non-serious dates at the holiday party, training students to answer the phone, and more

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

1. How do I downscale our holiday celebration?

I manage a wonderful staff — they are all dedicated, responsible, mature, and get along very well with each other. They are also all, to generalize, introverts (as am I). Over the past nine years, I established a tradition for the holiday season, in which we gather during a weekday afternoon and I give them cookies and a little gift. I came up with this based on my own preferences: I don’t like being asked to leave the office, go to someone’s home, or sacrifice non-work time. And I enjoy the preparation of making cookies and coming up with a gift (everyone receives the same).

While intended to be festive and easy, this gathering often feels forced. People look to me for entertainment, as if I should be running yet another meeting, and their otherwise normal social skills abandon them. Last year it was so uncomfortable — with some perfectly lovely people uttering not one word over a 90-minute period — I swore to myself I would not put us through it again. My question is, how can I abandon the holiday gathering without seeming punitive, passive aggressive, or ungenerous? And how can I distribute the cookies/gifts, which are effectively “thank-you’s” for a year of great work and teamwork?

Could you do it at the end of a staff meeting? Or go by people’s offices individually to drop off their gifts? Or schedule individual meetings with people to thank them for their work this year and give them their gifts then?

Or, if you don’t want to kill the tradition entirely, another option is to keep it but schedule it for a much shorter time period — like 15 or 20 minutes rather than 90. Or you could make it more of a “drop-in” — where people can come and go for that hour (or however) long but aren’t expected to just sit there and stare at you if they’d rather leave. You could announce it as “cookies and gifts in my office from 4-5 on Friday — stop by and stay as little or as long as you want.”

You could also ask your staff what they prefer — you may find that they actually like the tradition, or that they’d be glad to tack it onto the end of a staff meeting, or that they want to play games this year, or so forth.

2. Bringing an on-again, off-again boyfriend to the holiday party

I am wondering what your opinion is on inviting an off and on boyfriend to a staff holiday party. My boyfriend and I have been together about three years total over four years with two break-ups in this period. I started a new job about six months ago and I’m just wondering if I should bring him to the holiday party or not. I 10000% do not see myself marrying this man and honestly, doubt we’ll be together by this time next year. Is it “wrong” to bring to a staff holiday party knowing this?

It’s not wrong to bring a date who you’re not serious about! Just be aware that if you do, you  might have coworkers asking about him in the future. If you’re willing to field questions like “how’s Cecil doing?” and “so is it serious with Cecil?” and so forth, then feel free to bring him! If you’d rather not deal with that, you might instead prefer to come alone.

3. Do I need to train students to answer the phone professionally?

I work at in a small academic institution, where we employ college students to do a lot of the “front-line” work for us. They sit at public desks, answer phones, and take care of a lot of day-to-day things. I am one of several people who supervises them and trains them on these operations.

I love our student workers and think many of them are more than competent and go above and beyond. So in designing their training, I did not think to include a large segment on answering the phone. We have talked to them before about a greeting, how to transfer calls, and basic things one might need showing. Have I assumed too much, or do I really need to tell people how to take messages accurately, or how to try and answer a question when someone asks for a person who isn’t in, or even to push the mute/hold button when you’re talking to me about the person who is still on the phone? I know people use the phone less (especially college students), but people call us for help with things all of the time, and even if we don’t know the answer, we try to get them to someone who does. We already train them on helping people face-to-face, so do I really need to do a separate training for how to do this same interaction on the phone?

Probably, yes! Phone usage has changed so much in recent years that some of this may be brand new to people (like taking a message, which they may never have had to do before if their family didn’t have a land line, which many people now don’t). And some of it is stuff that students needed training on even before our phone norms changed so much. Things like how to answer a question or that you should put the caller on mute before talking about them are things that your more conscientious/mature students may know, but some of them will need to be told. So, yes, I would say train them on all of it! And if you’re worried it’ll feel obvious or remedial to some of them, you can frame it at the start as, “Some of this may be obvious to you and some may not be. We’ve found that people bring different level of comfort with phone work, so I’m going to cover everything.”

4. Should I let my boss know my disorganization stemmed from ADHD?

I was diagnosed with ADHD as an adult two years ago and have been able to manage it successfully with a number of coping strategies. I started a new job a little under a year ago and everything was fine until suddenly … it wasn’t. Over a period of three months, I found my productivity way down and was struggling to get things done on time and without errors. Projects were completed, but they weren’t always done well.

It took me a while to realize that my coping strategies weren’t working and even longer to realize that I needed to give medication another shot. I’ve found one that works for me and have been getting back on track. My work and attention to detail have improved, but I am not sure if or how I should explain this to my manager. I was never reprimanded and my boss has, on the whole, praised my work. But I get the sense that I have been let off the hook because I’m new and if things had continued along the same vein, we would have had a much more serious conversation. I would like to explain why I was so distracted and unorganized but I’ve never had to have a conversation like this at work. If I’m honest, it feels like an excuse. While I work in a very supportive environment, but I am the youngest and newest person on my team and don’t want to play into the millennial stereotype. I don’t want my boss to think that I can’t handle the duties and responsibilities I have.

It’s not an excuse; it’s a medical condition. It’s an explanation, not an excuse.

And you can give your boss that context without sharing personal medical details. You could say something like, “I want to let you know that I know that my work wasn’t at my usual level for a few months over the summer. I was dealing with a medical condition, and once we found the right medication, I got back on track and don’t think it will be an issue again. I wanted to mention it in case you’d noticed and were concerned, so that you know both that I’m aware of it and that I’ve addressed it and have it under control now.”

(And I’m sorry the media seems to have given millennials a complex about your generation. Reasonable people will not think of you that way.)

5. My new job doesn’t start for six months

I’m a soon-to-be-grad who recently accepted a great job as an entry-level business analyst in a dream location, which I’m thrilled about. The problem: the job starts in June, I’m graduating in December, and I didn’t quite realize how far apart those were when on the phone with the hiring manager. I did actually ask why the start date was so late, and was told that they had filled their hiring quota for the winter, and their next entry-level start date was June.

I know I’m probably stuck with this, but is there anything I should have done differently? Is it normal for companies to hire (pretty generic) positions with such a lag?

Some companies do! (Generally you’d only see this at large companies though; smaller ones don’t as frequently do “classes” of new hires.)

You could have tried saying, “It would be difficult for me to be unemployed until June. Is there any chance of starting earlier?” But it’s possible the answer still would have been no.

You’re also not obligated to refrain from continuing to job search. If they’re leaving you unemployed for six months, they don’t have a lot of standing to be upset if you find a job you like better during that time.

{ 383 comments… read them below }

  1. Airy*

    If you want to give everyone a memorable office holiday party story to submit to AAM next December, bring Cecil to the party and loudly, dramatically break up with him forty-five minutes into the festivities.

    1. annakarina1*

      That reminds me of the movie Picture Perfect, where Jennifer Aniston has a fake boyfriend to look good in front of her co-workers, then decides to stage a dramatic fake breakup with him at a company dinner to gain sympathy points after he’s caught real feelings for her.

    2. OP2*

      Haha! There’s a good idea. Question, for maximum dramatics, should I be the stuck at the party without a ride home or him?

        1. Jennifer Juniper*

          Not everyone has a smart phone – and Uber may not be available in small towns/rural areas.

  2. Mike C.*

    The other big reason to train all of your employees how you want the phone answered is to ensure a consistent procedure is followed from employee to employee.

    They can’t read your kind and even if their own response fits within the Overton window of “acceptable phone responses”, it might not be exactly what you want or expect. It’s no different than any other expectation you set as a manager.

    1. TurquoiseCow*

      For my long-time part time job as a Customer Service person, we had a script we were supposed to follow to answer the phone. This was in the late 90s, early 2000s, so land lines were still popular, but answering the phone at a business is completely different from answering the phone at my parent’s house. For one thing, answering a personal phone line with “hello?” is fine and considered polite, but we had to answer the business phone with “Thank you for calling [business name], how can I help you?” or some close variant of such.

      Part way through my tenure there, the corporate office decided that they wanted us to say “Thank you for calling your [business name] of [town], how may I assist you?” and then not long after that, they instituted a computer system where the customer could press a key for a specific department. It then became necessary for individual departments to answer the outside line (and recognize that it was an outside line) with “Hello, [department name] rather than just “hello?” because they were the first human the customer was talking to. This did require some training.

      1. Julia*

        This. Or things like whether it’s okay to tell the caller your name right away. At my last job, when someone called my extension, I answered with my name (and depending on inside or outside calls, in different languages), but when I had to fill in at the reception, I had to say our institution’s name in two languages only and not give away my name or tell them the names or numbers of anyone else in the office. (If they asked for XY or for a department, I was allowed to transfer them.)

      2. Baby Fishmouth*

        Yes, it is so important to note that business phone etiquette can be completely different than personal phone etiquette, so training is (and has always been) very important.

        Although my parents trained me to answer the phone “Hello, Fishmouth residence, Baby speaking, how may I assist you?” at the age of 6, so sometimes it’s not thaaat different.

        1. rldk*

          Your parents did that too? My brother and I were also trained, particularly because there were two last names in our house, so our script was “Thank you for calling the Smith-Jones house, may I ask who’s calling?”

          1. Kelly L.*

            And I think that changed with telemarketing and scams, because now no one wants to reveal their name (on a home/personal line) if the caller doesn’t already know it. I’m kind of an old now, and even we didn’t learn this script, because my dad didn’t want to give our name out to salespeople.

            1. Turquoisecow*

              My dad’s name is Guy, pronounced Guy and not “Gee.” One way we knew if it was scam or telemarketer calling was if the caller pronounced his name “Gee” and then attempted to make our not French name sound French to match the Gee. You can’t do that at all if you answer with your name.

              1. Kelly L.*

                Yes! Or, I lived with this one boyfriend for many years, and I always knew the caller was up to no good if they asked for “Mrs. Hislast.” There was no Mrs. Hislast, since (a) he wasn’t married and (b) I wouldn’t have taken his name anyway. And then they usually mangled the pronunciation on top of that!

              2. SusanIvanova*

                I’ve got a double first name. If you cut it off at the space, I know you’re lying about knowing me.

          2. Anne Elliot*

            “Hello, Elliott residence, Anne speaking!” Also: Do not say Mom is in the bathroom. Do not say “I don’t know” when asked if someone is home. In fact, do not say anyone is ever not home, say “She can’t come to the phone, may I take a message?” When the caller asks for dad, do not just hold the phone and scream “DAD!!” Do not pull the phone receiver all the way across the kitchen so that the spiral phone cord gets stretched out/tangled. Do not listen in on the extension, we can hear you breathing. Do not steal the pencil that is intended for taking messages. Deliver any message to the person for whom it is intended, even if you’re mad at them.

            1. Beaded Librarian*

              Obviously same thing with business but it always feels a bit awkward when you know they’re in the bathroom and you know that they should be out sound but you sure as heck are not letting a caller know that. I don’t even let patrons in the library know that. It’s just I can’t find them can I send you to voicemail.

              1. Mongrel*

                “…but it always feels a bit awkward when you know they’re in the bathroom…”
                At home I’ve always used “I’m afraid they’re a little busy at the moment can I take a message\get them to call you back”. It’s a standard nonspecific response that no normal person should be quibbling over and could mean anything from in the bath to helping the cat eat or healing the raid.

        2. Xarcady*

          My father was in the military. We had to answer the phone, “Major Smith’s quarters, Sue Smith speaking, how can I help you?” Which really freaked out friends calling me at home for the first time who were expecting something more on the lines of “Hello.”

          1. Turquoisecow*

            Honestly, even as an adult I’d probably freak out and maybe even hang up immediately at that point.

        3. SusanIvanova*

          As a kid, I’d always asked the caller why they were calling, because Mom wanted to know in advance if it was her boss calling her in for an extra shift – if she answered the phone then she couldn’t get out of going.

          My college roommate had to tell me to stop doing that because her boyfriend thought it was weird.

      3. Glitsy Gus*

        Heh, to this day I answer my desk Phone, “Hello, [department], this is Glitsy.” it’s so ingrained I can’t not do it on a work phone.

        1. Ginny Weasley*

          My tricky time was when I worked summer jobs during college. I’d want to answer the phone with my school year script. People wanting to make campground reservations really get confused when the first thing they hear is “Thank you for calling Family Video where the kids’ movies are free; this is Ginny, how may I help you?”

    2. Lynn Marie*

      Yes, answering the phone is a trainable skill and not necessarily an easy or intuitive one to pick up. It requires explicit instructions and lots of practice. It was ever so, and I can see the increasing need, now there’s a generally decreasing comfort level with phone communications. Do not assume anything – tell them how to do it and follow up.

      1. Cat wrangler*

        I still cringe at the time I took a temporary job as a receptionist on a switchboard that was familiar and thinking that I was transferring calls, had been cutting them off instead. Eventually someone came out from the back office to show me the intricacies of the switchboard and it was resolved. Even if you know (or think you know) how to answer the phone or handle the switchboard, a quick refresher course is always good and knowing the organisation’s preferred form of greeting is essential.

        1. PhyllisB*

          I will agree with that!! I was a long distance operator for over twenty years so you would think I would know everything about how to handle a phone/calls, but when I did temp work as a receptionist at a radio station, I still had to be trained how to answer and transfer calls and how they wanted messages taken. And yes, I did cut some people off before I learned the ins and outs of transferring calls. The thing I hated was when I had to use the PA system to page someone.

          1. Glitsy Gus*

            I hate PA systems! They can be so nerve wracking. At one place I worked we joked about needing to practice your “Nordstrom Courtesy Phone Voice” before you would be allowed to page people over the PA.

        2. Kelly L.*

          Yes, and the phone I had at my first office job, which had instructions on how to transfer…and those instructions were wrong and would actually drop the call. It took some embarrassing trial and error to finally figure out what really did work.

          1. Michaela Westen*

            “those instructions were wrong and would actually drop the call.”
            That’s infuriating! Sabotage, or carelessness? Either way, unacceptable!

        3. Amber T*

          Even the intricacies of modern phones can be weird, confusing, and not at all user friendly. When I worked the front desk, transferring a single call was pretty easy, but when a second call comes in while the first caller is on hold, the phone does wonky things, and heaven help you if a third person calls in. One time a partner asked me to “park” it on someone else’s extension and I had no idea what that meant, even though I had been there over a year. Transferring it straight to voicemail, combining two calls… that all took training.

          1. Working Mom Having It All*

            Also, every brand of business/desk phone is different, and every new job will require a few minutes of, at bare minimum, reorienting on that office’s particular telephone configuration.

            In my office, I have a different brand of phone from the other two admins who sit in my area and can’t answer any of their questions about phone quirks.

        4. JustaTech*

          Yes indeed on the transferring calls. Every year I am informed in a mandatory training that under a specific set of circumstances I am *required* to do a “warm transfer” of a caller to another department.

          In my 7 years of doing this training I have never, ever been told how to actually *do* a transfer.

          I don’t think it will ever come up, but if it does I will just walk upstairs, grab a coworker and have them physically come to my phone.

        5. SusanIvanova*

          I was a high school office aide in the admin office. Transferring calls was an arcane art that we handed off to the actual admins. Some very high up person insisted that I do it, he didn’t want to wait! Of course he ended up disconnected. The admins – who were all very nice – said “don’t worry, just don’t answer the phones; when he calls back we’ll deal with him”.

      2. a1*

        Honestly, I’m surprised they have to be trained to mute the line when they are talking about the person on the other end of the call. Even if it’s nothing unkind and just a relay of information*. No one wants to hear your muffled conversation. If it’s one sentence, fine. But a whole conversation?

        * Although this can even be taken in the wrong way from the other end. “I have a customer that doesn’t know how to do X” – can be taken as “this customer is stupid, they don’t know how to do X”.

        But that’s the only thing that seemed odd to me. I agree with the rest – train them the way you want them to take messages, and everything else, including the mute button (which is very obvious on most office phones so should be easy for them to use once they know that expectation). They don’t know your standards until you tell them.

          1. ButchCassidy*

            Which is funny, because cell phones have a mute button too! I didn’t think to look for it till I was working from home and dialing into phone conferences.

                1. R.D.*

                  You are right. I have also muted with my face. I tell myself it’s because I have such razor sharp cheekbones.

        1. Tongue Cluckin' Grammarian*

          We’ve had to train every single person we’ve ever had answer the phone to either mute the caller, or put them on hold before talking. They would think just covering the mouthpiece was sufficient.
          It’s not really as common sense as one might think.

          1. the gold digger*

            It’s not that it’s not common sense, it’s that the technologies vary so much. When I was temping – or even at my regular jobs – I hated having to try to figure out how to transfer a call. It’s not intuitive, it’s not logical.

            And honestly – on my work phone now? I would have no idea how to mute a call.

            (The good thing is that almost all calls to my work landline are salespeople or faxes, so I have disabled my voicemail and if the phone is ringing, I pick it up and drop it back into the cradle without answering.)

          2. SarahKay*

            So true about needing to use the mute button. My stepdad worked for a telecomms company and he warned me that just covering the mouthpiece wouldn’t do; to muffle your words you needed to cover the whole mouthpiece end of the phone, and even then your voice could be heard, just not clearly enough to be understood. This was back in the days of phones with an actual rotary dial and no mute button.
            I can still remember starting at a department store and being shown the mute button and told how to use it.
            Incidentally, they also gave all the staff in the store – sales, back-office, stock-room, everyone – training in how to use the phone: how to answer it, how and when to mute it, how to transfer a call, or offer to take a message, the whole thing. And that was 20-odd years ago when everyone was much more used to business phone calls.

          3. Sketchee*

            We recently got new phones and had training for them. We were warned that the microphone is sensitive enough to hear if you’re within arms length distance. Use that mute button!

        2. Working Mom Having It All*

          Most personal home phone situations don’t have this issue very often. Yes, I learned as a child not to drop the phone and yell MOOOOOOMMMMMMM!!!!!!!!, but it’s not like I was placing callers on hold while I spoke to my manager, either. At home, gently laying the phone down and physically going to get Mom was enough. That’s not enough in most office settings.

      3. pleaset*

        I’m reminded of the time Henri Kissinger called to speak to someone in my office and the young person answering the phone did not believe it was him.

    3. Sara without an H*

      Yes! Even 25 years ago, when phones were still a standard communication device, I still had to train students how to answer in a professional context. They were used to phones for social communication, so they would say “Hi!” instead of “Alexandria University Library. How may I help you?”

    4. Washi*

      Agreed! And it might be good to train people on how to respond to some FAQs because their first instinct might not be quite as polished as what you’d like:

      “Hi, can I speak to Laryngina?”
      “No, she’s busy” vs. “She’s not available at the moment; can I take a message?”

      “Hello, I demand to speak to the director!”
      “Who’s this?” vs. “May I ask who’s calling?”

      1. londonedit*

        Yes, definitely! I’m in my late thirties so I grew up without a mobile phone and with just a landline at home, and even so it was a steep learning curve when I got my first office job, which was on the reception desk. It was really important to learn how the company wanted the phone to be answered, to learn that the editors never took unsolicited calls from prospective authors (and how to head those people off when they tried all the ‘Oh, but she knows me, she’ll want to speak to me!’ stuff), and to learn all the various ways of saying ‘She’s in a meeting/has stepped away from her desk/is out of the office this afternoon’ rather than ‘She’s on her lunch break’ or ‘She can’t speak to you right now’. It’s part of learning workplace norms, and it’s important that they know that even if they learn them once for you, these things will likely be different in each office they encounter.

        1. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

          Yes! Different offices have very different cultures of how to handle some phone things (Like, take a message vs transfer to voicemail vs give out the direct phone number), and so those things need to be taught each time! When you take a message, do you write it on a fancy message pad, on a scrap of paper, or just email it to the employee who was out?

          I will also add that I hate when the answering script is four+ sentences long, like “Good morning, you’ve reached X business, Marfisa speaking, how can I help you?” It takes so damn long to say, and when I’m the caller, I just want to get to the point.

        2. iglwif*

          Oh gosh. You remind me of the time, 20-odd years ago in my first part-time office job, when I told a caller that the person they wanted was on her lunch break and could I take a message. (It was like … sometime between noon and 1pm, so … 100% normal lunch time. Had I said “she’s not available right now” or “she’s just stepped away from her desk for a few minutes, I’m betting the caller would still have assumed she was out getting lunch.)

          My coworker was INCENSED. How could I not know how INAPPROPRIATE it was to tell a client she was EATING LUNCH??

          I was 19, and a university student. Nobody had told me that mentioning lunch breaks was inappropriate; of course I knew not to say people were in the washroom, or like … filing their nails or on the phone with their nanny or something, but people eat lunch! Even business people!

          So yeah, training would’ve helped in that situation.

      2. Archaeopteryx*

        Plus what information to ask for when taking a message! Some of them may not realize you have to ask for a callback number, or that it’s ok to (professionally) ask for clarification if you don’t understand what someone said. You’re risking that some of these otherwise talented students may start out in April Ludgate territory!

      3. EvilQueenRegina*

        Someone was telling a story recently about an ex-coworker who once answered a call, was having trouble getting the sense of what this person was trying to say, and ended up saying “What is your problem?” That one ended with someone else having to intervene.

      4. sofar*

        Years ago, my friend opened a tour company in a place where phones were NOT the norm and some of his local employees had never used one in a personal, let alone a business contexst.

        He was surprised when a potential client said to him, “So, I called the other day and asked to speak to you and the receptionist said, ‘He’s not here. Good bye.’ and hung up.” Apparently that’s just what the employees did. To everyone who called when the owner was not present.

        Even if you’re accustomed to phone etiquette for a personal phone, you’re right, it takes some training to develop the go-to responses and message-taking.

    5. Cindy Featherbottom*

      Yes you definitely need to train them on phone usage. I started a new job at the beginning of the year and their phone system is completely different than the one I used at my other job. No one taught me how to use it, which made for an embarrassing moment when I put someone on hold to ask a question but couldn’t figure out how to get the call back off of hold (it took wwwaayyyy too long to figure it out too). I’ll add that I’ve been in my industry for over a decade. Its not always intuitive, especially when you’re younger and its, most likely, one of your first jobs and haven’t used an office phone system. They may not know which questions they are or aren’t supposed to handle, how you want the phone answered, or how you want messages taken.

      1. epi*

        This is a really good point, and what I would build the training around. Office phones with differently than personal land lines, and you will need to do things with them you probably would not do at home. Even an experienced person will need to at least know where the manual is for a new phone system.

        The OP could go from “how to transfer a call” to “what to say when you transfer a call,” and pay attention to what seems easy for them and what doesn’t.

        1. Archaeopteryx*

          Good point; there’s a wide gap in professionalism between a warm transfer (“Hi, thank you for holding; I have Trevor for you; I’ll transfer you now.)” vs just shooting the caller over to someone else’s phone line with no warning.

      2. Ama*

        Yes. When I supervised student workers who helped answer phones, I would give them some initial training, but I would also create a cheat sheet with some basic info. Because our program had no undergrads we were usually hiring students who weren’t that familiar with our programs initially, so it was a lot to ask them to flawlessly remember who handled which type of questions after just a 30 minute “here’s how to answer phones” session.

        The cheat sheet included:
        -The standard greeting (we had a long department name, it took practice to get right without looking)
        – We often ran exhibitions in our building so if an exhibition was on there would be some basic info about the hours, the simplest way to explain directions to us, that the building was handicap accessible, and other common questions.
        -A brief list of who got what questions, i.e. “questions about applying for the grad program go to Jane, questions about the open faculty position go to Brian, general questions you aren’t sure about send to Ama”
        -Because we also had a lot of postdocs who didn’t have phones at their desk I would include instructions for how to handle calls for them (i.e. take a message and email the intended recipient).

        I’d try to keep it updated if an exhibition opened or closed or if personnel changed — usually a beginning of the semester update was enough. I actually found it very useful for myself as well — if I was alone at the desk and in the middle of six other things, having the cheat sheet nearby, especially for the exhibition info, was super handy.

        1. Canadian Public Servant*

          I would be SO GRATEFUL for something like that, were I answering the phones. I hope people appreciate the work you did to make that happen.

      3. a1*

        I don’t know. I think the “how tos” are covered, and it’s more the ettiquette that’s the concern. That’s still trainable, of course, but different than the mechanics of the thing. They do have phone training, just not as thorough as the face to face training.

        We have talked to them before about a greeting, how to transfer calls, and basic things one might need showing.

        1. Natalie*

          All the more reason to be clear because it’s etiquette, I think – etiquette and standard operating procedure are not actually universal! Something like whether or not you want a receptionist to take a message vs always transfer to voicemail isn’t something they’re going to be able to figure out by poking around on google. If there’s a particular way you want them to behave, for the love of god tell them.

    6. Anon From Here*

      consistent procedure

      Yep. This is something I needed to be trained to do correctly back in the late 1980s; more modern phones haven’t changed the fact that answering calls, transferring calls, and taking messages is an office skill that doesn’t come naturally or instinctually.

      Also, an office phone is a piece of equipment that people need to be trained on, just like any other piece of office equipment. Even in the olden days my butterfingers could mess up with those gigantic buttons (see link in handle). Never mind that a dozen different offices will use a dozen different kinds of hardware and number combinations to get to an outside line.

    7. Phoenix Programmer*

      I was also recently shocked to find out our office staff were just answering the phone with “Hello.”
      or “What?” without mentioning our name or their name at all!

      These folks were 39-59 so the no phone thing wasn’t even a part of it. We work in healthcare so its kind of important too answer the phone professionally.

      1. SarahKay*

        Wow! I mentioned up above that when I worked retail every employee was trained on how to answer the phone with a standard “Good morning / afternoon / evening, you’ve reached the Whatever department in Bigstore of MyTown, how can I help you?” because, like you, they felt answering the phone professionally was important.
        Mind you, that did lead to me answering my home landline the same way a few times, since I took far more calls at work than at home and it just got to be habit.

        1. Jadelyn*

          My mother’s family still tells the story of when she was 15 or so, working over the holidays in her dad’s Montgomery Ward store answering phones, and one night when she was asked to say grace over dinner, everyone closed their eyes and bowed their heads, and my mother said “Dear God, thank you for calling Montgomery Wards, how may I direct your call?” It’s been 40+ years and she still hasn’t been able to live it down…

    8. Jadelyn*

      This is a great point – my coworkers and I all answer our phones slightly different, from the most formal “[Company], this is [Name] speaking, how may I help you?” to the most casual “This is [name]/[Name] speaking.” It doesn’t matter a huge amount for our team, and we do all sound professional on the phone so it’s within acceptable parameters, but there are teams for which that would be an issue and a more standardized format would be needed. So if it matters to you, OP, it might be a good idea to create basically a style guide for the phone – if there’s a greeting you want them to use, protocols for muting/putting on hold/transferring/etc. or things of that nature.

    9. MusicWithRocksInIt*

      You also need a solid procedure for what to do when you get a scam call or telemarketer. Collage kids won’t always know the red flags – like the people who call to give your company a ‘free magazine’ or who claim they service the copiers and need you to tell them what kind of copiers you have. What is the line about giving out information on employees? Do these kids know what information is too personal to give out? Are they allowed to give out cell phone numbers for people? Make a list of exactly what is not ok to do over the phone – what information is restricted and talk them through how to be polite but firm about not giving this stuff out.

      1. Ama*

        The copier toner scam is a big one for universities — I think we got at least one call from them a semester. Our student workers were trained that anyone trying to sell stuff could be sent to me so there was no risk that they’d agree to any unapproved expenses, but I did tell them that anyone who called about our “toner order” could be told “we have that taken care of, thanks” and hung up on.

      2. Natalie*

        Oh, yes, good point – a lot of the people that fall for those scams are first time receptionists (I know I was) so a quick overview of this would be helpful.

      3. AnotherKate*

        Oh gosh, I remember thinking I was going to get fired after being gullible enough to believe one of these scammers who kept saying our “Yellow Business Ad” account was in arrears and they were going to send us to collections! Luckily my boss airily said, “Oh, that’s a scam! Just ignore them.” I went from being terrified I’d accidentally cost my company tens of thousands of dollars (for a “business listing” that actually had our name spelled wrong, and only included information publicly available online) to actually telling the person calling that “Actually Kate is away on safari. Indefinitely” by the end of my time there.

    10. Snow Drift*

      Training everyone to use the same greeting can also be a good opportunity to review if the actual greeting needs to be updated.

      My GP used to have receptionists answer the phone with his name, so “Hello, Dr. FiveSyllablePolishLastName’s office, thank you for calling. How may I help you?” Then he expanded to add two other doctors, also with incredibly long names, and kept he same greeting format. You could fall asleep waiting for the receptionist to finish greeting you.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        I had a coworker when I worked at a university who would answer with “Good morning, thanks for calling Three-Separate-Names Hall, this is Firstname-That’s-Two-Names Lastname, how can I help you today?” and by the time she got all that out, I might have forgotten why I called.

      2. Matilda Jefferies*

        Yes, and a good reminder to keep it simple, too – no one wants to hear your company motto or the list of specials (which I did hear once when I called Jack Astor’s, as soon as they answered the phone), or really anything other than a very quick greeting.

        When I worked retail, the required greeting in my store was “Good morning, Chocolate Teapots Incorporated, Firstname Lastname speaking, may I help you?” Which doesn’t look like a lot on paper, but there are four separate elements there, and it takes a surprisingly long time to say.

        Most callers don’t need anything other than to know they’ve called the right place, so just the two elements – [company or department name], [name of the person answering the phone] – should be plenty.

        1. Kelly L.*

          This too! I’ve worked places where I had to do a long-ass spiel, and when you combine that with my “pretend to be a professional adult phone voice,” I got mistaken for a voicemail greeting more than once. And it’s awkward, and no one is listening anyway.

    11. Dr. Pepper*

      I don’t see why you would *not* train employees on phone etiquette because each company does it differently. As demonstrated by the above responses, there are many variations of desired phone scripts, policy, and systems. Assuming anyone would automatically know how a particular company wants the phone answered and how to handle incoming callers is, well, setting things up for failure. Add in that the employees here are students and may have even less phone experience than previous generations, and likely no experience with professional phone etiquette, and I don’t see why you would think you could skip this part of the job training. A lot of things seem obvious *after* you’ve learned them, but if you’ve never done something before, it isn’t always obvious to you.

    12. JB*

      Every time I assume someone will already know how to do things the right way, I wind up being disappointed.

    13. Yay commenting on AAM!*

      Office phones are *hugely* different than regular phones, there should 100% be training on them. They have more buttons and functions (hold, mute, transfer, voicemail, multiple lines), they do stuff that’s weird (sometimes outgoing call ID doesn’t work! you have to dial 9 to exit the building! some freak out if you dial 10 digits within the same area code and some require 10 digit dialing; some require 1+ area code and some can’t process it. We even had one phone that couldn’t dial outside the building, so all staff in that area had to keep their cell phones handy for non-critical emergencies.)

      I had to put a post-it note explaining how to dial 911 from one of our phones at work, because not only did none of the cell phone generation know how to do it, the company switched networking software that markedly changed how phone numbers were dialed…so long-time employees suddenly couldn’t figure out how to place a call.

      1. Magenta*

        I have no idea how to use my office phone. It is showing all the missed calls and voicemails I’ve had since I got it. The voicemails are emailed to me so I listen to them on my laptop but I have no idea how to clear them on the actual phone.
        It is one of those things that it would be nice to know, but something always gets in the way of me bothering to find out.

    14. ModernHypatia*

      Specific (though not unique to) libraries stuff is also really helpful:
      – Do they have to give their name? (Possibly a not-great idea for various reasons: help them figure out what works for them and your library. Some places do middle name or pick-a-name that’s used consistently, so that if there is a problem with harassment, it doesn’t spill over into other parts of their life as easily.)

      – Calls if librarians aren’t available (everyone in a meeting, maybe evening/weekend hours/etc.)

      – Do you have people who call because they’re lonely and want to chat for half an hour? Give your student workers a script to get out of it (and reassurance it’s okay to use it.)

      – Creepy calls (heavy breathing, or the kind of thing where someone calls and the questions get progressively too-personal and creepier). Show them how to handle that appropriately for your setting. (And who gets told afterwards.) I’ve known a lot of student workers who were scared to report it.

      – What to do if someone gets too pushy, or they feel uncomfortable in other ways (probably ‘transfer to the librarian on duty’)

  3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#4, I would tweak the script a little as follows:

    “I want to let you know that I know that my work wasn’t at my usual level for a few months over the summer. I was dealing with a medical condition, and once we found the right treatment, I got back on track and don’t think it will be an issue again. I wanted to mention it in case you’d noticed and were concerned, so that you know both that I’m aware of it and that I’ve addressed it and have it under control now.”

    That way you don’t have to disclose that there may have been medication at issue (which could invite more speculation than a more generic script).

    Also, haters gon’ hate. People who believe in millennial stereotypes aren’t going to stop anytime soon, so I personally vote for discounting those stereotypes by 95-100% and living your best life in spite of them.

    1. Tau*

      Honestly, my first thought was not just eliding the fact that it was medication but also the fact that it was a medical condition in the first place: “I was dealing with some things in my personal life that have now been resolved.” That may just be my paranoia speaking, though, because in OP’s shoes I would not want to risk my condition being connected to me at work and would go for maximum obfuscation.

      1. another Hero*

        I think the benefit to “a medical condition” is that it’s likely to be perceived as carrying more specific legitimacy than an undisclosed “personal issue,” especially given that OP is new

        1. Myrin*

          I agree. I’m sympathetic to not wanting to mention health at all but just “personal issue” is so vague that people would probably substitute it with all kinds of fantastical explanations; not that there wouldn’t be any speculation about a “medical problem” but at least it would be more concrete and not lend itself to outstandingly weird theories about your membership in the mafia or something.

          1. Jadelyn*

            Yes – if I had an employee tell me it was “personal issues” I’d also, perhaps unfairly but if it’s a new staff member I think understandably, wonder if this was going to be the start of a pattern. What counts as a “personal issue” that is bad enough to tank your work performance? Are you going to turn out to be the type for whom every tiny thing that goes wrong in their personal life becomes the new excuse for not performing up to par? We’ve seen the letters about that kind of coworker here – “I had a flat tire/someone cut me off on the way to work/Starbucks was out of the seasonal beverage I like/I stubbed my toe getting out of bed/etc” all become excuses for not doing their work and expecting others to take care of them.

            Fair or not, “medical issues” does carry a great deal more weight and legitimacy, especially for someone new, than the nebulous “personal issues” – but I do agree with PCBH to leave out mention of medication.

            1. T. Boone Pickens*

              Well said Jadelyn. I definitely agree that mentioning ‘medical issues’ without going into too much context is the way to go. Especially with a new hire whose work has been admittedly subpar. The great news for OP is that it sounds like they have a solution to their problem. Hopefully this will allow OP to get their work back up to standard and I would imagine the situation will resolve itself.

        2. Psyche*

          Yes. “I was dealing with some things in my personal life” could come across poorly and raise concerns that it would happen again. The whole point is to demonstrate why it should not cause concern for the future. “I had a medical problem that was resolved” implies that it won’t be a problem going forward.

      2. misspiggy*

        Maybe, ‘I was dealing with some medical issues, and…’ would work. OP doesn’t have to share that she has A Condition, the idea of which might start negative speculation.

    2. Not Hyper*

      As someone with “non-hyper ADHD” (WTFE) i strongly caution you against disclosing that specific condition at work. There’s no shame in it, but it is a psychiatric condition; and treated with a drug that is demonized due to its chemical similarity to meth.
      I made the mistake of disclosing at a past job and unfortunately HR went psycho. Think calling and texting amat all hours, triple-calling if I was, say, driving /showering/ at the movies and unable to pick up. These were non-work related, a way to keep tabs. I was hourly and they refused to pay overtime so… A coworker forwarded me some very paternalistic and condescending emails about me.
      TLDR: some people make no distinction between “needs Ritalin to deal with your boring job” and “going to be a mass murderer who talks to walls”.

      1. Snow Drift*

        My husband’s job went nuts when they found out about his Ritalin. “You can’t bring speed onto our property!” Um, you can’t tell someone not to bring needed medication to work. His dosing schedule required lunchtime meds. Then they tried to tell him he could only bring one pill per day, and it had to be kept “discreetly”. Also not gonna happen: Schedule 2 drugs must be transported in their original, properly labeled containers.

        1. SpaceySteph*

          My company has a policy against bringing drugs to work aside from a single day’s dosage in a clearly labeled container. Meanwhile every woman who keeps Advil in her purse for period cramps is technically violating that policy, myself included. It seems like the kind of policy that sounds great when you are sitting around writing policies, but in practice it excludes a lot of very normal and reasonable behaviors. (also probably was invented by men who don’t think about period cramps but that’s another matter)

          1. IDontRememberWhatNameIUsedBefore*

            I always keep the prescription bottle from my previous fill of Adderall in case I am going to be in a situation where I need to take any with me. That way I don’t have to worry about things like losing a whole month’s prescription should something happen.
            Also handy because one of my medications now must come with such a long warning label, they end up having to put a very tiny amount of extremely small pills in an Rx bottle big enough that it could hold hundreds of them (which I find not just annoying but extremely wasteful.)

      2. Louise Belcher*

        I have to agree. I had a somewhat similar situation to OP at my old job. I was just realizing that I needed to get back on my medication, and around the same time, my workload increased dramatically. I was drowning in work (my whole department was) and made too many data entry errors and eventually got put on a PIP. When my supervisors met with me to tell me they were putting me on a PIP, I told them I had ADHD, I had recently realized I needed to get treatment again, and I thought a lot of my work issues would improve once that happened.
        My manager said, “Well, I also have ADHD and I don’t make these kinds of mistakes, so I don’t want you to use that as an excuse. ”
        I almost quit on the spot.

        1. CleverName*

          Oh, that is tough. People with ADHD are often very hard on themselves and are often super sensitive about misconceptions of ADHD being applied to them. I would have a very hard time responding to that.

          I agree with most of what everyone is saying. Once you know your manager well, you can decide whether or not to disclose. For example, my direct manager knows I have ADHD (non-hyperactive, as is frequently the case for women). It has been helpful to be able to tell her – I have been having issues with my medication, so if I seem off, that’s why, and if you have concerns about deadlines, please feel free to remind me (frequently!). I hope to have it under control soon. – that kind of thing. I have NOT told her I am also on medication for depression, because I know she doesn’t “get” depression and I don’t want to have that conversation.

          I tell very few other people at work that I have ADHD, because I don’t want them to think I’m not capable of something because of it, and I don’t want it used against me. Unfortunately, that happens a lot.

          I’m with everyone else – a “medical issue that is now under control” tells your manager you recognized a problem and found the solution. And you can always say you’re not comfortable discussing medical issues if they ask questions (they shouldn’t ask). A “personal issue” is too vague – especially since you are relatively new – as others have said, it leave too much for interpretation.

      3. IDontRememberWhatNameIUsedBefore*

        In my reasearch I’ve discovered that ADHD (I also have the inattentive or non-hyperactive variety…basically it’s your brain/mind that is restless and hyperactive, not your body) is NOT a psychiatric condition but a neurodevelopmental and genetic disorder. It is therefore more properly compared to learning disabilities, autism spectrum disorders, dyspraxia (I have this also), cerebral palsy, Down’s syndrome, intellectual disability/mental retardation, Tourette’s syndrome, fragile X syndrome, and many more.

        I think the misclassification of ADHD as a ‘psychiatric disorder’ and not a genetic/neurodevelopmental one is part of the reason so many people think that it is not ‘real’, or is ‘really’ caused by bad diet/poor parenting/too much TV etc instead of seeing it as the entirely organic medical condition that it actually is.

    3. Lemon Bars*

      Its great that OP wants to let their manager know why their performance waned and I love the script PCBH has above and think avoiding saying the ADHD diagnosis or mention medication issues would be best. On the millennial stereotypes the only way to effectively combat that after you may or may not have reinforced them with not being at your best for a few months would be to do a great job for a longer amount of time. Honestly any way you go millennial or not the only way to change reasonable peoples perceptions are to show them with your work. Busybodies, gossipers, and for lack of better wording on a friday morning “nut-ball” co-workers are never going to be swayed but the rest of the workforce when you prove you are on top of things consistently these people will judge you based on that and not what time frame you were born in or any other stereo type.

      1. Lilo*

        I have a relative with bipolar disorder, which is fine when her medication is working and occasionally she has trouble (maybe once every few years). I know she worries a lot about facing discrimination or being undermined because she has been dismissed as “crazy” in the past. ADHD is different but I would still worry about being delegitimized and I recommend staying to a clear medical script.

        I don’t think disclosing to some extent is a bad idea. My work slowed a bit (but was still well in expected parameters) in my first trimester due to the tiredness and I did tell my boss precisely why Inwas tired. But I knew I worked in a very friendly office for that issue.

      2. Chameleon*

        I agree that avoiding the ADHD diagnosis is a good idea, especially when you are new, but I also have to say how much I hate that mental health *still* isn’t considered to be a valid health issue. Take a sick day because you have a migrane? Sure! Take a sick day because my mind is moving at fifty miles an hour and I can’t quite string a coherent sentence together? Either I’m faking it or I’m on the verge of shooting up the place. -_-

        1. Jadelyn*

          +a million. It sucks. And especially with ADHD, there are so many people out here who “don’t believe in it” – what’s to believe? It exists whether you believe in it or not, we’re not unicorns. – and get snotty about people seeking treatment for it, because they think you just need to “try harder” or whatever. Or think it’s a thing that only applies to ten-year-old boys who run around a lot, adults don’t have ADHD, right? (People who think ADHD is a “kid thing” always crack me up. Do you think ADHD acts like some kind of magical Neverland where kids don’t grow up? Kids with ADHD, surprise surprise, grow up into adults with ADHD.)

          Unfortunately, especially when you’re new and don’t have a great feel for your manager’s thoughts on mental health issues yet, it’s probably best to slide around any mention of those.

          I have the luxury of being open about mine, but that’s because 1: I know for a fact two other members of my team have mental health issues they’re either on medication for or have taken medication for in the past, and 2: I’m a known quantity of nearly 5 years with a “rockstar” reputation so I can use a little of that capital to hopefully push back on stereotypes and stigma a little bit. But I very much know not everyone is in a position to do that. Do what you need to do to take care of yourself and preserve your job standing.

        2. Justin*

          Or even if they *do* recognize that it’s legit and don’t think that you’re crazy, they still think that you can just push through it. They would never expect a person with a migraine or other physical malady to “just deal” but anything mental is seen as a weakness to just overcome.

          1. Marissa*

            Executive function disorders are hard that way. If you’ve never had a gap between trying to make your brain do a thing and actually doing the thing, it’s hard to understand that one can even exist.

          2. Rebecca*

            Oh, yes they would. I have both physical chronic illness and ADHD, and have experienced discrimination for both. Fun times!

            1. clunker*

              Exactly this– people seem to think chronic physical illnesses or disabilities are respected where mental illnesses are not and it drives me crazy. Temporary physical illnesses and injuries are better respected, as far as I can figure out, and even those are subject to some ridiculous “why didn’t you just work from home with the flu?” type stuff sometimes.

              I have both physical/mental chronic illnesses and I’m very open and scientific about the physical one because I am privileged to be very well informed about it (and I have access to great treatments and doctors as well) and therefore able to shut people down when they start saying stuff, but I’m also unable to keep it secret due to the visible nature of it. It makes more sense for me to be open and very self-assured about what I need regarding that and I’ve been relatively successful in most contexts. But I’ve also had some very bad experiences regarding this.

              At the same time, I’ve also had good experiences with a manager understanding mental health concerns as well. These things go manager by manager and depend on their experience and understanding.

              Please, able-bodied/physically-healthy people understand- your manager being cool with you about the flu or a broken leg doesn’t mean they’re cool about chronic illnesses or permanent disabilities. Heck, them being good about any one chronic illness/condition/disability doesn’t translate into them being cool about any other.

          3. Aaron*

            My MH problem means that when I get overstimulated I get migraines. I’ve still been told I must be faking because I don’t fit the stereotypes.

    4. HappySnoopy*

      I’m with Another hero and Myrin. Stating a medical condition gives context but not details OP may not wish to divulge. We know the diagnosis in the commentariat, but it could be anything in the range of health issues. A painful chronic ailment can disrupt concentration and create added stress too. OP can say as much as they’re comfortable with, and like Alison said, its an explanation, not an excuse.

    5. Oranges*

      I’m with PCBH here. As a new, you don’t have the info if your work place is supportive.

      Right now I’m having serious issues with my depression (like if it continues to go downhill I’m gonna need to get admitted issues). I know I can tell my manager the reason and I’m the type of person who wants to tell her the reason. And she’ll understand AND help me get my jorb done while I’m dealing with this.

      In past jobs I’ve NEVER said the issue. At all. Nope. Not gonna happen because people don’t understand/or treat me condescendingly.

      It’s taken me around 3 years to trust her with this info. Three years. You just don’t have the data points on how your boss will react and more than likely it’ll be… not good.

      1. Bye Academia*

        Sending you good thoughts. I hope your depression stabilizes soon, and I’m glad you’re checking in with yourself to know if/when you need more help. Best of luck.

    6. Dr. Pepper*

      I agree. I cringed a little bit when medication was mentioned in the script, because that is a word that triggers a whole host of questions that you would be better off without. Not that there’s anything wrong with medication properly prescribed by a doctor, it’s just that it invites people to wonder *what* medication you’re taking and why. Which you really don’t need. It’s only too easy to people to assume the worst, especially with mental health issues, and I too have run into several people who make very little distinction between “normal person with legally prescribed medication for X condition” and “psycho meth head who’s going to get hopped up and murder us all”.

  4. Joi Weaver*

    Oh man, I have epic stories about a boss who brought in a ton of interns, and refused to train them on the phones, to the point that our company got complaints. One girl was leaving a voice mail trying to get a publication interested in a press release, got the giggles, and just… hung up on the voicemail.

    1. your favorite person*

      Even now, 10 years after starting office work, I will create a script if I have a difficult call to have/voicemail to leave. When you are pretty sure someone is going to be unhappy, it makes me feel so much better to have bullet points to go off of, rather than trying to wing it.

      1. Emily*

        When I change the main office voicemail (for a holiday, remote workday, closing early, etc), it still takes me 3, 4, 5 tries! That’s with a script in front of me!

        1. Jean (just Jean)*

          You are not the only one who gets tongue-tied when recording an outgoing message (or when leaving a voicemail message). It is not an audition for a job in radio or audio books, but gaaaah.

          1. Jean (just Jean)*

            Meant to say gaaaah;my voice doesn’t know that.
            (Some days, even commenting is a challenge. :-P )

        2. Amber T*

          I haven’t worked reception in a couple of years, but I also did it for a few years, so you think it would be muscle memory. My coworker (receptionist) called me one night after she left saying she forgot to set it to the alternate voicemail (for when we’re closed early or holiday, so it doesn’t keep a caller in an endless loop of “enter your party’s extension”), and could I do it? Not a problem! I went up to the front desk and just stared at the phone… I had no idea how to do it. We have written instructions and even those confused me – I had to call someone to walk me through it. Not embarrassing at all…

          1. JulieCanCan*

            These days you need a degree in neuroscience to use some of those phone systems!

            Not to mention that once you’ve finally figured the system out, and you’re at the end of your new outgoing voicemail message (after 15 attempts), that final sentence will always bite you in the ass. “Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and thank you for cleaving a shmessage..I mean for LEAVING a MESSAGE! Oh Goddammit I need to re-do it a 16th time!” <<>>. Urg!

            1. Jean (just Jean)*

              Perfect summary! *chuckles in grim recognition*
              (The annals of live radio have many similar bloopers. People muck up something, curse, and plan to edit the tape later… but they don’t. Or the joy happens live, in the days before five- or ten-second delays.)

      2. CoveredInBees*

        Yes, I do this too. Not only with voicemails, but when I have to approach someone via phone that I don’t know as well as any specific numbers I’ll need to use. They could be numbers I know inside and out but I get momentarily distracted or the need to use them just springs up, and I trip over my tongue or mix things up. This doesn’t happen in person, but I often find it hard to concentrate when I can’t see the person I’m speaking to.

  5. Lilo*

    So to some extent I think when you bring a significant other to a work event the significant other is partially there to make you look good/humanized and act as a bit of a social lubricant (the standard meeting spiel tends to take up a lot of time/tension).

    I think and on again/off again significant other could be okay at an event like this, but only if they are a people person, and that would increase the likelihood you get asked about them in the future.

    The further caveat is that would not bring someone you have any kind of tension with, though, as that can be picked up on and you don’t want to be that person who fought or had passive aggressive sniping with their date at a holiday party. So if the on/off nature of your relationship is one of tension, then don’t bring him.

    1. AcademiaNut*

      There are three times I would say to *not* bring your date
      – your relationship is such that there’s a non trivial chance that you’ll be fighting or annoyed at each other at the time of the party.
      – you can’t trust them to behave in a way that doesn’t embarrass you. If they’re going to tell off colour jokes, drink too much, other otherwise misbehave, leave them at home.
      – if you haven’t been dating long enough to know the above, wait until next year.

    2. nnn*

      Yes, that’s a good point. A consideration in whether they’re a suitable date to a professional event is whether they will make you look good. It is a skill to socialize and manage conversation in a way that showcases one’s partner, and not everyone has that skill. (I certainly don’t!)

      Depending on variables, it might be the right decision to bring a spouse even if they don’t have the skill of making you look good. But if it’s a relationship you know is going to end anyway, there’s nothing gained by bringing them, and (depending on variables) it may be detrimental.

    3. Traffic_Spiral*

      Yup. Bring them if they’ll reflect well on you at the party, leave them at home if they won’t.

    4. Mookie*

      Yes, and the flipside is also true. You can have a great relationship with a wonderful partner who is just lousy at parties. And if this were a purely social function, with mutual friends and family, (a) you’d expect this partner to be cut some slack on that front and (b) you’d exist more as individuals, neither of whose behavior reflects well or poorly on the other.
      But this is still a work function, so at a minimum, your guests need to commit to a performance that is flattering to you. If that sounds like hard work—it certainly does to me—give them an out when possible. That way you don’t have to babysit, run interference, or answer probing questions later on, and they don’t have to commit to a non-vital, non-fun experience.

      If this relationship isn’t a keeper AND the boyfriend’s participation may pose even a slight risk, I’d say go alone and enjoy the time you have left with this man on purely mutually pleasurable and profitable experiences. But if he’s charming, fun, and discreet*, and likes the idea of attending, that there are no wedding bells in your future is not really much of a barrier; you are allowed to date people and then stop dating them later on. It’s not flakey and you don’t owe your colleagues, as a couple, a commitment ceremony in order to break bread with them and theirs once a year.

      *this sounds like an ad for a sexual encounter, but fine

      1. Bunny Girl*

        Yup. I really agree with this. Neither my long term boyfriend nor myself are very outgoing, or especially chatty. I only go to my office social functions when they are during the work hours, and I don’t bring my boyfriend even when he is welcome. He doesn’t go to his office social functions period. I don’t think either of us would really reflect well on the other, because while we are both polite people, I wouldn’t say anyone would describe either of us as charming or fun.

      2. Dr. Pepper*

        I agree as well. My husband, bless his heart, has a tendency to be very wooden in social settings where he doesn’t know anyone. It’s an effort for him to put on a good social manner and depending on his mood and energy level, can’t always manage it. So unless it’s important that he attend, I leave him home for work functions. We’re both happier that way. On the flip side, I attend most of his work functions because it makes him feel more comfortable and I can slip on the “people person” mask easier than he can (we’re both introverts), which makes him look more social than he really is.

    5. OP2*

      Social Lubricant is the exact reason why I want to bring him! I’ve only been in this position for about 6 months and all my coworkers have worked together for 15+ years and everyone else has a +1 for dinner. It’s a veryyy tight knit group and I think I would feel more awkward alone.

      I’ve mentioned my off/on BF a few times, mostly when talking about my plans for the weekend so most of my coworkers know I’m seeing someone so I think it’d be weird to other people if I didn’t bring him. Luckily, Cecil is a VERY friendly and outgoing person and he actually has a lot in common with a few of my coworkers so it should be a fun night!

      I just wanted to make sure I wasn’t breaking some professional faux pas by bringing someone I know my relationship wasn’t serious with. :)

      1. Bunny Girl*

        I think it’s all about knowing your company honestly! I used to bring my best friend with me to every office social event because I knew she would have more fun than my boyfriend would. Honestly if she lived closer I would still bring her.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          I wish we could bring bffs instead but we’ve got a strict “significant others only” rule. Sigh.

        2. CM*

          Agreed, I think this generally sounds fine but you might want to check with a friendly coworker. In some places, it would be weird to bring someone other than your spouse, and in others, any +1 is fine.

            1. Bunny Girl*

              I agree! It totally depends on the workplace.

              And you need to make sure that your coworkers know you’re bringing your friend. Otherwise that Monday you get loads of comments about how they “support your lifestyle.” :)

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        If Cecil is friendly and outgoing he could be a great choice. (I was thinking that one of my brothers in law would be perfect for this–like a high-quality rent-a-date he wouldn’t even need to know you to make charming small talk with your coworkers. Sounds like Cecil is cut from the same mold.)

      3. Lilo*

        Sounds like he’s fine to bring. As long as he’s cool with that role and getting asked about him won’t stress you out if you break up. If your office isnweirdly conservative or you want to ask “Is it okay to bring my boyfriend”, sure. But I don’t think the nature of your dating really matters, it is a party not say, including him in a family wedding photo.

    6. Radio Girl*

      Before I met and married my husband, I brought a former boyfriend to office parties. We often went out together as friends, too. It was handy to have a “walker” for evening events.

  6. Cobol*

    OP 5 you’re also free to spend 6 months working a minimum wage job, staying out late and traveling. Totally get if you don’t want to, or can’t afford to, but you don’t mention that. It’s weird to be waiting, and with the economic indicators what they are, I’d probably keep looking too, but 20 years into my career, that 6 months sounds fun.

    1. FTW*

      Specific start dates are really typical with on campus or enrty level recruiting, its really, really normal. I would not read it as a bad sign.

      Companies hiring on campus know when graduation is (usually May/June) and plan/budget new hire start dates accordingly. The December graduation date mixes this up a little bit, and there may have been a very limited number of spots for a January start.

      Typical start dates would be something to ask during the recruiting process, as well as about opportunities to start earlier. You wouldn’t want to phrase it as a deal-breaker, it’s something you might be interested in. If they hired people starting in January, this may have been the approach that these candidates took.

      1. Helena Handbasket*

        Exactly this – my company does the same thing with the class of new hires. We recruit in the fall for summer start dates, since that’s when most people will be graduating. Start date for everyone is in August regardless of when you happen to actually graduate. Most people take advantage of this and do extended travel, which gives you some good stories when you start work too!

    2. Imaginary Butterfly*

      It would also be a great time to do some temping! You could gain some different experience to put on your resume, and if you have to interview for temp jobs, “I have a new job that doesn’t start until June, so I’m looking for work in ______ field temporarily in the meantime” is a great reason to share for your interest in the role.

    3. Kelly AF*

      I’ll put in a plug for test prep teaching, which is by nature short-term. I taught LSAT and GRE prep courses for the Princeton Review for a few years and loved it. Each class was only a couple of months long, there are usually lots in most cities and college towns, and the per-hour pay is usually much higher than minimum wage. I really enjoyed it. It’s not full time, though, so you’d have to be okay with that.

      1. Not just another consultant*

        On a related train of thought, if you think you’ll go to grad school in the next five years, this is a great time to take the relevant exam. Many consulting analysts I know sat the GMAT in college or just after while their math and test skills were fresher and they had the time.

    4. grace*

      I came down here to say this! It’s really typical for a lot of larger / more structured companies to have specific start dates for new cohorts, so I wouldn’t worry about that. But I know I started my job just a few days after graduation, and now I look back and wish I’d taken more time – to travel, to decompress from college, to take the GRE or just go on a vacation to see my friends where they ended up instead of dealing with it now, with work and a life and a schedule that doesn’t want to cooperate.

      If you can, I’d consider it. :-)

    5. High Score!*

      No! Go for broke! Have a grand adventure! I wish I could take a 6 month break and have a job waiting for me! That’s a luxury, 30 years in with probs 10-15 or more to go, I wish I had that. Please do something awesome and send an update so all is poor souls who don’t have that luxury can live vicariously through you.

    6. BadWolf*

      Some accounting offices are looking for office help only from Jan-April to get through the tax season, if you need some basic income.

      My company was a going to have our spring graduating new hire start in October (!!), which is unusual for us (normally spring graduates start in June/July/August — basically, when they want to start in the summer time). My manager reached out to check if that’s when he wanted to start or an arbitrary company date and he started in August instead. I’m not sure if any strings had to be pulled, but I’m glad we could get him sooner than later.

    7. CM*

      +1 from somebody who’s now old-ish! Take the 6 months, be irresponsible, do something that pays the bills but isn’t a career, have an adventure or at least some fun. I wish I hadn’t been so focused on having a career, an apartment, and the rest of adult life the moment I graduated from college.

    8. sparty07*

      I disagree with Allison on her last paragraph. Companies who hire on campus are generally looking to hire X people to fill specific roles they’ve designed to start in the summer time frame and generally have a predetermined time period to recruit and interview candidates in order to compete with other businesses looking to hire the same top talent. If a college student accepted a job offer for a June start date (which is a pretty standardized college hiring timeframe) and cancelled on me in March/April, I might be stuck with an empty job or looking to hire lesser qualified individuals who still didn’t have an offer/job lined up. Most of the top people I knew had and accepted job offers by Christmas with expected start dates in June. I would say this mistake is more on the candidate vs. the employer who accepted the job without being 100% certain when the start date was. There are plenty of ways to fill the time as mentioned above before starting this new job.

    9. Lucille2*

      Another vote for this advice! Take some temp work, or find some seasonal work somewhere interesting if you can afford it. You could work for a resort or cruise ship and have the opportunity to travel while making a few bucks. Or if you have the option to live with family rent free for the short term, do some temp work and travel in your free time. Once you start the rat race, those opportunities become fewer and farther between.

    10. Orange You Glad*

      Agree with this 100%! My biggest piece of advice I give to graduating college students is to take a break between school and work if they can. I understand financial issues can make this hard, but even a week to mentally recharge before starting full time work (which hopefully will last for the next 40+ years) will help with the transition and prevent early burn out.
      I was fortunate enough to find employment before I graduated (during the recession) and started at the company part time during my last 2 months of school. I went from graduating on Saturday to starting full time 40 hours on Monday. My boss offered me time off or a later start date to go full time but I was so nervous about money at that point that I didn’t take it. By October, I felt mentally exhausted and wish I had just taken some time to myself before jumping into my career.

  7. Eric*

    #5. It sounds like you asked why the stay date was late, but not if they could make an exception and move up your start date. Id you haven’t asked them clearly and directly to do so, it may be worth giving that a try. Even if it results in june becoming may or April, that could still help.

    1. Darren*

      My company (and this is fairly typical amongst our industry) have 2 graduate intakes a year. We on-board experienced hires at any part of the year but for grads we want them all starting at the same time to facilitate training, and onboarding.

      1. Patricia*

        Maybe they could call the recruiter and offer to start in January if any of their January “class” doesn’t show up.

  8. AutumnAlmanac*

    OP #3, yes, definitely! Phone systems change so frequently that it’s vital that anyone who’s expected to use it is at least given a training session, preferably with a half hour on the phones with a supervisor. Plus it can get really stressful taking messages that make sense when you’ve also got calls coming in at a rate of knots. Providing a full-size notebook with appropriate headings might also help.

    1. Kerr*

      Absolutely! Write up basic scripts that they can reference. Answering a business phone is very different from answering your home phone, and having scripts and procedures written down is a lifesaver. Also a phone button “cheat sheet” for your system.

      “Basics” like putting a caller on hold, or getting ALL the caller’s information before transferring, aren’t automatic responses for, say, a flustered new receptionist without prior training. (I learned, eventually, and wrote my own scripts.)

    2. Kiki*

      Yes! Phones at different companies/ offices can be significantly different as well as the accompanying etiquette expectations. Having a cheat sheet is ideal, especially for things employees will do sometimes but not often.

      1. CastIrony*

        Yes on cheat sheets!
        Here’s a small cautionary tale:
        At my workplace, there’s certain numbers you have to press before making a phone call, and it’s on whether the phone number is a local number or not. Did I learn that at my current job? No. I learned that at a work-study position I had before this.

        Unfortunately, because there’s no cheat sheet for the phone where I work now, I always forget what buttons to push when I have to put on hold or how to transfer a call.

      2. Chameleon*

        At my new job, I share an office with two other people. We have a shared extension with separate voice mail boxes.

        None of us know how to connect to voice mail. All three of us have PhDs.

        1. Koala dreams*

          On my personal mobile phone I disconnected the voice mail pretty quickly, since I never rememberd to check it. I’ve noticed that some of my friends have a voice mail recordings (This is X’s phone, I can’t answer right now…), but callers can’t actually leave voice mail. Maybe that would work for your office?

        2. Yay commenting on AAM!*

          I’ve had this happen! IT/admin needs to reset your PIN. Chances are, the person who had the PIN moved on without sharing it with the others, or shared it in passing and they all lost it.

          Typically the default PIN is the last 4 digits of the phone number.

          1. Chameleon*

            No, I mean we cannot reach the voice mail system. I have no idea how to even access the mailbox, not just that I don’t have the right pin. I’ve tried pushing every button on the phone, I’ve tried calling the number and pushing pound or star when the message comes on…no dice.

            We just give our cell phone numbers out as our work numbers. Students never call anyway.

        3. Been There, Done That*

          At the dawn of the Voice Mail Revolution, I worked for several months at a computer consulting firm. We’d tell the caller we were transferring them to the vmail system and at the prompt to press 1 for Fergus and 2 for Jane. (That was all the people who had personal vmail boxes.) The callers were professionals with advanced computer science degrees who wanted to impress us with their smarts and qualifications so we’d hire them. They’d get so rattled at the need to press a button and say their message.

    3. T3k*

      Yep, and make sure to note all the info they need to take down when taking a message. My first intership I made that mistake but thankfully the person called back a few hours later.

      1. Washi*

        Yesss good point! At my first student job, I learned this the hard way when I went to my supervisor to tell them someone called and it went like this:

        “Bob called you and would like you to call him back.”
        “Bob who?”
        “I don’t know”
        “Did you get his number?”
        “…No.”
        “What was he calling about?”
        *sheepish silence*
        “I didn’t ask.”

        1. Lily Rowan*

          On the flip side of that, my father had some very professional secretaries over the years and I always laughed when I was a kid and it went like this:
          “Hi, is Dad Rowan available?”
          “He’s not, can I take a message?”
          “Just tell him Lily called”
          “And your last name?”
          “Rowan”
          “And this is regarding?”
          “…I’m his daughter?”

        2. Bostonian*

          That would be me. I grew up with land lines, but *never* had a job that required me to answer phones/take messages. The one week I had to temporarily, as soon as I picked up the phone and someone said their name and where they were from, I forgot it. Didn’t write it down. I was useless!

    4. Asenath*

      Yes, give training. Last job but two, I think it was, we all had to do phone training. I thought it was a silly idea, but really I needed to know how to identify my employer and myself appropriately. Transferring calls without dropping them is also a useful skill. Even now, when I use the phone very little, I’m surprised how few people start off their call by identifying themselves. I do have call display, which almost invariably gives the callers’ number and not name or office name, sometimes says “private”, and once last week gave a name (not office name) of someone I assume was a previous employee. Use proper identification every time you answer the phone.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        Yes to all of this. There was no phone training at my current job and four years later I still can’t manage to transfer a call without dropping it. To be fair, though, I really don’t have much of a need for the phone here so it’s fairly rare that I get a call, much less one that has to be transferred. But still, it would have been nice to get a little training on the phone system.

      2. Anon From Here*

        I’ve gotten to the point where I answer my personal cell phone with, “Hello, Anon From Here speaking,” unless it’s a family member or close friend. I do some business and a lot of networking with my personal cell and this seems to save a bit of time and awkwardness.

    5. MusicWithRocksInIt*

      I’m still not sure i’m being polite enough when I have to ask someone for a last name. “Connect me with Harry.” uhhhh… we have eight Harry’s that work here and a Harrison, I’m gonna need more from you. “Which Harry?” “The one in IT”. We have over 1,000 employees – I have no idea which Harry works in IT. Why are you calling someone when you don’t know their last name?

      Also – what to do when someone calls and wants to tell your their entire life story – irregardless if you can actually help them with their issue. How you cut someone off so you can transfer them to the right person? Still feel weird doing that. I wish someone had run me through some scenarios when I first had to handle phone duty.

      Phones can be so AWKWARD. Give them some tools to deal with it.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        “I’m just into guys named Harry who work in IT. I figure a big company like yours, you’ve gotta have one. Hey, do you have any with a British accent?”

  9. Amylou*

    OP3: Yes! Please do the phone training, and also provide a cheat sheet on the desk with the exact sentences you want them to say, a phone alphabet, how to transfer the calls…

    We’ve had several interns, some pick it up real quick (the first time you talk them through), and some… just don’t… like the one who amongst other things kept forgetting there was a mute button – don’t know how many times I had to say: don’t cover your phone with your hand, use the mute button (!!!).

    1. irene adler*

      Yes! Don’t want anyone to excuse themselves from using or answering the phone because they have not been trained.
      When I was a newbie at a very small company, it was expected that everyone would grab the phone when the receptionist was out. Didn’t want customers to go to voice mail. I refrained from answering the phone because I just knew I’d screw it up=piss off the customer. Should have demonstrated some gumption and asked for training. That would have put me into a better light with management.

    2. MusicWithRocksInIt*

      If by phone alphabet you mean the phonic alphabet – I haven’t had great results with it. I used to have the military phonic alphabet printed off by my desk and some people used to get so confused when I would use it to spell things. Is that not a thing anymore?

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        You need some sort of way to convey “this word, or this rhyming word?” My street gets turned into a variety of rhyming things, so I have perfected “Parfor–‘par’ like golf score, ‘for’ like for you.”

        What I usually get when we’re trying to convey, say, “confirmation B279AZ” is “B as in Bob…” (Common names are perhaps more popular than the military alphabet.) “As in” seems to be the key that alerts people you mean the letter.

      2. fposte*

        There are different phonetic alphabets, so I don’t think it’s required to do the NATO one (and as far as I can tell, that was never an established thing across the board in civilian use). But I can see the point of giving people a script to avoid “S as in, um, syphilis” kind of flailing.

  10. Party Loving Introvert*

    OP1 – As an introvert who loves to plan parties but hates being forced to socialize, I would suggest playing a movie during the party. Perhaps if your team likes the idea of having a festive gathering but would like the option to sit back and relax and not have to make conversation, watching a holiday movie while eating treats might be enjoyable for the quieter people?

    1. AcademiaNut*

      Only if it’s completely opt in! I’m a quiet person, but I’d much rather badly sing karaoke at a holiday party than sit through most holiday movies.

      Given that the previous attempt involved people sitting in silence for 90 minutes, I think I’d skip the social part altogether and send an email on a Friday saying that you had treats in your office, and for people to stop by to pick them up.

    2. HBucket*

      I think I’d definitely as my staff what they’d like to do… offering suggestions of more party; less party; no party. And ask for ideas if they want more party. I personally like the idea of handing out the cookies and gift at the end of a staff meeting. No pressure at all.

    3. Clare*

      I’m a quiet person too, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like to socialize and enjoy myself, and quite frankly OP’s “celebration” sounds like my worst nigjtmare. There is no worse party than sitting around a conference room with nothing to do. The entire focus is then on nothing but the conversation- very awkward for the quieter types. Personally i think going out for lunch or an early happy hour is much better, being in a different place, looking over the menus, eating, having a drink- it gives people something to do and talk about and is more enjoyable than sitting in an office meeting room. Quiet people like fun too!

      1. Mookie*

        Yes. Tasks, baubles to stare at for extended lengths of time, and props for stage “business” are the keys to a successful social event for introverts.

        1. aebhel*

          Agreed! Which is kind of counter-intuitive, I think, but blank-slate socializing can be very difficult for a lot of us introverts. We like having something to do.

          1. Jadelyn*

            I don’t think it’s counter-intuitive, really – blank-slate socializing requires the attendees to do all the work to carry the event. Whereas having Stuff arranged gives an external structure for the interactions that everyone can lean on to help ease the way.

            1. Mookie*

              Yeah, there’s a lot of mental, emotional, physiological labor expended just in showing up and in nervous anticipation of doing so. Whereas it’s a cakewalk to get lost in chummy, collaborative Party Games ‘n’ Pub Quizzes because the emphases there are not on decorous murmuring and ‘visiting’ the room, where the focus is on being the correct mixture of interesting when speaking, active when listening, and polite enough to know when to piss off and mingle in another group.

              1. Mookie*

                The rules there aren’t unfathomable (a lot of the dysfunction is stage fright, not ignorance or inexperience), but, as you say, structure is an excellent crutch for feeling normal and valuable.

        2. Elsajeni*

          Yes! I learned this when I was trying to make friends in a new city — I went to a few different Meetup groups, and found that the more structured the activity was (“at Mahjong Club we play mahjong, in groups of four, for two hours” vs. “at Young Professionals Happy Hour we chat, with whoever we feel like, until we feel like leaving the bar”), the more I enjoyed it and the easier it was to actually meet some new people and make conversation.

      2. Important Moi*

        As an introvert myself, I love that last line and plan on using it.

        “Quiet people like fun too!”

      3. MusicWithRocksInIt*

        Yes – I would much rather there be food to focus on. Plus in a louder place like a restaurant it is easier to get several conversations going. With more noise cover you can’t be expected to all talk to the person at the head of the table so you can chat with the people right next to you. I would drop the cookies and gift and just poll people to see where they all want to go to lunch together.

      4. Dr. Pepper*

        Yes! I was thinking that as well. Quiet people like having fun too, it’s just that we don’t have fun in a barren room with nothing to do but….. talk. Unless it’s a close friend I haven’t seen in awhile, I’m not going to have enough to say to sustain any type of conversation for 90 minutes.

        Food, and an activity of some kind where people can talk or not, would be far more fun. Going out for a team lunch or happy hour sounds much nicer than a meeting that isn’t a meeting. At one workplace, our team would go out for lunch and have a white elephant gift exchange with a prize (usually chocolate) to the person who brought the wackiest item. It was fun to talk about the silly and stupid gifts, and nobody had to think of something to talk about.

        At one place I worked, a group of us had a present wrapping party, which was actually a lot of fun. We had a giving tree in our lobby, with tags on it for local kids in need and the things they both needed and wanted. It was run through a local charity. Once the donation window had closed, our team gathered to eat Christmas cookies and wrap all the presents. It was great. There was food, a task, and ready-made conversation topics.

      5. Breeshey*

        Thanks for articulating the pressure of a ‘celebration’ lacking an agenda, activity, or task. If I am feeling a bit of that myself, my staff must be feeling it even more strongly. What I thought was efficient was probably a mis-match of social expectation in a work setting.

    4. Seeking Second Childhood*

      well worth asking, and be ready for wildly varying answers.

      I hate video in the background because it’s just un-ignorable for me. I have ADD and a hearing loss. Visually TV catches my attention and draws my eye even if I want to be involved with something else. The background of talking means I risk losing what my friend is saying, or mixing up Chevy Chas with my manager.
      Parties with music are tricky enough…videos make them hard work.
      And as an aside, Buffalo Wild Wings is in my 7th circle of hell.

      1. MsChanandlerBong*

        Imagine telling your manager that you and your coworkers are the jolliest bunch of a**holes this side of the nuthouse. Awkward!

        1. Breeshey*

          This is the letter writer here: good point!! I know it irks me when my parents order me to have fun at a family gathering. I don’t want to make my wonderful staff feel that way!

    5. I Love Thrawn*

      Can’t go wrong with the Muppets Christmas Carol. Or the Star Wars TV Christmas Special, if you can find one that George Lucas didn’t destroy.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        You can potentially go wrong there if you have team members who don’t celebrate Christmas and/or are sick of Christmas being EVERYWHERE.

        1. Frozen Ginger*

          +1 Pick something that’s not specific to one holiday. Or only holiday-adjacent, like Die Hard.

          1. Yay commenting on AAM!*

            Die Hard has sex, nudity, drug use, and multiple uses of the F-word, on top of violence and gore. It definitely wouldn’t be allowed at a lot of the places I’ve worked.

    6. MusicWithRocksInIt*

      An activity is a good plan – but not a forced one. Maybe bowling or a pool hall where you can play if you want but sit and chat if you don’t? My department is going to an arcade this year – and last year we did painting with a twist. Having something to focus on is key. As is food – I would much rather have someone buy me lunch than give me a gift of the same cost. I know I am gonna use that lunch.

      1. CM*

        I’m also wondering where this party takes place. Is it in a conference room? That’s not conducive to a party and very conducive to people sitting around a table and staring at each other. Play some music, have some popcorn, consider serving beer or wine and soft drinks, make it a party-like atmosphere. You could also consider having some activity like wrapping gifts for a toy drive.

        1. Chocolate Teapot*

          I like the idea of a short “Open House” or “Open Office” in this case, which doesn’t tie people into a specific amount of time.

    7. Mockingdragon*

      Or solo activities adjacent to one another – my (admittedly young-skewing) office last year did an extended lunch where there were stockings to decorate with puffy paint and fabric stickers, and gingerbread house kits. You can chat with other people about what they’re doing, or you can do your own thing, or you can avoid it and just eat lunch.

  11. MissMia*

    OP3: Yes. Do the phone training. I’m a front end supervisor in retail and one of the first things I have customer service desk trainees do is answer the phones. I tell them I need for them to get comfortable with the phones. I tell them the scripts for answering and transferring the calls. And they also have to call the customers when something is up with their orders. It’s important not only for the job, but also almost none of these employees are going to stay at this job forever, and many of them are young. Learning how to answer phones and make calls will help them in their future careers.

    1. Pam*

      Have them practice as well- do some test calls; have them transfer a call around; etc. Listen in and critique- while you want them using the script, you want them to sound pleasant, and not speak too fast or slow.

  12. Sounds Familiar*

    Op#3 -Yes, you do have to teach them everything. They grew up being constantly connected to each other, and the whole concept of making a call, having a conversation, leaving a message, and agreeing to end the call, is foreign to them. My teenage kids will just leave a FaceTime call connected while they leave the room.

    1. Doc in a Box*

      Sure, some people may not have learned phone etiquette at home (especially now that families are less likely to have shared landlines), but business etiquette — like specific scripts, how to transfer calls, etc — is pretty different from home phone etiquette. I grew up in the 80s and 90s, well before the modern smartphone era (in fact I didn’t get a smartphone till I was 25) but it was still confusing when my hospital switched to VOIP and all the organization of straight-to-voicemail, how to transfer, how to put on hold, changed. A training or cheatsheet would have saved us a lot of angry patients whose calls had been dropped.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      My daughter does that with her grandmother all the time on our landline…so my MIL can’t even call me back to find out what went wrong.

    3. Anononon*

      At my office, instead of placing a call on hold, we place it on “park” where anyone else in the office can see it and pick it up. A new, young-ish coworker ran over to my desk because she had a caller she needed help with. I told her to put it on park, but she didn’t know how, so I figured she just had him on hold. We walk over to her desk, and I’m telling her briefly how to handle it, and then I look down and see the phone receiver just laying on her desk. She never even put the guy on hold.

      1. Kiki*

        I was guilty of doing this at an old job because our hold method wasn’t a simple hold button, it was a combination of buttons and doing it incorrectly could end the call or transfer it. I had experience as a receptionist too, just at a place with a much simpler phone. Every job should give phone training and practice and have a written phone guide on hand for reference.

    4. Mike C.*

      There is a whole lot of stereotyping going on here.

      I mean seriously, you don’t think that “kids today” don’t understand the concept of a discrete call?

      1. Alianora*

        Right. It’s not about age, it’s about what you’ve been taught is normal. If you have kids who don’t know phone etiquette, teach them! How are they supposed to learn if their parents and employers never say anything?

        1. Doc in a Box*

          Agree! I’m so irritated by assumptions that people automatically know how to do things, like they emerged fully formed from the head of Alexander Graham Bell. It’s yet another way to blame people under 40 for all that is wrong in today’s world.

    5. BadWolf*

      20 years ago, I had phone training so I could cover the front desk. It’s nothing new. I had to learn the correct greeting, how to transfer people, etc.

      1. fposte*

        Yes, I think it’s interesting that there seems to be a shift away from training people on these tasks even though they’re no more likely than ever to come in knowing them automatically.

        1. Yay commenting on AAM!*

          I’ve had a lot of jobs where they have the idea that “If you know what you’re doing, you’ll need no training.”

          Then of course, when you ask questions or make a mistake on internal protocol, they’re like, “I thought you had a lot of experience?” Yes, but there’s no way I could know that, say, this company’s insurance company requires people to wear sneakers on the pool deck, when industry standard is flipflops and sneakers are banned in most places. Or that Conservative Christian dress is required, even though there’s about 12 conservative Christians in our entire state and I have no idea what “Christian dresscode” means. Or that emails regarding teapots should be marked as spam, because the teapot team doesn’t do business via email and all of our customers know this.

          1. JulieCanCan*

            Yaaasssss! I started at a new company but I had done the actual job at a different company in the same industry for 10+ years. So yeah, I knew the client database program, the check processing system, and the way people’s money should be handled, but I don’t know that Client X likes her checks messengered to her Malibu home if the check is processed on a Monday, Thursday or Friday but on Tuesdays and Wednesday Client X will come to the office and pick her checks up. So when I mailed her check out (like all other 200 client checks that day) my supervisor said “You said you’ve done this for 10 years – why would you mail Client X’s check out to her??!!” Ummm, yes I’m very familiar with the position and all it entails – but it would have been nice for someone to put a note about Client X’s preferences in the system, or maybe alerted me about this fact in SOME way, prior to my making the mistake. I don’t have ESP and when I have no way of knowing these preferences and quirks, that doesn’t reveal anything about my ability to do the job. It means you’re too lazy to create any kind of alert system or even give me some training on the company’s “inner workings” that no one, regardless of how much experience, would have any way of knowing unless, you know, they’re TOLD..??..??

  13. Anon for this (but not to anybody be who worked there)*

    OP #1 – I like Alison’s suggestion to have an open door open house in your office that people can drop in and stay as long or as little as they want.

    I also agree with checking with your staff to see what they would like. I used to work at a place so very similar to what you describe.

    We had what were called “awkward teas” in which we would gather together to celebrate something (a holiday, birthday, wedding, birth, retirement). There would be several types of tea, and various treats (cakes, cookies, fruit). Everyone would stand awkwardly in a circle, eating and drinking but *not* talking for 15-45 minutes (depending on the type of celebration). It was so awkward.

    And yet they seemed to accept the awkwardness and openly called them “awkward teas.” The thought of not having an awkward tea was unimaginable. They would have been upset if they were cancelled.

    “We’re having Sally’s awkward tea on Tuesday. See everyone at 3pm!”

      1. Quackeen*

        We called them “leaving wakes” when they were those awkward “Sally got a new job!” parties. I love “cake and staring.”

        90 minutes just sounds way too long to me, and I am a social extrovert who loves parties!

    1. sheworkshardforthemoney*

      Last week I went to an office Christmas party and it was exactly like that. Management gathered at one end of the room, worker bees were at the other. There was no music or decorations and everyone awkwardly ate their dinner. After which we were all called forward one by one to receive the same generic $10 gift. I left as soon as humanly possible.

    2. Breeshey*

      Letter writer here: brilliant! Reducing the time and “owning the awkwardness” could really defuse the tension. Thanks for sharing this great description — I’m sure we all recognize it.

  14. Kerr*

    #1 – Card-carrying introvert here. Suggested: scheduling this for a half hour, tops. 90 minutes is a lot of awkward standing-around time without activities planned. Instead of a cookie for each person, how about a cake/pie/treat during the festivities? You can hand out gifts then, or stop by people’s desks.

    I would avoid doing it in your office, TBH – if it’s drop-in, make it a shared area.

    Also, bless you for not doing an after-work happy hour during the holidays!

    1. RUKiddingMe*

      Yeah 90 minutes is waaayyy too long. I’m ready to bounce from my *own* parties by the half hour mark.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        Definitely way too long, especially if you have a group where there might be some tension or awkwardness between people, as in people who just don’t click for whatever reason. I say cut it down to about 30 minutes or even less, or just ask what the employees want. I’m not sure having them drop by OP’s office would work since some people are very timid about just dropping by the boss’s office. But only OP knows if that would fly.

    2. misspiggy*

      Yes, cake involves time spent dividing it up and handing it out. And if you’re British, the ritual of making sure everyone’s got their preferred type of accompanying tea. Also if you’re British, you can provide crackers, get people to pull them and be amazed at how silly people look in their paper hats. These all use up time and count as valid and positive social interactions!

      Then OP can make a few remarks about what she appreciated from her team in the past year, hand out the gifts and ask a couple of questions about people’s holiday plans. Job very well done.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Hmmm… I may have to go looking for crackers here in the US because the engineering pot luck could definitely use a reboot.
        And many of them have heard me use the phrase “my British grandmother is showing” about my tea.

        1. ooffooClaire*

          I found crackers in the past at World Market here in the US. They didn’t contain hats though (at least not the ones I bought), but each one did have a card to play charades. Not sure if that chain is national, but it might be worth checking out if there’s one in your area!

        2. GoryDetails*

          Christmas crackers are actually fairly common – I’ve seen them at Barnes and Noble, Target, and other places, not to mention various online options. If you’re feeling especially motivated, there are kits for assembling your own crackers – they include the snapper and the outer shell, but allow you to include your own choice of small gifts, jokes, etc.

        3. misspiggy*

          A previous boss used the team end-of-year review to hand out personalised crackers she’d made from a kit. As well as the standard hat, joke and toy, each one contained a hand-coloured card describing what she’d most appreciated about us over the year. It was excellent.

    3. CTT*

      I’m an extrovert and also think 90 minutes of standing around without anything to do is too long! If I’m with work people, eventually small talk is going to come back around to work things, and at that point I’d rather just go back to my desk and actually work.

    4. Sam.*

      Having nothing to do but talk and eat is the real problem, I think. There needs to be an activity or focus of some sort. In my last office, they’d do an awkward monthly social hour with snacks and drinks. The organizer started adding low-commitment and non-compulsory activities to entice more people to stick around. The most popular option was coloring pages and markers, because it gave people something to do with their hands and if you didn’t have much in common with the person next to you, you could talk about crafting, if you’re into that, or their kids’ art projects, etc.

      My favorite holiday activity in that office was a gift wrapping party (the office would “adopt” and buy gifts for some local families – participation completely voluntary, of course). You didn’t have to go or stay the whole time if you did, but those there had something to do and something to talk about, which made it a lot more fun. OP has a few options for increasing enthusiasm, but reducing the time commitment and taking away the “stare at each other indefinitely” feel would go a long way.

      1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

        Cards are cheap and easy, and I feel like a lot of introverts I know like to play because it give you something to do in groups (I know I do). A Euchre tournament if you are in the right part of the county to know what that is – Gin Rummy is widely known. Apples to Apples works with a big group (but not the other one). There are some other, lesser known games that are easy to play that are set up for a larger group of people. It can be totally opt in and low stakes.

  15. nnn*

    There are so many reasons to provide phone training!

    – As others have mentioned, you might want to have scripts for various aspects of the job. Even at workplaces staffed by experienced professionals, some employers I’ve had liked to have standardized scripts for greetings, voicemail, what to do if you get a media call and you aren’t a media contact person, etc.

    – Many college students have never had an office job before, so they might not have been exposed to office norms. For example, in my first office job, if someone called and asked to speak to my boss, I transferred the call directly to my boss without question. (I’d previously worked in food service, where if someone asks for a manager, you get them a manager!) It also never occurred to me that if I don’t know how to answer a caller’s question immediately, I can look into it and get back to them. I thought I had to take care of everything right away and anything else was “cheating”, like it would be cheating on a school exam.

    – Not all office phones work the same way! Even if someone is fluent in norms and practices and etiquette, they could probably still use a primer on how to mute the phone or transfer a call without hanging up on the client. (Flashback to that awkward moment when I moved into a new office where the phone had different buttons, and had to tell a client “I’m so sorry, I can’t figure out how to transfer you using this phone, but here’s the direct number”.)

    – And much of this intersects with internal organization preferences. Just because one employer wanted me to answer the phone with a certain script doesn’t mean the next one will. Just because one boss wanted me to systematically try to help people before transferring them to him doesn’t mean the next one will. If you want them doing things in accordance with your preferences, you have to tell them what your preferences are.

    1. Jennifer85*

      +1 it does vary so much!

      I worked as a receptionist for 8 months where I was transferring calls basically all day/using two phones at once to put people on hold (phone wasn’t allowed to ring more than 3 times, but you could hold people for as long as it took.. lol) whilst dealing with customers at the front desk too. That was in a business centre where we answered for ~60 diff companies with different rules, some went straight through, others we had to check it sounded genuine, others we had to pass it on and tell them who was calling so they could decide whether to take it or not.

      I *still* avoid answering the phone at my current workplace/have to look up how to transfer calls every time, because it’s different, and I do it so infrequently that I forget! (There’s no receptionist here but also no public phone number so answering duty goes round different offices, but there’s probably only a couple of calls a week).

  16. AutumnAlmanac*

    You mentioned a 90-minute gathering in your post, that sounded, if not compulsory, then at least, forced? Without knowing the culture of your workplace, I can’t give a genuine opinion. With the best will in the world, though, that doesn’t sound like an ideal last day before the holidays.

    If you want to give your employees gifts, may I suggest gift cards, in well-chosen greetings cards, with a heartfelt, but not too personal, message, depending on your relationship with each employee, basically thanking for their help up to December?

    While I was working in offices, a genuine message of appreciation always made me much happier than a random box of chocolates with my boss’s secretary’s name on the receipt.

      1. MissDisplaced*

        I suggested downthread to just treat them to an ordered-in lunch instead of some separate gathering (it sounded like a separate gathering-but not sure?). You can give out the little presents while people are eating and then let them leave a little early that day (better!).

  17. beth*

    #3: Definitely! I graduated undergrad several years ago, and I definitely wouldn’t feel comfortable trying to ‘instinct’ my way into professional norms around them. I’m willing to bet that people several years younger than me would struggle even more than I would, considering how technology has changed communication habits.

    If it helps you justify it–phone communication genuinely is a different thing than face-to-face communication. You have to be able to convey tone with only your voice, no facial expression or body movement. You may have to speak slower or enunciate more clearly than you need to in person, especially if the connection is bad. You have to know what to tell someone when you’re going to put them on hold or mute them–or do you just do it without telling them? You have to know when to hang up, or if you should stay on the line until they hang up, or what. You have to know how to let someone know you’re listening and paying attention when they can’t see you looking at them or nodding along. A lot of these things might seem obvious to someone who uses phones regularly, but they aren’t actually part of face-to-face communication–they’re a different set of communication norms. And since phones make up a much smaller slice of the communication landscape than they used to, this job might genuinely be the first time some of your student workers are using them regularly; they may be unaware that these norms exist, much less that they’re violating them. (Even students who are familiar with social phone etiquette may not realize that professional phone etiquette is different in some ways.)

    Telling your workers exactly what you want them to do will make your phone answering more consistent and more in line with professional norms. That’s worth teaching some things that some kids might already know, isn’t it?

  18. Darren*

    OP5 this is very typical, it may however indicate that you left job hunting too late for that specific company.

    My work for example tends to hire it’s January/Feb starting Grads around the middle of the year (May-ish), while hiring the June/July starting ones are around December.

    This means that we are hiring people around when they’ve finished their penultimate semester, and since usually our internship opportunities are at the start of their final year our interns basically have their offer a few months before we hire the rest of the Grads (allowing us to get them sorted and work out how many more we need to fill our target for grad roles).

  19. Catherine*

    OP3, another reason to have phone training is that a lot of *customers* no longer have good phone etiquette.

    I constantly deal with customers who launch into their request or demand as soon as I answer the phone without any of the contextualizing information I need (who are you? ok, you want to reschedule this appointment, but who was it even with?). Your employees don’t only need to learn how to answer phones and reroute calls–they need to be taught how to take control of the conversation and keep from getting steamrolled by the caller.

    1. GermanCoffeeGirl*

      Definitely this! I started working in a lawyer’s office when I was 16 (I’m 36 now) and even though I grew up with phones/phone calls, I did not know how to keep my composure on the phone, especially when I had to talk to irate or rude clients. Phone training was a part of my job training/apprenticeship, but it was really valuable to have my boss sit me down and explain what was expected of me and how I was supposed to react, but also how to set boundries (so being rude = bad, telling a client no or standing my ground = very okay).

    2. WS*

      There’s a definite age curve on this – people under 30 stammer and get embarrassed talking on the phone, people over 80 just shout and expect you to know who they are. And then there’s the scammers and the cold-callers and the people trying to talk in a busy environment and so on and so on. Having a cheat sheet and knowing what to do and say is really important!

      Personally, I hate talking on the phone but I learned scripts and strategies so now I have no problems with work phone calls, just personal ones!

      1. Jennifer85*

        There’s also the set of people who don’t seem to understand that the person who answers the phone may not be the person they’re looking for. (In some cases this is understandable, eg in our work directory there’s only one number for all of us whereas in other parts of the business it’d go straight to the persons desk). This leads to confusing conversations where they launch straight in/seen annoyed that you don’t immediately know who they’re looking for. (I called Johns phone? Isn’t this John? Where is he? … I can pass you through, if you calm down and tell me which of the 4-5 Johns you’re looking for…)

        1. Kelly L.*

          Yes! I get a lot of calls from people who’ve either called our general office when they wanted someone specific within it, or have called the wrong department altogether, and launch into a lengthy story without ever seeming to take a breath, and when they finally pause, I have to jump in and figure out who this story was actually meant for! And if it’s too long or complicated or meandering to really paraphrase when I’m passing along the message, I feel bad that they’re going to have to explain it again. People, figure out if you’re talking to the right person before you tell your life story! LOL.

      2. Julia*

        Can we not generalize like that? I’ve never stammered or felt embarrassed on the phone, and I’m under 30. We’re not all incompetent.

        1. Asenath*

          And the 80 year olds I know have excellent phone manners and never expect people to know who they are. They grew up with phones and no caller ID. It’s people my age and younger who expect me to recognize their phone number and don’t identify themselves.

        2. Jadelyn*

          For the record, stammering or feeling embarrassed is not the same as being “incompetent”, and I strongly object to that mischaracterization – it’s rude and uncalled-for. I’m 33, have SEVERE phone anxiety (as in, I will let critical medical appointments go unscheduled for months if I can’t use the online system to make the appointments and have to actually call and talk to someone – yes, I know it’s not rational, but I just have Issues), I have been told I have a very professional phone manner, but I do think I probably stammer and get awkward because of my anxiety. That doesn’t make me “incompetent”, it makes me someone with anxiety, thanks very much.

      3. Anon for this*

        I stammer on the phone, but it’s not because I’m under 30, IT’S BECAUSE I’M A STUTTERER.

    3. Birch*

      On the other hand, customer service is so opaque these days and appropriate systems are not maintained so that often if you want to speak to a human you have to just call whatever number you can get a hold of and hope that whoever answers (if you’re lucky enough to be able to get to a human) can transfer you to the person you need. It’s also on the employee who answers the phone to be able to ask the questions that allow the customer to get what they need.

      1. Washi*

        Of course! But I think the point of Catherine’s comments is that even a worker who has grown up using the phone for their personal life and who has great phone etiquette might not know what to do in tricky situations when callers don’t behave exactly as they’d expect (and if you have the general public calling your phones, that is quite frequent.) When I had a customer-service external-facing type job, it took a lot of practice to be able to gracefully interrupt the people who would just launch into a 20-minute lecture about their problem that I was going to need transfer to someone else anyway, or get the necessary information from someone who wanted to be transferred to my boss with no questions asked.

        1. Birch*

          Yeah, I realize that happens a lot. I’ve just been way too often on the other side of it as a customer where I have no idea who I’m talking to, they don’t ask any questions to get information from me, and I find myself just stringing together an increasingly complicated series of explanations for why I’m calling in the hope that at some point they’ll act like I’m asking for a reasonable thing. You’d think “I need this service from your company which does the service” is enough for the employee to then ask me what information they need from me in the order they need it, which is not the same order that I would provide it, even if I could read their mind. This is all an argument that yes, everyone should be phone trained if answering phones is part of their job!

          1. Seacalliope*

            The other side of it is “your company does this thing” is so frequently untrue. Often, it’s more like “one of your clients does this thing and you offer customer service, but need precise details about which client it is before you can handle the problem.” Which, as someone who was giving the customer service, was my job to determine, obviously. That’s much of why it is important to train employees.

    4. BookishMiss*

      Yep. I have a phone job, and callers are about 50/50 on identifying themselves before launching into why they called. Being able to control the call was a huge part of my training, and it’s so helpful to know how to steer the conversation.
      It really isn’t intuitive for most people, though, so teach them all the tricks you know!

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        See, I don’t identify myself because a lot of the time, I’m either going to be transferred to someone else, or they’re going to want different identifying information. It doesn’t help to call my insurance company and say “Hi, this is Rusty Shackelford” when they’re just going to ask for my ID number. If I call and say “Hi, I need to talk to someone about a misfiled claim,” it’s because I figure they’re probably going to transfer me to that person.

  20. Aaron*

    #4 I’d be really careful about sharing that information (fellow sufferer here). I tend to keep mine under wraps professionally since there was a big glut of over diagnosing a while back and ADHD is often unfairly shorthand for careless.
    Once the genie’s out of the bottle it can’t go back in. Of course, genies can also make your life easier, so there’s that.

    1. Doctor Schmoctor*

      I agree. ADHD is something you shouldn’t have to hide, but we all know how people are. Someone will judge you. Rather say it was a medical condition, but it’s all sorted out now.

    2. KeepingQuietAboutADHD*

      Yes! I’m a diagnosed later in life (mid-20s and I was just diagnosed this year) millennial like the OP and I just know growing up in the 90s and 2000s how many people were convinced ADHD was fake, that I would be/am really hesitant to bring it up at work. If I needed to mention it for some reason I’d probably keep it very vague or not bring it up at all just hope my improvements spoke for themselves. It shouldn’t be that way and maybe it’s overly cautious but it’s how it is.

  21. Marilyn*

    OP #1 Maybe play a holiday movie like Elf on a TV or laptop. People interact more freely when there’s an outside source to bounce off of and stir up the conversation topics.

  22. MuseumChick*

    OP 3, the short answer is yes. I have a grown man at my job (late 20s early 30s) who I have worked with for 2 1/2 years. He still is unable to take a message properly. Think, “Hey MusemChick a guy called for asking about X.” “Thanks, what was his name?” “Ummm, I don’t know.”

    1. Decima Dewey*

      And warn people covering phones that, more likely than not, the person who says “Oh, X has my number” is wrong about that.

  23. Perfectly Particular*

    OP1 – I work with pretty much only engineers and we are really good at awkward gatherings! I do think your 90 minute party was too long, especially if there was no lunch, games or other entertainment, so maybe shorten that up. Also, some ice breakers would help. Something as simple as asking what everyone’s holiday plans are can get everyone talking. You can keep the conversation going by asking follow up questions that are specific to the employee – for example if Sally says she’s visiting her sister, will she be driving or flying, etc. We manage to survive a 30-40 minute bagel breakfast every week by discussing weekend plans! Another thing to be aware of is setup of the room. Smaller spaces make people more comfortable than feeling like they are shouting into the void in a large room. Some background music will make the mood more fun/festive too.

    1. OP1*

      Great points, thanks for these suggestions for modifying rather than canceling the gathering. I hadn’t considered the set-up of the room, and upon reflection it could be improved.

      1. Stone Cold Bitch*

        I would also suggest some easy holiday crafts, if you think it would work for your office. We’ve made basic paper ornaments and decorated match boxes at the end of december staff meetings. It was always optional and most people enjoyed it. There would be snacks and drinks, and even those that didn’t want to craft ended up staying to hang out and see what other people came up with.

  24. Lilchickshan*

    OP5: My best friend had this issue of graduation in December, career job starting in July, and she used it for an awesome life experience. She spent 6 months in Germany as an Au Paire.

    She now speaks German fluently, saw more of the world, and wasn’t struggling financially either. Can you use this break as an opportunity instead of a problem? 6 months is long enough to do something cool.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      And it’s an opportunity you may never get again. Even working part-time, temping, retail, or food service for six months would be good, as you know your career job is right around the corner. (That is, assuming you have a written offer and everything is set up.) A girlfriend of mine recently asked if my four-month unemployment was a good break, and I said that while I appreciated the reset, it was terribly stressful because my money was running out. Had I known that a full-time job was waiting for me at the end of those four months, it would have been much, much better.

      I wonder if the OP worries that this six months will be an undesirable gap to future employers. It won’t, not at all.

      1. Kiki*

        Yes! I recently began job searching after completing a certification program. I tell people that while it would be a relief to have a job that starts tomorrow, it would be so cool to get a job now that starts in January of February so I could travel without worrying about running out of money.

    2. GermanGirl*

      Yes to traveling the world or similar things. Besides AuPair there are Work-And-Travel programmes that help young people to find work placements in other countries – I’ve heard most about things like picking fruits in orchards in New Zealand, but I also know someone who got to herd half-wild-horses in the US (but she had prior experience with horses).

  25. hbc*

    OP2: Don’t bring him. It’s not “wrong” to bring him, but the way you describe your relationship, it sounds like there’s a lot more risk of tension and awkwardness than the average 3-4 year couple.

    And even if you two are perfectly fine with your status (i.e.: would both say “this has an expiration date, I’m enjoying it right now, and I wouldn’t change a thing”), I can imagine weirdness if, say, you two give different answers to how long you’ve been together. Worth it if it was just an usual start to a relationship, not worth it if you’re pretty sure he won’t be around for next year’s event.

    1. Dan*

      That’s where I’m at. Besides, if I were casually dating someone, I wouldn’t want to go to their holiday party and meet their coworkers. Any company event is always business first, social second, even if it’s after work and alcohol is served. I’d prefer not to go if it’s going to be a room full of people I’d likely never see again.

    2. Jasnah*

      Yeah, personally, maybe it will be nice to have someone to talk to and maybe coworkers will be cool about it. But “honestly, doubt we’ll be together by this time next year”…so why introduce him and make everyone remember his name and face? I feel like you should let all the casual significant others flow discreetly through your life, and advance the best ones to milestones like Meeting Each Others’ Friends, Company Party, and Meeting the Parents. An on-off relationship that I don’t see a future in might meet some friends, but won’t advance to Company Party for me.

  26. Friday afternoon fever*

    #3: Oh my god, yes. I trained undergraduate interns for a few years and you really need to show them how to use the phone and exactly how you expect them to answer it. Give them a script if possible. Some may already be comfortable with this, but a large number will not especially if this is their first office job.

    1. Friday afternoon fever*

      Assume you need to teach them everything until proven otherwise. Many may be experienced and already office-trained. But assume they are little baby birds who have freshly emerged into the office world.

  27. OP5*

    OP5 here – thanks all so much for your comments so far! My main issue is cash flow between now and the job start date – I’m going to be struggling a little to make ends meet before the new job starts. I’m planning on staying where I am (with cheaper rent than where this job is) and working a restaraunt gig until then – and I’m not too upset, since all of my friends graduate in May, so I’ve still got people in town. I’m thinking it will just be a fun, low-stress few months before I fully enter the professional field.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      We cross-posted! I figured it was a cash-flow thing, but yes, if you have cheap rent and friends around and a restaurant gig, then you’re golden. You’re in a great position here, working a lower-key job knowing there’s a full-time job waiting for you. And since you’re not in school, you can take on more shifts if you want them and you won’t have to worry about a class schedule or exams. Congratulations, and enjoy the next few months!

    2. Nonsensical*

      It is completely normal that they have two start dates and it was stated. Winter classes are generally small, I actually asked to start in June instead of January for travelling opportunities and was granted the chance. I worked at a famous place with a mouse (something you might want to check into – you could get a post graduate internship for the spring semester or something similar, those don’t pay too badly and usually give you valuable experience). I also took the time to travel to Israel.

      You don’t typically get that type of space – 6 months once you start working. I’d take advantage of it – travel, maybe move somewhere else or work somewhere fun or adventurous.

    3. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

      If you were doing non-student work while in college, you *may* be eligible for unemployment. Even for a few weeks, it can help.

    4. BadWolf*

      Some other short term ideas — tutoring (even remotely — I know someone who teaches English lessons over Skype), working at an accounting firm for tax season, placing that hire temps day to day (I’ve done summer factory jobs like that).

    5. StudyAbroad*

      If you could in anyway swing it, I 100% recommend heading to Australia or NZ, where lots of people show up with barely any money and manage to work their way around the country for a few months. I met lots of people when I was there who came with essentially no money. In fact, you could put the flight back on credit and pay it off once you get the job!

      BUT no pressure, do what you’d like! But this is a huge opportunity, if you’re into travel at all, and lots of people are unaware of how many people have successfully done it on the cheap (myself included!)

  28. Falling Diphthong*

    #3: Based on my teens/twenties kids, answering the phone for someone else IS a vanishing experience they probably haven’t practiced much.

    My daughter is 22, super smart and capable by a variety of definitions, and for the life of her cannot remember which side of the envelope the stamp goes on. Even though she receives mail, so she regularly encounters models of what the outside of an envelope to be mailed looks like–her instinct on the very rare occasions she has to mail something is stamp on the top left and return address on the top right. (She’s got “addressee in the middle” down.)

    And this is true of a lot of “everyone knows” things–that everyone in your small sample (sometimes a sample of one) “knows” because they have practiced it a lot. An anecdote that stuck with me from Robert Sapolsky was a research assistant of his staying in a hotel in the city for the first time, and thinking that when you step into the elevator they switch around the furniture. He was NOT dumb–he was a smart guy encountering something for the first time and coming up with a guess as to what it meant. Given the right explanation he was able to grasp and use it–but because multistory buildings hadn’t been part of his experience until this, he didn’t “know” the thing that is “obvious” to “everyone” “without being told.”

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      Also want to note that daughter has worked overseas a few times, and is attuned to the norms of different places–things that “everyone knows and you shouldn’t have to explain” in the common parlance of complainers. Like how you attract the waiter’s attention and tip in Germany.

      1. LadyPhoenix*

        It also doesn’t help that we are facing more and more phone scams on a daily bases, so phone etiquette starts decreasing greater as the calls grow higher and skepticism also increases.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Good point! Mine has certainly slid to an abrupt “Hello.” and if you don’t start talking in 3 seconds I hang up.

    2. TheRedCoat*

      I feel you on the envelope thing. I sent ~100 wedding invitations that were “backwards”. Thankfully the post office still took them- with a laugh.

  29. Utoh!*

    OP1 – I work in IT, and so we have many introverts, but we also have a few extroverts who need constant attention so regardless the meeting or event, I know I will always have something entertaining to watch, while simultaneously rolling my eyes. Hire an extrovert and then everyone can just sit back and enjoy the show. ;)

    1. BadWolf*

      Same! We used to have a really chatty guy who had the best stories. Honestly, I was always happy to see him at a gathering because he filled any dead air with funny stories.

      1. BadWolf*

        And he always had new stories! Although, we had an ongoing “best of” list that we’d have him tell again for any new people.

    2. OP1*

      I know what you mean! Maybe I need to bring in an extrovert “special guest star” to the (shortened) gathering!

  30. Some Sort of Management Consultant.*

    LW#4:
    For a second there, I thought I must’ve written your letter in my sleep. It was almost uncanny.
    I come at it from a slightly different angle though; I’ve been at my current job a little more than three years, and was diagnosed two years ago. I consistently got feedback about my disorganization and communication issues (it’s hard to flag you need more time for something when it’s because you’ve procrastinated…) and while I still get it, I’ve improved enough that it’s noticeable to both my colleagues and my bosses.

    But when I get tired or overwhelmed or stressed out (which unfortunately happens a lot because life is shitty sometimes) all the symptoms get worse. I totally understand the feeling of fearing what will happen if you tell anyone, because after all, it’s still my fault, no matter the reason? I mean, i know it’s not my fault but why would that make a difference to a manager who needs something done?

    The medical professionals who tested me for ADHD couldn’t stress that I shouldn’t tell anyone I work with enough.

    I have gone against that advice recently though. It’s one of my silly dreams/bucket list items to speak in front of a group of college students about my ADHD. I also like and trust my managers, who have put up with a lot of trouble from me (I think I’m the record holder for most sick days in the first years of employment…) and I had an opportunity to tell my closest manager a few months ago. She took it rather well, and was mostly sad that I hadn’t felt I was able to tell her or anyone else for fear of unintentional reprecussions. We’ve discussed her telling more of my bosses, but I haven’t decided yet.

    I’ve started bringing it up in casual conversation though, or rather, I’ve stopped censoring myself when wanting to say something like “my adhd makes Thing Z work better than Thing Y for me”.

    Solidarity fist bumps. We’re amazing.

  31. Rebecca*

    It’s Friday, I have the day off, so I slept in, and after I grabbed some coffee, looked at the titles with still sleepy eyes and saw “potty training students”. I’m awake now :)

    #1 – perhaps you could privately ask a lead person or someone else on the team what they really prefer. I suspect they want to scale it back or maybe change something about the holiday celebration, but they’re afraid of offending you. I like Alison’s suggestion of dropping off the gifts, and then putting out cookies, baked goods, etc. on a break room table mid morning, calling everyone together, and telling them how much you enjoy working with them and happy holidays. Then leave it at that. People can grab something to eat, talk for a few minutes or not, and go their separate ways. This works well at my workplace, and no one stands around staring at each other.

  32. KR*

    Hi phone OP – please train them on the phones. I joined the working world well acquainted with land line phones from growing up without a cell phone. However most hone phones don’t have hold buttons, call routing, ect. It took me a while to figure out how to use a business phone.

    1. Morning Glory*

      Yeah, same here. A lot about business phone systems and professional phone etiquette is not intuitive for students and recent grads. A training that includes practice calls, practice holds, and practice transfers will be especially valuable.

      When I was an undergrad, I definitely could have been the student whispering questions instead of putting the caller on hold out of fear of accidentally dropping the call by hitting the wrong button.

      1. wafflesfriendswork*

        I was a student worker in the campus student center office–our number also got a lot of calls as kind of a general line for the university, and hooo boy I dropped so many calls trying to transfer them early on.

  33. Lemon Bars*

    Op#1 Your the boss and you schedule the party and plan what is going on there so the expectation that you are going to entertain them or provide entertainment shouldn’t be shocking. I think 90 minutes is too long if your only offering cookies, and a gift. I know you said you like making cookies but after 9 years have you thought of changing it up and bringing in chili or Vegetable soup, I do vegetable soup in a crock pot and crackers for my team in the winter.

    Our company quit paying for holiday parties so I take orders and we order out for Christmas lunch (I cover the bill instead of getting them a gift), I send out an email that I will bring in a few games (Jenga, cards against humanity, yhatzee, skipbo, Rook, are easy games that can be explained quickly and played in 20 minutes) and bring in a dessert and we meet around lunch for an hour or as long as they want to stay (usually an hour is plenty).

    1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      Agree with this. There does need to be some form of entertainment factor. My group is on the quiet, I just want to work side, but I do think it’s important to do celebration, non work, group things with them every once in awhile. It’s typically quarterly (although team lunches happen more frequently) so nothing too onerous.

      Things I’ve done to liven things up:
      – Eclipse watching
      – off site room escape
      – onsite ugly sweater contest
      -onsite gift dirty santa/yankee swap -I bought the gifts all they had to do was swap
      -we used to have a larger team so would do things like pumpkin decorating/carving, pumpkin dioramas (With judging and prizes)
      -small competitions (flick football, trashcan basketball shootouts)
      I’ve never done games, I use those for virtual stress relievers- bingo is a favorite of the team

      I get not necessarily wanting to organize ‘forced fun’ but there needs to be something for everyone to do. Sometimes a little ‘forced fun’ activity can get the ball rolling. So try to think about things that your team has in common.
      -Are they engineering minded… get gingerbread house fixings and and let them at it or develop a brain challenge activity like a modified egg drop using certain materials (if you can theme it toward the holiday) Live in a place with snow… start the week before and challenge the team to design or come up with a way to preserve a snow ball for 7 days inside and have the ‘reveal’ come at the party.
      -Have some gamers? come up with a themed game modify an existing game to fit a theme.
      -Icebreakers: The week before the party ask each person to send you there favorite toy as a kid. Then the day before or at the party, hand out sheets with a list of each person’s name and a list of toys, have them go through and try to match them up. (again, try to keep this in the holiday theme).

      Anyway these are just some suggestions to avoid the everyone filing into a conference room and staring at each other for 90 min. The results/output of the activity is less important than giving everyone something they can focus on to start the momentum. It may feel a little awkward if you’re not used to organizing something like this and it may feel a little awkward if your team isn’t used to doing these things… but hey even shared awkwardness is better than deer in headlights staring contests :)

    2. OP1*

      Thanks, Lemon Bars and Randomusername. These are great suggestions that could not only make things more comfortable but also get out of the usual holiday-party ruts. Appreciate the ideas!

  34. Delta Delta*

    #3 – definitely do a training, and if there are oddities about your phone system, have that information readily available. I have worked at lots of different places, all of which had slightly different phone systems. A few of my favorites:

    The one that required a 14 digit voicemail password.

    The one that required calls to go on park to be transferred but then couldn’t be un-parked easily by the transferee (this system was very expensive and a disaster).

    The system that allowed the master switchboard to be transferred to any phone in the building (this was nice because the receptionist could transfer her whole job to the break room and work straight through if she wanted, which she did – nobody forced her)

    The system that would reset itself at random intervals, thus wiping out all the presets and voicemails.

    It took time to learn the steps and mysteries of these phones. Not to mention the appropriate things to say when answering.

    1. Rebecca*

      If I had to enter a 14 digit voice mail password, I would literally never listen to my voice mail.

      1. Bears Beets Battlestar*

        Ours is 10 digits and I take forever to answer voicemails because it’s such a pain to check them.

  35. LawBee*

    #3 omg yes please do that! And any other super basic office skills you can think of, like figuring out the Chain of Questions (aka don’t ask the super boss questions that someone below can help with), writing down instructions for new skills, aaaaaanything. Their future employers will thank you and they will have a definite head start succeeding. It seems so basic but unless they worked in an office elsewhere, they’re not learning these skills.

  36. Bigintodogs*

    Number 5: My company hired me in November and started me in June with the rest of the hiring class. I graduated in May, so it was only a month of no work. Can you find something part time to fill in those six months?

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I would caution a new person to ask first. We’re not allowed to bring a friend.

      They only switched to adding plus one at all and the huge clincher is “no friends just significant others”. It sucked when one year my partner couldn’t make it. Yes, I’m still grouchy even though this year he’s able to attend.

  37. WhiteBear*

    5. You can also look for temp work during that time. Lots of companies are hiring seasonally this time of year (try your university book store, they get very busy in january and are usually looking to hire students for a few weeks of work), you could try to get an internship that’s 1-4 months long, work in your campus’ food services team, or if there are any special events that happen in your area during winter or spring they are also usually looking for temp help (in my area we have maple syrup festivals that run from february to april for example). Good luck and congrats on the (distant future) job!

  38. Rebecca*

    #3 – in addition to phone training, I’d also give a short example of how to leave a voice mail message, as in, speak slowly and clearly, announce who you are, your company name, and the phone number where you can be reached, and a short description of why you’re calling. It’s so frustrating to have to listen to a voice mail message 5 or 6 times because the person is talking so fast, in basically a run on sentence, and you barely understand what they’re saying, let alone write it down. And then, once that’s solved, and you call back, only to find out there are 5 “Janes” at Acme, and you have no idea which one because “Jane” didn’t leave an extension number or last name.

  39. LadyByTheLake*

    #2 My answer changes based on how big the party is. If it is a huge party with hundreds of people, dancing etc — then if you are in a good place with SO and know that he socializes well with others, go ahead and bring him. However, if it is a smaller party (50 or less) or just with your department — don’t. Over the years I’ve learned that those smaller parties (1) can be excruciating for SOs unless they are long term and so are invested in meeting your colleagues and their SOs, and (2) maybe because of my first point, the expectation is that anyone you bring is long term and that folks will see them again. In other words, over the years I’ve learned that bringing an SO to a smaller holiday party is like meeting the parents and there are Expectations.

  40. High Score!*

    OP5, you are young and have 6 months of freedom with a dream job waiting for you. Stop job hunting and worrying, you’ve got your while life for that. Go on an adventure, do some great things and make some memories! Enjoy! You have 30+ years of work life ahead with only 2 weeks vacation a year. Make the most of this opportunity.

    1. LadyByTheLake*

      This assumes that they have money to be unemployed for six months. I sure didn’t at that age. Most people don’t.

    2. Psyche*

      You generally need money to go on an adventure and do great things. If they could afford six months of unemployment they probably wouldn’t be writing.

      1. Asenath*

        The trick is to find something someone will pay you to do while you travel – eg get a temporary job in a foreign country or sign up for one of those things where you trade labour for the chance to volunteer at something (some such groups charge, others not so much). I travelled more when I was broke than I did later. But it sounds like OP has a place to stay and a way to get a bit of income during the interim, so she’s probably OK where she is.

    3. Some Sort of Management Consultant.*

      I have good-sized emergency fund and retirement savings and it would still be difficult for me to stop worrying without any income whatsoever for six months. I think most people would say the same.

      1. Nonsensical*

        I didn’t have any type of money to pay bills when I graduated university and most don’t have an emergency fund. That is a luxury most Americans don’t have even with stable jobs.

    4. Rite Along*

      How lovely for you that you can afford to live like that! You’re very lucky.

      Most of us are not so lucky, sadly.

    5. Workerbee*

      I get what you’re intending, even if a lot of folks (including myself) could only wish for such an opportunity. And perhaps OP #5 does have the opportunity but doesn’t think they should grant it to themselves. If they can, I hope they do!

    6. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      Agreed, this is a great time to do something a little different. There are a lot of ways to get paid and have some adventures.
      -Look around for a boat crew position. Many will take on complete novices willing to work hard. Pay, room and board, and usually in fun areas.
      -Resort work- Hard thankless work, but often a fun vibe with people your own age. I’m thinking places like dude ranch resorts vs. hotel on a beach

      However, if the OP wants to stick close to home and find something to tide them over, there are a lot of jobs that can be found that are low commitment. Retail/Service are the usual suspects. But don’t discount something like warehouse/assembly work. Usually better money than retail with better hours (less weekends and nights anyway). I used to hire quite a few recent grads waiting for their first professional job and summer college kids. I loved them, it usually started as them working for me in the summer and they would come back every summer for a few years, then they’d come back after graduation for a few months while they looked for their professional job. Since I brought them on through a temp agency it was known that this wasn’t permanent from both sides.

  41. AdminX2*

    #1 sounds like what you need is a pizza party! Buy some pizza, drinks, bring your cookies in a big tin and invite others to add IF THEY WANT, and then it’s just a relaxed hang out lunch break.

    1. Lynn Marie*

      This is good – you get lunch, pizza makes almost everyone happy, getting your slice gives you something to do and talk about, picking your cookie(s) gives you something to do and talk about, say thanks so much and happy holidays to the host, go back to your desk in a good mood cause you’re that much closer to getting done before the holiday, bang, you’re done.

  42. The Happy Intern*

    For OP#5 if they won’t give you an early start date and you know that it’s the best job you can ask for, you can always try and get one or two jobs working in retail or food industry during the 6 months. You wouldn’t even necessarily have to say that you plan to leave in June, as places like that are used to only having people for a short time (like student workers who only come in in the summer) so it wouldn’t be much of an issue for you to only stay 6 months. Just give them at least a month’s notice before you go to your old job by saying something like “I found a job in my field that I’m really excited about. Unfortunately this means I won’t be able to continue working here but I appreciate my time here regardless!” There’s a high turnover rate in the customer service industry so they wouldn’t be surprised especially if they know you’re a graduate.
    There’s absolutely no shame in working in customer service, just as there’s no shame in needing to work more than 1 job at a time, either to make ends meet or just to be more comfortable. And working customer service actually gives you a great skills in intra/interpersonal relations and communication that are hard to develop in office settings so if this is something you would be okay with doing, it’s still a good use of your time over the next 6 months!

    1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

      This was going to be my suggestion. Provided it’s an option for you, living with your parents and saving money while working a few side-hustles is totally reasonable. It might even be kind of fun since you know that there’s an end date in sight.

      I also liked the suggestion upthread of being on the January “waiting list.”

  43. SigneL*

    I’d like to add my voice to all of those saying please train people how to answer the phone! It drives me nuts, when I am home, to answer the phone and have a strange voice say, “So! I’m going to be in your neighborhood next week and I was wondering…” (Click – if you can’t identify your business, I’m not talking to you. And “I’m going to be in your neighborhood” sounds really, really creepy.)

    1. LadyByTheLake*

      This is different — you are describing a scam call (and you are right to immediately hang up).

  44. anonagain*

    Re. OP #3: Answering a business phone can also raise privacy/safety issues that don’t come up with a personal phone.

    Some of the training I got as a student was about asking a caller for their number instead of giving out an employee’s direct line, not confirming certain information about employees for callers (even if they claimed to be a spouse), not giving out information without confirming people’s identities first, etc.

    I am very glad I had that training, because I can see myself wanting to be helpful and giving out someone’s office number without thinking. I can also see myself getting flustered by a request that made me uncomfortable. Even if a specific situation hadn’t come up in training, it gave me the confidence to make those judgement calls in the moment.

  45. monster*

    OP#4

    As a person diagnosed with ADHD herself, if I were you I would think about why it was ok at the beginning of your employment and then it wasn’t all of a sudden.

    Did your tasks change? Did the environment change? Was it that your excitement linked to starting a new position was gone? How can you revive it?

    Unless you’re ok with taking meds of course.

    That wasn’t your question, but I thought I would share my thoughts.

    1. Kelly L.*

      The “unless you’re OK with taking meds” is landing kind of badly here, IMO. It reads kind of like questioning the medical decision that’s working for her.

      1. monster*

        Where I leave you can’t be forced to take drugs. Your doctor can advise you to. But only you take decisions concerning your health.

        That’s why I stressed it’s her (his?) decision.

        1. Psyche*

          It doesn’t sound like she was being forced to take the medication though. It sounded like she decided to try them again.

        2. Keep taking the tablets*

          There’s nothing whatsoever to suggest that the OP is being compelled to take medication. And there is NOTHING WHATSOEVER WRONG with taking medication, and suggesting that there is is rather unpleasant.

  46. Allison*

    #3, this would have been super helpful when I was younger and interning at a senator’s office, I took my cues and said “Senator Jones’ office” in that fake phone (phoney, if you will) voice, but some training would have been massively helpful.

    Growing up, we were not required to answer the phone by saying “Lastname residence,” we just said “Hello.” We also had an answering machine, and caller ID through most of my teen years, and now people have it so the phone number shows up on the TV, so lots of young people are now entering the workforce having screened their calls throughout most of their life and have no experience answering the phone when you don’t know who’s calling. You can wring your hands over it all you want, but that’s the reality.

    1. Elsajeni*

      Answering the phone when you don’t know who’s calling, or, as someone upthread mentioned, answering the phone when it’s not for you — if everyone in your household has a separate phone number and voicemail box, you may not even have had the at-home experience of picking up a call for your mom and taking a message, which would at least be a model to start from when you’re learning to do the professional version.

  47. LuJessMin*

    I swear I’ve seen Letter No. 4 before – maybe here, maybe somewhere else? It seemed very familiar.

  48. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I think delivering your goodies/gifts is the best plan. Or setting up a snack station and then delivering gifts.

    We’re the exact same way in our company. It’s painful AF even at lunches and BBQs…nobody talks much. I’ve started to realize everyone is great one on one but put us all together and we just b kind of look down and mutter at our plates.

  49. Workerbee*

    #1 In my old department, we had a holiday gathering, but every year we’d have a pre-meeting and ask if we still wanted to do what we did last year, and if not, what are our suggestions? You could either shout them out right there, or email a designated person afterward. That person would gather the shouts and emails and send out a poll.
    We usually did a combo White Elephant/snacks part and a fun-outing-elsewhere part.

    Even then, participation was still entirely optional. If you wanted to skip the whole thing and stay back and work, fine! Want to leave the fun outing early? Also fine! And the culture made it fine for real, not any veiled glances or performance review dings.

    For gifts, my manager would just drop off an envelope with a gift card on everyone’s desks, usually after they left for the day or before they came in. Took the pressure off majorly.

  50. Rainbow Roses*

    #1 I’m confused by what is actually going on. Are they just sitting or standing in a room for 90 minutes? I recommend a lunch meeting that’s catered, or pot luck, or at a restaurant. Less awkward than mingling in an empty room. When you’re sitting to an actual lunch, people tend to talk to their neighbors or comment on the food. As of now, it sounds like a boardroom meeting so I’m not surprised the entire group is looking to you for guidance.

  51. Goya de la Mancha*

    Do people still take messages by hand? Maybe it’s just my line of work, but messages are rarely “Call Debbie back at xxx-xxxx” anymore. Voicemail is the best way to ensure any and all information is relayed correctly.

    1. Nonsensical*

      No one calls me to the point I know it is recruiters, scammers, my older family members or health related.

  52. ATX Language Learner*

    #5 – If you’re set on this position and they won’t let you start sooner, I’d take this time find some work for 4-5 months, save as much as I could, and then travel for 1-2 months before my full time job starts. You likely won’t ever get that opportunity again! Looking back, I would have loved that.

  53. Yikes Dude*

    If the job is legit and the company has guaranteed your hire, the 6 months to work a temp job and party/travel/rest is one of the best graduation presents ever. You get the best of both worlds. Quite frankly, you’ll probably start your career job at the same time as most of your cohorts. You just won’t have the fear and anxiety that comes from the unknown. My recommendation is to find a short-term retail job at a store where you can get an employee discount on a professional wardrobe or tech. Dream cities tend to be expensive and stressful. You get time to prep!

  54. LabManager*

    #2 – Caveat – I suspect this all might be industry specific, but here’s my experience –

    I’d go a step farther than Alison and say that at a lot of places, bringing your SO means you’re en route to getting married. Now I’m not judging you at all for not having that plan, but I’d probably assume (and correspondingly interact with) your date like that was the case. I suspect it could end up being awkward. And as said, if you ended up breaking up, everyone will probably react as if you lost a serious relationship. But as Alison said, that’s your call!

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with taking him, but in my mind, that’s not really what the +1 at an office is made for. Not like you’re breaking a rule and will get penalized, but it’s different than a +1 at a wedding, per se, where people are just bringing a date not to be alone.

    But I agree with Alison – do whatever you’d like! I guess I’d not see the benefit of it, professionally, and not do it, but you can’t go wrong either way. But I’ve never had great office parties! Haha.

  55. CM*

    For OP#4, if you have a review coming up with your manager, I think that would be the perfect time to have this conversation. Then you could frame it as part of your self-reflection — ramping up was challenging but you feel you did it successfully, then you had a rough few months where you were dealing with ADHD (or health issues, or personal issues, whatever you want to say) but you got through that by developing new organizational strategies (and medical help, if you’re explicitly mentioning ADHD), and now you feel more established in this job at the end of your first year.

  56. bopper*

    We had a “fall celebration” and we did:
    Food
    A scavenger hunt….You have teams of 4-5 and you have to find things that you would know or have on you. A penny with someone’s birth year. Someone wearing an inside out piece of clothing. The answer to a work based trivia question. Something where a guy ended up wearing high heels. The first team to find the item gets 8 points, the second 5th, and then the rest 3 points. Most points at the end winds a prize.
    Bingo

  57. Observer*

    #3- I haven’t read all of the responses, but I see you’ve gotten some good feedback.

    I think the answer to your question is inherent in the question itself. To start with, you say that the student staff is not doing certain things the way they should. That generally means one of only two things – you’re hiring poorly or you need to train differently / better. Your description of your staff says that you are actually hiring quite well. So that leaves on the second option.

    Outside of moral dilemmas, trying to act on what reality “should” rather than what it actually IS, turns out to be a losing proposition.

    In this case, the REALITY is that you have staff you don’t want to replace (for good reason!) who are doing things in a way you don’t want them to. Maybe you “should not have to” train them, but if you don’t train them, you wind up with the behavior continuing. If, on the other hand, you accept the reality and actually train them, you wind up with high performing staff that keep your clients happy. Which is better for you?

  58. Lily*

    Telephone: remember that answering a home landline or one’s own cellphone can be very different to answering the phone for a company. My parents trained us to never say our name before the other person had said theirs (which is not that typical for my home country but also not unheard of). I can’t imagine ever answering a work phone with “Hi. Who’s there? No seriously, who’s there?” :D

    1. Lily*

      Also I sometimes answer my parents’s landline with “Chaos Company Lastname, you are speaking with Lastname, how can I help you?” (especially if I see it’s close friends or relatives), though I hope the students would know not to do this at work.

  59. Birdie*

    #5 I feel you! I don’t start my job at a large accounting firm until next October. Feels very strange, but it is just how some things are (like big accounting)

    1. Orange You Glad*

      If you are looking for something now, a lot of accounting and related companies hire seasonal employees for tax season. That might be a good way to pick up some additional skills and extra money while waiting for your full time job to begin.

  60. Monika from Germany*

    #3 As I read the title I said: ‘Yes, please!” Good professional phone manners are important in a professional setting. The future employers of these students will thank you.
    Another pet peeve of mine are letter and email writing manners, I had to tell an intern that emojis are not fine in a letter, and not fine in a professional email to another company either.

  61. Working Mom Having It All*

    Re #3, none of those things that people without professional office phone experience would know. In fact, when I was first starting out as an office worker in my late teens, I had to learn all of those things! Some, like the art of taking a good message, take a little bit of time to perfect, even.

    Also, being real, in this day and age of cell phones, when I answer my boss’ phone and know he’ll be away from his desk or out of the office for a while but is otherwise reachable, I will indeed just recommend that the person call his cell (if appropriate) rather than taking and transmitting a detailed message. The guy’s in an Uber on his way to a business lunch, he’s not on the moon.

  62. Tangerina Warbleworth*

    OP #4: I was you, twenty years ago. Except it wasn’t ADHD but rather a different chronic, hereditary illness.

    I was lucky in that I knew and trusted my supervisor enough that we had a closed-door sit-down and I told her everything, in order to explain my cranky behavior of the previous four months, before I was diagnosed and put on the proper medication. I knew that she would never pass the details on to anyone, and we had a great conversation. I think having this conversation with her helped our professional relationship, in that she could see that I was being an adult and taking responsibility, but also coping with a huge new challenge. I know she went to bat for me with some of my nastier colleagues who ran to her to tattle on me when I came in late, after morning doctor’s appointments.

    I realize that you might not know your supervisor well enough; and I respect the advice from above from those who did not have good experiences. However you choose to deal with it, don’t be ashamed. You are coping with an illness, and it’s tough.

  63. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

    Gotta chime in here and say that I would find it pretty strange to bring a non-serious date to a work event.

    A work party is still (to me) fundamentally a work event, and it’s with a bunch of people that you already know (so there’s less of a need for bringing a date at all than there is for, say, bring a plus one to a wedding). Why bring a random date?

    In your case, the relationship isn’t a committed one, but it is pretty longstanding , so I wouldn’t blink if you brought him. I’ve just always thought it was strange that folks bring dates to things like these in general.

  64. MissDisplaced*

    For the holiday party, why couldn’t you have a ordered-in lunch, put on some festive music, and hand out the small gifts, etc. during the lunch while people are eating (or set a table with each gift/person’s name). Even introverts have to eat, and it takes stress off of having to entertain. This feels more to me like any other normal office “working” luncheon, but with a holiday theme.
    Some people might think that’s lame, but if you’re all the non-celebratory types, this seems pretty low-key. And it needn’t be expensive. Heck, even if it’s pizza or Panera, I’m sure there are options.

  65. char*

    Yes, phone skills are definitely something that needs to be taught! They’re not always intuitive, even for people who otherwise seem to have it together. I’ve been working in an office for years, but honestly my phone skills are still terrible because I’ve just almost never had to take any calls in my position.

    As an example, a lowlight: One time I was working as a technician helping to set up a new computer and phone system. The phone rang in the conference room I was working in, and I picked it up thinking it was probably my boss or one of the other technicians. Turns out the new phones hadn’t been routed correctly and a customer call had ended up being routed to the conference room! I was totally not expecting to have to deal with a customer, so I had no clue how to handle it. The customer got pretty mad at me as I stuttered and fumbled around for a good minute or two trying to figure out how to transfer the call. There’s a reason I was a technician and not a customer service person!

  66. cheeky*

    Anti-Millennial sentiment is SO common and widespread that otherwise reasonable people totally buy into it, sad to say. I hear it non-stop at my company.

  67. Aimee*

    ADHD: you need to ask for Reasonable Accommodation, and get recommendations from your doctor as to what you need to ask for to be able to do your job. My husband had a traumatic brain injury (TBI) years ago and because of it he has to do certain things to ensure he can do his job, remember things, and stay organized. Getting these recommendations and putting them in front of HR as soon as they arrive is HUGE to helping get your boss and HR on board and protecting your disability, which ADHD is. Go to the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) website if you need more tips – and the team there is also super helpful if you have questions on what to do. Whatever you do, don’t go at it alone and hope for the best – transparency is vital. Best of luck!

  68. Aimee*

    Job Search: Move to the area now, and work with a temp agency on short term gigs, and/or get a position in the service industry in the meantime. Don’t expect the employer to accommodate your desired start date for an entry level role, it comes across as entitled. Be scrappy – work elsewhere! As a recruiter, I love to see college students and recent grads who aren’t waiting around for their dream job to start and just get to work without any ego. PS – It will also allow you to get used to the area you are going to be living in, not to mention establish a local network. You can always keep in touch with them in case any early start options come up (these things happen!).

  69. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

    OP#4: Eh, I actually disagree with AAM somewhat. In the absence of further information, I don’t see a compelling reason to bring up the medical issue IF the OP’s performance has now improved to the standard of meeting work expectations. However, I do understand wanting to acknowledge one’s own past poor performance (human nature) and also providing assurance that it has been successfully addressed. OP can do that without mentioning any medical condition. I’m not convinced that mentioning the medical condition has enough up side for the OP.

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