I don’t invite my boss to our parties but she keeps showing up, students who mix up their interview times, and more

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

1. I don’t invite my boss to our work parties but she keeps showing up

My team likes to throw parties: once a month we have a sit-down lunch, once a quarter we have a big birthday celebration, and then big holidays. These are not mandatory and are funded by the people who attend. Our team is 20 people of a 60-80 person group (depending on season). My group lead is generally not invited to these. When she shows up, what is usually an hour of talking and leaving work behind turns into 20 minutes of her making thinly veiled comments while we shovel food into our mouths (if we come at all).

I organize these things by putting them on the team calendar and posting a sign-up, nothing more. If people want to invite others, it’s up to them. I honestly would rather just have the current team attend than having a reunion every month. But it seems any major holiday I get on someone’s shit list by “forgetting” them.

I’m of the opinion that one of the downsides of being a manager is that you’re separated from employees and don’t get to be “chummy” with them. But how do I say that to a manager that’s trying to pretend that the gulf between us doesn’t exist?

It’s true that managers can’t be friends with the people they manage, but it’s not typically true that that means they’re not invited to office celebrations that are occurring in the office, and frankly, she may assume she needs to show up at these in order to seem part of the team. In fact, typically managers would go to gatherings like this, if they’re in the office and during work hours.

So I don’t think you can really exclude her from these … unless there’s someone who has good rapport with her who can say, “Hey, the team wants to be able to have some get-togethers without management there — maybe just pop in briefly to the birthday and holiday celebrations but leave them to do the quarterly lunches on their own?”

2. When student applicants mix up their interview dates

I supervise a small team of student assistants at an academic college, and I’m currently in the hiring process for a few more. Each year as students graduate we need to hire to replace them. However, I’ve run into the issue where each year, at least one or two students mixes up their interview time or date, and either comes in on the wrong date, or very early or late. For instance, this year one candidate showed up on Tuesday instead of Thursday, and another arrived thinking that their interview was at 11 a.m., rather than 2 p.m.

When this happens, I ask them to come back at their true interview time and date, but there’s always some level of disbelief, annoyance, or attitude. Does this happen often outside of the academic world? Should I chalk this up as just being indicative of the college crowd, or because it’s only a student position? Also, should this be a disqualifying trait? If the student comes back at the correct time, I tend to give them a “re-do” in my mind as much as I can, but sometimes it’s hard when you’ve seen that annoyed attitude.

Oh, students. I’d be inclined to cut them a little slack (not a lot, but a little) on mixing up the time if they otherwise seem really strong, because they’re students — but if they seem annoyed or otherwise have an attitude about it, then no. Having an attitude about their own mistake is a bad sign and indicates you’re likely to have other professionalism problems with them, and it also means they don’t meet the “if they otherwise seem really strong” caveat above. So I’d say the initial mistake itself need not be disqualifying, but the poor handling of it is.

It would be interesting to know what kind of data you’ve gathered on this in the past. Have you ever hired any of the students who got the appointment time wrong, and if so, how common is it that they turn out to great once hired? What about the ones who had the bad attitude? My worry with the first group would be that they’d mix up their work schedules or otherwise be less attentive to detail than you want, but it would be interesting to test that against actual data since we’re dealing with students, whose work habits aren’t so fixed yet. And my worry with the second group would be that they wouldn’t have even the baseline of professionalism that you should be able to expect from students, that they wouldn’t take accountability for their own actions, and that they’d be a pain in the ass to manage. On top of that, though, I’d argue that you don’t want to teach those students that rude behavior will be overlooked by their interviewers — and it’s useful for them to learn that now when the stakes are lower than they’ll be post-graduation.

3. Is our Secret Santa too expensive?

Am I overreacting or is $30 way too much for a secret Santa at work? People are creating wishlists of jewelry, candles, clothes, Alexa-compatible add-ons, and make-up. I work in an office where most staff makes about $12 an hour with a few upper-middle folks who don’t fall into that category (I am one of those). I feel uncomfortable accepting anything beyond a $10-$15 price tag from most of the staff, but since were all pressured to participate, I asked for a donation to be made in my name to a (non-political and non-inflammatory) charity I support. Ugh. Happy freakin holidays.

$30 is too much for an office where most people make $12/hour. That’s asking people to donate two and a half hours of their work — 6% of their pay for that week — to the cause of Secret Santa. Maybe you can discreetly ask around and see how people felt about it, with the goal of proposing a lower limit for next year (or just do that on your own without the research first — it’s enough to say “you know, most people here earn about $12/hour, let’s make this more affordable”).

4. I don’t want to circulate a former coworker’s resume

I am a few months into my new job. It’s going really well, and I’m very happy there. Recently a former colleague who I barely worked with asked me to circulate her resume for an open position in my organization. I’m concerned on two levels. One, on the merits, I don’t think she has the right qualifications (think teapot maker vs teapot marketer). Two, she’s a perfectly nice person, but I only worked with her briefly on minor matters and even still, I didn’t feel like she was a great resource, and my understanding is that others felt the same way. So I really don’t want to send her resume to anyone – especially because the hiring manager is not someone I even know very well or have worked with at all – given that that will be an implied recommendation. I know she’s been searching for a long time, and I have a lot of empathy for that, but I’m really not sure how to handle this.

Yeah, if you circulate her resume, you’ll be seen as recommending her. You have a few options. One is to say something to her like, “I don’t know the hiring manager well and am still new here, so I’m not really in a position where I can help — but I know they’re looking at all applications and the best thing would be to apply directly.” Another is to say, “I know they’re looking for people with more marketing experience so this might not be the right match.” And still another is to tell her to apply directly (saying they prefer all applications come in through their system, which is probably true) but agree to flag her application for the hiring manager — and then do so in a very honest way, saying something like, “My former coworker, Jane Smith, asked me to flag her application for you. To be candid, I don’t think she’s who you’re looking for, but I can tell you more about my experience working with her if you’d like me to.”

5. Talking to my boss about a potential move for my partner’s job

A couple of weeks ago you ran a question about a direct report whose partner was getting a PhD. (#3 at this link). What advice do you have for the other side?

I have been in my current position for about three years now. We moved to this city so my partner could pursue his PhD, and I have been very open about that since the beginning. When my boss, the CEO, called and made me the offer, he brought up my partner’s PhD and how, if things went well, we could discuss working remotely in the future. Well, the future is almost here; my partner is on the job market and there is an 85% chance we will be moving to another state in early summer of 2019. The likelihood that we will move to a place where I will have a wide variety of local job prospects is pretty slim (though I have a ton of transferable skills and a strong background/resume), but besides that, I enjoy my job and the company and would like to stay in my current, relatively senior role.

I haven’t brought this up with my boss. One of my coworkers and I talk about it regularly; we’re friends and I trust her, and she believes pretty strongly that my boss wouldn’t want to lose me. I believe I am valuable to the organization, and while I have no reason not to hold my boss to his initial mention of remote work, I am aware that “we can talk about it when the time comes” is not a guarantee that I can take this job with me when we move. (I do have three coworkers who are located in different states and we have an office of four people in another state, so working outside of this city is not unprecedented in my company; however, none of them work as closely with the CEO as I do.) Add to this that there are a ton of unknowns, like if we’ll move, where we’ll move, or even if I’ll go with my partner (if, for instance, he accepts a one-year post doc, I would probably stay here). With that in mind, I’m not planning on saying anything until our plans are set.

But I worry that I won’t have that luxury. End-of-year reviews are coming up, and for my boss, that usually means, “Let’s go out to lunch and talk.” I wouldn’t be surprised if he brings up our plans, even just casually, and while I know I don’t have to be completely open with my boss, I don’t want to be dishonest in the name of deflection. I’m okay with saying that there are a ton of unknowns and I’ll bring it up when I have a more concrete idea, but is that enough? Would I be taking a big risk asking about remote work now rather than later? On a more personal note, if my boss says that he doesn’t think being remote will work, then I’ll have to deal with job hunting stress on top of moving stress, and frankly, I don’t want to face that for a second longer than I have to (this is completely contrary to my normal MO– I’m a planner and I don’t like surprises!). Or worse, there’s always a chance that he’ll decide to let me go sooner rather than later (that’s pretty unlikely, but the stress talks loudly). What would you recommend?

Go with saying that there are a ton of unknowns and you’ll bring it up when you know something more concrete, but then add, “If it does turn out at some point that Cecil is leaving the area, would you be open to me working remotely? You’d mentioned that when I first started, but I didn’t know what you were thinking about it now.”

That way you’re not committing to anything and you’re not telling him anything he doesn’t already know, but you’re hopefully gathering more information about what his thinking will be when you’re ready to say something more definite.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 462 comments… read them below }

      1. MsChanandlerBong*

        Yes! I was just watching that episode the other day. The whole time I was watching, I was thinking, “I wish Alison would write an article on Michael Scott’s management style.”

        1. Jane Gloriana Villanueva*

          The first three questions in this update have direct corollaries to Office scenarios. remember when Michael screwed up his interview time in NY? And of course, the Christmas ep with iPod for Ryan/Yankee Swap/reverse psychology, among other things.

          Problematically, though, I found myself admiring one of Michael’s traits recently. We had a department-wide meeting last week (the way our work is arranged, this “department” is a few hundred people large) and awards were given out. My boss has two teams, and decided to recognize everyone on one team and none of us on the team I am part of. It was so obvious, and in front of all, and so many others in the department felt we were slighted. My team lead participated in the event that the other team was recognized for, so he was truly left out. I just wanted a Dundie, too. Michael was totally right about lack of recognition. Even if he didn’t go about the recognizing process in the right way at all!

          1. Yay commenting on AAM!*

            I read somewhere that the American writers of The Office felt that Michael had to be incompetent in the day-to-day, but competent in the big picture, so the viewers would be able to point to reasons why Dunder Mifflin retained him.

            The episode where Jan asks Pam to keep an hourly log of Michael’s activities is a good example of this: he spends the bulk of the day wasting time, and then in the last 30 minutes finishes an enormous sale bringing a new key client on board.

            1. Jane Gloriana Villanueva*

              Oh absolutely. And how he actually had a full financial workup ready for the Valentine’s Day meeting, including copies for all the other managers (I know Oscar and Angela probably assembled it, but still! :) ). It was so well done considering he did his version of why Scranton is awesome first.

              It just felt strange to want my real boss to be more like Michael Scott. And in the interest of not derailing too far, I’m done, I promise.

              (But if you are a new commenter to AAM, I must say I am honored you decided to respond to me!)

              1. Annea*

                I firmly believe Michael Scott is one of those managers we see fairly often on here, who were promoted because they’re excellent individual contributors and that’s the only career path, with no consideration given that managing is a different type of work and is a skill that has to be developed most of the time.

                When we see him actually doing work he’s phenomenal at making sales and bring in clients, but he doesn’t have half a clue how to be a manager – and doesn’t get any guidance from his bosses either.

  1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    #3: $30 is too much even for folks making more than $12/hour. I’d say $10-15 is more acceptable, with $20 being an absolute ceiling.

    1. beth*

      Yes! December is already a very expensive time of year for a lot of people. There’s no need to stretch budgets further just for an office gift exchange, especially in a low-paying office but really for anyone.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        I hate the whole Secret Santa/office gift/birthday party/office lunch/potluck/baby shower/etc. thing. I wish it would just die already.

    2. Aphrodite*

      I’d say the limit should be $5 (maximum). That’s probably a half-hour’s worth of work (net). Plus, it’s feasible. I’d love a couple of cherry-flavored chapsticks myself (and that would fit well within the $5 budget), and the Dollar Store always has a wide selection. Or you can check out the chocolate bars and teas at Trader Joe’s. Don’t assume that a low dollar amount is unworkable.

      1. Bowserkitty*

        I agree with this! If you go to the right places you can get something nice/unique for less than $5. I love the Trader Joe’s suggestion.

        1. mrs__peel*

          My family exchanges Trader Joe’s snacks for Christmanukah every year! They have some very nice stuff (e.g., fancy chocolates) at reasonable prices, which is good since we’re all broke.

        2. AnnaBananna*

          I would happy for a bag of Target dollar spot stuff! (seriously, some of that stuff is adorable) Cheap doesn’t mean total disaster. There’s a lot of ways to go inexpensive and still coming out with something that folks would like.

          My workplace has a limit of up to $20-25, but most folks make $70k (I’m the only one who doesn’t), and our theme is Local and/or Handmade, so there are other ways to contribute besides a $25 bottle of wine, etc. So I’m not sure why OP’s folks are demanding their $12/hr folks to spend more. Sounds like they’re not really based in reality…

      2. Ruth (UK)*

        £5 is the max I would want to spend on a secret santa. I barely even do gifts with my own family. In my previous job, I once covered a colleague on a £5 secret Santa (this was about 4 years ago and we all made about £14k annually) whose partner had just lost their job (shop went out of business) and they didn’t have the money for it (culture of the place made it awkward to opt out).

        So I also think it’s important that it’s truly optional.

          1. Psyche*

            Exactly! I don’t understand doing a secret santa at work that includes wish lists. Just assign everyone themselves at that point at call it a day.

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

              My place they ask for likes/dislikes. It doesn’t bother me. I’d rather KNOW someone likes Starbucks coffee (some people hate it), has an iPhone (if going for app store gift cards), is a fan of SportsTeam, and can’t tolerate scented candles, instead of trying to guess.

              1. Psyche*

                Likes and dislikes are different than a wish list. Knowing that someone likes chocolate is not the same as saying that they want this specific chocolate sampler. There is still room for some creativity and surprise.

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

                  But a wish list is just a suggestion the same as a list of likes/dislikes really. If someone puts a wish for a “jewelry, candles, clothes, Alexa-compatible add-ons, and make-up” you know they like those things. Although buying clothing for a coworker would be too personal for my taste, if someone put a wish for that on there, I’d think of gloves, scarf, or goofy socks.

                  While spending $30 sounds like a lot for a coworker (I try to stick to $18 – $20 for my coworkers), I think $5 is way too low. At that point you’re buying junk that’ll probably just get thrown away and it’s better to just not do a gift exchange at all.

          2. fatpuppy*

            We had a $10 limit for Secret Santa. Best one I ever gave to someone was $10 worth of state lottery scratch off tickets. One of them was a $1000 winner!

        1. Rachael*

          I also have an issue with Secret Santa. I’m not sending my family gifts (just cards) and if I’m not sending the people that I love any gifts, I definitely feel icky about getting a gift for someone who I just “like”, lol.

          When I was younger and unmarried it was fine, but now that I’m an old lady with presents to buy for everyone, I limit who I buy presents for and a random coworker is definitely not on my list…

      3. Washi*

        Totally agree. And, regardless of the $ amount, a lot of the gifts are still likely to not quite work for their recipients – it can be hard to know what to get for a coworker, plus there’s a tendency toward gag gifts. If the point is just to have fun and hang out together, I’d rather everyone was just spending $5 on chocolate and chapstick!

      4. PennyLane*

        Agree with the $5 especially given what most of the office makes. And it could be a fun challenge to see how creative people can get. They could do gift cards, dollar store/5 Below items which actually have some decent stuff or just little items.

      5. Yay commenting on AAM!*

        I think the limit should be $5, because a lot of people will go over the dollar limit to save time or to get a particularly good present for someone. “Oh darn I’m in the grocery store and need something for Secret Santa tomorrow, the limit’s $5 but the only nice thing here is this $8 mug and cocoa set…” or “Sandra was just admiring this pink glitter travel mug when we were in Starbucks on Tuesday but it’s $10 and the limit’s $5, oh well I like Sandra so it’s OK.”

      6. Erin W*

        I worked a temp job one December and there was a $10 white elephant style thing. I had no idea what the people there were into, so I went to our local grocery store which has box candy (movie theater style) for $1 a box and bought 10 boxes (M&Ms, Dots, Junior Mints, etc.) and put them in a gift bag. It ended up being quite a popular item.

        1. Jennifer M.*

          I stole this idea from Evil HR Lady a couple of years ago, and we still love it here. We actually buy children’s gifts for our Secret Santa recipient, and then donate the gifts to the local women’s shelter. So, for example, my gift partner this year is someone who likes foxes, so I bought a board game for small children that has a fox in it, and a small stuffed animal of a fox. I honor her, and someone else gets a gift.

          You still don’t have to spend a lot of money, AND none of us has to store the stuff that someone bought us that we don’t want.

    3. LilyP*

      I think the bigger issue is that people feel so pressured to participate in any gift exchange. Even a small dollar amount can be unreasonable for some people, or just something they don’t want to do, especially around the holidays

    4. Kiki*

      Yeah, limits higher than $10-15 dollars are tricky for affordability reasons mentioned and because someone may have spent $20 on something really thoughtful and receive a $20 dud gift. If that happens at the $5 threshold, people are less likely to feel actively disappointed by it.

    5. RaccoonMama*

      You would be surprised also the quality of things you can get wth a $10 limit. That’s my friend group’s limit and I’ve gotten everything from really nice soap and chocolate to a jokey pillowcase with shirtless Nic Cage on it (clearly appropriate in a friend group not coworkers!). One year a friend made me a hand painted bookmark and that was lovely!
      $30 is so much. I’d be tempted to just buy something that was $10 anyways.

      1. Working with professionals*

        Same here. Our limit is $10 and a couple of seasons ago with some diligent research online I found a mini-drone, so cool/nice gifts can be found and it definitely reduces financial stress on folks. We also have an opt-in with no pressure. Some years we’ve had all participate and one year only four – and that was OK.

      2. Blue Anne*

        Yep. At my work, Secret Santa budget is supposed to be around $25. I got the owner’s wife, who knits, so I’m pulling a nice skein of yarn our of my existing knitting stash and calling it a day. Don’t need to go out and spend the whole $25 just because that’s the limit, I figure.

        1. Delphine*

          Does the owner’s wife work at the company or are employees just giving gifts to his family members now?

    6. sheworkshardforthemoney*

      I hate secret Santa, $30 means someone is getting a lovely gift and someone else is getting a re-gifted coffee cup. For anyone on a tight budget this is fraught with resentment. Spending $30 on a co-worker I despise doesn’t make me feel good about the holidays.

      1. Feeling Grinchy*

        Pretty sure I got a re-gifted coffee cup a couple of years ago. It was a $15 limit so it was pretty disappointing, more so because we can’t use ceramics where I work. No effort at all. Also lots of people bought very obviously more expensive presents for people they liked. So I’ve opted out ever since and this year the limit is $20. I would gladly participate in a $5 fun secret santa!

        1. Quackeen*

          Lol, I got a partially-redeemed gift card to Bed Bath and Beyond once in a Yankee Swap. It had like $8.27 on it.

          I used to put a lot of thought and effort into what I brought to swaps, but I know you can’t select a gift that everyone will value when you don’t know who will end up with it.

          1. EM*

            I had the opposite. I had a colleague I didn’t know well, but who’s teenage son had recently come to live with him, so I bought him a motorised plane- my kids loved flying them. Colleague was so disappointed on unwrapping it, and refused to let anyone else unwrap it as he’d give it away later. I felt pretty sad about that

      2. Cat Fan*

        Yes, I participated one year and bought some very nice things for my person, but the person who got me gave me a bag full of stuff that wasn’t even on my list. That was my first and last year participating in Secret Santa. It’s not like I expected anything extravagant, but you could at least pick something off of the list of suggestions you are provided.

        1. boop the first*

          I also did a work secret santa once, and then never again! :D
          It was so hard to buy something for someone I hardly knew personally… on top of that, the names got mixed up, so one coworker got two gifts and I was accidentally excluded. I was too embarrassed to say anything, but the double-recipient started an investigation and transferred one of the gifts to me.
          It was obviously tailored to that person, and I suspect it was between a friendship so the cost was well over the planned budget. So I felt pretty guilty about it.
          I might do it again if the “secret” went both ways to reduce the pressure of getting the “right” gift. But honestly I am so over the whole concept of holidays/birthdays at this point.

    7. Anon From Here*

      My weekly “play money” budget for workplace stuff is $10 (raffles, fundraisers, donations, vending machine, etc.) — and the less I spend of it, the more I have for my Friday evening cocktail with Mr. Anon From Here.

    8. HalloweenCat*

      I didn’t even bat an eye at it until Allison did the math! But I guess that’s every year we do a WEEK LONG secret santa with $5 gifts Monday-Thursday and a $20 gift on Friday. That’s $40! I’m salary and that’s about 7% of my weekly take home! I don’t know what our hourly employees make but given the nature of the jobs (think call center and package handling) that could be a HUGE amount!

      1. Jack Be Nimble*

        That’s so much, yikes! If you can push back, you should, because that feels so excessive for a workplace (or in general!)

        1. HalloweenCat*

          It’s totally optional (like actually optional, not “optional”) so I think that’s how they justify it. My department decided to do our OWN secret santa with a $25 limit instead. We’ll see if having a massive portion of the company opt out of the pricier one does anything for next year. I may still mention it to the coworkers who are running it though!

      2. Jennifer Juniper*


        *side-eyes the person who is making everyone buy 5 gifts for co-workers*

        Holiday shopping is already a pain in the ass. Why force people to buy so much stuff for their co-workers?

      3. CoveredInBees*

        A week long secret santa? That sounds pricey and like a lot of work for something that is supposed to be fun.

    9. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

      This. I’m currently chafed at having to pay for “non-mandatory” events that are in that price range, and I make significantly more than $12/hr. It’s not that I can’t afford it, it’s more principal.

    10. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      When I first started at my job, still lived at home, had disposable income, we had a $10 secret Santa and I thought it was cool that we could all be so extravagant!
      (It’s gone down to a dollar goofy gift over the years and we all support that, too.)
      I’m from a big family all married and stuff and we do a $40 grab bag. I’ll be damned if I’m spending as much on a coworker as I do for my sister.

    11. Violette*

      Agreed! Even when I worked in finance and everyone on our team had significant salaries, we still did a $15 limit – the point was to have fun and try to get creative about what coworkers would enjoy, not blow anyone’s holiday budget.

    12. the gold digger*

      I’m against it just on principle! In my office, we have Christians, Hindus, Muslims, Jews, and atheists. I don’t think a strictly Christian holiday should be officially celebrated at work.

      1. rogue axolotl*

        I’m with you, I am always a bit baffled about why Christmas (or “holiday”) office events are still a thing. I mean, I know why, but I think it’s a bad idea. Just give everyone a day off and some pie every quarter.

    13. mrs__peel*

      I much prefer a “White Elephant”-type gift exchange, where you just bring in random unwanted items from your own house instead of spending money. That can be a lot of fun.

      We did that in one of my previous jobs, and my boss got a hilarious Incredible Hulk talking telephone. I also managed to unload a decorative metal birdcage from my house, which I didn’t want anymore but my co-worker really liked. Score!

      1. LurkieLoo*

        This is exactly my preference and can still be with a $$ limit for people who don’t have something they can re-gift. You can find some really interesting white elephant gifts from the bric-a-brac section for well under $10.

      2. Snow Drift*

        My work is doing a white elephant exchange. The invitation and follow-up emails specifically used this wording, but also mentioned a $20 price limit. I has a confused.

        1. JustaTech*

          Well, if the random unwanted thing in your house is a pair of hideous-but-expensive cut crystal champagne flutes, and everyone else brings a coffee mug, then you can see why the dollar limit is important.

      3. Yay commenting on AAM!*

        I *hate* White Elephants.

        “Merry Christmas! I got you a trip to the Goodwill donation dropoff!”

        No thank you.

      4. HalloweenCat*

        I think white elephant can be fun with the right people. Every white elephant exchange I’ve been roped into has been very unbalanced and almost mean-spirited. Some people brought things that could be seen as actual nice gifts by the right person while others literally brought a grab bag of party favor level junk and happy meal toys.

      1. JustaTech*

        We had a little form the year we did Secret Santa that was a candy you love, if you have pets, a hobby, and if you’re allergic to anything (foods, soaps, etc).

        That way I could give my recipient candy I knew he’d like and a thingy he could actually use. (I got a collar for my cat and a whisk, so close enough.)

        1. Jules K*

          That’s a perfect middle ground.

          I’ve been given Dunkin Donuts gift cards as office Secret Santa/group gifts multiple times, and I have Celiac Disease and a caffeine allergy. No donuts, no coffee.

    14. Engineer Woman*

      Mandatory $30 go towards a gift for a coworker is a no-no even for significantly higher paid people. These gift exchanges should be optional and $10-15 is a more appropriate amount.

    15. ThursdaysGeek*

      My spouse and I together have a pretty nice income. And we don’t spend $30 on most family* gifts! That is WAY too much for a co-worker.

      *Mostly because we both have very large families, so there are a lot of gifts to buy.

    16. Lucille2*

      I agree. Regardless of the average wage, $30 seems high. Purchasing a gift for coworkers is pretty difficult to get right. Keeping the max amount low would at least mitigate some of the awkwardness and hurt feelings. $10 seems way more appropriate for a work Secret Santa.

    17. Not the grinch*

      I have a better idea: how about nixing the Secret Santa rigmarole entirely? Inevitably someone finds it a financial hardship. When the buy-in gets low, the gifts are crappy and rarely something that brings the recipient intense joy. Spring for a cocktail at happy hour instead and keep it low key.

  2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#4, can you tell her your new employer is particular about how applications are received? For example, people try to email me applications/resumes with a request to forward, but I literally cannot do that because all applications have to be placed through a central service (added bonus: I don’t have to implicitly vouch for those folks or write why I’m not vouching in an email). Even when I did have the flexibility to accept applications by email, I would tell people that the preferred practice was to apply through [app service] (which was true).

  3. FaintlyMacabre*

    Mix-ups definitely occur outside of academia! I went to an interview that I thought was scheduled at 10. Turns out it was supposed to be 1. My interviewer (the vice president of the company) got called out of a meeting to to straighten things out. It was terribly embarrassing. But I got hired! And even rehired after moving out of the state and moving back.

    1. LilyP*

      I once called a (student) candidate for a phone interview and he said he’d been expecting the call later. Turned out the recruiter made a typo in the email and told him to expect the call at 10PM instead of 10AM and he just…. hadn’t questioned that I guess? Or didn’t think he could push back? He must’ve thought we were loons doing phone screens at 10PM on a Friday night

      1. Tessa Karlov*

        As a student, my schedule is shifted to later in the day than most people who work 9-5. (I’m constantly surprised when I try and order delivery around dinnertime only to find that most restaurants are closed!) If someone told me to expect a call at 10 PM, I wouldn’t necessarily take that time and run with it, but I wouldn’t also immediately assume a typo. I would definitely follow up and clarify though!

      2. AnotherAlison*

        I recently had talked to a recruiter about an interview at 1 pm, but she moved it to 11am in the email. She explained that she moved it, and it was fine with me, but then she also wrote 11 am CDT. The time was changing and it was going to be 11 am CST. I felt a little OCD confirming that it was just regular old 11 am, but I don’t know.

        1. Cercis*

          A lot of people don’t know the difference between CST and CDT (or PST or PDT, etc). I’ve never bothered to teach anyone, and just figure if they put CDT during standard time, to be prepared for either time.

          For the students, it could be that they are putting it on their calendars at home and didn’t realize that google adds your time zone, so when you move, it changes the time. It happened to someone at my last job, they were in Washington and added it to the calendar and then came to Austin and showed up at the wrong time.

          1. AvonLady Barksdale*

            I avoid this by putting either “CT” or “Central Time”. Because I cannot be bothered to remember which is which. :)

              1. Dragoning*

                I had a friend online try to schedule something with me at “AZT” time. Baffled, I googled what time zone that was and got “Azerbaijan Time.”

                Fascinated to find a new foreign friend, I discussed the time different with them.

                They then insisted, no, it was Arizona time.

                1. MysteryFan*

                  It may be because AZ does not observe the daylight Savings Time ritual, so they are Mountain Time, usually.. except when they’re not. (Because no springing forward or falling back..)

          2. Lynn Whitehat*

            Oh God, why do the calendars do that? It is so stupid! I traveled some place because I want to do stuff there! So why would you shift all the times? For the uninitiated, here is how your phone will screw you: you are sitting in your home in Washington (Pacific time), and you get an invitation to come interview for a job at noon Wednesday in Austin (Central time). You enter “Job interview at noon Wednesday” in your phone and fly to Austin. But–PLOT TWIST–your phone, for some ridiculous reason, assumes you mean noon PACIFIC TIME, which is 2 PM Central.

            You can set the time zone of the appointment nowadays. But you have to remember to do that. Everyone I know has been screwed by this at least once.

            1. feministbookworm*

              yup, this has happened to me, and now I’m PARANOID about it. I was traveling to the east coast when I got a meeting invite, but when I got back to central time, the appointment was listed an hour early on my calendar. Since it was out in the suburbs and I don’t have a car, I took the only transit route that would get me there before the time I thought the meeting would start, which unfortunately meant arriving a half hour early. That’s fine, people get to these things early all the time to schmooze. I get there, stroll in to the place where it’s being held, and only realize about 15 minutes later that everyone else there is doing setup and I’ve arrived an hour and a half before the meeting is scheduled to start. SO awkward, but at least it was a relatively low-stakes meeting and not an interview!

            2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*


              I do not understand why anyone thought this was a good idea, let alone decided to make it default behavior. It has messed me up more than once when traveling internationally.

          3. AnnaBananna*

            As an adult ‘mountain time’ still confuses the crap out of me. And don’t laugh, but I still to this day use the time converter app to make sure I don’t screw up EST. Ahem, I’m PST. YES, I know how sad that is. I just….I don’t trust myself NOT to screw it up. LOL

        2. Timekeeper*

          Thank God I’m not the only one. I think it’s correct that some (most?) people don’t know the difference between CDT and CST, but this is important…especially if the appointment is made in the spring or fall close to time-change. there are some places that don’t change to Daylight Time, so…if instead of putting simply “10 a.m.,” someone goes to the trouble to put “10 a.m. CDT,” it’s fair to assume it was done intentionally.

        3. pleaset*

          I tell people at my org to stop using EST and EDT since they don’t know the difference. Just use ET.

          Not an interview, but a miscommunication among assistants (“next Wednesday” used over the course of emails that spanned a couple weeks, instead of specific dates) resulted in the former president of a country showing up at our offices to see the org’s chair, who was not there. I wasn’t even in a suit and had to apologize, etc etc. That was rugged.

          Stuff happens. How we deal with it is important.

      3. Allison*

        They might’ve figured the phone screens were being planned around busy student schedules, and they didn’t want students who’d be out partying on Friday nights? Sounds silly, I know, but maybe not a ridiculous thing for a college student to think when they see a phone screen time like that.

        1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

          As a college student with no work experience and let’s face it, romanticized view of how businesses are run based on movies and tv, combined with the weird round the clock life of college, I would be sure it was 10PM.

        2. Antilles*

          They also might have figured that the phone screens were scheduled around classes – in my university, it was well known that the major freshmen classes (English 101, Physics, etc) ALL had sections from 6:30 to 8:00 pm, so most student organizations had their regularly scheduled meetings starting at 8:30 pm. So if I had gotten a request for a 10:00 call, I might think it’s a little late, but it wouldn’t have completely jumped off the page.

      4. tink*

        I had someone once give me time A over the phone, time B in email, CONFIRM time B in a follow up email, and then berate me for not showing up at time A because that’s what they put down in their interview calendar.

        1. OP#2*

          I confirm through email. My email process usually goes: I email stating we’d like to interview/here are the available times, the interviewee writes back their preferred times, I email the interviewee with the selected time, and the then interviewee sends back a confirmation of the selected time.

          1. CanCan*

            That was my question as well. But if you confirm the time clearly in an email, the students shouldn’t have any excuse. Personally, I wouldn’t be as lenient as Alison suggests. Adults (even if only by a few years) should know that an appointment is an appointment. What would happen if a student missed a final exam because of a time mix-up? They would fail. You can give them another chance if you feel that the application is otherwise excellent, but if not, feel free to reject them for a missed appointment. (If they come too early, of course they can come back at the right time.)

            And attitude? The only proper attitude would be along the lines of “OMG! I can’t believe I did that! I’m so sorry! Please please can we reschedule? [or: I’ll be happy to come back at the right time!]”

          2. IL JimP*

            Wow, you already do a lot to make sure they have the date and time. I don’t think there’s anything you can do more on your end.

            It’s such a strange situation having the wrong day. I would be annoyed too if I was you but they are students maybe they’re not good at organizing themselves yet. It would be a factor for me if attention to detail is a key part of your job

          3. AnnaBananna*

            When I was working with students, I used a Google calendar and sent them calendar invites. Most students use some sort of Google product on their phones/computer, so you might consider adding this additional layer of confirmation, as it helped quite a bit.

            Also, I wouldn’t even bother with a student that gave me attitude. I hired roughly 100 students per year (we were a technical service department in which customer service/attitude was paramount to success) and all of our hires had excellent attitudes throughout the process, and had no issue with scheduling, or really anything during their employment – they were wonderful kids. Just a thought. Start the process with how you expect them behave, don’t settle. They need to learn this step now so they’re not suprised when they graduate.

            Good luck. :)

            1. AnnaBananna*

              Oh, I used the Google calendar invite ON TOP OF my Outlook email chain with them. Thought I should clarify.

    2. Kiki*

      Yes, mix-ups totally happen with otherwise responsible and punctual people! Though it isn’t ideal, I think seeing if the interviewee graciously handles the mistake can put them in a relatively positive light. And though it is most likely student error, it may be worthwhile to double check that there isn’t some sort of error in your scheduling system that makes things unclear.

      1. OP#2*

        Oh no I’m the scheduling system! I just use a generic email asking for their preferred time slots from a list, and then confirming it with them. Everything’s in writing, so I make sure to detail it like this: “Wednesday, Dec. 5th at 10AM.”

        1. ENFP in Texas*

          If it’s in writing, without typos, and they make a mistake and have an attitude about it? Ugh. If an interview is not important enough to them that they triple check the date and time that they have in writing, and then they give an attitude because of their mistake, I’d write them off. There are plenty of other applicants with more attention to detail and less attitude.

        2. LITbluejay*

          I work at a small academic library as well and we hire students in a similar fashion – we make sure everything for the interview is in writing! If they show up for the wrong time or day, we’ll gently remind them of the correct time, but it does affect how you look at them as a candidate, absolutely. We’ll cut them some slack if they’re a first year student (keeping in mind the first year students who apply to us are often 17/18 and have never had a job before) and use it as a teaching/professionalism moment, but if they’re an upper year student who has other jobs listed on their resume, it makes it a little harder to forgive.

        3. Kiki*

          That sounds as clear as it can be! I didn’t mean to insinuate you weren’t being clear, just that I’ve encountered scheduling systems that are probably clear as day for the scheduler but send out something jumbled to the interviewee

          1. CanCan*

            Nah, I’d stick to email. People use all kinds of scheduling systems. As a Gmail user, I would be very annoyed with an Outlook invite, or an Apple invite (if there is such a thing). And I’m not sure Outlook would know what to do with a Google calendar invite.
            People (and this includes 16-year olds) should know how to keep track of their own appointments.

      2. Works in IT*

        I know that when I was a student-and-recent-student looking for work, the strain of thinking “are they going to call me back?” was definitely messing with my perception of time, and ability to read times and days in emails. Now that I’m in a job where part of my tasks is educating people that the brain creates images for you out of very little information, it makes for fun personal stories about how increased stress can make that even worse, but at the time it was not fun to read something three times and see in person interview when it actually said phone interview on the fourth time reading it. My stressed out brain couldn’t comprehend them not doing in person interviews at ALL.

      3. Ace in the Hole*

        I almost hate to admit it, but I actually interviewed with the wrong department once… and was hired! This was for a receptionist type job at a large college. Two departments shared the same reception desk and both were expecting candidates that day. Neither of us realized the problem until halfway through the interview, at which point he liked me enough to keep going.

    3. Amerdale*

      Yes, I think mistakes can happen to everyone, student or not. I hate nothing more than being early/late myself or having to wait for someone else. But still I once had somehow mixed up days and showed way too early to an appointment (it was with a government office to fill out some stuff, nothing major but still embarassing).
      That kind of thing just happens.

      More important in my opinion is how the students react when realizing their mistake. Are they embarrassed / profoundly apologizing? In that case I wouldn’t hold it against them as long as they show up at the right time for their interview. But if they are visibly annoyed (with you, not themselves) or show some bad behavior over it (like demanding that you interview them right then and there, because they are here now anyway) I would take that at least as a warning sign, if not more.

      1. Washi*

        I agree with this. OP, if you do feel bad about it, you could maybe consider giving feedback in your rejection email? I wouldn’t normally suggest that because it’s not super likely that the bad attitude students will respond well to it, but it might be a good learning experience to at least see something like “A factor in our decision was the interview mix up, when you came in at 11 am instead of 2 pm, and seemed very frustrated that we could not interview you on the spot. We certainly don’t expect that people will never make mistakes, but we do look for a willingness to take responsibility for mistakes and learn from them.” Or you could just say in your rejection email that you are happy to give feedback, and then only say something to those who ask.

        1. Ama*

          I actually ask people who interview for jobs in my department to describe a situation where they made a mistake professionally and how they rectified it because I want to see if they are able to own up to a mistake (no matter how small — I’d totally take “I showed up to an interview at the wrong time” as an example) or if they describe it in such a way that it shifts the blame to someone else. No one on Earth is perfect all the time — it’s more valuable to me to have colleagues I can trust to come to me when mistakes are made and we can work towards a solution than have someone who might try to cover it up or throw someone else under the bus.

        2. Parenthetically*

          “Or you could just say in your rejection email that you are happy to give feedback, and then only say something to those who ask.”

          This is great. No use throwing good money after bad.

      2. JN*

        Scheduling mistakes happen. I once missed a shift at my summer job one year in high school. Mom would type up my weekly schedule and post that on the fridge as a reminder to us both. She mis-typed one day’s shift and I was making my lunch prior to heading to work that day when they called and asked why I hadn’t come in. (It was one factor that led to me being let go a while later.)

        I was involved in interviewing/hiring academic library student assistants this year (and then doing so again when a couple resigned). In our case, our interviews are done as a team, so it can take work to find times that work for all of us and for the students. Also, our schedules are generally filled each day with various work, and we wouldn’t always have the option to drop everything to interview someone on the spot (though we actually did do that when someone stopped by during our second round of hiring). I don’t think we would cancel an interview if a student got upset after showing up at the wrong time, but it would be a data point we would consider in making our decisions. The attitude might be a deal-breaker if we have enough other good candidates to make offers to.

        We tell our students that we view this as being a real job for them and want them to do the same (punctuality, attention to detail, good communication, etc.). By teaching/modeling professional behavior to them, it will hopefully help them out once they graduate and look for other jobs.

        1. Can't Think of a Name*

          By teaching/modeling professional behavior to them, it will hopefully help them out once they graduate and look for other jobs.

          Yes, this is so important! By giving them a pass (or hiring them) after they’ve gotten the wrong date AND showed hostility/attitude about it, it’s sending the message that this is acceptable behavior. Then when they graduate and start job hunting for real, they’re going to be at a disadvantage.

          I once had a graduating senior arrive to an interview at the time it ended. The confirmation email had clearly stated the interview was going to be from 10:00-10:30, but he didn’t arrive until 10:30. The manager couldn’t see him then, because she had a full schedule that day. He told the department admin he was told the interview was scheduled for 10:30. After I forwarded the confirmation, which laid out the time, the department ended up declining to reschedule and removed him from consideration

    4. Amey*

      My first job as a student in retail, I was told to come and work a shift from 10-2 on my first day. For some strange reason, I heard this as come at ‘ten to 2’ (you would generally say 1:50 in this way in the country where I live). So I showed up hours late for my shift.

      I’m an incredibly punctual person – this was not normal for me! I was never late or missed a shift in the next year at that job, and was one of the highest achieving employees.

      My husband had an interview for a traineeship in law where he got the date wrong and showed up a day early. They didn’t hire him. But he’s now a high-achieving partner in a law firm.

      I agree with Alison that attitude means a lot here – we were both incredibly apologetic and made extra effort to be scrupulously conscientious throughout the rest of the recruitment process.

      1. pleaset*

        ” from 10-2 on my first day. For some strange reason, I heard this as come at ‘ten to 2’ ”

        Oooh, that’s an understandable error.

    5. DorthVader*

      When we were recent grads, my husband had an interview 6 hours away from home. We drove out the day of (I hung out at a nearby library)… and it turned out it was supposed to be a phone interview. They interviewed him anyway, he got the job, and has been there for 5.5 years. I honestly couldn’t believe it, but he’s a qualified, charming guy so I guess it wasn’t a huge issue!

    6. Kendra*

      I did this because of time zones! Recently I scheduled a phone interview from a place without realizing they were an hour behind my time zone, so I was waiting for a call for about half an hour before I realized my mistake. I wasn’t available at the actual scheduled time, so I emailed the HR person I’d scheduled the interview with to cancel but I still got a voicemail from the interviewer, who must have gotten a terrible impression of this candidate who didn’t even answer the phone for an interview!

    7. Random Thought*

      Yep! I had a phone interview and missed the time difference, so I was not ready for the call when it came. Fortunately I had the hour free and was able to step away from my cubicle but out of shock, I did tell the interviewer “this is earlier than I expected!” If I could go back in time, I wouldn’t repeat that statement, ha! But it worked out fine… the interview was for my current job :-)

  4. beth*

    #5: I think “there are a ton of unknowns and I’ll bring it up when I have a more concrete idea” is plenty. It’s true, after all–you can’t share information on plans you haven’t even made yet!

    Good luck to your partner in navigating this stressful process, and good luck to you in managing the stress of waiting to know and then planning a move!

    1. OP #5*

      Thank you! This is the most stressful situation I have experienced in a very long time, and I’m not even the one who has to job search while writing a dissertation!

      1. JN*

        Yeah, waiting to bring this up to your boss until you have something solid to discuss does make sense. Do be prepared for him to have changed his mind in the intervening time. My sibling once had a job in a different state where (I guess) her boss knew that it was probable that they and their spouse would move back to their home state at some point. I recall that it was discussed that sibling should be able to work remotely if/when that happened. Well, by the time sibling did move back, their original boss had gotten promoted and his replacement wasn’t on board with that plan (even though at least one other employee doing similar work was then working remotely).

      2. AnotherSarah*

        It is sooooooooo stressful. Good luck to you both!! My partner and I have navigated this twice, and it’s been tough but manageable. Deep breaths!

      3. JSPA*

        It might help if you could make yourself a provisional “no sooner than” move date, and a “how much lead time I intend to take” goal. You don’t necessarily have to share those numbers with your boss. (In fact, probably better not to. Ditto your partner, unless they enjoy talking logistics while also job searching and getting ready to defend.)

        That may allow you to say, “let’s revisit this in four months, when I may know more.” Or, “it’s highly unlikely I’d need to move in under six months, at the earliest.” (And make it so.) Then follow up by asking, “I really enjoy my work here. As a new PhD, my partner’s career trajectory may include a series of shorter stints, and it’s possible that I’ll maintain a presence here. Looking ahead, I’d like to discuss whether remote work is still on the table, either ongoingly or on a shorter-term basis.”

        Note: If partner is searching only in-country (not internationally) you’ll likely have flexibility regarding whether you move at the same time. And you may very well want the stability of keeping your old job where you have been for some years (in case of economic downturn, you don’t want to be the “last in / first out” person) even if it’s a two year post-doc. If partner is searching internationally, the visa process and/or logistics may be easier if you move together…but the application for your visas will likely take time, and again, provide you with plenty of time to notify and plan.

        And depending on partner’s field, and the intensity of their next job, and the cost of living in current location, and the distance between…it may actually work great for you to keep a pied-a-terre in your current location, and visit partner / work remotely month on / month off, or week on / week off. If either of you are assuming that grad school is rougher and the time line tighter and the pressure greater than a PostDoc position–it’s [generally] the opposite.

        Unless you’re planning to use the period to procreate (many people actually do so in late grad school or early post-doc years), you quite likely don’t want to become something akin to a military spouse (moving every year or two, jobs that don’t really fit / potential for stalled career) while partner works 80 hour weeks and you sit home after your 9-5 job, do most of the homemaker duties, and start to stew. Parachuting in and leaving again can be a really attractive option, both financially and in terms of work-life balance. In part because spouse will be (or should be) motivated to do a whirlwind house cleaning a day or two before you get there. And if they’re feeling like, “Ugh, I really need more time on the project,” they can look forward to the month you’re gone, instead of going mentally absent, physically absent, or passive aggressive from the “weight of shoulds.”

  5. LabManager*

    #2 – I agree with Alison, having been in a position similar to yours. It’s gracious of you to want to give them so much slack, but it’s really not necessary (or wise) if they give you attitude. Students do egregious things even when they seem fine to hire, no reason to ignore red flags along the way as well.

    Is there any reason this happens, that you can think of? I’m almost amazed it happens that often. Somehow, this was not a problem I ever had.

    1. Someone Else*

      I’m not the OP, but the only experiences I have with this kind of scheduling mix up (on the employer side), were when it turned out HR had emailed the candidate something like “Wednesday, the 6th” when Wednesday was the 5th, and Thursday was the 6th, and they’d really meant the 6th, but the person showed up Wednesday. There were no hard feelings there, but also no ‘tude about the mix up from the candidates.

      I think it’s definitely weird that this happens as often as letter suggests, so it’s worth looking into if there’s something confusing about the way it’s being communicated. Then again, if a lot of the mixed-up applicants are giving ‘tude about it, that sort of reinforces the idea that the problem is them, not whoever is scheduling.

      1. OP#2*

        Yes it’s definitely a strange thing. HR isnt involved until the background checks, so I don’t think it’s anything to do with them. I’m the one who emails back and forth with the candidates confirming. When I noticed the pattern a few years ago, I started checking the email chains and there was only once that I saw a descrepency. It was something like I emailed the candidate 12/4, the candidate replied back that they’d see me on 12/3. But I took the blame for that one because I should have caught it.

    2. OP#2*

      I’m often wondering if it’s because of the particular type of students we hire. The job is a highly skilled one, and we tend to favor either Junior/Senior at the BA level, or MA/PhD candidates. Perhaps they’re just busier on average? More stressed? It’s a possibility.

      1. LabManager*

        That seems even worse… I would expect more out of a junior/senior, and definitely an MS/PhD student. Honestly, considering you say it’s accompanied by attitude… I think they are just irresponsible and not willing to own it (I would be more forgiving to those who seemed genuinely sorry). You seem very kind, so I suspect you’re approaching this from your own perspective – but would you react the way they do if you showed up for an interview at the wrong time? I bet you (like me!) would be apologetic, and show up at the correct time. Something valuable I learned long ago is to not make excuses for people who aren’t making them for themselves. Unless you have a reason to need to take these people, don’t worry about analyzing the red flags, just see them and not hire accordingly.

        1. OP#2*

          This is eerily similar to what my boss said to me on Monday when we discussed it. My boss thinks that my bar was set too low, where I’ve been thinking I set it too high. Also, thank you so much for that last line. I think I needed to be reminded to “see” the red flags and just steer clear of them.

          1. LabManager*

            It’s me, your boss! Just kidding. :) I’m happy to help!

            I think for students at that level, to show up to the interview on time is a reasonable expectation, definitely not too high. Mistakes happen, but if they’re argumentative about it, I would avoid hiring them.

      2. AcademiaNut*

        I will say that it can be surprisingly easy to forget what day of the week it is when you’re finished with the class portion of a PhD and are deep in the thesis part, particularly if you’re working 7 days a week and at odd hours. There’s nothing like coming into the office, wondering why it’s so quiet, and realizing “Oh, it’s Saturday!” (and then working a full day because weekends are for other people).

        However, if you have scheduled meetings, or a job interview, it’s your job to keep track of when they are and program in an alarm on your phone if you need it.

        Genuine mistakes happen, though, so I wouldn’t let a mistake like that disqualify someone completely, although I’d keep it in mind – it could be a deciding factor between two strong candidates. And I would expect them to apologize profusely for the mistake.

        If they show attitude because I don’t leap to interview them right then, though, I would consider that a deal breaker, even for an otherwise strong candidate.

        1. LabManager*

          I think we’re on the same page! Mistakes happen, but if you’re rude while already being rude, that’s a dealbreaker.

          1. Blue*

            This is really the key thing. But for those concerned about the student development side, I don’t think many students would learn a lesson from this unless OP is explicit about what they’ve done wrong.

            When I worked as an academic advisor, I explicitly addressed these kinds of situations and pretty much never had repeat issues with a student. But I’m not sure OP should be worrying about teachable moments here. She’s got another job to do, so I think she’s fine to focus on the ones who already know to be apologetic when they make an error.

        2. Mockingjay*

          Even seasoned professionals mess up dates. I just got off the phone with my dentist. I was profusely apologizing for missing an appointment first thing this morning, which I thought was tomorrow. (My dentist’s staff is lovely and rescheduled me for next week. Bless them!)

          I was out sick on Monday, so my ‘work week’ started Tuesday. I’m a day off my schedule and have to reorient.

        3. Roja*

          This was exactly what I was going to say. Even competent adults make mistakes; I’m sure that most people have mixed up an appointment time once or twice in their life. I know I have, and I felt terrible (thank goodness it wasn’t an interview!). This goes double if you’re interviewing people during finals or midterms or a similarly difficult academic time.

          It’s the attitude that concerns me. The missing the time would just be another data point that I’d factor into the whole.

      3. J*

        Oh weird. I would also expect more, not less, of these candidates than I would of younger students. Do you get the sense that they have little-to-no work experience because they’ve just been focusing on school for all of their academic careers? (Not something *most* studenst can afford, but it’s possible.)

        I’ve found that a lot of college professors have been more forgiving than, say, most workplaces. For instance, I’ve forgetten to bring completed homework to class, and they’ve allowed me to go home after class and bring it to their office or the mail room, and not deducted any points. (Now granted, I was mortified and very apologetic, and also would have understood if they didn’t accept the work late.) I think my jobs have taught me more about accountability than my classes have, for the most part.

        To be clear, though, I’m just asking because my curiousity is piqued and not because I think would excuse these students; I really, really like LabManager’s point that you don’t need to analyze the red flags, just listen to them.

        1. OP#2*

          For some of the most recent ones, it’s caught my attention that most of their work experience has been research related, like grant funded projects or being a Graduate Teaching Assistant. It gives them excellent technical experience but maybe you’re right that it hasn’t given them office/workplace experience.

      4. pcake*

        The thing is, rolling ones eyes or sighing when one’s own error is pointed out isn’t just outside of professional norms – it’s extremely rude to the person one is speaking to, as well as rather dismissive. And that can not only keep them from getting jobs they’d like in the future, but can also impact them personally.

      5. Works in IT*

        Stress definitely increases the frequency of peoples’ brains using half of what they’re reading to create an expected image, but even perfectly stress free people occasionally do it.

        I have a coworker who literally cannot see one of my examples of grammar mistakes for my training class. His brain auto corrects the tenses of the verbs for him as he reads it.

      6. epi*


        I am a PhD student, so I would say that in many of us, greater responsibility is in tension with being used to having very little accountability for our time. Outside of being an RA/TA part time, many people in my program don’t even really have to come to campus if they don’t want to (though I choose to). Even a naturally punctual person will go a little feral under these conditions. Advanced undergrads aren’t usually at this level, but they definitely have more control over how they spend their time than new students.

        My boss has had to replace the other RA on our project a couple of times, so I also get a glimpse of that process. My impression was that many people just don’t care about the opportunity as much as you might expect. Grad students are getting their funding elsewhere, so your job is really just nice to have. Many clearly didn’t even read the description– lots of non-native English speakers in technical fields applying for a job that is 100% writing and social media.

        I wouldn’t extend grad student applicants a lot of leeway, honestly. IME we know what we are doing, and are making deliberate (if sometimes ill-advised) decisions about how to spend our energy and time. Undergrads may be doing this out of ignorance of how they are coming across. Whether to cut them some slack depends on how important it is to you that the job prepare them for their careers, vs. getting responsible employees on day one.

      7. CM*

        I work in a STEM field with faculty who could be described as absent minded professors (brilliant lovely people, but narrowly focused). I hire several undergrads every year, and they could also be described in the same way. However, I never get attitude when they miss a deadline. Not once in 12 years. I would not move them further in the process if I did get any sort of attitude.

      8. Hey Karma, Over here.*

        I’m wondering if the students understand it’s an interview. Do they see post on the website or are they told by an adviser or instructor, hey, you now have the qualifications to do this job through the university. Call OP#2 and set up an appointment. You’d be great. Here’s what it is.
        So they contact you, as instructed, and show up, when it’s convenient, and are genuinely shocked that this is not a done deal. “Adviser said contact you for the position, I did that. So I’m here, let’s do this thing now.” Or “Adviser said contact you for the position, I did that. But I had to finish my lab work so yeah, I’m late. Let’s do this thing now.”

        1. OP#2*

          Oh, no it’s an online application and everything. I’m very sure they know it’s a scheduled interview.

          1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

            Wow, OK. That’s not what I was expecting at all. Oh well, I have no idea, then. ALISOOOOOOONNNNNN!

      9. AnotherLibrarian*

        For undergrads I cut more slack, but I would note I’ve never had a strong candidate show up at the wrong time. If I was hiring MA/PhDs than I would simply not hire them. That’s unacceptable. I accept a certain amount of mess up from younger students, many of mine have never been employed before, but older students need to learn what isn’t acceptable- especially if the work you are hiring for is detail oriented.

      10. Mona Lisa*

        The best explanation I have is something that happened to me when I was a grad student that might explain at least the time issues. I went to visit my now-husband’s family over a holiday break, came back to my current city, and the first thing I had scheduled was an appointment with my advisor to discuss graduation. I showed up at the time she’d sent to my calendar and waited 20 minutes for her to no-show. I was pretty irritated by the inconvenience and said something to her about it in an e-mail.

        Turns out, when I went to visit the west coast, my Google calendar had reset my time zone and kept the appointment at a time two hours before the advisor’s time slot. She said it was something that happened at a not-infrequent level, especially at the beginning of the semester. I, of course, sheepishly apologized and have been diligent about checking time zones since. If you’re conducting these interviews at the beginning of a semester, might this potentially be a problem if your students travel over the breaks, too?

        1. OP#2*

          Anything’s possible. We hire periodically throughout the school year, and sometimes it’s during the beginning of a semester, but not always.

      11. AnotherSarah*

        I would have also expected this of less mature students. We hire student assistants in my department (I have nothing to do with it), and I’ve heard the admins talking about not hiring specific students because they were late, didn’t seem to know the name of the person they were meeting with, etc.

      12. AnonHigherEd*

        I also work in higher education, almost exclusively with graduate students and this is a problem we all face a lot. I am not one of those “kids today” types, but we feel we are seeing a trend where students are using indirect communication to get what they need for themselves.

        If we give them an appointment for something and they can’t make it, they frequently just do not respond. For example, my colleague wrote a student recent and said “I am confirming our meeting on [Date] at [Time],” and the student didn’t respond. The slot for the meeting came and went and when confronted about the no-show, the student said that they couldn’t make the meeting so they just chose not to respond further. We schedule interviews for admission and find that people don’t respond; we reach out by phone or email, and when we finally do get in touch with them, it turns out they want a phone interview or to come outside of business hours, so they just don’t say anything; if we get in touch with them, they will make their requests but otherwise they just move onto the next thing. Deadlines for assignments come and go with reminders, and we get students surprised that points are lost or chances are missed.

        My pet theory is that we are living in a world where people are often able to navigate around the rules. In a college environment, there are deadlines for everything, but it takes organization, institutional support, and resources to enforce consequences. So for example, my students have an upcoming application deadline; only a couple people have completed an application that is due in a few days and almost no one else has even started it. Prior to this deadline, they have received no less than 5 reminders, gone through a screening process, and attended a meeting about this program. What will happen now? They are all going to receive individual emails about it. From experience, I can say some of them will not respond and will miss the deadline. If I had the institutional power to remove them from the program, that would be a potential consequence, but I don’t have that power. Even those who do have that power cannot use it against a majority that does not abide by the deadline for Reasons, because then the university will shut down the program for lack of participants. All the other smaller consequences require more work on my part, which I want to be able to do, but I already have more work that I can handle, so it isn’t easy to add more to it when I really just want to get this job done.

        I think students know this on some level and often, they take advantage of it. We have had more than one of them tell us outright that this is the case when question about why they are not abiding by deadlines or procedures; they do just enough to get through, but they are going to do it their way, and expect you to work with them. The fact that your student applicants get annoyed when you try to correct them makes me think that this might be the case for your situation as well. They might be used to showing up early/late/missing appointments and still being accommodated, if grudgingly. I see it happen with the faculty all the time! A student agrees to meet them at a certain time, and if they show up extremely early or late, the professor will often meet with them anyway as long as they are available because they want to resolve the matter with the student and delaying or rescheduling the meeting only keeps the issue on their already full plates longer.

        I think people are busier in general, but I think there has been an increased focus on “customer service” in education that hasn’t escaped the notice of students either. They are paying to be here and they expect to get what they want for their money. If their goals line up with yours, great, but if they have different goals I think a good amount of people think that’s too bad for everyone else, because they are going to do what they feel they need or want to do.

      13. Reeces Pieces*

        I would still consider how you’re sending out the event details. We use a very specific structure that has no ambiguity. Putting important information into text or a paragraph means eyes skim (human nature) so clearly delineating the information helps. This is from some studies that look at how we conveyed information to patients for follow up and specialist appointments.

        Special instructions for building access:
        Things to bring: (checklist).

        If you can, sending a calendar invite can also help.

    3. Meg Murry*

      I can think of one reason that I’ve recently experienced that could be a possibility – Google calendar weirdness when it comes to time zones and what is considered your “home/default” time zone. I think this is an especially possible reason for the “shows up at 11 am for a 2 pm interview” scenario.

      In my most recent experience with this: I am in a book club with several other women, and I had sent a Google Calendar meeting invite to everyone for that day (say Wednesday the 5th at 8 pm EST). It showed up properly on everyone’s calendar, no problem. So at that event, we agreed on the next month’s time and date (say Wednesday the 8th at 8 pm). One of the other women Jane, added it to her Google calendar on her phone while we were all sitting there, and Google tried to be smart and send out invites to all of us. HOWEVER, although Jane had added it to her own calendar at 8 pm, when the invite came to the rest of us (while we were all sitting there) it came through as 9 pm for Sue and 10 pm for Mary and I.

      The only thing we can figure is that buried somewhere deep in the settings from when we all initially set up our Google accounts (and/or Android/iPhones) was a default time zone – and Jane’s was set to MST (where she had lived until last year), Sue’s was set to CST (where she lived 5 years ago) and Mary and I were set to EST (which makes sense since we’ve been on the east coast for 10+ years).

      Then when Jane made an 8 pm appointment without explicitly putting it as “8 pm EST” Google assumed it was for her “default” time zone of MST (nevermind that she was in EST when she made the appointment) and it tried to be “smart” and shift the appointment time for the rest of us.

      I’m pretty tech savvy and I’ve been hit by this issue more than once – it also has been a problem when I created an appointment on one computer or app and then later edited it or viewed it in another – on one app/browser it will assume EST, another will assume UTC, etc.

      So since these are students and you are an on campus job, I would cut a SMALL amount of slack for them and treat it as a learning experience if they are otherwise polite about it – explain that this happens but that, no the interview is at 2 pm and you need them to come back then. After all, it’s far better that they learn how to politely deal with screwing up an interview time with an on-campus job, rather than do this for their first entry level interview.

      However, if they are a jerk about it rather than humble and open to the possibility that they made a mistake – well, that pretty much tells you what to expect with them as an employee and is a big red flag.

      It would also be kind of you to send a follow-up “see you tomorrow at 10 am for your interview” email the day before or “See you Thursday at 10 am” on Monday, so you could deal with “oh no, I thought it was Tuesday and I have class on Thursday!” in advance rather than when the student is standing there in front of you at the wrong time. But that would be an extra kindness on OPs part – not something they would be expected to do by default.

      1. Ladybugging*

        I don’t know, in the spirit of “Begin As You Mean To Go On”, I wouldn’t want to hire someone I worried would fail unless I reminded them of important things the day before, so I would actually want them to fail out in the interview process. You don’t want to disqualify excellent candidates over trivialities that won’t impact their job performance, but not remembering important appointments without a reminder isn’t a triviality. Just a thought. :)

      2. CAA*

        Google Calendar time zones are something I deal with pretty frequently as I take my laptop back and forth across the country. You can change your default timezone if you’re using Calendar in a browser at calendar.google.com/calendar/r/settings. It will also attempt to figure out your location and ask if you want to show your calendar in the local timezone, but that doesn’t work reliably for me, so I just have it set to always display both the time zones I use.

        In the calendar app on phones or tablets, the default behavior is to use the device’s current time zone unless you have turned that off in the calendar settings or specifically entered a different time zone in the event.

      3. a heather*

        I had google calendar be similarly “helpful” to me when I crossed time zones. I had appointments set up in my calendar for the actual times at the location (CDT), but when I shifted it assumed I meant my home time zone (EDT) so that was super fun. Most things were okay, since it was a conference, but I had to triple check my flights home to be sure I’d be on time.

    4. Smarty Boots*

      From my experience: yes, it does happen fairly often. I frequently work with freshmen and it happens more often towards the beginning of the year. I train them up — if they are early, they have to come back at the scheduled time; if they give me attitude, we have a talk about that when they come back for their appointment because I see every encounter with my students as an opportunity for them to learn; if they’re late, they’ve lost the appointment and can reschedule no earlier than the next day (because I’m not interviewing them for a job — they do need to meet with me). And you’d be surprised at how many students just don’t show up — no email, no phone call, nuthin. LOL, two no shows = you are banished from my calendar for the rest of the semester. You can meet with me, but you can’t make an appointment; you can come by and see if I am free. If I’m not, you can try again another time. Very effective. In almost thirty years working with college students, I’ve only ever had one student get banished for multiple semesters.

    5. Half-Caf Latte*

      Any chance interviews are happening during weeks that are unusually busy/stressful, which might be leading students to be more prone to these errors? I’m thinking obviously midterms or reading/finals week (which are happening now and the letter is now), but also school-specific things, like spirit weeks, homecoming, etc. Maybe talk to the office of student life to see if there are weeks known for being schedule nightmares?

      Yes, managing busy schedules is part of adult working life, but I’d think this is an appropriate accommodation recognizing that these are students, and may still be mastering this stuff.

      1. yep*

        This is what I was thinking. If you are usually hiring before graduation, i.e., the end of a semester and it is final exam time, there are going to be a lot more frazzled candidates. I couldn’t have told you what year it was much less day of the week during my finals.

      2. OP#2*

        Ah, we hire sporadically without much thought to which weeks are more or less busy. Finals were last week so I wasn’t really factoring that in since it’s over.

  6. Robin Q*

    #2-I agree with Alison about judging based on their attitude, but I’m also wondering what time of year you do these interviews. If you’re doing them at the beginning or end of the semester, you’re interviewing undergrads who are just starting school/a new semester and probably are uncertain of their schedule or haven’t gotten a good time management system down. At the end of the semester (now?) they are in finals mode and probably getting very little sleep and could therefore be more apt to make mistakes about this. Just an argument for cutting them a little more slack than you would otherwise!

    1. OP#2*

      Oh we hire at all times of the year, this round just happened to be the week after finals. But we also tend to attract and interview Juniors/Seniors or MA/PhD students because of the intricacy of the work. It’s possible that I’m framing them with higher expectations because I’m assuming they’re more polished by this stage in their degree track.

      1. Properlike*

        College instructor here. My attendance policy is “if you’re not seated and ready by the start of class, you’re late.” Several students have informed me this is draconian, now that they’re adults. The behavior you’re describing is not surprising for college students. Friends who own small businesses with student workers lament their routine unreliability. However, graduate level students? In a technical field? You need a level of attention, and I would not cut them any breaks for attitude. As others have said, you’re being too nice. They don’t need to be babied because they’re students. They need to learn the consequences for messing up now while it’s low-stakes.

        1. CoveredInBees*

          I live in a college town and a lot of the local businesses are vary wary of hiring the local students because enough of them are entirely unreliable. Yes, plenty are great but enough will just disappear when they don’t feel like working anymore or show up late with no notice that it is a problem.

          While not so applicable to OP, I wonder if unpaid internships are more valuable to current students than working in a local cafe. The minimum wage has barely risen over my lifetime in comparison with everything else, while tuition everywhere has gone wild. They have to weigh hours spent getting the job experience that employers expect of entry-level applicants or hours spent making a few dollars an hour.

          1. Yay commenting on AAM!*

            ” if unpaid internships are more valuable to current students than working in a local cafe.”

            There is some truth to this. I hire students, and over the last 10 years or so, we’ve had a lot of the good students drop out of the pocket-change labor market entirely to focus on career-focused, resume-building jobs. We’d still get some good students whose majors were relevant to what we were doing, or some kids who were working because they needed money who also happened to be good students and employees. But overwhelmingly, the academically/career-focused kids are opting out of the low-wage labor market to focus on school and internships.

      2. Smarty Boots*

        Yikes! Juniors, seniors, and grad students!!! No excuses, seriously. Freshmen the first week of class in the first semester? Ok. After that — no way!! We’re not talking *polish* — this is a basic requirement for college students: get to classes, meetings, appointments on time. These students are at least 20 years old, yes? Plenty old enough to know this.

      3. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

        Certainly by grad school level, I’d expect them to be able to manage things a little better. I had my first real interview as an undergrad, and though I was on time for that, I (a) forgot to sign the hard-copy of my cover letter when I submitted it, and (b) had a cough drop in my mouth that I somehow thought I’d have time to get rid of. Fortunately, I did well enough overall that I got the job, and was extremely dedicated for the rest of my time at the college

  7. phira*

    #2: When I helped to hire an undergraduate intern, one of the candidates showed up 90 minutes early. He didn’t seem embarrassed or apologetic about showing up over an hour early, and he sat down and waited expectantly for us to interview him. I can’t remember exactly what we ended up doing, but I do remember that I’d been in the middle of a protocol, so I couldn’t interview him right away. Either way, the behavior bothered me and my boss enough that it was one of the reasons we didn’t offer him the position. The issue wasn’t so much that he’d been so early, but that he hadn’t left and come back at the right time.

    Showing up at the wrong time is much less of a problem than the attitude about it. I’d be more inclined to hire someone who showed up at the wrong time but was appropriately embarrassed, since I’d assume that they’d be unlikely to make the same mistake again in the future out of paranoia. Students also have famously messy schedules that vary day by day and week by week, which I think puts them at a disadvantage when it comes to scheduling.

    But attitude does matter, and I think I agree with Alison that you don’t want to teach students that unprofessional behavior will be overlooked.

    1. Nodramalama*

      Some people don’t seem to think being early is as inconvenient as being late. The applicant may even have thought it came across as proactive or that theyre not bothering anyone. When I was a medical receptionist I used to hate when people turned up early. Yes, you’re fine to wait, but if we run at all behind (and of course we didn’t it was a doctors office) they often felt like they had been waiting forever even though they were early

      1. OP#2*

        Yes, I think sometimes there’s the expectation that if you show up early anywhere, they might fit you in somewhere.

        1. Quoth the Raven*

          There’s also the whole “if you’re on time you’re late” thing many people say and that some interpret as “you need to be there super early”. Of course, if your interview is at 1:00 you should, ideally, be there at least 10 minutes before, but I have also met people who aim to be there 20-30 minutes early.

          1. T3k*

            I’m the type that tries to get there 15 – 20 mins early but only if I’m unfamiliar with the traffic patterns and possible delays. That said, I sit in my car or go into a nearby store until 10 mins from my actual time.

          2. Amylou*

            At an internship interview I showed up 15 min beforehand and the office manager commented “wow you’re early” (I did get hired). After that, I also got experience hiring from the other side, which brings great perspective!!

            I now try to be at the building 5-10 minutes beforehand. I do try to arrive in the area 30-60 min before (public transport dependency), and scout out a good coffee shop to go through my notes.

            1. Quoth the Raven*

              Yeah, I’m the same way (especially because public transportation and traffic are super unpredictable in my city). But I’ve interviewed people before and I’ve seen candidates to show up 30 minutes (I had someone show up an hour before!) ahead of time, and some even asking if they can be interviewed then because “I’m early, haha!” I have no qualms telling them to wait outside and it does colour my perception of them.

          3. Ruth (UK)*

            Because I worry about getting lost/delayed etc I frequently have ended up being 20 minutes early (or more) to things like interviews BUT… I have not announced my presence until close to the time. I’ve walked by the building after seeing where it, and gone for a sit on a bench somewhere round the corner, or… whatever is appropriate depending on the location. I usually try and arrive 5-10 minutes early.

            However, I did once actually show up a full 25-30 minutes early… It was an interview on a uni campus, and I arrived that level of early to suss out where the building was that I’d need etc (it’s a confusing campus). But outside the building, I saw someone I knew, who asked what I was doing. Panicked, I said I was looking for [room number/location] and she said “oh! follow me!” and in she went, right up to the reception and said “here you are!” so I was forced to introduce/announce myself nearly half an hour early. Luckily, this apparently wasn’t a problem (I got the job – my current job). Though they actually ran late so I did have to sit for quite a while (but I didn’t complain/comment on that, and I did apologise for being early. I said something like “I wasn’t sure about finding the room” [it’s a confusing enough campus that we actually give candidates more leeway for being late as they so frequently get lost].

          4. LurkieLoo*

            I aim for 20-30 minutes early to important meetings and then read in my car or drive around the neighborhood or something until about 5 minutes before.

            1. Can't Think of a Name*

              I aim to be 15 minutes early, but sometimes I’ve also arrived up to 30 minutes early. I’m happy to wait in the building/waiting area – as sometimes there isn’t always a place to wait around (especially as I don’t have a car). My anxiety forces me to be early, and I can’t relaxed until I’m officially in the interview location. That being said, I don’t expect to be seen until my scheduled time.

              On the other side, I don’t care if a candidate is super early – they can wait!

        2. Akcipitrokulo*

          I agree it’s the attitude. I can see a student’s thinking “I have to be on time! If early is good, earlier is better, right?” and turning up a couple of hours in advance! And also mix ups happen.

          So someone who reacted “oh, I’m sorry! When would be OK to come back?” I’d not take badly… copping an attitude? Nope.

      2. Works in IT*

        Blah, the few times I’ve been extremely early to interviews, I’ve been very apologetic. At the time I didn’t own a car because I lived in NYC and didn’t need one, but had a driver’s license and was willing to get a car if I got the job, so my aunt drove me to the interviews. Which meant I got dropped off when she could drop me off, rather than the scheduled time for the interview, but I was apologetic and stood in a corner and waited for my scheduled time.

      3. petpet*

        I also hire and interview college students for assistant jobs, and they are ROUTINELY 10 to 15 minutes early for their scheduled interviews, and walk in expecting to be interviewed the moment they arrive. We have lots of casual seating and a cafe just down the hallway where one could sit and wait, but everyone expects to be seen right away. It drives me batty that all these students seem to think I’m just sitting around waiting to interview all day, because I obviously have no other work to do.

        Just yesterday, a candidate arrived at 2:15 for her 2:30 interview, and I explained to her that my co-supervisor, who’d been her main contact, does not arrive at work until 2:30, so she’d have to wait.

    2. OP#2*

      That’s a really good point about the candidate sitting down and waiting for you to interview them. Two or three years ago I had spaced interviews an hour apart so that no one saw or heard anything about how the previous person did, but then someone showed up at the wrong hour and interrupted the interview before them. I guess it boils down to finding the right amount of punctuality so you don’t interrupt the interviewer too early.

      1. Cat wrangler*

        I used to facilitate external /internal meetings which ran twice a day, at set times. More than once, someone would rock up at 11am for the 2pm slot and give the receptionists attitude when they were asked (politely at first then decreasing in warmth if they continued to argue) to come back at a more appropriate time. They seemed to think that everyone was waiting ready to drop everything and run the meeting then. If they had been candidates for recruitment, they would have ruled themselves out by their attitude to the receptionists alone when they turned up at the wrong time. Often they transpired to show other red flags like talking over other people or playing on theit phones under the table when the meeting commenced.

      2. GigglyPuff*

        Oh man this happened to me at my last interview a few months ago. It turns out they had stacked them back to back, interviewing one person each day, in three days timeline. During the interview I was being given a tour, and someone asked if I was “Jane”, nope! Then when I was at the hotel waiting for the taxi, who they used frequently, they came up and dropped someone off, taxi driver told me, they were pretty sure that was my competition. It was all very weird.

        Also super didn’t help my own insecurities as an overweight white women just trying to jump from entry level to middle mgmt., to see my competition was a middle aged white guy. Especially since it’s been a month and a half and when I emailed last week, said they were still making a decision. *sigh*

    3. Asenath*

      Sometimes, speaking as someone who is a bit paranoid about being on time (=20 minutes early, in my mind) and who depends on public transportation, being really early doesn’t translate to causing problems for anyone else, because I don’t mind waiting. If I’m going to end up somewhere early because that’s the only time I can get there without risking being late, sitting quietly in the waiting room for a long time doesn’t bother me. It never occurred to me that it might bother anyone else, or that they might think I was trying to sneak in an appointment before the proper time. I never thought of the coffee shop option either – sometimes, there isn’t one (of if there is, I don’t know where it is), and I’m not a coffee drinker and rarely go into a coffee shop.

      1. Frozen Ginger*

        I am the exact same way. I showed up to a job interview (my current job) 30 minutes early. But its an office “campus” (with no coffee shops or any other public space) and I was so afraid I’d go to the wrong building, or park in the wrong area, or run into an issue with security… So when I checked in with the guard, they said “You know you’re 30 minutes early right?” and my response was something akin to “Yes, no I know, I mean I can wait here in the lobby, or I could go wait somewhere else or…”

        I know being really early can be aggravating and/or inconvenient, but there is a big distinction between someone showing up 2 hours early and expecting to be interviewed right then and someone showing up 2 hours early and expecting to sit in the lobby for 2 hours.

      2. Anon From Here*

        I’m usually on public transit to meetings and interviews, and I’m usually early. I have a go-to phrase that’s great because it’s the truth: “Well, you know, Local Transit System Name, amirite? I can be 15 minutes early or 15 minutes late.” Then I offer to take a seat with the book I’ve conveniently brought with me.

        1. blackcat*

          Yep, this is what I’ve done for all sorts of stuff (mostly doctors appointments, but other things, too) when relying on public transit.
          “You’re quite early!”
          “Well, the bus means my options were quite early or quite late, so I brought a book!”
          For an interview, I think I would try hard to find somewhere else to wait, but if it’s winter and there’s no good coffee shop/cafe around… I’d going to sit in the lobby and let them know that I was expecting to wait.

      3. Bee*

        Something to keep in mind is that not all places have waiting rooms. We had an intern candidate show up two hours early for an interview, actually before anyone in the office had arrived in the morning, and she sat in the hallway outside our suite for over an hour, then in our little reception area (three feet from the receptionist) for the next hour. She was clearly fine waiting and had brought a book, but everyone in our ten-person office was unnerved by having a stranger hang around in our common space and lurking in our hallway for that long. I probably should have said something, but she was so early that I didn’t even realize I was the one she was waiting for.

        1. Elizabeth Proctor*

          This. In my old job, waiting room meant chair directly across from my desk. It was awkward to have someone sitting there for 20 minutes or so if they were early. Nothing wrong with arriving early to figure out where you need to be, but find somewhere to wait that’s more open to the public.

        2. pleaset*

          A young person doing this seems very forgivable to me – they’re clearly motivated but don’t know norms. Tell them, and that should be it.

      4. Colette*

        It can cause problems, for sure. I once worked at a small company where a candidate showed up 45 minutes early. The manager who would be intervieipwing him was in a meeting. The receptionist (who also held other roles) was in a meeting as well.

        I (software developer) answered the door.

        So do we:
        – stop the meeting?
        – pay a software developer to babysit him?
        – leave him in the reception area (near the executive offices) alone and trust he won’t look at anything he shouldn’t look at?

    4. CM*

      Did you tell the candidate, “Please come back 10 minutes before your scheduled time?” If not, he might have had no idea that he was inconveniencing you or that there was anything to be embarrassed about.

      I think this is different than OP#2’s situation, where she’s saying, “You got the time wrong, please come back at your scheduled time,” and the candidate is getting huffy.

      Also, I’m wondering how this advice plays out. It seems too abrupt for the candidate to get annoyed and OP#2 to say on the spot, “Forget it, don’t come at all.” So I’m assuming the candidate would still get a second chance to show up at their scheduled time and interview. In which case, if they acted normal at the interview, should OP#2 bring it up and say something like, “Last time we talked, you sounded frustrated when I asked you to come back at your scheduled time?”

      1. OP#2*

        I’ve been wondering about how to bring it up as well. I’ve always given them a second chance at their correct interview time, but I’m never sure if or how I should bring up their mistake.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          If they have an attitude about it and you decide not to interview them, I’d email them afterwards and use a version of Washi’s excellent language above. Something like: “When you came in earlier today, you seemed very irritated that we could not interview you on the spot. We certainly don’t expect that people will never make mistakes, but we do look for a willingness to take responsibility for mistakes and learn from them. Because I know you’re a student at the start of your career, I want to be transparent with you that your reaction today is prohibitive for us and likely would be for most employers, and so I don’t think it makes sense to reschedule the interview, but wish you all the best.” Or something like that.

          1. OP#2*

            Thank you Alison! I really like that wording. After these replies, I may be more strict in the future with candidates who show me red flags like attitude.

    5. Awkward Interviewee*

      I agree that attitude matters. I work in higher ed, and a large part of my job includes holding scheduled one on one meetings with undergraduates. Most students who get the time or day wrong are apologetic, or at least a neutral confused, and they’re pleasant about coming back at the right time or rescheduling. I’ve experienced even responsible students getting the time wrong, but I would find attitude about getting the time wrong to be a red flag.

    6. Anon and on and on*

      90 minutes is way too early. I was always told to show up 15 minutes early. At my current job, I showed up 15 minutes early for the interview and they left me waiting in the lobby until my interview time. I didn’t think much of it at the time but then with the next round of interviews they did (after I was hired) I heard the manager complaining about how people always show up early. He was shocked when I told him that its standard to be early.

      1. pleaset*

        If the “commute” to the new location is new, of course a lot of people will be early. They can’t predict reliably how long it will take, and of course being late is much worse then early, so people will err early.

        If a job candidate shows up 15 minutes early to an appointment at a place that is large enough to have a reception area, and tell the receptionist “I’m here to see Mickey at 2pm – I know I’m early” and just sits and waits, I don’t understand the problem. And for me, as the interviewer, I don’t take it seriously – if reception calls me and says “Mickey is here” and we’re not scheduled for 15 minutes, I often keep doing what I’m doing, then head out at the right time. It’s just business.

        I have people show up early all the time where I work – not just for interviews, but in general. Yesterday a consultant came 30 minutes early – she had another appointment a few blocks way. So she sat in reception doing her own thing. Seems cool to me.

  8. Greg NY*

    #1: I think Alison’s looking at this wrong. The group varies between 60 and 80 people, which the group lead manages, the LW’s team is a 20 person subset of that group. It’s that subset that is invited to these events.

    A common rule of etiquette is not to exclude less than half of people, and these events aren’t doing that because it’s 20 out of 60-80. Most aren’t invited (and even if they were, there is a difference between a team and the entire group; the group lead is not part of the team just as a CEO isn’t a member of every single department in an organization). The group lead, frankly, has no right to expect to attend, let alone be invited to, these events, and it’s rude that she’s doing so (even ruder that she’s talking shop during the events). Unless she was invited by one of the other attendees, although it doesn’t seem that way judging by the attendees shoveling food into their mouths.

    Just because something takes place over lunch doesn’t make it a work event. Lunch time is widely understood to be free time. If a large group of colleagues decide to eat lunch together (in a place other than a break room or cafeteria), does that mean that a group lead is entitled to eat with them even if not invited? I don’t think so.

    1. Cold and frosty morning*

      Uh, I read #1 quite differently.

      Let’s say the team of 20 is the teapot marketing team. Of course the head/lead/ manager of that team is part of that team. And of course they should be invited to any events that involve the whole teapot marketing team.

      It’s been like that in any job I’ve ever worked at, so I’m really surprised to read both the OP letter and this post suggesting the exact opposite? I’d be curious to know what others think.

      In my view, the OP directly telling the manager they were not invited to a team event that’s in the group calendar would come across as really rude on the OP’s part. I was the manager being told that I’m not invited to a team event by a member of my own team, I’d feel…not sure – somewhere between bemused and hurt, I think.

      1. Cold and frosty morning*

        Ah, I just re-read the post, and realise I misunderstood the situation. The group lead is in charge of all 80 people, not that team of 20. My bad.

        1. Eenie*

          #1 I agree with Alison that the lead may assume that she is supposed to show up.

          That being said, I couldn’t help but think about the rest of the group of 60-80 people. I’m an “invite the whole class” kind of person. Having MONTHLY lunches and regular parties for 25% -30% of the group – to the point where past employees (I assume) feel miffed if they get left out makes me think that the rest of the group might be feeling excluded. It sounds like your group is a clique. Especially if these lunches and parties are taking place at your work place, but even if they are taking place off-site. Everyone knows about them and they are not welcome to attend or participate?

          1. Asenath*

            I think whether they’re a clique or not depends on how closely they work together (physically, and, well, with work) and how the organization is structured. My “work group”, 9 people, kind of makes sense to us partly because we’re all (except 0ne; long story, the place has space issues) are in the same physical place and work with the same group of senior people. But we have, technically speaking, different employers and job descriptions – say, some of us are Llama Bookers for Applied Services, Inc. and the rest of us are Llama Caretaker Trainers for Caretakers Training Services, Inc. We each, of course, are also part of much larger groups of Bookers and Trainers scattered across the shared facilities and further abroad. Sometimes, there are larger parties – eg a potluck for all Trainers and wherever they work and whoever they work for – but although we do work with trainers in different groups, some of them daily, they aren’t included in our little lunch – and wouldn’t expect to be; they organize their own smaller lunches, if desired, with those they work more closely with. Now that I’m writing this out, it sounds incredibly complicated, probably because we don’t have a traditional hierarchical structure. But it is a situation in which small groups do socialize with each other, don’t invite others in the same job category, and don’t seem to function as a clique.

          2. doreen*

            I could be wrong, but I think the OP’s use of the word “group” may be throwing things off. The way I read the letter, it’s more like a department of 20 people is having lunches without inviting the entire company of 80 than 20 people from different departments are having lunch together. I’m an “invite the whole class ” person too, but there’s a difference between the class, the grade and the school – and “invite the whole class” is usually followed by “or less than half” so 20 out of 80 would qualify.

            1. kittymommy*

              See I was reading it as the “group”is more like a department (within a larger org) and the “team” is a division in that group. My org. actually has this happen in different departments, some divisions get together more often for at work social events and it is very common (and implicitly assumed) that the department head will be invited, though they do not attend all of them.

          3. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

            I disagree with this. I work in a branch that has 97 people, but we only interact minimally with each other outside our individual offices (except for the business/finance office who has to deal with all of us). It is very, very common for different teams or offices to do things together without inviting all 80-ish other people because those are the people who know each other beyond saying “Hi” in the hallway. It is also more practical since grabbing 10-ish folks and going to lunch takes less logistics than trying to find a restaurant that can seat 97 people

          4. Smarty Boots*

            Eh, if it’s the twenty are a team and the other 40 – 60 aren’t on that team, I don’t see why they have to be invited. My office has about two dozen people. The larger division has maybe 75? We have events just for our office pretty often — we’re usually not inviting folks from the other departments or the big boss’s office to come to any of those. (Sometimes we ask our grandboss to events, but only when it makes sense to do so.)

    2. Elder Dog*

      That’s a common rule in schools. It’s not applicable to office behavior. Unless you’re going to stand up and hand out invitations and point at people who aren’t included. Then you should try to include everybody.

      1. CM*

        I think “invite the whole class or less than half” applies everywhere. If you’re in a work group of 10 people and you invite 8, the other 2 will feel excluded. But it’s tricky here, since it’s unclear which group of people constitutes the “class.” I think it would make sense for the OP to limit it to the 20 people in their group, but then again the OP said others get offended if they’re not included.

    3. MusicWithRocksInIt*

      I think the biggest problem here isn’t that the lead is inviting herself – it is that she is being unpleasant and sucking all of the joy out of the room by “making thinly veiled comments” – which I am assuming means she is hinting heavily that everyone better hurry up with this lunch nonsense and get their butts back to work as quickly as they can? If the manager is being a giant party pooper and no one has the authority to tell them to cool it what can they do? The right kind of manager would be able to let their hair down a little and socialize with the department, so this normally wouldn’t be a problem. I think the issue is less ‘is it ok/ not ok to not invite the manger’ and more ‘what can we do so the manager doesn’t ruin this every time’.

      1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

        I kind of disagree that the lead is inviting themselves. If the events are posted and put on a team calendar then it’s assumed that everyone is welcome.
        From the Letter:
        “I organize these things by putting them on the team calendar and posting a sign-up, nothing more. If people want to invite others, it’s up to them. I honestly would rather just have the current team attend than having a reunion every month. But it seems any major holiday I get on someone’s shit list by “forgetting” them.”

        If the events were word of mouth to a select group or a email to specific people, then I think it would be different.

        Honestly the OP comes off as a little odd about this. Either it’s an open event or it’s not and it sounds like they are confusing the issue with how they are being promoted/advertised. It sounds like there isn’t even consensus in the group of who should be attending.

        OP, here’s my advice. Figure out what these events are and who should be invited. Stop the public invitations and calendar notices and go with a distribution list.

        1. Anna*

          Exactly this. It’s like posting your event on a bulletin board and being annoyed other people decided to attend. OP is using the team calendar and expecting people with access to the team calendar to divine who is invited and who isn’t.

      2. DarlaMushrooms*

        That part struck me as odd, too. I’ve never had a boss in a professional organization who would do something like that. They might drop by with candy or drinks and say hi to everyone, but they’d excuse themselves after a few minutes. They certainly wouldn’t stick around and make passive aggressive comments.

    4. Ren*

      Meh, I see the exact same set of circumstances as requiring the opposite — trust me, there is a reason OP is always in someone’s “shit list” for forgetting them. Frankly, it sounds like this whole thing is being handlef in an obnoxious way.

      1. kittymommy*

        Yeah, I picked up on that as well. Something seems…off here. While the group lead is being obnoxious with how she’s behaving when she attends, if multiple people have been bothered about being excluded, and this has happened multiple times, there’s more to this.

        1. Over the hill*

          Agreed. There has been feedback that this monthly event isn’t inclusive AND a boss is giving feedback (maybe passive agressively, maybe not) that folks need to get back to work.

          Are these parties supposed to be happening? Theres an open sign up sheet, but OP wants to limit the attendees, that comes across as odd. Plus 20 “core” birthdays that are scattered all year long, presumably at times when portions of the rest of the 60-80 people are part of the group.

          I think these events need to be formally clarified with management. No one is entitled to a party at work and I think thats whats rubbing me the wrong way about this letter.

          OP actively wants to exclude people, and that is not a ‘Good Look’ professionally.

          1. Psyche*

            Yeah, it seems like if they want to socialize with each other on their own terms, then schedule a happy hour instead of lunch. Then it is not at work or during work hours. If you want to do lunch at work, you can’t tell your boss not to come.

          2. Legal Beagle*

            Yes. Not a good sign if multiple people have complained about being excluded, and it seems like the boss finds these (frequent) parties to be a waste of company time, as well. I’d be concerned about harming myself professionally by organizing/participating in these parties if they cause so much drama. OP needs to take an honest look at their own behavior here, too.

          3. OP#1*

            To clarify some points:
            At our company, a team is a subset of a group. We have team leads and group leads.
            Our team is a large portion of our group and we’re the more social part of the group. We sit together in our own (small) building and we have our own conference room to have these parties in (so no one would just pass by and see it).
            When I organize one of these parties, I send an email out to Team@CompanyDomain, put it on the outlook calendar, and post a paper sign up sheet if it’s a potluck. Since it’s an outlook event, it can get forwarded to anyone else. There are quite a few people in the company that used to sit with/work on our team, so someone usually forwards them the invite.
            I don’t want to exclude people, I want to make sure that my team is taken care of. We do long business trips together all over the world. This can put so much stress on people with spouses, kids, pets, etc. I want to make sure that we don’t see coming to work as wearing us down. I’ve found that a sit down meal together is the best way to check in on everyone. The rest of the teams in our group have similar travel needs, but doesn’t take care of everyone the same way, and people get burnt out very quickly because of it. And as for time, all of the unpaid overtime on trips more than makes up for the hour or so we use for these meals every month.

              1. animaniactoo*

                I think you need to institute a new standard that people who are no longer on the team are not invited to these gatherings, and invite them to create similar gatherings with the teams that they are now on.

                People are feeling excluded because they ARE being excluded arbitrarily when they know that past team members are welcome, but nobody thought to forward them the invite. It’s easier to deal with that by creating a clear boundary and let people who want to gather and socialize with former team members to organize that themselves and do it separately from the team gatherings.

                Piece #2 – Can someone approach the group lead and ask why she seems to be so bothered by the team gatherings? There may be something to be sorted out here, and it would be an opportunity to give her a free pass not to attend all/most of them if she dislikes being drawn into so many of these (meaning feeling like she HAS to be there), or to correct an impression that she may not realize she’s making it. “Hmmm. I don’t know if you realize it, but you often use these gatherings to address some work issues and that’s counter to the purpose of gathering without work being involved. Doing some light personal bonding can be really conducive to working better as a team, so the goal is actually more to be able to talk about what happened on Survivor last week with a bunch of people you spend a lot of time with than it is to debrief on an issue that came up last week. If we need to discuss the issue in more depth, we can schedule a separate 15-20 minute meeting for that and it would be better to bring that kind of focus to it than a gathering where people are expecting to talk about Survivor or their latest cupcake find.”

                1. RAM*

                  +1 on just inviting current members of your team (and perhaps asking the others to not forward your invites anymore). If Bob and Anna both used to work on your team, but Bob still gets invited while Anna doesn’t, it is arbitrary, and I can understand why Anna would be upset.

            1. CommanderBanana*

              I’m confused – you don’t want to exclude people, but you don’t want this particular person to attend, but you don’t want to tell her this, you want her to figure out that she’s not wanted at a gathering that’s on the team calendar?

              1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

                I think the manager that is showing up isn’t a part of the team – she is the group lead so she is the bosses boss? I can see that someone that is much higher up the food chain than everyone else would make things uncomfortable. Can she just see the invitation on the network – or is someone inviting her?

              2. Saberise*

                But this particular person (the group lead) can’t see the team calendar, only the group calendar. Is it possible someone in the team is forwarding the calendar invite to the group lead since she’s always there?

                Personally I think the bigger problem is that they are still inviting people that leave the team. That is what is confusing the issue since it’s not exclusive to just the team. Being that it’s “quite a few people” and some get upset if it doesn’t get forwarded to them I would suggest taking a look at that part of the whole thing. Say it’s 10 people that get invited that are no longer part of the team and the group is 60 at that point than half the group is getting invited. That could rub people the wrong way. Maybe have an open get together after hours that they get invited to but not something during work hours. We have people where I work change teams all the time and they don’t get invited anymore even if they are still close to some of us. It’s either a team event or it’s not.

                1. LJay*

                  In my org, the group lead would be able to see the team calendar.

                  My boss can see my calendar and my team’s calendar. I don’t think he looks at it regularly, but he could if he wanted to, and if he saw I had an all hands meeting he would probably be curious as to why, and would assume that he could come by if he so desired. Since he’s my boss, purposely excluding him or acting as though he couldn’t come by would be weird.

                  (There are situations where he could be purposely excluded, like if I were seeking unfiltered feedback about something and felt that him being present would hinder that, but that would be something I would communicate to him in advance. And I wouldn’t expect those situations to occur often, and would expect him to be concerned if they did.)

            2. Smarty Boots*

              Can you set up the appointment/meeting so that only those specifically invited can see the invite and respond to it? We use google calendar and we can do that– there’s an option under “add guests” to choose whether or not guests can modify the event, invite others, and see the guest list. I’ve never used Outlook but I’d be surprised if it didn’t have something like this.

              Also, we handle potluck signups with a google doc: that way only people who the doc’s been shared with see it and have access to it (again, you can limit who it’s shared with).

              1. JSPA*

                That’s probably hugely more ongoing work, though, given that people apparently shuffle in and out of the team.

                Not only do you have to find out who’s working with the team and add individivuals, you also have to make the call on whom to remove (and when). In the current system, anyone who’s connected enough to be “on” the Team notification list is automatically notified, and anyone who isn’t, isn’t. Presumably this is handled by a number of people having authority to add people, or perhaps people even have the authority to add themselves (and probably to remove themselves). Doing it that way WOULD make it OP’s fault if someone is left off. This way, it’s automated; if you’re (still) on “team,” you’re invited. If you’re not on “team,” someone has to invite you along (e.g. because you were just separated, because you connect and disconnect repeatedly, because they know you’ll be connecting soon, or whatever).

                Frankly, quarterly birthdays probably should be open to boss.

                One solution might be to make the cost of participation (or the food expectations, for a potluck) dependent on the level of the attendee. For example, interns ride free, supervisor pays/does 2x, boss pays/does 4x, grandboss pays/does 8x.

                You can probably even state that the goal is for the worker bees to relax, decompress and feel supported, and that management can either stop by for 5 minutes (only) to grab a plateful, or show their support by throwing their whole weight into nurturing their team. Or alternate between “boss’s treat” lunches and “worker” lunches, if boss is game.

                Rationale: I’m guessing that if boss is making a big effort, they may be more invested in having people enjoy the food, and also that people may feel more comfortable with boss there, if they can see that boss is making a big effort. Boss will know when they’re welcome, and not be as tempted to parachute in on the “worker” events.

                It’s often the sign of a desire to be a good boss when the boss tries to be “available for general conversation and concerns.” Boss may be intending to be available by being there, and be awkwardly trying to signal openness by starting potentially awkward conversations (that are registering as veiled digs).

            3. Midlife Tattoos*

              As a senior manager, it would be odd if I was excluded from a social gathering taking place in the office which specifically includes my team. In fact, I would feel obligated to go, as I think it would look bad if I didn’t. And I would be confused if someone told me that they specifically didn’t want me to attend.

    5. MCMonkeyBean*

      Nobody is specifically invited, it’s just a post on a team calendar. The boss is on the team. Anybody in the boss’ shoes would assume they either can or should attend. The OP’s understanding of a boss never socializing with their employees is not correct. They shouldn’t socialize outside of work, but the boss attending team lunches and parties is so extremely normal and some amount of team bonding is often even expected.

      1. Kathleen_A*

        Yes, of course she thinks she’s included. She *ought* to be included. The OP can certainly have events to which the boss isn’t invited, but that should be things like, you know, 2-4 of them going to lunch or having a drink after work. If you invite the team, the head of the team should also be invited.

        I honestly don’t even understand why this is even a question. Yes, it’s a shame that the boss isn’t a total joy to be around, but that does not excuse excluding her from team functions.

          1. Kathleen_A*

            That’s certainly possible, as is the vice versa scenario (that she’s excluded because she’s not nice to be around). Either or even both could be true.

            Whichever way it is, you just can’t post things that say “Team Event!” and not invite the entire team.

        1. Leslie*

          I agree with this, and also with those who are sensing that there’s something off in the letter. In my entire professional office career, I’ve never attended an “event” lunch to which the managers weren’t invited. Even for casual lunches, the managers often eat with their teams or subsets of them. Managers aren’t supposed to be the kind of friends who let things slide or who permit personal favors… but they should be friendly enough with their team that they know what’s going on beyond the deadlines and are approachable if something’s happening. And they should know the people on their team well enough to make some educated guesses if something seems off with an individual– if Mary, who’s usually a good performer, is suddenly missing deadlines, a good manager might be able to put together bits and pieces heard during lunches and casual conversations to realize that Mary’s mom’s health might have taken a downturn. And that Mary may need to be cut some slack. If managers are distant automatons who never show up for the more social-feeling things, they’re actually not showing up for a key part of their job.

          I get the sense that the relationship between the manager and the letter writer is not great, and that maybe the relationship between the manager and the team isn’t great, too. But from this side of the screen, it’s hard to tell how much of that is being driven by the manager’s personality, how much by the OP’s personality, and how much by the team’s culture (and if that culture was created by the manager or something she inherited when she came on the job). Since the OP is the one who’s most likely to read this, my advice would be to try to be more open to the manager– think of her as invited, and make an effort to make her feel welcome when she comes. Do what you can on your side to decrease any negative/hostile feelings. My advice to the manager and the attendees would be similar, but as the OP, you don’t have control over what they think and do. So do what you can in your own head and with your own actions. If nothing else, I think it would make you feel a little happier.

        2. Smarty Boots*

          Sounds like the boss in question isn’t the team lead, but instead a higher-level. And in that case, it’s reasonable not to invite her to everything. Choose the one or two events that make sense to have her there. Don’t invite her to the rest. To do that, you will have to restrict who gets the invites and whether the invited “guests” can forward the invite. Otherwise you’re going to get unexpected people at your events.
          Also, I think there is absolutely nothing wrong with a lunch event that is not open to people outside the team. Frankly, that’s often the most convenient time for people to attend. It does not have to be late afternoon (which in my office would be a giant PITA time to have a social event) or after hours (= an even bigger PITA). It could be breakfast, even. The time of day is not the issue.

    6. Nacho*

      Agree. If I had a lunch thing with my team, I might expect y boss to pop in, but this sounds like grand boss, or even great grand boss, and there’s no way he should be staying longer than a few seconds.

    7. Public Sector Manager*

      It’s my understanding that all these events OP #1 is referring to happen on company property using company resources (e.g. conference room, table, chairs, etc.), just that it’s during the employees lunch hour and the employees are paying for their own food.

      If OP #1 really doesn’t want to mingle with this manager, go off campus. Plan something at a restaurant and the OP can invite whomever the OP chooses.

      But if it’s a team event on the team calendar on company property using company resources, OP #1 really has no standing to block the team’s manager from attending.

  9. Where’s my coffee?*

    #1 seems kind of pissy. You’re posting the sign up at work, and putting it on a team calendar…so yeah it seems weird to be so put out that your lead shows up. I’d think it was ruder if my boss never showed up to a team lunch.

    1. Legalchef*

      This is what I was going to say. If your method of “invitation” is to put it on the *team* calendar, of which the lead would presumably be a part, and post a sign-up, how is the lead to even know they are intended to be excluded?

    2. Kiwi*

      If my whole team was sitting round eating birthday cake at work and discouraged me from joining them, I’d be rather upset.

      OP1, it sounds to me like the problem isn’t that your team lead comes to these parties, it’s that you all don’t like her (and maybe with good reason). That’s a different problem, but maybe could be solved. E.g. are there people who do like her? Maybe they could sit beside her and talk to her.

      1. Zip Silver*

        Yeah I’d be salty if my team uninvited me to birthday cake or a potluck held during lunch in the break room. I certainly wouldn’t go out of the way to do any favors for whomever was the one who said “no you can’t come”.

      2. Mommy MD*

        She’s saying now it’s a grand boss but the dynamics are the same. You cannot exclude people when you are posting sign up sheets and marking events on work calendars whether or not it shows up on their calendar. Just be clear no shop talk. If OP wants to be exclusionary the event needs to be outside of work with no invites discussed at the workplace.

    3. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Agreed assuming that the lead is contributing financially the same way everyone else is.

    4. Lemon Bars*

      Yes, For me being on the group calendar makes it an official outing, unofficial is a email for a few people. I think its very odd that a team lunch would be on the group calendar and excludes part of the group.

    5. Aveline*

      Yeah, I don’t want to start at pipe on and I also think we should be sympathetic to LWs.

      However, the way this is set up would imply – at least in US corporate norms – the entire team/anyone on the shared calendar should attend. That includes the boss.

      It also comes across as cliquey.

      LW- I urge you to realize that if the posters here who are trying to see you sympatheticly seenthis as problematic, it’s comiing across worse to your colleagues.

      It reads to me as if you are in dangerous waters.

      First with respect to the boss. If you don’t want to include her, don’t use group calendaring! However, now that she’s been invited (Yes, you did invite her when you put this on the group calendar), you can’t uninvite her without serious hurt feelings.

      Second, by having such frequent fun events with a subset of a larger group, you run the risk of being perceived as mean girls/cliqueish. Perception matters. Your intent is net magic.

      You need to sit down with this lead and work out a plan wheeze you have some events that she attends, some that are team only, and some that are open to everyone in the larger group (60-80).

      If you do that, everyone gets a chance at fun time.

      You could also use this reset as a way of setting out some rules for these events that specifically state “no politics, no work chat, but you can discuss Justin Bieber’s cat.”

      If you do a reset of the Structure, you can invoke “new rules.”

      Oh, and stop using the group calendar to do these. You can’t use a group calendar to schedule an event an then exclude someone you’ve expressly invited by using said group calendar.

      1. Aveline*

        PS Many moons ago, husband managed a team and was having difficulty getting people not to discuss work at he event. He instituted a virtual swear jar system. Whomsoever brought up work, was assigned a quarter in the bank. Whoever had the most quarters at the end of the term was the volunteer to do some menial job no one liked (e.g., You brought up work 20 times Fergus, so you get to call grumpy client and tell them their 20 glazed Justin Bieber cat tepots are finished!)

        It was never monetary and it was never extra work beyond the normal schedule. Just something he could give to any team member, but no one wanted.

      2. MusicWithRocksInIt*

        Planning a lunch out for 80 people is not only WAY more of a pain to plan, but also just might not be possible. There are plenty of restaurants that could handle 20 with a little warning, but there is nowhere near my work that would take 60-80 people. That is the kind of thing you have a caterer for.
        There are a lot of accusations of being ‘clickish’ but it’s not a click if it’s your entire department. That is just… a department. I don’t think it’s at all unusual for departments to have separate things they do – these are the people you work closely with every day, the people that sit near you, probably the people you interact with the most. Planning an unofficial party for lunch break for the entire company of 80 people is pretty weird – I have never heard of doing something like that. Having one department go do something together is fairly normal. The only thing that’s weird for me is 20 almost seems like too many people to do this with.

        1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

          My work place forbade the department thing–as in, if you are having a potluck, you better invite the whole group. Departments can go to lunch together but that’s usually for birthdays and that is usually more tan the department.
          LW#1: Don’t use the group calendar, don’t hold these get togethers at work, and don’t put up a sign up sheet! If friends want to meet for lunch, let them but don’t plan work outings and get surprised when work people show up!

          1. Psyche*

            General rule of thumb: If people are being excluded from something, do you best to makes sure that they are unaware of it. Don’t discuss the event in front of them, don’t post something on a shared calendar or put up fliers, and if you mess up and do something that makes it obvious there is an event that you did not invite them to, extend an invitation unless you cannot (not just that you don’t want them there).

        2. LJay*

          Yeah. My department does stuff separately all the time.

          If other departments feel left out, they can do their own department lunches. If their boss refuses to do them, that is the fault of their boss, not mine.

          To go to the school example, this isn’t like inviting half the kids in the class and not the rest. This is like inviting your kid’s entire class that they sit with for 8 hours a day and learn with, but not inviting another class from the same grade that they are not in and don’t interact with as regularly – maybe they see them at lunch time and play against them in gym class.

    6. OP#1*

      To clarify: I *am* inviting my boss, I am not inviting my “grand-boss”. I am on a team that is part of a group. My team calendar and group calendar are completely separate. My group lead is not on our team calendar.

      1. Kathleen_A*

        Still…I think it’s very natural for Grand Boss to assume she’s invited, too. This is clearly not a “friends who happen to work together” gathering. It’s a work gathering. It should be possible to have things just for your team, but not if you post them in such a public way.

      2. Trade Secrets*

        Aaaah. Can you have a chat with your team boss about this? If the team boss is aware this is a team-building event, she might be able to suggest to the grand boss that her presence, though always welcome, is shifting the dynamic. Your team boss may be the one forwarding the invite without realizing.

      3. Smarty Boots*

        Someone is inviting her, that’s what’s happening.

        Restrict the ability of your invitees to forward the invite. Otherwise, you’re going to be stuck with wet-blanket grandboss.

        BTW, I don’t see you as being cliquey, mean girl, exclusionary… Sounds to me like you are in charge of arranging social events, lunches, etc. and are trying to make them enjoyable for your team. I feel for you! It’s a lot of work and sometimes people get pissy. I hope your team is appreciative.

      4. Midlife Tattoos*

        You could choose to see these occasions as a chance to get to network a bit with the grandboss, to get to know each other better. Assume positive intent on grandboss’s part. It may very well be that your boss is telling her about it, which would be a perfectly normal thing to do.

      5. Avelibe*

        If you have an event on your work premises, anyone in the hierarchy above you from the grand boss to the CEO can reasonably be expected to drop in at will.

        Ditto if you are using company resources to schedule an off site.

        In short: If it’s a work event, anyone above your group l can drop in. That’s their prerogative.

        If you don’t want that, schedule this using something other than your employer’s resources or tell the higher ups you are trying to do team building and their presence gets in the way.

      6. Anna*

        But it’s clearly being forwarded to people who are inviting the grand boss, so what you think is a foolproof plan is actually not working at all the way you want.

    7. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      That was my take as well.

      Also it’s a team lead…that’s usually a title with very little actual management involved in my experience.

  10. No 1 Cat Parent*

    I’ve recently started grad school and I’ve noticed basically everyone who invites me to anything sends me a Google calendar invite. This has been a life saver as I cannot believe how absorbed I get in papers. I would have put things in there anyway, but the reminders are so useful. I worked between undergrad and applying to grad school and I always knew what time it was and all of my appointments for the day while working. If hiring grad students it is possible they are up against a similar thing. It also might be possible that they are not that motivated by a student job, or don’t take that as seriously. Which is too bad, I got a lot out of student employment.

    1. Just Employed Here*

      Is that the organizer sending an invite, though, or just Google Calendar reading your emails and putting stuff in?

      We do the former at work using Outlook all the time, but I know my Google Calendar has put in flights for me (and screwed up the times when flying to another time zone, not that it mattered) just based on the flight reservation in my inbox.

    2. misspiggy*

      Beware for future reference – Google calendar meetings often show misleading times if the sender’s and receipient’s computer clocks are in different time zones.

      1. Asenath*

        Oh, yes. And so will Outlook sometimes – one person I deal with has some kind on online version of Outlook (I didn’t know such a thing exists) and it always seems to mess up appointment times.

        1. Workerbee*

          Outlook Online can be a bugbear! I much prefer using the client.

          (I think all Microsoft products have an online version when they’re not already online, like SharePoint.)

  11. Anon This Time*

    Re: #2

    I have a confession. I did this. I am a 21 year old finishing up a computer science degree. When I was interviewing for my first round of internships last year, I had plenty of experience with workplace stuff, and I had never messed up on something like that before. I’m usually a ‘Show up to an interview 45 minutes early and wait in a coffee shop sort of person’. Which is exactly what I was doing at 3:10, waiting for my 4:00 interview, when I obsessively decided to check the time in the email for the 5th time.

    I cannot describe the sensation of absolute horror that overtook me when I realized that the email I had checked the previous four times had in fact been the email about the phone interview that I had done the previous week. I found the correct email, and sure enough, my interview had started 10 minutes ago.

    I sprinted into the interview 15 minutes late and I was absolutely falling over myself apologizing, but the guy who was interviewing me didn’t even seem to have realized that I was late. He didn’t acknowledge it at all, just kind of shrugged and did the interview, seemed pretty impressed, and they offered me the job. I ended up taking a different offer, and going off of the feedback I got I was an excellent intern with no reliability issues. They even made special arrangements to take me on as their first part-time employee after my internship finished.

    So I come down firmly on “Sometimes, if someone seems like a strong candidate and is embarrassed about the mistake, give them a second chance”. However. Having a bad attitude about having to reschedule is something totally different. I would be a bit forgiving of the ‘disbelief’ you mentioned– like if they’re in the heat of the moment and racing in all sweaty and frightened and miserable and have a moment of “OH NOOOOOO” when you say you have to reschedule, that’s one thing, but annoyance and attitude are totally different. I probably wouldn’t reschedule the interview at that point.

    Does the school have workshops or anything about internships that the students need to attend? I know our program prepped us on interview etiquette and was meant to prepare us for exactly these sorts of situations, so if there’s an actual program in place, you could talk to the coordinators about the epidemic and they might start having a pointed word with students about a) being on time and b) what to do if you’re not.

    1. OP#2*

      I’m pretty sure we have a campus wide program that anyone is free to attend, but it’s not mandatory. Thanks for bringing that up!

  12. Woodswoman*

    #4: I can relate to this one. A former colleague applied for a position where I was working. In her case, she found the job herself which made it easier on my end, and she asked me to put in a word for her. It had been years since I worked with her, and I told the hiring manager that. I said that I had some hesitation, but realized she had been early in her career in that field back then.

    They decided to interview her. The hiring manager told me she bombed the interview all on her own. She apparently realized the impression she’d made, and in her email to make up for that, reinforcing the reasons my employer didn’t want to hire her. My employer throughout the process understood that I hadn’t recommended her.

    I think Alison’s advice to tell your former colleague to apply through your employer’s system, and then flag it to the hiring manager, is the way to go. It takes you out of the process.

  13. sheworkshardforthemoney*

    #1 The next time the boss shows up and talks shop, tell her there is a no talk shop rule and the first person who does so has to buy lunch for everyone. Or dessert or a drink. Maybe they will continue to attend but at least it will seem less like work.

    1. triplehiccup*

      Good idea. This seems like the root of the problem. Maybe you can playfully incorporate this into the name of the events eventually? Like “No Shop Talk Noshes” or “99.9% Social Lunch.” At this point it would be clearly directed at her, so you (or someone else better positioned to – maybe your team lead) would have to address it head on first.

    2. CommanderBanana*

      If the issue is that the boss is trying to talk shop while people are trying to take a break from talking shop, you can be explicit about that – try framing it as a purposeful, mindful break from work for the next X minutes or “recharging lunch” or something.

  14. Jolie*

    OP5- just wanted to let you know I’ve been exactly in your situation and it worked out great! Working remotely since September & just got a raise!

    1. OP #5*

      Congrats! It’s funny; when we moved for the doctorate I was able to take my job with me, but I also a) hated that job so I wouldn’t have minded leaving, b) was already working on a different coast than my boss, and c) had a better chance of staying in my career lane in our new (now current) city. So I know it can be done, it’s just that the stakes feel higher this time.

      1. CM*

        But the stakes aren’t really higher. You’re moving no matter what, if you need to. The default assumption is that if you move, you need to look for a new job. So if your current job says yes to remote work, fantastic; if not, you’re no worse off than you would have been.

        1. OP #5*

          It’s true, I would have to look for another job. However, my field is not available everywhere, at least not to the extent where I would have lots of options and those options would be attractive. I can certainly make do wherever we end up, but I would rather not have to worry too much about it (or the money– I’ve been the primary breadwinner for ages now). I’m also in my early 40s, so a complete career change would be tougher (though not impossible). Luckily, my partner is considering all of this in his search, but these unknowns are making me quite crazy.

          1. Sandman*

            I would encourage you to be careful about making do wherever you end up. I know this can be extremely difficult to manage in practice, but you’re many years from retirement and your own ability to maintain a career isn’t less important than your partner’s. I’m near your age and made that bad bargain many years ago and am now in a small town without many opportunities facing some tough choices. This is a lot easier to prevent on the front end than it is once you become established in a place and your partner becomes established in a career (especially one where tenure/seniority is important), though I acknowledge that “easier” isn’t at all the same as “easy.”

            1. AnotherSarah*

              Depending on partner’s field, there may well be only a few jobs available country-wide. (There were 4 jobs in mine when I was on the market, 6 if I really stretched what I was trained to do.)

            2. OP #5*

              I get plenty of say, including say in whether I go. My career is important to me but I’m comfortable with shifting it a bit, just not with leaving it behind entirely.

              He could possibly get a job in an area that’s better for me, but the jobs that are available to him are not that plentiful. He’s in an excellent field, but it’s very dependent on availability of the positions he wants (tenure-track research university positions) and much less portable than my job and my skills.

            3. Anna*

              Let’s assume the OP and their partner have had this conversation and the OP isn’t being emotionally blackmailed into giving up the best of gig of their life because partner’s career comes first.

    2. Twenty Points for the Copier*

      I did something similar as well after my husband finished his PhD. It’s been a real adventure – both me and my boss at the time weren’t quite sure what to expect, but it has turned out really well.

  15. Ruth (UK)*

    2. I work in a university department where we offer internships and other student opportunities. I think we do see a slightly higher rate of errors in the applications. For a position that’s being recruited at the moment, the applications should be emailed to my manager but a lot are coming to me (I work in the reception and a lot of students know me and know my email). I just forward them on.

    For interview time/date mix ups, it does happen and I agree with Alison that the mix up itself is less of a problem than the attitude. That said, the students I witnessed tended to be embarrassed, not attitudey.

    Also, as person thought… If someone is embarrassed by such a mistake I’d be more inclined to think it was a one off mistake they don’t necessarily make a lot, hence the embarrassment at having done it. If someone shows annoyance or attitude at being asked to come back and seems to be expected to be accommodated, it suggests to me they don’t see they did anything wrong and are perhaps less likely to be motivated not to repeat a similar mistake in the future, or perhaps they do it a lot and are used to it being ok.

  16. londonedit*

    Two things on number 3: firstly I’d definitely say $30 is too much for an office Secret Santa. All the ones I’ve participated in have had limits of £5 or £10 (I think that’s about $6-$12?) and have very much been about getting a small gift, maybe something lighthearted or Christmas-themed, just a bit of fun. Secondly, I have never heard of people creating wishlists for a Secret Santa! The way ours have worked, half the fun is in trying to find something you know your recipient will love, and from the recipient’s view half the fun is seeing what people come up with for their gifts. That’s all totally negated if you’re just buying stuff off a wishlist.

    1. Quoth the Raven*

      I worked at a school a couple of years ago as a teacher and we had a wishlist of sorts with several options (or more like a like/dislikes list) because we were doing it across departments, and not all of us were really all that familiar with each other. It wasn’t anything overly specific (for example, mine included things like “anything The Lion King”, “any shirt you like, in size M” and “comic books”). It did make everything easier and at least in my case it was still a surprise.

      Our limit was 200 pesos, roughly $10, too. Anything else ran the risk of being too much.

    2. Gen*

      We had wish lists of 3 items (and allergies etc) that you didn’t have to follow but at least gave you an idea because almost everyone got the Lush secret Santa kit or a Starbucks card one year and almost no one could use them due to allergies, lack of a bathtub or lack of a local Starbucks. I actually bought about six cards off people so they’d have the cash instead. It was a bad year. The year with the wish lists went much better

    3. Anon and on and on*

      This: The way ours have worked, half the fun is in trying to find something you know your recipient will love, and from the recipient’s view half the fun is seeing what people come up with for their gifts.

      We have a store called 5 Below, where everything is $5 or less. Its fun to see what your co-worker thinks you would like and since its not expensive, its no big loss if you hate it.

  17. Anonomo*

    Im so intrigued by #1! She says the manager makes “thinly veiled comments”- are these about work or snide jabs about the gathering or the ‘im oblivious to everyones discomfort in my socially unacceptable topics’? And the part about LW being on someone’s shtlist if they are forgotten (previous employees I suppose? Why are so many past employees coming to these gatherings?) add together and make it seem like LW is burnt out on putting the gatherings together. Or maybe not so much burnt out but frustrated the gatherings have evolved into something much different than LW intended, which is understandable. Perhaps spacing these meet ups out more would help some, or asking someone else to take over every other month’s planning?

    1. Dot Warner*

      Yeah, the “thinly veiled comments” jumped out at me too. What sort of comments is the manager making? Is she trying to tell everybody to get back to work, or is she more of a Michael Scott type who doesn’t get how awkward she’s being?

      OP, I’m not sure you can get the manager to stop coming, but you can push back on the comments she’s making if you’re polite about it. If you and your team do this enough, she’ll either start behaving herself or stop attending.

  18. She Who Must Not Be Named*

    Can we just all agree Secret Santa shouldn’t be done at work? Especially for workers who earn $10-15/hr? I cannot think of a single useful thing I received from work Secret Santa. People end up re-gifting chocolates they receive from other people. It’s a dumb tradition that adds pressure to buy rather than gifting a thoughtful item that the recipient would actually use.

    1. Waiting for the Sun*

      Yes. We made lists for our Secret Santa. I have a feeling that the same kinds of things, like gloves and lotions, will be on everyone’s lists. Might as well just treat ourselves and get the exact style we want.

    2. Villanelle*

      No,we can’t all agree on this. I like work secret Santa’s! As does the majority of my office (totally optional and the budget is $10)

    3. Bagpuss*

      No, I think a lot of people do enjoy them.

      Where I’ve worked, they’ve always been something which staff chose to organise and participate in, never something which was official or imposed by management.

      In my experience, it’s always been a light-hearted and relaxed thing , it makes for a short break in the working day.

      I do think that in a larger office where people don’t know the person they are buying for, or where morale is generally bad or people feel pressured into joining in, it may be different,.

      I wouldn’t expect to receive something ‘useful’ at a secret santa. If I get re-gifted chocolates, so what? Unless they are expired or opened, hey, I have chocolates, which I can either take home to share over the holiday or put in the break room to share come January.

      But my experience is that people are often pretty thoughtful. I don’t always like the gifts I’ve had, but it’s generally been because they haven’t been quite to my taste, not because someone hasn’t thought about it.
      If I ‘draw’ someone that I don’t know very well, I will get something nice but fairly generic – a pretty scarf, biscuits or chocolates, as most people can use those sorts of things)

      1. londonedit*

        That’s broadly been my experience too. Secret Santa has always been something that’s been organised within teams or within a small company, it hasn’t been dictated by management, and it’s always been optional. Most people I’ve encountered have entered into the spirit of it, and gifts have mostly been thoughtful or at least thoughtfully witty – nothing crass or awful, no already-opened boxes of chocolates or anything like that. I think the worst gift I’ve ever received was a whistle – I’d recently qualified as a football referee, and a colleague wanted to get me something refereeing-related and useful. Unfortunately the budget didn’t stretch to a proper refereeing whistle, so I couldn’t actually use the one I got, but hey, she’d thought about it and it was something related to my outside interests.

        The budget has always been small, and people have bought lighthearted small gifts. It’s mostly been a fun thing to participate in – I wouldn’t be massively upset if I worked in an environment where it wasn’t a thing, but if I do then I’m happy to participate.

      2. Hush42*

        Exactly. I am a manager and, per my employees request, we do a secret santa for my team and the team that we work most closely with. I make sure I set the limit at a number that everyone is okay with- this year we settled on $20. I also make it very clear that it’s perfectly fine to opt out of participating in Secret Santa. We do the gift exchange along with our Christmas lunch which is company funded (I think this year we’re gonna have Moe’s cater). Everyone is still welcome to join for lunch even if they opt out of Secret Santa. Last year everyone got gifts that they really liked. We’ve grown a lot in the last year so there are a bunch of newer people on the team now. If people chose the name of a person they don’t know well they’ve been asking the people who work closely with that person for advice on what they would like.

        That being said- I think that you have to be careful because there are a lot of ways that a Secret Santa can go badly. I also personally hate Yankee Swaps, there’s always 1 or 2 things that everyone wants and a bunch of things that no one wants. Also my team has widely varying interests so it would be impossible to buy a gift that everyone might enjoy. My team feels the same way about it- the manager of the other team that participates with us suggested it and multiple members of my team came to me and told me that they would really rather draw names. I personally have never been to a Yankee Swap where at least 1 person didn’t leave unhappy and I don’t want that to happen on my team.

    4. Shaze*

      @She Who… I guess others disagree with you, but I for one agree. My response is to just not participate.

      In my experience, there is always one cool gift everyone wants. The rest are ok. And there is always at least one dud. But my reasons for not participating: (A) I don’t need any more stuff in my house. (B) I shouldn’t eat candy. (C) My favorite wines are outside what I think it a suitable price limit for a work event (our work limit is $20). (D) And I really don’t want the gag gift (not because I don’t have a sense of humor but because see (A) above)).

      1. Shaze*

        Oops! Just realized I was confusing Secret Santa with Yankee Swap (White Elephant). Sorry about that!

        But I also don’t do Secret Santa because I stress too much about what to get my own family… I don’t need the added stress of figuring out something for someone I may not know that well. Over the years I have learned to cull out what I can to make the holidays enjoyable. And that one had to go! But Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah to everyone… as well as a Happy Festivus for the rest of us!

        1. Asenath*

          Culling things out – that’s good. I did that years ago, when I realized how stressed and depressed I got every December. Some things I added back in because I wanted to, others I still don’t do. I still celebrate Christmas – but it’s so much easier now that I’ve left out a lot of the stuff that just added stress.

        2. sunshyne84*

          Either way I opt out. I have never in my life received something useful or thoughtful. Even if I skip a few years and give it another shot, it never fails. I wish I would have stolen my own gift card back the last time I participated in white elephant.

          Making lists of my likes and dislikes just further proves that we don’t know each other that well, so why are we exchanging gifts?

    5. Asenath*

      I don’t mind if Secret Santa is truly optional. It is where I’m working now, and I opt out. No hard feelings, and those who like it go ahead and do it.

    6. Chocolate lover*

      We do a Yankee Swap so it’s different from Secret Santa, we’re not buying for a specific person. But many of us enjoy it. It’s genuinely optional and no one thinks twice about a person who sits it out.

      I’m looking forward to our exchange coming up.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yeah, that’s what we do in our office. I personally wouldn’t want to do a secret santa because I would feel pressure to buy something that a specific person would like when I don’t really know them that well! This way you can bring something kind of random and see what happens. I actually *loved* what I ended up with last year, which was a Marvel book of bedtime stories.

        Things can get pretty heated though when someone has their gift “stolen” a bunch of times. Gift cards and lottery tickets are the most popular items around here. A couple of people regularly try to end up with the gift card they themselves brought in and I’m like… why even participate? Just go to Caribou coffee and buy yourself whatever.

      2. kitryan*

        At work in the past few years we had one swap which was pretty fun and genuinely optional. Then we had another a couple years later and it was also optional but this time the gifte were supposed to have something to do with your birth year. I stressed about it for a while and couldn’t really think of gifts that fit the theme for my year that most people would actually want and came up empty. Then I thought about what others were likely to select and decided I didn’t want someone else’s year-based gift either and opted out. It’s hard enough to find a generically likeable gift that maybe is more interesting than a Starbucks card and is affordable/within guidelines that to add additional qualifiers is just silly.

    7. Où est la bibliothèque?*

      Personally, hate them. But on the whole I think Secret Santas (and whatever other variations exist) are fine, but only if it’s opt-in.

      If you 10 of you like doing Secret Santa and 2 of you don’t but it’s expected of them anyway, then your Secret Santa is a failure no matter how much most of you enjoy it.

    8. Justin*

      No. Ours is fun and very voluntary on our 20 person team. (But we all get paid much more than that and the limit is lower than $30).

      We do call it “secret snowflake,” but we gather and exchange and we have a fun afternoon.

      (I am sure some will say “that sounds terrible!!!” but the point is it works on our team. So no we can’t say it should never happen.)

    9. Paris Geller*

      I loved my last workplace’s Secret Santa! It was completely optional, the limit varied from year to year but was never higher than $15, we signed up and made wishlist online with plenty of lead time, and then we had a party/gift exchange mid-December where everyone brought in food. You stopped by and picked up your gift when it was convenient for you, everyone was invited to get some snacks even if they didn’t participate, and it was low-key. Last year I got a book I had really been wanting and some chocolates. It was great.

    10. VictorianCowgirl*

      Yes, for those of us who are not Christian, it is not a very respectful or inclusive event, and feels like forced participation in someone else’s religion.

  19. foolofgrace*

    These are not mandatory and are funded by the people who attend.

    Does the team lead pay for herself? There is mention of a sign-up sheet but it’s not clear to me whether the sign-up sheet and money collection are intertwined.

  20. foolofgrace*

    #2: So with the interviewee who does the eye rolling or sighing — if you take those as red flags and know you’re not going to hire them, do you interview them anyway? I’m guessing Yes but it must seem like a waste of time.

    1. OP#2*

      I do interview them anyway if they show up at the correct time, but it’s still in the back of my head when I go to make the hiring decision.

  21. Marilyn*

    $30 is average to low, regardless of how much people make. Anything lower will all but guarantee a generic gift or maybe more of a gag gift. If $30 seems crazy high to you, as it seems to, $20 will probably still be too high, so you’re looking at $10 to $15 tops. I think at that point you may as well not bother doing the gift exchange, or suggest (for next year, at least) that everyone donate that amount to a charity you all select.

    1. BookishMiss*

      But don’t be like my office, which has two secret Santas, a charity or three “reverse advent calendar,” and an office party random gift exchange. Oof. Too much.

    2. Shaze*

      I saw (what I thought was) a great idea recently. Draw names a la Secret Santa and buy that person the toy you think they might have enjoyed as a child. The recipient opens it and the giver explains why they thought that person would like it.. or something… Anyway, in the end they are all donated to Toys for Tots. (I really don’t need any tchotchkes, so this would make me very happy!)

      1. hermit crab*

        We did this at my previous office and it was great! Everyone who participated enjoyed it and we ended up with a lot of really nice toys to donate. I highly recommend it.

      2. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

        It sounds sweet….but also would be a total nightmare for me unless I was incredibly close to people. Not only do I have to do the “figuring out what they might like” part of gift-giving for an acquaintance, but I have to justify it with words :o

    3. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

      …I’m *salaried,* and I don’t want to do a $30 Secret Santa. That’s a meal out. Or a few nice cocktails. Or 1/5 of my groceries for the next few weeks. Or my gas bill. And to have to spend it, obligatorily, on a randomly chosen person from my office who I may or may not get along with/want to give anything to?? No.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        I don’t spend that much on people I love! I’m certainly not going to spend more on a coworker than I do on my nephew.

      2. The Original K.*

        Agreed. I’ve seen $20 a few times as a limit but never $30. $20 has been in offices where we’re all salaried and pretty well-paid. $I think $30 is too much for coworkers, period, and I REALLY think it’s too much for folks who make $15 an hour. I would be living very close to the bone on $15 an hour and I would resent having to spend two hours’ pay on a coworker I may or may not like.

        I don’t expect “real gifts” from coworkers anyway (I don’t expect gifts at all unless there’s a secret Santa or white elephant thing), so a $5-$10 generic and/or gag gift is fine by me. Someone upthread mentioned lip balm. I would be thrilled to get lip balm! I’ve gotten it as a stocking stuffer before.

          1. Mommy MD*

            Mine 20 also. I’ll get a gift card as my gift. Something useful. I think gag gifts are a waste and most people don’t like them.

      3. PB*

        Yes. It’s not that I can’t afford it, but I don’t want to spend $30 on coworkers. Everywhere I’ve worked, Secret Santa or White Elephant was truly opt-in (i.e. no punishment for skipping it), and we were encouraged to regift or spend <$5.

    4. mreasy*

      $30 is more than any office where I’ve ever worked, including where the majority of employees made six figures. I don’t think it’s average to low.

    5. Asenath*

      $30 is much higher than the amount last time I encountered a Secret Santa (and opted out of it, since in that workplace such things are entirely optional). At an earlier job, the amount was less than $30, but is was long enough ago that it’s hard to compare amounts – and my group did exactly what Marilyn suggested – eliminated the Secret Santa and donated the amount to charity. The breaking point wasn’t the amount, it was the requirement for yet another bit of Christmas shopping, this time for someone you probably didn’t know that well (which makes the choice of a gift harder). Nowadays, if I were to opt in to a Secret Santa, I’d think $30 was high, and would want maybe $10 – it’s easier to find something fairly generic (soap, candy or chocolate, etc), without the pressure of finding something more specific to the taste of someone whose taste you don’t know well.

    6. Detective Amy Santiago*

      This is obviously going to vary from person to person and depending on your location, but even my family has always capped out at a $20 max on gift exchanges.

    7. Mongrel*

      If you know some facts it’s fairly easy to get a reasonable gift for £5. A good condition second hand book from Amazon, you can get loads for a penny + postage. I’ve previously brought things like a paring knife (Americas Test Kitchen fave)or silicone utensils for people who like cooking, check out hobby blogs as most of them will have some gift guides as well

      1. Anononon*

        In the US, there’s a chain called Five Below, which is similar to a dollar store but everything is five dollars or under. They also market it as much hipper/trendier than a typical dollar store, with a much more interesting selection and better quality.

      2. Jules K*

        Depending on your industry, and the person’s allergies, small scented hand sanitizers are a great option too.

    8. Falling Diphthong*

      I think the very nature of Secret Santa tends toward generic gifts and gag gifts, at any price point, because you’re buying a gift for someone you wouldn’t normally shop for and don’t know that well.

    9. Chocolate lover*

      $30 isn’t really low to average. Every office I’ve worked in, including a bank with some wealthy financial officers, capped at $15.

    10. Gazebo Slayer*

      ….so, how much money do you make? The letter notes that most people in this office make $12 an hour. And they could have families to support, expensive medical conditions, or just live in a high cost of living region.

    11. wow*

      “$30 is average to LOW, regardless of how much people make”? I am laughing so hard at how bizarrely out of touch this statement is. $30 could be half a day’s work, or a blink, depending exactly on how much people make.

    12. Diamond*

      My office secret santa is $15, I got someone a really beautiful mug with a painting of local birds on it! You can find nice stuff if you look around. As for ‘generic presents’, those can be expected at any price point in a work secret santa unless you’re a very close-knit group. I wouldn’t be able to buy most of my colleagues a deeply personal gift.

  22. Shaze*

    I’ve been watching The Office (US) reruns recently. #1 letter sounds like the episode where Toby, Pam, and Oscar start The Finer Things club and won’t let anyone sit with them at lunch. The more I think about it, the letter about the work parties where the boss isn’t invited sounds like Michael Scott is involved too!

  23. Rebecca*

    Instead of Secret Santa this year, our office is buying items for a local nursing home. The residents filled out tags listing items they’d like to receive from Santa, and put them on a Christmas tree. A coworker stopped by, took a bunch of tags, and we made a list of all the items on the tags, pitched in and bought said items, and a couple of us will deliver them back to the nursing home. We had a sign up sheet, totally optional, so no one was pressured into participating in something they didn’t want to do or couldn’t afford. Plus, for me anyway, there’s the added benefit of being able to help someone, even in a very small way.

    1. SigneL*

      What a great idea! I was also thinking that, instead of spending $10 on a Secret Santa gift, we could give it to the local food bank. (That would be meaningful to me, as I remember grad school and some very lean times.) I know some people love Secret Santa exchanges….but maybe next year, we’ll just say no.

    2. CupcakeCounter*

      We are doing that with a local homeless shelter we have worked with this year. Added bonus is that there are 2 parts – the buying part for those who can afford it and the decorating of the gift bag/delivery (done during paid work hours as well) for those who have a tighter budget. Plus there are some very inexpensive items on the list like pens and chapstick. When I reviewed the list, the management team all signed up for the highest dollar gifts so they seem to get it.

    3. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      My old boss organized something similar. Everyone drew names and bought their partner a toy that they thought that person would have liked as a kid or now as an adult. Then the toys were donated to local charities.

      It had the same fun elements of a secret santa but with the proceeds going to charity.

      The first year we did it, I thought it was a bit odd, but it was pretty fun and worked out really well.

    4. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

      My work is doing something similar but for employees who are in a rough patch and sign up. I’ve been side-eyeing the whole thing, because it feels….gross? I keep thinking it we have enough people who are in a tough financial position that it is enough to decorate a tree with, we should probably get raises or better support benefits, rather than rely on the charity of coworkers

  24. SigneL*

    #1 – I’d guess your group lead thinks she is supposed to come (for whatever reason!). Here’s the thing, however: in my experience, it’s deeply hurtful to tell someone their presence really isn’t wanted/needed/required – however you put it, especially if she’s been coming because she felt she was supposed to.

    1. Trade Secrets*

      OP1 has mentioned in the comments that this person is the grand boss. As a grand boss you should have thick enough skin to understand how your presence at a social event affects the dynamic.

      1. fposte*

        That doesn’t make it a wise thing to say in a workplace, though–the question isn’t just whether the recipient is offended or not.

  25. SigneL*

    We had a Secret Santa exchange at our neighborhood get-together. I gave a mug filled with chocolate kisses . We got a Himalayan salt lamp (?what?). I guess I should be grateful it wasn’t a fruitcake! Gosh, I wonder what we’re going to give next year?

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      And this is the problem with Secret Santa exchanges with people you don’t know well, when they don’t include a wish list. A lot of people (my child among them) would be THRILLED with that lamp. I honestly think a lot of people would consider it a much better gift than a mug filled with kisses.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Exactly! I have this lamp and I love it! (as do my grandcats when they come to visit. yes, they lick the lamp.) I got it through a (not work-related) Secret Santa exchange. We have more mugs in our home that we know what to do with, and Hershey kisses give me heartburn. So, yeah. What I don’t get is, don’t Secret Santa participants get to state what they want and what they do not want? eg, “I’m deathly allergic to Himalayan salt”, “I collect dog beds”, “please no fruitcakes” and so on. This way, no one is disappointed with their gift.

        1. Ceiswyn*

          I do think that what most Secret Santa arrangements need is some clues as to acceptable presents. It’s not surprising that they’re unpopular given that most people don’t actually know their work colleagues’ tastes and thus end up buying things that are either disappointingly generic or annoyingly unsuitable.

          So much secret bitterness could be avoided if there were a spreadsheet circulated, well in advance, where people could write things like ‘I like things that smell nice and warm layers, please no knick-knacks’

    2. Ceiswyn*

      Your comment seems to assume that a mug of chocolate is an objectively superior gift to a Himalayan salt lamp. This is not the case.

      You personally may prefer the chocolates, but I’m an ex-fat person who tracks my calorie consumption closely and the last thing I want is a bunch of high-calorie snacks I didn’t choose; and are we talking artisan kisses or Hershey’s here? And I don’t need a random mug, either. Pretty low-light salt lamp for me, please.

      1. Ceiswyn*

        (…cos if you’re talking Hershey’s, their chocolate tastes of vomit to me. That is NOT what I would consider a good gift!)

      1. Winifred*

        The salt on our lamp slowly melted or decayed and ruined the furniture it was sitting on. Had to go in the trash.

        1. Curious Cat*

          Fun fact! You have to “bathe” salt lamps to keep them from melting or falling apart (just wet a paper towel and pat it down every now and then). It’s a bit odd but it keeps the salt lamp intact :)

  26. Falling Diphthong*

    The initial mistake itself need not be disqualifying, but the poor handling of it is.

    I’ve realized that the businesses to which I am the most fiercely loyal are not those where nothing has ever gone wrong, but where something did and they really came through to fix it for me. A similar thing happens with coworkers and co-volunteers–at some point things will go sideways, and someone who apologizes and recovers is to be treasured while someone who tries to gaslight you that nothing happened is exhausting to handhold and reassure. Handling it when you make a mistake is a legitimate important work skill to develop.

  27. Delta Delta*

    #2 – I have a couple observations. First, it strikes me that sometimes if someone gets something wrong, their reaction may be one of self-protection. What’s coming across as petulance might actually be embarrassment or confusion over the fact the interviewee showed up at the wrong time. Second, this sounds like a bit of an epidemic in OP’s department, if it’s enough that OP is writing in. I can see how there might be some mixups sometimes – that happens. If it’s happening a LOT, that suggests there could be some alteration to how appointments are scheduled to help avoid the problem.

    1. EmmaBird*

      Yes– came here to see if anyone else had suggested adjusting the appointment process. What works for adult professionals may not work for students who are still learning professional norms. Many of our student interns are in their first office environments when they come to work for us and I try to bear that in mind. I’ve found that the key to successful hiring was doing a lot of prep work and then hiring quickly– much more quickly than our office would for a regular FT/PT position.

      Generally speaking, interviews would be scheduled for within one week (either in person or via video call), just enough time to allow them to prepare but not so long they’d forget the interview. I also typically follow up with a very brief reminder the day before and remind them of basic directions to the office if needed. We’ve never actually had a student miss an interview slot before! And what’s more, I’ve not had that many issues with students sticking to their work schedules once they’re hired, either. So it’s not a situation where “hand holding” breeds bad habits down the road.

    2. OP#2*

      I think I’m seeing a lot of this because of just how many interviews I’ve had to conduct over the last few years. We have a team of about 10 students on average, but they often graduate within a year or so, so I’m conducting interviews fairly frequently. Maybe one or two out of each yearly batch has an issue so it may seem like a lot to me, but I guess statistically it’s an outlier.

  28. Rebecca*

    #3 – $30 is a lot to expect from someone making $12/hour. In my office, that’s probably a bit high for starting wages, but I’m not exactly sure what that is as we are (illegally) told that we cannot discuss pay scales with each other, but that’s a whole other discussion. If someone in my office is making $12/hour, and carrying employee/spouse health/dental/vision insurance, that’s $960 gross for two weeks, minus $232 for insurance = $728 biweekly pay – before taxes and any deductions for a $401K plan, so this person would be lucky to take home $600 biweekly. $30 in this case would be 10% of their weekly take home pay. That’s a lot to expect.

  29. AvonLady Barksdale*

    A quick story for #3, just ’cause: in my old office, we did a Secret Santa between teams. My Secret Santa told me she was getting me a magazine subscription but she wasn’t sure which one, so she gave me a choice. I chose. Still waiting on that subscription six years later.

    But yes, I think $30 is way too high. It’s high to me, and I’m pretty senior. I might be alone in this, but I would actually encourage small, kitschy/quirky gifts that you can get for $10. Like a cute bottle opener or a fun candle. My office does a gift exchange with a $20 “expectation”, and I was really put off one year when the person in charge of the exchange complained about the low quality of the gifts. The point of a Secret Santa is fun, not pressure to find something super nice.

  30. MLB*

    #1 – it’s pretty crappy to have this kind of thing at work and expect to exclude your manager. You may not enjoy her company, but it’s what you have to deal with if you want to do these things in the office. Contrary to popular belief (and Alison’s comment in her answer) it IS possible to be friends with your manager. It’s rare, but if both people are mature adults, who treat each other with respect and don’t shy away from constructive criticism it can work. My current manager has been my boss at 2 different jobs, we hang out outside of work, and nothing about it is weird or fake.

    #3 – Yes $30 is too much for a Secret Santa exchange at work. But what bothers me more about your letter is you stating that you’re pressured to participate. That needs to be addressed more than the limit of the gift.

    1. SigneL*

      I worked in a lab where the supervisor was a wonderful person. We LOVED her. But I think that’s pretty unusual.

    2. MCMonkeyBean*

      The problem is that friendship between an employee and a manager doesn’t just concern the two of them, but also outside observers. How other coworkers perceive that friendship matters too. It’s not a good idea in 99% of cases.

      But the OP seems to think that means the boss should never socialize with employees at all even on company time, which is definitely not the case.

    3. hbc*

      No one is saying it’s impossible or that it can’t work. It’s just that you really don’t have enough information going in whether this is going to be a situation where it will be okay. Will your coworkers now or in the future feel confident that there’s no bias? Do they believe they can go to your boss and complain about you? If your work starts slipping for personal reasons, will she really treat you exactly like she would if she wasn’t sympathizing with you about those issues over the weekend? If she does something in her personal life that would usually make you drop a friend, will you feel obligated to keep socializing? If there are layoffs, will she only take into consideration the business reasons for keeping or losing you?

      Just because it sometimes works out fine doesn’t make it a good idea.

      1. MLB*

        Actually Alison said that very thing, which is why I mentioned it…
        “It’s true that managers can’t be friends with the people they manage”

        And to answer your questions, in my situation there is no bias. She treats me the same as she does all of her other subordinates. I don’t take advantage of the fact that we’re friends in work situations, and she calls me out on stuff as needed. My goal in my life is not to become friends with all of my managers, and I wasn’t suggesting that everyone should make it happen. But making a blanket statement that it can’t ever happen just isn’t true.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yep, I definitely think that managers can’t/shouldn’t be friends with people they manager. Even if you and your manager handle it scrupulously fairly, other people are going to worry about unfair treatment, unequal access, etc. and may hesitate to bring her issues that involve you — whether or not that worry is founded in anything real. If there are layoffs and you’re not on the list, people may wonder if the friendship is why. Etc. Perception really matters for managers.

        2. Public Sector Manager*

          Sorry MLB, I have to agree with Alison on this one.

          Once you become a manager, your team will view everything you do and the perception that a manager has favorites, even if the manager doesn’t have favorites, will negatively impact morale.

          I had to learn this the hard way as a new manager years ago. I went from a supervisor of a small team to be the manager for my old team and two other teams. My old team would frequently come into my office to chat because I had a good rapport with each of them. We weren’t even friends outside of work, we just new each other from working together. But for people on the two other teams, I was a new manager for them. Rapport with them built over time. But I went out of my way to treat all three teams equally. Yet, in my first year as a manager feedback, the two other teams universally reported that I played favorites with my old team. They couldn’t point to anything I did to play favorites, but they all felt that I did. And the loss of morale was my issue to clean up (and it took about 18 months). So it is detrimental for a manager to be friends with a direct report.

          And while you and your manager feel that the friendship doesn’t interfere with your work life, I guarantee that the coworker who sits next to you doesn’t feel the same way.

    4. AngryOwl*

      I understand what you mean. I’ve been on both sides (friend managed me, and I managed a friend). It’s worked out for me, but I do agree with the majority that it requires the right set of circumstances. There are many potential pitfalls.

  31. Smarty Boots*

    OP #2: I’m going to strongly disagree with AAM here. I work with college students. If they screw up their appointment times, that’s on them and I BEG you to tell them that they will have to come back later (if they are early) or tell them, I’m sorry, we won’t be able to meet with you (if they are late). Please, please, do not cut them slack if they are otherwise strong candidates. Those are often the kids who have had slack cut for them since high school. You are not doing them any favors by teaching them that carelessness is overlooked and even rewarded. Particularly for something that is so easy to get right.

    “Because they’re students” is not a good reason to cut them slack — in fact, “because they’re students” is a good reason *to* turn them away if they’re late. It’s a low-stakes situation and thus the perfect time and place for them to learn basic expectations for work and for life in general.

    1. MCMonkeyBean*

      But they do tell them to come back at the regular appointment time, that’s not what’s being debated. “Cutting slack” in this case just means “not immediately writing them off as unreliable and unqualified.”

    2. TeacherNerd*


      Ditto with experience here (as someone who teaches both high school & college students, predominantly concurrent enrollment students, but also “regular” high school students and a side gig as an adjunct). Every semester/year I have students who are genuinely surprised that I stick to my late work policy, because so many other teachers don’t, or are inconsistent.

      I would say, though, that “because they’re students” would elicit an utterly straightforward, emotionally impassive “this is why” response from me, as opposed to no explanation. That’s how _I_ would cut them some slack. YMMV.

  32. Abigael*

    OP #2
    I also work with student workers in academia. One thing to check–are you using a calendar app (like Outlook, Google calendars, etc) to schedule their interviews? Sometimes those apps do not sync with different time zones, and because students often come from different parts of the country/world and don’t change the time zone settings on their devices, this has caused a lot of scheduling problems for me! I have stopped “inviting” students to calendar appointments, and instead just verify everything in email. Just something to keep in mind! It took me a long time to discover this weird hiccup, and I was flabbergasted by how many students were missing appointments until I figured it out!

    1. betty (the other betty)*

      This! Or at least put the time in the appointment title (Interview with {company} and {applicant}, 10 am Mountain Time).

  33. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

    FOr LW#1, is group lead the same as manager or is she just the one who directs but can’t hire/fire, etc.? The reason I ask is because I know a number of team leads and none would be considered managers/bosses. They’re just the ones who direct the teams, maybe get a little extra pay, but have no supervisory abilities to fire, etc These people aren’t usually management. And even if your person is a manager, manager usually get invited to ll work functions. If you and a few friends want to meet, do it outside work hours, outside work venues, and don’t talk about it at work.

    1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      I’ve seen both. From the description and amount of people in the greater department this sounds like maybe a call center type environment. I think it’s typical that a team lead is the name for what most would consider a supervisor or manager. Especially if the lead is over all 60-80 to people.

  34. GradSchoolSO*

    #5 could have literally been written by me a year ago (apparently there are dozens of us!) I was also the working half of a significant other working on their PhD, at my current company for three years, hoping to stay on as a remote employee after a expected, but not certain move. Firstly, I just want to express empathy, as a fellow planner I’ve bemoaned my SO’s inflexible, but unpredictable career path emotionally while still being totally supportive of their choices intellectually. Hang in there! Advice wise, I think its up to you to share and that most likely nothing you share will have dire consequences, especially since your boss knows the general situation. However, in my own experience it was better to keep it vague, because the weird thing about this career path is that you really don’t know at this point, yes its 85% you will move, but since its not certain, you don’t need to communicate that you are moving yet (you may not be!). At one point I had a trusted boss who herself was moving away so I asked her candid advice on what she would recommend I share to a new boss. As a corporate boss used to dealing with employee’s changing circumstances, she said, wait until its a certainty. I followed her advice and it all worked out in the end. The other positive thing is that generally academic jobs have a lot of lead time between acceptance and start date, so you will have plenty of time to plan a move, inform your boss, and figure out your working situation. From my boss’ perspective any time more than that would have been overkill and unnecessary since it was only something that might happen. Think of it this way, yes, as a trailing spouse (ugh hate that term, my job actually pays the bills and is also a challenging and fulfilling career!) you know you probably have to move at some point, but most people around you are also likely to have some kind of change over a similar time period and its only relevant to your company when its certain it will impact them. Best of luck!

    1. OP #5*

      Thank you! Yup, sounds like we’re in similar boats. I’ve been the primary breadwinner for years now, the one with the career (I’m a few years older than he is) and it’s so harrowing at this stage. I even said to someone last night that I’m weighing being a supportive partner with being scared out of my mind that he will get one offer and it will be in a place I do not want to go. We’ve even discussed living completely separately, but that’s another story. Anyway. I will do my best to keep on keeping on!

      1. Birch*

        Keep in mind that being supportive doesn’t mean agreeing to whatever your partner gets offered! The plight of trailing spouses is real and does damage to relationships. Doing the long distance thing isn’t fun, but it’s often a workable alternative to being dragged along somewhere you don’t want to go. It’s an ongoing conversation and both parties have to compromise.

  35. Been There*

    #1 – have been there before when part of the office held a baby shower for an employee, in the company lunchroom during lunchtime, and didn’t invite about 1/3 of the office staff. This was a staff of about 20 people. I was a member of senior management and none of the 4 senior managers were invited – chapped me a bit, but I am a big girl. But when I saw one of the admins crying at her desk because she wasn’t included, it really made me angry. Did I mention this was on company time, in the lunchroom, during lunchtime? And those of us not invited couldn’t even use the lunchroom microwave. We had to wait until they were done with their party.

    1. CommanderBanana*

      Yeah, this is bullshit. If you want to have a shower or party in a small office and not invite everyone, it needs to be offsite and not publicized – as in, AFTER work.

    2. Workerbee*

      Next time, go ahead and use the microwave, refrigerator, anything you want. It may feel awkward, but they’re the ones using a company-public space instead of a conference room/offsite location. They’ve chosen to make it uncomfortable, not you.

      1. fposte*

        Yeah, I was going to say. They don’t have the standing to not allow use. Unless they enacted a force field, it’s still open for all.

  36. Polymer Phil*

    #2 – The opposite situation seems more common, where an interviewee shows up at the time they were told to, and no one is expecting them due to some internal communication snafu.

    #1 – Office cultures may vary quite a bit. It’s likely that bosses were always included in these things at the last place he/she worked.

    1. MCMonkeyBean*

      What? Sure it happens that people show up at the right time and the interviewers aren’t ready for them, but there is no way that is MORE common than people showing up at the wrong time for their interview.

  37. Vicky Austin*

    #3: I used to work for a nonprofit where many people made minimum wage. Rather than have a Secret Santa where we bought new gifts, we were encouraged to bring in any unwanted item we had at home and re-gift it for a Yankee Swap. It was lots of fun and brought lots of laughs.

  38. Workerbee*

    #3 Secret Santa / any office gift exchange: Whoever runs these, PLEASE make them entirely optional with no disapproving overtones when people opt out.

    My old department did a White Elephant exchange, and even the opters-out were invited as this was always a set couple of hours with food and music, often combined with an offsite trip to something actually fun.

    The rules were to bring something wacky/crazy/junk, or if you really wanted to spend a little $, you could wrap up something a little nicer.

    I prefer this to Secret Santa, with or without the wishlist. Takes the pressure and obligation off.

    1. fposte*

      Ours is a gift exchange but with the same “gift exchange optional” approach and a ceiling of $10 on what you can spend if you want to do the exchange. There’s a lot of goofy craft stuff.

  39. CommanderBanana*

    OP#1, if you’re putting events on a team calendar and posting a sign-up sheet, I don’t really think you have any standing to be miffed when people you don’t want to attend show up. If you want more control over who attends, these really need to be held not at work and after work hours, like a happy hour, and not posted on a shared calendar or otherwise advertised.

    1. Mommy MD*

      Exactly. You post sign up sheets at work, you cannot exclude people. Posting this assumes everyone is invited. It would be very rude and mean-spirited to exclude a few, hand-picked people.

  40. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    $30 is absurd. I have a lower budget for people I actually love (7 nieces and nephews, my God, I know!)

    These are supposed to be trinkets and novelty gifts!

    And I make a lot more than $12 an hour. I can’t even imagine how put out these folks are.

    Also wish lists for adults. Barf.

    1. Amber Rose*

      Oh good, I’m not the only one who found the wishlist thing nauseating. You wanna send that stuff to family, fine, but if I get that from a coworker it’s going straight in the trash.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I am only okay with lists if it’s to say “no scented items” or to note food reductions (allergies and such, in our friend’s generic holiday exchange I don’t send food of any kind to my Kosher friend naturally!).

        I’m very festive. I have decorated my office with Island of Misfit Toys characters and wear Grinch sweaters. Just to say I’m not a total humbug but when it puts pressure on others to spend money and please colleagues I’ll go full Grinch. You don’t wanna see me full Grinch. CANCELLED!!!

        1. Amber Rose*

          I have had a blast decorating the office. We have taken ‘deck the halls’ very seriously. I’m not anti-Christmas, just anti- forced gift giving.

  41. Amber Rose*

    It’s a little off topic, but I am extra salty this year about the number of things I am expected to spend money and time on. I don’t have the spare funds for more stuff just because people remember they have goodwill for these couple weeks and and gain an extra heaping helping of righteousness over it, while also feeling a strong entitlement to presents.

    So my angry feeling of “just buy some cheap item and to hell with people’s wish lists, they aren’t entitled to anything” is probably not helpful. What may be helpful is pointing out that office gift exchanges are supposed to be silly fun, not a source of financial stress.

  42. StressedButOkay*

    OP1, when I read the title of the letter, I thought you meant happy hours, events after work. But these are happening during office hours – and not just daily lunch with your coworkers, but actual, big events. I think that’s coloring why your boss and other coworkers are either just showing up and/or feeling left out.

    Maybe it’s time to shift the events to after hours?

    OP3, oohh yeah, that’s too expensive! That’s about what I spend on the Secret Santa my friends and I do each year! I think $20 was the highest I’ve ever seen for a work Secret Santa – generally $15-$20 seems to be the norm.

  43. Alexis Rose*

    OP1: I was responsible for hiring students for co-op positions. I worked for the same university that the students were part of, and there was a little bit of infrastructure around teaching students about jobs, interviews, workplace ettiquette, and the like (it was a business school, so the emphasis on professionalism and “soft skills” was pretty high). I had scheduled an interview with a potential co-op student for, lets say, 2 pm. The student came in at 11 am, and said “well, I had time now so I figured I would come by and see if you could interview me now”. Um, NO! *I* do not have time now, or I would have suggested the time slot for you! I was interviewing a different candidate at that time, but it boggled my mind that they thought I could just drop everything and interview them when they decided to show up. I almost said “don’t bother coming back at 2” because of the attitude I got from him when I told him that wasn’t going to work and to please come back at 2, but I went ahead and interviewed him anyway. Because the co-op was part of their degree requirements, I thought about it for the next couple of hours and chatted with my colleague who was interviewing with me. I figured my options were: do/say nothing and just take that into account when hiring, mention it to the folks at the career services centre so they could address it with the students, or mention it to this candidate in the interview and gently suggest that it was inappropriate and not respectful of the time of the interviewer. In the end, I did bring it up at the end of the interview and said something like “listen, I can sort of see what you were thinking when you came in earlier, but that is not how I would advise anyone to approach an interview. I gave you a couple of different options for the time slot, and this is the one you chose. It wasn’t reasonable to expect that we could drop everything to interview you when you thought it was convenient. In other interviews that are NOT with your university, where we are a little more inclined to cut you some slack, you may have been told not to bother coming back at the determined time.” I think he was a little taken aback that he got such direct feedback, but I’m glad I said something to him so he didn’t go on thinking it was OK. He didn’t get the job, but that was based on other factors.

      1. OP#2*

        Yes that’s sometimes (but not often) the attitude that I see from them, where they thought they could just pop in when their schedule was free. It’s an odd assumption to make, for sure.

        1. Alexis Rose*

          It was very strange. I guess my overall question for you, based on the culture of where you are hiring is: could you do what I ultimately decided to do and gently suggest to them that this is not the best way to make a good impression on a hiring committee? They may not realize how it comes across and you could approach it from the standpoint of constructive criticism? If they’re still really not getting it, thats a good indication that they would be difficult to manage if you did hire them, but if they see your point and seem to take it well, thats a sign that personal growth is possible and that they would be “coachable” in the workplace.

  44. Observer*

    #3 – I don’t know if anyone has pointed this out yet, but $30 is actually significantly more than 2.5 hours of work for someone at $12 per hour. Because even if they wind up being flat on income tax there’s a lot that comes out of that check before they ever see it, so you’re looking at something like 3-4 hours. That’s a half a day of work.

    As for pressuring people to participate? That’s simply awful.

  45. Jennifer Juniper*

    I’m surprised Alison didn’t address the other problem in OP1’s letter: the manager showing up and “making veiled comments” at team celebrations. Eek!

  46. swingbattabatta*

    #5, I have some experience in this – although with the medical field, not a PhD. I haven’t read through the comments, but what helped me was to go to my boss with a plan in mind – here’s how it would work if I was remote, here are the hours I would expect to be online, I would be willing to come into the office for X, Y, and Z. I talked about how our clients would be impacted (not at all, because the vast majority of our work is via phone and email, and I would come back for major work events), and I talked about how accessible I would be to my coworkers and boss. We did a trial run for the first year, and it worked out so well that they have kept me on (I’m in my third year now). If you are a strong worker with a history of being reliable and trustworthy (i.e. they know you’ll be working when you are supposed to be), I think you can really lobby for yourself. Good luck!

  47. Calculator*

    Oh, man, Secret Santa freaks me out because I dont celebrate Christmas, but no one believes me and just thinks I’m cheap.

  48. Justin*

    Why do people have gift exchanges at work? I do not understand the purpose of that. If you want to have a celebration do a cookie potluck (homemade or store bought) or spend a little company money on trinkets or something.

    1. fposte*

      I initiated a gift exchange for strategic reasons: people here were feeling obliged to give gifts to too many people and it kept getting worse. The gift exchange makes it clear that if you have gift energy, focus it here. It’s worked, I think; I’m not seeing or getting presents outside of it. It’s also just a nice lunch hour off, but mostly it was to stem the gift obligation tide. (Entering the exchange is optional and not required to join the gathering.)

      1. Justin*

        Your workplace already had a gift thing going it seems, so that makes sense. Were people obliged to give gifts before the exchange?

        1. fposte*

          Never an external requirement, but we’re generally talking young and very kind Midwestern women who feel like they Should Be Doing Something. Left unchecked, that impulse seemed to create a feeling of obligation, so I did this to channel it rather than to fight it outright and drive it underground.

          1. Anon and on and on*

            You just named what is happening with me right now. I started a new job this year so this my first Christmas in this office (small, only 12 people). Everyone says they aren’t buying gifts for each other but I have a nagging sensation (impulse?) that I should have gifts for everyone just in case. I just have a feeling some of them are going to walk with in with piles of presents and I’m gonna feel like an ass. But also, do I want to be stuck with 11 boxes of candy or whatever sitting around if they don’t bring anything? Ugh!

    2. Anon and on and on*

      “spend a little company money”…would never happen at any job I’ve ever had. We even had to provide our own pens at my last job.

      1. Justin*

        I’m totally fine with doing nothing. But if an employer must have a gift giving thing going on, they should dip into company funds to provide it.

  49. female peter gibbons*

    Regarding Letter Writer #2

    I couldn’t help but be curious if the students were told the wrong date and time. It’s happened to me several times, for example by dentists, doctors’ offices. Every time, the receptionist gives ME a lot of attitude and says that I have the wrong date and time and sends me away. The good thing is, nowadays, I try to do everything by email/in writing instead of on the phone.

    Case in point:

    It happened to me recently with a Physiotherapist’s office. The first time, I let it slide, but the second time, I was so ticked off that I provided the owners/general managers the proof through saved emails that showed that the Physiotherapist’s office receptionist on TWO separate occasions confirmed appointment date/times but when I showed up at both times she claimed that *I* had the wrong date and time and sent me away. The emails proved that I absolutely did not. The owner was very gracious and provided me two free massages on their dime. It’s a huge inconvenience to the client, and it’s rude, so if this did indeed happen to me I’d give attitude too.

    1. OP#2*

      No, I am the one who does all the scheduling, emailing, and interviewing. When I noticed a pattern a few years ago I began checking the email chains, and it’s all there in plain writing: the date, time, and their confirmation that we’d see them on the correct date and time.

  50. Observer*

    #2 – I haven’t had a chance to read all the replies, but I want to highlight something that Allison pointed out. You REALLY don’t want students to learn that it’s ok to have an attitude when they make a mistake.

    Story time:

    We were doing a bidding process for a new system at my job. I was a nice sized system (low 6 figures) with decent longer term potential. The rep I was dealing with was DEFINITELY “hungry” for the contract. Their bid left out a significant item from the budget, do I eliminated it from my pool as being non-responsive. They called me shortly before I was going to submit my recommendations to our ED at which point I told them that they had left out this significant item, and so we were deeming the bid non-responsive. The rep curtly “informed” me that we hadn’t asked for this thing. Fortunately EVERY bit of specification was in writing, as I knew that I was going to have to provide this information to auditors and funders with some very stringent rules. So I pulled up “Appendix A” and told him to do the same, and then told exactly where to find this item. “Oh, my bad. What about the rest of the bid?”

    They did resubmit with the required piece of the puzzle by the deadline, although the short time line meant that it was tacked on and messed their budget proposal up. But, it was the attitude that kept me from considering them for later possible contracts – including a decent sized yearly support contract.

    Everyone makes mistakes and I would not have knocked the out of the running for ever after for this mistake, even though it was somewhat significant. But if your first reaction to having an error pointed out is “Not true” or “Your fault” I’m not even going to try to work with.

    1. Anon and on and on*

      Everyone makes mistakes. Its how you respond to the mistakes that defines your character.

  51. oxfordcomma4life*

    LW 3, I’m so glad i saw this! Our own holiday office secret santa got hijacked by an overzealous elf this year, so I’m feeling your pain. Usually we do a $10 maximum secret santa amongst ourselves– this year the idea of all donating that cash to a charity got floated instead. Which is lovely… until Overzealous Elf took it upon herself to select a charity (one that has some controversial opinions too), and a specific goal– a hamper for a local family. Fine. Great. Until the sign up sheet for items goes round and it becomes apparent that the $10 limit has not doubled to fulfill the requirements in our small office. Then Overzealous Elf decides we should add presents for the kids in the family too– and those presents end up equaling several hundred dollars (a tablet plus sim card for the teenager, and an equivalent price in lego for the younger. Who knew lego was so expensive?). After being added to a hellscape of an email chain deciding who would chip in for what after she’d purchased said items, I followed past festive AAM advice and quietly private messaged Overzealous Elf that alas, my budget wouldn’t stretch beyond the food items. I’m very glad I did because she just went cubicle to cubicle to get cash from people, getting increasingly huffy that because some people weren’t playing her reindeer games, the minimum spend for each person now would have to be closer to $40-$50 each for everything. I just heard her go into our bosses office complaining she may have to return the gifts and get something cheaper. I feel like the Grinch, but also… dude.

  52. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    #1 – why would you have a group gathering and not invite the group LEADER – who is a member of the team?
    That doesn’t seem true to form. In fact, in most professional environments, that’s unheard of.

  53. Noah*

    OP#1 — this is like 20 major lunch/celebration events a year: 12 monthly lunches, 4 birthday celebration, and let’s say 4 holidays. I think the manager is coming with the specific intent of cutting these short because of how much time you all are spending on Not Work. It’s a pretty passive-aggressive and ineffective way to handle it, but this is an excessive number of work celebrations.

  54. Student employer opinion*

    re: OP2.

    IME, you are correct that student employees are more likely than non-students to mix up appointment dates and times, whether it’s for an interview or their scheduled dates of work.

    It is OK to use this information as a point against them, as in my experience, these students are more likely to overall problems balancing school and work. They are more likely to miss shifts or not work for very long due to other obligations that are taking up their time. IME, the facial expressions/reactions are more indicative that as employees that are naive to office work, they aren’t good at masking their emotions of surprise or embarrassment like non-students.

  55. Regarding PhDs and the job market*

    Regarding the academic job search — I would just tell your boss that you’re planning on staying put for the time being, which is true. The job market for PhDs is *incredibly* fraught, and really good people fail to get tenure track jobs or post-doc appointments every year. You should very much protect your job and not assume that you’ll be moving. This article is a couple years old, but informative (https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2016/04/bad-job-market-phds/479205/). A highlight: “The job market for those with advanced degrees is clearly tightening, according to the NSF study, with many more Ph.D.s in all fields reporting no definite job commitments in 2014 compared to 2004. Nearly 40 percent of the Ph.D.s surveyed in 2014 hadn’t lined up a job—whether in the private industry or academia—at the time of graduation. It may not be surprising that Ph.D.s in the humanities and social sciences are struggling to find tenure-track faculty jobs. After all, graduate schools produced two new history Ph.D.s for every tenure-track job opening in 2014.”

  56. Kitty*

    #1 so these are at work, you put them in the work calendar, and put signs up in communal places? I think it’s pretty reasonable for her to assume she is invited, why would she not? If you really don’t want to include her, you have to do this outside of work.

  57. Nobody Special*

    Re #2: Once I showed up for an interview exactly one week late. Right day of the werk and time…plus 7 days. I realized how our verbal arrangements led to my error but it was not possible to explain it away without making things worse. And I was not a student…with over 40 years in the workforce with mainly mid level jobs. The rattled manager did interview me but it was quite uncomfortable and there was no recovering. At my age she might have seen it as signs of brain fuzz creeping in. I wish I could add this to Alison’s recent ” most embarrassing” question but I suspect if I dug through my memory I could think of more.

  58. Alison gives the best advice.*

    #1 seems like a bit too much of an exclusionary situation to take place during the work day. I suggest scheduling time outside of work to see the select coworkers with whom you really want to spend time.

  59. Anoncorporate*

    #1: If these are work events, it’s definitely normal for managers to attend. If they are outside of work (like your coworkers hanging out as friends), then it’s weird if they join.

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