can I ask about salary before a skills test, am I editing people’s work too heavily, and more

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

1. Can I ask about salary before doing a skills test?

I applied for a job that looks like a lateral move for me. I interviewed for it, and the interview went pretty well. Within a couple hours, they emailed me with a two-part skills test. Looking over it, I think the test will take at least 3-4 hours total. After doing the test, there will be another round of interviews.

The job is very attractive to me, but my personal situation is such that I can’t take a salary reduction now. Plus, my current job is 100% telework, which is worth a lot to me in salary. The job I’m in contention for is not telework. So there would have to be a salary increase to make up for the lack of the telework option. The problem is, no salary range was mentioned in the job posting, so I’m in the dark here.

I don’t want to spend valuable time on a skills test and maybe another round of interviews if it’s a job I simply can’t accept for salary reasons. Is it okay for me to say, in effect, “Thanks for sending the test, but before I get started, can you tell me a little more about the projected salary range for this position?” Or does this look bad for some reason?

Yep, before you’re asked to invest a significant amount of time in a skills test or exercise, or travel a long distance for an interview, or otherwise invest significantly more than an hour or two for interview, you can indeed ask about salary. (Frankly you should also be able to ask about it before that one or two hours of interviewing, but the convention there is still that you’re not supposed to, which is ridiculous. That’s actually changing, but that change is still in process.) You can phrase it as, “I’m excited to move forward in your process and I’d be glad to do this skills test. Because it looks like it will take a few hours, I’m hoping we can touch base on salary first to make sure we’re in the same ballpark. Can you tell me the salary range for the role?”

Be aware, though, that some employers won’t, or will turn that back on you and ask what you’re looking for. The conventions on this are terrible. But with a reasonable employer, it won’t be a problem that you asked. (And in California, they’re required to tell you upon request, which is great.)

2. Am I editing documents too heavily?

I am a new-ish program associate at a state agency. I know that they hired me in part because of my English degree, as part of my duties are that I edit official correspondence that our coordinators write on behalf of the secretary’s and governor’s offices. I enjoy editing and at one point had considered doing it professionally, though I haven’t yet been able to find a position I’m qualified for. In the meantime, I feel that this editing thing is also getting me in trouble.

Today, my supervisor brought me a document that had multiple authors that we were to be sending out to the counties and asked me to look it over and suggest changes. When she came back 40 minutes later and saw the mark-up (pointing out awkward sentences, suggesting reformatting when links and locations are delivered inconsistently, pointing out inconsistent oxford comma usage, etc), she seemed perplexed and almost offended. She said something about how she probably wouldn’t use some of the changes and that she’d been letting some things slide because of the multiple authors. I tried to assure her that I understood that/that I know that that’s part of editing, but the exchange still left me feeling odd and like I’d somehow disappointed her despite literally doing what was asked.

While it’s the first time this has happened in a document of this size, it’s not the first time I’ve gotten this impression. Am I doing something wrong here? Is there a different level of acceptable editing for this “last looks” sort of thing? Should I only point out when things are genuinely unreadable instead of a little confusing/inconsistently formatted? How should I be approaching this editing situation without stepping on anyone’s toes?

There are a bunch of different types of editing that a coworker might ask for: There’s thorough proofreading, there’s “take a look at this and see if anything glaring jumps out at you,” there’s “see if you can improve the flow of the writing,” there’s “flag anything that’s not accurate,” and probably more that I’m not thinking of. It sounds like you assumed your boss wanted something more thorough than she actually did.

Unless your job is specifically “proofreader” or “copy editor,” it’s smart to ask what type of edits a person is looking for before you edit heavily. In this case, you could go back to your boss and say something like, “I think I did heavier edits than you were looking for on that document. So that I know for the future, will you tell me a bit about what kind of thing you’re looking for when you ask me to look something over? I want to make sure I’m doing the right level of editing going forward!”

3. Intern is going to shadow me — and it’s going to be really boring

It’s intern season and we have a few interns in our marketing department this summer. I’m on the web team, and we do not have a dedicated intern. One of the interns from another team is going to be shadowing my coworker and I, and I’m not sure what to do to make it helpful for her.

If she’s sitting next to me and watching me update web pages, I can’t imagine it would be very interesting. But I have work to do, and I can’t sit and laboriously explain everything I’m doing either. I think the goal is to show her what the day to day life is in my position, but how do I make it not boring but also keep me efficient?

I’ve run into this problem before at other jobs that were less busy, and it felt awkward and I ended up just talking to them about their studies and interests (usually nothing to do with web). It fell short and felt like a waste of my time and theirs. Any advice?

Yeah, shadowing is often one of those things people suggest without actually thinking through how useful it will be. I’d actually push back with your boss or whoever suggested it. Explain that it won’t be very interesting for her to sit there watching you work on your computer, and suggest that it would be more interesting to have her instead sit in a couple of specific meetings — which means that it won’t be a “day of shadowing” but maybe more like an hour on Tuesday and an hour on Friday. If you’re willing, you could also offer to take half an hour to talk to her about your work and answer any questions she has.

4. Visitors decline my beverage offers but then accept it from other people

I work as a receptionist in an office. I always offer guests who come to meet with people in the office (for interviews or meetings) coffee and water. Some people say yes, some people say no. Several times now, people have said, ”No thanks, I just had some” or just a simple ”No thanks,” BUT when the person who they are there to see comes and ask if they want coffee, the guest says ”YES please, I would LOVE some.” One time, one asked if they had been offered coffee and the guest said, “No I haven’t, but I would like some.”

Why does this happen? Why do they say yes when I literally asked five minutes ago? Do they not want to say no the person they are seeing, even though they don’t actually want it? Do they want to seem like a yes person? When they say no and then yes, it makes it look like I haven’t offered. I’ve already told my manager about this- just in case other employees tell her I never offer. So at least if that happens, she knows I actually do ask.

It can’t be something I’m doing wrong, right? I mean, there are only so many ways to politely ask someone if they would like something to drink. So this makes me wonder, the next time I go to an interview, should I say yes to coffee or water even though I don’t want any? Would it look bad if I say no?

Some people who say no and then yes have probably just changed their minds. They may have said no without thinking and then realized, “Actually, coffee sounds good!” And yes, others might figure they should accept an offer of hospitality from their interviewer, when they didn’t feel that same dynamic with you. Other people are “Aw, hell, they’ve asked twice, I’ll just say yes” people. Or they might be thinking it would be weird to walk into the interview with coffee, but then when the interviewer themselves offers, they decide it’s fine. In other words — there are lots of explanations here, and it’s (a) nothing you’re doing wrong and (b) nothing you should worry about.

When you yourself are interviewing, you can accept coffee/water if you want it, and decline it if you don’t. It’s fine either way. (That said, I did once work with someone who was convinced that she could tell things about candidates by how they handled the offer of a beverage. I asked her about it a long time ago and quoted her in this post, where she said, “It’s a measure of politeness extended, politeness rejected or accepted, and how it’s done. I don’t care if they accept the drink or not, but I do pay attention to how they respond to the offer. Also, I pay attention to whether they dispose of the cup themselves, or leave it for me to do myself. Tells me so much about what kind of person they are.” I think that’s reading far too much into it, but it’s certainly worth remembering that whatever you, you should be polite about it.)

5. Coworker doesn’t wash his hands after using the bathroom

A coworker of mine doesn’t wash his hands after using the bathroom, regardless of … what he went to the bathroom to handle. I’ve confronted him in a joking/passive-aggressive way, and he literally doesn’t see anything wrong with it. Any suggestions?

Yep, you’ve got to move on. The world is filled with people who don’t wash their hands after going to the bathroom; this is just one who you happen to know about. It’s gross but you can’t police all of them … or, really, any of them unless they’re your children or you employ them in a capacity where health regulations are in play.

{ 432 comments… read them below }

  1. Alston*

    I think the “not” is a typo.
    Just googled it.

    On July 18, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed new legislation (A.B. 2282) to clarify the state’s law that prohibits inquiries into an applicant’s salary history. … Under this legislation, California employers must provide “applicants” with the “pay scale” for a position upon “reasonable request”

    I did not know they had to provide the salary range part, that is amazing! Interesting that it is only mandated by “reasonable request” and doesn’t have to be in job listings or in first communication from the company or something.

    Californians! Since this went into effect have you seen more jobs starting to publicly post their ranges, or do you still have to ask? Any other changes you’ve noted?

    1. Anecdata*

      As a Californian, I feel like most jobs list salary ranges (or even just a salary) right on the job posting since the law got passed. It’s great!

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Both! I’ve noticed a significant increase in the number of posts that provide a range (especially for non-exempt, hourly positions). I’ve seen less “up-front” disclosure for exempt, salaried positions. Some employers are moving towards disclosure for all positions, but there are some sectors where employers are waiting for an inquiry before disclosing the range.

      I suspect as time goes on, more private employers are going to disclose their salary ranges to be proactive about compliance with the new(ish) law.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      One thing I just saw is that new legislation signed into CA law in July says that employers there don’t have to disclose the salary range until after an initial interview, which weakens the law:

      “AB 2282 also clarifies what constitutes a ‘reasonable request’ for pay scale information. A ‘reasonable request’ is defined as a request made after the applicant has completed the initial interview.”


      1. Busy*

        That is exhaustively dumb. And I am a capitalist at heart, but if there was ever a law to help social reform, requiring job posters to post salaries prior to hiring is it. Its because the only person benefiting are the employers. There is literally no benefit what-so-ever to applicants. It has always been the best way to tank pay in certain industries, exploit workers, and create unfair pay gaps. And the thing is, it really has very little effect on the bottom lines of businesses either. The rate is the rate. It is a no-brainer.

        Sorry if this posts multiple times, the server I think crashed?

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          And yet it harms the employer too — their hiring managers are wasting company time on applications from people who would not have applied for something at that salary range. They’re also *not* receiving applications from people who misjudge the pay rate for the title used.

          (I lost a comment on the server crash too.)

          1. Busy*

            Haha good thing I “caught” it. I copied mine quick.

            Yeah it is nothing but a short-sighted practice.

        2. Gumby*

          It *might* effect the business though. Competition for workers is fierce here in the Bay Area. Some companies pay newly-minted graduates six figure salaries (in the right field). Partly that is so they can afford to share a 3 bedroom apartment with 5 of their closest friends but there is an aspect of “we’ll pay you more than [big tech company down the road].” I can only imagine that posting more salaries in the actual job ads would do something weird to that whole dynamic. As someone not in just the right field, whatever happens would probably price me even more out of the housing market.

          Though for the really big companies that info is fairly available anyway with a little help from the Internet.

          1. Jasnah*

            I think transparency would help everyone. Eventually the competing companies would settle on something (either by paying people the same or by countering lower salaries with better benefits or other perks). Companies already do this with prices, it’s not like Walmart and Target can hide how much they charge. But for some reason they can hide how much they pay.

      2. Jadelyn*

        Well…shit. It also basically says that this doesn’t apply for internal candidates applying for an opening, only external applicants. But thank you for passing that along, I’m in HR in CA and hadn’t seen that specification noted anywhere yet.

        (FYI, that link is paywalled – I can only read the first sentence without registering. I found another article on it that doesn’t seem to be paywalled: )

    4. WoodswomanWrites*

      Yes, in California I’m seeing a salary range listed more often in job announcements. And it’s great that potential employers can’t ask about what you were making previously, removing a significant bump in the road when job-seeking.

    5. Anonandon*

      Are employers really so shady and dishonest that a law was necessary? Because this sounds really messed up.

      1. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

        I’ve definitely had a potential employer that wouldn’t tell me the salary range until after I’d submitted a skill assessment (it was fairly short, though) and done a phone-screen interview. The job required a degree and 3 years experience, and paid juuuuuussssst over minimum wage. I was furious that they’d wasted my time, as I’d never have interviewed knowing it paid that little. (It would be significantly over the federal minimum wage, but that city had its own minimum wage, and had recently passed legislation to increase it over 2 years; the amount was less than the soon-to-be-minimum in that city.)

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I’m *really* glad that some states have started to make it illegal to ask about previous salary. I graduated during a recession and got laid off during another recession. I cringe when I see the salary survey results for my job responsibilities. I’m thinking of job-hunting across state lines despite the long commute, just to avoid having to disclose my current salary.

      3. Ammonite*

        My current employer is like this. When I interviewed, I asked about salary and was told that it depended on experience and we would discuss it at the offer stage, if I got there. Then, at the offer stage, I was told a firm number for the salary with no room for negotiation (trust me, I tried). If the number is firm, why not just say it up front?
        This seems really red flaggy, but the employer is actually really great otherwise. I had experience with them previously and knew I wasn’t getting myself into a bad situation overall, just some bad hiring practices. There’s a lot of internal competition for funding here, so everyone is super tight-lipped about finances, including salaries. I wish my state would pass a law like the one in California to force them to ease up!

        1. Former Employee*

          Perhaps the firm number was tailored for you based on your experience. If someone else ended up being their choice, the firm number might have been different because their background would not have been identical to yours.

          Most places have a range for each position. Where a person falls within that range is based on their experience and background. Sometimes, a more junior person will be accepted because they seem like a really good fit for the department, but they will still be offered a salary that is at the lower end of the range.

          1. Jasnah*

            Then there should be room for negotiation. “Actually I think my experience is worth more because of XYZ”. It’s about reassessing someone’s worth. There is no real situation where a company would have both a firm number that they cannot budge on AND a range… either they have some leeway to tailor salaries or the budget has a hard limit.

      4. Essess*

        I’m not in California, but yes some employers are shady and dishonest. I was hired into a position (upward move in my company) and I was promised a specific pay rate by the CEO during my interview. My first paycheck arrives and it is 10% lower than promised. I took it to him, and he said that he found out that what he offered was above the pay range so they can’t pay me that. It was too late for me to get my old job back so I was stuck at the lower pay rate.

        1. designbot*

          Good god. He’s just setting you up to resent him/the company the entire time you’re there. How on earth can he expect anyone to have any commitment to the place if that’s how he starts off?

        2. JustaTech*

          Or just ignorant AF. My first in-career job, my boss said “Oh, name your own salary, probably 40K” and I was thinking to myself “yes!”. Then I get hired and it’s a union position at a state university, which means there are processes and procedures and very strict salary bands and no negotiation *at all* and never has been or will be. And it wasn’t anywhere near 40K but my temp job was miserable so I took it (yay benefits!).

          I have no idea why he thought you could just name a salary for a low-level position at a university, but he also didn’t know that my job was a union position until months after I started, so I’ll go with ignorance.

          1. SusanIvanova*

            At my first Silicon Valley job in 1992, the VP of Engineering did the final step of hiring (small company). There were 3 of us from out of state (at least one from Canada) with no clue about the cost of living differences. The VP had bought his house in the 70s so he didn’t know about COL either. He asked us what we thought would be reasonable. I named something around what I was making in Texas (same industry, very much not the same job, but I didn’t know that either), he raised it 50%(!!!) – and that was still so far below what was reasonable that the CEO flipped out when she discovered it.

      5. Michaela Westen*

        The whole American system is based on paying people as little as possible so executives can keep most for themselves and be billionaires.

          1. Jadelyn*

            Yes, but in many other places there’s strong regulation on just how far companies can go in the pursuit of profit margins, which helps keep them in check. Whereas America is a f*cking free-for-all, basically.

            1. Michaela Westen*

              Yes, exactly, and I’m effing tired of it.
              When I was a child I learned about all kinds of ecological and social problems and that people were working on them, so I was encouraged they would be solved by the time I was grown.
              I’m over 55 and these problems are just as bad or worse – because the people in charge of companies don’t care. They don’t care about taking care of earth’s resources and they deliberately keep people poor and desperate so they can be easily exploited. My country is run by evil monsters. So discouraging.

          1. AKchic*

            No, you’re underestimating how many business owners *think* they can become billionaires by doing this because they’ve seen a few stories of people becoming billionaires. More people think they have more in common with millionaires/billionaires than they do with the poor, even though most are one to two paychecks or one good emergency away from serious financial trouble than they are their first million.

            1. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

              What’s more, most people underestimate how much a billion *is*, and how much more it is than a million – one million in net worth is not that uncommon; a good house, two decent cars, and the savings of two people, a lot of couples might have a million in net worth. Doesn’t mean they have much disposable income.

              Some perspective: one million seconds is less than two weeks. One billion seconds is more than thirty years.

              1. Autumnheart*

                If you have a million dollars, you could spend $2739.72 per day for a year before you ran out of money.

                If you have a billion dollars, you could spend $2,739,726 per day for a year before it ran out.

      6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Yes. After the tech anti-poaching antitrust law suit and several high-profile equal pay cases, the CA legislature thought transparency would help address ongoing problems in pay discrimination.

      7. Jadelyn*

        Short answer: yes.

        Long answer: yeeeeeeesssssssssssssssss

        (#notallemployers, of course, but a lot of them are.)

      8. EH*

        When I lived in CA and was jobhunting, they wouldn’t tell me a range until the offer. They definitely wouldn’t tell me a number before I told them what I was looking for. It was infuriating.

      9. Pomona Sprout*

        Ime, many (if not most) employers would prefer to pay employees as little as they can get away with. The difference between shady ones and non-shady ones often comes down to how upfront they are about it, and the shadiest ones will try to avoid talking about compensation for as long as possible. I think there may be an underlying assumption that the more time and effort you’ve expended before you find out how bad the pay is, the more likely you are to settle for the pittance they’re willing to pay. I suspect they probably piss off more people than they manage to rope in this way, but convincing some employers of that (much less getting them to realize that paying more will enable them to attract a higher caliber of employees which will be beneficial in the long run) can be an uphill battle. A long, steep uphill battle.

    6. irene adler*

      In San Diego here.

      Yes, I do see more job ads with salary range posted in them.

      Also, during the initial phone screen, I’m asked what my salary expectations are. Before I can respond, they add that they do not want my salary history or my current salary figures. I usually punt by asking what their hiring salary range is for the job. And I get a response-an actual salary range! That last part is the surprise. Then they ask if that range ‘works’ for me. I say yes- and then ask for a quick run-down of benefits included. And they are pleased to tell me this info.

      In times past, they’d defer giving a hiring salary range, saying that they wish to hold on that until further along the interview process.
      An improvement.

    7. designbot*

      In the design industry I’m still not seeing a salary range. I think this will force employers into doing a bit more thinking in advance of interviews than they’ve typically done before.

    8. Tammy*

      I honestly don’t know why employers are so cagey about this information. Hiring is an expensive and time-consuming endeavor, and eventually the candidate IS going to find out how much you’re offering for the role. Isn’t it in EVERYONE’s best interests to know if you’re on the same page before you sink a lot of time/effort/money into interviewing a candidate? (I mean, I know why employers do it – they feel they lose bargaining power if candidates know what they’re willing to pay for a role – but as a hiring manager I’ve always felt like that was a BS excuse. Good candidates know what they’re worth.)

      Side question: Does anybody know if the CA law applies to internal applicants as well as external? I’ve heard mixed opinions on this from the HR folks I know, and I haven’t found a definitive answer yet.

      1. Public Sector Manager*

        That section of the Labor Code reads that it applies to “an applicant for employment.”

        The most generous reading from the employee’s side is that if you are applying for a particular job, the law applies regardless of whether you are an internal or an external candidate.

        But I imagine that there are a lot of employers who will argue that because you’re already employed by that company, you aren’t applying for employment with that company, and therefore the law doesn’t apply to internal candidates.

        1. Jadelyn*

          My employer chose to interpret it more generously and included current employees as “applicants” who we would give a salary range to on request. But the “update” to the pay scale transparency law specified only external applicants.

      2. Jadelyn*

        It does not, no. That’s one of the things the law Alison mentioned above “clarifies” – an “applicant” is “someone seeking employment with a company”. So existing employees would not fall under the “applicant” category and the law wouldn’t apply to them. Crappy of them to take that route, imo, but there it is.

      3. SusanIvanova*

        No matter what the job market is like, a lot of them think that jobs are scarce resources and you’ll be so happy to have been offered one that you’ll be as grateful as a Dickens orphan. When recruiters were circling one of my previous companies like vultures, we asked a VP what they were going to do about the mass exodus and were told “only you can protect your job”.

      4. TardyTardis*

        A lot of employers still think it’s 2009 and that we’ll be happy to work for federal minimum wage with no benefits, and want a PhD with ten years experience at that range.

    9. De Minimis*

      I still haven’t seen much difference, though I didn’t realize the law also required employers to provide a salary range!

    10. Friday*

      I jumped jobs this spring after interviewing at three different places: #1 and #2 both claimed they didn’t know what the range the position I’d interviewed for would be. #3 proudly stated what the job would pay ahead of the interview. I’m happily situated now at job #3.

      At least #1 and #2 had enough know-how to not ask me what I was currently making, but still…

      1. Friday*

        Oh, and in field, it’s a super rare thing to see a salary/salary range posted in job ads. Doesn’t seem like anything’s changed there since the CA law change.

    11. Anon because immediately and personally relevant*

      Does this California salary range requirement include all compensation, such as sign-on bonus and RSUs and other bonuses?

      1. BeenThereOG*

        I think it’s been vague however as a Software Engineer with over a decade under my belt I simply ask for.a range on salary, RSU’s and bonus. If they can’t tell me it’s their loss because for some of us over half our pay is RSU’s.

  2. LaurenB*

    If I were in a reception area waiting for an interviewer to greet me, I would likely decline a beverage because I’m about to stand up, shake hands, and walk to a conference room or office, and an open beverage provides too many opportunities for a spill.

    When I’m now seated in the conference room or office, however, and I have a table to rest my beverage on, there’s much less opportunity for a spill.

    1. Jasnah*

      I would definitely be one of those people driving OP crazy!
      I would most likely decline a beverage for the reasons you stated, and also I don’t want to make a receptionist stop what their doing to take care of me longer than necessary.
      But if the interviewer offers to get me some (and has some as well) then I might realize it’s OK and have some (usually in my country it would be too casual to walk in with a beverage). Or if anyone, receptionist or otherwise, asks me multiple times, I might feel pressure and say yes to be polite.

      I can’t see myself saying “no I haven’t [been offered a drink] but I would like one” but maybe other people are trying to cover the awkward of saying no and then yes, without realizing the awkward position they’re putting the receptionist in.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        This is totally me! I feel terrible asking a receptionist or front desk person to step away from their work to get me a drink. It also makes the handshake-intros situation tricky if I’m not sure where to put my drink. Conversely, I think of the interviewer(s) as hosts for the interview, and so I perceive their offer to grab a drink to be within the scope of their interviewing role. Or I know there’s likely to be water available in the interview room

        If someone asks if I’ve been offered a drink, I usually try to acknowledge that the receptionist graciously offered that, but that I had changed my mind.

        1. valentine*

          OP4: Experiment with the timing and location. If it doesn’t matter who offers or if you’re always the one pouring, let the interviewer offer. If it’s important that you offer, do so when the interview’s about to start, maybe switching to “Can I bring you coffee or water?” The best scenario is probably having self-serve available in the interview room.

          1. boo bot*

            I think asking just before the interview starts is a good possibility here, especially if there’s any hint that the interviewers think the OP should be offering and isn’t doing so.

            Ultimately, I think a lot of people won’t want anything until they’re going into the interview, and that’s probably just going to be how it is. In addition to everything Lauren B lists above, I might feel a little odd about having coffee already when the interviewer came out to meet me (although I’m not quite sure why).

        2. Essess*

          Agreed… if I’m there for an interview I assume that the receptionist offers everyone beverages no matter why the person is there but the receptionist won’t know if the interviewer will frown upon me walking in to my meeting with a casual drink in hand. But if the interviewer offers, then I know that they won’t mind and I won’t be penalized for having one.

          1. 1234*

            I wouldn’t want to work anywhere where the interviewer would penalize me for having a drink in hand.

        3. Busy*

          Well see my monkey brain takes it even a step further – I am like well what happens if, while she is gone getting me coffee, the interviewer comes out to take me back? Am I gonna ask them to wait for my coffee? I don’t want to have to navigate that during a first impression!!!!!

          I am seconding the self-serve mentioned above. Or not having the receptionist ask.

      2. Nina*

        People may be just trying to go over last minute preparations in their mind before the interview so could be distracted and decline as default? Maybe the OP could ask if the interviewee would like a coffee/tea/drink brought into the room later after they sit down, rather than getting it on the spot? Might help.

        1. Can Man*

          I was also thinking that distraction might be the cause. There are so many times I’ve been on a cashier shift and had this exchange:

          Me: “Would you like a bag?”
          Them: “No thanks.”
          (Finishing transaction)
          Them (with an irritated tone): “Can I have a bag?”

          I generally chalk it up to something being on their minds (possibly thinking about how much money they have available, whether they got everything they need, or whether there’s something they want to ask for from behind the counter) when I originally asked, so the offer never reached their conscious mind, and they decline out of reflex.

          1. LQ*

            Yeah, I do this too and when I’m grocery shopping I rarely feel the crushing panic and stress of the next 30 years and the rest of my career and all the good I can do to help people rest on the next hour and mostly the first 15 seconds when I meet this person. …Yeah I’m a little distracted. (I try very hard to not be irritated but when I am it’s usually with myself. I forgot the damn sugar, do I want to go back and get it or f-it and just leave and I don’t know get it next time. Oh god I’m making this moment way to awkward and strange. Oh god everyone’s looking at me and thinking I’m a crazy person. No that’s stupid, no one cares about you at all get over yourself….and on and on.)

            I think you’re best off if you assume most people are something like that. (I hope they aren’t for their sakes but…)

          2. CoffeeforLife*

            Totally off topic, but I always say (and feel like such a jerk for repeating myself loudly) no bag please, No Bag Please, NO BAG PLEASE before the cashier registers that I don’t want/need a bag.

      3. OP receptionist here*

        Hi, the one who wrote the letter about accepting coffee here.
        I’ve been told to just politely show them or point to the coffee machine/water. So I don’t actually make the coffee or bring the water, so there’s no trouble for me and I don’t have to stop what I’m doing. I just remove the cup or glass they might have used from the waiting area or conference room.
        I dont know why I’m not suppose to actually make it for them but I’m just doing what I’m told.
        But yeah the weirdest part is when they say the haven’t been offered, even though I offered less than 5 minutes ago.

        1. Works in IT*

          Alison, would this be something to tell the interviewers? Because to me it reads a little bit as if they think the receptionist isn’t a “real” person so their offer doesn’t count.

          1. Colette*

            That’s reading a lot into it, especially since there are numerous other reasons why someone might decline and then accept later as detailed in this thread (preoccupied, don’t want to have to juggle a drink when moving into the interview room, deciding that since they keep offering it’s easiest to say yes, etc.)

            1. Works in IT*

              Decline and accept, yes. Decline and accept and then explicitly say it was not offered before, which could possibly get the receptionist in trouble if they are supposed to offer it as part of their job? That goes beyond being polite when the interviewer offers it, and to me it shades into “what else will this person lie about if they can’t even tell the truth about this minor thing?”

              1. JB (not in Houston)*

                I think you still may be reading too much into it. As other people have pointed out in the comments here, there can be a reason why someone might do that in this specific circumstance without it being a sign that they are generally untruthful. I totally get why the OP was a little annoyed by it, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that the candidate is a big liar.

                Also–the fact that it’s a minor thing doesn’t take that away–most people have told minor untruths (assuming that is what is happening here and it’s not that they just didn’t register the earlier offer) out of politeness or to get out of an awkward situation, or it just comes out because they are feeling awkward, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’d tell a lie about something that mattered.

                1. ChimericalOne*

                  People have already mentioned folks being distracted — the other major case is that the person might not have heard you correctly at all. I’m self-conscious about not having great auditory processing, so if I don’t hear someone (but can tell they just said something routine/polite), I’ll often say, “Thanks” or “No, thanks” without really knowing what was said (especially if I’m nervous to start with! Not a great habit, but there ya go). So, yeah, besides the case where the offer didn’t register with the person, you’ve also got plenty of cases of folks just not hearing you correctly. It’d be pretty awful to out them as “lying” for something like that.

                2. JB (not in Houston)*

                  @chimericalone I have the same issue. :) My hearing is not too bad but I just don’t always catch things people say to me and sometimes just take a guess at what they’ve said rather than ask them to repeat it, and same as you I especially do it when I’m nervous and think they’re saying some routine polite thing. And I sometimes do it automatically without thinking, and once I’ve realized I didn’t actually catch what they said, it feels to awkward to go back and ask them to repeat it.

              2. LegalBeagle*

                They honestly might have forgotten, or misspoke. It’s a stressful situation, and you can cut people some slack instead of jumping to the conclusion that they’re a liar.

          2. bluestargirl*

            I feel like it’s the opposite, that people think it’s disrespectful to make the receptionist do “menial” work (or that they’re pulling the receptionist away from “real” work) but when a “professional” offers, it’s more acceptable to take the offer.

            I never accept anything (politely) because I find it stressful, but I certainly would be more likely to accept the interviewer’s offer.

        2. BRR*

          Does the interviewer actually get them the drink or do they also just direct them? As an interviewee, I would feel weird (and possibly put off) about getting a drink myself.

          And I agree, it’s really weird. Maybe they’re trying to cover up that they changed their mind and feel like it’s better to lie than say “oh I didn’t but I changed my kind and now I do.” Who knows? As long as it’s not negatively affecting you, I would just consider it natural human awkwardness. Assume they leave thinking, “Why did I lie about this? What was going on inside my head?”

        3. Karen from Finance*

          I wonder if they feel like it doesn’t count as having been offered as you haven’t offered to get it for them, just pointed them to where they can get it? If that’s the case, it’s obviously not on you.

          1. CMart*

            That was my thought. If the question is “did anyone offer to get you a drink?” then the truthful answer is “no”. I personally wouldn’t feel being pointed in the direction of self-serve coffee was being offered a beverage.

            I also wouldn’t feel comfortable helping myself! Something about the taking vs. receiving would make me feel like I’m taking advantage of or stealing from the company (even though rationally I know that’s silly). Like, how I can be sure they want me to help myself and wouldn’t be secretly annoyed I’m upping the Keurig Pod Expense for the month?

            1. Lana Kane*

              There’s answering the question in a strictly literal way, and there’s understanding that the phrasing is not as important as the general intent. Maybe the receptionist didn’t offer to *make* the drink, but they certainly made the person aware that one was available to them – which is essentially what the interviewer is asking.

          2. Jasnah*

            Yes, actually the fact that OP just points out where the drinks are changes my impression to this. I don’t think it would “register” to me that I’d been offered a drink if someone just said “here it is if you need it” as opposed to bringing me a drink.

        4. Hey Karma, Over Her*

          That last part would drive me nuts. And I would be completely offended by people I don’t know and may never see again carelessly lying about me. Absolutely. But as long as your manager has your back, you have to adjust your thinking and realize these people are stressed. Think of each letter asking “what does my interviewer mean by…” They are putting every question asked to them as some kind of test. So unless they are complete sociopaths, they are trying to check the right boxes 1) “did not treat receptionist like waitstaff CHECK 2) accepted courteous offer from interviewer CHECK. Hell, some of THEM are at home wondering if your pointing out of the beverages was or was not an offer and did they answer correctly!

          1. GillysGotIt*

            That’s a really great point about the letters submitted here being an indicator of the mindset of the interviewee/candidate.

        5. Stanley Nickels*

          That is strange to lie about being offered something before, but maybe they were a too nervous/distracted to process what you were asking, or maybe they feel like they feel more power inequity with the interviewer and want to make the conversation smoother or it might feel awkward to say “Oh I was offered some, but now I’ve changed my mind”.

          In any case, I’m sorry it keeps happening to you!

        6. londonedit*

          Yeah, the only thing I can think is that maybe they’re conflating ‘offered’ and ‘been given’ and their brain is going ‘no I didn’t get a drink’ so that’s what they say. I often end up doing a classic little bizarre little British apology dance with bar staff when I’m at the pub – they’ll say ‘Are you being served?’ or ‘Have you been served?’ and my brain will sort of short-circuit over which one they’ve said, so I’ll kind of do an ‘Oh, no, don’t worry, I’m fine’ sort of thing, and then they go ‘Oh! What can I get you?’ and I’ll have to say ‘Oh! No! Sorry, I’ve been served already!’

          Anyway, I still think it’s odd, but maybe it’s just people’s brains doing weird things when they’re in interview mode. If you’re not doing this already, maybe you could explicitly say ‘So, the coffee machine and water are over here – please feel free to help yourself if you’d like a drink’. It still might not stop people declining your offer and then accepting a drink from the interviewer, but maybe it’d stop the ‘No one offered me anything’ responses.

        7. Quagga*

          Maybe they’re saying they haven’t been offered because if they say “yes I’ve been offered (and subsequently turned down” a drink, then they know they won’t be offered again by the interviewer.

        8. CupcakeCounter*

          I would maybe change your wording since you aren’t actually leaving your desk and preparing them a drink. Change it from “would you like any coffee or water” to “There is a beverage station over there with coffee and water, feel free to help yourself if you need anything”.

        9. Blue Bunny*

          Only because I’m fascinated by the pedantry of language, I wonder what exact wording is used by all parties when these interviewees claim they weren’t offered coffee. If I heard something like “Did you get coffee?” and I had been told to help myself to a beverage station, I wouldn’t be sure if the question was “Did you get [offered] coffee?” or “Did you get [yourself some] coffee?”

          IRL, though, as long as you’re doing what you’re supposed to and your boss knows it, the mental spasms of nervous interviewees shouldn’t be your issue.

        10. Amber T*

          I used to be a receptionist, and they made the switch from “offer coffee/tea/drink” to “show them where everything is.” If it’s one or two people, it usually wouldn’t be a problem, but when juggling 5 people, one person wants with cream, one person wants sugar and whole milk, one person wants just a little bit of skim… then the phone rings and we’re getting a delivery, then a coworker walks in and sees just a cup under the coffee maker so he moves it so he can make his own… then I can’t carry five mugs at the same time…

          Definitely rude when they say they haven’t been offered. Hopefully, as people mentioned, it’s them being distracted or nervous. My bosses knew that I always offered drinks, or if I didn’t it was for a good reason. Hopefully yours do too.

        11. Jadelyn*

          TBH, as someone who’s been a receptionist and admin before, I think it’s just Admin Invisibility kicking in.

        12. bluestargirl*

          It sounds like it’s not the OP’s situation, but I often worry about just how big an imposition I’m signing a receptionist up for. Is there already brewed coffee right around the corner that just needs poured? Will the receptionist have to walk to a kitchen a ways away wait for a Kurig pod to brew? Is the receptionist going to run down to Starbucks just for me (unlikely, but, anxiety brain)?

        13. Mr. Shark*

          I’m someone who would probably decline initially on impulse, but when asked again, I would reconsider and probably say yes. I think that would be multiplied when I’m getting ready for an interview in my mind, and would be distracted, and might not want to bring in water/coffee into the interview in a formal setting without the interviewer making the offer.
          I do think it’s rude to say that you didn’t offer, though. That is more than strange.

      4. Michaela Westen*

        I think the one who said they hadn’t been offered a drink was just nervous and forgot OP offered, or didn’t hear the offer even though they responded.

    2. KP*

      There’s this. But also: I don’t drink coffee, and so will always decline. I’ve noticed in recent years — in contexts not involving job interviews — a huge shift toward offices where greeting staff and then whoever I am seeing (for a facial, for hair coloring) repeatedly asking to a truly ridiculous degree if I’m sure I wouldn’t like coffee that I’ve almost just said yes. Seriously. I recently was asked 5 times by two people in one appointment, even after I had repeatedly said no thanks, I don’t drink coffee. I don’t know how anyone who actually enjoys coffee could feel comfortable politely declining multiple times in an office where it seems accepting the offer is apparently a THING and the second person to ask is the one who will be interviewing you for a job.

    3. Reliquary*

      That’s the way I operate, too. Going into an interview or meeting, I will usually be carrying a bag, notebook, or folder of some kind. And I will need my other hand free to shake hands with the interviewer/meeting-leader.

      But after I’ve shaken hands and have been seated, I welcome a glass of water or a cup of coffee – but only if I’m seated at or next to a table. I wouldn’t be comfortable putting a beverage on the interviewer’s/meeting leader’s desk.

      1. Mystery Bookworm*

        I agree. In fact, even in social situations I often want a few minutes to put down my things and feel settled before I’ll be interested in a drink.

        I always get offered coffee at my hair salon, and it’s a similar situation. I always say no the first time (almost on reflex!), but after I’m sitting and feeling comfortable, well, then a coffee or tea starts to sound quite nice.

    4. PhyllisB*

      This reminds me of an incident when I was a telephone operator. We had some type of reception and the BIG BIG boss attended. One person asked him if he would like some punch. He politely declined. A few minutes later someone else asked him and he also declined. After the fifth person asked, he accepted a cup of punch. I think that’s more of what you’re seeing with your clients. It’s nothing personal, and as long as your boss knows you are making the initial offer, you’re good.

    5. a1*

      I just don’t think about it this much. If I’m thirsty (or hungry or otherwise want to “whet my whistle”), I accept the drink, if I’m not I don’t, regardless of who’s offering.

    6. Elsajeni*

      I was thinking the same thing. Also that they don’t know how long they’ll be waiting — I might decline a drink when I first arrived because I don’t want to need an awkwardly-timed restroom break, but take one as the interview is starting because I figure, from there, I know about how long it’ll be until I leave. (All of this is of course champion-level overthinking, but that’s job searching for you!)

    7. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Another factor: Coffee + unknown wait time = potential awkward bathroom conversation.
      Sometimes interviewers run late….once the interviewer is there, you can decide if it’s safe!

    8. Dust Bunny*

      I was just getting on here to say this: Greeting an interviewer with a hot cup of coffee or a sweaty bottle of water in your hands is awkward. (Also, I get nervous at interviews and if the interviewer is late, I’ll have to pee at an inopportune time, I guarantee it. I’d rather accept a beverage after things seem to have gotten rolling and I won’t be AWOL when they come for me.)

      As long as you’re not getting in trouble because your supervisors think you haven’t offered anything, I’d let this go.

    9. Pomona Sprout*

      I am definitely in this camp! I’m a klutz, I know I’m a klutz, and there’s no way I want to sit in a waiting area juggling a beverage and trying desperately not to spill it on my good “interview” outfit. Even less do I want to juggle that beverage as I rise to greet the interviwer and frantically try to figure out how to shake hands while sill juggling. Once I’m settled in the other room, it’s a whole different story. That is when I’ll start to notice my mouth is getting dry and want to do something about it, lol.

  3. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

    OP #5: I once had a colleague who didn’t wash her hands after using the bathroom. My other coworkers and I were horrified. But at least we knew not to get behind her in the buffet line at the next department pot luck lunch! :)

    1. PaperGirl*

      About 8 years ago, I confronted a friend about not washing her hands…her excuse was “I just needed to change my tampon. It’s not like I took a dump or anything.”

      I don’t think I said anything in response I was so taken aback by that being a logical excuse in her mind….Removing a tampon, throwing it away in a bin touched by others’ hands in who knows what state of cleanliness, inserting a new tampon. Touching the stall door also touch by probably incredibly filthy hands. And just going back to business.

      I’m sure other non-handwashers have just as strange rationalizations for not washing up….it still sticks with me to this day.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Dollars to donuts, female readers who remember the big Toxic Shock Syndrome scare are cringing right now.
        At least where I was I remember *hearing on TV* that the best way to avoid extra exposure was to wash my hands before *AND* after changing a tampon.
        In retrospect, that round of media coverage is what let us stop whispering the words for menstrual care products when we were caught without.

        1. CoffeeforLife*

          I used to work in an industry that people would announce going to the bathroom. Someone would comment, “wash your hands!” I usually chimed in “before and after!”

      1. L.S. Cooper*

        I’m seconding this. I really don’t wanna touch your hands if you’ve been handling your penis and haven’t watched them. Ugh.

    2. seejay*

      I had a coworker who said the same thing.

      Do you seriously think your dick is the epitome of cleanliness dude? SERIOUSLY???

      No one wants to touch your hands or anything that your hands touch that touched your penis. Wash your damn hands. That’s gross as hell.

      1. Fieldpoppy*

        I feel like we had a thorough discussion of penis hands on an advice discussion board in the last year — maybe even here. There are many reasons why it’s not just your “clean” penis that you are coming into contact with — beginning with the bacteria in your sweaty crotch.

        1. cheeky*

          Your body is dirty, you should wash your hands frequently, and especially if you touch your genitals. My god.

    3. RUKiddingMe*

      Reason #813 that I don’t *do* potlucks. Ot at least don’t eat anything at them even if I show and bring food myself.

    4. Jadelyn*

      …I am choosing to believe this is a joke. Performance art. Something. Because the alternative, that someone really believes this fervently enough to defend it publicly, is soul-destroying tbh.

    5. Why God why*

      Your male bits are definitely dirty. God that’s disgusting. Your poor romantic partners.

    6. Labgirl*

      Burner, there is literally something called “normal urogenital flora”. If you take that from the normal area and pass it on to someone’s hand or something they touch with their hand then they touch their mouth or eye or ANY opening on their body like a wound or a scratch or a freaking hangnail for gods sake they can get a very bad infection. If they’re immune compromised it’s even more likely the couldn’t fight off an infection and could have serious health repercussions.
      Just because you can’t see the nasty on your hands doesn’t mean it’s not there. For example if I change my tampon and get some blood on my hands and then shake your hand that is the exact same thing you’re talking about, you can just see the blood.
      There are really good reasons we have hygiene etiquette and that always includes touching your junk or anybody else’s and then water and soap being the next thing you touch. For the love of Howie Mandel!

  4. MJ*

    OP#4, people are dirty. Plain and simple.

    When there was a nasty disease in my city, people wore face masks, didn’t shake hands… that kind of thing. A boss person wore a face mask and gloves when venturing out in public, even if only in their own car! This same boss person also did not wash their hands after going ‘potty’. To the outside world they looked like they were concerned about personal hygiene, but inside… a different matter.

    1. tangerineRose*

      I wish we’d get out of the social habit of shaking hands. How about if we just wave at each other?

  5. HannahS*

    OP4, I am one of those people! I’m sorry! Usually when an admin offers me something, I feel badly because I don’t want to make her do extra work for me. Even though she’s offered, I assume it’s pro forma, and I don’t want to be like, “I’m here to see your boss! Make me tea!” But when the host offers, it’s different. Now it’s part of the meeting or interview interaction. To be honest, I still usually say no because I want to have my hands free and I’m clumsy anyway, but if the person I’m meeting seems to want this to be “a meeting over hot drinks,” or seems to want to extend me hospitality themselves, then I’ll accept. It’s just a different interaction with different power dynamics; it’s not personal at all.

    1. skarlatha*

      This, exactly. I don’t want to make an admin do extra work, so unless I’m absolutely parched, I will usually turn down the drink to keep them from having to stop what they’re doing and get one for me. For me, there’s also a little bit of a knee-jerk “no” reaction happening–I immediately say something like “No thank you, I’m fine!” without thinking and then five seconds later I’m wishing I had taken them up on it. In those cases, I’ll say yes the second time I’m asked, which is usually by the person I’m coming in to meet with. So like HannahS said, it’s not personal at all, and is actually more likely to be the person trying to be respectful of your time.

    2. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

      I’ve definitely done this too! Partly I don’t want to bother the receptionist, partly I’m nervous about the interview and not really thinking (and then sometimes immediately after declining, I think ‘wait, I *am* thirsty. Shoot, already said no…’), partly I feel like it’s weird to have a drink in my hands when the interviewer comes out to greet me. But when the interviewer offers, it feels more polite to accept.

    3. I Herd the Cats*

      As the person whose job is offering the coffee/water, thanks to everyone for their explanations of why they decline! Offering beverages to people who show up for meetings is quite literally part of my job. We’re in a hot summer climate and sometimes folks show up who look like they really need some hydration. I get side-eye from my boss if he thinks the beverage-offering didn’t happen…. at the same time, he is *always* drinking something, so it would make sense that when people reach their destination (his office) they’d be ready for something then. I’m going to keep working on my two-offer strategy — once when they show up, and again (this part is trickier) when I’m showing them into my boss’ office — along the lines of are you sure you wouldn’t like some water or coffee? But that a) sounds vaguely accusatory and b) requires them to acknowledge they’re changing their minds…

      1. londonedit*

        You could try showing them into the boss’s office and then saying ‘And can I bring in some water for you both?’ That way the boss hears you offering, it gives the boss an opportunity to accept a drink (which might then lead the visitor to accept a drink too – sometimes there’s an ‘I won’t have anything if the boss doesn’t have something’ idea going on) and it also gives the visitor an opportunity to speak up if they would like some water. Alternatively you could ask the boss whether they’d like you to bring in a jug of water and glasses before the meeting starts.

      2. minuteye*

        Maybe “Are you sure I can’t get you something? Water? Coffee?”. To my ear, it sounds a bit less accusatory, and allows them to smile and go “Well, alright then”, like you’ve convinced them, rather than that they’ve arbitrarily changed their minds.

        1. ChimericalOne*

          Yes, I like this phrasing. If you just ask, “Are you sure I can’t get you some coffee?,” I might feel compelled to double-down on politely declining, but if you say, “Are you sure I can’t get you something?” and then explicitly re-offered water and coffee, I would be more likely to take you up on it. The question goes from Yes/No to Water/Coffee/None, which for some reason is more comfortable to me & feels more like a real offer. (Aspie here, but I think it’s because plenty of people offer things that you’re supposed to politely decline. Take the question out of that realm and into the realm of “What would you like of these options?,” and I suddenly feel like I can really pick one!)

      3. S*

        What about just having one available if you know a person is coming? I know that would add a lot of extra work, but candidates that I greet will usually accept if I already have one in my hand. Do you all think that leaves undue pressure to take it when they do not want it?

        1. EventPlannerGal*

          As you say, I think that would involve a lot of extra work on the receptionist’s part – getting someone a coffee if they want one or directing them to the machine is reasonable, but expecting them to have a coffee waiting (and presumably a cup of tea and a glass of water as well?) ready and waiting and not going cold every time someone comes in, just in case they might want one and for some reason not just say so… not so much, IMO.

          1. S*

            That’s true. I was just thinking the water, then if they didnt want it I could drink it.

    4. Samwise*

      You could say, Thank you so much! Receptionist-Name already offered me one, but I’ve already had my caffeine load for today (or your favorite excuse), so no thank you.
      Thank you so much! Receptionist-Name already offered me one, and I’ve changed my mind — I *will* have a coffee/some water/whatever they’re offering.

      Get the receptionist’s name and use it. I know that I notice when candidates pay attention to support staff and treat them nicely.

    5. happy cat*

      Receptionist here
      I agree! When I offer a beverage I follow it up with a smile and eye contact and say
      I’d be happy to get you something
      And WAY more people accept
      I also put the beverage in the meeting room and let the guest know
      This seems to make it less awkward

      If they say no, I seat them in the meeting room and remind them I’m just out front and would be happy to grab them a beverage if they change their minds
      Then when the host arrives and they DO change their mind, they comment on how I offered already. The nice thing is if they change their mind the host now knows this and just comes out to ask me to get a beverage.

  6. Clay on my apron*

    OP4, I sometimes accept a glass of water at reception. A cup of coffee becomes a nuisance if the person I’m meeting arrives suddenly. I can’t quickly drink it and I feel bad leaving it half finished. I feel stressed when I have to carry a hot beverage in an unsuitable container that will burn me / leave visible marks if I spill it, along with my laptop bag and other paraphernalia, potentially going through turnstiles or access doors, being greeted by people and not able to shake their hands… It’s a minefield for a clumsy person.

    If I’m offered coffee once my host has arrived, I know it will be brought to the meeting room and I don’t have to worry about any of that.

    1. Diamond*

      Yep, you don’t know how long you’ll have to drink it or if it will be awkward to take a beverage into the meeting, whether you’ll then be the only one with a beverage, etc. Once the person you’re meeting offers, you know it’s all acceptable and ok!

      1. SusanIvanova*

        Or how long you’ll have to wait, and then that coffee needs to go somewhere at an inopportune time (but hopefully you won’t end up behind the person from letter #5!)

  7. Bethany*

    OP#2, how are you doing the editing?

    When my boss hands me a document that he wants me to review, I’ll make tracked change edits for things like oxford commas, fixing awkward phrasing and inconsistency of terminology, but I won’t make comments pointing these things out. The only comments I make are for content issues.

    I think it can come across a bit condescending if you point out your boss’s mistakes rather than just fixing them and moving on, and this might be what your boss is reacting to.

    1. Liar Liar Pants Dracarys*

      Ditto this. Spelling, glaring punctuation issues, and wildly unclear sentences are all I do now. I also majored in English. While my friends in college loved getting a bloody essay back before turning it in for a class, my bosses never really appreciated the same.

      1. TheSockMonkey*

        I think this is true, but have also had situations where people just didn’t want their stuff fixed because they thought they were right/didn’t want to be told they were wrong. The tone of your comments matters but I think you also have to figure out whether you are dealing with an ego situation as well.

        1. Liar Liar Pants Dracarys*

          Very true. For more than just emails, I will generally ask how deep they’d like me to dive. Bloody pages or just a fix here and there.

          1. JustaTech*

            I have a coworker who is a great editor, but she will leave my documents shredded with edits. So now if I need her to look at something I’ll say “please just review for content” or “please just copy edit” or “go whole enchilada!” so that we’re aligned on how much I want/need from her and how much time she should spend on the edit.

      2. fposte*

        Yeah, it feels more psychologically bold on the editor’s part to just change things, but a marked-up piece of writing has a big impact on the recipient. It’s really important to make sure they’re on board before they get faced with that.

    2. Liane*

      People doing edits still need to ask what kind of editing is expected before starting the task, as Alison said. They should also ask how to handle the errors and other changes you think should be made — fix, markup, comment, fix A and flag B, etc.
      Yes people should tell you this when they give you a document, but don’t always, so you need to ask.

      1. Antilles*

        The kind of editing is crucial here. I actually think this is really the reason for the boss’ irritation:
        “Today, my supervisor brought me a document that had multiple authors that we were to be sending out to the counties and asked me to look it over and suggest changes. When she came back 40 minutes later ”
        In my experience, if someone drops off a document for review and comes back that quickly, the document is pretty much final and on its’ way out the door. You’re not intended to address minor stylistic choices, grammatical changes, or even formatting, you’re doing a final check to verify there aren’t glaring errors like “the client’s name is misspelled”, “the size of Table 1 needs fixed because when printed, the last column gets chopped off”, or other bright red flag issues.

        1. JJ Bittenbinder*

          I think it’s actually two overlapping issues:

          1. the document that is in front of OP and what the boss is looking for in the editing task. Is it a quick “nothing horrible” review, or is it a more in-depth, “can we make this look like it’s from one source rather than four authors’ work cobbled together”? Those are pretty different.

          2. the attitude towards and acceptance of editing in general. Is OP’s boss willing to defer to OP’s expertise and suggestions, or is it really just a “give a cursory check and don’t ask me to change my style” kind of thing?

          1. Blue*

            Yes, I think both expectations and ego are at play here. OP should do what she can to familiarize herself with both before editing as she herself would prefer. Expectations are easier – ask questions, ask for feedback to see if you’ve hit the mark, etc. Regardless, I would still edit conservatively until she gets a feel for how the person responds to revisions and feedback.

            I do a lot of co-writing with a colleague. When I started in this role, she was already accustomed to being the office’s expert in all things written, and I wasn’t sure how to edit her work without stepping on toes. Initially, I just focused on glaring issues and would only edit more aggressively when projects arose in which she had less ownership or investment. Because I chose my battles and contextualized my revisions, she responded quite well and has internalized some of the recommendations I’ve given. I’ve taken similar cues from her, especially regarding copyediting, and I think that initial feeling-out period went a long way in getting us comfortable with the other’s strengths, preferences, communication style, etc.

        2. Public Sector Manager*

          I’m in government and what I think the OP is missing is that the boss just wanted the OP to look for major errors only. The letter had multiple government employee authors. Presumably any changes the boss made would require another meeting of all the authors, or at least an email exchange among the authors of “are you okay with these changes?” Multiple author letters tend to get exceptionally territorial. You will get one department head or other agency head that will be married to one sentence and any changes, even to correct typos, causes the whole train to derail.

          Even though the OP was probably correct with all the changes, it would be more of a hassle for the boss to schedule everyone to discuss those changes than to send it out as is.

          OP and the boss were just on the same page. The boss bears the most responsibility because until OP has a lot of experience in these issues, the boss needs to communicate the expectation. But if the boss fails to convey that information, the OP needs to ask when doing editing functions.

      2. sofar*

        Yep. I am an editor, employed at a company. Often, people from other departments will ask me to “look something over.” And I always ask what they’re looking for: Proofreading for errors? Suggestions on style/flow? Suggestions for improvements on the copy? I never just assume and sit down and give it the thorough edits and requests for changes that I’d do for, say, something a freelancer submitted for our blog, or something a staff writer did.

        Most often, people just want to make sure they’re not sending out something with embarrassing errors. Sometimes they’ll say, “Well, I’m not a professional writer, so I’m grateful for any suggestions you have, just don’t spend more than 15 minutes on it.”

    3. Mockingjay*

      It sounds like the agency knew they needed help with documents and correspondence. My guess is that the edits revealed just how much rework was needed. It can be jarring to see.

      OP 2, does your agency have a style guide to follow? If not, suggest some alternatives to your boss – AP Style, etc., or you can develop your own. A style guide provides consistency.

      In my own practice, I fix little things (punctuation, subject/verb agreement) without running it by the author. That’s what I am there to do! I leave tracked changes or comments for items that may affect content. When editing, you want to pick your battles. Also, look at the intended audience. If it’s an internal memo, I let stuff slide. Anything for the client gets heavy scrutiny.

    4. ceiswyn*

      It sounds like the OP is marking up rather than making the edits.

      When someone hands me a document for editing, they usually give me the source document and trust me to do sensible things, so the number of minor comma, grammar etc edits I make goes unnoticed. If I were marking up a document, on the other hand…

      (The worst editing job I ever had was when someone handed me a PDF and said ‘This was written by a strategic partner, it needs to go out today, please ignore anything that’s merely bad and only mark the bits that are actually wrong.’ The document was all that that instruction promised and more…)

    5. Yorick*

      I think it’s important to think about what kind of edits you’re making and whether they’re necessary or even correct. I used to ask my sister to edit some of my social science reports (mostly to help her because I’d pay her and it gave her some practice). Instead of just changing errors and pointing out where things were unclear, she would make these huge style changes that were usually inappropriate. She even didn’t realize her edits changed the meaning of the sentence. For example, she didn’t like the word “net” (as in “the independent variable had an effect, net of controls”) and changed it to “regardless.” She would also add a comment asking if something was really a word. Sure, she has a BA in English, but I’m a PhD with 25 published studies! Yes, all the words in the paper are real words!

      1. BlackCatMama*

        I had something similar happen. I asked a coworker to quickly read through an email that was going out to high level people. I told her specifically just to let me know if she saw something glaringly obvious like misspelled words or other typos, but otherwise leave it alone. She had no knowledge of the project but then took an hour to completely restructured the email and changed the content to the point it didn’t even make sense, and then she got snarky when I didn’t use her draft. After that I didn’t take her offers of a “second pair of eyes” again.

      2. Sarah N*

        This. I am a researcher who regularly interacts with copy editors before my work gets published. There is nothing more frustrating than getting something back with random stylistic changes where there is no actual error but merely a preference on how to phrase things, or even worse, changes that actually make the writing INCORRECT. (I once had a copy editor change a date to a different year! And a century off at that… No idea why they decided to do it but very glad I caught it.) Unless you are being asked to do a heavy edit of someone’s style, I would vote not to do it. Just because something sounds nicer to your ear doesn’t mean you’re always right about that just because you have a certain degree, and the more changes you make, the more chance for errors to be introduced because you simply didn’t understand the author’s meaning.

        1. The New Wanderer*

          Same here! The most challenging was the copy editor whose second language was English (my primary language and what I wrote in). They were clearly fluent but changed some of my sentences which a) changed the connotation and/or impact I was going for and b) changed my ‘voice’ to a degree I didn’t recognize. They also didn’t use track changes and instead made changes directly to the document so I had to keep comparing against a previous draft whenever I came across a sentence and realized I didn’t write that. All told, I rejected the majority of the changes because they were stylistic, not corrections, and they didn’t reflect my style.

      3. SeluciaMD*

        Along these lines, one of the things I’ve had to learn to restrain myself from doing is rewriting things in my own voice (a.k.a. – how *I* think things should sound/be phrased/be explained.) People have often have very different styles and voices in the way they write documents, and there can be variation in those things even with the same person in different types of materials – myself included. The way I write a grant is going to sound significantly different from the way I write an email and both will be different from the way I write an internal memo.

        Compliance is a big part of my job and so I’m often proofing or editing things written by my boss, my colleagues and/or my staff, and my approach is different with all of them. I’ve worked with my boss for over a decade so she and I are pretty much in lockstep on the projects we work on together. I now know the things she’s likely to miss and want me to fix vs. the kinds of things I personally would write differently than she did, which I’ve trained myself to ignore because, well, she’s the boss. For colleagues, I often do what is suggested here to clarify what they are looking for help with so I don’t inadvertently overstep and tick someone off (which I have absolutely done – you are not alone!). And for staff, I’ve had to learn to balance the things I *need* to edit so that they understand what they need to do differently to meet the standards set by our office vs. the things I often *want* to edit because of how I prefer to phrase or explain things. That is tough to do and it takes time to find the balance.

        I think Alison’s suggestions – along with many of the comments here – are really good ones in terms of finding a way to approach the work differently right now. But also cut yourself some slack and just know that the longer you do this, the better you will get at knowing what certain people are looking for in different circumstances and how you can best help them in your role.

        Good luck!

        1. boo bot*

          Yeah, this is really important – am I revising to make it better? Or to make it how I would write it?

          It takes practice to tell the difference!

    6. Rockhopper*

      I edit (usually using “track changes”) for many people, from those who are uncertain writers and are grateful for my feedback to those who only show me their writing because it is a requirement before it goes out to the public. You will learn to handle each person differently. And they don’t all understand the terminology. They’ll ask me to proofread something when they mean they want a full copyedit. Occasionally I have to completely blow up their babies (I just did that last month to a person high above me in the org chart) with a rewrite and I try to do it as kindly as possible but I always remember that written communications that will be going public (98% of what I edit) will, for better or worse, affect perceptions of our brand.

      1. Michaela Westen*

        Yes, it makes such a bad impression when there are obvious errors in distributed material! And it so common now. Just the other day I was reading something that was pretty good and fairly high-level – and then a word used in a way that wouldn’t be correct in any situation.
        When I see something published that was obviously not edited or even scanned once by the author, I completely lose interest in the company and its products (or articles, if it’s a news or magazine site).
        It means they’re cutting corners and won’t hire enough staff to edit properly. If they won’t do that, what else are they cutting corners on?

    7. epi*

      I actually think the OP may have an audience issue here.

      I work in public health and have been involved in a LOT of report writing including on projects where we were contracted by a state government, writing for academics, for the general public, for members of the public engaged in advocacy, county level practitioners, funders…

      The OP says they are editing documents sent on behalf of the governor, but then that this latest document was going “out to the counties” which to me sounds like it went to county level agencies and the professionals working there, most likely. Simply put, there is a very different standard of readability and beauty for communications that are all in the family in this way– between government agencies that work together, where people are often doing similar work and have some background in the content. The standard is, is this understandable and usable by people qualified and oriented to the policy, and used to the tone and style of government writing? Language issues that would not be acceptable in public facing reports may be fine or even necessary in quasi-internal communications. If the OP is newer to this agency’s area of practice, they may also be correcting terms or phrases that sound awkward to a layperson but have a specific meaning in that context.

      If I were the OP, I’d not only be following the advice to ask what editing my boss is looking for; but also these big picture questions about the purpose and audience of reports. You can’t treat everything like a public statement by the governor herself. Depending how big a part of OP’s job this is, it might also be a good idea to ask if there are old examples of documents that served a similar purpose and got good feedback or were used and reused widely.

      1. OlympiasEpiriot*

        I am used to technical writing in my field and LET ME TELL YOU there is so, so, so, so, so very much terrible writing out there that I actually don’t read a lot of the literature anymore. I have spent so much time over the years reading through something that is 6 pages long, takes me hours to get through, I have to read it twice or more, I get a panic attack because I completely don’t understand something in there and it is my field, I realize it is just a really poorly expressed set of thoughts and I DO know what is being discussed, and then I have to recover from the article. Now, If I’m at all bothered by the first 3 paragraphs, I don’t finish unless it is claiming to be new data specifically about something I use on a weekly basis.

        I’m disgusted at the level of what gets published in the journals. I have volunteered as a peer reviewer for one journal specifically to help make a difference in this matter. thus, let me tell you OP, I am grateful you
        “point… out awkward sentences, suggest… reformatting when links and locations are delivered inconsistently, point… out inconsistent oxford comma usage, etc.”

        1. Michaela Westen*

          Wow, that’s awful. I’m sorry you have to deal with that. I’m lucky I don’t have to read stuff for my job.

        2. epi*

          I agree with you but I’m not sure if this is really intended as a response to me?

          I am in academic public health so I am very familiar with technical writing (academic, government, software/technology) that is straight up bad. I have read academic articles so poorly written, that I Google to see if this is a real journal or a predatory one before I am even done reading the abstract. (And am often disgusted to learn that the journal is, in fact, real.)

          But I think the general principle, that you should write and edit differently for different audiences, is sound. Technical terms and even jargon, certain sentence structures, abbreviations, citation styles, organization, voice… All can and should be different depending what the document is. And it’s appropriate to spend less time making something perfect when it’s internal or only going to regular collaborators who already know what you are talking about than you would if the product is being shown the general public. There is an important element of time and resource management in all this, and letting things be good enough so the work can get done.

          I would also say that a big part of my training in epidemiology– and I’m sure my field is not unique in this– was about describing my process and results accurately and avoiding common misinterpretations. I’m aware that the result is not poetry (and I’m considered good at epi writing) but in many contexts accuracy is paramount. If the result is dense, so be it. I really see the pitfalls of trying to edit that away when I read health and science journalism covering my field. Often I can tell what methods or concepts are being incorrectly described. The journalist is clearly a good writer who intended to put things in their own words or make them clearer for a general audience. But that person has totally misunderstood the underlying concepts and the result is sloppy and misleading by my standards.

    8. 5 month mommy*

      Ah yes, I replied with this below. For my coworkers, even tracked changes are too much sometimes and I’ll only track a major change, not comma additions and the like.

      1. Mr. Shark*

        Yes. I might make some edits without track changes, because things just need to be fixed. Whereas there are other changes I’ll redline so that they are obvious to the person for whom I’m reviewing.

    9. smoke tree*

      One thing that stood out to me in the LW’s description is that some of these corrections aren’t quick fixes–they would require someone to rewrite, or possibly go back to the original writer to clarify. It is certainly a factor in editing sometimes to prioritize quick and easy changes, and that might be something to clear up with the boss too.

  8. Clay on my apron*

    OP3 I’ve also had this problem. If you have sufficient warning and you have the flexibility, you can set up at least part of your day with the interesting stuff, like requirements workshops or user interviews. But just having someone sprung on you makes for a boring day for them and a stressful day for you.

    1. My cat is my alarm clock*

      Also, shadowing doesn’t have to be taken that literally. You can find stuff for them to do – they don’t have to sit and watch you the entire time.

    2. OP3*

      Unfortunately we’re not UX, so we don’t do user interviews :( That would have been super helpful for them to see.

      Our job is pretty much the following:
      – We get assigned work via email, sometimes web, sometimes email
      – We build said work: it IS in a CMS, so at least it’s not coding for them to be falling asleep at.
      – We make sure the pages look good after editing, then send the draft over to be approved
      – Once it’s approved, we push it.

      I do have a few meetings they could maybe sit in on, but they are going to be meetings they’d probably already be sitting on anyway. When I run into this problem, it’s usually interns majoring in ‘marketing’ in general, and have zero interest in web or email.

      1. Heidi*

        Hi OP3. It is very considerate of you to want the interns to not be bored. At the same time, one of the goals of internship is to see what real employment is like, and well, sometimes real employment is not very entertaining. Also, even if they have no interest in web/email, it obviously has a role in a marketing team. If there are things that you wish your marketing colleagues knew that would make your jobs more productive, it might be a good way to educate a rising generation.

        1. Wendy*

          Yes, one of my developer friends seems to always be butting heads with their company’s designer/marketer over unrealistic requests and timelines. If you can educate the intern on how things actually work in your world, it could save a future developer from pulling their hair out!

          1. OP3*

            Thanks! This is good feedback. My other coworker and I were joking about how it may be boring to a lot of people, but we like it, so maybe it is a matter of showing them that this is really what the work is.

          2. Anax*

            Yup, that’s always a concern! I might say some things like this, as I worked:

            – Prioritization: “We prioritize any changes requested which are flagged as “Urgent” or which are requested by the Teapot Executives – usually, those are very publicly visible, like typos on the homepage, or they’re time-sensitive, like banners for a new sale. Then we make other changes on a first-come, first-served basis, which usually takes about a week.”

            – Bad tickets: “This ticket is going to take a little longer because there are so many typos in the ad copy, so I need to proofread it carefully before I can put it on the site. It’s always great when folks run the ad copy by another person in marketing before sending it to us, just to make sure there aren’t any errors.”

            “I’m going to need to push this one back to marketing – they attached this compressed JPG which is going to look really unprofessional on large screens. See how it looks when I zoom it in? If one of our clients shows the product, say, on a projector in a meeting, that won’t look good.”

            – Hard tickets: “This ticket wants a brand new product category, which means we need to build it out in the CMS from scratch – every product category has a different style guide, which we’ll need to run by marketing and test on different devices to make sure it looks right. Usually, tickets take about a week, but this one is going to take a few weeks, depending on how long marketing takes to give their feedback.”

            – Impossible tickets: “This is a request for me to make their page the top result on Google – which I can’t do, because we… don’t own Google. Does that one make sense? Let me tell you a little bit about SEO…”

            If I were having someone shadow, I would also have a few of these tickets set aside or bookmarked to show the intern, as good examples of common tasks and problems.

        2. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

          I also came here to say this! Part of the point of a job shadow is to see what the job is like and if it’s a direction you might want to go in your own career one day, so knowing that it’s a job where tasks come in on the computer, you then do a bunch of computer-stuff at those tasks, and they go back out via that computer again is a good mental picture for the interns to get out of it.

          I know getting the inadvertent job shadow of spending a lot of time in my dad’s office as a teen helped me see that I did not want to work with mainframes when I grew up, and the day I spent job shadowing a veterinarian at one point also helped me realize the large gap between “wanting to work with animals” and “wanting to work with sick animals”, so I think it’s really valuable to have job shadows show what the job is really like rather than something “interesting” related to the job content. I realize these interns are further along in their schooling than I was when I did those job shadows (job shadows are a common high school requirement here, and one of my elementary schools even had a job shadow requirement), but if anything I’d expect anyone old enough to have an internship to be much better at managing their boredom and trying to get the most out of an experience like that compared to a teen or kid.

        3. Sarah N*

          I think this is a really good point. I did a couple of internships as an undergrad that convinced me I NEVER wanted to go into that particular line of work. Which is actually a pretty good thing — much better to figure that out early on before, say, taking out thousands of dollars in law school debt. :)

        4. smoke tree*

          This is fair, but at the same time, you’re not really getting a meaningful sense of what someone’s job is like by sitting in a chair and watching them fiddling with a computer for hours on end. I think this would be mind-numbing regardless of what the job is. Ideally the intern would get a general overview of what the LW does on a daily basis, then could watch them go through the cycle of one change, then (if possible) could have the opportunity to work on something related but low-stakes. But I suspect whoever organized the “shadowing” didn’t think this through, because it’s easier to just plant the intern next to someone doing their regular job.

  9. UKCoffeeLover*

    About job interviews and salaries. Living in the UK, I would not even apply for a job that didn’t have a salary guide, and you rarely see a job advertised without an indication of salary.
    I cannot imagine why it would be the convention in the US to keep this essential fact until the last stages of recruitment. I’m glad to see Alison says it’s changing for you guys as to me it makes no sense at all, a waste of time for everyone!

    1. Airy*

      A lot of US (and I must say NZ) employers value having power over job applicants by keeping this information a secret more than they value the time and resources they waste by going through the whole interviewing process, checking references and making an offer only to have the applicant say “I can’t possibly accept that little.”

    2. sacados*

      I think there’s also a bit of a (ridiculous) convention that job seekers are supposed to pretend they’re not just “in it for the money,” as if they should feel honored to be doing such glorious work regardless of pay.

      1. Myrin*

        I’ve actually always thought that was the reason this is done, not just “a bit” of it! (With the other reason being that they want potential employees to already be invested in a job by having gone to multiple interviews/learned more about it/gotten to know the people involved so that they’d be more willing to accept a lower salary than what they would’ve been on the lookout for from the get-go.)

        1. Jasnah*

          Using the sunk cost fallacy to convince people to accept less than they’re worth!

        2. Fortitude Jones*

          Yup, all of this. I was shocked during my most recent job search in the Midwest, USA that every company I interviewed with asked me about salary requirements at the end of the initial HR phone screen – five or so years ago when I was looking, that wasn’t a thing, so it’s nice that people are starting to realize that by not asking candidates upfront what they want or revealing salary ranges on their own, they’re wasting everyone’s time. I was able to bow out of a couple of things early when I realized the starting salary just wouldn’t be enough for the type and amount of work I’d be doing.

      2. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

        Unless it’s a volunteer position, of COURSE I’m ‘in it for the money’. It’s a job. That’s the point. I’m doing this work to provide myself with food and shelter – I need to know that it pays enough to do that! No matter how much I like my job, I’m not going to work for free, and salary is probably the single greatest factor in whether or not I’ll accept a given job.

        1. Michaela Westen*

          Yes, but when I was looking for and doing my first office jobs in the 90’s, it did seem like employers expected me to want to do the work for its own sake, or pride in the company, or something like that. If I indicated I was working to earn a living, I had a “bad attitude”. *eyeroll*
          This actually works on some employees. Some of my colleagues accepted less than they should and stayed longer than they should because they didn’t know better.

    3. Macedon*

      I think salary disclosure is an industry thing. I’m also in the UK, and 99% of postings name a “Competitive” or “Depending on experience (DoE)” salary.

      1. Blossom*

        Yeah – I’m also in the UK, and in my sector, salaries are almost always posted on job ads. However, I have seen a trend for some of the bigger organisations in the sector to move to “Competitive” for tech roles in particular. Not sure why. Maybe they’re trying to attract applicants from better paying sectors? All I know is I don’t like it!

        1. Michaela Westen*

          When I was young (in the US), employers that said they were “competitive” almost always weren’t!

      2. Asenath*

        In Canada, I think it does depend on the employer. I’ve generally aimed at the larger employers, which seem more likely to provide information up front. My current employer gives ranges for unionized positions (or contractual ones that might lead to such), but “Salary commensurate with qualifications and experience” for higher management, which are non-union positions. My father was employed by a company (US company, but with a branch in Canada) which did not permit salary discussions, but that was many, many years ago.

    4. London Calling*

      Same, and also in UK. Also, ‘negotiable’ – er, from what, and ‘industry norms’. Well I work in finance, there are wildly varying salaries dependent on experience for what I do.

    5. Bagpuss*

      I’m curious about what industry you are in, UKCoffeeLover.
      In my experience, it’s not very common for private sector jobs to have a specific salary guide advertised, it’s often framed as ‘market rates’ or ‘commensurate with experience’ – particularly for professional jobs where there may be fairly wide ranges depending on what experience the person has.

      1. Tuppence*

        I can’t speak for UKCoffeeLover, but in not-for-profit it’s pretty common to provide a range, or an “up to” or a “circa, commensurate with experience”. Although it’s not universal, particularly for roles at the more senior level, it’s enough of a convention that I’m usually able to get sufficient salary data to conduct benchmarking exercises, just from reviewing postings on job boards.

      2. UKCoffeeLover*

        I’m in higher education, but my partner is in insurane and was recently job hunting. Very rarely was a job advertised without a salary, and when it was he emailed the company and asked before applying. They always responded with an salary range.

        I have seen jobs advertised in the UK without a salary, but I would not say it’s the norm. Obviously I’m only speaking from my personal experience.

    6. londonedit*

      Also in the UK, and in my industry it seems to be far more common for job adverts not to list a salary range – instead you’ll see ‘Competitive salary’ or ‘Salary dependent on experience’. I recently made an internal move and wasn’t told the salary until I was offered the job – I did ask, and they said they weren’t sure but they’d definitely be able to ‘at least match’ the salary I was on at the time. I was still able to negotiate the figure they eventually came up with and get a little bit more, but they really weren’t transparent about it.

      1. ceiswyn*

        My industry provides salary ranges about 50% of the time.

        Recruiters NEVER tell me the salary range until I ask, though. Half the time this results in my telling them that there’s no point in proceeding further, with audible grumpiness. I don’t like it when people waste my time.

        1. londonedit*

          Yeah, there are a few recruitment companies in my industry and whenever a job is advertised through them, there’s never a stated salary range. It’s always ‘Competitive salary’. I’m not sure if it’s because my industry is notoriously badly paid, and they can’t quite bring themselves to put the salary on the advert…? (Joking. Mainly.) If you’ve been in the industry for a while, you can guess at the salary because there isn’t a lot of difference between companies, but it is annoying. I find that companies who advertise their jobs directly (i.e. not through a recruitment agency) are more likely to state an actual salary range, but often they’ll still just say ‘X Company offers a competitive salary and generous benefits’ which in the UK probably just means 25 days’ holiday and a pension scheme.

    7. Random Brit*

      Came here to the same. I don’t think I’ve ever applied for a job without knowing the salary range first.

    8. Betty*

      UK here. I often see jobs advertised as “negotiable” or similar. To me it’s code for “if we tell you, you might not apply”. So I usually don’t apply.

  10. Maria Lopez*

    OP2- Some people are weirdly proprietary about their written works or those they have looked over, and this boss may have thought everything was perfect when she gave you the communication, and was maybe even a little embarrassed that she didn’t pick up on the errors, or even a little angry that you are better at this than she is.
    I had a woman get in a huff once for a women’s club I belonged to when I said the flyer needed to be corrected before it went out because it said “perspective” members instead of “prospective” members. She could not be persuaded that the second word was correct, as she had been doing this for three years in a row without anyone pointing out the mistake.
    It sounds like you need to ask your supervisor to clarify your role, and if she wants less to be done than you think is necessary I would try to make sure that she cannot say you did the editing. She has to own it.

    1. Kimmybear*

      I recently attended a trade show and when I looked at the materials I collected, I found a shiny postcard saying “Company X formally Company Y” and I had to google to see that they actually meant formerly.

        1. Adjuncts*

          That isn’t as silly as you make it sound. For many years, the official name was Federal Express, but everyone called them FedEx. Eventually, the company just changed its name.

      1. Michaela Westen*

        This and Maria’s are examples of what I was talking about above – I instantly doubt the literacy and management of the company. Management because they should hire enough editors to get the job done.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      I think this case was more a problem of over-editing from OP rather than over-possessiveness from boss. Especially if it would be obvious that different parts of the report came from different offices, some inconsistencies in style could still be consistent with practice in those offices. If you’re editing text you don’t deeply understand–common with technical subjects–then “I smoothed out this sentence” can mean “I took out the clause that made it correct.”

      It’s important to realize what stage a document is at and how much rewriting anyone is going to tolerate at this point in the process. I’m surprised OP didn’t ask that up front, as it can vary widely between projects, but will put that down to her being new to this and the college experience with editing more one-note.

      1. DJ*

        But it doesn’t sound like OP made any actual changes. She says she pointed out awkward sentences, inconsistent links, and inconsistent comma usage. That’s all pretty basic editing stuff. I don’t see anything that suggests the OP doesn’t understand the content well enough to edit it either.

        I definitely agree she should check in with them on what they’re looking for, but the supervisor said she’s been letting stuff slide, which makes me inclined to think the OP is not actually making any factually incorrect edits, just more than they’re looking for. I’m also surprised they haven’t started specifically asking for what they want since this isn’t the first time the OP has done this for them.

        1. Blue*

          “Awkward” can be fairly subjective, though, and rewriting an awkward sentence involves changing the author’s (or authors’) words. Some people will consider that an overstep, especially if they just wanted you to look for embarrassing typos. Like you, I’m surprised they haven’t had a conversation about this yet!

    3. boo bot*

      I actually think that the OP may be able to use the fact that there are multiple authors on a document to her advantage, because she can say, truthfully, “I want to edit this so the style is consistent and it has a single ‘voice.'”

      First, she probably should be doing that, if it’s an out-facing professional document (which is what it sounds like) and second, it gives her cover to make stylistic changes without suggesting that any particular person’s writing was bad. (Also, getting edited doesn’t mean your writing was bad! It means it was writing!)

      I would definitely ask the boss how much editing she should be doing (and I would come prepared with several ‘levels’ as Alison describes, because it’s likely the boss doesn’t know exactly what she wants). But in that conversation I would raise the multiple authors issue, because I think it may be a way to gain some breathing room.

    4. NotAnotherManager!*

      I have just reached a point where I can’t volunteer for editing jobs for the general public because I’ve worked in legal for so long and the standards are so different. An attorney would be mortified if a similar-sounding word made it through instead of the correct one, and they tend to want to smooth out multiple-author styles and catching every little typo. They may not be interested in feedback on flow or clarity (though many are), but they’d absolutely expect inconsistent serial comma usage and other things OP#2 mentioned corrected. (And, yes, we are trained to ask the author the level of proofing/style-conforming work that should be done upfront.)

      So, basically, I’m used to fairly intense proofreading and corrections and would have trouble working with the close-enough standard or with people that are offended I corrected a word or grammar in a public-facing written document.

      Maybe if copy editing doesn’t work out for OP#2, paralegal or legal secretary work would be a good fit!

      1. JustaTech*

        Or auditing! My coworker who is the most through editor is also the group’s auditor and good lord getting audited is painful. “Excel ate this trailing zero, you need to put it back” “This is rounded incorrectly, you need to go through and re-do all the calculations with this number” and on and on.

        It’s amazing that she catches all these little things, but it’s so painful to be on the receiving end of “all these things are wrong and you need to spend a week fixing them” that I actually go in another room to read her report because my face looks like I’m ready to explode. (At myself, to be clear. I’m mad at myself for not catching all this stuff.)

  11. UKCoffeeLover*

    OP 4, I would probably refuse a drink from the receptionist unless I was very thirsty on arrival. It is, as o5hers have said, a logistics thing about handshakes, and cups and bags, and not wanting all the awkwardness. About the person who said they had not been offered a drink, well they might be just rude, but they might have been flustered and just blurted out the first thing that came out of their mouths. Pretty foolish though, if they got the job, upsetting the reception staff is a bad start!

    1. Samwise*

      Eh, I wouldn’t be too impressed with someone whose reaction to being flustered is to lie about the support staff.

      1. Alianora*

        Yeah — if you incorrectly make someone look bad to their boss, you should correct yourself. I can see accidentally blurting out “No, I haven’t” thinking they asked if you had already *had* a cup of coffee, but when you realize that’s not what they asked, you shouldn’t just throw the receptionist under the bus.

  12. MK*

    Off topic, but I would read something into someone offering me a drink and then expecting me to dispose the cup/judge me if I don’t. Mainly that this person is an entitled jerk.

    1. Blossom*

      Yeah! Agree. Also, “dispose of”? Is it a plastic cup or something? I might judge them back, for not giving me a proper one!

      1. valentine*

        Mainly that this person is an entitled jerk.
        Assuming there’s a trash can in the room, why wouldn’t you throw out your trash on the way out?

        1. MK*

          Because I am a guest in the employer’s space and it’s not a guest’s obligation to clean up the table after the interview?

          I will occassionally do as you suggest, if it feels natural to do so, if the trash can is right there, etc. But that is 100% a nice gesture on my part, not something the interviewer should be judging me on.

          1. fposte*

            Let’s be clear, though–you’re not a guest. This is a work situation and you’re there for a work appointment, not a social reason. If it were an internal interview, you might even be paid for that time. I don’t have any deep feelings about who throws out a coffee cup, given that we don’t provide coffee anyway, but insisting that the rules of social hospitality map onto this situation is asking for grief and sadness.

            1. MK*

              I was actually going by the rules of professional, not social, hospitality in my culture. In a social situation, I always ask if I can help, unless the host is a friend, when I help as a matter of course, or a complete stranger, when it’s considered kind of presumptouous. But in a work appointment it’s really not a thing for the “guest” (a.k.a. the person who visits the workplace) to be expected to clean up.

              1. fposte*

                Shall we use “visitor” :-)? I do think “guest” is a term ripe for misleading.

                In my workplace and field there are two intersecting tendencies on this: there is the “visitors aren’t responsible for cleaning stuff up” tendency, but there’s also the “you don’t leave work for somebody else” tendency. Usually that gets resolved by an applicant’s asking where they should throw out their cup and us saying we’ll take care of it. I don’t think it would seriously hurt anybody to leave their water cup without saying anything, but it would be a little tone-deaf to the field to do so.

            2. L.S. Cooper*

              Even as a guest, I was raised that the polite thing to do is ALWAYS to try and clean up. You always ask the host if you can do anything to help. (And, generally, the host shoos you out of the kitchen saying “No, I’m fine!”, but I digress.)
              Especially in an interview, I would want to be on my best behavior and best manners. That includes cleaning up after myself, even when it’s not my job.
              (But I also believe it says something about a person whenever they don’t clean up after themselves to a reasonable degree, like leaving trash or messes in a movie theater or fast food chain. Just throw away your own trash!)

              1. fposte*

                Yes, I think there are a lot of places where the etiquette is a bit of performative back and forth over the cleaning. Sort of like over paying a check can be.

          2. SezU*

            As a guest would you at least say to your host, “Where can I put this cup?” when you’re done? I mean, even if I am a guest at someone’s home I offer to put my cup in the sink.

        2. Mystery Bookworm*

          I think it depends a little. I recently had some guests and they had paper coffee cups and there was a trash can. But we got engaged in an interesting and high-stakes conversation. I realised that it had run over, we had to rush them out. The trash can was set apart in a little corner with a plant. They forgot to throw out their cups and I’m really not sure that says anything significant about them – to my mind it says more about the circumstances of the situation.

          But I tend to not think much about those ‘short-cuts’ for reading people anyways.

        3. Michaela Westen*

          Because I haven’t finished the drink and most people IME don’t like liquids poured in their wastebaskets.

    2. Jasnah*

      I think it’s a little overboard but I know a lot of people who subscribe to the idea that if you’re a thoroughly conscientious person, you will be that way even when the stakes are low, even when no one rewards you, even when no one is watching.

      I don’t think every job or person needs that kind of conscientiousness but in a general sense I see where it’s coming from. One of the people we were about to interview was laying down in one of the chairs in the lobby. So the interviewer was concerned that they would act sloppy when they weren’t closely watched, and that they didn’t have the professional sense of how to act when waiting for a business contact. Our culture takes appearances seriously so I don’t think they were hired.

      1. MK*

        I guess where I disagree is that, in my opinion, not offering to clean up after an interview is not lack of conscientiousness, it’s behaving like a guest. Conscientiousness would come into it in that I wouldn’t make a mess, e.g. with the sugar and milk (put the sugra/milk containers and the stirrer into the cup, so that they would only have to pick up the cup and throw it away) or if I spilled anything I would take care of it, or not make the cup disgusting to hold.

        1. Anonymous 5*

          Hm. Any time I’m a guest anywhere I at least inquire where I should put my used coffee mug/where the trash can is for disposables that I’ve used. Being a guest doesn’t mean being entitled!

          1. MK*

            No offence, but if a host expects guests to clean up after themselves, it’s them who are entitled, not the guest. If you are offering hospitality, you shouldn’t expect the guests to do half the job for you. And my initial comment was about someone who apparently thinks it’s an obligation. As I said above, it is nice of the guest to offer, but not something anyone should be judged on, especially a candidate who is generally at a disadvantage anyway.

            1. RandomU...*

              This is one of those weird things that will probably always be a bit explainable.

              As a guest, I would feel like I was not being polite by not offering to ‘help’, with this offer, I generally have no expectation that I will be taken up on the offer. But it’s still one of those things that are done.

              So in the case of the coffee cup at the end of an interview, I would stand, shake hands, and ask if there was some place where I can bring the empty cup. If it were a paper one, then I’d ask (if it weren’t obvious) if there is a garbage close by. At that point I would expect the interviewer to say ‘Oh, don’t worry about that, we’ll take care of it’. And then the exchange is over.

              If I’m interviewing someone, this exchange or lack thereof might give me some insight to the person, but it would not be a make it or break it moment. Just another in a set of evaluation points during an interview.

              1. ceiswyn*

                I would expect exactly the same ritual exchange at the end of the interview. Because that is how polite ‘guest’ and ‘host’ behaviour works in my culture.

              2. Jasnah*

                Echoing RandomU and ceiswyn.
                Guest: What would you like me to do about the mess?
                Host: Don’t worry about it, we’ll take care of it.
                Guest: Are you sure? I don’t want to trouble you.
                Host: It’s no trouble at all. Thank you for coming.
                End scene.

                If the environment is more casual maybe the guest can help clean up, but it would be pretty bad manners in many cultures to not offer (or for the host to expect it). Any deviation is a failure of the ritual.

            2. tangerineRose*

              Someone interviewing for a job is NOT a guest. When I’m interviewing, I’m on my best behavior, and that would not include having people pick up after me if I can reasonably help it.

        2. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

          There are also different schools of thought on how a guest should act, though – lots of people think that guests should clean up after themselves (or at least offer), as a thank-you to the host; or that they should ensure they are not creating more work for the host.

          1. MK*

            Not creating more work for the host is not the same thing as cleaning up though. I think it’s reasonable to expect people to, say, place the utensils on the plate, so that the person who will clean up won’t have to do it. And if cleaning up is an obligatory thank-you to the host, that’s not them offering hospitality, it’s more like a pot-luck where you divide the labor instead of the dishes.

            I don’t know, maybe it’s a cultural issue. In my country, the more formal the occasion and the less you know the hosts, the less you are expected to “contribute” to the event. If a friend asks me to their house for dinner, I will bring alchool/desert and will help clean up the table unasked, and I will offer to help with the washing up. If it’s my boss, I will bring a nice gift, but I won’t try to do more than minimise any mess and hand the dishes to the person who will carry them to the kitchen; is anything, it would feel meddlesome to do more. I guess I feel that an interview is more akin to the second situation: the employer is a host who usually also has more power in the exchange; expecting the candidate to clean up really sits badly with me.

            1. Fortitude Jones*

              See, I was about to disagree wholeheartedly with your stance on this until I read this statement. I agree – guests in a formal environment should strive to not make extra work for hosts, but shouldn’t be expected to clean after the fact, especially in an interview situation where it may be weird to have a candidate in your break room washing out their own glass or something. Every time I’ve been a guest who cleans it’s been at a close friend or relative’s house, so that is a tad bit different than this scenario in the letter. I mean, if you’re in an interview situation and you have a cup of coffee and there’s a trash can nearby, it’s only polite to toss your empty cup into it. But then you get into that weird place of what if you didn’t finish and still have half a cup left? Do you still toss it? Leave it on the interviewer’s desk and pretend you forgot? Ask them where the bathroom or kitchen is so you can pour the rest out? Take it with you, even if you had to carry a purse/briefcase, coat, umbrella, whatever when you came and, thus, have limited hand space?

              Yeah, the whole thing is too fraught for me, so I decline beverages more often than not.

            2. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

              See, whereas I’d see “throw your water bottle into the recycling” or “put your mug into the dishwasher/on a tray/don’t just leave it on the table” as more akin to ‘placing the utensils on the plate’ or, say, putting your plate into the dishwasher after a dinner party.

              I feel like part of this is also – who are you assuming is cleaning up after you? And is there an obvious place where you could be putting your used item? Similar to how I don’t like people who leave their trays on the table in a food court because ~the cleaning staff can do that~, rather than just walking 3 feet to put the garbage in the bin. It reeks of entitlement to assume that it’s the admin staff’s job to wash your dishes for you or to throw away your trash. Even if it WAS the admin staff’s job to clean (which, probably it isn’t…) I don’t need to make someone else’s job harder – particularly not a future coworker! I’ve also never been handed an actual, reusable mug in an interview, always a disposable cup or water bottle, so of course I’m not going to leave garbage on the table when I could just throw it in the recycling.

              1. MK*

                The “who is cleaning up after you” issue is pretty complicated, though. If I am offered a drink in a disposable cup, I would assume the person holding the interview will toss it as soon as I am out the door; if this person summons the admin to do it, I think they are the issue, not me. If it’s a ceramic cup, am I really expected to find the kitchen and then what? Leave it in the sink? Wash it? Again, I would assume that whoever usually does these chores in that workplace will take care of it.

                Also, is it so entitled to let the cleaning staff do the cleaning? In food courts here there is a person whose dedicated job it is to wander around the place and clean the used tables, but patrons are apparently jerks for not doing it themselves?

                1. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

                  It’s the “not making someone else’s job harder” thing. In the food court, that’s not really their dedicated job, that’s one of many tasks they have on their plate. I’d also think someone was a jerk if they threw garbage on the floor thinking ‘well the janitor will get it,’ or make a mess of the table at a restaurant because, ‘hey, the waitress will clean it anyway, right?’

                  In an interview, it’s not quite the same dynamic, but there’s still an element of courtesy there. For a ceramic cup – I feel like that depends on the circumstance, if there’s an obvious place to put it. Personally, I’d at least ask where it should go, not just leave it for other people to deal with. And if it was disposable, I would look for a garbage/recycling bin… and, yeah, I might think less of someone who just left it on the table for others to clean up.

            3. kc89*

              must be a culture thing because to me it’s bizarre to not try and clean up after yourself in a job interview

              1. Grapey*

                Also agreed. I may be a “guest” but my interviewer is not the person that will be handwashing the non-disposable glass, and the interview space is not their kitchen. Why would I make them cart it off somewhere else or pick it up off the table for me?

          2. Falling Diphthong*

            Hmm. This is an interesting divergence.

            I recall my husband commenting on visiting some relatives that they seemed to have lost the-person-who-makes-things-happen. He doesn’t view this as being the woman’s job, just a job that somehow the adults in the family needed to have somehow split between them, which wasn’t happening. Then they came to stay with us for several days and I was always picking stuff up.

            Whether or not I throw out the paper cup in businesses is probably largely dependent on how obvious the trash is. Usually I would throw it out, and the ‘guest behavior’ some people are citing strikes me as one of those things you didn’t realize varied between subgroups until you switch subgroups and suddenly everyone is doing the opposite from you.

        3. ceiswyn*

          Where I come from, ‘behaving like a guest’ includes offering to help do any preparation or clearup work required in someone else’s space.

          The host will say no, but politeness requires offering.

          1. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

            Agreed. To my mind, part of being a gracious guest is showing courtesy to the host and cleaning up/offering to clean any mess (even a cup) that was created by you.

    3. One of the Sarahs*

      It’s interesting, because in a (what I think of for public sector) classic interview set up, where I’m shown into a room with an empty glass and jug of water on the table to indicate where I should sit, it wouldn’t occur to me to ask what I should do with my glass at the end. And I can’t think of how to do it without awkwardness, from experience as an interviewer, as well as interviewee.

      I guess in my head, there’s a choreography around finishing and leaving an interview, that includes me pretending I don’t see their notes/ the next person waiting and giving out an air of confidence that I did well, without the arrogance of assuming the job’s in the bag.

      (I think also that as a woman, I would never offer to wash up my cup after an interview, because I’m sure most men wouldn’t, and I want to be seen as the Teapot Marketer, not someone who would be useful around the kitchen)

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I think the woman I quoted in the post is over the top about this, but to clarify — these were paper cups that would be tossed in a trash bin, not actual cups that would need washing. Her thing was “do they leave their trash for me to clean up?”

        1. Jasnah*

          Yeah, I see this making sense if there is a bubbler right there with a trash can, and as the interviewer walks the candidate out, they see the empty paper cup lying forgotten on the table. It shows conscientiousness and a level of thinking about others and the impact you have.

          My company definitely thinks that way and my boss once told me he side-eyed another worker for letting a client erase our white board, instead of jumping up to do it. Considering this kind of thing can be a valuable skill in some cultures, especially in parts of Asia.

        2. MK*

          Yes, they bloody well do. Because she is the host and they are guests that have come into her workplace; and it’s the host who takes care of the cleanup. If she doesn’t want to clean up after people, she doesn’t have to offer them drinks; personally I prefer a more formal interview setting where people are 100% focused on the issue at hand. But if you she going to offer someone hositality in any form, and then judge them for behaving like a guest, a.k.a. she wants to act the gracious host but not to the “menial” work that comes with it, that’s a jerk in my book.

          1. LegalBeagle*

            I think this is a dumb thing to judge a job candidate on, but you’re also taking a very hardline stance on a subjective issue. Multiple people have given good explanations for the different perspectives on this. Reasonable minds can disagree!

          2. Hiring Mgr*

            I would be worried that this type of “test” discriminates (unintentionally of course) against people who grew up with a maid or butler who would take care of these things for them and thus may not be aware of these norms /s

            1. MK*

              I don’t know if you are joking, but where I am from it is very likely to discriminate against non-middle (and above)-class people, who have not had “MANNERS!!!” drilled into their heads since birth.

              1. BethDH*

                The /s at the end of Hiring Mgr’s comment means that they intended it as a joke — it’s a common way to signal “end of the sarcastic part of my comment.”
                It does sound like there are some cultural differences at play here — not least that at least in the parts of the US I’ve lived in, it’s often people from lower-income backgrounds who are mostly likely to rely on the manners they learned outside the workplace, because they haven’t had access to all the secret random expectations that are part of white-collar office environments. It’s a bit like the “ma’am/sir” discussion yesterday.

            2. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

              TBH, I’m not worried about “discrimination” against people who grew up with maids and butlers…

              1. Hiring Mgr*

                I agree, i meant people who grew up with only one or the other. Those who had maids AND butlers are doing just fine thanks

          3. fhqwhgads*

            I really disagree with your stance that the interviewee/interviewer dynamic is equivalent to guest/host.

            1. MK*

              I explained this above, but my stance is about visitor to the workplace/person who works there dynamic, not the social guest/host one.

              1. Delphine*

                Even then, it’s off base. You’re there to make an impression, while a typical visitor to a workplace (a client or customer, for example) is probably not. An interviewee should pick up after themselves if it’s trash or should at least make an attempt to appear like they’re picking up after themselves: “Is there somewhere I can put this glass?” or “Is it alright to leave this mug here?” and then the interviewer probably takes it or tells you not to worry and leave it on the table.

            2. BethDH*

              Yeah, this is where I diverge from MK too. Absolutely agree about the relevance of formality levels in host/guest situations in your personal life, or even in workplace social events (like, say, company dinners).
              As an interviewee, I see my position as a combination of visitor and potential coworker. It is reasonable to expect more guidance on where to go and how to do things, but not to see myself as a guest (because the goal of the interview is not to remain a guest!). I want to show a glimpse of what I would be like as a colleague. We’ve probably all had colleagues who did continue to expect that “someone” would clean up their coffee cups even once they were hired.
              That said, I wouldn’t judge someone for what they did in this situation, other than something pretty egregious, like shredding a napkin all over for someone else to pick up.

      2. OP receptionist here*

        I would absolutely not expect people coming in for an interview to wash their cup/glass. Some people ask where to put it before they leave and I say “just leave it- I’ll take care of it”. It is nice of them to offer though.

        What I think is a bit rude is when people who works at the office or people who regerarly visits for meetings don’t remove their cup/glass from the meeting rooms or lunch tables. All they have to do its put it in the washing machine. Like everyone else does at the office. Makes me wonder who cleans up after them at home…
        I know i’m suppose to keep the office neat, but it’s not my main job, and there are times where I don’t have time to check the meeting rooms or don’t get a chance to go in before the next meeting. But I of course still remove everthing when I have the chance.

        There was once a man who put 2 dirty cups on the receptionst desk and said “I’m going out for lunch, I’ll remove them later- if no one else has taken them by then”… Of course I would’t leave them there for him to remove later, and it’s obviously gonna be me who will remove them. I don’t like him.

    4. My cat is my alarm clock*

      I offered to wash my water glass after an internal interview (ie I knew the panel) and was told: “You’re being a candidate right now – don’t worry about it.”

      1. whingedrinking*

        I don’t think I’d offer to wash my own glass or cup after an interview with a beverage, but I might go with, “Is there anywhere in particular I should put this?” I’d just feel really awkward leaving a dirty cup hanging about on someone’s desk.

        1. Mongrel*

          I think there’s different rules for reception area and offices\boardrooms.
          Reception, I’d at least ask “Can I give this to you?” or “What would you like me to do with this?” with a ceramic cup or where the (recycling) bin is for disposable cups. For offices or boardrooms – while I have an obligation to not deliberately make a mess it’s up to the owner of the office\invitee to clean up.
          To me, the difference is that the person at reception isn’t there specifically for you, they’re a facilitator for everyone who comes in the front door whereas you’re the ‘guest’ of the person in the office.

          1. MK*

            I agree that the reception area is different, but even then I would think it lousy to judge an otherwise polite candidate based on this.

          2. Humble Schoolmarm*

            For me, the “What do I do with the cup?” question is one of the reasons I would decline a drink and then say yes if asked again later. I don’t want to just leave my dirty cup or trash on the table, but I also don’t want to bother the receptionist. At the bank, I’ve actually toted an empty paper cup around for an awkwardly long time because there wasn’t an obvious trash can and I didn’t want to say “Hey, can you throw this out for me?” to my financial advisor .

  13. RG*

    With regard to #1 – during my last job hunt, I started asking for a salary range at the end of the phone screen. I do wonder how many people decided not to move forward because of that.

    For #4: it’s funny how times change. I remember learning as a student in 2004-05 to never accept an offer of drink or food because you would look unprofessional. Oddly enough, my interview for my first job out of college involved going to lunch with potential co-workers.

    1. Blossom*

      What odd advice – why would they offer it? As a cunning test of professionalism? I’m just imagining the shocked interviewer being all flustered by your acceptance of coffe, like “wow, I didn’t think you’d actually say yes”.

        1. Half full*

          Think of it as highly useful meta-advice.

          “Some people have bonkers wrong ideas about how things work and will cheerfully and sincerely try to pass their nonsense on to you aaa Advice”

          1. Yvette*

            I got that advice as well, and it was primarily for reasons previously stated, – having to juggle/carry it along with coat, handbag, briefcase, hand shake, – what if you spill it, – what if the coffee is terrible and you don’t want to drink it, etc. It just cut down on potential problems in a situation where you were already worried about every. little. thing.
            This was also back in the day when an offer of water generally meant it was in a cup of some sort. These days offered water often comes in a bottle which can be re-sealed, and that cuts down on the potential mess factor, it is much easier to carry/juggle a sealed bottle.

            1. Fortitude Jones*

              I still get offered water in glasses that people have to wash. Therefore, I decline – it’s awkward to have perfect strangers cleaning up after me when I’m not in a restaurant or bar of some sort.

              1. The Original K.*

                I’ve accepted offers of water and expected that I’ll get a bottle, and then the person comes back with water in a glass and I feel guilty for the same reason you stated. With a water bottle I can toss it in the recycling on the way out or take it with me, but with a glass I’ve just made a small chore for someone.

                (Most of the time I decline altogether because I have my own water bottle, but there have been occasions where I’ve forgotten it.)

            2. BethDH*

              Yeah, I got this advice as well, with the explicit additions that it gave you additional distraction that you didn’t need when you were already likely a bit anxious and that new or nervous interviewees often fidget too much and things like coffee stirrers or napkins were easy targets (I still wear my hair back in interviews because I fidget a lot, so that part of it really stuck with me).

      1. Angelinha*

        This happened to me when I used to interview candidates! I always offered water/coffee, not trying to trick them or anything, genuinely offering – but literally every single time the person would say no. Finally someone said yes and I realized I’d never thought through how I would get them the water/coffee since our office had a “no disposable cups” rule and everyone had their branded mug to drink out of. I wound up finding a dusty spare in some corner kitchen cabinet, washing it, and getting their drink from there, but they were probably wondering what the heck was taking me so long while they waited patiently in the interview room! After that I just stopped offering.

    2. Yorick*

      They teach students the weirdest things. Our college career counselor (a woman) said women should wear their hair up in an interview because otherwise you’ll touch your hair and seem sexual to the interviewers. (She left after the following year when she told the class not to double dip because it spreads HIV.)

      1. BethDH*

        I just mentioned above that I got the same advice, though in my case it was just that it was thought to be distracting or make you look anxious, nothing about it being sexual. I think it can be distracting — and I’ve noticed when my students do it during presentations that I have a harder time understanding what they’re saying because their hands sometimes muffle their voices.

  14. Macedon*

    #1. These days I only proceed with a test or in-person interviews if there is a salary range discussed ahead (or if I am willing to take the risk because I know the kind of money the company pays generally). Most job listings for my industry in the UK do not mention salary, so it can be an awkward convo to have very early, but I look at it as, if I’m investing money in taking time off work for a yet unpaid opportunity, I want to know what I stand to gain.

    I just respond to the exercise invite e-mail with something like Alison’s lingo, or “Before that, it would be helpful for guidance on my side to touch base on salary. What range are you considering for the role?”

    If they come back asking what my expectations are instead, I’ve learned to shamelessly say, “Happy to share that, but can I know the range, please, so I can assess within that ballpark?”

  15. My cat is my alarm clock*

    #4 If I’m seeing someone for a meeting, it makes sense for me to have a coffee with them. It doesn’t make sense for me to be halfway through a coffee when we greet each other.

    1. londonedit*

      This is what I think – by the time the receptionist has made me a coffee, I’ll probably just have taken my first sip when the person I’m meeting arrives to greet me. Then do I leave the barely-touched coffee behind? Or do I try to carry it and my jacket and bag along to whichever room we’re going to, and hope I manage not to spill it?

      I don’t generally tend to accept anything other than a glass of water for a job interview, because I always find it really awkward actually trying to find points in the conversation where I can take a sip of a hot drink, but if I was going to have a coffee then I’d wait until I was actually in the interview room.

  16. My cat is my alarm clock*

    #2 It’s not just about how much you edit.

    Are you commenting on your changes, or including an explanation when you send them – and if so are you using the wording you included in the letter, eg muddled, inconsistent? Or are you phrasing things more politely / tactfully?

    I often review documents for other teams and I would phrase those comments a little differently, and I would suggest

    pointing out awkward sentences = “This sentence could be a bit clearer”

    inconsistent Oxford comma use = “Just need to add a comma here as well”

    Or if aren’t adding comments but are simply returning the document with suggested changes, you might say something like this: “It’s looking great! I’ve suggested a few changes but they’re all really straightforward,” or “It might look like a lot of changes but they’re really just finishing touches.”

    My point being: if it’s a sea of red, it can help to play that down a bit. Editing isn’t just about finding mistakes and policing people’s writing, but also about diplomacy and kindness, and it’s worth considering whether you could change what you say / write in that respect. Yes, the document was riddled with errors, but this is one area where a polite fiction is the way to go.

    1. TL -*

      If you’re commenting on your changes, you need to be very clear as to why. I don’t point out grammatical fixes unless I’m editing for an ESL speaker or it’s a consistent mistake. The former get one detailed explanation of the rule; the latter get “your commas aren’t consistent; I like the Oxford comma so changing them all to that.”

      Otherwise comments are limited to “this is unclear to me” or “I think this would sound better this way” content and structural editing

      1. My cat is my alarm clock*

        Which just goes to show that this really depends, both in terms of whether to comment and what to say. I wouldn’t say “this is unclear” – I’d say it could be clearer. Semantics, but useful ones.

        1. Heidi*

          A few of my thoughts: I might also describe how confusion might result: “Does this sentence mean Interpretation A, or does it mean Interpretation B?” As opposed to “This doesn’t make sense.” Then offer a solution that makes it clearer.

          Writing can almost always be better in some way, but if the boss tells you that a document is almost done and just needs a once over, she’ll probably be happy with you just fixing typos and pointing out things that are factually incorrect or misleading. If something just could be better but is not technically incorrect, I might let it go.

          Also, if you’re very new, it might take a little time for your supervisor to build up trust in your editing. Let her see you doing a good job consistently with the writing, and she might learn to think of your skills as an asset to her, and not a challenge.

        2. TL -*

          If I say something is unclear, I mean that I couldn’t understand the point of the sentence. If I say something could be clearer, I mean that you got your point across but it took me a second.

          But in general, I wouldn’t comment on grammar editing unless I truly think the writer doesn’t understand the rules they’re violating.

          1. My cat is my alarm clock*

            I don’t think you’re understanding me here. It’s about what is and isn’t tactful.

            1. boo bot*

              I think both things are important here – “this could be clearer” is more tactful than “this is unclear,” but both phrasings are actually a little unclear themselves.

              I usually go with Heidi’s version or ceiswyn’s – specifying interpretation A and interpretation B, or asking if they actually mean what I think they mean. I’ve gotten the “unclear” note, and sometimes I can’t tell what it refers to – is it a question of phrasing? contradictory presentation of facts? vague descriptions?

              1. Blue*

                Same. I do a lot of, “It’s not entirely clear to me if this means X or Y,” or “I think this could be read as X or Y.” And, critically, I’ll include something like, “If X, I might rephrase as, ‘….'” They virtually always go for the solution I’ve offered. My coworker is notorious for vague, “This is unclear,” or “Reword,” comments. I always try to provide a fix, and since starting in this office, I’ve frequently gotten effusive, “This was incredibly helpful!” responses from our partners who very clearly notice and appreciate the different approaches.

                1. boo bot*

                  Yeah, I think it’s incredibly helpful to do that when possible – a lot of the time people are just so used to the way they think about something that it’s hard for them to get outside their own head to phrase it in a way that’s accessible.

                  Another thing I do along those lines is, if there’s a recurring issue, to point it out early in the document with a complete explanation, and show an example of how to fix it, so that I can refer back to it later more briefly – it makes things like, “And this paragraph is ALSO one long, weirdly convoluted sentence!” a little less fraught, because I can just say, “I would break up sentences and re-order this for clarity,” or whatever phrase I’ve used to describe the original issue.

                  It kind of makes a large and recurrent problem look more like a grammar check on the page (i.e. brief comments that don’t sound terribly negative), while still providing the writer with the information they need to fix it.

                  I’m not saying I think it fools anyone into thinking I’m not criticizing their writing or anything, it’s just a way to lessen the initial shock on the page, and hopefully provide a path to fixing the issues without making someone feel piled-on.

              2. Heidi*

                Sometimes, I find out that they actually meant the unimagined Interpretation C. That’s always an exciting time.

        3. ceiswyn*

          I wouldn’t say ‘this is unclear’ or ‘this could be clearer’. I would say ‘reword to X?’ where X was a clearer rewording.

          If X is the correct interpretation, they can just quickly insert it. If it isn’t, then it really drives home that clarification is required :)

  17. londonedit*

    Yep, there are absolutely many forms of editing. If someone is giving you something for a ‘last look’ then I would expect them to be looking for a final proofread – someone to read through and catch any last-minute errors. At that point I wouldn’t expect them to go through and copy-edit the text or suggest amendments – I’d assume the style and content had already been agreed, and that we were just looking for spelling or grammatical errors, missing full stops, etc. There are often times when the tone or style of a piece might seem odd or annoying to an editor, but it’s like that for a reason, and the author(s) aren’t going to change it. So it’s definitely worth clarifying whether your boss is asking you to do a copy-edit (where you would be suggesting changes to the wording or reworking sentences to make them clearer) or a proofread (where you’re looking to catch any awful spelling mistakes).

    1. pleaset*


      It makes me crazy when I ask someone to proofread a text, explicitly saying we’re looking to correct errors, and they come back with various suggestions on improving the document. We have processes to improve and reach agreement on things, and editing to improve style is different than proofreading.

      I’ve learned it’s important to be very clear about this.

  18. Artemesia*

    5 The only defense in the world against the fact that people don’t wash their hands after using the bathroom is to assume no one does and rigorously train yourself to never eat or touch your face unless you have washed your hands. Even more true after riding public transport or using a keyboard that anyone else might have used. Alcohol hand sanitizer helps — I actually use it on keyboards that are publicly shared, but it will not work on noro virus which is the thing you most want to avoid from public contamination — so just make it a habit to wash your hands thoroughly with soap often and before lunch or having snacks etc. Most people don’t wash their hands after sneezing into them or using the bathroom.

    2 Beverages. Can’t win. I once politely accepted the cup of coffee offered although I wasn’t that interested in coffee, but it seemed like the go along get along thing to do and then the person made a big fuss about locating the coffee equipment and locating the coffee (instant, yuck) (before Kpods) and then making a big to do about, ‘where is a clean cup’ etc etc. It was undrinkable and the whole preparation thing made it clear that anyone who said ‘yes’ was a big PITA. I think the OP was wise to mention it to her own boss so s/he knows that drinks are being offered and then needs to just forget it — it isn’t about her.

    1. misspiggy*

      1. This is excellent advice, but I never know what to do about the dilemma of going into an office bathroom to wash hands before eating, and then having to touch the door handle to pull it open – which is probably harbouring tons of nasties from non-handwashers.

        1. Phoenix Wright*

          I do this in every public and office bathroom. Probably makes me look crazy, but I don’t wanna touch door handles that may be dirty and nasty.

            1. EH*

              I see a lot of people do this – most public restrooms I use have a trash can near the door so you can use a paper towel to open it and then toss the paper towel in the trash.

          1. Pomona Sprout*

            I do this religiously, and since I started, I literally almost never catch a cold (whereas I used to get a couple a year, on average). So I feel like it works, or at least it does for me.

      1. L.S. Cooper*

        The bathroom closest to the cafeteria in my office has a little thing sticking out of the bottom of the door so you can open it with your feet, which I really appreciate. I’ve been in there and heard people walk out without washing hands, no way I’m touching that handle.

      2. a1*

        The non-handwashers touch way more than the bathroom door though. They touch elevator buttons, desk and counter surfaces, microwave buttons, conference room tables, backs of chairs, copy machine buttons, printers, phones, papers that get passed out, and so on. Because of this, I just don’t worry about it that much. I keep my hands as clean as possible, try to refrain from touching my face much and just go on with my day.

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          I didn’t touch any of those things with my hands when I worked in an office because I knew people who didn’t wash their hands and would touch everything around us. I also made sure to spray my hands with 91% alcohol I kept in a small spray bottle at my desk. I’m so glad I work from home full time now so I don’t have to worry about any germs but my own.

      3. Autumnheart*

        Wash hands, use wrist to turn off faucet, get paper towels, dry hands, use towels in hand to pull open door, toss towels in garbage.

      4. Becky*

        Luckily at my work the bathroom doors are push to exit, so I just do it with a shoulder.

    2. DAMitsDevon*

      Yeah, I’m currently immuno-compromised and just recently started working back in my office instead of working remotely, and I basically just assume I need to treat anything I touch in the bathroom as if someone who didn’t wash their hands touched it first. So using paper towels when I turn off the faucet or open the door.

      Granted, I will say that at least mentally, there is a difference for me between just suspecting that someone who didn’t wash their hands may touched something you need to touch vs. actually seeing them do it. Knowing it for sure and seeing it happen grosses me out more, even though either way, I still go through the same routine to avoid germs.

      1. L.S. Cooper*

        There’s also the fact that most bathroom toilets don’t have lids, which means every time someone flushes…. Well, the first time I learned about it, the way it was phrased was “an aerosolized plume of fecal matter”. Hands aside, I don’t trust anything in the bathroom. I don’t bring my water bottle in, anymore, even to just leave it on the counter by the sinks. It stays outside, or completely inside a bag.

  19. Environmental Compliance*

    OP4: for the individual that was asked if they had been offered coffee and said, “No I haven’t, but I would like some.” had they actually been offered coffee? Because that’s really strange, and what stuck out to me.

    1. Sophie before she was cool*

      I’d bet that she was nervous, flustered, or distracted and answered the question she thought she heard: “Have you had any coffee?”

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Yes, this reads as panicked blurting. “Words! I have to say words here. What are the words?”

        LW, leave it as a one-off that wasn’t directed at you, but at the universe.

    2. Sarah N*

      I wondered about this too! It totally could have been a brain fart moment or mishearing/misunderstanding either your question or or the interviewer’s question. But I also wonder if your offer is 100% clear to people…if you’re just showing them where the beverage station is, they may feel a little nervous about trying to figure out “Ok, what are the right cups to use, how does this particular coffee machine work without pouring coffee all over myself, etc.” — especially in an interview situation! Is there a way to make this more streamlined?

  20. Edith*

    It’s pretty gross when anyone doesn’t wash their hands, but I am always cringing specifically at men what they have to do if they use a urinal.

  21. Project Manager*

    As an engineer who seriously considered majoring in English literature, I’ve learned that no one wants true copy editing on technical documents. I let things go unless the error interferes with understanding.

    It bothers me, but everyone’s time is valuable, and it’s better spent on getting the facts right than on wordsmithing. (She said, trying to convince herself while her eye twitched.)

    1. bdg*

      As an engineer who also has an English degree — it just doesn’t matter. I used to really care about oxford commas and passive voice and all of that mess, especially since so much of the things I work on end up public record with the federal government. But that’s not the point of the document and it IS a waste of time.

      There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to get a letter out and having to sit down and discuss why you hyphenated a word (I know it’s wrong, but that’s how we wrote it 5 years ago, so we have to be consistent).

      We have a whole slew of documents we send with the word “uncomplete” in the title. I’ve become very zen about it all.

      1. ket*

        “[H]aving to sit down and discuss why you hyphenated a word” — I think this is another part of it. Could it be a situation where the letter writer’s boss would then feel she needed to bring all those edits back to a committee to DISCUSS THEM ALL?!! That would truly be a horror show — getting 40 authors to agree to various edits.

        Depending on the office, I would change commas and very small things without comment (if that would be ok).

    2. Samwise*

      In a former life I was a tech editor and documents manager at several large engineering firms: format consistency (section #ing, section header fonts, image/chart captions, and so on) plus wording that is vague/confusing/wrong is the most important thing to edit for. Don’t fix punctuation or word choice, for instance, if it does not affect the meaning or general readability.

      If there is not a format standard for your office, you could ask your boss if you could develop one and make some templates for authors to plop their content into. That would be super helpful for the authors and for you, too, in getting documents out, and they will look more professional too.

      1. OlympiasEpiriot*

        I beg to differ. Punctuation absolutely can “affect the meaning or general readability.”

        See the book Eats, Shoots and Leaves.

        1. boo bot*

          Those gluttonous, violent pandas!

          And you never really appreciate the Oxford comma until it’s not around:

          “While visiting Oxford, I met with the Queen, an assassin and a famous charlatan.”
          “While visiting Oxford, I met with the Queen, an assassin, and a famous charlatan.”

          Use the Oxford comma, avoid accidentally insulting the Queen! Or, avoid making it unclear that you’re deliberately insulting the Queen!

        2. JB (not in Houston)*

          Samwise said to leave it alone *if* it doesn’t affect the meaning or readability, not to leave it alone in every case.

      2. Becky*

        In my editing courses the number one rule I learned is “Clarity trumps everything.” If it is clear and understandable then most of the rest doesn’t matter.

    3. EH*

      It really depends on who the audience is and what the purpose of the document is.

      I’m a technical writer, so this comes up a lot for me. Internal doc? Nobody cares as long as the content is accurate and any grammar/punctuation issues don’t make things confusing. External doc that customers will be referring to? That needs to be as professional and polished as possible. Consistency is the most important bit – this is why we have style guides.

    4. Edith*

      I interned as a copy editor for a year. The general public does not know the difference between copy edits, proofreading, and full edits. Basically, they always mean proofreading.

  22. Lynca*

    OP 2- I agree with Alison that you need to clarify the level of editing you’re expected to do. If your office has an official style policy that helps clarify things as well. But I do want so say that the way your boss handled having a document come back with major issues (and what you describe are major issues for a policy document) sends up some red flags.

    Maybe I’m reading too much into that because I’ve spent the last year working on documents for my agency. But if I were getting a document ready to be public facing, those kinds of problems would need to be fixed. And having multiple authors doesn’t mean you allow a grammatical mess that could be misinterpreted by the readers.

    1. Sara, A Lurker*

      I also came here to ask about a style guide. If your workplace doesn’t have an official style, AP Style is pretty widely used and thorough. Regardless of whether or not your boss wants you to look at word choice and sentence structure, any random group of authors is going to have some stylistic variation on commonly used words and punctuation, and it will help you help your workplace look more polished if you enforce some style consistency. I find it very helpful to have a document (like the AP style guide) to point to and say “Yes, both email and e-mail are technically correct, but we can’t use both spellings in the same document, so going forward I’m always going to change it to email.”

    2. CM*

      I disagree about red flags – sounds like mismatched expectations to me.

      It’s reasonable for the boss to want a much higher-level “only flag things that are factually wrong” kind of edit, or some other level of editing, but she needs to ask for that and should have provided concrete feedback to OP#2 about what he did that she didn’t like.

      And OP#2, I think, is learning a valuable lesson — before you take on a task, ask for clarification about the purpose and scope of the task.

    3. OP 2*

      We have a style guide for the controlled correspondence (the editing that is literally part of my job duties), but not for the information we send to the counties (the document I ran into this issue with). The controlled correspondence is a pretty formal and rigid document, so the guidelines for that aren’t particularly applicable for other documents. I also feel like we would benefit from having one, or even just expecting that someone will implement consistent language/formatting before distributing things, even if these changes aren’t necessarily consistent from document to document. Honestly, thinking about the situation now, I think the main issue may have been that she wasn’t expecting so many issues and hadn’t given me a way for me to make the changes myself — she likes to work mostly with hard copies.

  23. Argh!*

    A practical reason for declining a beverage offered by a receptionist: It’s hard to shake the hand of the interviewer when you have a briefcase or purse in one hand and a beverage in the other hand! Once the hand-shaking has been completed, holding the beverage isn’t an obstacle.

  24. Betty*

    #4: I do exactly what you’re describing. I don’t want to drink before an interview in case I need to pee, so I would decline your offer. However, I like to accept a drink if offered from the interviewer because:
    1. I find it helpful to have a glass of water to sip on as a prop.
    2. I like the few moments it takes the interviewer to get the drink as a little soft landing for me to acclimatise myself to them before the interview has officially started.
    3. I often come across as overly formal so I like to start the interview on a more casual note, which getting a drink “together” does easily and we can make a few words of small talk without “taking up” interview time.

    Often I take only a few sips of the drink so end up with a cup of cold coffee at the end of the interview, but it has served its purpose!

  25. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

    OP #3 – You sound like a great editor who has a lot to offer. I know people who’d love to have you work for them. Getting clear on what your boss wants will help both of you. Unfortunately, if someone doesn’t want certain improvements, it’s best to let it go and comply with their wishes. I know how hard it is to do, believe me, but it’s just how it goes sometimes. Another thing you can try, if it’s appropriate, is to give explanations and positive feedback. Even just “I really enjoyed working on this, I didn’t know about this awesome fact and learned something new” can help people accept your edits and feedback. Good luck!

    OP #4 – I’m sorry people have made you feel that way! I’d be upset as well. I’d like to second what other people have said. When I’m offered upon arrival, I’m still getting my head together and am not sure how long I’ll be waiting before the appointment starts. So to avoid awkwardness, I decline at first because I don’t want to carry a coffee cup/glass around. However, I do say “Thank you, not right now but perhaps later,” as I’m usually offered a drink again. Or if it’s summer, I know I’ll be thirsty after the interview and it’s nice to know that people won’t mind if I get that water.

    In addition, I’ve been a receptionist and know exactly how much work it can be, and don’t want to create more for you.

    As for paying attention to people picking up after themselves, you better believe I notice things like that. I wouldn’t hold it against a job applicant, but I pay attention to how people behave when they’re served food or drinks.

    OP #5 – You have my sympathy. Yes, people are disgusting and it’s one reason why I decline all homemade foods or anything given to me without wrapping, even if I can eat it (e.g., if someone breaks off a piece of chocolate and hands it to me). I don’t tell them why because it’ll either offend them or they’ll lecture me about how there are germs everywhere, blah blah. Sure there are, but that doesn’t mean I want to your bodily waste on me.

    In conclusion, avoid touching this person and keep hand sanitiser on you – it’ll save your sanity, trust me.

  26. Antti*

    I don’t know if perhaps someone else has already chimed in with this on OP4, or if this is a factor for that situation, but it can sometimes be a cultural thing. When I’m offered things (especially situations of higher politeness), even if I want them, I reflexively turn them down the first time, and then will accept them when/if offered again, if I still want it. (I’m Chinese-American and this is definitely something we did.)

    1. londonedit*

      The ‘Would you like a tea or coffee?’ ‘Oh, no thank you’ ‘Are you sure?’ ‘Oh, well only if it’s no trouble…’ thing is very common in British culture too.

    2. HannahC*

      This is also the case where I’m from in the midwest! And that’s EXACTLY what I thought of when I saw this. I almost always say no to anything offered the first time simply out of habit – even if I do really want it – and only accept if its offered again later. I’m honestly so quick to say no I usually don’t even have time to assess if that was the answer I wanted to give. Its just a knee-jerk reaction having been taught my whole childhood not to inconvenience anyone (though why it would be an inconvenience when a person has explicitly offered to do the thing is beyond me). It’s been such a challenge to unlearn that habit and to be honest often the best I can do these days is usually just to quickly correct myself: “No thank you!” “… actually, I’m sorry, I think I really would like that. It just took me a moment to think about it!”

    3. Semprini!*

      Yes, that’s what I came to post!

      My mother is from a culture where the polite thing to do is decline the first time, and if they mean it they’ll offer again, and you can accept if you actually want it.

      My father is from a culture where you offer if you mean it, and take people at their word when they decline an offer.

      The funny thing is I grew up without knowing that this was a cultural thing! I learned it in a linguistics class in university!

      My whole life up until then, I’d had a vague sense that some people were mean or didn’t like me when they didn’t re-offer the thing I’d declined, and I’d had a vague sense that some people were trying to trick me when they offered me a thing I wanted, but I couldn’t explain any of it.

      So when I learned about it in linguistics class, I took the information back to my parents, and they didn’t know it was a cultural thing either, even though they’d been living it every single day of their lives and every single day of their marriage!

  27. Seeking Second Childhood*

    I used to work with someone who walked out of the bathroom still drying her hands. I teased her about it once and she said her hands were dry but she uses the towel to open the bathroom door. She started after realizing how many people didn’t wash their hands.
    I’ve done the same ever since.

    1. Lady Jay*

      This is a big part of the reason I prefer paper towels in bathrooms. When there’s just an air blower, there’s nothing to use to open the door with.

      1. Cymru*

        At science camp we once got to do some bacteria growing experiments with a petri dish and a bunch of q-tips.
        We all decided the room we were going to test was the bathroom.
        One of my fellow campers, instead of running a q-tip over things and then running it along a part of the petri dish, decided to just run the hand dryer over the petri dish.
        The next day we get to check on them, everyone’s has little spots from where they ran their q-tips like maybe the top of a push pin for cork boards size at largest.
        Except for hand dryer camper, hers was a gd forest.
        I have avoided using hand dryers since.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I wish that was my only beef with air dryers. They’re gross gross gross gross and blow poo and bacteria all over the place, including up your nose. They’re so unsanitary, we can replant trees, just use paper towels, facility management, just use the paper towels, I’ll crunch the actual numbers even.

    2. Goya de la Mancha*

      This. I use the paper when I’m done drying to open all the doors on my way out and then throw paper out at my desk. If I’m out in public I and the trash bin is close enough to the door that I can hold the door open with my foot, I will open with the towel, hold open with my foot while throwing the paper out and walk out almost like a surgeon who’s just finished scrubbing in lol.

  28. Jenner*

    So relieved to read Alison’s response to this. I think I am the only one in my building on that level of “there is no magic number of passive aggressive signs in the bathroom that will solve this problem”

    Compared to the rest of life… your phone, keyboard, door handles, literally everything else… it just isn’t that bad. You don’t know what they do with their hands outside the bathroom either.

  29. LaBicyclette*

    Totally hear you about the hand washing – sometime suouve just got to let stuff go. But, does anything change about your answer if the person in question is a higher lever supervisor who repeatedly smears his fingers all over everyone’s computer monitors when pointing at things on screen? What about when he has been asked to stop (politely) by multiple people and has disregarded the request? This person is making people ill.

    1. Fortitude Jones*

      That is really disgusting, and I would actually ask him to stop doing that if it were me. If I asked and he still did it, I’d ask his boss to ask him to stop – that’s completely foul to not wash your hands and then deliberately spread your germs all over other people’s things.

    2. fposte*

      Unless he’s actually wiping feces around on the computer screen, no, it doesn’t change anything about what you can say about the bathroom, and you really can’t ask your boss to make somebody wash up after peeing. Get a screen cleaner and a cloth and use it. (Was this a shared monitor? I’m trying to figure out why this would be an occasion for disease transmission–most people don’t touch their monitors even when they’re wiping it down.)

      1. Close Bracket*

        Unless he’s actually wiping feces around on the computer screen

        If he doesn’t wash his hands after using the restroom, he is actually wiping fecal bacteria around on the computer screen. Fecal bacteria live pretty much everywhere between navel and knee on your skin. That’s why we wash our hands after using the restroom: to clean off the bacteria, not because we pee on ourselves as we go.

        1. fposte*

          Yes, but even if he does wash his hands he’s doing that, and so are you with everything you touch. Handwashing mitigates microbes, but it doesn’t sterilize you, and the rest of the world isn’t sterile anyway. There really aren’t clean people and dirty people; there are just different degrees of dirty people.

          If he actively smears visible feces on a computer monitor you can go to a boss. If he just touches your computer monitor and you don’t like it, that’s not something you can go to a boss about.

  30. Alexis Rose*

    Oh gosh, the editing. We do a lot of “peer reviewing” in my job, and the stated intent is to review for content AND for writing style/grammar/etc. (but we have a really specific style we have to adhere to).

    I ALWAYS send back a massacre, but its not all corrections or pointing out errors, its also questions and comments or style things (“abbreviation used for first time, define here”; “inconsistent capitalization of this word throughout the document”). I send a disclaimer in the body of the email that says something along the lines of “You will notice a lot of red and comments in this edited document. I tend to process things by “thinking out loud” so the digital version of that is lots of markup, that does NOT mean that I found any serious errors! Just some style things and some comments on how I think you might want to address x issue on page 4.”

    That being said, if it was being sent to me for a “final set of eyes review” before going out, I would just fix stuff or go ask the person any questions I had and make any necessary changes, no markup in those cases.

  31. pentamom*

    LW #4, I think they may be wanting to avoid the awkwardness of juggling a cup of something when they’re finally greeted by the person they came to see, and need to move into that person’s area physically. It makes more practical sense to accept a beverage from the person you’re going to be sitting down with for a while.

  32. CupcakeCounter*

    I am far enough in my career that I won’t take PTO for an interview without knowing we are in the same salary ballpark. No way would I spend a couple of hours on a skills test without that knowledge. Ask away!

  33. Barefoot Librarian*

    The question of a coworker not washing their hands made me think of Tara Westover’s book Educated. She grew up in a family that scoffed at washing their hands after the bathroom. I think the line was something like “if you didn’t pee on your hands, you don’t need to wash them.” Needless to say, her roommates at college were HORRIFIED when she didn’t wash her hands. It never occurred to me until reading her book that it might be a cultural thing.

    1. Close Bracket*

      It’s an education thing. Anything that can be transmitted by the fecal-oral route can be transmitted by people who don’t wash their hands after using the toilet. Fecal bacteria live all over the greater groinal area. It’s not necessary to touch feces to get bacteria on your hands. Many people are not aware of this, hence jokes about not peeing on your hands.

      And then there are people who aren’t aware, are made aware, and then scoff at the idea. Those are the people who horrify me.

    2. tangerineRose*

      I don’t think people think about the fact that when they flush the toilet, they may pick up whatever is on the flush handle.

      1. fposte*

        People will pick up what’s on whatever they touch, though. I think it’s not that people believe the handle is sterile, it’s that they’re comfortable with the level of contagion on most shared doorknobs, handles, and credit card readers.

        1. tangerineRose*

          I guess I’m being overly optimistic thinking that the handle, which might be touched right after someone… ahem.. wipes and might contact fresh feces, might be dirtier than doorknobs, etc.

  34. Samwise*

    OP #4. If I’m the interviewer and someone *lies* about whether or not you offered a drink, I’m going to file that fact under “how this candidate treats support staff” (= not well/ willing to make support staff look bad for no good reason). When the candidate lies about it, tell the interviewer.

    1. Barefoot Librarian*

      Bingo! That’s a very good point. It’s one thing to change your mind for a variety of reasons, but it’s sort of inconsiderate to lie and say the receptionist didn’t offer you a drink.

    2. Zephy*

      I don’t think this counts as “lying.” Being wrong is not the same thing as being dishonest. The candidate may not remember the receptionist offering them a drink, if their mind was otherwise occupied at the time of the offer (or is otherwise occupied at the time of being asked about the offer) – that’s well within the realm of possibility. They may not have parsed “have you been offered a drink?” as exactly that statement; it would be much stranger to interpret that question as literally being quizzed on an interaction they just had with a stranger, than it would to interpret it as a second offer.

  35. Samwise*

    OP #5. Just get in the habit of always using a tissue for the bathroom door handle (or shove it open w your knee if possible), going in and going out. I’d do that anyway — you’re actually fortunate that you *know* someone is that disgusting about hygiene. Always assume there’s someone who doesn’t wash their hands. Because there always is (ewwwwwwww).

  36. Goya de la Mancha*

    #2 – I am well known in my office for my red pen.

    I think sometimes it looks worse then it is because I want to make sure that the comma is visible to whoever is making changes, so it’s usually circled or highlighted. It’s frustrating for me when I have to reread my entire piece of work just to find a period that the proof reader might have sneaked in somewhere. I just want to look at the work and say, I need a comma here, a period there, change this wording over here. I make my changes/suggestions and the original author(s) is able to take them or leave them.

  37. Princess prissypants*

    I like how today’s answers can be summed up as:

    1. Ask
    2. Ask
    3. Ask
    4. Ask or not, it doesn’t matter.
    5. Don’t ask.

  38. Princess prissypants*

    My real answer to #4 is:
    I know that in many cases, part of having a successful interview is connecting with the other person on a human level making it more of a conversation than an interview. One way to do that is to gratefully accept a drink offer. I “save” that for the interviewer.

  39. LMM*

    Such good advice about people requesting to shadow you! This is honestly one of my least favorite things. I had a similarly dull-to-the-onlooker, repetitive task in my last job but was frequently asked to let people shadow me and explain why I was making certain decisions. I would have MUCH rather sat down with those people for a half hour and discussed my job.

    I recently had a guy ask to shadow me in my current position, and I let him. Then he decided he was going to shadow me every day. I would say “I’m very busy today, no shadowing” and he would email back “I’ll be at your desk at 1 p.m.” I couldn’t figure out what he was hoping to accomplish and finally ended up having to email his boss and say “Help, no matter what I say, he thinks he’s shadowing me” and she told him to stop. People! Stop shadowing!

  40. Thirsty Like The Desert*

    Further question on #4, what should you do if you do accept a beverage and then are given a beverage you hate?

    In one interview, the second manager I interview with (in her office) offered me a bottled water, where the first manager hadn’t. I said yes because I was thirsty. The manager went to her personal fridge and grabbed a fruit flavored water, which I can’t stand, but I accepted it because I didn’t want to be rude and picky after accepting the offer. I took a few polite sips of the flavored water during the interview and then carried it with me out of the building to get rid of it.

    1. Alianora*

      I think what you did is fine. I can’t think of a way to decline it after the fact that doesn’t make it into a bigger deal than it needs to be (unless you had an allergy or intolerance.)

      Personally, I always bring my own metal water bottle into interviews, which I recommend if you definitely need to have something to drink during interviews.

  41. MsChanandlerBong*

    I hate when people ask me to edit things and then balk at the corrections. My old boss (who still works at my company but no longer manages me directly) will ignore my edits on things that are flat-out wrong. They’re not matters of opinion, or differences in Chicago Manual of Style vs. AP or anything like that. They are actual errors, yet he refuses to change some of them. Fortunately, we do everything in Slack, so I have a written record of the changes I’ve made that have been rejected, so if it ever becomes an issue, I can show that I tried to correct the errors. It makes me crazy, though. I have other work to do, so if you’re not going to make any of the corrections, then I might as well just focus on other projects.

  42. Liz T*

    Having just left a receptionist job, I SO feel for OP #4. That would mortify me. (I loved when people said yes to my drink offer, because it meant I’d made them feel comfortable enough to do so!)

    OP, it’s hard for us to say if it’s something you’re doing (since we don’t know what you’re doing), but is there something about the set-up of the office that makes people feel like they shouldn’t take you away from what you’re doing? Do you escort them to the meeting room? (I found that people are less likely to say yes while sitting in reception than once they’re in the conference room–possibly because they still have to bring in their briefcase/jacket/whatever.)

    I also always offered a short list of things: “Can I get you coffee, tea, espresso, something cold?” I think that helped make it clear that this was normal, and what I was there for.

  43. Angela*

    #5- I mean, the alternative is telling your immediate co-workers/friends at the company about it, and then no one is going to want to shake his hand, take papers from him, or really want to touch anything near him ever again. It might sound mean and petty, but on the other hand there are actual health considerations. (I bet he doesn’t wash his hands during flu/cold season, which can cause plenty of problems for other people around him! Especially if they’re at risk in some way.)

    1. Colette*

      There really aren’t significant health considerations, though. Everyone of us touches things every day that have germs on them. This guy isn’t making life significantly more risky for anyone (except probably himself).

  44. 5 month mommy*

    Someone may have mentioned this already but for #2, sometimes the problem is the method of editing. I do editing and if I include too many notes I get perplexed reactions, and often it’s better to just make changes. A note about there being inconsistent comma usage is less useful than just adding/deleting a comma. Not sure if that’s going on here but I know that happens to me all the time and I’ve learned to only track the changes and comments that really need to be pointed out.

  45. Camellia*

    I have an issue with the skin on my fingers that makes me not wash my hands, or even just run water over my hands, unless it is ABSOLUTELY POSITIVELY necessary, because when I do then chunks of skin fall off. And hand sanitizers are also not an option. So no, you will not see me washing my hands in the bathroom and if anyone ever says anything to me about it, I plan on smiling sweetly and saying, “I lick’em clean!”

    That being said, I buy big boxes of those gloves like your doctor uses, and at home I wear them in the shower and only remove them at the last moment for a quick splash of water. I use them for all food prep, changing them as frequently as needed, e.g. after handling raw meat and before handling anything else. I also use them to protect my hands in other instances, for example, when opening boxes.

    I am rarely sick with a cold, have never had the flu, and in general am pretty healthy. And I think you are in more danger from air-born viruses and bacteria from other people who cough, sneeze, and, um, breathe, than you are from those of us who may not be washing our hands a dozen times a day.

    1. BethDH*

      This sounds like a pretty unusual situation, though, and my guess is that you also don’t touch bare-handed a lot of the surfaces that most of us touch frequently (as you mentioned wearing gloves for opening boxes).

  46. Down the drain*

    I’m sure I’m in the minority here, but I kind of wish there were a separate Ask a Manager for the bathroom questions. They’re gross, they usually dominate the comments when it’s one of the five questions (thankfully not really this time), and honestly, they kind of ruin my enjoyment of the site. It was OK when it was occasional, but now it’s seemingly a few times per week.
    Alison, you have such a great site here – the bathroom questions weaken it for me, kind of makes me feel like I’m in the middle of an Adam Sandler movie. Just my two cents.

      1. Reese*

        It’s a little hard to know which comments to skip unless you’re willing to scroll through 100+ comments of AAM commenters describing their bathroom habits in loving detail. By the time I know what to skip, I’ve already read more about strangers’ colons than I ever wanted to. Y’all are obsessed with describing the weirdest details of your poop completely unprompted.

        Which is fine in the right context, but on a WORKPLACE BLOG? Heck nope. Gross.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Meh. I understand, I get pretty uptight about some things myself that surface here but there’s no way that it’s reasonable to request a separate “section” or blog for bathroom questions.

  47. Rusty Shackelford*

    She said something about how she probably wouldn’t use some of the changes and that she’d been letting some things slide because of the multiple authors

    That’s interesting, because I’m likely to edit that type of document more heavily, just to get a cohesive tone. (But when I do that, it’s because it’s my job to do that.)

    1. JB (not in Houston)*

      Yeah, having edited works with multiple authors in the past, that was always one of the main things I tried to do. Or at least to just be consistent with style. There are kinds of edits that I would never do with just one author because they just come down to preference (like how you chose to capitalize in headings), but that I would always make if there are multiple authors, for the sake of consistency.

    2. OP 2*

      I think that’s why she asked me to edit the document – because of the multiple authors, to get a more cohesive formatting/tone, but I don’t think she expected the sheer volume of inconsistencies and the volume of changes that would need to be made to make it more consistent? She often doesn’t leave enough time to polish a thing, which is frustrating.

  48. ENFP in Texas*

    OP4 – it’s not you. Keep offering, but don’t take it personally.

    If I came in for an interview, I would probably decline your offer for some water, because with my luck I’d end up mid-swallow when the person I came to meet came out to see me, or I’d spill it on myself, or my hands would be wet from condensation and I’d be self-conscious about shaking hands. And I’d be terrified that my “first impression” would be horrible.

    But once the initial introduction is made, if the interviewer offers a beverage, it is probably deemed polite to accept (even though I probably still would only sip at it!).

  49. agnes*

    Re :editing—I have a new manager that does what I consider to be quite a lot of unnecessary editing–for example, she will add a word to a sentence like this: “You do not have to work overtime this week” TO “Fortunately, you do not have to work overtime this week.” Or, this sentence “the bear went over the mountain” will be changed to “The bear carefully made his way over the hilltops.”

    It was driving me crazy until I realized that it’s just what she does. I’m willing to go to the mat for changes that change the meaning or substance, but I’ve just decided to accept these small changes and keep moving. Honestly it is not worth the energy it will suck out of me to stay offended by it.

    I think the suggestion to be clear about what kind of editing you want—edit for content, edit so the language is simpler, edit grammar, etc etc. is one I will employ.

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      My spouse works with someone like that, but they are not a boss, just a peer. And they think it’s their job to edit the documents, but it is not. They like to add jargon so it sounds smart, at the expense of clarity. And they’ve been known to grab documents on the network and sneak edit them. For some reason, all of that frustrates and annoys my spouse.

    2. Fortitude Jones*

      So she edits documents to be more wordy and not less? I always found that odd…

      1. EH*

        Yeah, I suspect some people think it makes them sound smart. As a professional communicator, it drives me up the wall!

  50. SezU*

    #2 – I was in a similar position (still am to some degree). Multiple authors make for a very awkward document if it isn’t revised to one voice. And that’s how I approached it. I just let it be known (nicely, gently, spoke to my boss first) and said that I am just taking their words and making it one voice so that those outside the organization can’t tell a lot of people with different styles wrote it. It goes over better than “YOUR sentence structure is awkward.” To me, it’s all about making the office/agency look good. It’s not time for them to take it personally. And letting it slide is a bad idea (what your boss said). Yikes!

    1. OP 2*

      I think the option I’m going to need to go with is making sure that she leaves enough time to implement the changes or ask if I can mark/track changes directly on the document rather than the hard copies she prefers to use/see. I do editing for our monthly reports to make it all have the same voice/formatting, it should be just as necessary for one-off process documents.

  51. Shawn*

    OP #2….I work as both a technical writer and an editor. I tend to steer away from making certain edits (i.e. the dreaded oxford comma, etc.). Unless you work for a newspaper or magazine, most people seem to want a quick, overall look, to make sure there aren’t any glaring errors such as missing punctuation, run-on sentences, etc. I write and edit technical documents but I have found it to be similar in other types of writing/editing jobs as well. Alison had good advice when she mentioned asking them what KIND of edits they are looking for. Picking it apart without that discussion is a good way to make some fast enemies at work and yes, I learned the hard way. Good luck!

    1. Fortitude Jones*

      I don’t work for a newspaper or magazine, but in proposal development, and I absolutely pick apart everything because it’s my job to make sure the company’s message is clear and unified – when you have multiple people with different voices working on one draft, there’s no clarity or consistency. People may bristle at some of my edits, but they deal because they know I’m not doing it out of a need to embarrass them, but as a way to make sure the company’s vision is clear. And I’m now in a job where everyone knows their writing sucks, so I get to edit to my heart’s content!

    2. Fundraising copywriter*

      OP #2 – I’m not sure if you are a long time away from your English degree or not, but something I have learned in my office years since my liberal arts degree is that people are not good writers… and it doesn’t matter for the business, a lot of the time. Could a piece be written better? Yes. Does the piece make sense and get our point across, without typos or mondegreens? That’s what I aim for.

      I also think of it as keeping some of the actual author’s voice in there. I write all my copy as other people so I take what they give me and make it fundraising copy, but when there are paragraphs I don’t love but would take too much time to rewrite, I just do the best I can to keep things short and concise. But it’s still very fun! And I have found people appreciate how quickly I can write and edit things.

      Re: being final read, I will say that I was “final read” at one point in a former job. That was explicitly because I caught their typos AFTER things went to print enough times that the marketing director started coming to me to take advantage of my “eagle eyes” beforehand. In those cases, I was being specifically asked to make sure names were spelled right, no spelling/grammar errors, no homonym errors, and so on. Other edits would not have been made because to that director, “final read” meant “I really don’t want to have to save another draft of this called final_FINAL_2 so just tell me if there’s something that we’ll have to apologize for or fix later.” Thought that might help you.

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

    #3 If you can, maybe you can ask the intern ahead of time what she hopes to get out of the shadowing. She may already be very aware that this is going to be a day of watching you and your coworker work at a computer. Are there any extremely low level projects that you’ve been putting off that she can take a stab at, but not really complete the work? Something like go through the website looking for content or style errors, deeply buried pages with info that is way out of date, or broken links. Print out a checklist for her. Unless you have a dedicated QA Tester, which many organizations don’t, you probably have a some back burner type tasks that you almost never get a chance to get around to.

  53. IJustWorkHere*

    #4 – We are a small law firm – happens all the time. Our bosses know the receptionist has offered a beverage and that a percentage of the time the person has declined but is now accepting. And if we actually haven’t offered, there is a good reason – such as the phone ringing as soon as the individual walked in and the boss happening to walk past the reception area and collecting the person before the phone call has been transferred. We all just shrug it off.

  54. Eleanor Shellstrop*

    OP4, as a fellow receptionist, this has happened so many times, and yes, it drives me up the wall!!! It’s annoying when that’s a small thing to the guest, but it’s a big part of your job, and you know that you may be judged if other employees think you aren’t properly offering drinks to guests.
    That being said, I totally get why guests do this, and as previous commenters have said, it’s not really your problem. I think you did the right thing in flagging it for your boss so that they do know that you’re asking. Beyond that there is not much you can do.
    I always run into the situation where the guest asks me for water or coffee, I go to prepare it, and then before I’m finished, the host comes out and collects their guest and they disappear. Then I gotta try and hunt them down and give them their coffee. Lol.

  55. John*

    Hi, I wrote the question about asking about salary and when it’s deemed OK to do so. Turns out I emailed my POC and asked. I never heard back. So I took the test anyway–my hand was forced and I didn’t want to take myself out of consideration for I job I was really excited about based on a lack of information. The tests took me about five hours, and I didn’t get an interview, nor did I ever learn what the salary range was.

    I echo Alison’s comments that the conventions on this are awful. The lack of transparency on salary is a weird way that employers keep jobseekers at a disadvantage, though I fail to see what they get out of doing so–maybe it’s a way for jobseekers to indirectly take themselves out of contention. So often, employers ask applicants for their desired salary or worse, their salary history, even while the employers remain vague or mum on what they are willing to pay. Why isn’t this a two-way street?

    1. Fortitude Jones*

      Sorry you didn’t get the job after a five hour (yikes!) assessment. You’ll find something better though.

    2. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      Wow, that’s awful. I’m sorry to hear that. I’d say to leave a Glassdoor review about this place. And yes, it should be a two-way street. All companies do is waste their time and ours.

  56. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I decline the first beverage offered too because it’s my standard of practice, I don’t want a beverage unless I’m nearing heat exhaustion. However if I’m offered again, I often feel obligated to accept it. So that may be the case as well! It feels okay saying ‘No thanks!’ to the first offer and then if the next person offers, I’m like “Okay, take it or you’re going to hear about it from the third person and it’s getting super awkward.” kind of thing =(

  57. Dracarys*

    #4, I’m in the same position as you.

    We have bottles of water. If I ask someone that comes in for an interview, I’ll always ask if they want a bottle of water (and stress the bottle part). It’s easy to close up and put away. If they decline, I always tell them to just let me know if they would like one! (However, I no longer offer tea/coffee to people. I’ve been treated like Starbucks before, so I no longer offer that… like you’re getting black coffee and a cream cup, chill out with the order!)

    But a lot of people may decline because….. they don’t want to spill on their clothes, they already have a drink their their bag, they don’t know how long the wait will be and don’t want to have to pee right before getting called back, or maybe they just aren’t thirsty at the moment!

    Accepting a drink later might be because they don’t want to seem rude (thinking it’s part of a test or something), they know they’ll be talking a lot and their throat may get dry, or they want something to fidget with when they get nervous.

  58. Fiddlesticks*

    OP5, and everyone else unduly hung up on people’s restroom hand-washing habits (because this seems to be a recurring issue on Ask A Manager), please please just STOP. How do you know your coworker isn’t washing his hands, unless you are lurking by the restroom door listening to what is going on in there?! The unwritten rule should ALWAYS be that we, as civilized people in a normal office environment, should pretend with all our might and main that we do not hear, see or smell what other people are or aren’t doing in the restroom. And if people are not sufficiently motivated on their own as halfway intelligent adults to wash their hands after using the restroom, your nagging and shaming are not going to do the trick.

    As Alison and others have previously mentioned, your focus on one unhygienic person ignores all the other ways that germs WILL get to you. I petted my cats (filthy animals who lick their butts!) before I went to work this morning, and I did not wash my hands before I drove here and opened the office door, which had been opened by who knows how many members of the (filthy non-handwashing!) public before me, and I did not wash my hands before I sat down at my desk and printed a memo, which I picked up off the copier and distributed to eight people, all of whom are now infected with filthy cat butt/public germs! Tee hee! I then shook hands with a director of a sister agency who happened to be touring our building, and now he will spread the plague to a whole different city! Or…wait…maybe he doesn’t wash his own hands, and now I have a whole new plague to spread myself!

    Personally, I always wash my hands when I use the restroom at my office, but sometimes I wonder if these OP’s don’t have a touch of OCD/germaphobia.

    1. fposte*

      I’m pretty germ indifferent myself, but I think in a lot of office bathrooms you know because there are multiple stalls and a common sink, and the guy comes out of the stall and bypasses the sink. So it doesn’t require anybody to eavesdrop by the door.

        1. fposte*

          Right, that’s standard advice for disease prevention. It matters more to some microbes than others and in more situations than others, and you don’t always know if you’re in that situation. It’s also as much about protecting the washer as about protecting others.

          But it’s also not going to make a place or person sterile. People who wash their hands regularly transmit diseases and get diseases and have microbes all over them and in all the time. That’s just life. So people *should* wash their hands, but it’s really not an angelic baptism that makes them clean and leaves everybody else dirty, and it’s not something to go to a boss about.

    2. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      Aside from science saying that we should wash our hands after eliminating waste, it’s just basic respect for other people. If a person doesn’t have that basic respect, it’s a cause for concern.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      My cat “cleans” my hands for me, why would I make him feel inadequate by washing my hands right afterwards ;)

      But the thing is that the germs you have from human butts are what makes a lot of people ill, more so than the grime you get from working with your hands all day. Also animals don’t usually transmit that much disease to humans in reality.

      I say this as someone who has experienced norovirus. And I am all too aware of the hep A that breaks out from eating dirty [read poopy] strawberries and other fruits that aren’t cleaned prior to consuming.

      In reality though, you just need to wash your hands prior to eating. So it’s the worst when you see someone go from the bathroom to the kitchen and start grabbing snacks from the community drawers or dipping into that box of donuts that was brought in. Since the whole transmittal process is done by getting germs into your body via mouth or sometimes your eyeballs if you rub at them with a dirty hand.

      I don’t police others but man, knowing others don’t wash their hands makes me wash mine twice.

  59. Megasaurusus*

    LW2: Editing is easy, but feelings are tricky! Giving constructive feedback (of any kind) is one of the hardest skills to develop. I’m my office’s informal editor and I do as others noted, just move commas, don’t tell people about minor inconsistencies, just change them and say you cleaned up the punctuation and grammar – however, when it comes to content or more substantive changes I go out of my way to explain that I understood why they phrased it that way. Example: This seems like the natural way to phrase this because it’s how we’d say this in speech, but it is technically incorrect in the written form.

    I’ve found this approach works best for me because it acknowledges good intent and the difference between formal and informal communication. This tactic separates it from being someone’s shameful fault and renders it more a matter of technicality, and not knowing the finer points of the technicalities is why they asked you to edit in the first place.

  60. Noah*

    #4 — Also: I usually don’t like to accept beverages in the reception area because then I have to carry it to the conference room. I assume I’m not the only one.

  61. Former Employee*

    I disagree with Alison. Someone who doesn’t wash their hands can be a germ vector for all of the co-workers and clients with whom they interact.

    That’s why I believe this should be brought to the attention of a manager and should be seen as one of the many thankless duties one takes on when one ascends to the lofty heights and is granted the big bucks upon being inducted into the coterie known as management.

    All kidding aside, I do think that this is something a manager should be expected to handle.

  62. AliceW*

    I don’t wash my hands in the bathroom because I’m allergic to the soaps from mild to severe reactions depending on what’s there. Sometimes I bring in my own little soap bottle but other times I just use sanitizing spray or gel immediately after (the few brands that are safe for me). I’m sure there are people who don’t wash or wipe at all but some may clean up in other ways, best not to make assumptions.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Is there a reason why you don’t run your hands under the water at least to give the illusion you’re washing them? Just curious more than anything! That’s what I do honestly, depending on the situation, since I tend to go places that don’t bother to even fill their soap containers. Also if it’s a work thing, I would bring it up to whomever is buying the soap but that’s because I buy the soap for us and if someone says they need {specific} soap, I’ll get it barring it’s 12x the cost of regular soap!

      My mom got berated in a bathroom once for washing her hands but [grasps pearls] using cold water and not warm water. She had to use cold water due to a skin condition. Thankfully she isn’t afraid to tell someone where to take their meddlesome BS and schooled them on “It’s soap, water and friction that kills germs, so get out of my face.”

      1. AliceW*

        Good question – I was trying to keep my reply short but I do run my hands under the water. I’ll also rub them together briskly which is supposed to help too. But it can still be noticed that I didn’t use the soap.
        The thing is -, and it’s funny you brought up the cold water story – my current employment is in a large office building with the bathrooms in the hallways and shared by all companies on that floor, the supplies are from the building owners not controlled by any one company so no hope of getting better soap (don’t even get me started on the quality of the TP, they must be seriously trying to save money on that!) but also the sinks are the single on/off button type, you get the temp you get and there are often issues and it’s ice cold. Especially annoying in winter! So a lot of the time I’ll put my hands under, feel the temp and yank them out right away. It’s interesting, I’d bet if we started a comment poll we’d find a lot of people with very valid reasons to not visibly wash or, like your Mom, to wash differently than people think they should.

  63. AliceW*

    Good question – I was trying to keep my reply short but I do run my hands under the water. I’ll also rub them together briskly which is supposed to help too. But it can still be noticed that I didn’t use the soap.
    The thing is -, and it’s funny you brought up the cold water story – my current employment is in a large office building with the bathrooms in the hallways and shared by all companies on that floor, the supplies are from the building owners not controlled by any one company so no hope of getting better soap (don’t even get me started on the quality of the TP, they must be seriously trying to save money on that!) but also the sinks are the single on/off button type, you get the temp you get and there are often issues and it’s ice cold. Especially annoying in winter! So a lot of the time I’ll put my hands under, feel the temp and yank them out right away. It’s interesting, I’d bet if we started a comment poll we’d find a lot of people with very valid reasons to not visibly wash or, like your Mom, to wash differently than people think they should.

  64. Frankie*

    OP #2, editing in many jobs is going to be very different from the type of editing you would do/want done on your own work based on your English degree. Sometimes people know they are messy writers and want you to hack and slash it. Some know they are inconsistent with things like commas and want it consistent. Some want help with tone, some want you to point out where they’ve left things out that the reader needs to make sense of everything.

    Particularly with punctuation, I would honestly use a default of only flagging things that are flat out typos (periods missing for sentences), or that are really confusing, and ask about other stuff until you know more about each person’s style.

    To give you an example, I have an advanced writing degree as well as a linguistics degree and I use different sets of rules for different contexts. I pretty much use commas as you’re supposed to use them, but I sometimes tweak them based on flow and reading comprehension/clarity–that’s the whole point of them, in my mind. This means I am technically inconsistent at times even though the end product is more readable. I have a coworker who loves writing in a more technical way and prides herself upon how well she knows particular “rules” of grammar and punctuation. She used to work with law professors and it shows. I love some of her edits but almost always reject half of them because they would make the tone a bit stuffier and they’d jank up the sentence flow. When I edit her work, I mostly make comments about the ordering of phrases for clarity, and suggest light cuts for efficiency, something she’s said she appreciates about my work. I don’t touch her grammar or punctuation because I know she’s pretty set in her own style even if I personally think it’s a little less pleasant to read.

    I’m not saying that’s you, just offering an example of how these differences can emerge even with coworkers who are highly skilled at writing, but who just have different benchmarks/expectations for what a particular text will accomplish.

    We also have a communications team and some of them take a lot of liberties with the copy we send to them for public-facing websites. They’ll publish changes without discussing them with us at all. I’ve actually gone and asked them to revert several changes because they were arbitrary and sometimes actually made the content incorrect. Even a 5 minute phone call to ask about stuff would have made the process way better.

  65. OP receptionist here*

    Thank you everyone for your thoughts and advice.
    I didn’t think about the fact that people could be nervous, and that is the reason why they say they haven’t been offered. Or that they don’t know where to put it afterwards or that it could be hard to bring with you. I’ll keep that in mind.

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