interviewer asked how much I wanted the job on a scale of 1-10, ASMR videos at work, and more

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

1. Interviewer asked me how much I wanted the job on a scale of 1-10

I recently had an interview with an organization I had been excited about. At the end of the interview — after I asked my questions and before I left — the interviewer said, “one last question: on a scale of 1 to 10, how much do you want this job?” I hedged a little but he wanted an answer, so I eventually said 8 — although I’m not sure I was convincing, because that question really turned me off. Am I off-base in thinking this is a weird and useless question? Is the “right” answer just to pick a number 8-10 and explain why?

Ugh, what a terrible question. Someone who asks a question like that is probably looking for you to answer 10, because someone who asks a question like that is someone who thinks a candidate should be super committed to the job, without a lot of room for nuance (and without taking time to go home and reflect and, you know, actually see the details on an offer). It’s also a power play because it’s asking you to answer something I suspect they wouldn’t have been happy about being asked themselves. And it’s also kind of old-school in a bad way, like people who think every candidate should “ask for the job” or they’re not really interested.

If this interviewer would be your boss, I’d be wary.

2. I was recognized for Administrative Professionals Day, but I’m not an admin

Wednesday of this week was Administrative Professionals Day, and to celebrate, I was surprised with a small token of appreciation, left in my office. It was a sweet gesture, but with one problem: I’m not an admin. Honestly, I don’t even do administrative work for my department.

Apparently a number of people were recognized, and only two of them would be considered admin professionals. Unfortunately, the rest happened to be young women who were fairly new to the organization, regardless of their job title or duties.

Is this something I should address, and if so, with who? It seems like one of those “good intentions, but wildly missed the mark” moments that might not be worth getting into.

Ugh, yes, please say something. It’s wildly sexist and offensive that your office (or someone in your office) has categorized all young women with doing admin work.

There’s nothing wrong with admin work! But this would be like categorizing all the men in your office as janitors or I.T. people.

Frankly, it’s time to get rid of this patronizing day entirely (if we truly want to recognize admins, let’s pay them better and show them year-round respect), but at a minimum, please ensure your office doesn’t lump all young women into it by default. If you don’t know who was responsible, I’d start with talking to whoever normally might handle recognition (HR? an office manager? your boss?) and go from there.

3. How can I end our birthday lunch tradition?

I lead a team that over the years has gone from six to two (besides myself) due to retirements and internal reorganization. My team has a tradition (pre-dating me) of going out to lunch for each team member’s birthday, and the supervisor (me) buys lunch for the person we’re celebrating. It used to be fun and a good way to build camaraderie. But now that there are only three of us, I’m wondering if there’s a graceful way to end this tradition. I would still be happy to bring in a birthday treat, but I don’t enjoy these lunches and they take a lot of time out of the day. However, one of my supervisees truly relishes getting a free meal and getting to take an extended lunch break, to the point where she starts planning at the beginning of the month a birthday that won’t happen until the 20th. Any advice?

This is tricky, because the tradition pre-dates you and also because it’s easier to argue for ending this kind of thing when a team gets bigger than when it gets smaller. That said, because you’re personally paying for it, you’re certainly justified in deciding to end it … but if your only issue with it is the time it takes up and that you don’t personally enjoy it, you might be better off sucking it up and doing it because your team likes it. We’re only talking about two times a year, after all (or three, if your birthday is included). If your team was larger, I’d be more supportive of ending it, but having lunch with your staff two to three times a year is just not that big of a burden if it’s meaningful to them.

That said, I’m curious about how the other employee feels. Is she enthusiastic about these lunches too, or might she prefer to get out of them? One option is to talk with her and say something like, “Now that the team is smaller, we don’t have to use a one-size-fits-all approach for birthdays. Do you like our current system or is there something else you’d prefer for your birthday?” If it turns out she’d be relieved to get out of these lunches too, you could just take your birthday-enthusiast employee out on her birthday (inviting the other and leaving it up to her whether to join or not) and do cupcakes or something else for the other (whatever she prefers).

4. Listening to ASMR videos at work

Do you have any thoughts on listening to ASMR videos at work? It makes common sense to me to avoid videos with lip smacking, licking headphones, massages, role play, etc. However, there are other videos with rain sounds or tapping. I find those to very stress-reducing and a type of white noise that helps me focus. Is okay to listen to those at work on a work laptop with headphones? Or is ASMR fairly taboo at work?

Are you literally just listening, or is the video visible to people who walk by? If you’re just listening and no one can see the video, go ahead and listen to whatever you want; no one will know. There are some exceptions to this, of course — you shouldn’t listen to something that would be truly problematic if a colleague happened to realize what it was, like erotica because it’s designed to sexually arouse, which is inappropriate at work, or racist screeds, which are inappropriate in life. But the types of videos you’re talking about aren’t in that category. (I agree, though, that you should avoid the stranger elements of ASMR while you’re at work, like the role plays, etc.)

If your screen is visible, though, I’d be more cautious. Rain sounds over footage of a forest? Fine. A kindly woman in a low-cut top slowly tapping her fingers against different objects? Likely not.

5. Employers that want references early on in a hiring process

I was recently approached by a recruiter with a job opening (supervisory role) at a local company. I am currently in a similar role with another organization, and have the required skill set listed in the job description. The recruiter passed along my information to the company, and a phone interview was scheduled with another supervisor (if I were to get hired, this person would be my peer in the organization). The phone interview lasted 20-30 minutes, and went relatively well.

As the next step, the company asked me to complete an application. Problem is, the application requires me to list my references’ contact info, and I am just not comfortable providing that information at this stage. I haven’t even spoken to the hiring manager, and I don’t want to give out my references’ private information until I get at least some sense of whether or not this role is a good mutual fit. I asked the recruiter if I can leave my reference information blank until the in-person interview, but I got the sense that my response did not go over well. Does my approach seem reasonable, or is it off-base and likely to turn off potential employers?

It’s not uncommon for some employers to ask for references up-front, but without any intent to actually use that info until they’re in the end stages of their process. But they collect it up-front so that they have it and there’s no delay when they’re at the point where they’re ready to use it.

That’s great for them, but it’s not so great for candidates, who can’t know for sure when those references will be contacted and who might like to have more control over that (at least until the point where they’ve determined they’re actually interested in the job). There’s no point in using up your references’ time before you even know how interested you are. Plus, there are some employers who contact references bizarrely early on, and you might not realize you’re dealing with one of those until it happens.

So no, your request wasn’t at all unreasonable. But if you’re dealing with an overly rigid employer (or recruiter, in your case), you might encounter some push-back.

{ 371 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    A request to resist the impulse to post about your own experiences with ASMR, unless it relates to advice for the letter writer, since that’s getting us way off-topic. (I’ve removed some particularly off-topic threads below.)

      1. Bostonian*

        Unless it’s not appropriate at work, which sounds like it might be from the context, in which case I can see why a short summary on a work blog would be preferable to risking something popping up on google

        1. Here I Am*

          Yep, I think it is good practice to spell out acronyms and not assume everyone is familiar with them.

          1. WellRed*

            +1. I didn’t know either, but from other comments, I now have an idea. I did not dare google it at work.

          2. Grace*

            ASMR isn’t really a useful acronym to spell out, though, unless “autonomous sensory meridian response” meant anything to you – although I agree re other acronyms like those of country-specific or industry-specific terms. If Alison links to something within the text of her article and doesn’t specifically say that it’s NSFW, though, you can generally assume that it’s SFW and click through to get a definition.

        2. Audiophile*

          This is safe enough to Google or if you’re worried about searching via Google, Wiki can be a safe bet in those instances.

      2. HTH*

        From wikipedia: “Autonomous sensory meridian response is an experience characterized by a static-like or tingling sensation on the skin that typically begins on the scalp and moves down the back of the neck and upper spine.”

        Some people find it very pleasant, and it is often triggered by certain soft or whispery sounds; there are lots of videos on youtube designed to produce the response in the listener.

      3. Busy*

        what its called in and of itself is really vague as well. Some woman just made it up under a different context, so its name really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

        That said, the experience isn’t supposed to be “work inappropriate”, but like anything else, people are making it that way on youtube (think making it a fetish when its not to be sexual in any way). But people should, for the most part, be safe googling it at work – especially since the fetish side is really really uncommon.

        (think: binary tones and guided meditation techniques kind of sound experience opposed to anything meant for sexual arousal)

      4. Egs*

        On a super basic level, it’s videos/podcasts of people talking softly, telling stories, etc. It’s good for background noise, falling asleep, etc.

    1. Serenata67*

      If your ASMR video is in any way audible to others near you, I think it falls under the same rules as listening to music. If it bugs them, don’t do it. For me, I can’t stand ASMR sound; I have the exact opposite reaction that most people have. So use your headphones or be prepared for people to ask you to turn it off.

      1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

        Oh god this. I have misophonia, and most of those videos just send me into blind rage. I can handle rainfall, and I can handle crackling fire noise, but that is absolutely it. Sibilant sounds of whispering? I’m already in orbit.

        1. Hananobira*

          Same here. If I had to sit next to a coworker playing ASMR videos, I’d tender my resignation by lunchtime.

          Happy listening, OP, but please wear headphones!

  2. Mophie*

    To LW #1, if one person loves it, and it only happens three times a year, you’re going to seem like a huge stick in the mud and probably alienate your coworker if you push to end it. If it’s not a money thing, is your time so valuable that you can’t spare an hour or two every 4 months. I’d strongly suggest sucking it up.

    1. valentine*

      Cancel the group thing and give Pollyanna (or both, if wanted) a gift card (with enough to cover a good tip) and a longer lunch break on her day. See if you can expense it.

      1. Colette*

        That’s not likely to be received well. A lunch with colleagues (that someone really enjoys) is not the same as a gift card you can use to go out alone on your birthday.

        In other words, it’s likely not about the money (or not only the money).

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          This. There’s camaraderie, the extra break in the day, and just the more personalized nature of it.

          Starting from scratch I’d say sure, giving each of your employees a $50 bill on their birthday is a nice thing they’ll appreciate. But if it’s replacing a tradition that was more personalized and also offered time and attention, some people will not appreciate the transformation into a yearly expense to check off.

          1. yet another library anon*

            Yeah. I’ve spent the past few years being excluded from departmental social things. Exclusion aside, I was really disappointed when our then-new supervisor just joined in with the rest of them and never thought to extend an invitation to me as it seemed like going out to lunch from time to time would be a good way of repairing (or at least smoothing over) some bad blood in our department (but at the lowest elephant on the pyramid, it’s not really something I can suggest).

            Meanwhile, any time there’s a library-wide thing, I wind up interacting with a bunch of my non-department coworkers, and it really boosts moral and makes it more pleasant when we have to do interdepartmental work.

            sorry, that’s a bit afield, but my point is… going out to lunch with your employees three times a year doesn’t seem like a big ask, and does seem like a nice way to build relationships.

            1. valentine*

              Camaraderie isn’t listed among the things Pollyanna’s excited about. Stopping the tradition opens up possibilities like her going out with friends, taking her birthday off, or going to lunch with just the coworker.

              1. ChimericalOne*

                Just because the OP doesn’t list it (and/or the employee doesn’t mention it explicitly) doesn’t mean it isn’t a part of the excitement, maybe a major part, for her.

            2. JM60*

              “going out to lunch with your employees three times a year doesn’t seem like a big ask”

              On the flip side, to people like me who aren’t as social, not going out isn’t a big loss either. I suspect you’re treating this symmetrically because you’re the type of person who prefers more social interaction: You see getting to go to social work events as a big deal, but you don’t see it as a big deal for someone who isn’t as social to have to go to them. Either can be a big or small deal depending on the person, and I think with different people having different preferences, it’s best to lean towards not obligating employees to socialize for non work related things, especially if someone has to pay (even if it’s the manager).

        2. AnnaBananna*

          I’m the opposite. I’d rather have the gift card and extra time off – so much so that I always request my birthday off so that I am not pulled into grand birthday plans that are done for each team member. I work really closely with all of them. I really don’t need more face time. I just don’t.

    2. Willis*

      For her own birthday, OP could opt not to go to lunch and that would cut it down to twice a year. (“Oh, I knew I’d be busy today so I brought in some cupcakes instead!”)

      It does seem like unless she’s going to give finances as a reason, it would be awkward to cancel the other two. She could definitely check in and see if they would prefer something more low key at the office, but I wouldn’t give the enthusiastic birthday person an open ended “should we do anything different for birthdays this year?” If she’s already planning her lunch 20 days in advance, I could see her suggesting something bigger…inviting additional coworkers, doing a happy hour, etc., which OP may be even less into.

        1. Anole*

          Question writer here. My other report actually requested that we not go out for her birthday, and I brought in a cake. I plan to skip my birthday, but you (and all the commenters) are right that I should prioritize my employee’s morale over a minor inconvenience.

          1. AKchic*

            Ugh. I hate hold-outs. I wonder what the thought process was for the original instigator of this tradition way back when. Because I can bet that neither of your current reports were there at the beginning.

            Upper management / HR doesn’t have any guidance for this? You’re not getting reimbursed for the expense, so I would assume that the lunch itself if it runs over your allotted lunch hour, is going to be unpaid time off or using your vacation time? (Sorry, I’m trying to figure out how this all works from a logistics point of view)

            If nobody has had a birthday celebration this calendar year, it may be best to just switch it up and say that you’ve wanted to change it for a while and it’s easier with only two in the office rather than multiple who remember the “tradition” but don’t remember why the tradition was even started in the first place.
            Then switch to an in-office cupcake (or pizza, or subs, or donuts, or whatever) event.

            1. Glitsy Gus*

              Is it really that big a deal to once or twice a year have an “off-site” meeting to get around the hours thing (if it even is a thing, if everyone is exempt it may not be)? It’s a little Scroogeish to use one or two hours of lost time a year as justification to end a morale booster.

              Yeah, maybe this one employee is a little overly enthusiastic, but unless they’re asking to go out to a $200/plate, four hour tasting menu or something it seems like it’s not that big a deal to just have a department lunch out as a change of pace. If it is a financial burden on the supervisor that’s one thing, but nickle and diming a timesheet for one long lunch shouldn’t be a driving force.

              1. AnnaBananna*

                But see, this wouldn’t be a ‘morale booster’ for me. And it sounds like her other staff feels the same way. To us it’s actually a burden. So why is one person’s needs more important than the other 2/3rds of the group? I’m curious.

                I think it would be much more appropriate to do some sort of group training exercise or professional development together if a morale boost is needed. Plus cupcakes. Because, yum.

                1. Emily K*

                  Our HR did an anonymous wellness survey a few years back and one of the questions asked what incentives would motivate us to participate in optional health activities and screenings with 3 numbered lines. I wrote “cash” on all 3 lines.

                  I very well could be projecting here, but to me someone who starts picking a restaurant 3 weeks before the birthday sounds more like someone who doesn’t feel like she can afford to go to nice restaurants on her own dime than someone who loves the attention part of it. Especially with only 3 people in the office. I’ve been young, broke, and working in a 4-person office and when things are that small you interact so much with all 2/3 of your coworkers every day that lunch didn’t represent any more socializing than usual, it just represented an extra long break and a nicer meal than I could afford on my own.

                  There’s a very good chance that a gift card and permission to leave 2 hours early on her birthday would be just as well received if not more than lunch with her boss and coworker.

                2. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

                  I have never seen group training as a morale boost. It’s usually boring, tedious, and a PITA.

                3. Pomona Sprout*

                  FacelessOldWoman, I’m with you on the group training thing. I don’t mind that sort of thing as a rule, since I generally like things that break up the routine/monotony. But as a birthday “treat”? No way!

                4. EventPlannerGal*

                  I’m sorry, but I am genuinely laughing out loud at the concept of offering a group training exercise as a birthday treat. I’m not sure I can think of something *less* likely to boost morale.

                5. TootsNYC*

                  . So why is one person’s needs more important than the other 2/3rds of the group? I’m curious.

                  because it’s not only about you? Because sometimes we have to do things we don’t enjoy because it does something extra good for someone else.

                  Listen, I’ve been in the position of saying, “Why does my in-laws’ loving generosity that makes me really uncomfortable always win? When do I get to say ‘That’s over a boundary for me?’ ”

                  And I’ve said, “Why do I always have to ‘understand’ when this colleague is rude to me–when does she have to worry about upsetting ME?”

                  But to go to lunch once a year and be sociable with someone who values it seems to me to be a pretty small request.

                  It is appropriate for us to be uncomfortable or to not enjoy things now and then.

                6. JM60*


                  Making sacrifices (including ones affecting your finances) for colleagues is different than for people in your professional life. People generally shouldn’t be forced to make sacrifices for colleagues at work unless there’s a work related reason for it. This is especially true if 2/3 are having to make a sacrifice for one person.

          2. Cartographical*

            If your work is very consuming, this may be a happy social break with her “work family”. My husband has a couple reports who work 9-5 and then go home to teenagers and at least one aging parent, work events are the only social activity they can afford in terms of time and money, even conferences for professional development that everyone else grumps about are a luxury. And, yes, he takes them out to a nice lunch for their birthdays even though the young single people in the office choose to meet for drinks and board games after work on their birthdays.

      1. TootsNYC*

        Or she can say, “I’m the boss, we don’t celebrate my birthday on the ‘gifts flow downward’ theory.”

        That would feel very natural to me.

    3. Old Cynic*

      Totally agree. But having said that, I’ve had subordinates that would be horrible to have lunch with. An hour that feels like 4. Stained conversation, awareness, etc.

      1. JamieS*

        Even with reports who are bad lunch companions this would still fall into the “suck it up” category if your reports enjoy it.

        1. Anole*

          This definitely is a factor. It’s like two hours of listening to stories about the good old days.

          1. Lucette Kensack*

            Two hours a year, in support of one of your direct reports. There’s just not a good argument not to do this.

            1. Anole*

              You’re right, and reading all the responses has definitely been a good reality check for me — I was over indulging my own annoyance.

      2. TacocaT*

        I am not trying to nitpick on wording, but wanted to note that I love (what I assume is a typo) “stained” conversation. Now I’m thinking of all conversation in color form, and it is pretty glorious.

      1. Longtime lurker, occasional poster*

        MommyMD is one of the longtime members of this community, and I don’t think we need to be making mordant comments towards her.

        And her point is valid — isn’t it obvious from context which letter this comment was directed towards?

        1. Anon for this*

          She also didn’t NEED to point out that it was obvious either. Rude is a bit strong, but pointing out to someone that something is “obvious” isn’t particularly kind, like telling someone “well no duh it was X thing.”

          And just because it was a valid point doesn’t mean it was necessary to say. Sometimes commenters get confused about what letter someone is referring to and want to make sure before responding. It Can Wait asking isn’t some massive faux pas.

        2. Yikes*

          All hail MommyMD because she is longtime and mordant. She was off-putting and it is justifiable to point that out.

          1. Jean (just Jean)*

            MommyMD might have been being self-deprecating, with the “obviously” meaning “I (not the reader) am being so dumb!”

          2. Aveline*

            Hasn’t our dear leader asked us expressly not to do this?

            It’s a derailing personal attack that has no purpose and can shut down discussion.

            I hope AAM deletes this entire sub-thread b/c it’s really what I want the LW reading first thing coming here for advice.

    4. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I think this is for OP3 the birthday boss.
      One suggestion to substitute? Find out if your company will let you grant them a half-day PTO for their birthday instead, and offer that. I’d take it in a heartbeat! Even an extra hour would be a fair trade.

      1. Ammonite*

        Nowadays, I’d take that in a heartbeat! Or frankly, just the option to have a longer lunch on my own.
        But I think it’s important to remember that what is strained, awkward, forced merriment for some, is incredibly valuable to others.
        I went through a prolonged phase of my life when I truly had no friends and therefore extremely limited social interaction. My work at the time had a similar birthday tradition, where the department went out together and the director paid for the birthday person’s meal. I would’ve been mortified to reveal this to my coworkers, but for several years, that was the only birthday celebration I had unless I decided to do something for myself (which I never did- nothing makes the feeling of crushing loneliness sting as much as making or buying a cake for just yourself, or going out alone). My coworkers and I weren’t all best friends, but they were pretty much the only social circle I had. If we had done away with the birthday tradition because other people didn’t find it enjoyable, I would have been devastated (not just because I wouldn’t get a celebration anymore, but also because it would have been a clear indicator that the only people I interacted with did not value that interaction).
        OP, from the comments it sounds like you’ve decided to suck it up for your enthusiastic coworker’s birthday and I commend you for that. We never know how important the things that seem negligible to us can be to someone else.

        1. That_guy*

          Thank you for this. That sounds like a difficult time, and I hope you’re in a better place now.

        2. wittyrepartee*

          I’ve been in a similar situation. There was a point when new friend had chipped in to buy me a birthday teapot and I started ugly crying because I realized that I had made a community.

        3. SOAS*

          Jesus that makes me cry b/c I recognize myself here. I have a husband and friends from college but, we dont’ really go out and my friends are a lways too busy for my b-day so I always feel a twinge of sadness. It no way replaces real friendships but it does feel very nice even if it’s only for a quick moment.
          Someone above said that they’re a hold out and that’s not fair at all.

        4. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

          You almost broke me at this. I very much feel the same. You never know what may make a person’s life just a tiny bit brighter.

        5. Oh So Anon*

          Thank you for sharing this, you’re making me have a whole lotta feels.

          You might be a random commenter to me, but I’m proud of you for admitting that you’ve felt lonely. So often we (especially other introverts) expect or tell isolated people that they ought not care about feeling isolated, and that not caring will normalize it for them. Not forcing yourself to pretend that it’s NBD is often the first step to making new connections.

        6. Fiddlesticks*

          Thank you, Ammonite, for your honest and compassionate comment that has made a number of us reevaluate our personal responses to this issue. I am a serious-ass introvert, I don’t like doing social stuff with my coworkers during or after work, and I hate when my own birthday is acknowledged at work (usually after I’ve asked for it NOT to be acknowledged). BUT, if I thought that a work birthday celebration was literally a lifeline for someone who felt alone, and in need of support and recognition, I would gladly participate with a smile on my face.

          1. nonegiven*

            I took my birth date completely private on Facebook, just to cut down on the number of birthday acknowledgements.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        Honestly, I’d rather have the lunch. A half-day PTO means I had to do all the same amount of commuting for half a day of work, which is not a win.

        Now, if you could get them a whole day of PTO . . .

    5. Anole*

      Question writer here. Thanks, and you are correct — my time is not so valuable that I can’t spend some of it celebrating an occasional birthday.

      1. Yvette*

        I think you just need to continue it, at least for the one who looks forward to it. If the other one would prefer something else than fine for that person. Alison’s comment about no longer needing a one size fits all is a good way to put it, but I would provide specific options (treat, 1/2 day off if allowed etc.) And you can replace your own lunch with bringing in a treat. You could also minimize the time spent at lunch by making 12:00 reservations and then scheduling a meeting or conference call for 2:00 or 2:30 or even 1:30 to give you a hard end time.
        And I think you sound like a considerate person to work for.

      2. wittyrepartee*

        And it’s okay to not enjoy it! Just go, and then do something you actually enjoy after work.

      3. Dust Bunny*

        Give them a choice: Lunch out, or a cake in, or whatever you think is reasonable. The third person might not opt for lunch out, either, if there were another option.

        Granted, my department actually like each other, but sometimes a break from routine is nice.

    6. austriak*

      When the next one comes up, make an excuse on why you are too busy to get out (e.g. I have a meeting or there is a deadline). Say that to make up for it, you will bring in a treat. You pull that a time or two and the whole tradition is changed to a treat that you bring in.

      Otherwise, just suck it up and go to lunch.

      1. Tammy*

        This only works if the excuse is genuine/valid/true, though. Otherwise, you’re lying to your team member in order to accomplish a goal that’s just as easy to accomplish in a truthful and forthright manner. That’s not a good thing in terms of trust. And, as others have pointed out, the current tradition might be deeply meaningful to the team member, and she might genuinely be upset about having it changed. On balance, I don’t think this approach is solving the right problem, and the consequences are likely to be much larger (in terms of employee morale and engagement and trust) than the cost to the manager of sucking it up and spending a couple hours a year on something they don’t enjoy.

        A lot of times, leadership is about doing things that aren’t necessarily fun for you because they’re the right thing for your people/your team/the company. This is one of those times, I think.

    7. Black Bellamy*


      “In order to answer your question, I need to know how committed you are to hiring me. On a scale of 1 to 10.”

      1. College Career Counselor*

        I like your response. Honestly, to me the whole question smacks of a weird kind of sales power dynamic. “How committed are you to buying this car TODAY!?”

        I wish I’d thought to ask how likely they were to offer me the job, when I once had a VP ask me how likely I was to take a position as we were doing a wrap-up conversation after a grueling 2-day interview process. I attempted to deflect, saying that I’d learned a lot and certainly wanted time to reflect and talk with my spouse. She kept pushing on it, and I stuck to the line that I wanted time to reflect and talk with my family. It eventually got awkward, and I did not get an offer, but I’m thinking bullet dodged, as I would have reported to that VP. They turned out not to hire anyone for at least a full year after that.

      2. AKchic*

        Oooh. I love that reversal. Quick on the feet and completely flips it to show just how condescending the question is. Might teach them a lesson.

    8. Kix*

      I’d probably have lunch brought in if we’re only talking about three people, but then, I confess I’m not a fan of enforced togetherness in the middle of the day. What I have done with my team is taken them to breakfast rather than lunch, and it works well.

    9. TootsNYC*

      I have the opinion that the boss should create those sorts of events anyway in most situations (I used to take my team out for National Grammar Day, though I’ve dropped that because the folks who work directly for me don’t seem to care).

      I’d regard the birthday lunches as a no-brain-power-needed morale booster. That’s what it always was, actually. And boosting the morale of your team, making them feel valued by and connected to the company, is a big part of a manager’s job.

      Giving them a gift card and a long lunch might be enough, but some people do thrive on being fêted, so be careful; that could come across as brushing her off, which might defeat the purpose.

      1. All the world is birthday cake*

        I’d regard the birthday lunches as a no-brain-power-needed morale booster. That’s what it always was, actually.

        Exactly. From what exposition I’ve read, I’m aghast that abolishing them is even open for discussion.

      2. JM60*

        “I’d regard the birthday lunches as a no-brain-power-needed morale booster.”

        I strongly disagree with the no-brainer part. I dislike being required to socialize with others as at work. It’s really a drainingc chore than fun for me.That includes going to lunches, whether it’s for a colleague’s birthday or my own. If my boss had everyone go out for lunch to celebrate my birthday, I would secretly dislike that, and it probably wouldn’t raise my moral.

  3. Aphrodite*

    OP #2, I am thankful that my great boss probably has no idea about this day. I have very little and would have no idea it had taken place had I not seen this letter. )

    While I think Alison’s reply is excellent, as usual, I’d like to take this time to also encourage all managers and executives who work with good professional admins to seriously explore the idea of recruiting managerial material from the admin world. Think about it. Experienced admins have superb communication and customer service skills, an ability to prioritize both assignments and people, tact, sales ability, excellent time management, consistent attention to detail while at the same time fitting work and their goals into the company’s big picture and keeping both on an equal level, strong relationship development, and much, much more. In other words, if you think only one thing–support–when you think of the admins you work with you may be missing out on some truly outstanding management material.

    1. Someone*

      The best managers I’ve had were admins before. The core responsibility of a manager includes removing barriers to enable employees to efficiently do their job. Thats basically all that admins do. And in many departments, if you have a decent technical lead, having a manager with admin experience and mindset just complements the situation perfectly.

    2. TacocaT*

      I love how you explained this, and you’re exactly right! You could even say that admins are general support for (company, department, etc.), and managers are also there for support for their team and their leadership. I never thought about the similarities in the roles before. Thank you for posting!

    3. Amy*

      We had an admin who started 15 years ago as a young single mom with a HS diploma.

      She excelled at doing extremely complex detailed oriented work that no one else wanted. She now makes about 250K a year and is running a major division.

    4. OP2*

      Absolutely agreed! Admin work is HARD and, frankly, I’m not good at it, which is why I don’t do it haha

    5. kittymommy*

      Seriously!! And in a lot of admin positions (at least in my experience) you may not be managing work product but you are managing people and their personalities and idiosyncrasies.

    6. Future Homesteader*

      I am in no way biased (okay, fine, I’m incredibly biased), but I think this is spot-on and a brilliant idea. I love admin work in a lot of ways and actually really like my organization, but when I move on from my job it’s going to be because there’s nowhere for me to go from here and I want to keep advancing.

    7. smoke tree*

      I totally agree! I’ve often thought that it would be logical to have management as a separate career track rather recruiting managers from among individual contributors in a given area. Usually it seems more important for managers to have the type of skill set you describe than to know the details of a particular department’s work. Wouldn’t hurt that this system would probably lead to admin skills becoming more valued.

    8. twig*


      Also: provide your admins with training opportunities. International Association of Administrative Professionals and American Society of Administrative Professionals are both good organizations that provide training and conferences. I’m and admin and member of both Orgs.

      My company paid for me to go to the IAAP summit last year — it was AWESOME– I met a lot of fellow admins from all over the country, gained new skills and resources. Maybe most important of all: I felt valued by my organization and my peers.

      And as for the original topic here, RE admins and management: according to IAAP’s research, during the 2008 recession, a lot of middle management was cut and many of those duties were handed off to admins who continue to do that work today. (I don’t remember the exact numbers or anything. I’ll see if I can find a source for this information later if I can.

    9. boo bot*

      This is very true. I feel like admin work tends to require various managerial skills at pretty much all levels.

    10. Trixie*

      Our Big Boss wanted to offer something for this day and our team had the similar responses. Ranging from a dated perspective as well some employees would not be happy about being “admins” even when presented with a token of appreciation. We planted the seed of providing all “staff” with a half-day PTO. Ultimate gesture which to me was the gift of free paid time off and not being forced to spend it with coworkers. We have a new Big Boss as of this summer and ideally we will extend this offering or perhaps move away from day/holiday altogether.

  4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    LW#2, ouch. I think it’s worth pushing back. It’s really problematic for an organization to assume, and act on the assumption that, all young and relatively-new-to-the-employer women are admins.

    I’d be inclined to push back by asking questions about the practice and how folks picked which people to include (the tone is “I’m new and genuinely curious”). Then, when they start explaining and the explanation doesn’t match for all the non-admins, you can get a confused look on your face and ask earnest follow-up questions. You can also say things that assume good intent, like “I’m sure no one would assume all young women are admins when distributing appreciation gifts, so I was confused when [I received X “gift”]” to help flag that this was a majorly sexist SNAFU.

      1. Suzy Q*

        OP, this happened to me once, too. You are handling it better than I did. I was both bewildered and furious, but worked in a small toxic company where I knew it would make no difference to complain. I wish better for you!

    1. Sara without an H*

      Excellent script. And I strongly suspect that you, Princess CBH, are a wily office politician.

    2. Kelly L.*

      It reminds me of some churches I’ve heard about that give Mother’s Day flowers to every woman, regardless of actual maternal status, and how this can be hurtful to people who don’t want or can’t have kids.

      1. TootsNYC*

        I’m a mother, and I go to church regularly.
        I really don’t want all those people saying “Happy Mother’s Day” to me. And I don’t like it in a big community like that, for exactly those reasons. Plus it just opens up the door to the whole “your only value is your role as a mother” thing, which can quickly get out of hand in a church, especially.

        But then, I’m weird. I didn’t really like it when aunts- and uncles-in-law were sending us “happy anniversary” cards on our first anniversary. It just felt intrusive. I’ve calmed down a little (but so have they, fortunately).

        I have some rigid and exclusionary boundaries, I’ve decided.

        1. Wake up !*

          It’s way OTT to object to anniversary cards from family members. They are *not* the ones who need to “calm down” in this scenario.

        2. wittyrepartee*

          I think this is referred to as “being a very private person”. I get this. I may be dragging my feet on getting engaged because the hullabaloo is going to stress me out.

      2. Anax*

        It can also be awkward for other reasons – for instance, I’m transgender (female-to-male), and I look like a woman… but I’m not one.

        I know an awful lot of genderqueer folks who aren’t changing their ID or taking hormones, but would be very uncomfortable about being singled out by sex this way.

  5. It Can Wait*

    Lw#3, if the thought of taking an extended lunch is distasteful to you, how about giving employees a gift card for a nice amount to their favorite restaurant (or a cash card, if that’s appropriate) AND an extended lunch on their birthdays? Each person can get a little bit more to spend than they’re used to because you’re not buying lunch for three people. They don’t have to spend the card on their lunch, but they can use that time for whatever they like. Better yet, let them take a couple hours off and maybe they’ll have a great birthday dinner or something with someone they love.

    1. Triplestep*

      This is a good idea. Send the other two for lunch without you, OP. I’m guessing if they realized that their boss can’t even manage to suck it up and spend social time with them twice a year, they might give you the out you’re looking for.

      By the way, I’m curious how you know the one employee “truly relishes getting a free meal and getting to take an extended lunch break”? Maybe she just likes having some non-work time with her boss and co-worker? She’s lived through people’s retirements and re-orgs and getting a new manager – maybe she enjoys this particular vestige or her former work life.

      Regardless, I think you’d be doing them a favor if you sent them to go without you. I am not someone who celebrates adult birthdays, and I would always chose to spend social times with the friends I picked rather than the colleagues with whom I was thrown together. But I could still grace two people with 90 minutes of my time twice a year to allow them to feel appreciated. If that feels like a hardship to you, you’d be doing them a service if you sent them without you. Something tells me they already know you can’t stand being around them any more than necessary, though. At least one of them does.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Hey, there are a lot of unkind assumptions here. Please give letter-writers more benefit of the doubt. (Someone can be unenthused about a lunch without it meaning they can’t stand being around their employees. We have plenty of commenters here who dislike these things, without it meaning much more than that.)

        1. Triplestep*

          Respectfully, Alison, I think a few unkind assumptions are spelled out in the description of a staff member who “relishes” a free meal and and extra long lunch break. Why not assume better of this person? Perhaps she enjoys the extra face time with her boss and a nice meal with people she considers her work family.

          I am actually one of those people who doesn’t look forward to forced social time with work people (I thought that was clear in what I wrote) but usually I’m glad once I’ve participated. It has it’s time and place and twice a year is really not too much to ask. I think my response could be helpful to the LW, who may not have considered that her employees can tell she doesn’t like them.

          1. lawschoolmorelikeblawschool*

            The other person isn’t the LW. Alison said, and always says, to give the LW the benefit of the doubt. Seems reasonable to me.

          2. JB (not in Houston)*

            You are assuming that the LW is incorrect, though. How do you know the staff member hasn’t said as much? I work with people who don’t hesitate to list those very reasons for liking work lunches.

          3. paleo*

            Obviously if the employee is excitedly planning something 20 days in advance, they clearly “relish” the birthday lunch, which by the LW’s description, includes free food and an extended break. What exactly is so hard to understand about that? It seems like you’re deliberately missing the point here.

            1. Alianora*

              But … maybe the part they relish is getting to spend time with their boss and coworkers that isn’t about work. It’s not necessarily all about the free stuff.

          4. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I’m confused about what unkind assumptions you’re seeing in the letter. The LW writes, “However, one of my supervisees truly relishes getting a free meal and getting to take an extended lunch break, to the point where she starts planning at the beginning of the month a birthday that won’t happen until the 20th.” I suppose I can see how you could read it as slightly insulting (about her loving a free meal? but plenty of people do) but I read it as matter-of-fact reporting. Regardless, I do ask that people be kind to LWs here and give them the benefit of the doubt, and there’s nothing here indicating the LW doesn’t like his reports.

            1. Anax*

              As an example: perhaps the report is caring for children or a disabled or elderly family member. Healthcare or childcare can be intensely expensive, and strain budgets even when an employee is well-compensated. Many folks in that position would hesitate to “splurge” on themselves, either because of the cost of a nice meal, or because it’s hard to take that time to truly relax at home.

              It would make perfect sense to me that a person in that position might really relish a free meal and an extra-long lunch on their own merits, without being somehow “greedy” or “shallow”. (I assume that’s the connotation the above commenter is seeing.)

              (Or maybe she just really likes birthday lunches; that’s fair too.)

            2. Triplestep*

              No, you’ve got it. It’s insulting.

              Sure, plenty of people like to be treated to a meal, but the term “free meal” is not routinely used to describe these occasions because “free meal” connotes something else. The mention of getting extended time out of the office implies slacking off, and “relish?” In conjunction with these other terms its just not nice.

              This LW did not write for advice on how to coach an employee who lacked self-awareness. The question he did ask and the answer you gave would have been the same had he written “I have one employee who really looks forward to these lunches and is even planning three weeks in advance for hers!”

              Instead he wrote something that clearly showed his disdain. We can all scream “no assuming!” or we can stop pretending his language wasn’t loaded and suggest to him his feelings about her might be apparent.

              How would we respond to someone who wrote in saying she’d overheard her manager saying she “truly relishes getting a free meal and getting to take an extended lunch break”? Would we tell her “He just thinks you’re enthusiastic?” No, she’d be given advice for how to redeem herself in her manager’s eyes.

              1. AngryAngryAlice*

                It’s really weird that you’re dying on this hill. Not many other people read it the way you did, and I’m one of the many, many people who thinks there was nothing wrong with the wording here.

                Do you have personal experience in which someone said you relish something and they meant it negatively..? That’s the only reason I can think of that you’d push back so strongly on this.

            3. Ask a Manager* Post author

              You’re reading something into that I’m not. I hope, at least, you can see that your interpretation is only one possible interpretation, and honor my request to give the LW the benefit of the doubt. It’s really frustrating for letter writers to have their words parsed like this.

          5. TootsNYC*

            I didn’t think any part of that description was negative. You’re reacting with your biases, I think.

            ()this reminds me of Michelle Wolf saying, “I didn’t make any comment about Sarah Sanders’ appearance. I’m fine with how she looks. Maybe you aren’t?” when the crack had been about Sanders’ attractive eye makeup (the perfect smoky eye).

            1. AKchic*

              My biggest bias is using the word “relish”. It makes me think of actual relish (which I despise) and invokes images of my grandfather enthusiastically licking and smacking his lips before eating a hot dog just to annoy me and my grandmother (I swear that man made annoying sounds on purpose because he loved to rile my faux prim and proper grandma up, but I have misophonia and it drove me up the wall) and then my little sister picked up on the affectations and she’s a terribly rude, ill-mannered git to begin with.

              I’m going to go sit in a quiet closet and eat quiet food and pretend I just didn’t remember any of my childhood family meals.

              1. boo bot*

                This was my read as well. I think sometimes the word “relish” can take on a judgmental connotation. I’m not sure precisely why – clearly it’s not inherent in the meaning of the word – but I feel like I’ve often seen in used to mean, “delight in something in which it is not proper to delight.”

                Paired with “free meal” and “long lunch break,” I think the phrasing has a slight and presumably unintentional negative cast.

                /word detective.

                Please feel free to delete if this breaks the nitpicking rule; I wanted to respond to people who were genuinely curious about what kind of negative read was possible.

                1. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before*

                  Totally agreed. I also read disdain in the OPs letter from their word choice.

          6. smoke tree*

            I suspect that the LW finds the lunches so tedious that she can only imagine that it’s the lure of a free lunch and time off that appeals to the employee. But if the employee is so visibly excited by the lunch, it sounds like it’s a meaningful tradition to her. If she’s been with the employer for a while, maybe it reminds her of the birthday lunches of yore with the full team.

          7. RUKiddingMe*

            “…who may not have considered that her employees can tell she doesn’t like them.”

            Do you think you might be projecting a little?

      2. WellRed*

        The other employee doesn’t want to do the lunch thing either. I also think it’s unfair for the letter writer to pay for this tradition. The company should.

      3. Someone Else*

        I really dislike the “suck it up” mentality on forced work birthday events though. I can’t think of a job where “celebrate your birthday the way work wants you to” is work-relevant. The “suck it up”angle is what leads to, for example, an employer who doesn’t want to do this and an employee who doesn’t want to do this both not saying anything to let the other off the hook because neither wants to appear to be the stick in the mud. I’m not saying that’s the case with OP, but for all the other letters where it was some sort of “please just communicate directly that you prefer not to do this, especially since it has nothing to do with work” I’m surprised that for this one I’m seeing quite a few (besides the comment I’m replying to) saying “suck it up”. I know this one is a little different because it’s the boss who wants to end the tradition, not the recipient but I think intent is just as irrelevant here as in other cases, you know? “But they meant it as a compliment” or “they’re doing a nice thing for you, just accept it”. Work birthday stuff falls into that category for me. It’s so forced.

        1. Eukomos*

          It doesn’t sound like OP has any intention of forcing this tradition on the report that doesn’t want to do it, though. The question is whether they’ll continue it for the report who does like celebrating her birthday that way.

    2. Suz*

      My thought was to buy the birthday person a restaurant gift card and bring in a treat. Free meal and a treat.

  6. Grand Mouse*

    #2- I feel like we are getting a lot of questions about sexism in the workplace (like just the last one). Things like this seem glaringly sexist, but I was raised feminist and I guess people have a lot of unconscious biases. Either conscious or unconscious sexism, the result is just pointing it out like “surely you didn’t mean it to come across this way?” It could be a wakeup call for the people unknowingly doing it, and a warning for the more willingly sexist people that you are noticing

    I am nb/genderfluid so I am acutely aware of how different genders are treated. It makes me want to rage, but unfortunately that’s not possible in the workplace. A compromise is saying this in a matter of fact way so you don’t undermine your message. As Alison talks about on her tone podcasts, you are giving them a benefit of the doubt and approaching this as neutrally as possible.
    Good luck!

    1. OP2*

      Thank you! I went back and forth on this, just because gifts are obviously a nice gesture, and part of me doesn’t want to be offended at being identified as an admin (because they do amazing work) – it’s just that admin work is unfortunately linked with “women’s work”, for lack of a better phrase.

      1. WellRed*

        It’s totally well meant, but it’s OK to point out what’s wrong with this and that’s how we effect change. There was a letter a while back in which all the women in the office were given flowers for mother’s day. (I cringe just writing that sentence).

      2. blackcat*

        It’s totally okay to be offended.

        Echoing a post above, I have had good success with asking questions like, “Oh, [obviously sexist assumption you just made] was surprising. Can you explain your reasoning?” in a nice, cheerful tone. I can’t always pull it off! But when I do, no one seems to think I’m being “that feminist b—” who is calling stuff out. And 90% of the time, someone stammers and then changes the subject. The realize what they did. I have encountered exactly one person who legit said “Well, I asked you to get my coffee because you’re a woman. Don’t women like helping out men?” in all seriousness. I said “No” and walked away, while a male colleague chewed him out.

        I am much more direct with my students (female STEM academic) b/c I have authority over them and want to shut down the behavior hard (before they go into the workplace and do these things!). But other with folks, I try the somewhat softer approach first.

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          “Well, I asked you to get my coffee because you’re a woman. Don’t women like helping out men?”

          Someone said this out loud? Was it 1965?

        2. Electric sheep*

          “I have encountered exactly one person who legit said “Well, I asked you to get my coffee because you’re a woman. Don’t women like helping out men?” in all seriousness. I said “No” and walked away, while a male colleague chewed him out.”

          Wow! But what a great response. Hopefully he learnt something…

      3. Trout 'Waver*

        It’s OK to be offended. You’re not an admin and getting recognized as an admin makes you less likely to get promoted in your current role. If they view you as doing a completely different job, how can they objectively say you’re good at your real job?

      4. Sara without an H*

        OP2, I understand your reservation — there’s nothing innately degrading about admin work, and in fact, one of the main objections to “Administrative Professionals Day” is that admins should be recognized and respected for their contributions all the time, not just taken to lunch on a “day.”

        But there are a lot of well-intentioned imbeciles in the world, and I suspect one of them organized this. If you can frame your response as “Oh, how lovely, but I’m confused — you see, I’m not actually an admin,” you can help surface the issues and, as a bonus, probably make the organizers very uncomfortable.

        Uncomfortable enough, one hopes, not to do this again.

        1. Chinookwind*

          I work for a group of truckers who kept wishing me “happy administrative professionals day” and do refer to the office staff as “girls” (as in, Bob’s girl will have the paperwork you are looking for) and I know them to be completely respectful to women and do not treat any of us negatively or patronizingly. But, I am not a fan of this day because no one else gets a special day to celebrate their contributions and I would prefer to be respected every day. But I also didn’t want to be preachy.

          So, every time one of them greeted me like that, I told them that, if they are going to celebrate something so antiquated, I would prefer to be called a secretary as that is what I am. Because they are great guys, it triggered some conversations about how they view what I do and how days like that are remnants of another time and way of thinking. It was a great conversation.

          Ironically, the more patronizing people I work with are in my other department and more highly educated but I would never broach the subject with them because they already see me as devalued. They pointedly did not talk to me all day (maybe so they wouldn’t have to take me to lunch like the truckers did) and often make comments that make it known that they don’t think I am capable of much or that I contribute actively to their business’ success. They were also shocked to learn at the data analysis I put together for their boss (as in they thought it was too complicated for me to do). The truckers, on the other hand, were impressed and asking me what else I could do.

        2. RUKiddingMe*

          The fact that they assumed all the women are admins is incredibly sexist. Intentions aside this needs to be nipped in the bud post haste.

          I like your “I’m confused…” script. Say it, let it hang there.

      5. MonkeyFish*

        I had this happen to me years back — I was in a fellowship program and was working in the department for a six month rotation as an analyst. I said something to the manager and he basically yelled at me that they were just trying to make me feel included…which was…not great. But I don’t regret bringing the issue up to him because maybe if they ever have another female non-admin they’ll think twice? Probably not, but maybe?

        1. MatKnifeNinja*

          I wonder if this holiday is company specific and regional?

          OP#2, I have refused stuff for Secretary Day. Right then and there. I wasn’t an administrative assistant, so it wasn’t mine to take. If it was something I knew one of the assistants could use, I gave it away.

          One time I did get, “Oh we know. We want to show much we appreciate your support.” The other time was, “Yeah, I know your not, but we got extra (really nice pen and pencil set)

          I would tell my boss or whomever organized it to take you off the list. One less person to purchase for and all that. Most people shouldn’t get their undies in a wad over it.

          Secretary Day is huge in my area. You got a better chance of cancelling Thanksgiving, than dumping it. I’ve worked health care, public school systems, office drone, and at a restaurant (?), they all had something.
          It’s morphed into let’s celebrate the lower level worker bee (less flowers and candies, more gift cards)

          My sister’s work place got rid of the day, after someone complained it was sexist and gross. There went the catered lunches, goody bags, and the $100 bonus. Corporate isn’t stupid. They saved a ton of cash.

          After a near riot the first no Secretary Day, Corporate said departments could something if they wanted. Almost every department does now.

      6. CM*

        I’ve also struggled with this.

        I think the core belief that’s being expressed by people who treat all women like admins is “Women should have low status,” but that that belief gets expressed in many different ways at once. So, the reason admin work is seen as low status work in the first place is because it’s traditionally done by women, and then the reason women are mistaken for admins is because it’s assumed that they hold low status positions. In either case, the worldview these people have is that women match together with low status work, and then either they’re mentally assigning low status work to women or re-evaluating the work women do as having less status (or both).

        We, of course, want to tell them to stop doing both of those things — “I’m not actually an admin, and, by the way, stop being so salty to the admins!” but neither of those things are the actual problem. The problem is the sexist (and morally wrong) belief that women should have low status — the practices of devaluing women’s work and of assuming women do devalued work are just expressions of that belief.

        TL:DR you’re right to be insulted, but it’s a double-triple insult and I don’t know the right way to stop it.

      7. M. Albertine*

        Ugh. I was wished a happy administrative professionals day and I’m basically the controller in all but name. So yes, I’m administrative but…maybe I’d feel better if the CEO (the only other “administrative” position) was given the same wishes, but I’m pretty sure he wasn’t.

      8. lulu*

        I think you need to bring it up, and please update us to what they say when you do because I am curious what the reaction will be!

    2. Anne Elliot*

      I think it is very likely the OP’er’s situation is sexism but feel compelled to post to point out that it’s not 100% clear that it is. Not that I am “not all men!”-ing this post, but because this EXACT problem happened in my own office this year as well, but only women were involved. We are a smallish law office with around 10 attorneys, 3 admins, and a paralegal we just added late last year. For Administrative Professionals’ Day, this year (as in past years) the attorneys chipped in for cards, plants, and a communal meal. The young female attorney tasked with buying the plants bought one for, and presented the plant to, our paralegal. Who is not an admin. And who was pretty transparently not pleased to receive it. And it wasn’t sexism, it was just a young attorney who wasn’t clear on who is considered an administrative professional and who isn’t. Some people thought the paralegal was a bit rude in allowing people to see that she did not appreciate the gesture — but of course she wasn’t rude to do that, paralegals have to reinforce far too often that they are not administrative support.

      So in our case it wasn’t sexism, it was just a lack of clarity as to who falls into the administrative professional bucket and who doesn’t. But it does highlight how fraught these artificially-constructed occasions are. For my part, in the scenario I described, the sexism arose (and arises) from the unspoken assumption that females will do this sort of party planning and occasion-marking. The young female attorney likely would not have made the mistake if she was a young MALE attorney, because it would have been far less likely she would have been responsible for buying ANYONE a plant. In my office, girls make these occasions happen; boys just show up or maybe contribute cash. Which is a whole ‘nother ranty discussion.

      1. MonkeyFish*

        I agree with you that it was sexist that the female lawyer was the one made to get the items. I still think the fact that the female attorney gave the female paralegal a plant could also have been sexist. That is, we women are just as capable of unconscious bias. Would the female lawyer have assumed a male paralegal was an admin? Or would that have given her more pause?

        1. Artemesia*

          I feel enlightened. I think of paralegals as providing administrative support to lawyers. i.e. they support lawyers by doing routine work under their purview and supervision. I’d have bought her the plant.

    3. smoke tree*

      This question reminded me of when I worked at a publishing house and visitors always asked if I was a secretary, and seemed visibly surprised when I told them I was an editor. This is why I like to communicate through email.

  7. Hey Nonnie*

    #4, if you’re just looking for rainfall or white noise audio at work, both and have rainfall sounds, along with other kinds of white noise (Calm has babbling streams and ocean waves, too). They both have phone apps, but you can play them in a desktop browser too. The visuals are just nature scenes of whatever you’re listening to, like rain falling on leaves or waves on a shoreline, so no worries about what your coworkers might see.

    1. Airy* is also great for background sounds, various types of white noise, and soundscapes. They’re all highly customisable and most can be calibrated to get the best from your particular speakers or earphones.

      1. Amadeo* is my favorite all time noise generator, so much so that I’ve given them money repeatedly. I would definitely recommend them for background noise if you need a variety to pick from for work.

      2. Just Employed Here*

        I just remembered a few days ago that I have given money to this one great website, but couldn’t for my life remember what it’s name was. It was MyNoise!! Thank you!

      1. PhyllisB*

        Rain noises might be a bad idea if your mother potty trained you to the sound of running water. For those who are going ??? This is when you can’t go and your mother turns on the bathroom faucet to get things going. :-) BTW; it works for adults too. Once I had surgery and was having to use a bedpan (ugh) and couldn’t go. Mom reached over and turned on the water and success!! She said, “I knew I trained you well!!”

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          I’m torn between TMI and laughing my head off.
          (And I realized I’m now going to have to head to the rest room too which makes me grin even wider.)

          1. PhyllisB*

            Yep, that is a bit TMI, isn’t it? But glad you got a chuckle out of it. A friend gave me a lovely table-top fountain and my kids all said, “Mom!! Don’t hook it up!! We’ll be in the bathroom all the time!!”

        2. Compliance*

          This made me laugh! I was gonna say, please use headphones, even if you go the rain/thunder route, because if I had to listen to that during the day that would put me right to sleep. But yeah, not making your coworkers want to pee themselves is also a good reason!

    2. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

      Do you even need to leave your browser open while you’re listening? (I know YouTube can be a bit funny about it).
      Even if it’s a rainforest picture, surely you can just minimise the window and go back to Excel or whatever?

      Or have I missed the point again?

      1. Anonysand*

        You can definitely run Youtube on a browser window or tab in the background or minimized! I know because that’s how I listen to ASMR videos while I work, pretty much every day (with headphones, of course). Another option is to use Spotify if OP doesn’t want to risk a strange video popping up at an impromptu time. There isn’t as big of a selection on Spotify as Youtube, but it’s a decent option in a pinch.

    3. HeyAnonanonnie*

      Babies calm and sleep really well to water noises (ocean waves and rain) so I know you can get 10 streaming hour videos of both on Youtube.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        I used a similar trick with some too-young kittens I was fostering. Larger litters can comfort each other better, but this litter was only 2 little guys and they clearly relaxed when I played the purring videos, and slept longer and more deeply. I started with 20-minute-long ones but soon enough found 8- and 10-hour-long ones.

    4. Excel Slayer*

      There’s also a lot of asmr tracks on Spotify (and probably other places you find music and podcasts, I haven’t really checked). So it’s very possible to listen to tapping without even accidentally showing the video of a pretty lady tapping on things, which might lead to Questions.

      1. Parenthetically*

        Yes, totally this! The sexy lady pumping her liploss wand up and down and smacking/rubbing her lips together while she makes half-lidded eye contact with the camera is not your only recourse for those sounds!

      2. whimbrel*

        omg thank you for this tip, I’m off to look them up now! I use ASMR videos to filter out my noisy cubicle neighbours, but my data connection is garbage for video and I often can’t get Youtube to load. Streaming audio works fine somehow though so that sounds perfect. :D Thanks!!

    5. Elizabeth West*

      There are videos like that on YouTube as well. I use a spaceship noise one to drown out the loud dogs I live next to.

      1. Secretary*

        Also: is a good website for playing background sounds to drown out your surroundings.
        I don’t know if it counts as ASMR (because even with Alison’s link I still don’t really understand what it is) but this is a great background noise website. They also have an app.

    6. Katherine*

      I enjoy Ambient Mixer dot com – there’s a huge variety of background sound mixes to choose from, generic storms/white noise all the way to fandom-related backgrounds (you can listen to the Hogwarts library or the Slytherin Common Room!). You can make your own sound mixes, too!

    7. Midge*

      I use a Pandora station called “Binaural Tranquility Radio” that has a lot of stuff that’s ASMR-y for me. Of course what works for me might not be what works for others, but just to add another option to the list of non-video stuff. Most of the ASMR stuff on youtube is not right for me, in part because NONE of the whispering stuff works for me, and in part because the whole putting on a show thing aspect of it is so distracting and weird to me.

      That Pandora station has a lot of stuff that is as good as white noise for me, and some tinkly in the background stuff that can sometimes work for me as ASMR if it’s just right. At the very least it’s somewhat relaxing and blocks out other noises.

  8. Nodramalama*

    I agree that secretary day/admin assiststant day is stupid and patronising, and it is concerning that gifts were given to all young women. My only question is whether your role and some of the other roles could be lumped into a support type of role someone would consider alongside admin role. E.g I was a personal assistant for a while, but there were seperate administrative officers as well. It might explain the choice, even if it doesn’t excuse it

    1. Mookie*

      The LW says this happened to people with disparate titles and duties, the commonality being age and gender.

    2. new username*

      Having sat through a series of meetings on our structure, I can confirm that management, above a certain level, has very inaccurate knowledge of what the people holding lower-ranking admin-type job titles actually do (meetings in which it was clear from the outset that they’d invited workers in the entirely wrong category, who had nothing to do with the work mentioned in the topics on the agenda, for example). But maybe this is just us.

      Fortunately, no one in the upper hierarchy recognizes Admin Professional Day at all, although a few people who are directly assisted by a particular admin will order flowers for “their” admin. This arrangement suits me just fine – I don’t have to even think about it, and those who want to give a gift on an individual level do so. I think it’s a silly and pretty meaningless holiday, and finding out who left the gift and returning it with a puzzled attitude – there must be some mistake – you must have left this for someone else, since I’m not an admin – is the way to handle this.

      1. OP2*

        I definitely think it’s a case of not knowing what people actually do for their job. It’s odd because even though I’m somewhat new, my job title is something like Senior Sword Brandisher.

        1. Southern Yankee*

          I really want to be a Senior Sword Brandisher now! Where do I sign up?

          It works for solving your problem, too. Just brandish your sword at sexist gifter (jk).

        2. Psyche*

          Are there men with the same job titles as some of the women who were given gifts? That might be the easiest way to point out how problematic it is.

      2. frostipaws*

        We each got a daisy in a flowerpot, a balloon in the shape of a flower, a box of Skittles, and a $5 gift card to Starbucks. Two of our administrators put the gifts together and handed them out. One of the giftees is overseeing our upcoming silent auction and emailed the rest of us saying she had donated her gift card to the auction. The daisy I got was just leaves, no flowers. =(

        1. Elizabeth West*


          At Exjob we got $50 Visa gift cards. I don’t like Admin Day either, but I sure wasn’t going to say no to that.

        2. Ms. Rogerina Meddows*

          :( indeed. The entire thing sounds really sad.

          Also, $5 to Starbucks??? You can’t even buy one fancy drink at Starbucks with that by the time tax is factored in! Which are the only kind of drinks worth buying there, at least in my opinion. (Their plain coffee tastes burnt to me.)

          1. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before*

            Here’s what I thought- a plant you now have to take care of; a kiddy balloon; a box of cheap, gross candy; one drink at Starbucks- WHAT A GIFT! Seriously, couldn’t they have just skipped the junk and just given them a Starbucks card in a reasonable amount?

      3. aurora borealis*

        I really think it depends on the organization. We are a highly paid team of Admins, and our upper management took us to lunch at the best restaurant in town, a dozen roses each, and next week we are taking the afternoon off- paid – to go to an activity of our choosing. There are also multiple IG and FB posts from upper management that include videos with many many other employees thanking the Admin teams along with them. It was not patronizing in the least and I enjoy a free lunch and a paid afternoon off anytime (where we keep our winnings). But then again, we get thank you’s and appreciation from our other departments on a regular basis.

    3. OP2*

      I tried to justify it somewhat, but when I looked at everyone’s titles, there isn’t too much commonality. Plus, there are men who do more admin work, even if their titles don’t reflect that part of their job, who didn’t get recognized.

      1. Willis*

        I think the last sentence is the key. If it was just some confusion on who should be included and they expanded that net too wide, one would assume men with similar roles would also get swept up in it. But if it was just women / young women, it really is more like, “hey, we just assume young women are support workers regardless of their actual role.” That makes it a lot more problematic and worth bringing up. It would also make me wonder about their opinion of me in other ways too. If I’m in a meeting along with a guy at a similar level, is my company automatically giving his ideas more weight, etc. and consciously or subconsciously discounting mine? It’s shitty.

        1. valentine*

          Plus, there are men who do more admin work […] who didn’t get recognized.
          I would mention this.

      2. ket*

        That’s not cool! Men admins deserve recognition too! Maybe that’s a way to phrase it: “I’m concerned that folks like Matt and Jorge and Anders did not get recognized for their administrative contributions.”

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          “But they’re males…only women are ‘helpers’…”

          Unless it’s at home or with the kids. In that case it’s all about the males “helping out” their female SO or “babysitting.”


    4. Sunflower*

      When I worked at a BigLaw firm, pretty much everyone who wasn’t an attorney received a small bonus on Admin Day as a thank you. This meant people in marketing, IT, finance, etc in additional to those with secretary and admins titles- and it was everyone from the assistant’s to managers to the CMO. Not sure if that’s the OP’s situation but in the case someone else is reading this and wondering if this mirrors their situation.

  9. MommyMD*

    I’m not sure she’s paying for the lunches with her own money. It’s only two employees a year. I’d suck it up. It’s really so infrequent it’s not worth worrying over.

    1. Alianora*

      It says in the letter that the supervisor (LW#3) buys everyone’s lunch.

      Agreed that I’d probably keep doing it since at least one of the employees really likes it, and it’s only twice a year.

      1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

        I think supervisor buys the birthday person’s lunch.

      2. MommyMD*

        I saw that in the letter. It doesn’t necessarily mean she’s paying out of pocket. I wish it were clear. She might expense it, have a company card, or be given a certain amount of money per year for this kind of thing. She shouldn’t have to pay out of pocket.

    2. 1234*

      I thought the supervisor was buying everyone’s lunch on their corporate credit card? If the supervisor is personally paying for it, that’s more of a reason to end it. Or, they could order delivery if OP doesn’t want to go out.

      1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

        I worked for a nonprofit where “employee appreciation” via things like birthday gifts, holiday gifts, and motivational rewards were mandatory and part of a supervisor’s job description/evaluation. They were also unfunded, and had to be funded from the supervisor’s personal finances.

        Some managers managed to do budgetary ju jitsu by buying logo regalia that could be written off as “equipment and uniform expenses” or “marketing promotions” but some departments didn’t have such a budget line to hide under, and those managers had to pay out of pocket.

      2. Anole*

        I do pay personally. But since it is only a couple times I year I have been convinced by the commenters here to keep a beloved (by some) tradition going. It is not a lot of time or money, and would be petty of me to end it.

  10. Z*

    I only get the ASMR feeling from people speaking or whispering, so most of the intentional ASMR videos that work for me are roleplays. I’d be embarrassed for my coworkers to catch me listening to that kind of thing, so I don’t listen at work.

    One thing that has worked for me is ASMR readings from books. Way less embarrassing. I suspect there could be audiobooks out there too that would work, but if I’m going to treat it as background noise the same way I listen to music, it would have to be a book I’ve already read or a book I don’t care about.

  11. Z*

    Right? Ever since I was a little kid I would get that feeling seemingly at random. I figured out certain people’s voices triggered it but I felt like a creep, so I was so relieved when ASMR became a big thing on YouTube a few years back.

    1. sacados*

      I always wondered… I don’t really get any kind of reaction like that to the normal ASMR things you hear people talking about.
      But I have always HATED the sound of velcro (couldn’t even wear velcro shoes as a kid). I cringe every time I hear it, like what nails on a chalkboard is for other people. And if I had to describe it, it does also cause a sort of tickly/scratchy feeling on the top of my head.
      So lately I’ve wondered if it is somehow related to the ASMR phenomenon — except, like, the bad not-calming version (if there is such a thing).

      1. Kaffeekocherin*

        There is a theory that ASMR is linked to misophonia (select sound sensitivity) – kind of like two sides of the same coin? So it may be possibleto have an ASMR reaction to something you STRONGLY dislike/hate.

        1. PJH*

          Actually, one of the things listed in the question would actually set off my misophonia (lip smacking, usually associated with people who can’t seem to eat quietly and infrequently…)

          1. JJ Bittenbinder*

            Are there lip-smacking videos out there because some people find it relaxing? That boggles my mind!

  12. That Friday feeling*

    Isn’t the whole point of ASMR to make your head and shoulders tingle?

    That sounds like something for personal time. Not the workplace.

    1. BDH*

      Yeah, OP seems to be conflating relaxation/stress relief from white-noise type sounds with ASMR. The former is probably fine in many workplaces. The latter, not so much.

      1. HeyAnonanonnie*

        I think this is a good point, though. Intent does matter. If OP is doing it to relax or focus, that’s fine. If it will distract or titillate, don’t do it.

        1. I Took A Mint*

          This would be my concern. Most ASMR content is designed not just to be a pleasant noise, but to help you relax and fall asleep. So kind of the opposite of helping you focus or be more attentive at work. Plus tingles can be a pretty distracting phenomenon. If you’re doing something mindless then I guess whatever works for you goes, but if you need to focus or concentrate or be alert and you were listening to ASMR I’d be concerned about being distracted.

          If the sound of tapping or whatever helps you tune out other sounds that’s one thing, but most ASMR is designed to help you sleep, so I think intent does matter here.

          1. Excel Slayer*

            You could argue the same thing about listening to podcasts or audiobooks or music though. None of those are designed to help someone work. I haven’t yet seen someone hop in the comments section with ‘but isn’t music distracting?’ whenever someone asks about i.e. if music with swear words is appropriate at work. And OP has specifically said it helps her focus and reduce stress!

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              Actually, I think those threads usually wind up with a litany of things that people find distracting vs an aid to concentration. For me any music with words (at least, in a language I speak) destroys my focus if I am working with words. If I’m working with numbers, words in the background, from songs or NPR, are fine.

              I still remember that when my daughter had her wisdom teeth out the office was playing radio in the admin area and TV in the immediately adjacent, not audibly screened, reception area, and I thought I would lose my mind. After half an hour I begged them to at least kill the sound on the TV.

            2. Kathleen_A*

              I haven’t hopped onto the comments section to say these things, but I’ve thought them! In particular, I do NOT get how listening to a recording of someone talking (podcast, audio book, baseball/football/basketball game) can help anybody focus on work, but apparently this does work for some people. I don’t get it, but then again, I don’t have to.

              So yes, if these sounds are used by the OP to help her focus on work, that’s good enough for me. The video sounds pretty problematic, but there are ways around that.

              1. Dnae Ila*

                It depends on the type of work. Sometimes at work I need to do very repetitive office type work (stuffing envelopes, placing labels, collating papers, etc.) I’ve had times where I need to do this for hours. Focusing on a podcast helps disengage my brain from my hands and let’s muscle memory take over so I can get into a groove and do the same repetitive task very quickly without growing bored.

                Other times I need to read and comprehend things, and in those cases, I need instrumental music.

          2. Sawcebox*

            My ASMR doesn’t particularly help me fall asleep or make me sleepy or unfocused. It’s just soothing, pleasant tingles. Depending on the kind of work it would be no more distracting or inappropriate than music or podcasts.

    2. Choux*

      It’s not a sexual feeling, it’s just a nice, relaxing feeling. I tend to get stressed easily and have anxiety, and listening to ASMR at work has helped me tremendously in being able to calm down and deal with issues that come up.

    3. Delphine*

      It’s not meant to be sexual, though. For example, really good music gives me goosebumps sometimes. I’m not going to stop listening to music at work. It’s the goosebump kind of tingle.

      (That’s not to say that some people don’t also find it arousing, but there are a lot of random things some people find arousing.)

  13. Sam Sepiol*

    At the risk of derailing:
    I get the music chills too, but from reading round the topic I don’t think that’s ASMR. It’s called frisson and it’s similar but not the same.
    I wish I did get ASMR too!

    1. Alas rainy today*

      I experience frisson with beautiful music, including at kids concerts when they sing to the correct tune. That agreable tingling feeling comes from the lower back and runs up the spine.
      My understanding of ASMR is that it concerns the upper back, head and shoulders only.

      1. ContemporaryIssued*

        Asmr tingles radiate down from the head into shoulders, arms, even down to toes sometimes. One prominent content creator described it as a fizzy feeling against one’s skull that slowly drips down. Asmr for me goes downward, so interesting that a frisson for you goes up.

        People speculate that frisson from music is related to it but since scientific research is sparse and inconclusive, there is no real way of knowing for sure. I get asmr and chills from music but never frisson.

    2. DustyJ*

      Funnily enough I get ASMR, but not frisson.

      I was glad when I found out it had an actual name, because I thought it was very awkward and embarrassing that some people’s voices gave me the tingles! I think I would be too embarrassed to have it at work.

  14. jcarnall*

    LW3: I’ve sat through lengthy “team-bonding” employee-management lunches myself, and hated them, so I’ve every sympathy with your desire to end this tradition, but I agree with Alison: it would be a bit off when it’s only once or at most twice a year to say you won’t do it when at least one employee so much enjoys the tradition.

    I like Alison’s script for talking to the less-enthusiastic employee about her birthday lunch, but if you do find out something else she’d rather have to celebrate her birthday, do make sure it’s price-equivalent to enthusiastic-employee’s lunch. I know it’s your own money you’re spending, but you did say it was the time you begrudged not so much the money, and if you have only two employees, it wouldn’t be right to be spending more to celebrate one employee’s birthday than the other.

    Who knows: if less-enthusiastic employee says she’d prefer the treat of getting to leave an hour early with a gift voucher for her birthday, and enthusiastic-employee sees her colleague swanning off happy to buy herself her own treat, *she* might decide she wants to have the same treat rather than a lunch on her birthday next year….

    1. Colette*

      I don’t think price equivalence is necessary. If the other employee gets cupcakes, all the OP needs to do is provide cupcakes. If the employee counts the pennies and wants more “value”, she can request a lunch next time.

      1. ChimericalOne*

        I think jcarnell’s point was that the LW shouldn’t approve a request that’s substantially more expensive for coworker 2 than what they both currently get.

      2. jcarnall*

        If Enthusiastic Employee wants to continue the birthday lunch tradition, and is taken out to lunch for her birthday, cost to her manager 30 DeQs plus effectively an hour off work for EE and Manager, and Manager is okay with the cost but objects to the time sink, then yes, obviously. if Less-enthusiastic Employee agrees she doesn’t need to be taken out to lunch for her birthday but would be happy with a less time-intensive treat, absolutely Manager should be looking to provide LE with an hour off work plus a treat worth 30 DeQs.

        As I understood LW3, Manager’s issue is the time sink involved in going out to lunch, plus Manager doesn’t really enjoy the lunch much – Manager is not especially bothered by the cost of providing a birthday treat twice a year.

        Therefore, Manager should take care that the subsituted birthday treat is money/time equivalent to a free lunch without including Manager’s time, including, if possible, the extra time off work that EE relishes at lunchtime, but LE might prefer at the end of the work day.

        “If the employee counts the pennies and wants more “value”, she can request a lunch next time.”

        Which would mean Manager’s diplomacy in *avoiding* the birthday lunch would be entirely wasted, wouldn’t it?

  15. Desert Solitaire*

    #5: A few weeks ago, after a phone screen and Skype interview, an organization asked for my references, contacted all three, and then declined to advance me to second (not even final) round interviews. That one really stung, and was really depressing to pass along to my references. I’m definitely feeling a little burned, so I empathize! Good luck, and I hope they don’t insist you provide them up front!

    1. Triplestep*

      Oh, that is terrible! I hope it’s some consolation that this is clearly a place that does not know how the hiring process works, so who knows what other workplace practices they are making up as they go along?

    2. Yvette*

      It kind of makes you wonder if they are collecting references or industry contacts. I would be curious if after the references were contacted with regards to your employment if they got a LinkedIn request or something of that nature.

    3. Libervermis*

      Oof, that’s awful. I had a similar experience where a particular organization asks for reference contact info during the application phase and then *contacts each reference right away for tailored letters of rec*. Academia’s standard approach to hiring is bad enough (form rec letters that the applicant can send along without seeing what’s in them) but asking for tailored letters of rec from three references for every applicant is just ridiculous. At least my references are also in academia and expect this utter nonsense.

  16. Lilipounne*

    When I started to read your letter, I was like, “Do we work at the same place?”
    We have this tradition for years with the internal sales force and the outside sales force. The big bosses give a present (flowers, chocolate) to the internal sales forces every year on that day. And it is hard to push back because they present it as “we know you are not admin but you are helping so much that we still want to give you a present” and this inside sales team is of course all young women. Of course it might be just a coincidence but there are other small details which makes the company sexist (not even a single women is a manager there or has any decision power for example).
    Every year someone made a comment it is not ok and explained and they just don’t listen/ignore it/deny it
    I hope you can stop it altogether at your company.

    1. OP2*

      OOF. That’s gross, I’m sorry. Especially lumped in with the fact that no women have decision making roles.

  17. Mat*

    LW#1 – Honestly if someone asked me that question, I would be tempted to reply “On a scale of 1-10, how excited are you to have me in this role?”

    1. Not So NewReader*

      That was my thought also. I guess there is more than one wrong answer here. ha!
      OP, the question is lousy, period. Next time just say, “I don’t apply for anything that is less then a 10. I mean, why waste people’s time like that, right? So I only apply for jobs that I am 100 percent enthused about.”

      1. only acting normal*

        “I’d only apply for a job that looked like a 10: from there on out I’m doing negative scoring. How do you think you’re doing?”

      2. Hiring Mgr*

        “Can we do 1-100 instead? 10 isn’t large enough to reflect my desire for this role!”

    2. Blue*

      I would definitely be thinking, “Well, I was at an 8, but this question made it drop to a 6.”

  18. AvonLady Barksdale*

    OP #4: the Calm app has some ASMR audio. I’ve only encountered it as one of their sleep stories, but that’s an non-video option for you. The app subscription is a bit pricey up front, but you can explore before you buy and see if that might help.

  19. Madame Secretary*

    Secretary here for a law office. I would absolutely give up secretaries day in exchange for an increased salary and recognition of the value of my contributions. And I am always advocating for myself and my co-secretaries in that regard! But until the days arrives when the thousands of “little” things I do to make everyone’s work life easier in the office and how I bust my tail for them and I start getting bonuses like the lawyers do, I am happy to accept the $25 gift card from my firm that otherwise gives us very few perks or recognition.

    A lawyer new to our firm asked another attorney what they do for the staff on secretaries. The attorney replied that we get a check every two weeks and that’s enough. Thankfully, that’s not the attitude of every attorney there, but this shows some the attitude we have to contend with.

    1. ThatgirlK*

      I also agree. I work my butt off for my team. Getting random things, picking up lunch orders, handling emergencies that people cannot handle themselves for whatever reason. Filing absolutely everything. While I would gladly accept a pay raise, it was nice to find flowers and kind note on my desk this week.

      1. Lucette Kensack*

        … but people in all job categories work hard. It’s weird to single out one role — that has traditionally been mostly women — for special treatment.

        1. Madame Secretary*

          I don’t think it’s special treatment for those who work on the lower rungs of the office structure to want to be thanked when they are usually overlooked. It’s kind of why we have Mothers Day and Fathers Day. Sometimes people need to be prompted to thank those who do so much for them, people whose contributions are often overlooked. I really do get what you and Allison are saying. Maybe they should just call it “Appreciate Your Hard Working Staff Day.”

    2. Allison*

      Oh yeah, I definitely wouldn’t say no to a gift card (at least, as long as it’s something I can use) if it’s acknowledging the work I actually do and not just the work someone in the office assumes I do. The admin who sits near me just got flowers though. Flowers are nice, but I’d rather not get those from my boss or colleagues.

  20. Longtime lurker, occasional poster*

    LW1, the only acceptable answer to that question is “my interest is a 10.”

    And if you are interviewing at multiple places (because of on-campus recruiting or whatever), the answer is always “this firm is my top choice, because X.”

    It doesn’t matter whether it’s true or not. You have your own internal ranking in your mind and can negotiate later on based on that. And frankly, most interviewers know that this is how the game is played.

    1. Yvette*

      I wish I had seen this comment before I responded above, it expresses it much more completely than I did. You need to play the game.

      1. valentine*

        The right answer could easily be 11 (and the thank-you note better be a LEGO Stonehenge), 100, or 1,000.

    2. CheeryO*

      Yep. I had a bunch of interviews for state government jobs a few years ago, and they all asked me this question. I don’t know who thought it was a good idea to put it on the list of questions, but they didn’t get any useful information out of me, because I answered with a 10 each time. Stupid games get stupid prizes. I got a couple offers, so I don’t think giving a 10 and not a well-reasoned 8 or 9 made a difference.

    3. ceiswyn*

      If both sides know how the game is played, it strikes me as rather a pointless question. Unless it is important to the interviewer that the candidate is willing to give dishonest answers in order to jump through pointless hoops; which frankly I’d regard as a red flag.

      1. LawBee*

        Then again, if you were the type of interviewer who is asking this dumb question, you’d probably take it at face value. Anyone who didn’t say 10 obviously doesn’t want this amazing job etc etc

    4. lapgiraffe*

      Yes, there is an element of minor dishonesty in interviewing, much like in dating, where one must appear very interested and excited about a prospect even if you have internal hesitancy, other options, and lacking in enough knowledge to give a fully honest answer in the moment. But someone asking that question is indeed old fashioned, it is most definitely a power play, and is a rather large red flag in my experience, and not at all standard in the modern “game” of job hunting. Someone who wants false and exaggerated enthusiasm in an interview is indicative of someone who thinks that a “team player” is actually a yes man who takes any and all abuse with a smile. Play the game, but know the signs of someone playing dirty.

    5. S-Mart*

      I don’t think there’s any good answer to the question. If one of my interviewees answered that question with a 10 I’d be giving them a serious side-eye; they’d need to be wearing rose-colored blinders for it to be an honest answer. I love my job and workplace, but there are very good reasons to be hesitant about coming on board (and staying, for that matter). I try to make those reasons clear at the interview, as they were made clear to me before I started. If you’re not at least a little hesitant, I’m going to be concerned we haven’t gotten everything across to you.

      Note, I would never ask the question and I don’t think anyone else on the interview panel would either; the above is purely hypothetical in my case.

  21. Ms. Taylor Sailor*

    For #1, would they be okay if you asked back how much they like you as a candidate on a scale of 1-10?

    1. JJ Bittenbinder*

      I mean, it would be OK in the sense that it would be gratifying, but it would likely get you dropped to the bottom of their list.

      Not saying that that’s right or fair. It’s a stupid question. But any interviewer who asks this isn’t displaying the self-awareness or the awareness of interviewing norms that would allow them to realize that a candidate should have the right to flip the question on them.

      1. Ms. Taylor Sailor*

        Oh, I don’t doubt it’d hurt their candidacy and I don’t recommend it! I just think it’d be interesting how they’d react if the candidate flipped it on them, which would hopefully make them re-evaluate the question. You’re right on the money about this employer’s total lack of self-awareness.

  22. Not So NewReader*

    OP#3 . Others have had great suggestions here. My thought was why not see if you can allow them the day off with pay or a floating day off if they prefer.
    It kind of bothers me that you are picking up the tab for these lunches. Additionally, it sounds grating that this one employee talks about it for 20 days in advance. That would make me start to think about ways to change things.

    I like to make sure that I balance things out though. Maybe you could allot time for more team meetings to talk about work in progress or whatever. This way you are not cutting down on their ability to access/talk with you. And it does give a nod to your concern about practical use of time.

  23. pleaset*

    “Do you like our current system or is there something else you’d prefer for your birthday?”
    This perpetuates it being about birthdays, which I always thought was weird.

    I’d urge just ending it, and instead having a quarterly “Celebrate what we’ve done” lunch. Same perk, but tied to the OP and her staff being part of a team.

    1. Blue*

      In general, I think a team lunch is better than a lunch that’s about one specific person. In this case, though, OP would still be stuck paying for long lunches that she doesn’t enjoy – more of them, even. I don’t think that actually solves her problem.

      1. ChimericalOne*

        Agreed. This would make her problem worse, and would also probably make her birthday-obsessed direct report unhappy, too (as it makes the event less personal).

  24. JSPA*

    LW 1: “9.2 and rising. I’d love to see further information and the sort of offer that will round it up to a perfect 10.”

  25. Jennifer*

    You can also listen to ASMR on Spotify. You won’t have to worry about someone seeing the video.

  26. Not A Manager*

    LW#3 – I’m super curious about the back-story here. I would either find it pathetic or charming (depending on the circumstances) that someone was so excited about lunch with their supervisor that they would start talking it up a month in advance – but either way, if I were their supervisor, I would NEVER consider backing out if it mattered so much to them.

    You say that you used to enjoy these lunches but now you don’t. Fair enough. Lunch as a raucous group of seven might be a different experience from lunch as three mis-matched colleagues, but still, it’s only twice a year. What’s going on with you and your employees (maybe just Over Enthusiastic Luncher?) that you can’t stomach (see what I did there) lunch with them every six months?

    1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      There are plenty of adults who treat their birthday with the same excitement that they did when they were 10, and expect everyone else to do the same.

      I understand what Alison is saying, but I’m not a big fan of “we do it this way because it’s the way it’s always been done”. OP is a manager, if she wants to end it, I say end it. Celebrating each individual’s birthday is kind of silly if you ask me. It would be more productive to have a team lunch a few times a year, and allow each person a long lunch or half day on their birthday.

    2. Jennifer*

      I agree that it’s a bit silly, but I get Alison’s point. It’s one lunch, one time a year. I don’t understand being a manager and not being able to stand sitting through lunch with one of your direct reports once a year. It would make more sense if it was a team of 25 or something. Sometimes you just do things to make other people happy.

    3. Anole*

      OP here. I am not a big birthday person, and our unit is so small now it’s not like we don’t spend a lot of time together. It was more fun as a big group, but you and the other commentators are correct that it should not bother me so much.

      1. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before*

        I’m not a big birthday person either, but it’s no skin off my nose to celebrate with/for others for whom birthdays *are* special or a big deal.

  27. Breakfast Cupcakes*

    #3. My mentor when I was moving into management pushed the idea that a leaders main job is to make their employees feel like their contribution matters to the company and to their management. He really stressed that if possible to take my employees for coffee during monthly 1×1’s, to come to work camaraderie things even if its only a few minutes and to provide the most expensive piece (the meat if we have a pitch in lunch, the cake for birthday parties, someones special somethings meal cost, make up the difference on baby/retirement gifts). I didn’t understand this at first and it seemed like a lot of money out of my pocket ($8 of coffee for 10 people a month), when I wasn’t making much to begin with. Looking back I get it, I get that I was making my employees feel valued for the future whether it was working with me or possibly helping me in the future. 10 years in management now and the majority of my employees have only left when promoted, they have recommend me employees and even recommended me for jobs(the current job I have I was recommended by a former employee). It feels like an inconvenience right now and like the money could be going to your own lunch or something else you want I get that piece but what you are putting out there is meaningful for your employee and in the long run that is more important. Or maybe not but it has been for me.

    1. TheRedCoat*

      The only time my call center department had low turnover was when we had a manager that was once a member of the department, who did things like a monthly fancy coffee day (on the most stressful, call heavy day of the month), passed out mini chocolates when the crowds were rough, jumped on the phones (if she could and when we were really slammed).

      After she left, the entire department (including me) was gone within three months, and they haven’t kept a single person longer than 6 months since.

  28. Thatgirlk*

    I listen to ASMR videos at work. I keep my phone flipped over and use headphones. It helps my anxiety a ton and helps me focus. I also work in mental health and read a lot of heart breaking info, it helps me detach from what I am reading so I don’t get upset. (I am not a mental health professional and do a lot of data entry).Personally I don’t need to watch it to have the affect. I also have my own office. So if for some reason my phone gets flipped over I am usually pretty safe.

    1. ThatgirlK*

      Also if you use a paid version of YouTube you can run the app in the background and it wont stop the video. So if you truly are worried someone will find it offensive that may help.

    2. LaDeeDa*

      I think as long as people are using their headphones they can listen to whatever they want, and whatever helps them get through the day. I listen to YouTube white noise videos to drown out all the noises that make me insane or break my concentration.

  29. Violalin*

    What’s the advice for the reverse birthday problem (ie. team went from 3 to 12)? Sat through another “party planning” session yesterday after a birthday surprise last week, only to realize there’s another one coming up shortly too. UGH. Somewhere it became birthday lunches and/or surprise with treats and decorations in a conference room and now no one wants to be the one who puts an end to a “nice tradition”. But then they also want to do the same (or more!) for wedding showers, baby showers, etc.

    Also; I listen to ASMR all the time at work, but I usually do so on my cellphone, with my earphones in and flip the screen facing down. I guess I figure being “on my phone” is less risky than “watching video of a woman applying mascara to a camera”.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      We’ve had those letters too! Basically, “now that the team is so much bigger, let’s revisit the way we handle celebrations” and then propose something different, like a quarterly cake thing for everyone who’s had events that quarter.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        That’s what OldExjob did. We had quarterly company meetings with lunch, so we’d just get a cake and announce who had birthdays that quarter. Nobody was left out that way and everyone got lunch–and cake.

      2. Tigger*

        My old Job had a cake on the first of every month celebrating that months birthdays and sent out an email with a list of birthdays that month. It was super easy and really fun!

      3. JSPA*

        One gathering a month, and a white board where everyone can put their birthday or other “celebratory life event” on the list, the month before. Individual cards to be signed, tacked to the cork board alongside. Cake and veggies /crackers / hummus (or other dip) in the break room. Allow people to sign cards as they show up. Spare cards for non-birthday events won’t break the bank, or gum up the schedule. Note that this is all opt-in, not opt-out; people can be asked or even instructed to put their birthdays and other events up, but no shaming or naming for those who (for WHATEVER reason) really prefer not to.

      4. Secretary*

        My old job also did the occasional cake.
        What was better was there was a whiteboard in the break room where everyone could see it when they came in in the morning. Each month the names of the people who had birthdays were written up there. For example:

        April Birthdays

        Fergus: April 7
        Jane: April 14
        Priscilla: April 19
        Mary: April 19
        Lee: April 30

        It was kind of cool because the whole office would “remember” to wish you Happy Birthday either the day of or the day after if it was a weekend or you had it off.

        1. Secretary*

          Also if you didn’t want people to know when your birthday was you could just ask that your birthday not be put up on the board and there was zero fuss.

    2. Samwise*

      I have a strict policy of “I’m so sorry, but I don’t do life-event celebrations at work, and I don’t donate to anything except the annual collection for the housekeeper. But you go on and have a good time!”

      I started doing this when a series of family disasters made it beyond my budget and my emotional well-being to participate. And then just kept it up.

      Best if you go out for lunch / errands/ arrange a work meeting out of the office during party time, though…

    3. Four lights*

      My department has 19 people, so we do a thing for birthdays about 4 times a year. We schedule based on when the birthdays fall. Everyone brings in treats and we have a little gathering.

    4. 1234*

      You would hate my old job, where there was a reason to “celebrate” almost every week. Hawaiian Luau Party, “best homemade dip” party, Mexican fiesta party, Friday boozy happy hour in the office. This was on top of the birthday parties, baby showers and engagements. I worked at a 20-25 person company. There was even a committee who was in charge of planning all of this (on top of having to get actual work done!!!) Nothing was specifically required but it was noticed if you missed too many of these in-office events.

      Is there a way for you to suggest a committee to plan all of these parties your company wants so that you are left out of the planning process? Schedule business travel that conflicts with some of these events so you don’t have to go to them?

      1. Violalin*

        Honestly, if someone ELSE is planning it (and paying!), I’m not too fussed. I personally am able to chip in regularly but I’m just uncomfortable putting people in a position where they have to decline contributing month after month and where it’s expected that someone will take initiative and organize something, but never clear who.

        1. 1234*

          All of the events I described above were company-funded, with the exception of any “bring your own” or “bring a dish to share” events such as the “homemade dips” contest. And even then, extra items like chips and soda were bought on the company credit card.

          The only exception was any after-work happy hours that were held at a bar near the office (separate from the in-office happy hours).

    5. That Would be a Good Band Name*

      My work settled on a once a month birthday lunch. Even if a month doesn’t have anyone with a birthday we still do it but it’s opt in. We have one person that coordinates taking orders (usually the birthday person picks a restaurant) and then if you want to do it you email your order to who is coordinating. Everyone pays for their own. We have one person that likes coordinating so we were lucky there. If she ever leaves, it may not continue since I don’t know who would want to do it. I personally find once a month a bit too often but it’s easy to sit it out.

      1. 1234*

        That sounds like our “Sushi Wednesdays” that my OldOld Office used to do, but it was an opt-in, order sushi for lunch if you wanted sort of thing. There was no specific reason for it, other than a lot of people at the office like sushi.

    6. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I love to bake so I’ve always offered to make birthday cakes for team member’s birthdays. When I moved to a larger team, I let them know I would be baking a cake once a month to celebrate birthdays, and would talk to those who had a birthday month to agree on what kind of cake they liked. Having a large celebration like each person is a child is a little ridiculous – I personally wouldn’t want it. Suggest revisiting what is done and toning it down.

  30. Samwise*

    ASMR videos: Play them on your phone w the screen off / turn over your phone. No pictures, soothing sounds. If you don’t need to *see* the video for it to work, just remove the visual part.

    If you need to see the video for it to work, then yeah, you need to make sure the pix are strictly G-rated.

  31. mark132*

    In the case of lw1 answer the question they should have asked.

    Better Q: based on our discussion, does this job sound interesting to you?

    Sidestep the whole 1-10 thing.

  32. Teapot Translator*

    LW1: I got asked that in an interview, and when I gave a reasonable (to me) number, like 8 or something, they asked me what made me hesitate about the job. I think they interpreted not getting 10 as “She’s not sure about the job.” Whereas for me, no job (at the interview stage) is ever 10 out of 10. I expect to have reservations about everything and I expect the person in front of me, too.

    Anyway, I don’t remember for which job it was. It may have been for the one I’m currently at!

  33. lnelson in Tysons*

    re: Admin’s Day
    An HR friend mentioned what the boss did at their company (a little back story) after going through a rough patch which included lay-offs, the lone (or last standing) admin was excelling at her job. But boss knew that she wasn’t a fan of admin’s day and didn’t like to be singled out.
    So the boss did use admin’s day to recognize the team who all worked hard together. Basically the email said that he decide to turn admin’s day into team recognition day and bought the company lunch, praising pretty much everyone.
    At another job, one of the female accountants got sick of the male managers assuming that she would answer their phones if their admins weren’t there.

  34. The Other Dawn*

    In regards to the birthday lunches, I really wouldn’t stop this tradition if it’s only twice per year. If they enjoy it, why not continue it? And as a manager, I’d argue that the fact that OP doesn’t enjoy doing it isn’t really a reason to stop it; her team members enjoy it and it’s for them, not her. I can definitely see ending it if the team grew larger, since that’s a lot of money to be spending on a group lunch, but OP only has two direct reports. It’s not as though it’s a group of 10 people where she’s spending hundreds of dollars each time and it’s possibly multiple times per month. But if OP feels very strongly about it, then she can end it and maybe do something different.

  35. Snickerdoodle*

    Ugh. If I got asked “On a scale of 1 to 10, how much do you want this job?” I don’t think I could resist saying “Well, ONE, now.” Why bother asking if I want the job when I already applied for it, prepared for an interview, etc.? It’s not a question; it’s a power play. Depending on how the rest of the interview went, I’d probably take that question as a sign that I don’t want to work there.

    1. Kira*

      I might reply 10 for this reason – I went to the trouble of interesting, interviewing, coming here – of course I’m reasonably interested. As everyone else said this question would have me downgrading my rating, but if I’m here I’m interested.

      I would also try to sidestep the quesiton by saying “I’m completely interested” or “I’m very interested” – playing dumb and acting like it was a more general question, but idk how well that would work.

    2. lnelson in Tysons*

      If push came to shove on actually answering it, I would say 8 or 9. And saying that the reason is not a ten is “one point in the job description is not my favorite thing to do” Afterall there is always almost something about our jobs that we don’t like.
      That would be me being 100% honest and if they like that great, if they don’t like me being honest, probably don’t want to be working for them.

  36. Lkr209*

    ASMR OP: I listen to ASMR videos at work all the time wearing headphones, and I put my YouTube page in an internet browser by itself (and not in the same one with my other work -related tabs) so no one sees what I’m listening to and I won’t accidentally click on the tab. For anyone who needs relaxing white noise to help them relax at work, I highly recommend them. Just not the ones that specify help sleeping ;)

    1. TootsNYC*

      I listen to Pandora, and since it turns off if I close the window, I drag that browser screen way down to the corner so only a piece of it shows. Then it’s out of the way.

  37. Goya de la Mancha*

    Personally I think you’re safer with white noise/nature sound type things.

    ASMR baffles me personally…I feel like if one of our co-workers was constantly tapping their nails in a pattern on their desk people would go ballistic, but to find it in a youtube video classifies it as relaxing somehow. *shrug*

    1. Choux*

      I don’t love the tapping videos, but I do love the roleplay ones, specifically anything to do with hair or being checked into a hotel. I can’t explain it, but there are just certain voices that relax me sooo much and distract the anxious part of my brain so that the non-anxious part can actually focus on work.

    2. Delphine*

      It’s fairly personal…the people who find nail tapping infuriating in real life aren’t going to enjoy it in a YouTube video either.

  38. Me*

    I always take off on my birthday because I have zero desire to be at work with the people I work with. Maybe I’m weird, but sometime ago, I stopped really caring about the day itself. It’s a just day. The fielding of birthday wishes and doing anything special questions are worth avoiding though. Unfortunately my birthday is on Halloween so it’s something people tend to remember exists. It’s a little gift to myself and I highly recommend it.

    I second someone else’s suggestion about offering them a day, or even half day with pay instead.

    1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      You’re not weird. I might get together with friends for dinner on my birthday, but I’m not really into a big celebration, especially with work people who are mostly just acquaintances. And I HATE being the center of attention.

  39. The Guacamolier*

    “…or racist screeds, which are inappropriate in life.”

    This is why I love AAM so much. Apart from all the helpful career advice, it gives me hope for humanity. Thanks, Alison.

  40. HailRobonia*

    Years ago at the university I work at they had a table set up where the support staff working group was giving away chocolate and flowers for Admin day. I (a man) went to go get some free chocolate and flowers and the woman said to me “you can give this to your secretary.” I responded “I AM the secretary.

  41. soupcold57*

    Number 5:

    ” Problem is, the application requires me to list my references’ contact info, and I am just not comfortable providing that information at this stage.” A lot of boiler plate applications have space for references. Feel free to write “Excellent references available upon final job offer.”

    ” I asked the recruiter if I can leave my reference information blank until the in-person interview, but I got the sense that my response did not go over well. ” Recruiters are a time a dozen. I would not deal with a recruiter who makes a fuss out of having references prior to an in-person interview, much less an offer.

    Someone who is currently employed and has a long time horizon to find another job can use that to their advantage to not risk their current job.

    1. Exhausted Trope*

      I once filled out an application and the hiring manager actually emailed requesting FIVE references before she would even interview me. AND she contacted each reference beforehand to have them fill out a survey on me. I did eventually interview with her but didn’t get the job. I think it’s a sh____ practice and a big red flag now for me.

      1. TootsNYC*

        I have done this with freelancers I need to hire in a hurry, but:
        *everybody knows freelancers are always looking for work
        *it was usually in lieu of an interview, because I was in a hurry; if three people (or one person I trusted) said something good, I felt comfortable hiring the person

        1. Exhausted Trope*

          I can see this for freelance stuff but in my case, it was for regular employment.
          Speaking of the devil, I just now got a request for references and they want to email each of them to fill out one of those surveys. I’ve not had so much as a phone screen yet! I’m going to withdraw my candidacy.

          1. learnedthehardway*

            Good for you – I think that if enough good candidates won’t comply with this kind of thing, that it will eventually go away. One hopes.

  42. AnonyMouse*

    LW #1- I think I probably would have given a non-answer of something like “I wouldn’t have submitted an application if I wasn’t interested.” I agree that this is probably not an office you want to be in if that’s what they think is a good interview question.

  43. LaDeeDa*

    The 1-10 question is one I have never heard! I would think that my level of interest would be clear by my interactions and enthusiasm during the interview…

  44. Amber Rose*

    My boss got everyone in our area a gift card randomly for “secretary day.” That was a first for me honestly.

    I think it was partly a joke though. We don’t have secretaries, or admin professionals.

    1. TootsNYC*

      I think I’d have written “Secretary Day” and crossed out “Secretary” and replaced it with my own text, so we were celebrating “You Report to Me Day” or “Thanks for Making Me Look Good Day.”

      Or, with one of my teams, I’d have totally written “I’m the Boss of You Day.” Because they’d have thought it funny.

  45. AvidReader31*

    LW #2 – I have been there. I’ve worked in the political field where I have been the only full-time staffer, so I encompass tasks from Admin to staff management (session staff) to legislative policy development to being the face of the office, etc. I think the best approach is to be direct to the individual(s) and let them politely know that you aren’t an administrative professional, and/or that your position encompasses much more than administrative work, and that you would appreciate if you were not included. I found that the next year, that my comments were acknowledged and I was left alone.

  46. Robin*

    Re: #2
    I was an Department Admin for 17 years at prior job. I had the opposite problem…I was recognized during Admin week a total of 3, maybe 4 times in those 17 years and would have appreciated more recognition – or inclusion. I reported directly to the Director (eventually promoted to VP), but also supported several managers in their “sub-departments” under the VP.

    What would have been nice for me would have been for some of those managers to include me when their teams went out to lunch or did other activities.

    It likely never occurred to them that I wasn’t being included; they may have assumed my bosses were taking me out, but they mostly didn’t (there were 3 over the course of the years). The last 3 years were nice, as at that point one a new manager did take me under her wing and would grab our VP and insist the 3 of us go out to lunch now and then – at least in our birthmonth (she and I are both February babys, and she had worked for him at a different company before this, so she knew him). She also made sure I started attending management staff meetings.

    All that to say – if you have an admin supporting several people – please be sure someone is including them.

  47. Peaches*

    #1 – I literally hate that you were asked that question. Would you be penalized if you answered anything lower than say, an 8? If I were being honest, there’s no “job” that I would consider a 10. The only “job” I would consider a 10 would be traveling the world with endless amounts of money. I like my current job plenty well enough, but in all reality, I’d probably give it a 6 (and that’s no a knock on my company!)

  48. Iris Eyes*

    OP2 I didn’t see where you outlined what your job is but as someone who works in an entire department of people who are functionally administrative professionals but none of whom have job duties that are aligned with the business role of secretary. I guess there are alternative explanations to have. If your role is to support the running of the business (rather than executing the business) then you could be legitimately be classified as an administrator. So like some IT and Accounting and Business Intelligence, almost all cooperate positions, they are administrative in function to the company. If that describes you then you could assume that everyone that falls under that definition also got a gift.


    1. Commercial Property Manager*

      …But OP2 explicitly says that there are office admins (by that name) who are men, who did not receive gifts. This really does seem to be a cut and dry case of stereotyping based on age and gender.

  49. TootsNYC*

    #1–How bad do you want this job?

    Always say “a 10!”

    A friend of mine was interviewing at Bloomberg news. The manager who was interviewing him said, “If you end up meeting with Mike, he will probably ask you, ‘What would you say if I offered you this job right now?’ Say you’d take it right away, and say it enthusiastically. Or he won’t let us offer it to you. You and I know that you need to see the salary, and stuff before you decide. But he wants that response from everyone.”
    So when Mike asked him, my friend answered, “I’d say, ‘When do I start?'” And he got the job (which he then decided to take).

    So–if ever this happens to you…

    Your response is not legally binding. And if you decide later to say no, you can come up with some reason that lets them (and you) save face.

      1. Cats and dogs*

        I really do not understand the negative comments on a simple question. After an interview the interviewer also wants to know if the applicant remains interested too.

  50. Orange You Glad*

    # 3 – What if you started an annual team lunch to take the place of these birthday lunches? You could hold it mid-year so it’s far enough away from any holiday celebrations your company may have. Everyone still gets a free lunch with minimal disruption to the overall work flow.

  51. IT But I Can't Fix Your Printer*

    For folks who enjoy the white noise variety of ASMR but don’t want to/can’t use YouTube at work, I suggest It’s probably easier to explain to most bosses (“I’m listening to soothing forest noises”) and the interface looks pretty banal (i.e. a sound mixing control over a picture of a forest vs a side panel recommending all the things I watch on YouTube when I’m at home).

  52. Nanc*

    Oh the office birthday thing. My favorite solution ever: you get your birthday as a paid day off! Honestly, someone always had to stay to cover the office by themselves at that job and finding a day that everyone had an open couple of hours meant celebrating birthdays days or weeks ahead or behind actual dates. When I became the manager I offered the choice of a catered lunch in the office or a paid day off. 100% went with the paid day off. But maybe we were a weird bunch!

  53. Janie*

    Honestly, personally, as long as you’re wearing headphones, I don’t care what you listen to.

  54. Secretary*

    For taking people out on their birthday… did I read that right that it’s on your personal dime??
    Can you make a case for the company paying for this??

  55. Sally Bowles*

    #5: I was just burned by a recruiter yesterday, so this is a gaping wound for me right now. I’d planned on coming to the open thread today and posting for the first time ever to get this off my chest.

    The recruiter works for a well known recruiting firm in my field, though one I’ve never been particularly fond of. I’ve tried to avoid doing business with them, but I’m desperate. He scheduled me for a very promising interview next week, then he asked for my references. I begrudgingly gave them, saying how surprised I was he wanted them already since I’d not even interviewed yet, and VERY CLEARLY stating do not contact them before I give you the go ahead because they are all in widely different time zones and I need time to contact them. Given the supposed professionalism of this firm, I trusted him to follow my instructions. Mistake! As soon as he got the list he started dialing away. Luckily one of them knew I was looking for a new job so she wasn’t completely blindsided, but the others didn’t so I spent last night furiously typing apology emails and begging forgiveness for allowing someone to contact them before I’d had a chance to speak with them first and ask them properly. These are all references who agreed to vouch for me a year ago, but most didn’t know the job I have isn’t working out and I’d need to call upon them again sooner than ideal. Luckily I have good relationships with all of them and they were good sports about it. But I have a lot of history with each of them and they have all served as beloved mentors to me in some capacity. So a conversation explaining my current unfortunate job situation was one I wanted to have with each of them on my own time and in my own way, and not one in the form of an apology forced by a careless recruiter.

    Yes, I gave the recruiter grief about this. To his credit, he apologized profusely without offering excuses so I hope he learned a lesson and doesn’t burn anyone like this again (somehow I am not very confident that will be the case). This sort of carelessness has the potential to hurt candidates’ professional capital, and to be so blind to that fact is wildly unprofessional. If I weren’t so desperate to get out of my current job, I’d pull my application on principle. But you can bet I won’t be using them again.

    I’ve read different conversations on this subject on this site a few times, so I knew better. But my desperation led me to ignore the red flag and I trusted him to do the right thing. Lesson learned.

    I guess my point in all this is, to #5 and all others who feel they are asked for references too early, keep in mind that once you’ve passed them along, you have no control over what happens next. You have no guarantees they will follow your wishes for the timeline for contact. Please learn from my mistake and don’t hand over references unless you are completely comfortable doing so.

    1. valentine*

      The damage control seems like a lot. Vouching for someone twice in two years feels fine. If it continued to be annual, that would be a bit much, but you’re probably not going to need that.

      1. learnedthehardway*

        The problem is, though, that these references have been approached now, and will likely need to be used again for another role, if the letter writer gets a different offer. So, that’s 2 times in short succession.

        References can experience burnout – they should be treated as a very high value resource and applied sparingly to one’s job search.

    2. learnedthehardway*

      That’s just brutal. Honestly, after the close of this particular project, I would contact someone higher up in the company and complain about the violation of privacy. You might also post a review on Glassdoor. It’s the only way to make people accountable for this sort of thing, unless your jurisdiction has some kind of privacy commissioner in government (and even then, that’s a lot of hassle to deal with).

  56. Gene Parmesan*

    Letter #2. I’m so glad to read your letter. I had a sort of similar experience this week. I work in higher education, and one of our academic departments brought in lunch on Wednesday for Administrative Professionals Day and specifically included me. I was a little bit…offended? Puzzled? I have a PhD and my job is not anything close to a secretary.

    However, in my case, I decided that they were trying to be nice and didn’t want to exclude me. I do administration-y things, not in the sense of scheduling meetings or ordering office supplies, but I do help that department with their bureaucratic/regulatory reporting, which I suppose falls under the broad umbrella. They also invited student services professionals, who are not secretary/receptionist type roles either. I think they just got an idea and ran with it, without really stopping to think who the day was meant to recognize. I’ve decided not to make a case about it and just move on.

    1. TootsNYC*

      without really stopping to think who the day was meant to recognize.

      This actually hints at a way to approach this, if one wanted to.

      “I don’t want to horn in on the event that is honoring people who aren’t me. That’s not fair to THEM to include me, who doesn’t do what they do. It belittles them, to lump me in with them, as if just anybody can be considered an admin.”

      That makes it not sound like, “I’m too important to be thought of as a lowly admin,” and instead “when you broaden the category, you dilute the power of the recognition.”

      Their job is hard enough, and the day exists precisely because admins are so often overlooked or undervalued. Including any old random person, or every woman of X age/experience, actually says “I don’t pay any attention to what you actually do.”

  57. Formerly Frustrated Optimist*

    #5: During my 3-year job search, with 146 applications, I had a variety of experiences with references being requested….

    In some cases, employers would want the list of references up front, regardless of where I was in the hiring process, and most of the time, references were never contacted. So I wouldn’t assume that your references would necessarily be called right away…

    I had one prospective employer that wanted me to give my current manager as a reference after my final, day-long interview. I said I couldn’t do that because my employer didn’t know I was job-searching, and I couldn’t jeopardize my employment. They used that as a tactic to downgrade my candidacy, in favor of a much less qualified applicant with whom the hiring manager had a prior working relationship.

    And in the job I’m currently in, HR requested references when they called me for my first interview. But it never involved speaking to the references. Rather, my references had to go online and fill out a form. That was worth it, because I got the job!

    So there is no “one size fits all” practice to collecting, contacting, and utilizing references. It seems to be all over the map.

  58. Paul*

    For LW#1, I think when they ask “On a scale of 1 to 10, how much do you want this job?”, the proper response is “Before I answer that, tell me, on a scale of 1 to 10, how much do you want me as an employee?” Maybe that’ll give a hint on how dumb the question is.

  59. learnedthehardway*

    LW#5 – I have written “References will be provided upon receipt of a job offer” on applications asking for references.
    Since you’re already employed and are being recruited by the company, I would do the same.

    I deal with hiring managers who want to do pre-references or unofficial references, and I always point out to them that they’re running a risk of alienating the candidate (because they’re offloading all the risk onto the candidate and violating their privacy), and that they really should be making a decision on whether the person is qualified and a good fit for their role, rather than off-loading that responsibility onto someone who doesn’t know their role, their company, etc. etc. Then I point out that there are legal ramifications for breaking someone’s privacy (which there are where I live), and that it could get the company in trouble.

  60. able*

    Whenever someone on the internet says “I’m curious if…” they mean “Someone yelled at me about this and I’m mad and I want you to say it’s okay so I feel better.”

    ASMR is for sexual gratification for a lot of people. And it sounds disgusting to a lot of other people. This person didn’t say if they were listening with headphones, but I’m guessing not if they’re all upset that they got talked to about it.

    Don’t listen to disgusting things that people enjoy for sexual purposes at work, even if you aren’t listening to it for sexual reasons right now.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t know what you’re basing this on, but ASMR isn’t sexual. I’m sure there are people who use it that way just like there are people who use … sunset videos that way, but it’s not an inherently sexual thing.

  61. ZenAtWork*

    Hah it’s a running joke in my office that I listen to ASMR while I work. We’re a friendly bunch so everyone pretty much knows – boss, colleagues, IT, HR. Sometimes I send them my favourite videos. They all think it’s deeply weird and funny. Gotta stay in the zone somehow!

  62. Thaleia*

    For #4, instead of ASMR videos, try looking into websites that just provide background noise audio. For example, Rainy Mood provides customizable rain sounds. (There’s also an app.) This could help you circumvent the video problem and the weird stigma around ASMR.

  63. TGOTAL*

    OP #3, what do your team members do for you on your birthday? Are they taking you to lunch and splitting the cost of your meal between them?

    I see some have noted the “gifts flow downward” philosophy, but it sounds like this lunch deal is less a gift than it is an unreimbursed obligation. While I am very much in favor of a higher-paid supervisor being generous with their team, I am 100% not a fan of teams who expect their supervisor to just cough up for whatever the team decides the supervisor should pay for.

    Supervisors who are extremely generous should also be aware that they are setting a precedent that their successor may be expected to follow. In my current workplace, a previous high-level supervisor happened to have substantial personal financial resources, and enjoyed treating the entire staff to lavish arrays of food and drink at regular in-office social events. When he moved on to another part of the organization, some of the staff assumed the new supervisor would pick up where he had left off. Several of them went so far as to arrange an elaborate catered luncheon to commemorate a specific occasion – which the new supervisor was shocked to learn they expected him to pay for out of his own pocket. Lacking the same resources as his predecessor, the supervisor was absolutely unable to foot the bill, and it caused more than a little discontent among the staff when he told them they’d have to cancel the luncheon or pay for it themselves.

    I don’t think OP should be obligated to continue to spend her own time and money to do something she finds actively unpleasant just to keep a single employee happy. How she promotes morale on her team should be her choice.

  64. lostinspace555*

    Letter 4 – you don’t have to use videos to get ASMR sounds (or background noises like white noise). You can use websites that automatically generate noise. I use . There are no visuals at all so you don’t have to worry about what it looks like when the window is open. (Apologies if this has been mentioned above and I missed it!)

  65. Cats and dogs*

    #1 I’ve read many comments and I’m confused by this one but for the opposite reasons. I can’t imagine not answering “10” unless I 100% did not want the job. I think everyone may be reading really deeply into a simple question. After an interview the interviewer also wants to know if the applicant remains interested. If I interviewed 5 great applicants and one answered “6” I would know not to continue to take their application seriously. I agree if he indicated other reasons to be concerned about him as a boss or the commitment to the job in general, this is more evidence but this question alone may not be such a big deal.

    1. ceiswyn*

      Why would you assume that any answer below a 10 indicates that the applicant isn’t still interested?

    2. Antilles*

      If I interviewed 5 great applicants and one answered “6” I would know not to continue to take their application seriously.
      1.) Given that the applicant jumped through a bunch of hoops already to get to the in-person interview (online application, phone interview, etc) and showed up prepared and enthusiastic, they’re clearly already interested, even if they say a 7 or 8. And conversely, if the applicant showed up completely unprepared, why would you really take their word that it’s a “10” when their behavior clearly indicates it’s not? So this question isn’t really giving you any relevant information.
      2.) Depending on how deeply you want to think about the question, you could reasonably argue that no job should get a 10 out of 10 enthusiasm. By definition, a perfect score on “how much I want it” would imply the position is the most desirable job on the planet – because you’re effectively saying that no other job in existence could be more desirable, only equally desirable. Be honest with yourself: Is that really the caliber of job that’s being discussed here? Really?

      1. Cats and dogs*

        I just don’t think the interviewer in the letter was thinking deeply about this and certainly not as deeply as the folks here. An interviewer wants to know the applicant is excited about the job. My point is that if I had 5 great applicants (who all interviewed great obviously or it would not be relevant) and 4 gave responses between 8-10 and one said 6, I know who is the least interested. And no I don’t think saying 7 indicates great interest.

        1. Cats and dogs*

          I would never personally ask this question. It just seems to me that no one is putting themselves in the shoes of the interviewer- no matter how lame the question is.

  66. Liz King*

    How much I wanted the job on a scale of 1-10// Back in the last millennium I applied to be an FBI agent, on the advice of a friend whose dad was one. I figured what the heck, took the test, passed the first cut, did more in person testing, and even though I didn’t have the typical background (plus I’m female and this was 1980), I tested well, so I got an interview. At the end, the interviewer asked me, “So do you seriously see yourself as a law enforcement officer?” Obviously that would have been the time for me to tell the story about how I’d been playing cops and robbers since childhood, or my whole family was police and military and lawyers, or I’d been done a great injustice and wanted to dedicate my life to fighting crime… but I kind of laughed and said, “Sure, I’m here interviewing, aren’t I?” (I didn’t get called back.)

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