, we don’t accept infographic resumes—could you please send a copy in standard format?”

      Best of luck, OP!

      Reply
      1. Où est la bibliothèque?

        Or even just “could you send your experience/skills relevant to this position in traditional resume format.”

        Reply
    4. Detective Amy Santiago

      I had to google ‘infographic resume’ and wow, I do not blame you for being irritated by it one bit.

      That seems like the type of thing that would really only be relevant/acceptable when you’re applying for a design position.

      Reply
      1. Engineer Woman

        Me too! Had never heard of nor seen any such resumes before – and I’ve had a few instances of behind the hiring manager.

        Reply
    5. Debra Wolf

      I may be the exception here, but I’d put the applicant with the infographic resume on the “no” pile. Managerial jobs (in fact, all jobs) require judgment, and sending in an infographic resume to a job that doesn’t involve design demonstrates poor judgment. The candidate appears to be more interested in the latest fad than considering the needs of his/her potential employer. To me, this is a warning sign. In addition, a resume with excessive graphics makes me wonder what the candidate is trying to distract me from – maybe lack of skills and experience for the job, or the inability to write a complete sentence.

      Reply
      1. pleaset

        So if you were in the position of the OP initially – few strong candidates but this one seems to have the ability but shows poor judgement on one (1) thing – you’d immediately say “no.”

        Wow.

        Reply
        1. Operational Chaos

          One big thing. Their initial contact and impression to a potential employer. It’s better to pump the breaks and just not hire when the options aren’t what are suitable for your needs.

          Panic hiring and tossing a warm body into place is how you get AAM letters about awful employees who don’t register workplace norms.

          Reply
          1. Observer

            But this is not “panic hiring” and “a warm body”.

            I’m all for thinking about what things say about people’s judgement. But I’m also for having a bit of balance and not nitpicking. Because when you put SOOO much emphasis on appearances you wind up with the kind of dysfunctional workplace where appearances are more important that actual work product.

            Reply
          2. Delphine

            If they have all the experience you require, calling them in for an interview would not be panic hiring. It’d be sensible. What’s not sensible is arbitrarily moving a resume to the no pile because it took you four extra minutes to go through it. With all the misinformation out there, employees are bound to make odd choices for their resume and cover letter. As long as it’s not egregious, let it go.

            Reply
      2. ThankYouRoman

        I had to Google it go find out what was happening.

        I don’t see the problem either but then I recall a guy with a similar choice. It was five pages and outlandish, so there are limits. It still never made me angry but I tend to laugh at this kind of thing.

        Reply
      3. always in email jail

        I had the same thought. Alison mentioned “unless the job requires presenting information tailored to a specific audience” (or something to that effect) which… I think most managers have to do on a regular basis? You have to advocate to your higher-ups on behalf of your employees, communicate unpleasant information to your employees, etc. Having the judgement to ascertain what’s appropriate for the situation is huge.

        Reply
    6. Sherree

      I am surprised you found this type of resume difficult to follow as I think they are easier to follow as they are laid out in a more intuitive format. Headers like “Education”, “Experience”, “Skills” are pretty obvious. I personally like them, and I think this is probably going to be the standard in the coming years. Think about it, you took more time to look at his resume. And he stood out to you. I think its probably more a matter of become familiar with them and then knowing how to quickly scan them.

      Reply
      1. Friday afternoon fever

        I think we should take the LW at their word. Not all info graphic resumes are well designed—many are poorly designed—and you haven’t seen this one.

        Reply
      2. Morning Glory

        Traditional resumes also have those headers.

        It looks like you are in one sentence that the format worked because the OP looked at the resume longer and arguing in the next that the OP will learn to scan them quickly. Doesn’t the second point defeat the first?

        Reply
      3. LQ

        But part of hiring isn’t spending 5 minutes on every resume. Saying it took more time might feel good but it is not going to be good for getting the actual hiring done. And if we become more familiar with them and know how to quickly scan them then you wouldn’t be spending extra time which is what you are saying is a benefit so that goes away. And standing out only stands out because there aren’t a lot of them so if there are a lot of them then they don’t stand out.

        Headers like education, experience and skills are pretty obvious on current resumes, and if it really was an intuitive format you wouldn’t have to become familiar with them.

        The good part about infographics is supposed to be they quickly convey complex ideas in a visual manner. This one failed. Most fail. (Most infographics in general fail, we just don’t see them, which is pretty standard.) Anything that makes first pass identification take longer will fail because that’s not how this process of hiring works. First pass videos are a terrible idea too (or great, depending on what you’re looking for) because they take time to watch. Even if everything else is the same. If you get 150 resumes and you need to make a decision, increasing that decision five fold isn’t really acceptable. If my job suddenly takes 5 times longer my boss is not going to be happy.

        Reply
      4. Manic Monday

        What is “intuitive” to you may be incomprehensible to me. Intuition is not a one-size-fits-all kinda thing. Some people will find them easy, sure, but many will not. Advising applicants to use something that is known to be off-putting to a lot of hiring managers would be very irresponsible indeed.

        He stood out in spite of the added time, not because of it. Most applicants using infographic resumes stand out – in a bad way. He just got lucky that his experience and qualifications were strong enough to be worth the effort, and that was only because the pool was so poor.

        Reply
      5. Joielle

        I mean, she took more time to look at the resume while slowly becoming more and more irritated, so I don’t think I’d count that in the win column…?

        I too hate infographic resumes and would spend about a minute trying to decipher it before throwing it directly out, unless there was some indication that the candidate was truly exceptional.

        Reply
      6. Yorick

        But he stood out in a bad way, and OP didn’t spend more time due to interest, she wasted time to understand whether he was qualified or not.

        Reply
      7. MuseumChick

        I have to disagree. The candidate did stand out…but not in a good way. She stood out in a “I’m going to write a world renowned job advise blog because this was so off putting.”

        I doubt they are the wave of the future. Resumes are getting simpler (more white space, bullet points etc.) no more complex/”fancy”.

        Reply
      8. Marthooh

        “I think this is probably going to be the standard in the coming years.”

        If it becomes the standard, it won’t stand out anymore. Likewise, if hiring managers get used to it, they won’t have to spend as much time with it. Greater popularity will turn its (supposed) virtues into defects.

        Reply
      9. Ask a Manager Post author

        It’s really unlikely it’s going to become the standard. Most hiring managers hate them. When you’re reading a ton of resumes, it’s an advantage to have them all in a reasonably standardized format, where you can quickly scan and find all the info you need in the places you expect to find it. The standard resume format is already in the form that its audience finds the most useful for conveying the information they want to receive.

        Reply
          1. Seeking Second Childhood

            Hi Sherree — The one you linked to is actually one of the standard resume formats. Infographic resumes are a different beast…here’s one result that I found on a quick Google search.
            I agree that the “before” sample is dense & hard to read — but the information is packed in easily located chunks. The “after” sample makes no sense to me and contains a lot of distracting design elements.
            https://i1.wp.com/biginterview.com/wp-content/uploads/Gregor-Perotto-Infographic-Resume-comparison.jpg?w=600&ssl=1

            Reply
          2. Seeking Second Childhood

            Hi Sherree — that’s actually one of the standard resume formats. Infographic resumes are very different. I tried to link to a particularly egregious example I found on Google, but I have no patience waiting for the URL to get through moderation. (Sorry Alison!)
            For anyone who hasn’t seen what we’re talking about, it’s worth running a websearch to see images.

            Reply
      10. Danger: Gumption Ahead

        No one wants to take more time than necessary to review a resume. If I have to hunt and peck for the information I need that extra time spent looking at it will make me think unkind thoughts of the candidate or cause me to set it aside because who has time for this nonsense.

        Reply
      11. PB

        OP spent longer looking at it because it’s harder to follow, and “standing out” isn’t always a plus. The candidate who sent me an obnoxious cover letter about how they’re “the best possible candidate” also stood out.

        Reply
      12. OP#1

        Trust me. It was not well laid out nor did it have headers like that.

        It was a series of meandering paths that I think was meant to “walk me through” how he’s developed professionally with no headers but rather a series of “checkpoints” all had various bits of information (not all of it relevant for a resume either). It was a mess.

        Reply
        1. Sherree

          Thanks op this comment helps. I am thinking about new formats I have seen that are more like blocks of information rather than a story telling format. I wouldn’t like it if it wasn’t obvious, but I do think people will start using the block format more regardless what HR people say here. I find most people that do the interviewing and hiring, are not professional hr people that are trained for it. I can’t tell you how many times I have interviewed where the interviewer asked questions that made it clear they didn’t review my resume before the interview. A block resume would make it easier for them to review.

          Reply
      13. JamieS

        OP took the time because the pool of qualified candidates is extremely limited. I don’t think most hiring managers would take that time except in cases where they’re hurting for candidates.

        Reply
    7. sheworkshardforthemoney

      I googled infographic resumes out of curiosity and my first inclination is not even reading it when I have a pile of others that are easier to read.

      Reply
  5. Greg NY

    #2: Wouldn’t that be an OSHA violation? I’m surprised that asking anyone to work in a building with such conditions is permissible.

    Reply
    1. Pjm

      I agree. I don’t have OCD, and I would find those unsanitary conditions intolerable. I also think you SHOULD get on people’s backs for cleaning up their own crumbs when there is a very serious pest problem. And I find it really hard to believe that exterminators wouldn’t be able to control this, old building or not.

      Reply
      1. JSPA

        I got mice in my kitchen cabinets while out of town for some months, with a house sitter who apparently just chose not to open the “problem drawers.” I now have new cabinets. And wall repairs behind those cabinets. Wasn’t cheap, but also wasn’t optional.

        Reply
      2. MLB

        It doesn’t sound like the LW has the authority to “get on people’s backs” to clean up their own messes. I’ve never had cockroach issues, but we had mice in my last house and the only thing that kept them away was keeping all food in plastic boxes that they couldn’t chew through, and diligently cleaning the kitchen every time we cooked/made food. This isn’t going to happen unless you hire someone full time to nag everyone who leaves a mess. But I agree about the exterminators – a once in a while pest maybe, but seeing evidence of them all the time regardless of the age of the building sounds like the company is dropping the ball.

        Reply
        1. JulieCanCan

          Years ago I realized we had mice in our [very old Boston] apartment as I was eating a piece of pita bread with seeds on it. “Seeds on pita bread?” you say? (I wondered the same thing)…..I then took the plastic bag of pita bread out of the drawer to find out why there were seeds on it, and I realized that something/someone had torn (ie: CHEWED) through the plastic bag, eaten parts of the bread (“why would my roommate rip off chunks of bread like that?” I thought), and then, well, those “seeds” on the pita bread I was eating? Yeah, they weren’t seeds. It was mouse poop. And the drawer was filled with it.

          I feel sick to this day when I think about it. “Absolute horror” is putting it mildly.

          Reply
    2. Les G

      Came here to say the same thing. Rat droppings transmit disease. You can think this employee is being prissy all you want (and believe me, OP, that came through loud and clear) but she still has the right to a safe workplace.

      Reply
      1. Yvette

        “You can think this employee is being prissy all you want…” , thank you, I could not quite put my finger on the attitude of the letter, but that is it.

        Reply
      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        Yeah. No one wants hantavirus just because a group of grownups refuse to timely clean their own dishes.

        Reply
        1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego

          For real! I know people who nearly died of hantavirus. It’s no joke.

          I’ve worked in old buildings and had mice in my flat, but in both situations the problem was dealt with. It might take a while but this level of infestation is hazardous. It’s one thing if there are mice in the attic but another altogether to have them in the kitchen.

          Reply
        2. Lily

          yeah, it can kill you and if it doesn’t kill you it can still kill your kidneys. Seriously, what’s wrong with those people?
          (says a vegan who normally has very much a live-and-let-live approach to all kind of animals including the room spiders etc, but a mouse should live (and poop!) somewhere outside a kitchen.)

          Reply
      3. What's with Today, today?

        Thank you! The LW seems so annoyed with the employee, and the employee has done nothing wrong!

        Reply
      1. sigh

        I used to work in a sick building that was infested by bats. The agency we were under let it slide and so did building management. When it finally came to public light how bad the situation was EVERYONE got skewered in the press over it and the building was condemned. This may seem like a small problem now, but things like this tend to grow unseen until it’s a massive issue for everyone. I know you’re limited in what you can do… but people are right about the mice being a health hazard (In Florida we just tend to ignore dead roaches. It means the pest control is working. Seeing nymph roaches or multiple adult live ones is another matter.) and it likely is a workplace health and safety issue.

        Reply
        1. Amy

          Bats are a primary vector of rabies in the US. Anyone who is scratched by a bat needs to get $12K in rabies vaccines immediately.

          At least that is what the CDC and ER docs told me.

          Reply
    3. Anon for this

      We’re dealing with the aftermaths of an OSHA complaint at work now because of mice, and it sucks. Basically, people would keep feed in their cube area in accessible packaging/area, so we’d have mice scurrying around every so often. (We also work in an older building in a major area.) Now, there is absolutely zero eating at desks or cubes. It’s massive pain.

      Reply
      1. Coffee with my Creamer

        Getting people to not keep food at their desk is a never ending war. We have been doing this at our office (historic, on the river, in between many restaurants and down the street from a saw mill) for 2 years. We had mice we couldn’t get rid of and 6 weeks in we discovered our problem a lady had went out on extended maternity leave (was on her 3rd month out) and had left her drawers packed with Warehouse store size Goldfish Crackers, energy bars, 2 cases of saltine crackers and 3lbs of peanut butter. It was a mouse infestation in her Cubicle, they ate through the cubicle walls Maintenance caught 14 mice in her desk. We only caught it because the new interns we sat on the other side of her cube were complaining about scratching noises.

        Reply
          1. Coffee with my Creamer

            she didn’t think the rodents could break into her desk, and claimed that someone unlocked her desk and left the drawer open. She was let go a 6 months later after being on 2 improvement plans around bringing in and leaving large quantities of food in her desk.

            At one point we had close to 50 people on improvement plans for storing large amounts of food at their desks, warehouse sizes large enough that when the cleaning lady went by she would go get management to confiscate the large box’s that employees we setting beside their garbage cans. (usually the food container was larger than the 9 gallon cube garbage can.

            Reply
    4. MuseumChick

      I’ve worked in many old buildings. The pest thing is not at all uncommon in old, historic buildings. Mice, ants, snakes, roaches etc. all par for the course. Not sure what kind of business the OP works for, but if it’s a museum/historic house it would be close to impossible to completely do away with these issues.

      Reply
      1. Observer

        That’s a fair bit of excuse making. I do get that you can’t COMPLETELY get rid of pests. But the OP is describing something very different.

        1. An employee is being asked to work in a filthy kitchen, and people think SHE’S the problem because “her” standards of cleanliness are “too high”.

        2. There are mice in the food prep area and no one cares. The employee’s expectation of a food prep area that won’t make her sick is being treated like her personal quirk.

        Reply
      2. Izzy

        There’s no indication that the employee is asking for the building to be cleansed of every trace of pest presence. And it’s not at all par for the course that the people who work in these buildings will leave dirty dishes in a food prep area that is also someone else’s workspace so often that it develops a mouse problem.

        Reply
  6. Greg NY

    #4: While Alison’s advice is good and I would give it a try, I would quit if you and your coworkers aren’t successful. Working irregular, and sometimes draining, sets of hours is going to eat away at your health. One of the things you should mention to her is that it’s not abnormal to offer a shift differential for undesirable days and/or times. There is no incentive for anyone to work those hours for no extra pay unless they have no other employment options. In the current economy, which is an employee’s market, it’s not that likely that she has the leverage. She may realize it but try to get someone to work that shift anyway, but sometimes speaking with your feet is necessary.

    Reply
    1. Les G

      You might be right in the abstract, but this is not helpful or actionable advice for a whole lot of folks. Job searching is hard and time-consuming and I’m more than a little weary of the “start searching NOW” tone a lot of commenters tend to take.

      Reply
      1. Jasnah

        Sure, but when the OP’s situation boils down to “suck it up or leave,” would you prefer commenters encourage OP to suck it up?

        Reply
        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          But it’s not “suck it up or leave.” It’s “talk to your manager as a group and push back on this.” It doesn’t make sense to go straight to leaving without trying that, particularly when that’s not easy advice for many people.

          Reply
          1. Jasnah

            This is true. But if that doesn’t work as Greg says, OP’s choices are to deal with the situation as it is, or try to find a better one. I read Les G’s comment as an objection to how quickly people encourage letter writers to look elsewhere, but I think that as tough as job-hunting is, it’s more encouraging and validating to hear “you don’t have to put up with this! you will be valued elsewhere!” than “well, guess you’re stuck, that sucks, sorry.”

            Reply
            1. Colette

              There are a lot of factors to whether anyone should leave a particular job – what is the job market like for that job in that location? what is the commute like? how does the pay compare? how long have they been there (and how long were they in their last job)?

              It’s easy to tell someone else they should get a new job, but … I’m sure the employee knows she can find a new job, and if it’s not a good idea for her, a less than ideal shift may not be enough to make it a good idea.

              Reply
      2. Jewel

        Right now is a good time to job hunt, with the economy being strong and everything. So I think it’s pretty good advice. Workers have more bargaining power than they think.

        Reply
    2. Violeta V

      OP#4 here: Last week I questioned her on how she made this choice and she said it was at an employee’s suggestion who was willing to fill the other half ot the night position – the 3am to noon. And she reminded me that it’s only once a week and she plans to revisit this after the holidays (not mentioned before) which makes this a little more palatable. I want to stay, other than the crazy hours the job is comfortable, low stress and close to home.
      Just to clarify, we will get differential after 11pm but its not very much. Not compared to time and 1/2 for overtime. We need to be paid overtime to make the crazy irregular hours worth while. I plan to take Alison’s suggestion to organize my coworkers and make this request at a group meeting.

      Reply
      1. EPLawyer

        This is great that you are going to try to push back. This idea of just piling more week on people is not sustainable. If your manager says “tough this is how its going to be” consider going over her head. Bring up all the issues of how she does not fill positions. Maybe, she was told not to by higher ups. But it sounds more like she is trying in the worst way possible to come in under budget for her department. Sure, it might look good this year. But again, in the long run, it’s just not sustainable. People will start to leave and work will get undone. Then she has to explain to the bosses why it all fell apart.

        Reply
        1. Colette

          I don’t see any indication that her managers are not on board – and if they are, going over her head will not go over well.

          Hiring is not always the right solution depending on the company finances, and even when it is, it takes time. (I told my manager I had a new job 6 weeks ago. They are starting to interview possible replacements today.)

          Reply
        2. Amy

          I left a job that instituted unpaid late night shifts. I was the first of 4 inside 2 years, leaving only 3 people on the team (including the manager, who wanted to hire but couldn’t get money). It took 4 people walking for upper management to start allocating money to hire replacements, and the job listing still doesn’t mention the late shifts.

          Upper management doesn’t care til it impacts KPIs.

          Reply
      2. just an idea

        I’ve worked days, and I’ve worked nights. One night job (normally 3pm -11pm) required some round the clock production at certain times of the year, and as I result I had to work 4 pm to 4 am for 3-6 weeks at a time, 3 times a year. It was a huge adjustment for my body each time. I can’t imagine doing one of these shifts and expecting your body to be fine the rest of the week. What about the day after you get off at 3 am, are you expected to be back at work for 9 am?

        I would suggest, if someone can’t be hired for this position, to see if someone can volunteer to do these hours as a regular shift, with a pay differential. This might entice an employee you already have. One day a week is insane.

        Reply
          1. Antilles

            Actually, she said they’re on the “evening” shift and are now being asked to do the “overnight” shift once a week or whatever.
            The evening shift (which I’m figuring is something like 1 pm to 9 pm or similar) still lets you more or less keep a typical life and sleep schedule – whereas the overnight shift of 3 pm to 3 am basically completely flips your schedule…but only once a week, then you go back to your normal time.
            It might not be quite as big of a change as if they were going from banker’s 9-5 hours to overnight hours, but it’s still a notable change.

            Reply
            1. just an idea

              Sorry, I resorted to what that shift has been called in my industry, just out of habit. The “overnight” shift was referred to as the “lobster” shift, because the pay differential allowed you to afford fancy food, lol!

              Reply
      3. Bostonian

        I think you particularly have more standing to ask for more pay to do this if the regular night shift worker already gets a shift differential (higher pay for working the shift- usually an extra $3-4/hour).

        Reply
  7. Anon for today

    OP #2: I have OCD, and can speak to this a little. It’s a tough situation. Too much accommodation can hurt, so you *don’t* want to run around trying to fix everything, but OCD can rise to the level of ADA-protected disability. On a practical level, if a particular thing (like mice around food) is way up the anxiety scale, it may not BE something the employee is capable of ignoring right now.

    While both things Alison suggests are good to say and 100% appropriate, it sounds like the employee literally works IN the office/kitchenette area? Ouch. Again, depending on the anxiety level, she may not be able to focus. (A proper therapist can help, etc., but trust me when I say that OCD is a monster and even treatment you want isn’t easy. And that’s IF you get someone who knows what they’re doing.)

    If this continues to be an issue, it sounds like moving her desk would be a kindness, and the easiest solution. TBH, mouse poop in the kitchen would gross out most people. Most offices I’ve been in would call an exterminator stat and shape up their cleaning game.

    Reply
    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Ooooh, I missed that they’re working in the same space as the kitchen area. I’ll add a line to the end of my answer about that, because yeah — that’s just asking for this to be hugely challenging.

      Reply
    2. Les G

      The more I’m thinking about it, the more I think the OCD is a red herring here, to be honest. Mouse droppings are a health hazard to everyone. While someone with OCD might see health hazards where there are none, this isn’t the case here. The odds that the OP’s report is the only one twigged to this are really, really, infinitesimally small.

      Reply
      1. Obsessive Compulsive

        OCD is not what most people think it is. It’s not about being a germaphobe or obsessed with cleanliness (it can include this, but actually you can also have OCD and be a total slob, like me). It’s possible this employee has OCD, it’s also very possible they’re using it in a colloquial way, like how people say they’re “soooo ADD” when they’re having a distracted day

        Reply
        1. Jasnah

          I can see the employee saying it colloquially as they try to justify why they don’t like dead roaches and mouse poop in their communal kitchen/workspace, since their boss has framed this as an unreasonable request. “Sorry, I know that old buildings might have bugs, but I’m kind of OCD, is there any way we can clean this up?”*

          *Not saying that using OCD colloquially like this is OK, not saying the employee does or does not have OCD. I’m saying I can see this as a plea from employee to supervisor to please take this issue seriously, to please make an exception and go to bat for me if you can.

          Reply
          1. Glomarization, Esq.

            This is exactly how I read it, as well. The employee is trying to be self-deprecating and allow the LW to save face. “Oh, it’s not you, I’m just a little, you know, OCD about this.”

            Reply
          2. The Original K.

            This was my read too. The employee may be getting the vibe that OP #2 doesn’t see the pests as a big deal (there’s a very laissez-faire vibe coming from the letter), so she’s trying to tone down her reaction to them. I strenuously disagree that pests aren’t a big deal; it is not unreasonable at ALL to not want to work around pests. Working in an old building doesn’t mean you have to just accept roaches and mice.

            Also, working in the same space as the kitchen sounds pretty awful, pests or not – there would be a lot of coming and going, which I would find very distracting.

            Reply
        2. Lilo

          A lot of hoarders actually have OCD (I have a cousin who suffers from OCD and her hoarding led to a pest issue that almost got my aunt’s house condemned). It isn’t what you think at all.

          OCD is a red herring here, the average person would be freaked by all the dead bugs and mice droppings. Nothing about this employee’s reaction is abnormal.

          Reply
      2. Dot Warner

        Agreed. I don’t have OCD or a germ phobia, but mouse poop in the kitchen? That is disgusting!!! I’m amazed that no one at OP2’s office has gotten sick or brought a disease home to their loved ones.

        Reply
        1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego

          This for sure. I’m very relaxed about germs and dirt in general but mouse droppings in the kitchen area is too far.

          Reply
        2. Birch

          Yep. I’ve literally been paid to scoop dog poop, and not only would we not have tolerated vermin in the dog kitchen, we would not have tolerated vermin in the dog poop zone. We’ve seen letters about gas leaks and no running water in the workplace–this is just as much of an illegal health risk and this willful helplessness is really baffling.

          Reply
    3. MLB

      While everything you say is completely reasonable, LW said her report has “self-reported” OCD. I don’t have it, but I do know that many people don’t understand what true OCD entails, so the report may just be exaggerating her phobias. Regardless, I wouldn’t want to work in a cockroach and mouse infested environment either so I can’t say I blame her uneasiness. LW seems to blame it on her age and inexperience, but if I saw vermin all the time, I’d nope my way out of there, and I’ve been working longer than the report has been alive.

      Reply
      1. Constanze

        Yes, self-reported OCD is meaningless. But also like you said, it doesn’t matter, because this is not an OCD issue. This is an issue with deplorable and illegal workplace conditions. The employee might be young but she seems to have a better understanding of what is acceptable than her manager.

        Reply
      2. Yorick

        I don’t think “self-reported” is the same as “self-diagnosed,” though. I thought the OP meant that the report identified herself as having OCD, not that OP thought she might have it.

        Reply
    4. Observer

      Thanks for the information. But, I do think that the OCD issue may be a bit of a red herring. What the employee is being subjected to would be a problem for most people, OCD or not.

      Reply
    5. Essess

      By shrugging her shoulders and deciding that it works out to let the employee be the one to clean the kitchen instead of enforcing basic professional expectations of the other employees because she has OCD seems like it is deliberately putting an unfair workload onto the employee as a result of their condition. That starts to smell of a potential EEOC violation by taking advantage of the employee’s condition.

      Reply
  8. Fulana del Tal

    #2 – The attitude I’m getting is that you think your employee is overreacting to “just mice and cockroaches” but she really isn’t. Letting dirty dishes pile up in the sink is just contributing to the problem. Of course shes going to clean the sink if not the infestation in her work area is just going to get worse. At the very least you have to move her away from the sink.

    Reply
    1. Yay

      I just posted a similar notion! I really don’t think this has to be about OCD or her being new at her job… that is a gross work environment, period.

      Reply
    2. namelesscommentator

      Yeah. I’m genuinely surprised that this is a work situation that is apparently being accepted by grown adults. This isn’t acceptable for any workplace kitchen, much less one that you have an employee work out of.

      I’m curious what the advice had the employee written in would be, because the question here is not how to manage an employee who doesn’t want to work among mouse droppings and cockroaches, but how to manage up so the situation is addressed.

      Reply
      1. EddieSherbert

        Seriously, I’m really surprised by the advice on this one. I think the OP should go to bat for her employee and for general workplace cleanliness here? Again, I get rodents and bugs can happen. But mouse dropping all around your kitchen counters because food remnants are being left on them?! Definitely avoidable.

        Reply
      2. Zombeyonce

        Yes, the pest issue is very serious, especially in a kitchen. Some mice carry hantavirus, which can kill you! From the CDC website, which lists not only terrible symptoms but also that it carries a 38% fatality rate:

        “Scientists believe that people may be able to get the virus if they touch something that has been contaminated with rodent urine, droppings, or saliva, and then touch their nose or mouth.”

        “Scientists also suspect people can become sick if they eat food contaminated by urine, droppings, or saliva from an infected rodent.”

        This is all very possible in the SAME ROOM that the employee sits in all day. It can even become airborne! OP, please do something about this.

        Reply
    3. Essess

      I’m really surprised that they haven’t put a simple webcam in the kitchen facing the sink and do performance reviews on the people that leave their garbage there.

      Reply
  9. Yay

    #2 – I just want to put this out there… you seem to think it’s unusual that your report is bothered by this, and bring up her OCD and her lack of work experience. But as someone who’s had a lot of gross jobs in my line of work and also been in some old buildings, I’ve never heard of a place like your work place being acceptable. It’s fine that you’re okay with it, but I find it hard to believe this is the norm in any industry… and at the least, it would be completely understandable for your employee to be bothered by this if she had no OCD and had years of work experience. Lots of people are uncomfortable with roaches and mouse droppings!

    Reply
    1. Yvette

      Yes, the OP makes it seem like the employee is out of line by all this. OCD or no OCD, new employee or seasoned professional, no one wants to work in that kind of environment.

      Reply
    2. Sabine the Very Mean

      I worked warehouses in college unloding freight from everywhere and saw nary a spider. I think OP is not calibrated to what’s normal due to puttung up with this so long. Said with love.

      Reply
      1. Yay

        Yeah, I think OPs normal might be out of wack. I have worked in an older building with this sort of problem, and it did have roaches occasionally… but relatively rarely (never more than one seen a month, probably only 4-5 the entire 2 years I worked there) and I know they were constantly fighting them with traps. I was okay with that.

        I honestly just don’t understand how the age of the building is even relevant? It’s possible to get pests out of old buildings! I hope for her sake OP’s employee is job searching! If someone came to me and said they were leaving because their old work place was filled with roaches and mice droppings, I would be completely sympathetic and understanding. Though perhaps want them to wash their work bag first, hah.

        Reply
      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        Totally agreed. It’s similar to how our expectations shift at Toxic Jobs. This is an unreasonable shift from prolonged exposure to a Dirty Workplace.

        Reply
      3. Lonely Aussie

        And then there are others of us who have worked in some really gross environments. I work in Ag, and it’s not uncommon to enter the tea room and find rat poo in the coffee if someone forgot to close the lid. That said, would never tolerate such things in a proper office job, old building or not.

        (Also, I totally don’t drink the coffee)

        Reply
        1. fposte

          I’m in an office, but we’re in the middle of the fields and I work on the lower level. There’s periodic pest control, but it’s just a temporary curb, not a long-term solution.

          Reply
    3. Lilo

      I have worked in some buildings that are about as old as you get in the US (colonial and pre civil war) and my experience is that old historic buildings that are well run are actually super strict about food debris and cleaning because those pests damage the historic facades and paintings.

      Reply
      1. Où est la bibliothèque?

        I worked in a very old library–food strictly forbidden–and somehow we still got mice. I suppose they might have been eating leather book covers, but we never saw evidence of that.

        Reply
    4. AvonLady Barksdale

      I agree completely. I mean, I’m pretty tolerant– I live in a very old house where it’s common to have small spiders and palmetto bugs (which is “polite” for cockroaches) around– but I would lose it if I had to work around mouse droppings. My office gets a stinkbug or too and that’s annoying, but mouse droppings indicate a Problem. This is not some kind of old-building-itis. This can be addressed in many ways.

      Reply
  10. AcademiaNut

    For #3 one thing to keep in mind is that it might not be the same employees leaving early/coming late all the time, and there might be hidden work that you’re not seeing. My experience with this sort of flexible work situation is that the times you leave early, or come in late, or take a long lunch hour, are balancing other times when you had to work more.

    For example – if I have a 7am telecon, I’ll take it at home and come into the office afterwards, which looks like I’m coming in late. Some days I take a lunch that is longer than normal, sometimes I eat at my desk while I’m monitoring a process. Last week I had an overseas business trip during which I worked three 15 hour days in a row, this week I’m taking it easy. And sometimes I’ll reach 4pm and need to refresh my mind before solving a problem, so I’ll head home early, clear my mind on the trip home, and dig into it again while dinner is cooking.

    Reply
    1. LadyByTheLake

      I was coming to say this. I’ve seen junior employees make the mistake of seeing Sansa come in at 9:30 (not realizing she had a breakfast meeting), watching Wakeen take a long lunch (not realizing that he’d worked until after midnight the night before) and watching Fergus leave at 3 to pick up his kids, not realizing that he was working later after his kids were in bed. That junior person decided that the hours must be 9:30 – 11 and 1-3. Every day.

      Reply
      1. TootsNYC

        also–Sansa may leave early on Wednesday, but does she leave early every day? Very likely not.

        I left an hour early on the day I had therapy, but I worked late other days, and through lunch most days, etc.

        Reply
      2. Antilles

        The kids thing actually reminded me of when I was a junior person (intern) at a Major Fortune 500 company. We had an employee who left every single day at 3:00 sharp to get her kids from school. Every day, no exceptions, no questions asked. I eventually got the nerve to politely ask my boss about it and got a good-natured sarcastic “well, I let everybody leave at 3 if they’d like to show up before dawn 300 days a year like she does…but nobody else has taken me up on the offer!”

        Reply
    2. MLB

      This 100%. It may not seem fair if you witness others coming in late or leaving early, but you don’t know what they’re doing or how much time they’re putting in outside of the office. I’ve been lucky to have managers that always treated me like an adult, and were flexible when I needed some extra time for something personal, because I’ve always made sure to get my work done and never taken advantage of that flexibility.

      Reply
    3. MsChanandlerBong

      Same here. My Mondays are brutal because Monday is the busiest day of the week AND my coworker’s only day off, so I have to do all the work myself. I routinely work anywhere from 11 to 14 hours on Mondays, and it totally saps me of any energy, so I often come in a little late on Tuesday to make up for it.

      Reply
    4. Lawgurl06

      Jumping on the train with this – YES!

      I get complaints to me by management and employees seeing what others are doing in other departments, but they really don’t know what that person’s situation is. Last week, someone complained to me that one member of our sales team was out for the morning and unavailable. He was unavailable because he was about to make a 10 hour drive for work that same day. You can’t judge a situation or compare yourself without knowing what is going on, and you aren’t always going to! Not everyone puts every single thing that might come up on their calendars.

      Reply
    5. J

      This exactly – and typically the people I’ve worked with who keep flexible hours “at the office” are AT LEAST making it up outside of 9 – 5, and usually working more than 35-40 hours a week regularly.

      In fact, that’s why – as a fairly senior person in my department who has that flexibility available – I don’t usually do it! While I might take a long lunch to run errands and work late to make up for it very occasionally, I’m one of the few more senior people who don’t keep flexible hours regularly. Personally, the need to make it up outside of business hours quickly erodes the barrier between work and home for me, and sends my work/life balance (which is critical for my overall health) totally out of whack.

      I definitely understand how people who haven’t experienced this could view flexible hours as feeling like working “less” overall, but in my experience it’s very much the opposite.

      Reply
    6. Nervous Nellie

      Agreed with AcademiaNut. Peering behind the curtain is huge. I live in a city where there is a very big software company. Many of my friends work there. They can hit the office around, say, 10am and leave whenever they need to, but whenever there is a software release deadline (which can happen multiple times in a month), they are working 18-20 hour days. The joke when you get a job there is, “Congrats! You got the job! You can work any 16 hours a day that you like.” They take work home, they get emails at dinner and they get called away to the office on weekends when software testing fails. They sign into online meetings while on vacation, and they never, never put their phones away – they can’t. And the more senior they are, the more shackled they become.

      And yet, their in-office support staff (admins, accounting, legal team) work set hours, don’t take work home, and don’t get bugged by emails during dinner. The point here? That “office job” doesn’t cover all office jobs (and that an admin position there is pretty sweet). Jobs that you think are very flexible often really aren’t.

      Reply
    7. Xarcady

      I work in a team of two people in a larger department. I never know when someone from the other team will be out for the day, or several days, or come in late or leave early. The other team travels a lot for work, going to conferences and symposiums and meeting clients. They also meet with clients a lot here at the office. Some of them work from home 1 or 2 days a week. And they have a lot of meetings with other departments in the company.

      But when there’s a major due date, they are all in the office and working 10-12 hour days. They get an incredible amount of work done with relatively few people.

      Reply
  11. Les G

    OP1, I’m trying to be nice here, but I have to confess I’m baffled by your question. You’re having trouble filling this position, yes? And this person has the qualifications you need? I’m wondering if anyone else is involved in this decision, because to put it bluntly, I wouldn’t be pleased to hear a colleague had thrown out a good candidate because she didn’t like his resume.

    Reply
    1. Doctor Schmoctor

      Because effective communication is an important part of management. And a resume where you have to take a highlighter and search for the information you want is, well, not effective communication. So actually it is a legitimate reason to move the resume to the ‘maybe’ pile.

      Reply
      1. OP#1

        This. Effective communication to stakeholders is a huge part of this role and I worry that someone who won’t do that with their resume won’t do that in the role.

        Plus, as I said further up, I was overly frustrated at the time and have gotten over it. At least I paused and asked the question rather than just taking my (admittedly poor) suggested action.

        Reply
        1. Observer

          You do deserve credit for asking rather than jumping. But, it’s a stretch to assume that someone who took a really bad piece of resume advice is going to be a poor communicator on the whole. Sure, pay attention to everything else, even talk to them about how they communicate etc. But it’s putting too much on the resume to move it to the maybe pile just because of that in these circumstances.

          Reply
    2. Space Turtle

      But people judge candidates based on resumes and applications, so it’s not exactly egregious to hesitate when someone does a bad job at this.

      Reply
      1. Debra Wolf

        Exactly. I can’t believe how many resumes I get with typos. I don’t care how qualified the candidate is, if they can’t be bothered to proofread their resume, how conscientious are they going to be about their work? Your resume is your first impression with a potential employer.

        Reply
        1. Observer

          Typos are a very different thing though. That’s generally a matter of carelessness, as spelling is not somethig that’s a matter of opinion or taste.

          Reply
    3. Detective Amy Santiago

      The whole purpose of a resume is to sell yourself. If your resume isn’t doing that easily, it is not effective.

      Reply
        1. Danger: Gumption Ahead

          I thought it was awful. Hell, it doesn’t even make for a good infographic, much less a resume. The “Brief History”, “Stats” and “Praise” sections are completely pointless and just serve to make it very cluttered

          Reply
    4. Lance

      True, it’s one thing to ‘not like’ a resume; it’s a whole ‘nother thing entirely when you have to heavily parse through the resume to get any of the info you’re looking for, as OP said they had to do. At that point, I wouldn’t blame anyone for not wanting to deal with it.

      Reply
    5. pleaset

      I agree with Les G

      OP1 – Are you trying to figure out who is best for the job? Or are you going through resumes looking for reasons to toss them. Certainly if you have a lot of applicants, staring with the latter approach is the way to go. Or if you have not many applicants, but most are good, then starting with the latter approach can work.

      But at a certain point, the mindset has to shift to the former – who among these people can do the job best? If there is a serious red flag – perhaps some sense of impropriety on the part of the applicant, or something about them that is likely to manifest itself in a bad way on the job, yes toss them. Do your due diligence.

      But the resume format as a reason to disqualify someone who appears good in all other aspects? That’s bad decisionmaking. If you are in late stages of the process, test if the “poor judgement” in resume format surfaces in other ways. If it does, they’re out. If not, accept it as just one negative against a whole lot of positives.

      Reply
  12. bookartist

    LW#2 – If part of the problem is that no one is responsible for cleaning the kitchenette, and the staff feels no shame or sense of responsibility vis a vis cleaning their own messes(!), you might hire a jobber on TaskRabbit or the like to clean up every few days.

    Reply
    1. Tardigrade

      Or because the staff won’t clean up their own messes, move THEM into the kitchen and shift the new employee elsewhere. :D

      Reply
      1. Seeking Second Childhood

        This is brilliant. The person who doesn’t think the kitchen needs to be cleaned is the one who should work in the messy kitchen.

        Reply
  13. Greg M.

    please don’t penalize them too harshly #1, while there is something to be said for knowing your audience and following standards there are a lot of awful people out there giving bad career advice. He could just be following some really bad advice not knowing any better.

    Reply
    1. Sherree

      This isn’t bad career advice, but an effort in being noticed. I have heard complaints of off white resume paper, or soft pastels. I guess I look at it differently as I think an applicant that has taken the time to stand out may actually be more interested in getting the job. My resume, while not a infographic broke the norm when I went from the suggested one page to two pages, I added a short description of the company business and made my cover letter more chatty, all the things I think most professional HR people would cringe at but… I sent out that resume to three companies, got three interviews and three job offers. The old resume? Not a tug. Also most people who interview are not professional HR people.

      Reply
      1. fposte

        The thing is, to a good hiring manager you want to stand out for the content, not for devices or gimmickry. A chattier cover letter is great! That’s better content! A chattier cover letter with cool graphics isn’t better, and it may be harder to read, which is worse.

        Reply
  14. Comms Girl

    In regards to #1: I may be coming from a totally different perspective (I’m not a US citizen and I don’t work in the US), but why are infographic resumes seen as such a bad thing? While I understand that there is a right way and a wrong way* to do infographic resumes:
    – My own CV is an infographic one (albeit one of the simpler ones I’ve seen) and has been largely praised in previous job interviews;
    – Maybe because I work in Communications, and I do some (low-level, admitedly) hiring myself, I often prefer infographic resumes to just a wall of text straight out of the 80s. (Given, of course, that the content is valuable and relevant)

    Surely this will vary from work field to work field, but please enlighten me :)

    *one of the CVs from a recent application process listed the candidate as being proficient with the Adobe Package but the icons they used on their infographic resume were straight out of Windows 98 ClipArt and not even displayed in an appealing way. (The overall content was also less than stellar, so the candidate wouldn’t go through no matter what)

    Reply
    1. TL -

      I just googled them and they’re really hard to get any meaningful information from quickly and easily. Most of the information you need from a CV is actually text based (duties, achievements, specific skills) and the design elements make it hard to easily get that information.
      Instead of a quick skim, you have to force your eyes to focus on the text, make decisions about what each design element means, interpret images and/or graphics, fight against the leading of the design to make sure you flow your gaze over the whole thing, and you have a lot competing for your attention. Whereas a well-designed simple ‘wall of text’ CV will make sure your gaze flows naturally down, with the headers providing a simple way to contextualize each bit of information without having to fight to move on to the next bits.

      There were a few that weren’t terrible, but those were mostly normal CVs with a few lines and small decorative elements. There were a few that were truly terrible, with graphs for skills- What does 70% at Excel even mean? Wouldn’t it better to use the same amount of space to write ‘advanced Excel skills: vlookup, macros, large dataset analysis?’
      But honestly, even the ones that looked nice were really hard to just pick out the information I was looking for.

      Reply
      1. TechWorker

        Yeah, these are bad.

        The ones that include some sort of bar chart for ‘skills’ or ‘language’ skills I found particularly hilarious – what the hell use is a bar chart with no scale? Sure it might be useful to know your French is better than your German but I have no idea if you’re nearly fluent in both or know 2 sentences in German and 4 in French…

        Reply
        1. Constanze

          I don’t agree with that. It’s quite obvious actually (assuming you don’t have a chart with ten bars and very small differences between each skill). If you have 4 or 5 bars in a chart, a full one means you are fluent, and that’s pretty obvious.

          Particularly regarding the language skills, I don’t find it more confusing than the (very generous) evaluation that people give themselves : “French : high school level i.e. you can’t say anything expect “Croissant” and “Je m’appelle Claude”” – “English : professional level i.e. you watch Game of Thrones with the subtitles and you miss half of it and you will be scared to write an email once a year”.

          I am not for infographic resumes as a whole but this part can be useful, especially for some skills which are not a huge part of the job but you still want to convey.

          Reply
          1. Birch

            That’s not how graphs and charts work though, so all it says when someone has one with no scale or measurement means they don’t understand statistics.

            Reply
            1. Falling Diphthong

              All it says (is) they don’t understand statistics.

              This. If you don’t have a scale, it’s not an infographic–just a graphic. Might as well do French: hedgehog photo; Spanish: meerkat photo; C++: sea slug photo.

              Reply
            2. Constanze

              Yes, but a CV is not a statistical document, is it ? It is a marketing tool, and it is really disingenuous to pretend that you don’t get what 2 out of 4 bars mean.

              But yes, that’s maybe not the best idea if you work in statistics.

              Reply
              1. Birch

                It doesn’t have to be a statistical document, you can’t just decide to use graphs and charts however you want. They are meant to convey data and it’s just truth that these examples do not mean anything, no matter how much you want them to. This is the same as putting your height down in a doctor’s chart as “16 rabbits” tall. Sure, I can tell that someone 16 rabbits tall is taller than someone 10 rabbits tall, but other than that it doesn’t mean anything that can be shared and understood between people because there is no objective measurement and thus, no useful data. This is not just a preference or mathy people being obstinate—this is literally how politicians and news media have been lying to people whose education unfortunately didn’t include how to tell when people are lying to you with fake statistics. It’s important and it’s a bigger issue than a dislike for infographic resumes.

                Reply
                1. Washi

                  Yes! I’ve looked at some of these example infographic resumes, and the graphs can really only be compared to each other. So if I wanted to hire someone whose English was twice as good as their Spanish and 1/3 as good as their French, it would work great. But I cannot think of a skillset where that makes any sense whatsoever. Because a full bar could mean fluent or a full bar could mean proficient or a full bar could just be the language they are best at but it’s still bad. At least if they use the word “fluent” or “proficient” I have something to go off of instead of a made-up scale.

              2. Falling Diphthong

                A bar half as high as another bar means that by some measure, it’s half as much as the first bar. That could be the difference between 2 and 4 words, if it’s languages. Watched two instructional videos vs one, if it’s Excel skills. Coded in Java 10 years and Python 5. Or it could be that 0 corresponds to “proficient” and these are slight gradations above proficient–focusing in on the part of the graph that illustrates variation is not in and of itself deceptive, until you take the scale off and then it seems like you might be trying to make it look like something doubled from last quarter when it actually went from 82% to 84%.

                For a lot of jobs, this is the “the teapots have a cleaner look if you remove the handle” of informational writing.

                Reply
            3. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

              That’s not true, and folks are taking what feels to me like an absurdly hard line stance on this.

              The charts are relative to each other. I can clearly see that Francis is twice as proficient in German as she is in Mandarin. Fine.

              The problem isn’t the graphic, its the self-reportiflng. If she had labeled her bar charts and given herself an 8 in German and a 4 in Mandarin that wouldn’t have given me any more information.

              Reply
              1. Birch

                That’s the point–we have no idea what either “twice as good” or an 8 versus a 4 means. You can’t make up the measurements, they have to be standardized to mean anything.

                Reply
            1. TechWorker

              Okay but even with languages 100% might mean anything from ‘native speaker’ to ‘can just about get by’ – and for other examples it’s even less obvious, what does ‘80% python skill’ mean?

              And yes, I’m a mathematician so charts without numbers in general annoy me ;)

              Reply
            2. Birch

              It doesn’t mean that because the scale is subjective. Scales must be objective in order to mean anything, and graphs like this need to be quantitative.

              Reply
          2. Name Required

            As someone who has done hiring and received resumes with these stupid bar graphs on them, it isn’t “quite obvious actually.”

            You bring up high school level … that IS a meaningful standard. One to two years of study, including basics such as introductions, numbers, colors, directions, etc. What the hell does three bars possibly mean out of a scale of five bars? We have no idea.

            If someone says they know a language at professional level and then are scared to write an email, they lied. People lying or exaggerating their skill doesn’t make graph bars more sensible.

            Reply
          1. Falling Diphthong

            It’s rock standard for chapters on how to tell that someone is lying to you with a veneer of math. We have to call it “misleading data displays” so as not to assign intent, but we’re referencing the book “How to Lie with Statistics.”

            Reply
            1. Birch

              Yep. Not to mention, without a scale it’s not data. I just looked up infographic resumes and most of them have some kind of weird circle-shaped or bar chart-shaped image for skills. It means nothing! Graphs don’t show data relative to itself (e.g. the bar for French fluency is higher than the bar for German fluency), they show data relative to an objective measurement (e.g. you got 77% on your French proficiency exam and 50% on your German proficiency exam). No measurement means you are making it up, and hiring managers should not accept that standard. Nor should the general public, but that’s a quality of education rant for another day.

              Reply
      2. Falling Diphthong

        Instead of a quick skim, you have to….

        I think this is the heart of the problem. You are “drawn in” to interact with the resume more because it’s an inefficient, hard to understand way to convey most of the information. If engagement is all that matters, you win! More time spent looking at it! But if you irritate the person who just wants the information, you’re not actually winning.

        I’m reminded of a chart design that gave the information in a spiral.Yes, people would spend more time engaging with it–because they had to turn their head sideways as the text rotated, and it was hard to figure out what lined up with what. Or of written media that decides to add video, which consists of the writer sitting in front of a blank wall reading their work aloud–it’s hard to skim, hard to go back and check something.

        Reply
      3. Artemesia

        I looked at the link posted earlier where the person was advertising they could make infographic resumes and they were awful. I cannot imagine that anyone hiring would find these anything but annoying. You want to provide me with charts and graphs or pictures — put them in links, but give me a resume I can skim for the key information in a minute or two.

        Reply
      4. Free Meerkats

        Yesterday I was looking at one of my Edward Tufte visual communication books and came across the notes I took in the class back in 2001. One of the first things he said was that there are some things that just can’t be well communicated in visual form (this was before everyone used the term “infographic”). And one of the things that was mentioned was the resume. If The Expert in the presentation of informational graphics says not to do it, don’t do it.

        Reply
      5. JulieCanCan

        I had no idea what infographic resumes were until this AAM question. Who the HELL wants to try to decipher that crap? I got a headache just now, no joke, trying to go through an example resume. Give me a plain, Times Roman. text-only, bullet-pointed resume ANY day.

        Those things are ridiculous. My concern would be that anyone who thinks that’s a good idea might not have the best logical thinking skills.

        Reply
    2. Comms Girl

      Thank you all, including Alison, for clarifying. I guess my CV falls more on the “text with some lines and decorative elements”-side of the infographic CV spectrum. I agree that bells and whistles and no valuable or meaningful content is a recipe for disaster. Like everything in life, there’s a limit :)

      Reply
      1. always in email jail

        Also, I think there’s definitely differences between the US and other countries when it comes to resume norms. It is my understanding that, outside of the US, it is common in some places to have a photo of yourself on a resume. Here, that is VERY outside of the norm and would likely come off as abnormal enough to land in a “no” pile if the hiring manager didn’t know it’s common elsewhere.

        Reply
        1. JulieCanCan

          Except in Los Angeles- I can’t tell you how many resumes I receive with photos on them. And these are not resumes for acting gigs, nor was a photo requested.

          Those usually go in the “not unless I get desperate” pile (as long as they have all the necessary skills, experience and education).

          Reply
    3. LibraryMan

      I think that infographic resumes are a misapplication of skill. I know a (very little) bit about design, and for my last job hunt, I applied it to my resume. Instead of changing what information was presented (the infographic approach), I changed *how* the information was presented; I used everything I knew or could find out about typography so that while I used the traditional format, it was as clean and clear as I could possibly make it. I made sure that readability was as high as I could go, that the emotional connotations of the typeface were what I was trying to convey. I also worked really hard to insure that my content fit what I was trying to do; no digressions or off-point entries in my resume or cover letter.

      I used design skills to enhance the message they wanted to receive; I had about 75% of my applications go though to interviews. If I had used an infographic approach, I would have been changing the medium of the message from written words to pictures, which would have made it harder for my intended audience to make the shift and receive my message.

      Reply
  15. Calmeye

    OP1 I also get lots of strange, gimmicky resumes. But when I look at several of our company’s top performers I can’t imagine them writing fantastic resumes either. Resume writing is a specific skill which doesn’t always indicate a person’s ability to do their job effectively.

    Reply
    1. Anon For Always

      Honestly, I much prefer a boring descriptive resume. Because developing a resume is a specific skill, and I am not hiring someone to be a resume writer.

      I’ve always found a cover letter to be far more helpful anyway. That actually gives me an idea of the person’s writing skills.

      Reply
    2. OP#1

      I understand that not everyone writes a “great” resume, but it should also be pretty easy to not write a terrible one…especially if the role you seek requires succinctly communicating important information to other decision makers.

      Reply
  16. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis

    For OP3 – this varies by company. While I have NO experience or understanding of how things are in the US, in the UK we have flexitime. This usually means that during core hours of, for example 10am – 3pm you must be at work, barring an hour taken between 12-2. Outside core hours it becomes a case of 1) getting all your work done and 2) filling in your minimum working hours – this last bit is where it gets interesting. If you are contracted (yes, UK thing, not US thing) to work 38 hours a week, you could, in theory, get most of your hours in by Thursday, and then Friday you work the minimum of just the four core hours. Or you could take an extended lunch break because you really need to run errands. Or, you could accrue even more hours and take the whole of Friday off! (With management agreement in advance) But even these rules have varied by company. Some companies don’t like you to accrue too much time, and it would become use it or lose it within the time reporting period (usually 4 weeks)
    And that’s specific “Flexitime” contracts. We currently (thanks to the EU, so watch this space following Brexit) have the right to agreed flexible working hours. Meaning that if it is a consistent requirement to leave at 3pm to pick up children from childcare, employees can’t be penalised for this – they may be on a pro rata hours, but they don’t have to stick to the rigid 9-5 of the rest of us. And yet others are flexible at management discretion.

    Best advice OP3, is exactly what Alison advises – ask your manager!

    Reply
    1. londonedit

      This is my experience too (also UK) but it really does vary by company. Where I am now, there is a lot of flexible working – core hours are 9am-5.30pm, but I usually get to work at around 8.30 and leave at 5. I have a colleague who gets to work at 7.30 and leaves at 4. No one minds as long as you’re getting your work done. There are also plenty of people who have arrangements in place where they work from home a few days a week, or come in early/leave early for childcare. But that hasn’t been the case in every company I’ve worked for – there have definitely been environments where the boss/owner of the company has made it very clear that everyone needs to be in the office at certain times, and also where they’ve made it clear that they believe anyone who leaves early is slacking off. The key is obviously also to make sure that you have your manager’s agreement to do whatever hours you’re interested in doing – it may look like people are doing their own thing and setting their own hours, but it’s probable that they all have their manager’s agreement to do that.

      Reply
    2. Akcipitrokulo

      Also UK – I worked for company that had core hours 10-4, you could work between 7am-7pm. Any extra over your 35 hours/week were credited as flexi-time: you could bank up to 10 hours/month and spend them at a max of 1 day or two half-days per month. (Obviously you could work 8 hours one day & 6 on another day sometime in the same month if you had a lot in the bank).

      Then management decided that people were “taking advantage” of flexitime by using a flexiday along with holidays in the same week, and even (get ready to clutch your pearls here!) use it in the same week as a Bank Holiday!!! *gasp*.

      Yeah… they basically got it into their heads that spending 3 holidays to get a week off was cheating the system (no) and so cancelled all flexitime.

      Now, due to vagaries of public transport, if I left at 1650, I got home before 1800, and if I left ten minutes later at 1700, I got home after 1900.

      So I asked if I could have regular 0850-1650 instead of 0900-1700.

      “No. We don’t do flexitime.”

      When I pointed out that this would mean people stopping work at 5 on the dot, the answer was “well, that will let us know about their attitude and commitment…”

      That was when I decided I wasn’t going to be there long term!

      (Another job had similar restrictions – with a similar impact – again, not a long term career path there, but it was actually one of the least problematic issues in a very toxic environment.)

      Current job – hours are technically 0800-1630, but have arranged that in reality it’s about quarter past to about quarter to, depending on trains, and manager is fine.

      Actually before we formalised it, I’d had a really bad week with transport (had made up for it) but in 1-1 started by apologetically acknowledging I’d been late a lot… – his response was “have you? I hadn’t noticed…”

      Because he cared about results (which he got) and trusted staff to be adults.

      There’s a reason I’ve been here years… the not freaking out if you have to arrange hours around external forces is a symptom of a healthy workplace. It isn’t that it’s a magic cure – it’s that healthy workplaces focus on what matters, and respect you.

      (Obviously I’m not customer facing – if I were, and I have been in the past, that would be a different matter. You need to be there on time when a customer calls/walks in.)

      (Very quick nitpick – EU regs say that if you’re a parent, you can request different hours, and the company has to agree unless 1) there is a valid business reason why not (and it must be demonstrable) and 2) you’ve already had a change within the last 12 months. So not *quite* you must be allowed flexi-time, but still pretty good)

      Reply
      1. Bagpuss

        You don’t have to be a parent. It used to be that the right to request flexible hours was limited to parents and carers, but it’s now anyone (once they have worked for the employer for 6 months or longer) who can make a request. The business then has to consider it and there are specific criteria which include business needs, on which they can make a decision. The employer can refuse if there is a ‘sound business reason’ and the reasons are pretty broadly drafted.
        One of them is about inability to reorganise work among other staff, so (for instance) if there are already several people in the office who have flexible time to leave early to pick up children from school, a further request for the same may be refused if it means there won’t be enough people left to cover the work during those hours.

        Reply
    3. MLB

      It really depends on many factors, including type of job, salaried vs. hourly and your manager. Certain jobs (like a help desk/customer service rep) require you to answer calls as they come in, so the hours are more rigid. Others are super flexible, and as long as you attend meetings that mandatory and get you work done on time, it doesn’t matter when you do it. And many jobs that are in between the 2 extremes.

      I think the one mistake that can be made here is making assumptions. If you witness others seeming to come and go as they please, don’t assume you can do the same. Those others may have off site meetings. They may have worked late the night before or over the weekend. They could have a doctor’s appointment and be using their PTO/sick time. The best thing LW can do is talk to their manager about expectations for their particular job and go from there.

      Reply
  17. The Ginger Ginger

    OP 2, you have an employee who has said they have OCD regularly cleaning your kitchen because “they have higher standards”; that’s not really okay. And in a building with pest issues, it is 100% critical that kitchen areas stay clean or it encourages the problem. Employee needs to be moved out of the kitchen; the rest of the staff needs to clean up after themselves because PESTS, or the custodial staff needs to cover the kitchen as well. You cannot have a messy kitchen in a pest filled building. If you have any standing to manage the staff, even if you’re new, you need to push for this. You can couch it in terms re: the pest issue; heck, blame building management if you want, but unless the cleanliness of the kitchen is addressed (by ALL), as an employer your company is not doing everything they can to handle the pest issue.

    Reply
  18. Constanze

    OP1# The OCD is a red herring. You don’t need to have OCD to be grossed out by
    1) cockroaches (if you see them, it basically means there is an infestation)
    2) mice in the kitchen / your office
    3) a dirty kitchen in your office.

    Your employee’s reaction is completely understandable and doesn’t fall under “pathological reaction from her OCD”.
    Also, you don’t need to have employees with OCD to provide them with a clean, healthy workplace.

    You say you are new but what exactly are you waiting for to improve your workplace ? There is a range of actions you can take between “not doing anything like you are doing now” and “magically getting rid of all pest in your historic building”.

    And as a side note, seeing that your new (female) employee is the one always cleaning the kitchen because it is her office (?!) and just shrugging is not okay.

    Reply
    1. Doctor Schmoctor

      Absolutely. There is no excuse for rodents in the kitchen. It is a serious health hazard. It is completely unacceptable that this is just accepted.

      Reply
    2. Glomarization, Esq.

      I likewise am giving LW a huge side-eye for assigning KP duty to the female employee with a self-disclosed preference for cleanliness.

      Reply
    3. Murphy

      Cockroaches don’t automatically mean an infestation (I’m in the US South, they just get inside sometimes).

      But I agree with everything else. You shouldn’t be seeing any of that stuff on the reg.

      Reply
      1. Jule

        Yeah. Mice are one thing, but I’m in New York, and if I hear someone has NEVER seen a cockroach I am a little skeptical. I’ve seen two just on the sidewalk in the last year, and one was by Lincoln Center and one on the Upper East Side outside a ritzy building, so. They just exist.

        Reply
      2. Constanze

        To be honest, if you see them dead in plain sight inside a building, and not even in the little hot corners… you probably have an issue.

        Reply
      3. Someone Else

        If you see 1 there’s probably 100. So if staff are regularly seeing multiple roaches, there’s probably an infestation. Yes, they just get inside sometimes. But if she’s seeing multiple roaches in multiple places every day, there are way way way more. It’s possible I’m getting the wrong idea from the letter, but if this is “every once in a while you notice a bug”, maybe they’re not infested. If it’s “there are regularly bugs”, they almost certainly are.

        Reply
  19. Akcipitrokulo

    OP2 – while I understand old buildings do have their own difficulties – I’m wondering if everyone who works there hasn’t started seeing the vermin as a “broken stair”?

    I think it’s reasonable to ask if this level is normal (dead cockroaches on stairs is pushing me towards “no”) or if it’s just become what you (plural) deal with on a regular basis, and is therefore *YOUR* normal?

    Reply
  20. Rez123

    #1 I know OP has solved this issue. But I do feel like that was quite a strong reaction. Sure, CV does show communication skills etc. but I somehow felt that this was more than a “no thanks”. People experiment with different CV’s when previous ones have not been successful. They might listen to advice. I wouldn’t really necessarily put it as a gimmick. But I wouldn’t broadly say no to infographic resumes (I’m talking about regular office job here, not design jobs). I just checked a website that has infographic templates and some of them were very nice. Yes, the ones with million pie charts and diagrams were unclear and totally over the top but some were nice and clean and I quite liked them.

    #2 I wouldn’t necessarily read too much into the OCD. It could be just colloquial expression. But she could also have OCD. But I really don’t think this issue is a young and OCD issue. I really wouldn’t want to have my desk in a kitchen. I wouldn’t want to cook/eat in a space that had mouse droppings and I really wouldn’t want to clean other people’s mess. Also, this is not an old building problem that people just have to deal with. Sure, old buildings have some quirks but mouse pooing on your sandwich is not one. Just because it’s not as bad as others doesn’t make it acceptable. I can’t really understand how it is possible that the letter comes across as the employee having a problem.

    #3 This totally depends on office, job, position and relationship and agreement with management. There is no typical. I work in an office that has flexitime as long as we work 38h a week during certain hours. So it is flexible but controlled. Previous office job was 9-5 cause it was client based that those were the opening times. The one before that I had flexitime but had to come to office for certain amount every day. Different positions could do whatever as long as deadlines were met. Management might only come in once a week. In my experience the freedom to come and go as long as work is done is rare. Most people around me (non-management level) have set hours to work, but have some flexibility on the time. But I could ask this from the manager or a colleague in the same position. Also are you sure you don’t have hours mentioned on your contract?

    As for the lunch hour. I’d say that usually the time to the canteen/ restaurant/kitchen is part of the lunch hour. So the getting up from the desk and sitting down is the lunch hour. In my office we have 30min for lunch. I’ve noticed that people tend to stay a bit longer. I wouldn’t ask management about this since in our office it is kind of silently agreed that you can star for lunch a bit longer and then maybe skip the coffee break in the afternoon. I think you can discuss with colleague or wait a bit longer and observe how people on the same level do.

    Reply
  21. Madame Secretary

    Re OP#2, there are tons of things that can be done to fight pests. Tons! Roaches and mouse droppings are not something people just live with, since both cause disease and are just plain foul. I’d make a complaint to OSHA or the Department of Labor. They need to hire an pest control company to deal with that ASAP.

    Reply
    1. BookishMiss

      Yep, I grew up/lived as an adult in an old building. We kept the kitchen clean, minimized food/crumbs/candy wrappers elsewhere in the house, and…No mice or roaches in the living areas! We had a few traps around just in case, but they only sprang when one of us accidentally stepped on them.

      Reply
  22. Asenath

    I work in a building that is known to have problems with mice and sometimes insects. We’ll probably never be rid of them (due to the size and location of the building, and the ease of access), but there’s a procedure for what you do when you spot any evidence – and that helps keep them down. Everyone knows who you notify, and if someone from that department can’t handle it, there’s a pest control company on retainer. I don’t think it’s appropriate NOT to take some action with pests. You might never eliminate them, but you can discourage them.

    Reply
  23. SPHR with OCD

    I have well-treated OCD and am considered to be in remission. I’m a huge fan of exposure and response prevention, which is the gold standard treatment.

    Working in these circumstances would be tremendously detrimental to my mental health, and the quality of my work would suffer. I’d be unable to focus on work. I’d quit as soon as I could find something new, if not earlier.

    And, aside from that, these conditions are truly unacceptable and yes, an OSHA violation.

    OP#2, you should escalate concerns and risk to your management, because this is indeed a risk.

    Reply
  24. Constanze

    OP2#
    Why not get an office cat ? That’s basically why Westminster buildings have official Mousers : because these old buildings get mice and a cat is a cheap, cute and efficient option against mice.
    A cat might be a good option in an old building like yours, and it’s definitely less expensive and sometimes more durable than a professional.

    For the roaches, you are going to have to pay, though.

    Reply
    1. Manatees are cool

      My dad has two cats in his old rural pub and they catch any mice or other pests that are in the area. Although this is in the U.K. where it is common for people to bring their dogs into pubs which I know isn’t normal in the USA, so I’m not certain what the rules/laws are over there.

      Reply
      1. AvonLady Barksdale

        Varies by state. :) In my state, dogs are allowed in any establishment where food makes up below a certain percentage of sales, so my dog hangs out in bottle shops and taprooms. In my former state, no buddies inside at all if a place sold food or drink.

        But I digress. An office cat is a good solution, and I am not a cat fan. The only time I ever wanted a cat was when I had a mouse problem in my old apartment; my dog is a good boy, but he’s part hunting breed of the type that says, “Look, Mama! Look over there! It’s a mouse! I told you now you go get it.” Cats are very useful.

        Reply
        1. Rusty Shackelford

          My cat is as useful as your dog. She will certainly point out the bugs, but isn’t going to do much beyond sitting and staring at them.

          Reply
    2. Lynca

      Make sure the cat will catch mice before giving them that job. My cat is a sweetie but she is not an effective hunter.

      Reply
      1. Natalie

        My local humane society has a working cat program and they’re all feral or semi-feral, so generally decent hunters.

        Reply
      2. Tardigrade

        So now I’m imagining conducting a job interview with a cat.

        “What was your rate of success catching mice in your previous roles?”
        Meow.
        “And how long before we would see a reduction in mouse occupancy using your services?”
        Mroooow.

        Reply
      3. Perse's Mom

        YEP. My mom had two large, energetic, young male cats and one old tiny female cat (and badly declawed in her youth because my mother refused to listen to her multiple children who work in vetmed and told her not to do it). The tiny old lady cat caught far more pests.

        Reply
      4. Akcipitrokulo

        True. We had one who was very determined to catch mice and very happy at the opportunity to catch them… so sat purring down the mousehole. And never understood why they failed to appear.

        Reply
      1. The Original K.

        I fully admit to not liking cats so that may be coloring my response, but if I worked in a mouse-infested place and the CEO was like “Here’s the solution, a cat!” I’d be like ” … And?”

        Reply
        1. I'm A Little Teapot

          Realistically, if you’re in a situation where best efforts simply aren’t going to eliminate the mouse problem, then a cat is probably the best control. There’s a reason why there’s a long, and continuing, history of barn cats. Get a cat that’s a decent mouser, provide appropriate shelter and care, and between their hunting and the repellent factor, it’ll help a lot. In combination with keeping things clean, trying to close up entry points, etc it’ll be even more effective.

          Reply
    3. Gnatalie

      Yeah, I guarantee that there’ll be someone in the office with an allergy who feels that mouse poop in the kitchen area is preferable to cat hair. That said, I can’t believe the OP is so cavalier about the situation. Both mice and cockroaches can spread disease and, as much as I adore historic buildings, I would think it’s very bad to have them running (er, skittering?) around everywhere.

      Reply
      1. The Gollux (Not a Mere Device)

        True, but there may also be one or more people who work there who are allergic to mice. They may not know it, because most of us would never think to be tested for a mouse allergy; or they may know or suspect, have said something about the problem, and been told “well, take an antihistamine” or “that’s a shame, but old buildings, you know…” and “allergy to mice isn’t an ADA-level disability.” (I don’t know if that’s true, but it’s likely that someone in management would think so.)

        Reply
    4. Kvothe

      Cats are a pretty common allergy though, if they brought a cat into my office full time I would have to quit my job

      Reply
    5. Polymer Phil

      It used to be very common for places of business to keep a working cat around. The custom largely died out with modern pest control. You would pretty much have to be a mom & pop business to get away with this today.

      Reply
      1. I'm A Little Teapot

        It’s becoming more common again. Rural areas are starting to return to cats as rodent control, because of concerns with chemicals and cost. The city of Chicago is using working cats to help with the rat problem. Is it as wide spread as it used to be? No. But there are multiple well publicized businesses that have feral or semi-feral cats (there a brewery in Chicago for example), and that’s slowly been making it more acceptable, and thus common, to have a working cat.

        Reply
      1. Lanon

        This is interesting. Could you justify a cat for pest control as necessary for the business and thus conclude that cat allergy related accomodations under ADA would be unreasonable?

        Reply
        1. The Original K.

          I’d think not because cats aren’t the only form of pest control. Pest control is necessary but cats aren’t. If you (general “you”) suggest bringing in a cat and you have an employee whose allergies trigger asthma attacks (this was my brother when he was a kid; thankfully his allergies and asthma are much milder in adulthood), the next logical step to me is “Oh well. Somebody look on Yelp for commercial pest control options in this area.”

          Reply
        2. What's with Today, today?

          I have no idea, but cats would definitely mean I’m not working there. I’m allergic to two things. Cats and horses.

          Reply
      1. Jewel

        Well, this can be avoided by only using outside cats that use the garden for their needs. Also, cats are usually nocturnal anyway, so they can just sleep during the day away from most people with possible allergies. I’ve been to rural houses with friends who have cat allergies and since the cats were never allowed inside, they didn’t have a problem.

        Reply
    6. Ok_Fortune

      I totally thought an office cat would be the solution to my office’s mouse problem and was pushing hard for it for a while. Then I talked to my parents, who have two cats (one of which hunts very actively) and they still have a mouse problem. Maybe they would need more or more aggressive cats to make a difference—it’s just not as good a solution as I’d imagined.

      Reply
  25. The Doctor

    My specific department within Tardis Enterprises is very flexible with work hours. Rory works 9-to-5 (7-to-3 on Fridays for the Sabbath), Clara works 6-to-2, and Yaz works 8:30-to-4:30 so she can catch a specific afternoon train. As long as your work gets done and you swipe out at least 8 hours after you swipe in, it’s all good.

    Reply
    1. Constanze

      Of course Tardis Enterprises is going to be flexible with work hours and timey-wimey stuff.

      In all my jobs, only parents had established flexibility (= were allowed to leave every day at a special hour), but I never had a job where 15 minutes here and there was an issue.

      Reply
    2. Moonlight Elantra

      Same. In my downtown office, people adjust their work schedules to fit with the commuter rail schedule.

      Reply
  26. Lynca

    Not to pile on OP 2 but this is some seriously skewed logic. I work outdoors and in a warehouse. The fight with bugs is ongoing until winter. But it’s a fight we’re proactive about. People spray, don’t leave food out, etc. That doesn’t mean there are zero bugs, but we’re not walking in to find dead cockroaches either.

    We’ve had a stray mouse get in every few years which is promptly dealt with. I live in a rural area and can sympathize with not wanting a mouse in the work space without OCD. It’s a huge health risk and once they’re in they can be difficult to get rid of.

    Reply
  27. Où est la bibliothèque?

    #2–Very much not a solution to the bigger problem, but how about leaving mouse and roach traps in very visible locations? The combination of visible mousetraps and a sign basically saying “crumbs and dirty sink = mice” might be effective in getting people to clean up after themselves.

    Reply
  28. Gnatalie

    Alison, if you see this post would you mind answering a question about #4? Your advice was for the employees to band together and tell the boss that they can’t work the overnight shifts without compensation or at all, but that is what those infamous interns did when addressing the office’s dress code did and we all know how THAT turned out. Why are the two situations different? I’m guessing it might be because it’s easier to get rid of an intern than someone on the payroll? Thank you!

    Reply
    1. Green great dragon

      One difference is that Interns were new and challenging an established rule for relatively minor gains, here boss is trying to change established working conditions in a way that is potentially seriously detrimental for employees.

      Reply
    2. Temperance

      Because the interns were unreasonable. They weren’t pushing back about untenable working conditions, they were whining because they saw an employee wearing sneakers occasionally.

      Internships are generally for the benefit of the intern, so an organized group whining about an amputee wearing different shoes could easily be thrown out.

      Reply
    3. MLB

      I never saw the interns fighting the dress code letter, but we’re talking about something major that could possibly affect your quality of life and clothing choices that affect nothing more than your ability to express yourself at work.

      I’ve been overworked and stressed, and we had a nurse come in to do a health check one day. My blood pressure was at stroke level. So my health is not worth risking for a job. If I can’t wear my thigh highs and garter to work, I may be disappointed, but I’ll get over it because I’m not a toddler.

      Reply
    4. Falling Diphthong

      New and inexperienced vs been in the role for a while.
      A standard expectation explained to them on hire vs a change in working conditions.
      Sign a petition with demands vs ask to talk with your manager about a rule.
      Try to drag out a colleague’s accommodations as NO FAIR (when you don’t have the story about why they have the accommodation) vs talk about your own situation.
      Be extra fluff in the office (loss of interns probably didn’t impact the ability to complete much work) vs being the people who make things run smoothly.

      A lot of things that add up to whether you have a leg to stand on.

      Reply
  29. thankful for AAM

    OP 2, I looked up the OSHA regulations, I dont see anything about pests, cockroaches, rats, or mice. I did find that the hauntavirus can be spread by mouse droppings but there are no OSHA regs on the virus.
    I did not read the whole thread but can there be regs about accommodations for employees with a health issue? If you could day, I’m trying to move your desk but I could require it if I knew that was a medical condition, she might say it is?

    OP 3, Norms around office flexibility. I work for a city. I consider most of the work to be very professional office work but there is about as much flexibility as a retail job. 1 minute late for punching in, out, or for lunch, is LATE, and 4 times being 1 minute late in a year is enough to escalate you to HR. Some staff are even told what time they can punch in and out for lunch and though this is related to covering a public desk, is not required by our schedule, it is required by the highest boss level for all part time workers. So I agree with AAM that it is misleading to say most offices are flexible.

    Reply
    1. Anon From Here

      1910.141(a)(5)

      Vermin control. Every enclosed workplace shall be so constructed, equipped, and maintained, so far as reasonably practicable, as to prevent the entrance or harborage of rodents, insects, and other vermin. A continuing and effective extermination program shall be instituted where their presence is detected.

      Reply
        1. Temperance

          Nope, you’re also wrong. Anon From Here linked the vermin control provision, which applies. You linked a letter from 1992 about whether regulations apply to certain types of workplaces, not whether these regulations actually exist.

          I’ll admit that I’m wrong when I’m wrong, but that’s very much not the case here. Leave the lawyering to the lawyers.

          Reply
        2. Anon From Here

          Tracey, your second link is not the regulation itself. It’s an interpretation letter sent from an OSHA official responding to someone’s question. But the interpretation does reference the actual regulation, 1910.141(a)(5), which I’m linking to again in my handle.

          Reply
    2. LW 3

      Wowee, the responses from those of you working in gov’t have definitely made me realize that sector is not the right place for me. Even though I’m generally a punctual and industrious person, when those things are obsessed over by my employer it realllllly stresses me out.

      Reply
  30. Ladylike

    For LW #2, I would also be totally grossed out and have a difficult time working every day in a building with cockroaches. They so easily travel from one place to another, and I would be terrified of accidentally taking some home with me and ending up with an infestation at home. The risk of this would increase drastically if a person had to work near the kitchen, where roaches like to congregate. I would just plain NOT be OK with that. I’ve worked in a lot of old buildings, too, and in my experience, roach infestations are not common to all old buildings.

    Mice carry salmonella, and mouse droppings near food prep/storage areas would also be a deal breaker for me. If these infestations truly can’t be controlled, very frequent and thorough cleaning should be implemented, and handled by the janitorial staff. I don’t think the employee is being unreasonable at all.

    Reply
  31. Loose Seal

    #2 – Can the building get a cat? Of course, due to allergies and/or fears, it might not be feasible. But just having a cat live in the space will cause the rodents to look elsewhere for shelter. The cat will also prey on the cockroaches and any other large insect.

    Reply
    1. Jewel

      Hah, the original reason that humans started keeping cats around!

      Cat allergies are not uncommon but rats, mice and cockroaches are way worse for your health. So a cat might be a good temporary solution.

      Reply
  32. Phoenix Programmer

    Alison when you recommend approaching as a group could you link to your post on how to accomplish that? It is so easy to mess up.

    Reply
  33. Observer

    #1 Is it possible that one of the factors that makes it so hard to hire for this position is that there is really poor management? Your priorities here just make no sense, to be very blunt.

    If you had tons of good candidates, that would be one thing. But you don’t. On the other hand, this person seems like a top candidate. And yet, you are willing to seriously risk losing what looks like a top notch candidate over the format of the resume? That sounds like an extreme case of valuing form over function. Where else does that show up in your company’s management?

    Reply
  34. Tracy

    I saw that a commentator mentioned an OSHA report. OSHA Regulation 1910 141(a)(5): “Vermin control. Every enclosed workplace shall be so constructed, equipped, and maintained, so far as reasonably practicable, as to prevent the entrance or harborage of rodents, insects, and other vermin. A continuing and effective extermination program shall be instituted where their presence is detected.”

    At the VERY least, I would interpret that to mean that OP’s disgusting co-workers need to clean the @#&@*($&! up after themselves in the kitchen.

    Reply
  35. Observer

    #2 I think that people have made some good points. If nothing else you do need to prioritize moving your employee out of there. Even without the cleanliness issue putting someone next to a kitchen / shared space is a bit of a problem. When the people who work there are slobs, that’s just not fair.

    I don’t have OCD and I’ve never manifested any behaviors that would lead anyone to lob that idea at me. But, the idea of mouse poop near the food prep is gross. And the fact that people don’t do basic clean up after themselves is also pretty gross. You’re not even talking about cleanup rotation, you’re talking about people wiping their crumbs up!

    Which leads me to another thing. I get why you don’t see a cleanup rotation working. But I don’t care how long people have been working there, this is not a preschool, and adults needs to at least clean up after themselves. It’s not clear to me that you have the authority to do something unilaterally, but it really does makes sense to kick this upstairs and push for a change. Adults can and SHOULD be expected to clean up after themselves, and if it causes resentment there is a major issue.

    Please realize that regardless of your report’s OCD, what she’s asking for in this respect is really not a “high” level of cleanliness. She’s basically asking for non-slob levels of cleanliness.

    Reply
    1. Person of Interest

      Agree. In addition to moving the junior employee to a different desk area, I would suggest OP and junior staffer start a new norm for cleaning that area, set up some expectations, buy a can of cleaner for that spot, be sticklers about it themselves, and gently name and shame people who leave a mess. Make the new expectation keeping it clean and eventually most people will do it.

      Reply
  36. Hiring Mgr

    I don’t know much about OCD, but what does it have to do with not wanting to see mice and cockroaches running around? I guess I’ve never worked in an historic old building, but this seems weird to me

    Reply
    1. fposte

      If she literally means OCD, it’s probably the kind known as contamination OCD, where the notion of filth/taint is incredibly distressing.

      My historic old building is filled with bugs, which get sprayed for periodically but there’s no way to completely win against them without poisoning everybody who works there. Don’t think we’ve had mice, but there’s been bats and we’ve had the occasional dead opossum or raccoon in the wall.

      Reply
    2. Temperance

      It sounds like LW’s employee is being dismissed for her unreasonableness because of her OCD and her newness to the workforce, when it’s obvious to those of us who don’t work there that it’s disgusting and not inevitable to have an infestation like this.

      I live in an old house. Mice are pretty standard, but you don’t have to be okay with that. We have an exterminator to deal with mice and ants, because you shouldn’t accept pests in your living environment, especially pests who transmit disease. We sealed up what access points we could find, and we set an electric trap.

      Cockroaches are disgusting, too. I work in a large building and we occasionally see a cockroach during the day. We don’t just leave dead bugs all around the building, though. Your maintenance staff needs to step up.

      Reply
  37. Susan K

    #4 – This might be dependent on your particular workplace. In some jobs (especially the type that require 24/7 coverage), it just comes with the territory to be required to work irregular hours. For office workers who work normal business hours, yeah, it would be outrageous for the boss to suddenly make them start working night shift once per week. That’s not really the situation here, though — you’re already working evening shift, so you just have to work late one day and leave early a different day. That’s like having a 9-to-5 worker work until 9 pm one day and leave at 1 pm another day to make up for it.

    Now, if you were specifically hired for the evening shift and you made it clear that you are only available to work those hours, maybe you can make a case for not being able to work the overnight hours. But if it was just a situation where you got afternoon shift hours when you were hired because that’s the shift that they happened to need someone to work at the time, you might be out of luck.

    Where I work, this type of thing happens all the time, and no one would ever refuse to work a shift they were scheduled, because it’s part of the job description that we are expected to work nights, weekends, holidays, rotating shifts, as needed for the operation of the business. If this is the case where you work, you might have better luck asking for a a different solution, like having each of the afternoon workers take turns working a week of overnight shift.

    Reply
  38. Hiring Mgr

    Re #1, spending a couple of extra minutes looking at a resume doesn’t seem that big of a deal in the scheme of things. As Alison says, if you’re low on good candidates, eliminating one for a minor annoyance like this seems counterproductive.

    Reply
    1. Oilpress

      Also, if you can get through a large batch of resumes and not find one applicant worthy of an interview then maybe it’s the job posting (or expectations of the resume reader) that is the problem.

      Reply
  39. boop the first

    2.
    Ehhh… just because people can get used to something, doesn’t make it reasonable nor acceptable. I don’t agree with the suggested angle in the comments where OP can just be powerless and try nothing. Even the lowest rung employee can say something… in fact, the entire letter is based on a simple employee saying something and giving her employer something to work on. Don’t let it drop just because a random person on the internet says it’s okay! Do what you can, then pass it up.

    Reply
  40. La Revancha

    #3 – It definitely depends on employer as well as manager. I work for a huge company and my boss is very flexible – I come in whenever I want (within reason) and leave at the corresponding time (such as, 7-4 or 8-5). Sometimes I take 30 minute lunches, sometimes I take 1.5 hour lunches because I’m running errands. Sometimes I work through lunch so I can leave at 3.

    No one is watching what time I come and go. I love it and would be irritated if it were any other way. I do know other managers here are more strict and watch when you come and go.

    Reply
    1. CM

      I have a very flexible workplace too. My personal ground rules for enjoying the flexibility but not taking advantage of it:
      – Make sure people know when I’m in the office — I block out time on my calendar when I’ll be out so people don’t expect me to be there.
      – If I’m using flexibility for something optional, like a long lunch with a friend, cancel if work is busy (and set expectations with friend that work obligations may come up at the last minute).
      – Don’t use it every day — once a week is reasonable, maybe twice if it’s a slow week.
      – Make sure I’m on track with work. This doesn’t necessarily mean I’m working more in the evening to make up the hours, but my work productivity shouldn’t change.

      Reply
    2. Bulbasaur

      As a rule of thumb, even at flexible workplaces there is an expectation that you will work X hours per week where X is what you’re contracted for (usually 40). It’s common to take long lunches or time off early in places with flexible hours, but it’s generally expected that you will make up the time elsewhere.

      Do people do that in practice? It depends on a number of factors, including what counts as ‘work’ at that particular company. For example, if your employer does hourly billing (say legal work or consulting) then yes, people absolutely do make up the time. If they don’t it will be glaringly obvious on the time sheets. At other companies all that’s important is that you get the work done on time and do your job well, and a few hours here or there may not be that much of a concern to them. (The flip side in that case is that if you get behind or need to work some extra hours to catch up, there will probably be an expectation on you to do that).

      It’s wise not to jump to conclusions even if you see what looks like evidence of slacking off. That person leaving at 3:00 every day may be regularly coming in before 7am. The one that takes two hour lunches may be bringing people along for meetings or making field work stops along the way, and so on.

      Reply
  41. drpuma

    OP2, before saying anything to your direct report I would encourage you to talk to your building’s Facilities staff. They should be able to let you know what kind of pest mitigation steps they take, that you can share with your report to hopefully help her feel better. And if Facilities is not taking action on a regular basis, you should let your boss know to take that up the ladder.

    Reply
  42. Jaybeetee

    OP2: I have musophobia – it’s considered one of the most common phobias in the world, affecting at least hundreds of thousands of people. I hopefully wouldn’t be pushing people in front of cars or anything, but I’d have a very hard time working in a place where mice were regular visitors and leaving droppings in the kitchen (!) Of course sometimes it just happens – but somehow, through over a decade of working and a number of different jobs, including older and historic buildings, I think I’ve only seen a (single, lost) mouse in a workplace once. It’s not THAT common.
    Your colleague isn’t off-base to be squicked out by that, nor if you guys have a significant cockroach population (again, roaches happen – but if there are dead ones all over the place and/or you’re seeing “roach scrambles” on a regular basis, that is entirely too many cockroaches at work). I understand you don’t have a ton of authority where you work right now, but what you can do is validate your colleague, and bring the problem to the attention of higher-ups. This sounds like something everyone has normalized as “part of working in an old building”, but if your colleague is encountering these things regularly, it doesn’t sound normal.

    Reply
  43. Walter White Walker

    OP2, I’m having a hard time keeping this comment neutral in tone, but I’m going to try.

    I see a list of reasons why you feel you can’t do anything about the problem, but nothing to indictate that you’ve tried to make this better for your employee.

    Have you moved your employee’s work space? Assisted them with cleaning the kitchen? Gone to higher ups with concerns about the effectiveness of the pest control in place?

    These are all things you could do to help your employee. The tone of your question, however, comes across to me as “What can I say to get my employee to just be okay with this?”

    I hope for your employee’s sake that they are job-hunting, because I would be in their shoes. Asking an OCD employee to deal with a vermin infestation because it’s the path of least resistance on the boss’s part is not something I would respect in a manager.

    Reply
    1. Name Required

      Yeah, grossness aside, the manager seems to be a little apathetic here. It isn’t your employee’s job to clean up after other adults because the kitchen is in her workspace. If other employee started coming into your office and piling up dishes on your desk, would you shrug your shoulders then and clean up after them? No, you’d say something. Please, say something for the sake of this employee.

      Reply
  44. Wintermute

    #1– I feel like all you would be doing is screening out people that got advice from certain columns (not this one thank God!) or even government employment Councillors. They got bad advice, but not everyone has the benefit of AAM to show them the light, there’s a lot of snake oil out there.

    Reply
  45. Anon Anon Anon

    #1 – I partially disagree with the advice on this one. I think it is relevant to the job (the vast majority of jobs). Resumes are a communication tool. They’re one of the more challenging types of writing out there, so imperfection is common. It’s reasonable to be forgiving when reviewing resumes. Less than ideal phrasing and formatting often doesn’t mean much. A lot of people slightly exaggerate or under-state their qualifications. “Managed a team,” and, “Led a project,” could be the same thing coming from two different people.

    But I think that with more significant things, it is reasonable to take note and to view it as evidence of the way the person communicates. It’s reasonable to assume that if someone’s resume is full of spelling mistakes, their emails will be too. This is the way they’ll be representing the organization and communicating with co-workers.

    I’m not familiar with infographic resumes. But this is an applicant for a managerial role? Are they involved in hiring in their present role or a recent one? How long have they been in their current role? If it’s been a long time since their last job search and they probably don’t see other people’s resumes on a regular basis, the “may have received bad advice,” explanation could apply. But if this person is more senior or more experienced with the work world, which sounds likely based on the letter, I would be giving more weight to their choice. And I would agree with LW that putting it in the “Maybe” pile could be justified.

    Reply
    1. Ok_Fortune

      I regularly hire for positions that revive very few applicants and I can’t afford to be picky or eliminate people because of typos or poor formatting. This has shown me just how weak the correlation between a good resume and work output is, at least in the field I hire for. Some of my best hires have had horribly presented resumes, and vice versa.

      Reply
      1. Anon Anon Anon

        Yeah, resumes are a weird thing. I’m one of those people who makes a better impression in person than on paper so I get how misleading they can be. I’ll have to look up “infographic resume,” but I’m imagining something really far outside the norm and hard to read. Like a ten page document full of pictures.

        Reply
      2. Wintermute

        I think there are two important things to remember about Resumes and why they’re misleading–

        First, there’s a lot of bad advice out there, screening out infographics or objective statements or skills-based resumes any other resume faux pas is really screening for the quality of advice people are following not on any job-relevant skill.

        Second, like anything else with hiring, the people that are the most polished are the people that get practice, like any other skill. But the people that are the best at the “art of getting hired” are people that have trouble staying in a job!

        Reply
  46. janna

    For the last letter-writer, failing to mention that you were referred to the job by a current employee could mean that she doesn’t get a referral bonus when the company hires you. So if it doesn’t ask that question on the application, certainly mention it in your cover letter.

    Reply
  47. TokenArchaeologist

    So the mouse/roach thing… The mess that mice leave behind can cause pretty bad allergies, in addition to other more serious but rarer health issues. I used to live in the middle of nowhere in the mountains. And yes, in certain places there is only so much you can do to keep the mice away, just like in old buildings. But that doesn’t mean you can just get away with having mice in the building… it means you have to put effort in to manage the situation. If there are issues with keeping the kitchen clean, then it doesn’t sound like those things are being done. Mice cause serious allergy issues for me, so no matter what the situation this would make me personally miserable at work. And here’s the thing… you’re employee has self-identified as having OCD. That’s s medical issue that’s being exacerbated by the situation. Rather than looking at it as your employee being unreasonable about a mess you can’t do anything about, maybe look at it as them asking for help accommodating a medical problem? Could the issue of the mice, roaches, and dirty kitchen be addressed with other staff or your management from that perspective? In other words “this is exacerbating a medical problem, and poses a health risk, what can we do to make this better as an office?”

    Reply
  48. Peachkins

    #3, as others have said, it absolutely depends on your office as well as your managers. I’ve worked for several different managers in my current office, and they’ve all had slightly different ways of doing things. I feel like our office overall is pretty flexible, but you are still expected to work a certain number of hours each week, and for the most part, we do work regular schedules each day (although start/end times can vary between individuals). An occasional long lunch is okay, but it’s not something we’re supposed to do on a regular basis. If we leave early or late and do not take time off to do it, we are expected to make up those hours. With my manager we’re pretty much on the honor system, but I’ve had other managers that wanted to know exactly when you would make up the time.

    Reply
  49. LLLLLL

    Mice can cause deadly diseases. Rare, yes, but still bad. I would be out of that workplace so fast. Or at the very least clean the kitchen/discourage pests in the kitchen. It’s gross and unsanitary to have mice getting into your food/food prep areas.

    Reply
  50. Belle8bete

    My husband works on old homes.

    It’s really dumb how casual people Treat pest control. Those mice are chewing through that historical building, and the roaches are a health issue.

    Stop being slobs and clean up the kitchen collectively. This is absurd.

    Reply
  51. Belle8bete

    And I believe anyone can have the authority to point out “so hey this is a health and building issue and it’s also bothering employees.”

    Reply
  52. OP#2

    Super late to the game, but OP for Letter 2 here. Wow! What a response. I’m not sure it would change any people’s minds but just a few clarifying details: The shared ‘kitchen’ area is really just a sink and a tea kettle, and people really suck at cleaning out the sink after they wash their dishes. I’d love to know why adults suck at this and who they expect to clean up after themselves, but I have never worked in a workplace where this didn’t happen? I imagine calling people out on their own behavior is the best way to go on that one. The mouse shit, luckily, was not in the sink area/employee’s work area – it was near the microwave which is in a different part of the work area, and near the door. This was the first time we’d ever seen sign of mice in our work area, and it was right as the weather changed so I think they were just coming inside. There is pest control in our building, and I need to do some homework on how I request additional support and report issues, which is unclear to me.
    I truly appreciate the suggestions of finding another workspace for my direct report, but of course there is limited space, and I’m not sure the available spaces would be better for other reasons, but I will gladly bring it up with them.
    I also appreciate the people who seem to extend a gracious understanding of the reality of some, but not all, historic buildings. There are many doors that are periodically left open to the outdoors near our work area, and we are surrounded by natural habitat. We are also in an urban center in which I’m guessing the great majority of buildings have roach issues, so it’s something people here become (probably overly) inured to.
    I really am trying to figure out what leverage I have in a pretty big institution where I have, as many guessed, very little power, and I appreciate the readers who extended me that benefit of the doubt! Will read through all the other comments I haven’t seen yet…

    Reply
    1. Observer

      You need to either move your employee or put the sink off limits. Seriously. If you don’t have the authority, you need to point out to whoever does have that authority that it’s not optional for a person to be given a space that is basically clean. It’s bad enough that she’s essentially in a totally shared space when it’s not related to her job. But that’s one of those things that happens in workplaces that are crowded and short of space. Sitting next to a dirty sink is NOT. Would anyone be ok with being plunked next to the one trash can that was overflowing with everyone’s lunch leftovers? That’s pretty much what is being done to your employee.

      Reply
      1. coconut oil

        Your response is ridiculous she cannot put the sink off limits. She only has so much authority and is trying to work with what she has.

        Reply
        1. Yay commenting on AAM!

          She absolutely can, reach under the sink and turn the two little knobs that shut off the water to the fixture.

          Huh, it’s not working? Hm. I dunno what to say.

          Reply
        2. MuseumChick

          I’m with you cococut oil. She only has so much power. Turning off the water or any other extreme measure would be way over stepping.

          Reply
        3. Observer

          The OP may not be able to, but her superiors DO have the authority. And the OP needs to go to bat for her employee rather than worrying so much about pleasing all the people who have been there 10 years.

          Reply
    2. Akcipitrokulo

      It might be worth taking the regulation posted above to your higher-ups? Somethjng like “I just became aware that we might have some legal issues with this; can we chat about how to fix it?”

      Because it’s not OK (the OCD is not really relevant here), and some kind of pest control is needed.

      Are there any specialist pest control companies in your area that could offer advice on most effective methods? Do you have a regular pest control company you use? (And if not, you need one. To be able to defend yourselves against accusation of doing nothing if nothing else!)

      Also, escalate on people’s not clearing up after themselves. This is reasonable to be treated as any other performance issue.

      Reply
    3. Leslie knope

      Okay, but there are comments here saying that it’s possible to work in a historic building that isn’t infested or to minimize infestation. I’m not sure the snarky comment about graciousness was necessary.

      Reply
      1. Izzy

        I agree. OP, it’s not a question of graciousness – many people here have experience of working or living in historic properties and have still commented to say that you are being too relaxed about this. You can be realistic about the presence of pests while still understanding that mouse shit by the microwave and dirty dishes attracting vermin into someone’s workspace are not acceptable. This is something that you should be making a fuss about, IMO.

        Reply
        1. a1

          Yes, but not everyone that pointed this out were nice about it. Several, in fact, were very much harsh, imo. With outrage and exclamation points and whatnot.

          Reply
          1. Yvette

            Because it is outrageous. Dead cockroaches in the hallways, rodent feces on the counter by the microwave where people put their food, having your work space in the same area as the communal kitchenette , coworkers who leave their mess behind for you to clean up (ok no one is forcing the her employee to clean up, but would you want to work sitting next to that?) that is not a normal, acceptable situation. I have worked in NYC and Jersey City for the past 14 years and I can literally count on one hand the number of dead cockroaches I have seen, and I have never seen a rodent, much less rodent feces, in any of the kitchenettes. (I am talking about the building and office only, the PATH and subways are a whole other ball of wax, but I don’t have to work in those.)
            Yes buildings can have pests, and I am sure there are things I do not see, but that is because someone, somewhere is on top of things. Areas are sprayed, traps are put out, the situation is handled. That is how it should be, that is normal.

            Reply
    4. Amy

      I’ve worked in several urban center office buildings with no rodent problems. Indeed such a problem would lead me to insist on working from home, or else I would be actively plotting my exit (possibly on the order of right now). I’m terrified of rats/mice and did not earn a STEM graduate degree to put up with them.

      Reply
    5. Yvette

      “The mouse shit, luckily, was not in the sink area/employee’s work area – it was near the microwave …”. As in the microwave where people heat up/cook FOOD?!! Like that makes it more acceptable? Your view of what is normal and acceptable has become skewed. Your take on this situation was “How can I get my employee to realize this is not a big deal and relax about it?” When it should have been “What can I do to alleviate the disgusting conditions my employee has to work in?” And while I realize that you may not have the authority to hire exterminators or a more involved cleaning staff, there are things you can do, As other people have said, put up a notice that things left behind will be discarded and do it. If you cannot in good conscience throw out people’s Tupperware, get one of those bins they use to bus tables in restaurants, put it outside the doorway to the area and dump them in there. Make sure there are paper towels, windex, dish detergent and one of those sponge on a stick things so people can clean up after themselves. If you are there when someone starts to walk away from their mess, look them dead in the eye and say “Are you really going to leave that like that?” If you are already doing those things my apologies, but I can only go by what you posted.

      Put out cheap mousetraps. If you don’t want to deal the the dead, lay an open little brown lunch bag on it’s side, put the trap in, and if you catch anything close up the bag and toss it outside in the dumpster. No muss no fuss.
      As others have said, point out to TPTB the damage mice can do to the wiring and wall of this grand old historic building.
      And again, as others have pointed out, sympathize with her, don’t make her feel like she is being a prissy fusspot. No one should have to deal with that.

      Reply
      1. a1

        Did you stop reading after that sentence? It seems like you missed the part about the microwave being near the door, it’s the first evidence of a mouse they’ve seen, and that the company has pest control that OP said they need to figure out how to contact.

        Reply
        1. Yvette

          I did not miss that part, it does not matter where the microwave is, there should not be rodent feces there. And OP should not have to worry about contacting pest control. Seasonal pest control should be a given in an old building with known problems. It should already be in place and happening. Something like that should be part of someone’s job and should be dealt with. With most vermin, for every one that you see there are many more that you don’t.

          Reply
    6. Anon for today

      Yeah, this is one situation where I think you need to go to bat for your employee. This is an “approach boss/maintenance/building supervisor tomorrow and be a squeaky wheel” situation, not a “research proper procedure and begin formal paperwork next week” deal. Palm it off as being new and not knowing the procedure.

      I’d also operate under the assumption that the employee could be considered ADA-protected and use appropriate discretion and speed things up accordingly. (Assuming this based on the tears and distress level vs an “I’m sooo OCD about this” comment.)

      You may not have leverage, but you can be a PITA. Don’t be a jerk about it – but being a persistent squeaky wheel is effective when it comes to maintenance.

      Reply
    7. DKMA

      Hi OP #2, people are really piling on here, which is pretty ridiculous given your reasonable approach. Here’s my advice for what it’s worth:

      1) Make sure your employee knows you take their concerns seriously! You can absolutely share your concerns about limits on solutions and set realistic expectations, but you can still make her feel heard.
      2) Follow-up with your maintainence team / superiors / whoever is appropriate in your organization to make sure any specific incidents are noted (if there is a dedicated facilities team with appropriately junior contacts you can also empower your employee to report issues) and to learn what approaches are in place for pest control.
      3) Share information you learn with your employee – knowing that SOMETHING is being done can be reassuring even if it’s not fully working.
      4) Find a solution to the gross unclean kitchen. Whether it’s moving your employee’s desk, getting a policy in place with teeth about using the sink, or getting budget to get the area cleaned regularly, this might require some political capital, organizational learning, but it will be worth it because it really is a baseline expectation to have a clean place to work for your employee.

      Good luck!

      Reply
  53. clow

    OP2 – I’m not sure how much pull you have, but if possible, I would speak to someone higher on the chain. Vermin, even in an old building really is not ok. One thing that struck me is that you don’t want to cause resentment, which I understand, but your direct report is probably teeming with resentment by now. I know I would be. I am a little concerned that you don’t really seem to think its a big deal that she is forced to clean up after everyone else, having a clean workspace is not “higher standards” is baseline standards. If I were your employee I would be angry, resentful, and have one foot out the door already. I don’t think that just because people have been around for a while, they can leave mess everywhere, and honestly, it will probably come off as though they are valued far more than she is. I do wonder what the advice would be if this person had written in saying “my office is in the kitchen and have to wash up after everyone to prevent the mice from getting worse”. I wager a lot of people would be telling her to find a new job.

    Reply
    1. clow

      did not refresh in time to see OP’s reply, so this isn’t as bad as it seemed from the letter, still pretty crappy, but not as crappy as I thought

      Reply
  54. e271828

    OP2, you write: “This is compounded by a total tragedy of the commons in our work space, with a sort of kitchen area that happens to be in my employee’s shared office. Keeping that sink area clear is not the job of our custodial staff, but no one ever steps up to clean the sink, so it falls on my employee to do because they have higher standards than everyone.”

    This is not normal. It’s also not normal to put someone’s desk in a sort-of kitchen area. I would find that extremely distracting.

    Put up a sign saying that dirty dishes left in the sink and food left on the counter will be discarded.

    Buy a box of contractor trash bags.

    Anything left in the sink for more than ten minutes goes in a trash bag. If you feel generous, give them till the end of the day. Trash bag goes out, at the end of the day. Mugs, plates, tupperware, whatever, it goes.

    Consider getting rid of the microwave if it’s consistently not cleaned by users and becoming a vermin magnet itself.

    I have worked in and lived in old buildings, and removing the attractants for vermin is the key part of keeping them under control. If building users think it is okay to have mice in food areas, they need to be pulled up and told it is neither normal or hygienic.

    Reply
  55. Anonymeece

    I think being upfront and reasonable about the situation is doable, particularly as the OP isn’t in a position of authority to hire an exterminator or similar, but that doesn’t really address the “not cleaning up after oneself”. It’s really, really unfair that because one person has a lower tolerance for mess, and may even have a mental illness that makes one’s tolerance lower, that they are suddenly everyone’s mom and everyone gets to benefit except the new person.

    I would definitely approach someone in authority about that, at least, and bring up the fact that it’s going to cause resentment (or already is) and is unfair. Professionals should not have to be told that they shouldn’t take advantage of someone like that.

    Also, I think I’d leave the job anyway. I can’t deal with roaches…Ugh.

    Reply
  56. Amy

    Two of these connected with me. Regarding flexible hours: my husband and I both work in science & tech where literally the only thing that matters (schedule wise) is that you attend meetings and are responsive (email, IM, phone) during normal business hours. We’ve experienced six workplaces between us, and the only variable was how often and early/late meetings were held.

    The one time I’ve asked a boss “is this normal” he thought I was displaying a lack of seniority by asking, not a great look. Now I just focus on getting my work done and not missing calls/emails/meetings.

    Regarding unpaid late nights: a former employer pulled this stunt. I just went to the going away happy hour of the 4th team member (myself included) to leave in two years. The remaining 3 team members have all put on weight due to the stress & poor sleep. Upper management is finally (!) sweating bullets on headcount. But the night shifts are worse than ever.

    Reply
    1. LW 3

      Wow this really hit home—I was raised by two scientists who spent their careers at a big state university in the western US and their schedules give “flexibility” a whole new meaning! I think it gave me some slightly unrealistic expectations/hopes for my own career.

      Reply
  57. CoveredInBees

    OP2 , it is too bad we don’t know your role in relation to the office slobs you work with. You describe not wanting to ask them to clean up after themselves because you’re relatively new, not because you don’t have the authority to do so. Also, yes, some sort of cleaning calendar might cause some resentment but it seems like something worth causing a stir over. Sometimes changes in behavior come through conflict for some degree. Honestly, people getting upset about having to clean up their own messes is pretty childish. Just because other workplaces might be more disgusting does not make what you described ok.

    Reply
    1. Not So NewReader

      OP could ask her boss to step in. I would out right say to the boss, “I am new here so I don’t think I have enough standing to ask everyone, but I was hoping you would consider asking everyone to clean up their dishes immediately after use.”

      Reply
  58. Audra

    #1 – I’m 27 and while not actively looking for a job, I’ve been reviewing resumes and also considering altering my own.

    I work in a relatively creative field, but I’m not a designer myself. Some of our new hires and candidates have had infographic resumes and have been received well by management, and an old employee of ours (who IS a designer) sent me a resume to review that was definitely very graphically orientated. I guess I’m just curious what the disconnect is here, because I see so many of these graphic-centric resumes and I’m afraid of sending out a text-based one and being thrown to the side for being “old” and “boring,” especially since I’m so young! Maybe the jobs are vastly different? They must be more lenient in creative fields, right? Agencies and such?

    Reply
  59. Elbe

    Why – in a historical building with pests – is cleaning the kitchen not the job of the custodian? This is something that they should be paying someone to do regularly, if just to fix their mouse-poop-where-you-eat problem.

    Keeping communal spaces clean is typically something companies pay for because it always – always! – “falls on” the person with the highest standards. This policy is dangerously close crossing a line into taking advantage of this employee’s OCD. It’s incredibly unfair for the office to treat this person as their unofficial janitor (and even more so if this person is young and female) because they are unable to tolerate the mess.

    The LW should suggest adding kitchen cleaning into the budget. Having pests there is more than enough justification for that.

    Reply
  60. BluntBunny

    OP#2 one thing that could be done is to prevent people from bringing food into her workspace if they aren’t going clean it up, your employee is dealing with the direct consequences of everyone’s actions. People should be responsible for their own mess their disregard has caused your employee to breakdown. A simple email explaining that as a result of the mice poo in the food preparation and office area all food utensils and food items will be removed by the end of the week and if anyone has any items in they area they should collect them before they are thrown out. A picture of the current state would make a reasonable workforce ashamed of the state it has gotten too and shouldn’t question this.

    Also rodents don’t just eat food they chew through wires and all sorts which will put your work at risk if it’s not in metal file cabinets locked away.

    Reply
  61. Stuff

    #3 yes it’s totally variable by company norms. I worked in a large tech company where as long as you got your work done, when your butt was in your seat was totally flexible. There was kind of a loose expectation of 9-5 most days but if you wanted a 2 hour lunch, needed to come in late or leave early or work from home no one cared. You didn’t even need to let the boss know unless it would impact them in some way. Believe me there are other ways of knowing people are being productive without seeing them in their seats at specific times.

    Reply
  62. Seeking Second Childhood

    Off on a related tangent —
    My husband’s dormitory at Basketball’sMoreImportant University (east coast division) was in a worn-out complex — in such rough shape that alumni came back to celebrate when the buildings were torn down. There was a big roach problem.
    His roommate’s ferret became really popular when it was spotted catching & eating roaches. Everyone was afraid the university would suddenly decide to spray at last and the “Wonder Rat” would get sick — but everyone kept inviting him down to visit.

    Reply

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