open thread – April 19-20, 2019

It’s the Friday open thread! The comment section on this post is open for discussion with other readers on anything work-related that you want to talk about. If you want an answer from me, emailing me is still your best bet*, but this is a chance to talk to other readers.

* If you submitted a question to me recently, please don’t repost it here, as it may be in the to-be-answered queue.

Posted in Uncategorized

{ 1,667 comments… read them below }

  1. Busy*

    I went on an interview a couple months ago, and I wanted to know what you would do when the interviewers are doing something you find awkward, distracting or uncomfortable.
    At the interview, both the woman from HR and the male CEO had these super lingering intense stares. They didn’t read like you’re normal, “I’m looking at you and listening” stare – but that “I am attracted to you so I’m going to devour your soul” stare! And I just want to clarify that intense, prolonged eye contact like this where I live (Northern East coast) is not normal in business interactions. Think somewhere between “Eye F___ing” and what they refer to online as “sociopathic eyes”
    And once they made eye contact, they Would. Not. Break. It. Not for anything in the world! Not when someone else started talking. Not when I would break it. Not at all.
    I don’t know if they both went to some weird Carnegie business seminar for cult leaders that taught them weird eye-contact practices or what. They both had the same last name too! So I don’t know if they were related or not, and neither one ever explained if that was the case.
    And when they started doing it, I COULD NOT RECOVER. Every time I would look at them, they would be staring directly at me with a smile, eyes intense, and “leaning in”. Neither one ever broke off from the stare!!! I could not concentrate on anything. All I could think about is why this was happening and trying to come up with a reason for the stares. I couldn’t get those thoughts out of my head!!!!! Haha I could not concentrate at all!
    I didn’t want the job after this, because this was a small company, the CEO would be my boss, and there was NO WAY I could handle that every single day.

    Regardless of how you feel about eye contact in general, what do you do when your interviewer is doing something you find awkward or exceedingly distracting? I will be the first to admit that I am so bad at Dealing when someone is doing something awkward, particularly when that person is totally oblivious to it, so I was wondering what other people have done to or would do to “recover” here.

    I will post some videos/photos for context in the comments – and it is apparently HARD to find a video that give an actual example of this because it is THAT intimate of a look.

    1. Murphy*

      I wonder if they were trying to make sure they looked extra attentive and went waaaay overboard.

      1. Marion Q*

        Yeah, this. I have difficulty in making eye contact, so I tend to overcompensate by not breaking eye contact when I’m listening. It definitely goes overboard at times.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Yes, this sounds like the stuff done by people whose boss has berated them for not making sufficient eye contact in the past.

          And no, I don’t think there’s any way to say “Could we have less eye contact” in an interview. Or other social interaction, for that matter, unless you’re so clearly on the top that, as with removing green M&Ms*, people will do any weird thing to accommodate you.

          * Apparently this famous rider was added because the band had a lot of complicated instructions for stage set up so as not to catch fire during their act, so checking for green M&Ms was a quick way to check how carefully the contract overall had been followed.

    2. Bunny Girl*

      If the interviewer is making me really uncomfortable, I just try to end the interview as quickly as possible. Because if you’ve already made me uncomfortable in that small amount of time, I don’t really want to work with you.

      I had an interview at a hotel and my interviewer would not stop glancing at my chest. Like would not. I was like I’m not working with this creeper so I just picked up on something and said “Oh that doesn’t sound like it will work for what I’m looking for, so it doesn’t really make sense for us to continue. Thank you for meeting with me though!”

      In your case since you just met with two aliens I’d go home and burn some sage or something.

      1. Busy*

        “burn some sage” HAHAHA

        Have you ever heard those encounter stories about the “real” men in black? Like the ones that are supposedly just aliens in really poor disguises and behave and look kinda human, but do really awkward and weird things? THAT is exactly like what it was like to talking to these people. My mind panicked.

        1. Close Bracket*

          > just aliens in really poor disguises and behave and look kinda human, but do really awkward and weird things

          Those of us who actually are those awkward and weird people sometimes feel like we are in fact aliens on the wrong planet. In fact, there is a resource for people on the spectrum at

          As I said below, for harmless things like this, learn to get over it.

          1. Close Bracket*


            I’m on the spectrum, and I actually find your comments rather offensive, but sure, I’ll stop

            1. Close Bracket*

              I am sorry that I sniped. I will be more careful with my responses. It’s a hurtful subject, as I am sure you gauged.

        2. The New Wanderer*

          I interviewed with someone like this who would have been my direct manager. I had previously had a phone interview with her and that went awkwardly too, in that I felt like I was leading the whole conversation and had to do the entire wrap up at the end by myself. So I was prepared for the in-person interview to be more of the same and it was, with the addition of the unblinking stare. I didn’t find it that unnerving, exactly, but it was just more confirmation that I would find it difficult working for her.

          And I say that as someone who routinely thinks of herself as an alien on a long-term field study here, with the occasional missed social cues of someone who’s passing for human rather than *being* human. (I’m actually quite good in a work context because of all the effectively written rules to work! Except for the time I referred to humans as “you” and excluded myself from the category, whoops.)

        3. Anonforthis*

          Oh man, I had a similar experience a couple of years ago – the woman who was interviewing me had (I’m not making this up) pointy shark teeth and kept smiling at me like she couldn’t wait to eat my soul. I could not get out of there fast enough. It was like being interviewed by Pennywise the Clown.

      2. Batgirl*

        I was going to say cut it short too. Essentially is an interviewer is a stranger and if the chemistry isn’t right for any reason, they can remain a stranger.
        I used the ‘doesn’t make sense to continue’ line when an interviewer used the line “we’re like family!”. That’s not especially awkward but it wasn’t for me.

        1. Bunny Girl*

          I hear you there. “We’re like family” is a big no-no for me. Along with “we do a lot of team building activities and things when we get done with work.” That is an “Oh hell no” from me.

          1. froodle*

            There’s a company in my town that is constantly recruiting and advertising for staff and it uses both of those as a selling point in its ads. Every time it pops up on the job search I give it a long noooooooooo as I scroll on by.

    3. CupcakeCounter*

      What’s funny is that I just had the opposite happen! I could not get the interviewer (who was also the hiring manager) to look at me. No one else had any issues so I know I didn’t look weird or anything but she stared up at the ceiling half the time and at her paper the rest.
      I found out later she was recovering from surgery and on LOTS of pain meds which explains about half the odd vibes I got (no she did not drive herself to work) but still enough of a weirdness that it is giving me great pause over a position I was REALLY excited for.

      1. Bunny Girl*

        I had an interview where the opposite happened! I had just had relatively major surgery and went to an interview about a week after. They were about 40 minutes late to the interview (!) and they had no where for me to sit while I was waiting so by the time they finally called me in I was not in a good mood. And then to top it all off, they started talking to me about a seasonal position, which I had put on the application no less than three times that I didn’t want it and I was not ultra pleasant about it.

        1. Cup of Ambition*

          It seems fascinating how we are so obsessed as a society with having just the right amount of eye contact.

    4. Close Bracket*

      ” I wanted to know what you would do when the interviewers are doing something you find awkward, distracting or uncomfortable.”

      For this particular thing, I would recognize that my reaction to their look is about me and get over it. Lots of people have trouble with eye contact. It’s a particular characteristic with non-neurotypical people, but plenty of neurotypical people have trouble figuring out the right length of time to make eye contact, too.

      Harmless things of this nature, also including weird fidgeting or body language, I get over. The older I get and the more I understand the variety of human interaction, the less fazed I am by these things.

      1. Busy*

        My son is on the spectrum as am I. I am heavily involved in his treatment. And I will unequivocally say, stop trying to speak for all people on the spectrum. Telling people to accept it is like saying people on the spectrum have no self control. And they do. It is actually considered quite insulting.

        You have got to learn to control your interactions with other people. Not one, NOT ONE treatment plan doesn’t include self awareness.

        So, please stop on here, ok? You have really offended me.

        1. Alianora*

          I didn’t read their comment as speaking for autistic people. They said neurotypicals can have trouble with eye contact too.

          Since you were so uncomfortable with this, I think it makes sense to end the interview early. That’s true regardless of what the behavior is.

          But as someone who gives too much eye contact in interviews sometimes, I don’t think it’s reasonable to tell us “learn to control your interactions.” The reason many people have trouble is because we don’t have a natural instinct for how much is appropriate. It’s not because we’re trying to make other people uncomfortable, we just haven’t figured it out yet.

        2. Close Bracket*

          As I said above, I’m on the spectrum, too. Saying that trouble with eye contact is a characteristic of non-neurotypical people is not speaking for all people on the spectrum. It’s a well known characteristic. If you haven’t come across that yet, you should go back to your/your son’s care takers and find out more. Just as with all well known characteristics, different people exhibit it to different extents, including some non-autistic people.

          Having trouble with something is not a lack of self control. It’s not about self control. Eye contact in particular, for some people, can be about managing information input. That has nothing to do with self control. Your/son’s caregiver can tell you more about that, too.

          For me, learning I was autistic and learning which of my own weird, alien traits were spectrum characteristics made me *more* empathic to people who exhibit atypical body language, and I don’t need to know their neurotype to extend them that empathy. I’m actually ok with having offended you. It’s bad enough when non-spectrum people refer to my traits as “alien” or “psychopathic.” It’s even more hurtful with people on the spectrum do it. My advice remains the same: your response to prolonged eye contact is about you. Learn to get over it.

        3. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I don’t see Close Bracket saying anything that indicates they’re trying to speak for everyone on the spectrum and this is getting strangely heated. Please leave this here.

      2. Batgirl*

        I wouldn’t tell people to ‘just get over it’ when they’re talking about any kind of feelings. Especially if it’s just feelings and their outward behaviour was appropriate. Telling people how to feel is going to come over as rude even if it’s well intentioned.

    5. RJ the Newbie*

      Oh dear. I’m willing to bet that team studied the Isaacson biography of Steve Jobs. He was infamous for doing that and this one of the many traits Elizabeth Holmes (of Theranos) copied from him. It’s been copied, written about and extolled on Inc. and Forbes but I find it psychotic.

      1. MissDisplaced*

        I’ve seen Elizabeth Holmes’s photos and videos. CRAZY EYE.
        I also got to see Steve Job at MacWorld twice, and while he was certainly an intense high-strung type, I never got a crazy vibe. I never met him in person though, and rumors are he was notoriously difficult to work with. Elon Musk on the other hand… Crazy Eye.

    6. Quinalla*

      It’s tough when interviewers act strangely. What I’ve done when I’ve had instances of it is first give them the benefit of the doubt in my mind – ie try and come up with a kind and generous explanation for why they are doing it. Does not need to be right, just really helps me to get past it and not be fixated on the weirdness. Second, I will imagine what the response I am expecting is and try and respond how I would to that imaginary response vs. whatever they give me.

      For example, when I had an interviewer who was acting like he had zero interest in talking to me (this was back in college when interviewers would schedule back to back stuff, so quite likely) and generally I have no trouble getting interviewers interested in me, so it was very much a strange thing. I gave him the benefit of the doubt that I was yet another college student in a long line he had been forced to interview, maybe he was there as a sort of punishment since no one else wanted to do it. Then I responded to him like he was interested in what I was saying. It at least made me feel like I did what I could in case he really was paying attention.

    7. Phoenix Programmer*

      Hmm. We’re they in NE as well? I will say that some pockets of the NE are super squeamish about what a lot of the rest of the country sees as nicities. Eye contact, small talk, etc.

    8. Anon Anon Anon*

      I think if you’re getting a creepy feeling, it probably is creepy and you should probably put that job on the “last resort” list. As other commenters have mentioned, there are possible explanations. But if it was done in a way that came across as really creepy, listen to that!

    9. MissDisplaced*

      I say you trust your gut instinct.
      There may have been plausible reasons for all that Crazy Eye going on, sure, but Crazy Eye is still Crazy Eye!!!!!

    10. cmcinnyc*

      I used to work with a guy who was a normal, friendly, business-appropriate person but who truly believed that in an interview it was a good idea to present as an absolute robot–no reactions, no smiling, none of the little verbal cues people make like “huh!’ or “mm” when they’re interested or agreeing or surprised. He explained that making people uncomfortable in an interview was good because of course people come prepared and put their best foot forward and he wanted to “disrupt” that. Supposedly then he’d see what they were “really” like. I thought it was a horrible thing to do and said so but I had absolutely no power beyond stating that opinion so I imagine he’s still doing it. I actually liked working for him but if he’d been my interviewer I would not have taken the job.

      1. That Californian*

        That’s so incorrect! If anything, you meet more of the person when you meet them halfway. An initial feeling of success (like getting a question correct in an oral exam) or connection (like an interviewer saying “I liked that book too!”) lowers the interviewee’s affective filter, allowing them to access more of the information they know, and present it more clearly. I always kept that in mind when I was giving oral exams in the foreign language I taught, asking a relatively simple question first, and then giving a smile and a nod to show they’d responded correctly. People who came in very nervous and stuttery would suddenly relax and the conversation would flow much better.
        It doesn’t help if they just don’t know the subject matter, but if they do a little bit of kindness makes it so much easier to access.

      2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

        What a strange idea! How does being mildly hostile and manipulative help you get to know someone’s true personality?

    11. Free now (and forever)*

      I had an interview in law school for a summer internship with a large insurance company. The interviewer’s hair was slicked back and looked like it was coated with so much oil that it was practically dripping. I was skeeved out, to say the least (although in 1979, I hadn’t heard of that phrase). I sent the entire interview trying to decide if the interviewer had 1.) bad hygiene; 2.) an over fondness for Brillcream and forgot that “a little dab’ll do ya); or was doing it deliberately to see if he could distract job candidates. Needless to say, I didn’t get the job. Nor did I want it if I would have to work with him.

    12. Lilysparrow*

      I’m not saying this is the best thing – probably isn’t – but I tend to overcompensate and go into “hostess” mode, trying to put *them* at ease. Maybe it gives me an illusion of control?

      If it was something like the chest-staring mentioned upthread, I’d probably go with ending it early. But general weird/awkwardness tends to spark my “try harder!” instinct.

    13. Akcipitrokulo*

      I’m picturing being interviewed by Gowron…

      But yeah, it would creep me out. I don’t think I’d feel comfortable enough to say anything at the time – just direct my responses to the members of the panel that didn’t make me feel weird.

  2. Ms. Taylor Sailor*

    This happened two years ago, but I was thinking about it recently and was wondering people’s opinions. (And apologies if this topic has come up before! I’m fairly new to open threads.) I remember there was a letter by a LW who wanted to ask out an associate at a store she shopped at, but what about when it’s the other way around?

    I was waiting to be served at the deli section at the grocery store one night and, as usual, it took a very long time. There was one guy working who looked close to my age who was profusely apologetic for the wait and offered everyone samples. It was eventually my turn as the last in line, so there wasn’t really anyone else around. The deli associate was *very* chatty, but seemed friendly overall. He told me about how he was new to the area and planning on getting a master’s soon. (I live in a city with a well-renowned university.) I was receptive and talking to him was fine, but after the long wait, I mostly wanted to just get my cold cuts and finish shopping. (FWIW, he did a bad job with my cold cuts after making a huge point that he would do them perfectly…)

    After thanking him and going on my way to finish shopping, several minutes later, he follows me two aisles over to offer me a mint and ask me out for coffee. A co-worker was also in the aisle and encouraged me to say yes, which made the whole thing feel kind of awkward, but I figured why not and agreed.

    What are your guys’ thoughts? At the time, it felt kind of weird, but not so egregiously terrible that I wanted to run away or anything. But I also feel like if I was someone’s supervisor and found out they asked out a customer, I wouldn’t be thrilled about it. I feel like it’s particularly worse because we had never even met before that night, so it wasn’t like we had any kind of prior connection. I think he was more just looking to meet people in a new city than anything else, which I sympathize with, but I’m still not sure it was a great position to put me in, but please let me know too if I’m being too hard on him!

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Customer service should not hit on customers while at work, and vice versa.

        Had the two of you run into each other elsewhere one of you could have asked the other for coffee, with the understanding that your future deli interactions might be weird if the other person wasn’t into you that way. (Though for this reason I am in favor of asking soon while the stakes are low and no one’s too invested, rather than after months of yearning and building up an elaborate vision of your future white-picket-fenced life together.)

      2. valentine*

        Also no. He didn’t even get your order right! You sound like you only said yes due to pressure and whose coworker it was matters. A good employee would get your order right, keep the interaction short because you had waited the longest (possibly this is different in the South or anywhere where you’d have to say goodbye to each other for 30 rounds before actually leaving), and not hit on you because you don’t bleep where you eat.

    1. INeedANap*

      Oh, wow, I would have felt very uncomfortable. Not necessarily just being asked out, but the co-worker urging me to say yes would have pushed this from “awkward but normal” into “this feels unacceptable”.

      I’m sympathetic the deli guy probably didn’t have any control over his co-worker, it’s not his fault, but regardless I would not be happy. I don’t think I would complain or anything, but it would definitely make me not want to shop there again!

      1. Ms. Taylor Sailor*

        Yeah, it’s not my normal grocery store, but I was driving around looking for something to eat and just figured I’d might as well get dinner and some groceries while I was at it. A new one that’s much closer to me opened up! I also use online ordering for cold cuts now so that they’re ready when I get there, though I’d estimate they’re only ready on time (or less than 10 minutes late) half the time…

    2. Plain Jane*

      If I was his supervisor, I’d ask him not to do that again. There’s too much potential to lose you as a customer if you’re not into it and feel awkward coming in after that.

    3. merp*

      Hmm. I’m not sure if this answers the question, but the issue to me with asking out a staff person somewhere is that they are basically a captive audience and their job requires that they be nice to you – I’m not sure it’s the same flipped around, because as a customer, there are fewer repercussions for saying no/acting less than thrilled.

      But that being said, if being asked out by a stranger made you uncomfortable, I am definitely not trying to invalidate that! Just that I wonder if his being at work had less to do with it? I’m not sure.

      1. merp*

        Oh also, was it his coworker encouraging you to say yes? Bc as a supervisor, I honestly think I would find that more worthy of talking to than the asking out, although it would definitely be fair to talk to both.

        1. valentine*

          as a customer, there are fewer repercussions for saying no/acting less than thrilled
          Not if Ms. Taylor Sailor is a woman. There was already the gross pressure from the coworker. Random people will jump in with “Just give him a chance!” It’s the nasty crossroads of sexism+Jumbotron, which abusers leverage to stalk their exes and make intensely pressured massive public displays about wanting them back.

          Also: I’d hate to have to avoid the deli or store because Bundy.

          1. merp*

            No, of course that’s true, I was coming at more from the direction of customer vs. staff power differential (i.e. who can walk out the door more easily) but it all intersects. I don’t want to sound like I think her discomfort is unfair at all, I would feel the same.

            1. LJay*

              I mean I think it can be.

              What if it was a pharmacy that was the only place she could get medication she needed?

              What if it was the only grocery store in the area so she had to go there to get food?

              You can just walk out the door as a customer. But you might need to come back.

              And if you’re afraid the person is going to retaliate in some way (like give you a hard time about getting your meds, or mess with your deli meat or similar) it’s problematic for sure.

              And even if you’re just uncomfortable being put on the spot I think rearrange your schedule to avoid the person who is making you uncomfortable, or decide to drive 10 miles out of the way to go to the next closest grocery store or pharmacy, or spend extra money to get stuff delivered I think can still be enough of an effect on your life to say that there can be a power differential.

              1. JunieB*

                I experienced something like this. I was asked on a date by a bus driver, and when I turned him down, he became icy and a little hostile. I was nervous about riding with him, and since I can’t drive, finding transportation downtown rapidly became a real headache.

      2. A.*

        Yes! An emt asked my friend out while she was riding in the back of the ambulance. Time and place. Not everywhere is “hunting grounds” for people to pick up dates.

        1. Penny*

          …seriously, an ambulance!? And it was meant seriously, not like a ‘just chatting to calm down an injured person’? What the heck!

          1. Scarlet Magnolias*

            That’s like the Carrie Fisher story where she overdosed and was asked out by the doctor reviving her

        2. Ms. Taylor Sailor*

          Oh boy. I’m pretty sure that’s not the type of “savior” she was looking for at that moment…

        3. Auntie Social*

          My EMT wouldn’t transport me because a cute female EMT had just pulled up and he went to talk to her. I finally said “it looks like I’m not going anywhere, so guy EMT, give your digits to girl EMT, and she’ll call you if she wants to, RIGHT?” to which girl EMT said “yep”, and I finally got transported. It was post-op to a rehab hospital and not an emergency, but it still P’d me off and I was in a buttload of pain besides. Still grrr.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            THIS one is reportable in my opinion. Customer waiting possibly in pain or under orders to do followup care? No excuse for delay.

      3. epi*

        That is where I fall.

        I can absolutely see why this felt uncomfortable. Ms. Taylor Sailor was kind of trapped in this interaction with him– she had taken the time to wait for service so she couldn’t leave without it being clear she didn’t want to interact with this guy anymore, specifically.

        I have also been a grocery employee asked out by a customer and it is so awful. It’s not like I could stop going to work, or even really leave the area when he came back, because I was a bagger. Same thing with subsequent retail jobs where I was just clearly being hit on even if the person didn’t ask me out– there is a power dynamic because you have to continue being warm to a customer unless they really cross a line. It’s harder to take the risk of offending the person.

        It sucks to be in the situation Ms. Taylor Sailor was put in, being able to see the one-sided interest coming but without a graceful way to acknowledge it and decline, or just end the conversation. But IMO it is social awkwardness that could happen the same way between peers, whereas asking out someone who is working also risks exploiting a power differential. It probably was inappropriate for this guy to ask out a customer, especially while he was working– but the transgression was against his employer. That’s who is hurt by his wasting time at work and potentially making a customer not want to come back.

        1. merp*

          I feel like you said this better than I did, thank you. I don’t want to minimize her experience at all, I would hate being in that situation.

          1. Ms. Taylor Sailor*

            No worries at all! I don’t feel like you minimized it whatsoever. I appreciate hearing the perspective of the different power dynamics.

        2. Retail manager*

          Actually no about being the bagger feeling like she was captive. Not no to your feeling but your manager should have handled this. This happens often and depending on the severity we would send the employee on an errand or a break. In the case of a customer who talked and talked to the customer we told him the cashier would get in trouble (she wouldn’t). In some cases we tell the customer to leave or bankaccounts them from the store. Zero tolerance for customers harassing the staff.

      4. Falling Diphthong*

        The power dynamic is flipped but the awkwardness dynamic is not. If the approach is unwelcome then customers may decide not to shop there any more, thereby avoiding any awkward requests for pastrami by asking at a deli with married meat slicers.

        The bystanders weighing in was omg stop, inappropriate in all contexts.

    4. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      Inappropriate, with or without the coworker.

      This was the first time you met him. That’s always creepy to me.

      Long time association with a service provider with friendly chatting that has continued to develop, well, that might be something ok. Coffee date next door or something.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        I was once asked out by a jury cop on his last day working with us (I was on the jury). The trial wasn’t over but he had to leave for another assignment, and as he walked me out the door he asked if I wanted to get together. I told him to call me, he never did, but he was a pretty nice guy. I’m sure it wasn’t the most appropriate thing, but we had spent a couple of weeks in each other’s company and I didn’t feel weird about it.

        1. Nacho*

          Stories like this are why people keep doing it. It’s creepy 99% of the time, but everybody’s heard that one super romantic tale about the couple who met this way.

          1. Cedrus Libani*

            I think there’s a difference between asking out a person you’ve met in a public space (but there’s been non trivial, repeated interaction between you, enough to establish some level of compatibility) and asking out someone you literally just met. The latter is creepy. Dude, all you know about me is that I have tits and a pulse. If that’s all you want in a woman, then no, we are NOT compatible.

            1. AvonLady Barksdale*

              That’s exactly it. In the case of me and the jury cop, we had interacted very pleasantly for a couple of weeks and we were also at the point where we would likely never see each other again. I thought his timing was really good and his approach was appropriate, to be honest. It was the least creepy way to ask someone out.

            2. Ella bee bee*

              Yes to this. My sister is marrying a man who she met because she is a bartender and he was a regular at the bar, but he didn’t ask her out until they had known each other for a few months.

          2. Maya Elena*

            I’d probably push back on the 99% breakdown; I’d intuitively put it closer to the reverse. It takes a pretty small percentage of free riders to destroy a system based on trust. If even 5% of guys who do this do it in a way that is threatening or creepy, and make women frown at the practice (especially when described by a third party, rather than it happening to them specifically). Analogously, workplaces that feel threatening or unwelcoming to women aren’t that way because all, or even a majority of men are leering and groping them; it only takes a few to cast the pall.

          3. Lissa*

            I don’t even think it’s creepy 99% percent of the time! I think it probably doesn’t *work* 99% of the time, but I’d say that plenty of times it’s somewhere between “flattering but no thanks” and “annoying but not threatening.” Or like Avonlady’s story, both people are mildly interested but it doesn’t go anywhere. (Please note I am not saying it’s not often creepy, but that can also be subjective, ie where one person might find something creepy another might not, etc.)

            Personally I also think it’s just like, not usually a particularly great way to meet someone and has a pretty high chance of making them uncomfortable. Sometimes there genuinely can be an awesome dynamic/spark between two people, but it’s hard to know when you’re misreading that too.

    5. Anonariffic*

      Yeah, that might not be worst possible red flag but it’s definitely a yellow card. Asking as a natural next step after chatting for a bit would be one thing, but tracking you down in the aisles after your first conversation has ended and you walked away is a little creepy.

      Saying this as someone who did date my Starbucks barista for a while after he asked me out, but I was working a very early shift at the time and am NOT a morning person, so I probably knew him better than I knew a number of my coworkers.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I’m with you on this one. If you’ve had a ton of interaction prior and there seemed to be mutual interest, then maybe.

    6. MissDisplaced*

      I guess I’m kind of old school in my take as I’m a dating dinosaur from the days before online dating was a thang, but I don’t feel he was crossing the line or being harassing.
      Why? Well, it was a public place. The ask was to meet for coffee and chat, and then put the ball in your court as to the when/where and if you decided you were interested and decided to exchange contact info. However, your friend shouldn’t have pressured you to accept, and you certainly had no obligation to accept if you felt uncomfortable.

      Should DeliGuy have done this at work? Probably not, but Meh! It was a market not an office, which in my mind makes a difference–and as long it wasn’t done in a weird stalkerish manner (such as following you to your car). Actually, I kinda give him props for being so brave. Tone/politeness of the ask makes all the difference too, such as him giving you his number and letting you decide if you want to further the acquaintance. It’s difficult to meet anyone if you never open up and talk to people (even in nonsexual ways). Back in my day, a guy showing his interest in you in this manner wouldn’t have even warranted a blink, but I realize people have very different ideas about asking people out today.

      Curious though, DID you meet him for coffee? Because you sound like you were kind freaked out or not really interested. Which is fine. You definitely shouldn’t feel pressured.

      1. Ms. Taylor Sailor*

        I get where you’re coming from for sure! And I think it’s great when people have the courage to go for it and ask someone out. I’ve certainly done it and got turned down, but that’s how you find out!

        However, and maybe I’m just cynical, but in my mind, it’s weird to me to ask someone out while you’re working, particularly a total stranger. Like you’re at work to do your job, not look for opportunities to meet people. Not exactly the same, but there was a different deli I had gone to to get cold cuts. The wait was already bad enough, but the guy helping me would *not stop talking.* I’m all for small talk, but he moved at a snail’s pace all the while trying to carry on a conversation after I’d already been waiting for awhile. I eventually just got a little more curt with each answer while trying to be polite just so that we could move along.

        And yes, I did meet him for coffee. He overall was fairly nice and we had some stuff in common, but I wasn’t really interested or looking to date at the time and we parted ways after texting a couple times after.

        1. Maya Elena*

          That’s great! Sounds like nothing problematic here as far as I can tell. I’d say him not being attractive or dating material is separate from whether he should or should not have asked you out, or whether such behavior should be ABSOLUTELY TABOO FOR PEOPLE (or men specifically) in similar contexts. I think if he’d demonstrated behaviors more attractive to you – e.g. did his job better and not talked so much, you would probably have welcomed being asked out more. Or if he was more physically attractive.

          To summarize and bring it back into the work context, I would probably not have report it. :D

          1. I'm just here for the comments*

            I’m confused where physical attractiveness comes into all of this? The guy spent waaay too long doing her order after an already long wait, he seemed unable to read social cues where her answers became shorter and more curt the longer he took, and she didn’t enthusiastically accept the invite to coffee (it was accepted AFTER being pressured by another worker). Saying that she would’ve been happier if he was better looking is pretty insulting, it’s the kind of thing you read on incel (“involuntary celibates”) forums where guys complain that they can’t get sex or dates or women to look at them, solely because of their looks (and not, you know, because of their behavior). What we each find physically attractive is subjective to the individual anyway, so while his behavior was not especially egregious it was also the reason his advances were not welcome.
            On a similar vein, I think people are less thrilled by/ more aware that the act of following someone around a store and continuing to engage them when they don’t return the interest is not desirable behavior. While its not the level of flashing red lights and going “danger! danger Will Robinson” its also not a great way to get a date.

        2. Batgirl*

          I was going to say the same as Miss Displaced, that it’s not egregious to ask out a not-at-work stranger person in public spaces as long as it’s a simple yes/no question and there’s no hovering or pressure.

          I think there’s a few unacceptable variables in your version though. He asked you out semi-publicly which added pressure. While a customer technically has more power, no one is immune to social pressure. You were also busy and he hasn’t the awareness to have realised that. Following you isn’t great either. It’s not creepy, but rather more … unimpressive and hilarious that he asked you out after giving you terrible, thoughtless service!

        3. Le Sigh*

          I have been in a very similar situation. And what bugged me wasn’t being asked out (I declined for many reasons, everything about that situation was bad), it was that the guy dragged out what should have been a 10 min transaction into 30+ minutes. It was the last place to get food for many miles on a car trip and I wanted to eat STOP WASTING MY TIME TO BADLY FLIRT WITH ME YOU’RE HOLDING MY NUGGETS HOSTAGE.

    7. Canonical23*

      In theory, I don’t think a service worker asking a customer out crosses a line if both parties were chatting and there’s general interest – they’re at their job and you can easily leave to go to a different restaurant/coffee shop/store/etc. which is a different power structure than say, you asking out your waitress who HAS to be nice to you.

      But in actuality? The way the guy did it was really weird – the coworker pressuring you, the aisle tracking…that makes it way more odd then chatting at a check-out line, hitting it off and exchanging numbers.

      1. Busy*

        My reaction as a customer would depend on the vibes this guy gave me and if I felt we had a connection. If if he was creepy vibing it, I would probably just never go there again.

        As a manager, it would be a hard no, and at least a serious talking to. Like I don’t care if she said yes or you weren’t creepy about it, do not go out of your way to make my customers feel awkward coming here!

    8. Liz*

      Hmm. i have known situations where it DID work out, but this seems like a. he tried too hard, and b. the co-worker make it just that much more awkward by encouraging YOU to say yes. he may have some social awkwardness, which could account for his not so subtle asking you out, but i would have felt uncomfortable as well.

      in the instance I know where it worked out; i worked in a women’s store in a nice strip mall. next to it was a causal not-so-fast-food restaurant. one of my CWs thought one of the managers there was attractive, and i guess the feeling was mutual. he asked her out, she accepted, and they’re now married with 2 kids!

    9. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Yeah in general, asking out a customer is not a good look and frowned upon.

      However in retail and service, they don’t have as many boundaries or are held to exceptionally high professional standards. I’m mostly worried if he didn’t clock out to go on break first or abandoned the massive line to hunt you down…

    10. Anona*

      Yeah, I don’t think he should have done that. If he was a fellow grocery shopper, OK. But it’s not cool that he asked you out on the clock. If I was his manager, I’d tell him not to ask out customers while working. Because it can make them uncomfortable– they’re just there trying to get their deli meat!

      If his shift had ended and he’d asked you out in the parking lot, it would still be weird, but more OK, in my opinion.

      1. WellRed*

        I agree about not asking out on the clock but highly recommend not tracking someone you don’t know down the parking lot.

    11. Nacho*

      This feels like one of those things that’s creepy unless it works, and that rom-coms have been telling us for about a century works way better than it really does.

      1. Liv Jong*

        I tell all my coworkers to not date customers, which is extremely hypocritical because I married one.

        He was a regular who had already dated one of the other bartenders and had a reputation for being a gueniene guy and a great tipper. The only red flag was how fast we fell in love, moved in together, and married. It did end up costing me that job, but it ranks 1 or 2 on my list of worst employer so it was actually a win.

        I know we’re the exception and not the rule, so my rule still is don’t date customers.

    12. Maya Elena*

      I think a non-threatening, non-sexual approach, in an open space before witnesses – where you don’t feel threatened if you say know – and especially after a friendly conversation, with “hey! would you be interested in having coffee together sometime” or an equivalent…. I think that’s perfectly fine.

      If he’d said something like “hey babe, I like your butt”, then that would have been inappropriate and weird. Or texted you on your phone number that he got because he was the cable guy. That would be legitimately creepy and – in the latter case – probably reportable.

      But for this guy though: sheesh dude, put in some effort with the cold cuts.

    13. LJay*

      Yeah, that’s definitely uncool.

      If I were his manager he would at the very least get a stern talking to about why you can’t do that.

      When you’re working, you’re there to advance the company’s interests, not your own. It would be uncool for him to try and divert you to his legitimate business. It would be uncool for him to try and sell you his MLM product or stuff from his kid’s fundraiser. And it’s uncool to ask you out.

      Also, putting someone on the spot and asking them out may make them uncomfortable/their trip unpleasant and thus less likely to shop there. If he were making the customers uncomfortable by saying rude things he’d get a talking to. If he were making the shopping experience unpleasant by being inattentive he’d get a talking to.

      I don’t think you’re being too hard on him. I think if you want to you can go and mention it to his manager. They probably would like to know that that was happening. But that’s also not something you need to do if you do not want to/don’t want to get him in trouble over it.

    14. Amethyst*

      I’ve worked in several retail stores over my career & this is very, very strictly inappropriate. I know that if this happened at any of the stores I worked at they would’ve had a Serious Talk over this incident, regardless of the customer’s answer.

      Story time:

      I had something similar happen once when I was about 20 or 21. I was working at a grocery store, & this old guy would always be around, so we’d chat for a few minutes before going on to whatever we were doing, which was usually me selling him some lottery tickets. It got to be a regular thing.

      Then the day came when he said something really fast & really quietly while I was working at the service desk, so I had no idea what he’d said. (Quiet/fast voices & I do not mix, particularly in noisy settings. There was also a speaker literally right above my head within the desk, which was constantly going off with a page or another.) He repeated himself about 4 more times, & I still hadn’t the foggiest idea what he’d said, so my default was to read his face & body language (which was extremely hopeful, btw) & nod.

      He got really excited & asked me when I’d get off work. “5.”

      “Great! I’ll pick you up at 5!”

      & it was exactly then that I realized what he’d asked me & all I could think of was, “F*ck. F*ckity f*ck f*ck f*ck.”

      He showed up at 5, a little more dressed up than usual.

      Turns out the guy thought I was interested in him as more than friends. (He was 63 years old for god’s sake! & I was only being friendly, which is what I always do when I’m around people.)

      To make things worse, I was dating my best friend at the time, so I had to figure out a way to let him down while he’s going on & on about “What will your parents think about our relationship?” & stuff while he’s bringing me home, anticipating his introduction to my parents.

      It was super awkward when I made him pull over at the corner of one of the streets leading to my house & informed him I was seeing someone else at the time, etc. I never saw the dude again.

      *massive facepalm*

    15. Lilysparrow*

      This was not a good move and yes, I can’t imagine a decent supervisor being okay with this.
      But ultimately if you weren’t terribly put off or scared or creeped out, then it doesn’t need to be a big deal.

      OTOH, you should bear in mind the things you have learned about him from this interaction:

      1) He is more interested in venting his feelings than in meeting other people’s needs – even when he’s being paid to meet those needs.

      2) He brags about doing things well but actually does them badly.

      3) He is oblivious to, or willfully ignores normal social boundaries like “don’t hit on customers” and “don’t make a public spectacle of asking someone out” and “this woman is here to obtain food, not to be hit on.”

      So the likelihood that your coffee date will be highly enjoyable or lead anywhere you want to go, is very very slim.

    16. Ms. Taylor Sailor*

      Just realized I wasn’t clear! By “a co-worker,” I meant HIS co-worker who was also working and restocking selves at that moment.

  3. Anon this time*

    I would love some help reframing a difficult work situation.

    I work in a medium sized tech startup. I was recruited about a year ago to develop some processes to streamline the client experience. I did this work at my last company, where our processes where tight. Things are a lot more haphazard in my new company. Different tasks are owned by different people and the client experience is really haphazard. It took me over six months to get my process change proposal approved, and I’m finally making progress in getting some improvements in place. But I’m getting a lot pushback from the old guard. Other managers feel like I’m encroaching on their territory, and people are really, really possessive of their old tasks. My manager is super supportive, and I get a ton of positive feedback. My colleagues are borderline hostile. People avoid eye contact, are curt, avoid me, pushback, and call me out in public. I do have a handful of colleagues who I have positive relationships with, but overall I feel like persona non grata. I was looking for a new job for a while, but this role is a good career move for me. I was a senior individual contributor in my last job, and in this one I’m building a process and buildingn a team. I need to be in this place for a while before I could jump to another company in a manager role. I’m not really interested in taking a step back to another individual contributor role. But the day to day is just so incredibly difficult. People tell me off in meetings, exclude me, or just plain cut me off. I’m committed to seeing this project through, but my interactions with my team are so incredibly demoralizing. I’m looking for ways bolters my emotional state after hostile meetings and negative interactions. I already share my frustrations with my boss, and I have a habit of walking to a nearby park to cool off, but I can’t vent to my boss or walk to the park three times a day.

    1. Would-be manager*

      Honestly? It sounds like you need to think more about your change management process. What are you doing to consult with people and get them on board? If you’re just trying to get them to change… that’s not usually ever how that works even in the healthiest of organisations.

      1. Busy*

        Well the thing about change management though is that it usually doesn’t work when the person making the changes in the only one managing change management. What it sounds to me like is happening here is that upper management that wants this to happen, has not been clear enough with the rest of the employees on their desire for this change and the role Anon this Time has. Top management is absolutely failing here, because it is extremely difficult if not impossible to bring people onboard for change when they are new, work on a similar level of other people, and do not seemed to have the heavy involved backing of top management.

        As a matter of fact, being an employee ALONE can make it difficult. A lot of businesses hire outside consulting companies to make changes due to this alone.

        I would talk to your manager, explain the attitudes you are getting, ask them what they think you could do differently, and then press them to make it known their intentions to the other employees.

        I would also recommend reading upon change management and the fears people have related to change. It won’t fix this, because upper management is the only ones who can, but you will at least get an idea of WHY people push back against change.

        1. Anon this time*

          Thanks Busy – you’re spot on in describing the situation. AFAIK, my VP hasn’t communicated anything about my role to anyone. My direct manager – director – has done a better job, but he’s new and getting push back as well.

          1. Busy*

            Exactly. My entire career has been change management. And if management isn’t going to be fully engaged, it will fail. I mean sure you might be able to introduce some superficial new process or system, but it will never really be used.

            Just don’t take it personal, know you rock at what you do, and explain to your manager that upper management is tying your hands. Research some of that change management stuff, throw it at your boss, and say we need to stop focusing on system change and start focusing on how to get management to express interest. And be very clear that if that doesn’t happen, this will all fail – as in you are setting the goals and objectives for what makes this a success or failure at this stage. And meanwhile, job hunt in the event they do not change, because they are setting you up for failure.

            1. Anon this time*

              Busy thank you so much. This is very validating. Also, I was thinking I needed to deal with my emotions, and you’re steering me in the direction of doing things better. Are there any change management resources you’d recommend for a newbie? My background is in project management and implementing project management processes. I haven’t encountered this type or resistance in previous roles.

              1. Busy*

                I cannot remember any of the books I had read previously, but if you google the psychology of change management, it brings up lots of resources – and most of them are free.

                These guys sort of sum up a good bit of it

                But if you want a summation, it is that people react with fear. All those no’s, and eye rolls, and passive aggressive behavior, and challenging you – all of that is fear. You can do this one or two ways to alleviate it for yourself a bit:

                1. find out what they are afraid of (hint: it is ALWAYS how it will affect them, their ego, and their employment. Sometimes it is because they are hiding a whole lot of unethical stuff, but its rarer)
                2. Figure out a way to present it that assuages their fears of the above.
                3. Know you will not get everyone on board, and decide now what you are going to do with those people
                4. Be constantly “there”. Like this project isn’t going away. Email reminders, meetings with objectives – put their peer pressure on to perform.

                At the end though, no one may get on board and it may fail if management doesn’t intervene soon and keep yourself grounded by that fact. Right now that is the biggest threat to failure – not anything you are doing.

              2. Wheezy Weasel*

                I’d recommend John Kotter’s 8 Steps to Leading Change (link in my username) as a good introduction and framework to explain it to management.

                1. Herminone Changer*

                  I second Kotter but have also found the Switch model useful for leading change from the bottom. The Hitchhikers Guide to Lean also has a really practical framework that you can use to engage leaders and set up other areas of success.

          2. Flash Bristow*

            You might appreciate the book Death March by Edward Youdon. It’s aimed at software developers thrown into car crash projects but I found it useful in general.

          3. President Porpoise*

            We’ve recently gone through something similar here. Mandatory MAJOR changes (reorganization, automation, staff hiring, new policies, etc.) to deal with regulatory failures. At first, people grumbled and not much was done. Our top brass was on board – because it could have crippled our business in a debarment sort of way – but we were having trouble changing company culture and managing the increased workload that came with the change process. What helped was more overt top leadership involvement, integrating examples of the needed change into all facets of corporate communication – newsletters, training, ethics vignettes, etc. – heavily funding the changes, and most importantly getting buy-in from the affected organizations wherever possible. If you want people to make changes, you need to try to take their input on the improvements they’d like to see, even if they’re in addition to what you have to do.

          4. Akcipitrokulo*

            I think there needs more communication – first, from upper management, and second, possibly from you – and you are in a position to insist that it is necessary for your work – talk to people, take their suggestions on board and convince them that you are listening to their concerns. I think it might be difficult now it seems to have been entrenched into an us and them (or us and her) situation – but still worth trying.

            1. Akcipitrokulo*

              And second point is not suggesting that you’re not good at that! It sounds like you’ve been unable to do it?

        2. Artemesia*

          This. When you have lazy management that things hiring someone and tasking them with change management will do the trick, you have failure. You cannot succeed against the pushback of old hands if the top management is not aggressive about the need for the change. I have seen this fail so many times. Either top management does what it takes and it may mean re-organizing and reassigning people and also firing people who are resistant or it fails. A newbie with low status and little history cannot make this change happen without this support. And effective change requires engaging everyone first in understanding the need for change, then in giving input on what might address the issues, and only then in making changes.

      2. Anon this time*

        To answer your question, I’ve been meeting with the team in groups and individually since last summer, much more frequently in the last 3 months. Things have gotten much better – people are hesitantly onboard. Yes, I can probably do more work on the change management, but right now I’m just trying to figure out how to get through the day.

    2. Workerbee*

      I’m so sorry you’re experiencing this! Very hostile, I agree.

      From your follow-up comment, can you get the VP to sit down and talk with these people? They will at least then realize that this is a Wanted Change, it’s a leadership directive, and that you aren’t doing this just to pass the time.

      The ongoing hurdle is, of course, getting past the hostility and any of the “Oh, we LOVE change! This is great!” that you may get after the VP’s intervention, which sounds wonderful until the point where you see that they’re not doing a damn thing differently. (I have this in my department. Great talkers! Great going-to-meeting-ers! Great doers? Nope.)

      Is there anyone within the old guard who you can start cultivating as an ally–such as in that handful of colleagues? I did some poking around when I first got brought in, and uncovered a crop of people who really did want change, but had been beaten down by the system/old guard and didn’t know what to do about it. I’ve been able to start making inroads by partnering with them and keeping my boss firmly in the loop, including telling him when he needs to make something happen because it’s gone to his level.

    3. Checkert*

      It doesn’t sound to me like your manager is very supportive, I wonder if they’re paying you lip service? Support in this realm would mean helping you advocate to leadership and/or using their position to influence their manager peers or higher. If they are not helping you mitigate these roadblocks when you go to them to ‘vent’ (aka ask for help), they are not supporting. Manager support in change management is not the same as managing individual contributors, it doesn’t end with ‘you’re performing to expectations’. If they’re not willing to advocate for you, then that is actually your first and foremost roadblock and they are becoming part of the problem. Can you go to them and be specific with what you need from them, such as advocacy?

      1. Anon this time*

        My manager – the director – is way better than my VP. At first I was on my own completely, then I started asking him to join committee meetings to throw his weight in with the other director. This has helped, at first, my manager was doing all the talking and running the meeting, and now, I’m doing most of the talking and running my meetings. I wish I didn’t have to borrow authority from him to get things done, because it undermines my own authority… I can ask him how much he’s advocated for me in private with the other director on the team. I can’t depend on my VP doing anything helpful to support me. He doesn’t remember things very well (sometimes forgets things that he said 5 minutes earlier), and tends to derail projects he’s already approved….

        1. Busy*

          Don’t look at it as borrowing authority, but as him asserting your authority with these people.

          Like saying “This Big Change is going to happen and Anon This Time is in charge of this Big Change.”

          But the VP needs to be making this clear to his reports that Big Change is going to happen and at least insinuate that there will be repercussions if they don’t get on board.

          Plus, making a project plan and including some kind of audit afterwards (under the important idea that anything new needs checked to see if it is working or not *plan-do-act-check* and all the other PM stuff). Include that this will be gone over with top management, and that any failures will require corrective actions. This obviously will make them realize they are gonna be followed-up with after implementation.

    4. Hillary*

      This was me at my last job. My department was supportive, but outside our team not so much. Honestly, I accepted that I was the bad guy, I did what had to be done, and I got a much better job a couple years later. I left my replacement with a better position.

      I also went to therapy and worked a lot on not taking stuff personally. It took a lot of work to get it through my head that the resisters were reacting out of fear and it wasn’t about me. With some people it doesn’t matter how good your change management is, they’re just idiots, jerks, or too self interested to see the bigger picture.

    5. CM*

      I think my main question is, what happens when people refuse to cooperate with you? Are they being told by their bosses that this is something they need to go along with or are they being told you’re annoying and they can push back?

      I ask because, I once worked somewhere really dysfunctional (with similarly diffuse responsibility where every manager did everything their own way) and only a few of the senior execs agreed that there was a problem and tried to hire people with expertise to come in and fix things. The other execs did not agree that there was a problem and actively encouraged their teams to be hostile and non-cooperative. If that’s what’s happening to you — if there’s a battle going on above you — there might not be a lot you can do.

      However, if you want to improve your day-to-day interactions with people and make it harder for them to show contempt for you, my advice is to slow down and not try to steamroll them into compliance. Instead, really, really gently and patiently talk through what’s bothering them, why they’re against your ideas, why you think this will be better etc — not because you should “have to” but because that might help defuse the situation. If they feel like you’re being really considerate of them and their feelings, it will be harder for them to justify being a jerk toward you and the tone of the conversation might change.

    6. OhGee*

      I echo what the others have said. I’m six months in to a role that is new to my organization, and very change management focused. I try to take the lead in rolling out processes, and I’ve occasionally run up against a historic tendency to include absolutely everyone in every planning meeting, but now that I’ve identified key players and reinforced when I need either backup from managers or for a manager to roll out a policy I’ve created, things are running much more smoothly. It’s still sort of a lonely position, because the rest of the team all do the same type of work and I don’t, but people understand what I’m doing and have learned that I welcome their input. Consensus-building and backup from leadership are huge here.

    7. Endurogirl*

      Oh man, I feel for you so much! Change management is becoming a huge focus in my career, and I’ve gone through three different organizations in the midst of big changes (two public hospitals and a private tech company). The hospitals were terrible and while reactions weren’t quite as terrible as you describe, the overall feeling was definitely bleak.
      The best program one of my bosses paid for our group to go through was the “Change Acceleration Process” from GE. I believe you can also find some of the material online, but it’s all about how to get everyone on board with wanting and driving change, not dragging people blind, kicking and screaming.
      Good luck to you, and remember, it’s really not about you: Change is hard for everyone, that’s why us rock stars make careers out of it :)

    8. The Other Dawn*

      I feel you on this. I started a new job last month and a big part of my job will be to make some big changes in my department, some of which will affect other areas of the company.

      After several not-so-good audits/exams, the company swung the pendulum too far to the right in fear of more poor audit/exam results. The problem with that ultra conservative approach is a lot of extra work that doesn’t necessarily need to be done. Or at least not to the scale to which it has been done in years past. The department is twice the size as the one at my previous company, and that previous company was twice the size, but still could use another person to cover the mountain of work that conservative policies and procedures has created. They now want to pull back in certain areas, which can be difficult in a regulated industry after having a few years clean audits and exams with the ultra conservative approach.

      Coming in, my manager told me I’d have an uphill battle in some areas, but that she and the CEO, and some other executive management were on board with change. They purposely brought an outside person on board because they wanted fresh eyes to assess the department, someone who didn’t have the history with the company and has seen the same things done in other, more efficient ways.

      What I’m finding so far is that most of my team is really on board and wants change, with the exception of one person who hates change, and is completely overwhelmed because of the conservative processes but won’t give anything up (this will be a separate situation to deal with). Other people in the company want change, but there are definitely some people–long-timers and other people who were trained by one of the very conservative people–who want things to stay as they are, either because “that’s the way it’s always been done” or they’re convinced that we’ll be open to huge risks if we change anything at all. I’m not yet sure about my plan of attack with those people, but I’m thinking of tying it into an initiative that’s been going on for a couple years, the gist of which is that we make things easy for the customer and ourselves. Many of the things being done now are contradictory to that. I’m thinking, too, that I will bring my manager in on one particular matter since she’s an EVP. From what I understand, this matter has been looked at several times to find ways to streamline in a way that still protects us, but also makes it easier for the employees and customers; however, nothing has changed because the person asked to look at the process (my predecessor) was one of the ultra conservative people.

      Good luck and I hope we can both make some impactful changes!

  4. Anon for this*

    We’re a heavy industrial construction company.

    The new D&A policy just came down from on high. This caught my eye: “Prescription Drugs. Any employee using a prescribed medication shall inform his/her supervisor prior to using prescribed drugs and must have written permission to possess these drugs while working on the jobs.”

    My $0/02 is a hard no.


    1. four lights*

      I’m not sure what norms/legalities are, but it sounds like this may be an issue with side effects. A lot of drugs warn against operating heavy machinery.

      1. Nacho*

        Was going to say the same thing, yeah. You might want to clarify with someone if it’s supposed to be all prescription drugs, or just ones with possible negative side effects. This might have been written broader than they intended it to be.

    2. Lena Clare*

      Hmmm my thoughts are hell no from a personal point of view, but also is there heavy machinery involved? They might want to know if there are any contraindications that would affect their health and safety policy… So it’s possibly legal. But I don’t know. I’d be interested in hearing the answer too. I wouldn’t like this policy.

      1. Natalie*

        Although from that article is sounds like, even in a safety situation, they can’t require a blanket disclosure?

        the nature of the medication required to be reported must be one that affects the employee’s ability to perform their essential functions, resulting in a direct threat to safety

        1. Busy*

          Yeah, I think they are trying to say this, but their wording is too vague. Like when they were writing it, they were thinking about opioids or other drugs known to make you drowsy and didn’t think to specify.

          Operating heavy machinery while impaired is a big deal.

          1. Anonariffic*

            Agreed. I definitely understand the boss wanting to be notified before someone like a forklift operator takes an Ambien or Oxycodone, but a blanket rule that requires me to have written permission to carry my birth control with me is overreaching.

            1. Justme, The OG*

              Agree. Especially since mine is on (in?) me at all times and the dosage is constant.

    3. MechanicalPencil*

      On the one hand, pretty much all of the medications I’m on have some warning about “do not operate heavy machinery”, so for a heavy industrial company, I can see wanting to know this information. However, everyone reacts differently to medication. I can take 4 ibuprofen and be perfectly fine. My aunt takes 2 and is loopy as can be.

      Regardless. You don’t need to know what I’m taking. You can reverse engineer the reasons why, and that’s an invasion of privacy. Then it could turn into a “well we don’t need MP anymore because she might cost us too much on the insurance”.

    4. Rusty Shackelford*

      Are they trying to say that if you need to take your medication while *at work* you’ll need permission? That’s what “permission to possess while working on the jobs” sounds like, to me.

      1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

        I worked at a day camp that officially had that rule for adults. If you needed to take medication during the work day, you had to have a doctor’s note and keep your medication in the nurse’s office, and you would need to go to the nurse and have her dispense it to you. Just like the campers. Even if you were 18+.

        No one followed it that I know of, but that was the official rule.

      2. Amethystmoon*

        To me, that’s pretty much unenforceable unless they’re going to stick cameras everywhere and hire enough security people to watch employees constantly. Besides, many medications must be taken with food, so what’s to stop someone from going out for lunch and taking it at lunch? Or just going to the bathroom and taking it there with no one watching?

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          It’s about their random UA’s.

          It doesn’t mean they need to catch you popping a pill. If you’re hurt on the job or there’s a random drug screen that day, if it’s not listed on your prescribed medication list and hasn’t been disclosed, it’s too bad-so long to your job when you come back dirty, even if it’s a legal prescription.

    5. Zip Silver*

      Depends on the class of drugs. Being impaired, even on prescription drugs, can not be a great thing working with heavy machinery.

    6. Ali G*

      The language is kind of confusing – it seems like it could be interpreted that you only need to tell the employer about it if you are in possession of the drugs while at work?
      So if I take my meds normally before bed and only then, I would say they don’t need to know. But if I take something during the work day, maybe I do?

      1. Flat Penny*

        It might mean that you have to tell your employer if you have a prescription, even if you’re not a regular user…? Like I have a prescription for Xanax that I only take in somewhat extreme circumstances, and they would still want to know.

      2. Lucy*

        The wording is odd, using “possess” rather than talking about being under the influence of.

        So does it count if it’s in your locker? How about your car?

        I can see why the nature of the work implies a responsibility, but the wording is stupidly unclear.

    7. CupcakeCounter*

      Standard workplace – hard no
      heavy industrial construction company – I can see this as being important since the risk for injury is higher (drug interactions) as well as the potential side effects being concerning

      1. JJ Bittenbinder*

        I believe there are also financial/insurance implications for the company if they cannot demonstrate that they have such a policy in place. If someone gets into an accident on the job, the company needs to be able to demonstrate that they took reasonable steps to ensure that they were informed of all potential medication issues.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          It’s more likely about staying compliant to the Drug Free Workplace requirement for government contracts.

          Workers comp in some jurisdictions may ask about it but I have never seen them do it. Nor does other major assorted insurance companies but perhaps cut-rate places would go down that road.

    8. Narvo Flieboppen*

      My gut reaction is “Hell no!”, BUT the OP’s description of “heavy industrial construction” is where I would say, maybe this is a badly written policy that has the safety of everyone involved because of heavy equipment.

      Were I in an admin position, and the heaviest piece of equipment I use is my chair, I would totally push back on this as an employee. If I was operating a heavy crane, this policy makes more sense, even if potentially poorly written.

    9. Liz*

      While I can see why they may have some concerns, as certain medications specifically state do not take while operating heavy machinery, to issue a blanket policy like that is a bit overboard. I use inhalers for my allergic asthma, and take another med for that as well. BOTH are prescription but neither of them has any affect on my mental “sharpness” etc. And while I don’t care since they aren’t anything to be ashamed about, it’s no one’s business but my own that i take them.

      1. BlueDays*

        Yeah. I’m not ashamed that I take birth control and use a topical prescription for acne, but it doesn’t affect me negatively at work at all (actually makes me feel better about my appearance and keeps my cramps tolerable), so I wouldn’t willingly tell my employer about them.

    10. Dankar*

      I have a family member who’s worked in industrial construction/inspection and this sounds like the policies he’s had to abide by. He also needed to disclose any medication he was taking off-the-clock, as he was sometimes pulled in for unexpected late-night work.

      Admittedly, I only have his stories to go off of, rather than having seen the policies, but this seems fairly typical to me.

    11. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      That’s industrial construction for you.

      It’s been in every policy I’ve ever seen, so I’m shocked it’s just now being added.

      This is due to the high amount of prescription drugs being abused and sold outside of the pharmacy setting.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Note: You only have to disclose prescriptions that may come up on a drug screen. It’s vague and I think everyone is reading it as disclosing your blood pressure medication or diabetes medication, etc. No. It’s only something you can be popped for, so that includes ADHD and pain medication more than anything.

        Otherwise unless it’s got an adverse side effect that may make someone think you’re high at work, it’s not much to worry about abiding by to the fullest extent of the rule.

    12. Not Me*

      They are most likely only covering themselves in the event there is an accident and someone is medicated. I highly doubt they honestly expect people to tell the boss what medications they are on. In the event of an accident they can say “We have a policy clearly stating we need to know about medication, they didn’t tell us, the side effects could’ve caused the accident, we aren’t responsible”

    13. Sushi*

      You need to contact an attorney in your area, your company may be able to hold you liable if anything was to go wrong. Construction heavy machine operators have different standards around these safety issues, I am not an expert on this so I can’t speak to exact standards nor do I know which state you live in or what you operate. My father retired from construction several years ago and this is immediate fireable offense and depending on if something has been of issue they do litigate over this. You likely signed that you would disclose this information when you started the job. I work in Health Insurance Sales and while we would not provide names (HIPPA protection) we do provide counts on subscribers by prescription to Employer groups when asked so they likely already know what prescriptions are out there (this is standard across all insurers).

      1. MatKnifeNinja*

        People have said more or less ignore it, which is fine until an accident happens.

        My father had heavy machinery jobs all his life, and drove truck at the end. What you don’t want, is losing a hand in a press accident, or on a table saw (insert nasty thing here), and get denied workmen’s compensation because of a non disclosure. Bonus round fired because your low dose of Adderall and the Xanax script you use one pill every 5 months was not declared on a medication list.

        My father’s buddy lost 3/4 of a hand in a press a accident. This was in the 1990s. The friend was on Percocets for back pain (?). It was a freak accident. He didn’t get workmen’s comp. He lost his job because eventually it was found out he was on pain medication he didn’t declare. The guy wasn’t abusing it. A doctor prescribed it. Did.not.matter. This was before companies were pee test happy on drugs.

        Medication disclosure for heavy machinery jobs is common where I live. Is it fair that Biff the office copy drone can take a Benadryl without a the 3rd degree, while you have declared your Proscar, birth control pills or ED medication? Life isn’t fair. Companies here will tell you you are free to look elsewhere for a job.

        The only places I know that let thing really slide are small shops that pay $15/hr. No disclosure. No drug tests. But you make garbage money.

    14. MatKnifeNinja*

      My father drove long haul trucks, and he had to list every medication he was on from the occasional Benadryl to his prostrate medication.

      If he had an accident (even a very minor fender bender), the DOT was on him like vultures on carrion. The would pull his medication paperwork.

      My welder relative is out of a job right now. He has a medical marijuana card. Tested positive (well duh), and was fired. The work place has a zero tolerance for booze, illegal narcotics and weed. It’s still against the Federal law to use marijuana.

      My guess is it’s legal under health and safety regulations, and maybe part of an insurance coverage prerequisite. The person who drives the forklift at my sister’s workplace has a similar requirement of disclosing all medications used.

      1. Alexandra Lynch*

        My ex-husband was a trucker. He was sitting at a stoplight, and someone ran into the back of his trailer. The police came and took him straight to get a urine test for drugs. Because he was in the accident, even though he was no more at fault than the lamppost he was sitting next to, and that’s the way it works.

        We spent years and years not visiting certain friends. We couldn’t afford any contact highs showing up in his urine. They understood, and we hung out together in public or at our house. It’s just part of the job.

    15. Not One of the Bronte Sisters*

      I have several concerns. The first is that such a blanket policy is a violation of employees’ privacy. Secondly, if safety is the concern, not all prescription medications would compromise people’s ability to safely operate heavy machinery. Thirdly, not every employee at an industrial construction company operates heavy machinery! WAY overbroad and likely illegal, as least as presently worded.

  5. Discouraged*

    I’m struggling with my boss and was hoping to get some advice. Sorry this is long!

    My boss is incredibly smart and experienced, I’ve been at this job for about a year with 5 years prior experience in the industry. My work is creative and pretty independent, akin to large-scale solo design projects, without a client.

    My problem is that my boss is very dismissive and harsh. When I’m pitching him ideas, he tends to say things like, ‘that doesn’t work. I don’t like that. that’s boring. Come on, that just puts me to sleep.” I know what he doesn’t like, but he’s not being clear about what he wants. The nature of my work is subjective enough that it isn’t like there’s clear criteria for what is ideal, so I can’t ask him for specific advice for how to improve on X or Y process. I feel like I’m putting paintings in front of him and he’s rejecting all of them as terrible, but not giving me any guidance on how to move towards a painting he will like.

    I have found that sometimes when I push back a little and explain why I think something is a good idea, he will concede that I have a point, but I don’t have enough confidence in my own ideas to do that often/don’t know how often I should do that. Overall, our conversations always leave me feeling discouraged, worried that he thinks I’m really stupid, and anxious about what I’m supposed to do next.

    It’s hard for me to tell if (1) he’s like this with everyone, not just me, and there’s nothing I can do to change the way he is, so I should stay quiet and try to do my best (2) He does think I’m inadequate but there’s no point in talking to him about it, I should just do the best work I can and try to earn his trust over time. (3) He doesn’t think I’m dumb and doesn’t mean to be this dismissive, and I could say something (but what?) which would help me get more useful direction from him. I worry if I do say something, he’ll view it as complaining or that I’m not tough enough.

    I have talked to a few of his other direct reports. One feels exactly like I do, he’s also very new. The others are much more senior to me and are far more confident that they know what’s good work, so they just argue back at him, but they are way more experienced than I am, so I’m not sure I have standing to do as they do.

    1. gecko*

      Without knowing your boss, I couldn’t say what it is, but it’s jerky behavior.

      Luckily I think you have evidence that pushing back and arguing for your ideas would be a functional approach. Your more senior coworkers do it, and the times that you’ve done it, it’s worked out well. It’s hard to speak up for yourself when you’re already feeling discouraged, but it sounds like that’s what your boss is used to, so it may be worth trying to do that more.

      Again, though, it’s jerky behavior on your boss’s part. A big-picture conversation might help but I think speaking up for yourself more could do a lot.

      1. Discouraged*

        That’s a good question. I think they do eventually turn him around. It may be a bit of a compromise in some cases.
        Honestly, if it was a case of A or B and I wanted A and he wanted B, I would just do B… but my problem is that he’s saying A, B, C, D that I’m presenting are all bad, and not telling me what he wants, so I don’t know how to move forward, I feel like I’m trying to guess at what he wants in hopes of hitting the jackpot. (and/or he says well E would be great but it’s so idealized that I’m not sure I can deliver on it — as an analogy, it’s like him saying “well if we could borrow the crown jewels that’d be great” and yeah, it would be, but it’s unlikely I’ll get them.)

        1. Busy*

          Yeah. It sounds like he wants you to argue. Like it is some misguided way to get you to show your passion for it. My old boss was like this. Its annoying and draining.

        2. Fenchurch*

          It sounds like he’s giving bad feedback. Ideally, critical feedback is accompanied with concrete examples or suggestions for improvement. Perhaps you can push for him to give you more detailed ways that you could improve your work/make it closer to what he’s looking for?

        3. merpderp*

          I’m wondering if it would be helpful for you to respond to your boss’s “A, B, C, D are all bad and I don’t like them” declarations with more questions about what specifically he doesn’t like about them. Ditto with his “perfect world” E suggestions – what specifically is appealing about the crown jewels that he likes? And then use that info to guide your next iteration?
          One of my previous bosses had a very different way of communicating new ideas for programs: I prefer to have a rough sketch of the big picture, then I want to hear about the details. My boss was the opposite, she would have very clear ideas on certain details, then would build the big picture later. Initially I would just get super confused and frustrated when talking about ideas/designs but after figuring out what the problem was I found that having scrap paper on hand to sketch out ideas in real time was pretty helpful.
          If your boss is a “visuals” guy, I wonder if it would be helpful to put together a portfolio of work; both yours and the company’s ‘branded’ stuff. Then, if your boss says stuff like “I don’t like the color of B, it needs to pop more; just make the colors sound more like buses smell” or whatever random suggestion he has, pull out your design portfolio and point to specifics. Then use those specifics as new parameters.

      2. Auntie Social*

        No, Reince Priebus and John Kelly had problems with him, too. We are talking about #45, aren’t we??

    2. Bananatiel*

      I’m a designer and if your specific field is anything like mine– this is really terrible “mentoring” on your boss’s part and I’d keep that in the back of your mind as you navigate this.

      That having been said, it sounds like he enjoys debate/arguing. I had a boss that was a bit like this and I found that the only way to get anything approved by her was to ruthlessly defend my work. The extent to which I had to defend it was always uncomfortable to me but I got pretty good at saying blunt things like “Unless you have an objective issue with this concept I believe it’s the best option based on x, y, and z and I’ll be proceeding with it.” It felt aggressive, was aggressive, but alas, it was the only way I was able to get work done because her feedback was similarly useless.

      I’m in a new job now and my new boss is an incredible mentor– she provides feedback and explains why so that I actually learn things. But she’s also open-minded and supportive when I have strong justifications for certain design choices in my work. She’s never uttered the words “I don’t like it” or “That doesn’t work” and I’ve certainly never had to say “I’m doing this unless you give me a reason why not”!

      1. Bananatiel*

        Oh, another tip based on my experience in that workplace: I solicited feedback from peers and other people at the same level as my boss. And actually even from people outside my company when I could. That gave me the confidence to say that the concept I thought was strongest was actually the strongest. I was essentially seeking mentorship from anyone I could find that would assist.

        1. Discouraged*

          Oh, I really like this idea of getting other mentorship to build confidence. Thank you.

          I don’t think my boss wants to or thinks about mentoring at all. I think he just wants me to give him good work. (and I want to give him good work too!) Aggressiveness is very much not my personality but I think you may be right and I may need to step it up a bit.

      2. matcha123*

        Oh, god. I have a coworker that checks my work and she’s like this. I don’t like arguing with people. I was raised not to talk back to people in authority and I personally believe that if someone wants my opinion, they’ll ask for it.
        I deal with this with some friends, too. It is just so draining.
        At the office, I debate with myself over whether or not I want to go head-to-head over minor BS, and I really don’t. I just don’t.

      3. Quinalla*

        Yeah, I agree your boss might be one that just wants to challenge everything and have you convince him otherwise – whether he is doing it on purpose as sort of an exercise or it is just his style. And that can work, but he sounds like he’s not giving you any specific feedback you can work with which is not good.

        I too would see if you can run it by someone else before taking it to him for some real feedback and then take it to him and explain why you did it that way. Try to reframe it not as him criticizing, but that he is asking for you to sell him on your concept.

    3. CM*

      Right now, he’s controlling the conversation by having you present him with stuff that he judges. My advice would be to take control of the conversation back by asking him questions about his judgements. So, if he says it’s boring, ask what would be more exciting to him. If he says he doesn’t like something, ask what he doesn’t like about it, and then ask him why he doesn’t like that.

      Even gentle people sometimes have trouble explaining what they think about subjective work, so asking these kinds of questions is a totally professional thing to do (and what designers do all the time). Basically, he is not doing a good job of articulating why he doesn’t like what you did, so you need to steer him there through asking probing questions about it.

      In this case, he doesn’t sound like a super gentle person, so the conversation will probably be rockier, but the solution is still the same. Just remember, you’re not trying to trick him into revealing that he’s stupid; you’re trying to help him articulate what a successful outcome would look like. If he gets mad or accuses you of trying to make him look stupid (which un-gentle people do sometimes when you ask them questions and they don’t know the answer right away) just remind him that you need to understand his thought process so you can deliver something he likes.

      1. Discouraged*

        Thanks, this is helpful. I need to think about how to phrase the questions so he doesn’t just default back to “well it’s not good” — he also tends to cut me off a lot mid sentence so it feels hard to question him, but I will try to keep in mind “help him articulate what a successful outcome would look like”!

      2. LunaLena*

        Yeah, I was thinking the same thing. It just doesn’t occur to some people that other people aren’t mind readers and need more feedback than “I don’t like this, it’s boring.”

        I would honestly be prepared to sit down with him and go over everything and ask lots of questions every time you bring him work for approval. I work in graphic design, so if someone told me “this is boring,” I would respond with “Okay, I can fix that. What makes you feel that way? Is it the color scheme? The layout? The photos? Is there anything you LIKE about this that I should keep? Or would you prefer I try something completely different? Okay, you want something different? What kind of vibe are you looking for?” All this obviously does take a lot of time and energy and discussion, but it will make your work less frustrating in the long run.

        If you ARE in a design field (as others have conjectured), another thing that I’ve found works well is to Google examples of similar work and email them over with “are any of these the kind of thing you’re looking for?” or “I was thinking of something like this, except this instead of that, and X not Y. What do you think?” You obviously don’t want to copy another design exactly, but it will give you a general idea of what he wants without you having to do an entire project, only to have it rejected.

        It’s also completely not pushy to explain your own reasoning, especially if he is open to changing his opinion after hearing it (even if it may be grudgingly so)! I do this all the time with clients. Client will say “I don’t like this” and I’ll respond with “We can do A instead of B, but I think it would lessen the impact because [reasons]. Would you still like me to go ahead with those changes?” If they say yes, then, well… it’s their design. I don’t have to like it, they do. But if it involves major changes, I always keep a copy of what I originally made, since, after seeing the changes, clients quite often change their mind and ask to go back to the original.

        It also sounds to me like your boss may be the kind of person who likes people who stand up to him and defend their ideas. I would pay attention to his reactions when you push back to see if this may be the case.

        Hope this helps!

    4. AnonAcademic*

      My supervisor is like this. Here’s a few tips: if he gives you vague non-direction, try to boil down the options going forward into a binary choice, like “I’m hearing that you don’t like the shade of yellow I used because it’s ‘not yellow enough.’ Our options are to go with one of the three default yellows offered, or I could create a custom yellow, which I expect to take 1-2 weeks. What works best for you?” Since his conversational style is aggressive, you may need to mirror it a bit even if it feels uncomfortable. If he says “I don’t like it” and can’t/won’t tell you why, you can redirect by saying “How do you want me to proceed on that?” and if that still doesn’t get you useful guidance you can try punting it: “How about I come up with some other options and we can go over those in our call tomorrow.” I also second the suggestion to get outside expert opinions; sometimes a “Well Bob and Lucinda have worked in color development for 1o years and they said this yellow is the most popular” can redirect the focus from your work to the industry standards.

      Consider also that having to do this much emotional labor is a high cost of doing business and unless the job has other wonderful qualities you love, you might want to think about job searching because poor mentors like this lack the self awareness to improve on their own and it’s not your job to fix them.

      1. Easily Amused*

        It sounds like Boss is not a designer who supervises but rather a company wide boss who doesn’t know how design works. In other words, you have a client and your client doesn’t know what they want until they see it. A really important skill to develop is asking the right questions to get to what the client really wants (because they do sort of know. They just don’t know how to convey it). Others above have made really good suggestions – I just wanted to point out what (I think) is really going on here as it will be a useful skill throughout your career to get as much info from a client (internal or external) as you can before starting any project and throughout iterations. Though hopefully you won’t have to do it THIS much in other roles.

  6. Dry Spell in Spring*

    My position is that of an administrative/office support for my team. I have a wide variety of jobs that normally keep me very busy around the clock. The last few months however, I’ve had weeks of having little to nothing to do. I’ll have three weeks in row of lots to work on, then a week of nothing; two more busy weeks, then more quiet days.

    I’m not sure what to do with this downtime. If it was just a random afternoon every couple of weeks, I could do things I normally put off like catch up on meeting notes or update filing, that kind of stuff. But I still get those things done in a few hours and then have a few days of quiet until the next busy section. It’s not a matter of asking for more because my team knows to bring me their requests; they don’t worry about interrupting me, they just send me their requests and I jump on it or let them know there will be a delay. In my quiet weeks, the requests come in but spread out, giving me an hour of work at most and then nothing. My tasks all come from my team, that’s the nature of my job, so there not much that I can be a self-starter about and do on my own.

    I’m at the end of one of those weeks now and don’t know what to do. What should I be doing with this downtime, how should I handle these sudden dry spells? Do I need to scrounge desperately for something work related to do or can do personal stuff at my computer while still being ready and on hand for when a task does come up?

    1. Ms. Taylor Sailor*

      I’m in an admin position as well! My current one is much busier, but at my old one, it’d get *super* dead. If there’s nothing else you can help out someone else with (and don’t hesitate to ask around if any you support needs something), I’d recommend reading Kindle books or, if it’s not too disruptive, watch tutorials for skills or programs you could use in your job. I’ve had to do design work before, so I’ve watched plenty of InDesign tutorials.

    2. Flat Penny*

      I sometimes do surveys or data entry on Amazon Mechanical Turk, or pull up ebooks. You can find pretty much anything in the public domain on Project Gutenberg.

      1. Eleanor Shellstrop*

        Curious about this. I’ve thought about doing mechanical turk in my downtime at work, but worry that it would be considered time theft because you’re earning money elsewhere while at work – what do you think?

        1. Rosaline Montague*

          I agree with your concerns and wouldn’t go this direction. Whatever you do should be work related, or at least work adjacent, while you’re on the clock.

    3. The Tin Man*

      Step 1 is to ask your manager. There could be value is asking directly but openly”What do you want me to do with my downtime?” or you can think through the following:

      I know you said all your work comes from your team but is there anything supplemental you can take on with your time? I don’t know the full extent of your role but I usually have a running list of processes, spreadsheets etc that can be improved on that aren’t urgent but would be nice to have.

      In my list right now I have things like cleaning up a report I am responsible for, writing a macro to automate another report, archiving some 2018 reports in our shared drive, and writing instruction guides to some of the tasks that I do.

      Approaching your manager could look like “Hey boss, as you know sometimes there are quieter spells where there isn’t as much work coming to me from the team. I was thinking of taking archiving the 2018 TPS reports because sometimes we have a need to quickly reference those. I also want to make an easy-to-use guide of how I compile the XYZ reports as a ‘Dry Spell moves to a new position/gets hit by a bus/wins the lottery’ contingency. What do you think?”

      I think I would ask the open-ended question first but then have a couple ideas in my back pocket in case boss didn’t have any ideas.

    4. Taylor*

      Could you use your downtime to teach yourself some new skills? Maybe your office would pay for a subscription where you could take some Excel or Adobe Creative Suite courses, or classes in whatever may be related to your job.

    5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I wouldn’t decide on how to deal with these dry spells on your own, you risk a lot if you don’t bring it up to your supervisor first. They may have tasks they don’t have normally regulated to you but that you could help with if you are out of the regular things. Perhaps the supply closet hasn’t been sorted in thirty-six years or there’s a scanning project nobody has ever had downtime to do that’s just rotting somewhere. Been there, done that.

      So be open with them and let them know. Some may caution you about letting them know because then they’ll think about cutting your hours, that’s really unlikely in most situations because most bosses know you’re not working at full capacity at all times because it’s meant to be that way so you don’t get too much on your plate.

      You need to know the policy about doing personal stuff on the computer and if it’s monitored. If they don’t know you have dry spells, they may assume you’re slacking off instead of just killing time until a request comes in. It depends drastically on the office culture and management’s expectations.

    6. ManageHer*

      Oooh from a former admin (and manager of admins), this kind of downtime can be so de-motivating, especially as an admin where your main job function is supporting others. I echo others’ recommendation for asking your boss how she’d like you to handle this downtime.

      That said, I didn’t see you mention working on documentation or SOPs, and it sounds like a huge missed opportunity. Try using your downtime to:

      ** Write/Update Documentation: Chances are you work on at least one processes that no one else on your team knows how to do (even if it’s mail merge). Write step-by-step guidance. This is hugely beneficial in a hit-by-a-bus scenario, and when you give notice it’ll be one less thing to stress about. If you support executive calendars or specific leadership meetings, there should be guides for each.
      **Create onboarding resources for yourself/your team: If your team, department, or role has regular turnover, think about what basic skills new hires need to know that are unlikely to be covered in orientation (i.e. what’s the copier code; where are office supplies; what kinds of tasks should they send to you; this is an office where everyone sends responses for calendar invites). As the team admin, you likely know the kinds of questions new hires tend to ask.
      **Create resources that are broadly valuable for your team: Organize your team’s shared drive or sharepoint site; create a hub point for shared documents; create a PTO management calendar, or regularly recurring calendar holds for those rotating tasks everyone forgets; write a cheat sheet for how to use the buggy projector in conference room A.
      **Look for areas where you can improve your own processes or data tracking, and put together recommendations for your boss.

      All of the above can result in resume-worthy deliverables, and process documentation is a key skill in many roles, so you’ll be positioning yourself well for more responsibility in your current role, promotion, or new roles down the line.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Another thought — project wrapup notes, especially if your group tried or reacted to anything new. Was there anything that went particularly well during the recently ended busy season? Feedback from customers to gather?

    7. Valentine*

      I work as an admin and have also experienced the occasional slow period. I work 100% remotely and enjoy a lot of flexibility, although this position can be very intense with long hours when we’re sold out (which is almost all the time these days).

      Last summer some of the team went parttime until school started, and requests really dropped off, so I asked my boss if on the off-chance I had a free moment, were there any projects she’d like me to pursue? I had some ideas for myself too, like some skill-building courses, because I didn’t want to be stuck with only menial or thankless tasks. I ended up doing a mix of data entry and database training, in addition to getting the rare haircut and catching up on the news! I also took some PTO, knowing that catching up wouldn’t be as difficult since it wasn’t as busy.

      There is the slight danger that someone will think you really don’t have enough to do and that might lead to you being given way too much work, so you’ll have to figure out how to present your downtime to your superiors.

  7. Would-be manager*

    Managers and people who have hired managers: could you please share examples of STAR/“tell me about a time when…” questions you’ve asked or been asked?

    I am prepping for my first time ever being interviewed for a management role. It’s an internal vacancy / promotion so perhaps less of a stretch than if I was applying somewhere I didn’t have a track record of working with others, forming cross-department relationships etc (which I do).

    I’m trying to think through possible types of scenarios I might prepare to talk about, and it would be great to hear real examples that people actually use to help me get thinking about the types of examples I might want to have ready.

    I would also hugely appreciate any general tips on management interviews! Thank you!

    1. AnonEMoose*

      Not a manager in my paid job, but I might consider asking “Tell me about a time when you had to share critical feedback with an employee.” And/or (if relevant) “Tell me about a time when you had to uphold policy with an angry/upset customer or client.”

      1. Ali G*

        In a similar vein, a good one to be prepared for is “how would you handle rolling out a change in policy to your staff you don’t agree with?”

    2. Canonical23*

      Couple one’s I’ve gotten:

      “Tell me about a time you had to improve an employee’s performance. How did you go about that?”

      “Tell me about a time you’ve had to have a difficult conversation with an employee about [dress code/body odor/etc.]”

      “Tell me about a time where you had to make a big change. How did you manage buy-in?”

      1. Would-be manager*

        Thanks for these.

        What on earth do you do if you haven’t had those experiences yet?

        1. AnonEMoose*

          If you haven’t had that experience as a manager, have you had it as an employee and felt that it was handled particularly well? Maybe you could go with something like “I haven’t had that experience as a manager; however, a previous manager I really respect handled it by doing X, Y, and Z, and I learned [specific things] from that.”

        2. Canonical23*

          You split the answer into three parts – acknowledging that you don’t have that experience, telling them how you would hypothetically respond and giving an example of a similar but smaller situation. For example:

          “I’ve actually never had to have a huge change that required managing buy-in, however, if I was faced with such an occurrence, I think I’d handle it by having a meeting about the change and following up individually with staff members to hear any concerns or give any extra training. I’d also notice which employees were positively responding to the future change and bring them in to help implement it. While I don’t have that experience, I did have to do something similar on a smaller scale – I had to make a very drastic schedule change in my department and handled it by meeting with employees to discuss the change…etc. etc.”

    3. Smooth Operator*

      I was a recruiter for a large firm who used behavioral-based interviewing in a past life, and my best advice is to print out the job description and glean key words that will give you hints regarding what they’re looking for in a top candidate. (e.g. critical thinking, team management, administrative skills)

      Then, identify 8-10 stories you are proud of (including at least one when you failed and learned from your mistake). Practice telling those stories, including specific details of how your action impacted results, and then don’t over think it. Practice practice practice your talk track until you feel totally comfortable.

      If I am really prepping hard for an interview, I would then match the stories with the competencies they are looking for, but I tend to do too much. You’ve got this. If you can take a sheet of paper into your interview with one-word reminders bulletted out (in 1 – 2 words only), that’s a great way to make sure you don’t *forget* to use your best example.

      Another tip – don’t wait for the perfect question to use your best story. You want to make sure to have the chance to tell it, and you don’t want to “run out” of questions!

      Last tip – use the words STAR stands for in your examples to stay on track. “I’m going to tell you about a situation when….the task I had at hand was… the action I took……the result was…..”

      Good luck!

    4. irene adler*

      If I were interviewing someone for a manager position, I would want to learn how the candidate plans to support their reports. I might ask how they would support during specific circumstances (new hire, under par performance(when to pull the plug), major mistake made, keeping a superstar engaged, the chronic whiner).

    5. Kathenus*

      Here are a few from recent interviews I’ve done for manager positions (ignore the numbers, just cut and pasted these from several documents):

      5. How would you deal with an employee who routinely disagrees with your decisions?
      7. What are the manager’s responsibilities regarding implementing management decisions that may be unpopular with staff and with which you may not personally agree?
      8. What feedback have you received from others about your communication style? What do you feel are your strengths in this area, and what areas could use improvement?
      11. What is the most useful work-related criticism you’ve ever received, and why?
      13. No one’s perfect. If you could wave a magic wand over your head and change something about your work skills or persona, what would it be? (wait for an answer). How would your supervisor and coworkers answer this question?
      14. In your experience, what is the key to developing and maintaining a good team?
      6. What do you like most about your current facility and position, and what aspects would you change if you could?
      7. When did you last receive feedback at work that made you feel proud? How about criticism that bothered you?
      8. How would you describe your management style, and how has your approach to management evolved over time?
      10. Tell us about an employee who became more successful as a result of your management.
      14. Talk about the balance between not micromanaging but still being involved enough to know what’s going on and catching problems early on if needed.

    6. Not Today Satan*

      I try to have a good number (5-10) anecdotes, that if necessary, could be massaged to fit whatever the question is. Just look up the most common questions (difficult relationship with a colleague, admit you were wrong, went above and beyond, or whatever) and use those to brainstorm. When I interview, I put a keyword for each story in the notebook that I bring with me. If they ask a question that I blank on, I run through my list of stories and pick whichever one is closest.

      1. Would-be manager*

        Thanks for this, of course I’m aware that I can look up common scenarios but I find a lot of online advice about interview questions to be hopelessly out of date which is why I asked to get examples people had asked or answered themselves.

      2. Would-be manager*

        These also aren’t sufficient for prep for a management interview, just for anyone else who’s reading.

    7. RandomU...*

      One I’ve asked before for a management role “Can you tell me about a time that you had a difficult situation with your employee? Can you describe the situation and how you approached it”

      If the person is new to management I’ll tweak it for relevancy. “Can you describe a time/situation where you’ve used your indirect leadership skills to achieve a work goal” follow ups include “What were some of the challenges” “looking back what would you do differently” “What were some of the things that worked”

    8. ManageHer*

      I recently interviewed candidates for a level 1 manager role.

      We asked a lot of hypotheticals, since none of our applicants had direct management experience: what skills would you look for when interviewing for X position; how would you handle someone on the team who was experiencing burnout; if you got a complaint about one of your team members, how would you address it?

      Not a specific scenario, but one thing I’ve noticed is that first-time managers often ascribe all performance issues to a lack of training or motivation. That’s a great first step. But one thing to think about as you prep for your interview is how you would handle performance issues that couldn’t be resolved by providing training or context. The really outstanding applicants I’ve interviewed for these roles proactively mention that.

    9. NW Mossy*

      I tend to ask a range of questions that poke at the candidate’s comfort level with uncomfortable conversations. How do they handle it when a colleague does poor quality work or has a behavior that drives them crazy? How well can they advocate for a position when the majority seems against it? How do they approach escalating something to a higher-up?

      In the answers, I look for key factors like addressing the issue in a timely fashion, being direct in describing the issue, being considerate towards the other person, and using the interaction to drive positive change and a stronger relationship going forward.

      Basically, I want to know that the candidate both recognizes the need to have tough conversations and the skills to actually pull it off. Many a manager has foundered on one or both of those rocks, but they’re skills that can absolutely be developed and practiced at the individual contributor level. I’d rather have a new leader that really got this concept in their bones than a 20-year veteran that didn’t.

    10. MintLavendar*

      I always ask prospective managers to tell me about their management philosophy. I think that can catch people off guard, because a lot of people don’t really think holistically like that, but everyone should be able to articulate, generally, what they feel their job is as a manager, what it’s goals are in the broadest sense, and how they approach it.

    11. Akcipitrokulo*

      Some general feedback I’ve heard – a lot of people fall into the trap of giving a great build up/detail about the situation or task, when it should actually be the shortest part of the answer. It should take a sentence or maybe two to explain what the issue was – if it takes longer than that, it may be including details that really, really don’t matter, and the answer can get bogged down with that.

      What you did, and, hopefully, an impressive result are where you want to spend the time!

    1. Nanc*

      I read breathing time as bathing time–which if you use the definition of bathing = swimming, that’s not a bad thing!
      Have a relaxing week and good luck with the new position.

  8. CuriousNewbie*

    I am curious to see what others think of this. I am not this person’s manager, but I am a new manager in a related department of the same company.

    The department in question has three employees whose jobs have no overlap; no one is trained in anyone else’s job. Sansa, who among other things manages registration for an important event happening annually, requested a significant amount of time off for a vacation during the pre-registration period. This is not awesome, either for the company or for the people trying to register (spots are limited and competitive, and this is a big event) – but the manager wants to be flexible and respect employee’s personal needs for time off. So they worked out a way to handle it in the short term and approved the vacation time.

    Then, with the vacation less than a month away, Sansa let her manager know she had scheduled a medical procedure for immediately after returning. She expects to take off the maximum amount of time to recover (4 weeks). That means that those trying to register will be left with no idea of whether they have successfully registered for the event until mid-summer. This is resulting in very frustrated clients who have no answers, no way to get answers, and no ability to budget the time or money they would need for this event without knowing if they even got into it or not.

    Obviously, management wants to respect both medical leave and vacation time, and management wants to be flexible. The debate is: should the manager have rescinded the vacation approval, since the company could finds ways to cover EITHER a two week vacation OR a four week medical leave, but not six weeks of both on such short notice (with more notice, it would have been possible). Man