open thread – May 3-4, 2019

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

* If you submitted a question to me recently, please do not repost it here, as it may be in my queue to answer.

{ 2,073 comments… read them below }

  1. Dr Horrible*

    Just got an interview with a non-profit I applied to! However, when I replied-all to the email confirming I’d attend, I received this out-of-office reply from one of the HR people who was CC’d:

    “I’m out of the office until Tuesday 7th May, when what passes for normal service should be resumed.”

    …Does that really mean what I think it means? Seems very unprofessional. Not sure whether it’s supposed to be a joke.

    Red flag, right? To me this is a red flag.

    1. Nuna Bizniz*

      I’m reading this as they don’t have normal service now but will on the 7th. Am I missing something?

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        It’s the “what passes for” normal service. Implying that their ‘normal’ isn’t very good.

    2. ghostwriter*

      I mean, I would love to work in an office that embraces sarcasm like that. I don’t think it’s a red flag at all, unless it’s in parallel with other unprofessional things happening.

      1. Dr Horrible*

        I mean, I would be totally fine with it if it was an internal away message. It’s more that this is an HR manager who deals with outside applicants to jobs.

        1. Semaj*

          Do they, though?

          They were CC’ed on your message to be kept in the loop, but you could be incorrect about the frequency with which they deal with external clients. They may very well expect their message to go to internal recipients 99% of the time.

          There’s just too much you don’t know to read into this, IMO.

          1. Someone Else*

            But it’s usually possible to literally set separate internal vs external OOO autoreplies at the same time. So if she put this up as the only autoreply, she knows it can/will go to external recipients.

            1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

              “So if she put this up as the only autoreply, she knows it can/will go to external recipients.”

              They may or may not know. I have colleagues who either don’t know or don’t remember to set an end date on their autoreplies, so even after they return to the office, I’m still receiving autoreplies from them. So, it’s possible this employee just doesn’t know how to set separate messages for internal and external audiences.

        2. Marion Ravenwood*

          I wonder if they did actually mean to set this as an out-of-office just for internal people (although that’s still not great) and accidentally set it for external emails as well; I know Outlook has an option where you can set different OOOs for different groups. It’s not super-professional, but I wouldn’t necessarily call it a red flag, especially as someone who’s worked in non-profits and knows what absolute chaos they can be under the surface – I’d just chalk it up to user error, especially if (as it seems) this is the first instance.

          1. Amber T*

            That was my thought. I have different ones for internal/external (external just says to contact my boss if there’s an emergency, internal people already know who that is).

            I wouldn’t necessarily see it as a red flag, but maybe be on the look out for the office’s sense of humor/culture and see if it’s something you’d fit with with.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Yeah, I’m not seeing anything but a mildly humorous out of office message. And as Semaj notes, they are not in a role where, say, clients would normally be emailing back and forth with them.

        1. Frustrated In DC*

          I love when humor is used in out of office messages. Don’t read too much into it, unless you aren’t a person who finds sarcasm/humor funny. See how things go.

          1. AnotherKate*

            “unless you aren’t a person who finds humor funny” –it’s 10 degrees cooler in this shade and I’m here for it.

          2. Aggretsuko*

            I used to know someone who had an away message along the lines of “If you have an emergency: (a) there are no emergencies in this line of work, (b) Google for “goats in trees”…. etc. to basically chill out until she could respond.

      3. Public Sector Manager*

        My first reaction was to laugh at the out-of-office message. So I agree that if the message is the only concern, it’s not a concern at all.

      4. Kj*

        I once worked with a high powered doctor who left his out of office in olde english. It was funny if you knew him, but I’m sure some who didn’t thought he was unprofessional.

    3. Daniel*

      Eh. I wouldn’t say anything like that myself…but I don’t know if I would call it a red flag. It’s very trite, so if you have low tolerance for trite humor, maybe it’s a red flag.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I think it would depend on the industry. If it were a creative one, I’d probably be fine with it. But when I worked in tech services for the financial industry, my OOO was straight as an arrow because I knew client banks would sometime see it.

        I’m with everyone who would assume this was meant to be internal and a joke.

    4. Anon for Layoffs*

      Wut?? Hahaha! Only innocent thing I can think of is she has the same message for internal v external emails and it’s supposed to be a joke for her co-workers. Otherwise, IDK.

      1. Dr Horrible*

        Yeah, that’s what I thought – maybe an internal away message got mixed up with an external away message?

    5. Overeducated*

      I think it’s funny! Wouldn’t fly in my workplace but we’re very formal about communications.

    6. A Simple Narwhal*

      Meh, it’s not great to have on your auto-reply, but for me personally it wouldn’t be a big enough deal on its own to cancel.

      I wouldn’t call it a red flag, maybe yellow if it really rubs you the wrong way (and that’s fine! Maybe a jokey culture isn’t for you, and it’s totally fine if that’s not an environment you want to work in). Seems like a misplaced joke to me, but definitely use it in your overall appraisal when you go in for the interview.

      1. Antilles*

        Yeah, that’s where I land too. It’s worthy of an eyeroll, but I wouldn’t take it as anything more than that.

    7. Annie on a Mouse*

      Yeah… That’s not great. It could just be one person on the staff who has a bad attitude, but I’d be wondering why management hadn’t stepped in—a statement like that in an OoO message is pretty unprofessional. Then again, it could also be that person’s attempt at a joke. Still not professional, but less indicative of a major culture problem.

      I don’t know that it’s enough of a red flag to cancel the interview, but I’d definitely make sure to ask questions about culture and (to the extent you can put out subtle feelers) morale. Would your role require you to work closely with HR?

      1. Jadelyn*

        I disagree that it’s inherently “unprofessional” – some workplace cultures are more jokey in nature, more casual about communication, and this kind of message would give someone a brief chuckle when they saw it and that’s all.

        It might be an in-joke about something, too – I could see that if their HR department is understaffed at the moment due to people being out on leave or something, and it’s a mildly self-deprecating dig at the situation and having to try to keep up with everything with less support than usual.

        I’m honestly kinda baffled by people seeing this as any kind of flag at all. It’s just a bit of silliness. The only thing it tells you is that the culture is one that’s open to jokes and mild teasing like that. Now, if you’re not interested in working somewhere like that, then that could be a sign that this place would be a poor fit for you – but I really don’t feel like there’s anything inherently flaggy about that message.

        1. MsM*

          Ditto. At most, I’d take it as a mild warning that this person probably gets a lot of email, and phone calls might be better if you need something urgently.

          1. time for lunch*

            Yeah, I see this as “I’m doing the best I can in our imperfect world, as we all are.” I would vastly prefer this very human, wry co-worker (and the workplace that would welcome them) over someone who would *Stepford face* NEVER EVER JOKE ABOUT LESS THAN EXCEPTIONAL SERVICE.

        2. Aurion*

          I am a wiseass, but I keep it on the down-low when I’m communicating with external customers; I raised my eyebrow at this. Someone with a more casual dress code often have to dress up when external contacts or customers are visiting, right? Same idea. I’m all for light joking between coworkers but not to external contacts because that joke might not land well, and you don’t want to convey to external contacts that your workplace is a madhouse even if it is.

          That said, this might be a case of the HR person making a mistake with their OOO message and this joking one was meant for internal contacts only. I would consider this a yellow flag.

        3. soon 2be former fed*

          This kind or snark would never fly in my government office. Not the place for humor. I would consider it interesting and wonder if the place was chaotic.

          1. Jadelyn*

            Going from “humorous away message” to “wonder if the place is chaotic” seems to me to be quite the leap. Maybe it’s just a matter of what you’re used to.

    8. irene adler*

      Well, maybe. Go on the interview and see what else occurs.

      There could be all kinds of innocent reasons for such a response, including not realizing how someone’s snarky sense of humor won’t be readily understood by outsiders. Maybe this was an inside joke for other office members or someone who emails them regularly. In fact, if this is the case, this person would be mortified when they realize how this played for those not familiar with the situation.

      1. soon 2be former fed*

        I disagree. It’s a snarky, unprofessional remark to go to external contacts.

    9. De Minimis*

      Bit unprofessional, not exactly a red flag but may give you an idea of the culture. Then again, it may just be the person who created the outgoing message. Hopefully you’ll get a better idea at the interview.

    10. Lucette Kensack*

      If it’s bugging you, I’d consider it a yellow flag (or pink flag or whatever color the taxonomy of flags would consider an indicate to note something and move on).

      It could indicate a seriously toxic environment where staff are outwardly, publicly snarking about the quality of their work. Or it could be mild, silly sarcasm and self-denigration.

      I’m a little surprised that your reaction is so strong (or perhaps you are using “red flag” differently than I do; to me, “red flag” means “slam on the brakes, there’s a big problem here,” not “hm, this is odd, I wonder what that’s about”).

      1. Dr Horrible*

        Mmm, yes, I think I am using it differently than most people seem to assume – I was using it as “that’s a weird/unprofessional thing to do, better watch for other weird things in the interview in case it’s indicative of a bad culture.” Whereas others seem to interpret it as a “cancel the interview” type thing. But I’m not in the US, so could be a language difference! Or could also be a me difference :)

        1. Lucette Kensack*

          I don’t think it’s just you — I think there is a wide variation in how people use the term.

          The etymology (is that the right word when we’re talking about an idiom?) of the term comes from car racing, where a red flag means “everyone stop, something dangerous happened, the race is on hold.” So that’s how I think of it — but others clearly use it as “flag this as something to pay closer attention to.”

    11. Fergus*

      You think that is bad, I got this today.

      Hi Michael,

      Thank you for your interest in ********. I am happy to inform you that you have made it to the next step in the process! Congratulations!

      The next phase includes a 30-minute pre-employment assessment. Our priority is to ensure that all our team members are set up for success, and excel during their time here. We find this assessment gives us an additional avenue to assess your readiness and compatibility with the role you are applying for. In fact, it is so valuable to us, everyone at ******, from our CEO to our Interns, has completed the assessment! Check out these tips to ensure you’re ready to go.

      Here is what to Expect:

      The assessment is split up in to 2 parts – cognitive and personality – and will take 30 minutes total to complete.
      For the Cognitive Assessment:
      US & UK Candidates: You have 15 minutes to answer 50 questions across 3 question categories: math and logic, verbal ability, and spatial reasoning. The goal is to get as many answers correct as possible.
      Australia, Singapore, China Candidates: You have 20 minutes to answer 40 questions across 2 question categories: math and logic, and spatial reasoning. The goal is to get as many answers correct as possible.
      Don’t spend too much time on any one question. To get through all 50 questions, that’s an average of 18 seconds per question.
      There is no penalty for a wrong answer, so if you aren’t sure of the answer after 1 minute, just make your best guess.
      You may use a pen and paper. You are NOT permitted to use calculators or any other problem-solving device such as Google.
      We do verify test results with a follow up assessment if you move further in the process.
      For the Personality Assessment:
      You are responding to statements about yourself; answer in a way that most accurately describes you. Please don’t feel pressured to answer how you “think” the system wants you to answer.
      There are no right or wrong answers.
      This section is not timed, but will take about 10 – 15 minutes to complete
      After the assessment, our hiring team will review the results and follow up with you on the next steps.
      Eeecks! We understand that testing can be stressful. Below are some resources to consider if you really want to ensure you’re prepared. These are only suggestions, and by no means do you have to practice before taking the assessment. This is a paid service to take a simulated assessment with results
      JobFlare: This is a free app that gets the gears in your brain spinning with 6 mini games that measure the same skills the cognitive assessment: math and logic, verbal ability, and attention to detail
      Criteria: See examples of the assessment from the test makers themselves
      We take many factors into consideration when we make hiring decisions, including this assessment. Make sure you have 30 minutes set aside with no distractions. The best thing you can do is prepare yourself as much as possible. We are here to set you up for success! If you have any questions let us know by reaching out to your Recruiter, or emailing: talent@*******.com.


      Please use the following information to access your test.

      Test Event ID: LOG7707AWUX

      Website :


      Disability/Special Accommodations: In the event that you have a disability or require special accommodations, please notify your Recruiter or talent@*******.com

      Note: Please use Chrome, FireFox, Safari, Internet Explorer 8 or newer to complete this test event. Please do not use your mobile phone.

      For Help, please click the orange ‘Get Help’ button located at the bottom of the Testing Center screen.

      Thank you again,

      The ******* Talent Team


      Please do not reply to this email. ******* will not receive the reply. Instead, please email: talent@*******.com

      1. Linda Evangelista*

        OOF. I would have looked at the sheer length of the email and quit at “cognitive and personality assessment”. Hard pass.

        1. Zennish*

          This. I’d be out of the running simply because I would have deleted it before I actually read all that.

      2. Marina Magdalena*

        A little perplexed at the split in categories between UK/US and… Australia? What?

        1. Environmental Compliance*

          Right? I was assuming at first read that it was for non-English speakers, maybe, but then Australia got lumped in.

          1. Fact & Fiction*

            Could it be…factoring in average internet speeds in those nations or something? Other than that, it seems super odd!

      3. Elizabeth West*


        I got one of the personality test things–you literally had to apply THROUGH the personality assessment website. It was one of those “choose all the adjectives that apply to you; now choose the ones you think you need to succeed at the job” things. I sucked it up and did it because I need a job.

    12. JJ Bittenbinder*

      I put it at “weird but not a dealbreaker.” I’d keep it as one data point and gather others during the interviews.

    13. Weegie*

      I think it’s hilarious. Definitely someone with a sense of humour. A bit trite, as someone else has commented, and maybe actually intended for internal use only, but I’d rather work in a place where people gently poke fun at themselves than take things entirely seriously all of the time.

      The thing you *really* want to worry about is colleagues who are very correct all of the time but also completely useless. I mean, a truly incompetent person would never write something like that as their out-of-office.

    14. Princess of Pure Reason*

      It made me think of a quote from Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy: ““We are now cruising at a level of two to the power of twenty-five thousand to one against and falling, and we will be restoring normality just as soon as we are sure what is normal anyway.”

      I’d probably read it as intended sarcasm that isn’t clear due to lack of context. In the extreme, in the other direction, someone could be very passive aggressively trying to say something about the state of the company.

      Wouldn’t call it a red flag – the interview may add the necessary context.

      1. Nessun*

        That is exactly where my head went – “hmmm, must be a Hitchhikers fan!” I’d have assumed it was a weird sense of humour (like my own), and just proceeded as usual.

    15. Akcipitrokulo*

      To me, it’s someone trying to add levity to their message. Maybe needs a bit of advice about internal vs external out of office messages… but no, I wouldn’t see it as a red flag. It’s, at worst, a misplaced joke.

    16. Exhausted Trope*

      Coming from an HR person, I think the response is a tad unprofessional but I also find it funny. I don’t think it’s necessarily a red flag though.

    17. Federal Employee 167590*

      This shouldn’t be a red flag. Maybe something to note, but that’s it. For all you know, this person could be excellent and this is just a little self-depreciating humor that is acceptable within this particular office’s culture. In fact, you would hope that someone who really does provide poor service to their colleagues would be self-aware enough to not use this type of message, though that’s not always the case. Unless you see other real red flags, or you really don’t want to work in an office with this level of informality, I think you’re reading too much into this.

      (Which is normal since when we’re interviewing we really don’t have all of the information we want to make what is really a big decision, so we tend to try to read between the lines of every interaction – this person was running late today, so it must be an extremely disorganized office, major red flag! Or, there was a joke that didn’t quite land right with me, so it must be a horribly unprofessional office, major red flag! I think the key is to take everything together before we jump to conclusions.)

    18. LaurenB*

      The head of IT in my workplace sends emails like this. No one else, out of a few hundred people, does the same. If you got an email from him and expected us all to have senses of humour and a penchant for carefully crafting emails based on that sample of one, you’d be sorely disappointed.

    19. PB*

      No, I don’t think so. I think it was just a failed attempt at humor, but not a red flag.

    20. Parenthetically*

      I immediately snort-laughed at this. Pretty clearly a joke, IMO.

      I’m amused by people’s different takes, because to me, this would indicate an office where people don’t take themselves too seriously and wouldn’t be a red flag at all.

    21. Lilysparrow*

      Of course it’s a joke. If it were serious they wouldn’t say it.

      It’s only a problem if you think having an HR person with a sense of humor is a bad thing. If you are very put off by this as an indicator of the corporate culture, you should look closely at other indicators of whether you’d be happy there.

      But if it’s a good job otherwise, it would just be foolish to take this as a major red flag.

    22. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      I love it and find it hilarious. To me, it signals a casual, warm, humorous office. If that’s not what you’re looking for, it might be a flag that you could be out of sync with this particular culture.

    23. That Would be a Good Band Name*

      I’d say whether or not this is a red flag is entirely up to what sort of culture you want to be in. I think this is great and I have the same sarcastic sort of humor. Others prefer a much more professional work space and this would not work for them.

    24. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Are you likely to be working with HR? If not… well, I suspect that their HR staff department is running a little too lean and they’re starting to get slap-happy about it.

    25. Language Lover*

      Nope. Not a red flag. At tops a yellow depending on how serious you read it. I don’t read it as serious. I saw it as a joke.

      It was probably meant to go internally only but because you were CC’d by someone internally, you got it too.
      You can certainly ask about their crazy week at the interview but this is not a cancel this sign IMO.

    26. Llama Face!*

      I didn’t know Bad Horse ran a nonprofit. ;)

      But more seriously- I’m with the other commenters who think it’s a bit flippant/sarcastic but not a red flag.

    27. Evil HR Person*

      I think it’s hilarious! Unprofessional to send to non-coworker contacts, though…

    28. A tester, not a developer*

      I’d assume they messed up the email options that allow a different message for inside and outside the office, or replies vs. new messages.

    29. Avery*

      Your standard for a red flag is very low, then. This is barely worth noting to me, and certainly nothing to worry about. It’s pretty clear that it’s a slightly sarcastic joke, not a serious gripe about their job.

      But if this is enough to make you feel this way, you’re probably not going to be a good fit for a culture where this is fine. I see it more as a red flag for them that you are reacting like this, honestly.

    30. LGC*


      Although, I’m not quite sure this is a red flag. In Outlook at least, you can set internal and external OOO messages. The default, at least in my organization, is to use the internal message for all senders, so the HR person could have just been careless and not set a separate, more acceptable external message.

      I’d call it a yellow flag, at most. It’s slightly alarming (to use a turn of phrase Alison used yesterday) because this is an HR person’s OOO. On the other hand…I’m not going to lie, I’m okay with a somewhat snarky HR person. Although it’s an interesting window into the culture you’ve gotten – or at least that HR person’s personality!

      1. LGC (I go by Barebecue IRL)*

        (Man, 70 responses, and I think I’m the first to point out that it could be an accident?)

        I might as well put in my OOOs for when I took off a couple of weeks ago for comparison. Here’s my internal (details changed):

        Hi everyone,

        I’m off this week – I’ll be running the Boston Marathon on Monday, April 15! (If you want to track me, my number is 54321, and I’m starting at 10:02 AM.) Other than that, I’ll just be taking some time off.

        Happy Easter to those who are celebrating – I’ll be returning on Monday, April 22.


        And my external:


        I am currently out of office, and will be returning Monday, April 22 at 8 AM. Please contact the following individuals for any immediate inquiries (as always, the company phone number is (999) 555-1234):

        Llama Grooming (including employees)
        · Jizyah Shorts (Grooming team lead) – jshorts(at)org, ext. 654
        · Chastity Gooch-Fant (VP of llama presentation) – cgooch(at)org, ext. 789 (main office)/732 (satellite)

        Llama Presentation Billing
        · Storm Duck (business analyst) – sduck(at)org, ext. 732
        · Pope Thrower (COO) – pthrower(at)org, ext. 808
        · Chastity Gooch-Fant

        Of course, you can always contact me directly for anything not urgent, and I will respond as soon as I am able.

        Thanks, and have a wonderful day.

        -Princehoward B. Yee

        (Why yes, I read way too much Deadspin for my own good, why do you ask?)

        1. Marina Magdalena*

          Maaaaybe not use Jizyah Shorts for your external? It’s a bit crass. Otherwise it’s pretty funny, but yeah, as a woman, having sexual references thrown in my face by a man is a little much.

          1. LGC*

            In my defense, that is someone’s actual name! (The real Ms. Shorts is a beauty queen from Houston.) I’m referencing the Name of the Year Final Four in that message.

            (The name I used for myself was also in NOTY, although it lost to Pope Thrower in the first round.)

    31. Aggretsuko*

      I feel like we need that up at my office today. We are extremely short staffed, some computer issue came up, and there is literally nobody left here that can actually answer and help with those problems.

    32. Jamies*

      It’s just some tongue in cheek humor. Red flag if you don’t want to work somewhere that has that type of humor in emails. Otherwise no.

    33. MommyMD*

      It’s jokey. Which is kind of off for a work place. But I would not worry too much. They are trying to be funny.

    34. Dr. Anonymous*

      Or could be someone using a figure of speech without actually understanding what it means.

    35. CatMintCat*

      Big green flag for me.

      Humanity and a bit of humour are very important to me.

    36. Boomerang Girl*

      I guess I am the minority in thinking this is a red flag, though not necessarily a deal breaker. It’s funny, and not meant in any bad way. However, if I were the head of the non-profit, I would not want that message on anything representing my team.As a donor, it would give me slight pause about the professionalism of the individual. A culture of fun is good, but even a suggestion of complacency is not. More importantly, the fact that OP was concerned that it might be a red flag means that it requires some follow up. Do you see any other signs of complacency or apathy? If not, then give it a small chuckle and continue moving forward.

  2. Sunflower*

    Has anyone used a service or other resource to get an idea of a next career step? I want to make a career change and I know what I’m looking for and what I want to avoid in my next job. I feel like a lot of this stuff can be quite fluffy or useless so I’m wondering if there are any reliable resources out there.

    1. Mr. Tyzik*

      When I was laid off, I was given paid 6 months with a service. I didn’t find much help from them. Their resume “rewrite” was changing the formatting on my submission (thanks, Alison, for the resources to write a great resume!) and they gave me some pointers for my Linked-In Page which I didn’t follow (they wanted me to hit up everyone I knew for a rec, and I felt that was too intrusive).

      The most valuable resource was the job board. I found several potential leads there, but not anything earthshattering that I couldn’t find on LI or Indeed. I ultimately found my job through LI when a company recruiter reached out to me.

      Honestly, I’m glad I didn’t pay for any of the placement service given what little I got out of it. I found Alison’s advice to be much more valuable.

      1. ThatGirl*

        I got three months of outplacement services after my layoff and honestly, even though a lot of it was just pep talks, the resume service really helped, and I did make a connection there that led straight to my new job.

        1. Mr. Tyzik*

          Good! I’m glad it worked for you – it may have just been the service I was with.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      I know some people have gotten really good advice from career counselors or life coaches, pointing them at fields that weren’t on their radar but for which they are well-fitted; it varies widely, and local recommendations are your way to go.

      1. OtterB*

        I used to work for an organization that did this. I wasn’t one of the counselors – I did background computer stuff – but I sent my husband there when he was career changing and my daughter when she was heading off to college. A lot of the value depends on the knowledge of the individual counselors. If you want in-depth specific industry knowledge, they may or may not have it. If you want, as Falling Diphthong says, some ideas for fields that might suit you that you haven’t considered, or help weighing some possibilities, I’d recommend it.

    3. Earthwalker*

      I was laid off after many years with my company and had totally forgotten anything I ever knew about career planning in the outside world. Luckily we were given career counseling as a benefit. I expected advice on updating a resume and interview dress and so on, but the focus was on deciding what I did and didn’t want from a job and how to decide whether to accept an offer or pass on it, things I had hardly thought about in my panic to grab the first decently-paid opportunity that presented itself. It was more helpful and thought provoking than I expected.

    4. AudreyParker*

      I haven’t had any luck with the resources I’ve tried so far but YMMV. Most have had similar types of exercises to go through in terms of looking at values, interests etc which I’d already done, but no help as far as actual suggestions of things I might want to consider. I would LOVE to find someone who provided input!

    5. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      YMMV, but I’m an Employment Counselor for a Dept of Labor career center in the US, and OMG the stuff I give away for free!

      If you’re in the US, find your local career center … you don’t need to be unemployed to use them. All centers are a bit different in their offerings, but you should be able to do a sit down with someone to sort out what your next steps could be. All at no cost.

      1. The Librarian (not the type from TNT)*

        Your mileage may vary indeed. Where I live, the Department of Labor gives egregiously bad resume and jobseeking advice. It’s sad to say, but much of the work I do in the public library is undoing the damage done by Department of Labor counselors.

      2. AudreyParker*

        Unfortunately, One Stop/America’s Job Center/whatever we’re calling it these days in thte large city where I live is woefully understaffed – my “case manager”/counselor has 500 clients and I couldn’t even get her to reply to my emails most of the time (I eventually gave up, mostly in sympathy for her and her inbox). I did get to meet with her once, and she had some ideas she was going to send over… which never appeared. Understandably, if she has 500+ people to keep track of plus leading (basic) workshops, but absolutely no use to me in my job search. There’s no way to get 1:1 assistance there.

    6. Boomerang Girl*

      My school offered free support for alumni. The career advisor was avery helpful sounding board. Sometimes it’s helpful to get the perspective of a disinterested third party.

  3. Anon for this*

    Apologies for the length! I’m bad at being concise, but I wanted to make sure I didn’t forget anything.

    There’s guy who works in my building in a different department who I never see except passing him in the hallway in the morning. He is leaving for a new job soon in a nearby city. During a huge employee appreciation lunch last week, no one else from my department could go, so I went alone and this guy offered me to sit at his table. The music was deafeningly loud, so I couldn’t really talk (i.e. scream) to anyone besides him since he was right next to me. He was generally nice and we had a conversation that lasted about an hour about various things, though I was a bit put off when he mentioned he was recently divorced and ragged on his ex-wife; he must’ve said “I don’t mean to badmouth her, but…” or some variation at least three times.

    Additionally, I was put off when he told me that when he first met me, he thought I was “someone’s daughter” instead of an employee. I definitely look and sound young, but I wasn’t sure how to take that. I also mentioned offhand that my dad was turning 70 soon and he exclaimed how my parents had me really late like it was a fact. I’m pretty confident I never told him my actual age, so I’m not sure if he really thought I was closer to late teens/early twenties or was just obsessed with how young I was. Also, at the end of that day, he came by my office to tell me he had a nice time talking and that he hoped he didn’t come off like a creep or anything.

    However, since that lunch, I feel like he’s acting too familiar now. Earlier this week, I was talking with someone in our building’s break room and when he walked in, he called me “missy” and jokingly took offense when I forgot something he had mentioned to me during the lunch (there was cake nearby and I asked if he was going to get some; I apparently forgot he doesn’t like cake). He also dramatically mentioned that we talked about this during our “walk” together in a way that made it sound intimate. (By walk, it was looking around at some of the activities they had at the appreciation lunch and then back around to the office.) And yesterday, he also came by my office to say hi quickly, calling me “kiddo” upon greeting me.

    I know there’s nothing inherently wrong with him assuming I’m younger than I actually am, but there’s just something really off-putting about him fixating on it and how chummy he’s now acting. Aside from the two instances above, the lunch was our only conversation. At one point during the lunch, he mentioned he was 40 and said he’d have to get my number before he leaves for his new job, but I don’t want to keep contact with him after he leaves.

    FWIW, a couple years ago, I had a traumatic experience with a man his age who I was very friendly with before he took advantage of me, so maybe that’s playing into my uneasiness. However, even though I think he means well, I’m just unnerved with how he’s been acting. I think part of it it loneliness, but while I absolutely don’t think there’s anything wrong with two adults who are far apart in age being friends, I guess I’m also a bit put-off by the stuff I mentioned above. I’m also trying to figure out how to say no if he does ask for my number before he leaves. I don’t want to be mean, but I’m not interested in staying in contact after his last day.

    1. Clorinda*

      Sounds like your instincts are good and he seems creepy. Don’t give him your number. If he asks for your number: “No, I’d rather not,” and then don’t. He can try to weaponize your female social training against you to make you be nice, but don’t.

        1. Beanie*

          I agree too. Maybe he’s not a creep, but it all reeks of predatorial behaviour. He’s hoping you’ll be too worried about rocking the boat to question him. You could wait him out, but if it’s this bad, it might not be a bad idea to report him to your HR department for getting too personal.

    2. Overeducated*

      At least he’s leaving? Sounds annoying but short term. If he asks for your number you can say something like “oh, you can always reach me at my work email if you need anything!” If he says “no, your personal cell” just act confused and say you’re very responsive at work. If he still doesn’t get it you’ll just have to straight up say “oh no thanks but it was nice working with you” and remember the awkwardness is on him for being pushy.

      1. Cat Fan*

        This is probably how I would handle it. He is coming off as creepy and you do not have to give him your personal phone number. I think I might even change “it was nice working with you” to “it was nice meeting you,” since you didn’t actually work with him.

    3. Psyche*

      It sounds like he knows he came off as a creep and is hoping to push past that. If possible, you can try to push him off by staying firmly professional. If he insists on getting your number, give him your office number. If he says he wants to stay in contact, direct him to Linkedin. Essentially, act like of course he is trying to network. If he pushes then say, “I like to keep work and my personal life separate.” If he keeps trying to push, straight up tell him that you don’t know him well enough to feel comfortable giving him your personal information.

      1. Emi.*

        He’s banking on your automatically being “nice” and accommodating: he says “I hope I’m not coming off as a creep,” and you say “Oh no no no, you’re perfectly fine!” and then boom, he has permission to keep doing what he’s doing, which is being a creep.

        1. blackcat*

          Yup. It’s this! He knows his behavior isn’t okay, so he asks for your approval.

        2. Psyche*

          Exactly! People who are not being creepy do not feel the need to “hope” they aren’t being creepy.

        3. Lia*

          When people say, “I hope I’m not coming off as a creep” run. They absolutely know what they’re doing and are looking for permission. Your best bet is to call them on it.

          1. Procrastinatin'PastSelf*

            *Trigger warning* Reading this comment reminded me of something that happened shortly before a former co-worker assaulted me. He took off his shirt at one point to show his sunburn (it was in a field of work where you live with your co-workers, so there tends to be more intimacy) and said something like “Not to be weird” or “I hope this isn’t weird”. I thought it was slightly, but also dismissed it in my head, because the way this guy looks, he should have kept the shirt on, so I just told myself it wasn’t sexual. Like a friend of mine says, some guys are very good at intentionally bringing things into a gray zone, so it’s not clear at what point you say “stop” or, “this is weird”. And I agree with Lia that guys who say this know what they’re doing (or at least, the majority of them do), and I think he’s doing this to make you doubt that he’s doing something creepy. Trust your gut, and don’t be nice to this guy because you feel you have to be (or because the first conversation was nice…there are many creeps in this world who can pull off an interesting and non-creepy conversation, at least in the beginning).

      2. MsM*

        Yeah. Since he opened the door to feedback on that, I don’t think it’d be out of line for you to tell him he’s pushing it.

      3. Jenny P*

        There is absolutely no need to give him your number whether he pushes you or not. DO NOT give him your number!!

    4. Rey*

      Good for you for listening to your gut instinct here. You get to choose whatever path a) you can execute and b) meets your needs. It sounds like at this point we’re in freeze-him-out mode until his new job starts. It doesn’t sound like you need to work with him in your role, so just don’t. You don’t have to answer questions like, “how was your weekend” or “remember that one time…”–he is trying to build a rapport and you don’t want to. And if he addresses it head-on, “Why have you gotten so chilly lately?” agree and move on, “You’re right, I have been. I gotta go.” And employ whatever tactic when it comes to your number, except for actually giving it to him–give him a fake number, demure, etc. You don’t own him your number, or anything else for that matter.

      1. Liane*

        Please DO NOT give out a “fake” number or advise anyone else to do so!! OWN your refusal by saying, “Sorry, I don’t give out my number” (and advise others to do this).
        That “Fake” phone number probably belongs to someone else who doesn’t deserve or want to be bothered. Years ago I got a call from some guy who had been given a “fake/made up” number by a woman, but was really MY home number. He became verbally abusive, calling me a liar and worse, when I politely told him he had the wrong number.

        1. NotMyRealName*

          There are quite a few fake numbers that are designed for this use – including these:
          1-888-447-5594: Easter egg number for finishing God of War.
          605-475-6968: Standard rejection hotline.
          866-740-4531: Only responds with “I Am Groot”.
          206-569-5829: “Loser Line.” (If they leave a message, it might get broadcast in a Seattle radio station.

          1. a*

            Thank you, NotMyRealName – I know what numbers I’ll be giving to stores from now on!

          2. JenRN*

            Heard a “loser line” segment in a Lyft the other day. What a horrendous thing to do. Just be direct people.

            1. Quinalla*

              Sometimes you can’t be direct, it isn’t always safe. In this case, I think it is safe to be direct especially since she can make it clear that this is a professional contact only, but there are times when it isn’t safe to directly reject someone. Giving out a fake number like this is a good plan in that case so you make sure it isn’t going to someone’s real number.

              Giving out a fax number would work too, then they get that nice screechy noise!

            2. MommyMD*

              It is terrible. Just have some balls and say “I don’t give out my number” and leave it at that.

              1. Pippa*

                “Have some balls” as advice to a woman dealing with a creepy man is really …something.

              2. Middle School Teacher*

                Clearly you have never been harassed by someone when you refused to give out your number. Maybe be nicer.

          3. JunieB*

            Thank you for this!

            I know people are always saying “Just OWN the rejection!” or “Put the awkwardness back on them!” but depending on the situation, there are times when a straight rejection feels distinctly unsafe. At that point, I say give out a random number if you’ve got to—but numbers like these give you a chance to defuse the situation without inconveniencing anyone else.

              1. JunieB*

                At which point I am no longer alone and cornered, and have options to defend myself.

                I have been in situations where a direct rejection turned violent, once with a colleague, and I will not apologize for making whatever decisions I deem necessary to protect myself, so long as those decisions don’t cause undue harm. The cheesy message played on the rejection hotline isn’t doing undue harm to anyone.

        2. Caramel & Cheddar*

          At least we know the person who gave out your number had a good instinct about this dude, though!

      2. Lilysparrow*

        If he says “why are you so chilly lately,” he is delusional or seriously trying it on.

        The way to answer that is, “We barely know each other.”

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          You’ve repeated that multiple times now, but given absolutely no serious reasons as to why. It’s definitely a bad idea to give out a random number which could be somebody else’s, but there are good reasons why the “official” fake numbers exist. It is not always safe to reject someone in person to their face; if a false number can help ensure that the rejection occurs while you are miles away, it may literally save lives.

    5. Venus*

      Definitely seems inappropriate. He reminds me of the type of guy who seems mostly okay, so you think it’s just awkwardness, until you realize that he’s acted the same way with many other women in the office. If it were me, I would avoid him as much as possible until he leaves. The fact that he has a new job makes it much easier. If for some reason he gets weird and pushy about the phone number then suggest that he gives his to you, and then you can ‘lose’ it, although the best would just be to say that you are too busy.

      Good luck. These things are work are just such a pain!

    6. Not A Manager*

      If he’s leaving soon, I think you can just maintain a polite-but-cool demeanor. Look puzzled when he calls you “kiddo” and the ilk, or have selective hearing about it.

      I’d dodge the request for contact info for sure. Tell him that you don’t ever cross the streams between work life and personal life. “I’m sure you understand.”

    7. Rainy*

      He doesn’t mean well.

      He’s already verging on hitting on you, if not just frankly hitting on you, and if you give him your number he’s going to call and text constantly once he’s out of the job. He made a point of mentioning his divorce to signal he’s available, and he came by to tell you he hoped he didn’t come off like a creep because he is, in fact, a creep, and he knows it and fully intends to escalate once you’re no longer coworkers.

      He’s gross. Go with your gut.

      And ffs, why do men still do this shit. It’s transparent, it’s gross, and it’s so freaking offensive.

      1. Phoenix Wright*

        If I had to take a guess, I’d go with something I read on the internet about email scams. They tend to be so obvious and ridiculous because that way they can ensure to only lure people who may fall for it in the end. They purposely filter out people who are savvy or aware enough to realize it’s a scam and will waste the scammer’s time.

        In OP’s case, it seems to me this guy is using a similar tactic. He’s probably looking for victims (because yes, to me this is borderline predatory) who don’t realize what he’s trying to pull off, or who don’t dare tell him to stop. As many people already said here, I suggest that OP cut contact with this guy as much as possible in the meantime, and don’t give him her number so he can’t reach her after he’s gone.

      2. Grapey*

        “why do men still do this shit”

        because it works if the recipient is interested.

        1. Batgirl*

          Forced teaming only works if you listen to the perpetrator; “We are so close! We have intimate walks! Don’t be mean now and dump me!” Rather than yourself.

          If someone is truly interested

          1. Batgirl*

            you can ask a yes/no question with zero mind games or pressure. Hell you can even do this when you’re not sure of their interest. If you want to go super crazy you can even assure them that a no is acceptable.

        2. MommyMD*

          No. This is far and beyond gauging of interest. This is weird creepy behavior and the majority of men will agree. This guy is a creep.

        3. Observer*

          Interested is not the issue here. In fact, this kind of behavior is designed to avoid the need for interested on the part of the victim.

          Creeps do it because it allows them to push unwilling people into doing what they want. That’s why it’s being tagged as predatory.

    8. C in the Hood*

      IMO, I think he’s being an overly-familiar creep. If he asks for your number, please don’t worry about being “nice”. You owe him nothing. Just say “I don’t like to give out my personal number” period.

    9. Mbarr*

      You’re allowed to feel uncomfortable. He does sound clingy.

      1. Regarding the name stuff (Missy/Kiddo), try using some of the Allison’s scripts, “Thanks, I prefer Anon for this actually!”
      2. Just because adults of different ages can be friends, doesn’t make you obligated to be his friend or make the effort.
      3. For the phone number, definitely don’t give it out. Maybe try a script of, “I prefer to keep in touch with former colleagues via LinkedIn – I’ll add you!” then you can choose to add/not add him as desired.

      If you want to start distancing yourself now, go for it. You could try making excuses to get out of conversations, “Oh, I have to prep for meeting X” or “I’m actually on my way to meet a friend!” etc.

    10. Anon for experience with this*

      Just based on what you wrote, this guy is coming off as a creep who does not mean well. Regardless of whether he’s recently divorced and lonely, his actions do not read as benign.

      He’s infantilizing you (“kiddo, missy”). You yourself think he’s “fixated” on how young you are compared to him. He’s using forced-teaming tactics (the whole “walk” thing and dramatics attached to it to make it “sound intimate” including that you should have remembered he didn’t like cake when you’d only spent a small amount of time with him). He’s going out of his way to come by your office when he never did before. He’s assuming he has a right to your phone number (“he said he’d have to get my number before he leaves for his new job”), which he does not. He immediately began denigrating his ex-wife to you, a younger female colleague he barely knows.

      And his deliberately swinging by your office to say “he hoped he didn’t come off like a creep” is a huge red flag to me.

      You are NOT being mean. Your instincts are serving you well. He does not have a right to your phone number; please do not give it to him. If this keeps up, I would consider going to your HR or whoever you feel will take this seriously.

      1. cmcinnyc*

        YES FORCED TEAMING. Thanks for naming that. He’s framing this like you two already have some kind of friendship or understanding or common experience. You don’t.

    11. Little Pig*

      In this situation, I would just go with being super cool towards him. If he says, “Hey kiddo, how’s your day going?”, keep your chair and your shoulders pointed at your computer to signal how busy you are, give him a polite smile (not a genuine smile), and say, “Oh I’m keeping busy, thanks Tom,” and go back to work. Repeat as necessary. Personally, I like to go with cool-but-professional, not out-and-out ice queen, because it’s easier to resume a collegial relationship in the future.

      I expect that some other commenters will say this isn’t strong enough, but I’ve generally found it to be very successful in managing over-enthusiastic coworkers, even ‘interested’ men. Some men are overly aggressive and need a stronger tactic, but 95% will lose interested if you’re clearly stiff and formal with them. If he turns out to be one of the 5%, you can escalate to stronger and clearer language.

      1. Anne Elliot*

        Adding to this, I also have employed puzzlement — not just failing to pick up what he’s laying down, but being puzzled by it. “What walk? We’ve never taken a walk. Oh, you mean when we wandered around the room at the luncheon?” :Confused: Jokingly accusing you of forgetting he didn’t like cake: “Why would I remember that you don’t like cake?” :Confused:

        I have found it handy to selectively not understand things that make me uncomfortable but that are not so clearly done with malicious intent as to deserve a smack-down.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Yep. From someone I like, “How’s your day going?” gets a story & a chat. But someone who sets off my alarm bells? They get “I’m on deadline, so sorry I can’t talk.”

      3. Batgirl*

        I advise stronger language downthread but I like this too; used it myself very successfully. Narcissists don’t enjoy bored or distracted reactions. Besides, a good toolbox needs tools of varying strengths.

    12. EditAnd EditOr*

      Yeah, I agree with the other commenters – trust your instincts. (To be honest, even if you hadn’t included all the detail to illustrate how he appears to be behaving objectively creepily… the fact that his behaviour is making you feel this way is enough for you to draw the boundaries you need to draw.)

      Keep your distance, use the ‘vague but busy smile then do something else’ manoeuvre, respond “oh, no thank you!” if he does ask for your number.. all the other suggestions that you use to avoid unwanted attention in other areas of your life too.

      He’s leaving soon, and hopefully that will resolve the issue… but if it doesn’t, or it becomes too weird in the meantime – remember, you don’t owe this man anything. You don’t owe him the benefit of the doubt, you don’t owe him kindness that you don’t want to give – you’re allowed to have boundaries around who you interact with on a personal level. Professionalism and basic human decency yes- anything above that, he is not entitled to, no matter how much he tries to finagle it.

      You got this!

      1. MoopySwarpet*

        “the fact that his behaviour is making you feel this way is enough for you to draw the boundaries you need to draw.”

        100% this. It doesn’t matter if he is being creepy or not. The fact that it makes you uncomfortable is enough to shut it down, or at least not encourage it.

    13. AnonEMoose*

      Your instincts are good – trust them. This guy is being creepy.

      Something I read recently that really resonated with me: “Don’t believe apologies. Believe patterns.”

      Now, this isn’t completely applicable to your situation…but I think the essential point about believing patterns absolutely is. This guy’s behavior is fitting the pattern of the other guy’s behavior, and you’re absolutely allowed to learn from that experience and apply it to this situation.

      You’re not obligated to be friends with him, give him your number, or be anything other than civil and professional. And he can feel how he wants to about that, that’s not your problem, although he’ll probably try to make his sadfeels your problem. Don’t let him.

    14. B. J. Salinger*

      …so don’t give him your number. Square up girl and hold your ground. You don’t even have to be nice about, just matter of fact. “It was nice to talk to you, but I have no interest in staying in touch — I have a meeting that starts soon. Good luck with your new job!,” then leave. You don’t have to rationalize his behavior or question yourself with so much doubt. Your instinct is telling you this guy is a creep — listen to it!

    15. De-Archivist*

      You don’t ever owe anyone your friendship.

      There is clearly something about this man, whether he is a creep or just an awkward guy, that does not mesh with your preferences for the personalities and behaviors of your friends. There’s nothing wrong with not wanted to be friends or even friendly with people you don’t really care for.

      If you don’t want to be friends, then follow the really great advice of the commentariat for professionally, blandly disengaging with the relationship.

    16. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Uh, yeah, dude wants a date. He is leaving soon, which will make him no longer your coworker, which in his mind makes it OK for him to ask you out the moment he leaves! (saying this as someone who had a coworker leave on Friday and send me a “now that we’re no longer coworkers, wanna date??” email from his personal account Monday morning. Do not give him the contact info, he intends to use it.

    17. LuckySophia*

      I’m rolling my eyes hard at this guy’s behavior/word choices. I can see why you’re not relishing the attention!
      Especially since you mentioned your past traumatic experience may be stirring up extra uneasiness.
      For whatever its worth, my take on this guy is…mainly I think he’s just (woefully) socially inept. Given his recent divorce, yeah, he’s probably lonely, AND he’s probably long out of practice at remembering how to conduct an appealing type of “single-man social interaction with a single woman.” And/or, maybe he’s just floundering around trying to figure out if he’s “still got game” after being off the market for so long? (LOL, if indeed he ever had “game”!!) Regardless, none of that is YOUR problem.You have no obligation to shore up his social confidence!!!!

      Your last sentence says it all. If he asks for your number, you can smile and say “I enjoyed making your acquaintance at the employee lunch, but I’m not interested in pursing anything beyond that.”

    18. Falling Diphthong*

      You’re allowed to be vague and busy. This is a problem that should resolve itself if you let him escort himself to his new city and job.

      I’d suggest reacting to requests for your contact info with vagaries about how he has your work info; if you feel backed into a corner and emit them you can always later respond with “Thanks; afraid I’m too busy” ad inifinitum.

      Anecdatum: I recall meeting a newly divorced dad at the tot lot when my youngest still hung out there, and it was like he knew he could recalibrate his interacting-with-women barometer now that he was single but didn’t remember enough about being single to know how to do that and sound relaxed and normal. Or he’d never practiced doing it with a toddler in tow in the late morning. I don’t think he had any actual intention of picking up me or the nanny sitting by the sandbox; he just didn’t quite know how to socially interact with female persons as a newly single male person, and so was fumbling. So feel free to blame this all on newly divorced awkwardness, if that’s reassuring.

      1. Observer*

        Why? The OP doesn’t need reassurance, she needs advice that reflects likely reality.

        Keep in mind that this guy is interacting with the OP in a professional setting. If he doesn’t know that what he’s doing is out of line in that setting, that’s not about “newly divorced awkwardness.” And if he does know that it’s out of line. . . Reassurance is not a good idea.

    19. Red5*

      I’m sorry to say, I don’t think he means well. “Also, at the end of that day, he came by my office to tell me he had a nice time talking and that he hoped he didn’t come off like a creep or anything.” This is the action of someone who WAS creeping on you, who KNEW he was creeping on you, and followed up to essentially determine how much he can CONTINUE to creep on you in the future.

      Seriously. How many people need to follow up their conversations with, “I hope I wasn’t being a creep.”

      Since you are uncomfortable, decline to give him your phone number. When he runs into you again and calls you pet names, say, “Actually, I prefer that you call me AnonForThis.” Or, “It’s AnonForThis, thanks.”

      You aren’t being mean. He’s taking advantage of the social contract of being polite to creep on you and make you uncomfortable. It’s okay to shut it down.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yes, please correct the way he addresses you. This is one of those you give an inch and they take a yard situations. “I have a name, you need to use it.”

        I also like the idea of sounding confused when he talks about “our walk”. You will see more ways that he is “taking a yard”, so feel free to pull back those inches you let go by earlier.

    20. PizzaDog*

      He sounds so weird, that even without your referenced traumatic experience, I would advise strongly against giving him any way to contact you. Thank your lucky stars that he’s no longer going to be in the office.

      A simple ‘No thanks,’ when/if he asks you for your number again should do fine. Make him uncomfortable if he continues to ask… “why would you need that?” type of thing, since he doesn’t actually.

    21. Marcy Marketer*

      Wow what a creep. Next time he makes a kiddo joke be like “Wow, still being called kiddo at 30!” or something.

      I once had a coworker say he was twice my age and I was like “oh you look much younger than 60!” which was a really good way, in my opinion, to tell him my real age (people often think I’m younger than I am, and also that coworker was closer to 35/40). When people mention college and stuff too, and imply that it was really recent for me, I’ll say something like “oh that was so long ago! Who could remember that far back?” And stuff.

    22. ten-four*

      Adding to the pile on: he’s acting like a creep and you should absolutely cold shoulder him until he goes and send him off without your number. Either “I don’t give out my personal number” or “oh, let’s connect on LinkedIn” should work, with the follow up “I like to keep my work and personal life separate” as needed. And if he STILL pushes forward and says he wants to become friends outside of work you can go with, “thanks, but I prefer not to” and then leave/turn back to what you were doing. Definitely stop talking though – don’t get drawn in to explanations or engagement. Just let the silence sit there, getting Really Uncomfortable.

      Also, screw this guy for being a creep in the workplace.

      Also also, I don’t think I ever could have done this but how fun would it be to respond to “I hope I wasn’t creepy the other day” with “Oh, you definitely were!”

    23. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      “Hey, can I get your number?”
      “Oh, no thanks, I’m good!”

      In my (admittedly somewhat limited; god bless RBF) experience, this will put him on his back foot long enough for you to go back to whatever you were doing and then he can’t follow up on it farther without emphasizing the creep factor.

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

      Every time he calls you anything that isn’t what you prefer to be called, just correct him matter-of-factly “It’s Anon for this” if you want to get “jokey” back pretend he keeps forgetting your name and you’re helping him, “oh, haha, I guess my name is hard to remember (add in “at your age” if you really want to go low in this game)? It’s Anon. I hope the transition to your new job is going smoothly.” In fact, making a habit of forgetting any of the little details he may have told you during the lunch is a way of putting him back in his place as just a guy at work whose leaving soon and you couldn’t care any less; I double dare you to ask about his wife and kids (+ points if there aren’t any) as though you don’t remember he’s recently divorced.

    25. Anonforthis*

      Apologies if someone has already brought up “The Gift of Fear” by Gavin de Becker. Your instincts are telling you that this guy is not someone you want to be around. Listen to them. DO NOT give him your number or other contact info. This is how creepy pushy guys use our socialization to be “nice” against us. (I’m a woman and am assuming you are as well.) You can be polite and still shut him down – “I don’t share my personal contact information with co-workers. Thanks.” Also, please remember that “no” is a complete sentence!

      Best of luck to you.

    26. workerbee2*

      I’m going to play devil’s advocate a bit here. This thread makes me sympathize with men who say that what makes a guy’s advances “creepy” or not is whether or not they’re welcome. Complaints that unwelcome advances automatically make a guy creepy, and that that’s not entirely fair, do seem to have some degree of merit. (I’m a woman.)

      So let’s not make this about whether or not the guy is creepy. He’s getting more familiar than you’d like and making unwelcome advances. He’s trying to gauge your interest, and you’re not interested, so shut it down, but be kind (note: “kind,” not “nice”), which to my mind means swiftly, firmly, and in a straightforward fashion (no fake numbers, etc.). If he persists after you’ve unambiguously shown your disinterest, THEN you have a creep on your hands, but I think 99% of even dense guys would back off if you make it clear that you’re not interested. But even then, if he has no way of getting in contact with you after he leaves, I think this situation will resolve itself unless he’s truly unhinged.

      1. Consuela Schlepkiss*

        No, no, he’s plenty creepy now, and there is no reason to play devil’s advocate. Don’t advocate for women to ignore what their guts are telling them, whether you are a woman or not. Why are you invested in preserving this guy’s reputation this way?

        1. Watry*

          Agreed, the devil has enough advocates. Fixating on age, denigrating an ex*, apologizing “if” he seemed creepy, all major orange flags at minimum, on their own.

          *Remember that “my ex was crazy” usually means “my ex didn’t put up with my BS”.

      2. Frankie*

        Eh, this guy seems to be rapidly squandering any benefit of the doubt he’s given.

        He’s not creepy just because he’s flirting with her. He’s creepy because he’s fixated on her age (thinking she’s much younger than she is), complaining about his ex-wife, and doing it all within a professional context which, as we see above, puts pressure on her to be more polite than she might be in everyday life if this were happening in a bar. Someone who’s looking this actively for much younger women are typically very aware of power dynamics. He’s not just showing interest, he’s testing and pushing boundaries in an environment where she has limited options for how she responds.

      3. Yorick*

        Personally, I have met many creeps who were handsome and I would’ve been interested if they had been normal humans. But this is at work, where it’s inappropriate to act this way.

      4. Phoenix Wright*

        As a man, I disagree with this. This guy is severely overstepping his bounds, and he’s using tactics that I consider almost (if not already) predatory. Whether he’s truly a creep or not, he’s definitely acting like one, so wondering if he’s a bad person or simply behaves as such isn’t helpful to anyone.

        1. Batgirl*

          When I worked with a really similar creep the other men had no problem at all identifying it as far too predatory and letting the women in the office know they’d had words/what they knew of his back story. There were however a few women who still felt they’d go to ‘not nice’ jail unless all the empathy moves were exhausted first. A friend put me in a really dangerous position like that.

      5. smoke tree*

        Let’s not lower the bar this far on our expectations of men’s social abilities. Most men are perfectly able to figure out another person’s level of interest, or are capable of being direct and asking if they’re not sure. Men who engage in the kind of predatory behaviour described in this story are perfectly aware of what they’re doing. Any men who are honestly confused about this and concerned about inadvertently coming off as creepy can work to educate themselves about feminism.

        1. Observer*

          Any men who are honestly confused about this and concerned about inadvertently coming off as creepy can work to educate themselves about feminism.

          This is not remotely about feminism. It’s about being a decent human being and not taking advantage of people.

      6. Beanie*

        General rule of thumb is that if you’re working with someone, this kind of behaviour is inappropriate. It’s has nothing to do with whether or not she was attracted to coworker or not. He should know that work is not a place to try and pick up a partner.

        And FYI, what makes an advancement creepy is not whether it was initially welcomed or not. It’s when it’s rejected and someone persists even when you’ve made it clear you aren’t interested. The first advance isn’t creepy, the second, third, and fourth one after I’ve told you I’m not interested is.

        I’ll reiterate my advice from above. Tell someone. It doesn’t matter that he’s on is way out. Make someone aware of the situation so you are protected. There is no shame in coming forward. God knows I’d wish I’d done the same when I dealt with a client who didn’t respect boundaries. Either he’ll be forced to back off because the company has your back, or they’ll tell you it’s not an issue, in which case you’ll have everything you need to know about the company for future reference.

      7. Workerbee*

        I disagree, and others on this thread have already expressed the excellent reasons why.

        I also like to think of it this way: This man is in the working world and is to all appearances an adult. He’s been able to navigate all manner of direct and indirect nuances. He can, I therefore assume, understand his own motives and detect when he himself is pushing boundaries.

        He’s not accidentally baiting a hook. He’s casting a net. OP, trust your instincts, always. I’ve found it’s been my own misplaced benefit of the doubtisms and societal mores that have led me wrong, not my gut feeling. Which is, of course, what predatory people want you to doubt most of all.

      8. Batgirl*

        This is the exact playbook my poor friend’s horrible, oft-divorced, serial cheat dad uses. We used to hear him teaching his son: ‘Don’t take no for an answer, insist that you’re ‘friends’, always go for the very young, target daddy issues, recent break ups; scold the ones who aren’t nice.’ Like it was a war.

        He tried his worn out scolding, patronage, fake friendship and favour sharking on me about 15 years later as I was going through a divorce. Some of the same exact wording as OP’s creep. Oh, and being kind doesn’t work.

      9. Observer*

        You really think that any of what he is doing falls into the realm of reasonable advances? Each one alone is out of line, but together? No.

        I suggest you re-read the thread. People are naming quite specifically what is wrong with what he’s doing. So, I’m not going to rehash. But just keep in mind that your defense is exactly one of the tools people like this use against their victims.

    27. Frankie*


      Listen to your gut. Reading this made me vicariously and deeply uncomfortable. He sounds like he’s hitting on you and that makes his fixation on your age even creepier. Really unprofessional.

      I would just say something like “Oh, email is better for me, I’m not really a phone person” if he really tries to follow through with the number. You have absolutely nothing to feel guilty about by rejecting his advances, even if they are just for friendship (which I doubt).

      1. Anon for this*

        He sounds like he’s hitting on you and that makes his fixation on your age even creepier.

        EXACTLY! That’s the part that weirds me out the most. I’m in my mid-twenties, but the way he talks about my age, it’s like he thinks I’m late teens, early twenties at the oldest, but he as someone nearly twenty years older wants to become closer? Again, nothing wrong with people being friends who are far apart in age, but if you’re interested in someone, that’s a bizarre thing to fixate on…

        1. Batgirl*

          He’s stressing it because he believes in daddy issues and is shopping for that. He’s also hoping you’re vulnerable and overly nice enough to put up with pushiness and craziness ‘unlike that bitch I was married to’. Everything you’ve mentioned is straight off those courses about how to spot a potential abuser. There ARE women who don’t see these flags (you’re not supposed to) and if it’s any consolotion youre not the droid he’s looking for.

        2. Workerbee*

          Grooming in process! He’s counting on you not being old or experienced enough to recognize this. How wonderful it would be for him if he could shape you into exactly what he wants! /s

          I’m so glad you wrote in about this; getting a true reality check before anything worse happens is priceless.

      2. Pebbles*

        Usually guys who want to trade their wives in for a younger model find the younger model before they get the divorce. This guy is going about it all backwards! [/snark]

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          Sometimes they don’t get the choice; their wives get sick of their behavior first.

    28. Anon for this*

      Thank you so much to everyone for their input! I’m glad to know I’m not crazy for feeling put-off by his actions. I know that it’s 100% my right to not be interested even if he did absolutely nothing wrong, but I just wanted to make sure I wasn’t judging him overly harshly and to see if anyone had input on how to handle it.

      As of now, it’s mostly in my head regarding how big of an issue it is (it’s really not), but I hate upsetting people and am mostly dreading how to say no if he does ask. I do feel bad because I did genuinely initially enjoy our conversation and I initially thought he’d be a cool work friend to have (prior to learning he was leaving), but I was honestly put off by some of the stuff he said and realized later that I didn’t really want to keep contact after he leaves. I’m all for being polite while he’s here, but my mom suggested being icy and avoiding conversation as much as possible.

      She had also suggested that if he did ask for my number to go with the cover story that I’m dating someone. Personally, I want to avoid lying if at all possible. I like a lot of the wording here and am leaning towards just saying I’m not comfortable giving my number out and leave it at that. I also came across a great article about how to deal with people who want closer friendships than you and various ways (with varying degrees of bluntness vs. using covers) to let them down.

      Thank you all again! Happy Friyay~

      1. Not A Manager*

        I recommend against saying you’re dating someone. He’ll gaslight you and act all offended. “You thought I was asking for a DATE har har!” I think you can just say that you don’t give out personal information at work.

        1. valentine*

          it’s mostly in my head regarding how big of an issue it is (it’s really not)
          It’s as big a deal as you think and feel it is. Don’t discount the impact on you.

          Are you sure he’s leaving? If you only heard it from him, he may be walking you down the garden path of “I like you so much I can’t leave and it’s all your fault for being so [positive adjective] and so incredibly young” or “I thought you wouldn’t date a colleague, so I fibbed and it’s all your fault for being so [positive adjective] and so incredibly young.” If so, you’ll feel stuck because you’re still colleagues and you don’t feel you can report him. But you can. You can tell your supervisor “After a brief conversation in which Youth-obsessed Creep was fixated on how young he thinks I look, he has taken to visiting my desk every [frequency], calling me child-related pet names, and chastising me for not recalling his small talk. I’m going to tell him not to visit and not to call me pet names. I just wanted you to know in case anyone mistakes it for rudeness.”

          1. Anon for this*

            I’m fairly confident he is. The job is in the city he lives in, which is just under an hour away from where we are, so it makes sense (though it is a bit weird because he’s only been at this job for six months). However, I’ve heard him say he’s leaving to others as well, so I doubt he’s making it up.

            Otherwise, I appreciate your take on this!

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

        “She had also suggested that if he did ask for my number to go with the cover story that I’m dating someone. Personally, I want to avoid lying if at all possible.” Yes, please do not use the cover story of dating someone because the subtext he’ll hear is that IF ONLY you weren’t dating someone, you’d be interested in him. You don’t want him hanging around on the fringes of your professional life just waiting for you to be “single again” so he can make his move, or asking colleagues about your relationship status to find out if you’re lying.

      3. straws*

        Saying that you’re dating someone also comes with the downside of him potentially checking in to see if your relationship has failed. Maybe not an issue in this case if he’s leaving, but I’ve gone that route before and it only resulted in continued conversations to get “updates” on my dating status. In one case, it was the truth that I was in a relationship when Persistent Suitor tried to connect with me. Said relationship then ended and I met someone else. I then got chewed out by Persistent Suitor, because he wasn’t informed that I was single for a time and it wasn’t fair that he wasn’t given a chance. Better to be up front on this, IMO.

      4. Anon for experience with this*

        If you use the “I’m not comfortable giving my number out” phrasing rather than the firmer suggestions people have offered or a simple “No,” I’d be prepared for pushback from him about “But WHYYYYY aren’t you comfortable giving out your number to ME?”

        (Been there, gotten that exact response. Sigh.)

        He might not. But if he does, “Because I’m not. Excuse me, I need to get back to work” is a completely acceptable answer. You don’t owe him an explanation for why you’re not comfortable giving your number out. You don’t owe him anything.

        You initially thought he’d be a good work friend and he repeatedly acted in ways that made you rethink that. That is your prerogative and you don’t have to feel badly about it. And if he tries to argue/rules-lawyer/whine at you about you not wanting to give him your phone number, that is NOT okay.

      5. blackcat*

        I really like “No thanks, I’m good.” said cheerfully in response to a request for a phone number. You can add you’re not comfortable, but “no thanks” is pretty blunt and firm. I think “I’m not comfortable” is more likely to get a “BUY WHY?!” response. “No thanks” followed by “I’d rather not” provides less to argue with.

        1. ayahbanaya*

          This is what I say at stores–cheerful and as though they are offering me something (rather than collecting my data). It always takes them aback just enough to move on without follow up. It works in a situation like this, too, because there’s nothing to push back against. I would practice saying it, though.

      6. ErgoBun*

        You’re concerned about upsetting him, but he is NOT concerned about upsetting you — at least, he’s not giving any sign that he is. Consider that. Is he giving you the same consideration that you are giving him? If so, then he has earned your consideration. If not, he has not. You deserve the same level of concern and politeness that you are showing him, and if he does not return it, your conscience is free and clear to be cold and rude.

      7. Anon for this*

        Also, though I don’t have the nerve to do this, if he calls me a similar nickname again, there’s a part of me that’s tempted to snidely tell him “Oh, I’m actually not an underage minor!” Not that it’s acceptable in ANY work context, but it’s not even like I’m a student employee or intern (we’re at a university). I’m an adult who is financially independent with a couple years of work experience and it’s just ridiculous to me to call someone a name like that, especially someone you’re not remotely close to.

        1. Marthooh*

          I wouldn’t put it that way. It won’t discourage him unless he’s actually trolling for teenagers. The problem isn’t that he doesn’t know how old you are, it’s that he’s being weirdly familiar.

      8. Anon for this*

        Also, I’m 100% with all of you saying not to use my mom’s cover story!
        1) I don’t want to lie if it’s not necessary.
        2) I’m pretty confident I wouldn’t be convincing.
        3) He could very well pull the “I just want to be friends” card, which doesn’t solve anything.
        4) He could act offended that I didn’t bother telling him earlier, even though we’re, again, not close.

        She recommended this the last time I turned someone down (who was a genuine friend who had treated me with nothing but respect, so I refused to be dishonest with him whatsoever).

        1. Lilysparrow*

          It also implies that he is a potential date prospect. Which he is not.

          If you aren’t comfortable hoping out directly, then give him you work extension.

          He is a co-worker. Your only connection is professional, and you want to keep it that way.

          Do not buy into his premise that this interaction is social. Not on any level.

        2. Batgirl*

          He will deny that getting your number is for a date. I had my creepy older dude go from “You look amazing and we should get a drink some time, alone” to “Well I didn’t mean we should have sex, I just thought we (two almost strangers) should go out and talk about our divorces”. Yeah.

          So go with either:
          A) “Only old friends and family members have my number I’m sure you understand” or any other variety of ‘we’re just not that close’
          B) “Oh I don’t know it. I dont use my phone much. I get a lot of creeps. Email is so much easier to block.”
          C) Or call him on how the whole patronising pushy deal doesn’t strike you as friendship (you can just say it pleasantly, you dont have to snarl!) and when he denies it, just say “Nevertheless it was inappropriate” as many times as you want.
          Feel free to say you thought he could use the free advice on working with women.

      9. ket*

        “As of now, it’s mostly in my head regarding how big of an issue it is (it’s really not), but I hate upsetting people and am mostly dreading how to say no if he does ask.” This sentence stood out to me because it was an issue I had especially when younger. I had a lot of feelings about being nice, being fair, saying no, appearing cooperative and pleasant — being “good” and “not causing trouble”. Even when our conscious minds know “that it’s 100% my right to not be interested even if he did absolutely nothing wrong”, it’s these unconscious scripts that give a person anxiety and even render them unable to follow through with their conscious wishes in the moment.

        I don’t really have any advice. Over time, I’ve been able to calibrate my it’s-ok-o-meter better (no, you don’t have to accept that wrong dish at the restaurant even though it’ll give you indigestion because you don’t want to bother the server; yes, you can just say with a laugh, “Oh, I want to keep work & personal life separate, but I’m flattered!” and it’ll be ok; yes, you can just cut someone like this guy off and never talk to him again and he’ll be annoyed in the moment and also that’s ok and he’ll be fine! Good luck.

      10. Workerbee*

        I understand your feelings; there are a few too many times when a “Hey, this guy seems like a cool work friend to have!” have turned into exactly what you’re dealing with. It makes me treasure the ones that don’t even more; they are very few.

        Please keep us updated!

      11. Observer*

        I see that your mom has this guy’s number. Good.

        While I disagree with her advice about the boyfriend, I see where she is coming from. It does make sense in that people like this often try to avoid people who are “taken” as it doesn’t work as well. But, I agree with the others who say that in practice it has its own drawbacks, so it’s not worth it.

    29. Mk*

      He’s testing your boundaries. That’s the reason why he hasn’t done anything yet that doesn’t have an innocuous explanation – he’s giving himself plausible deniability. Your instincts are good, trust them and don’t give out any personal info.

    30. agmat*

      I’d find it unnerving, too. He’s trying to chat you up and it’s not welcome. You have to be clear with him because he has already made it known he wants your number to ask you out on a date.

      Don’t explain, don’t mention the age difference, don’t mention that you’d rather not stay in contact, don’t waffle about anything. “I’d rather not.”

      He may say he just wants to “be friends.” Don’t buy into it. “That’s okay, I’m just not interested.” Because you aren’t interested in being his friend either.

    31. Lilysparrow*

      Best case scenario: he’s trying very badly to flirt with you in the hopes that it’s mutual, and it’s not.

      Worst case: he’s a creeper.

      Just let go of all this rationalization about “there’s nothing inherently wrong with him assuming I’m younger than I actually am,” and “…while I absolutely don’t think there’s anything wrong with two adults who are far apart in age being friends.”

      You don’t like him. He’s annoying and kind of a jerk. You don’t want to be his friend.

      That’s all the reason you need. You don’t have to pretend that he “means well,” or whatever. You are entitled to distance yourself and shut this down for absolutely no other reason except that *you are not enjoying it.*

      Here’s what you do. This will probably feel very rude, but it is not. It is perfectly civil and professional.

      He calls you missy or kiddo, you say “That’s not my name.” Do not smile or act like it’s a joke. Do not continue the conversation with him, just turn back to what you were doing before.

      He acts offended over the ridiculous cake thing. You say, “Okay.” Again, do not open the door to any further discussion, just turn back to what you were doing.

      He comes to interrupt you at your desk, you don’t chitchat. Don’t smile or pretend that you are glad to see him. You say, “Are you looking for somebody? Because I have to get this done.” Let it be clear that he is interrupting you.

      He tells you he’s leaving for a new job, say “congratulations, I hope it’s a great opportunity.” If he asks for your number, say “That’s not necessary, but I wish you the best.”

      The key to all of these is to show with body language that the conversation is over. Walk away. Turn away. Go back to your work.

      You’re not being “mean.” You’re being clear by drawing a line and demonstrating unequivocally which side he belongs on.

      If he ignores these extremely normal, easy to understand, mainstream and non-mysterious social cues, then he is not confused. He’s ignoring them on purpose.

      I guarantee that if he is 40 and gainfully employed long-term, then he can understand these cues from a boss or peer. He can jolly well understand them from you, too.

      If he does ignore them, say, “Look, it was nice to meet you that one time at the luncheon. But it seems like you’re trying to make it into some kind of close friendship. I don’t see that happening. I’m sure we’ll run into each other professionally at some point, that’s great. Let’s leave it at that.”

      And in the highly unlikely event that he won’t behave like a grown-up about that, it’s time to call HR.

    32. L. S. Cooper*

      This set off ALL of my creep sensors. I’ve found that a neutral but firm “I’m not interested” or “Do not do/say that” works well. The secret is to be neither friendly nor angry/aggressive. It’s just a statement of a fact, and if you’re generally cheerful and chipper, like I am, the switch from friendly to neutral registers as harsh enough to convey how serious it is. (However, I’m also a large person with a loud voice, so people probably take me more seriously.)

    33. dumblewald*

      You are right to feel uneasy – he is being really inappropriate. Unfortunately for the world, his behavior sounds super familiar. He is trying to do exactly the guy in your previous encounter did – he is testing your boundaries and trying to groom you into a more intimate relationship through gradual friendliness. If he works in your company and you have a sympathetic manager – either in your dept or HR – go talk to them. Also, feel free to start ignoring him, even to the point of being cold and unfriendly.

    34. emmelemm*

      Just want to add to the chorus of “he’s a creep, he does not mean well”. Have been there, done that. Do not give him your number.

    35. Boomerang Girl*

      I had a colleague who called me “missy”…until I started calling him “pops”. Then he stopped!

    36. Batgirl*

      Be mean! “Honestly I find it inappropriate when male colleagues patronize my age and then ask for my number. I don’t think it’s professional”
      He won’t expect it (these guys love youth because youth doesn’t talk back) and he knows he’s wrong, hence a) youthful target and b) trying it on when he’s leaving soon.

  4. Game of Thrones OP*

    I’m the OP who asked the game of thrones question and I’m so tickled that everybody jumped in with nerd comments. My biggest fear writing to advice columns is that the audience will find the question boring or say I’m making too much of a big deal out of something / the solution is obvious and I’m an idiot. Thanks everybody who jumped in to either commiserate or fangasm :P

    1. Move Over Thrawn - Florian Munteanu is BIGGER than you!*

      That was fun. I’m a Browncoat, love Thorin from the Hobbit (I have three lifesize cutouts, one is on my wall, I did NOT intend to have three, but it’s a long story), and of course, Grand Admiral Thrawn from Star Wars. I live and die by my pop culture lifestyle.

      1. WrenF*

        I just finished THRAWN: ALLIANCES earlier this week after happening on it at the library. What an interesting character. I was very prepared to not like him because he was such a sinister villain in Rebels.

        1. WrenF*

          But I did, even more than Padmé (who I usually support as she got such a raw deal in Sith).

          1. valentine*

            I’m making too much of a big deal out of something
            This is good information to have, especially from a diverse group. The obvious/idiot bits aren’t meant to be done here and someone will usually say so and defend you.

            There are OPs who think their issues were too mundane to update, but I wish they would because it’s always good to know how things turned out.

        2. Move Over Thrawn - Florian Munteanu is BIGGER than you!*

          They cartooned him in Rebels. He’s much more complex than that.

          1. WrenF*

            I knew nothing about the Chiss, his abilities, his loyalty…so that was awesome to pick up. Also, neat to get some backstory on his art collection.

            I miss Rebels. But am looking forward to the continuation of Clones with Disney streaming later this year!

            1. Move Over Thrawn - Florian Munteanu is BIGGER than you!*

              What I liked most about Rebels was Maul. Nice to see him fleshed out as a character.

    2. Sack of Benevolent Trash Marsupials*

      I wrote in too late for you to see probably, but our office has a standing meeting now on Monday mornings for 30 minutes in a conference room for all the GoT fans to get it out of their systems. Really helps as there are no longer hour-long hallway conversations all the time! If I close my door, my office heats to a million degrees so I love this solution.

      1. Marion Ravenwood*

        In my old job we used to have Game of Thrones Lunch Club on Tuesdays (I’m in the UK, so most of us would watch the episode on Monday nights). Basically we booked a meeting room, everyone brought their lunches and we’d sit round and discuss that week’s episode. I’m the only GoT fan in my current office and I really miss having people at work to talk about it with!

    3. Rainy*


      Weirdly enough, my coworkers have thus far been a LOT more low-key than they have in previous seasons! I’m not sure what changed but I’m pretty happy about it.

      1. your favorite person*

        probably trying to avoid spoilers. It’s such a huge season with so much crammed into only 6 episodes it would be a bummer to spoil anything for someone who is not a ‘night of’ watcher.

    4. Liane*

      I enjoyed the question and responses, even though I, too, am not into GoT. I enjoyed his earlier Aces/Joker novels but I quit the GoT series after 1 or 2 books because they were way too dark and violent for me, so stay away from the show. I am kind of familiar with it between 2 novels and friends who do like the series. (They let me talk about Geek Things they don’t care for, so I return the favor.)

      For the record Alison, even though I don’t do GoT (and prefer Star Trek or Star Wars names when I post), I love all the GoT names used here and find they are usually apt pseudonyms. Yes, I did have to think about who the High Sparrow was, but it was still fun.

  5. Teapot Librarian*

    Question about nudging/nagging bosses: what is an appropriate frequency for following up with one’s boss on things that you need their action on? I apparently do not nudge/nag frequently enough, according to my boss, but I have an employee who nudges me daily, and it drives me a bit nuts with its frequency. Is there a happy medium that I should be striving for on the one hand, and suggesting to my employee on the other? I really do appreciate that she stays on top of the things she needs from me, I just would like to breathe between her requests!

    1. Anna Canuck*

      It kind of depends on whether things are at a standstill until someone gets what they need, or not. I’m guilty of not following up enough because I have the assumption that if I respond quickly and do my job, other people also do that.
      It also matters how long the task takes. Do I need two minutes of your time? Two days? If it’s short, following up in a day is appropriate. If it’s a big thing, no more than once every week or two.

      1. Matilda Jefferies*

        It also depends very much on the boss! Some bosses need more nudging than others, and some appreciate it more than others (regardless of how much they need it.) So it’s totally appropriate to ask your boss how much is appropriate for her, and also to tell your employee to knock if off with you. There’s no one standard here, it all depends so much on each individual situation.

    2. Psyche*

      Everyone has a different frequency that they prefer. Generally, the boss gets to determine that frequency. I think it would be perfectly fine to tell your employee the frequency that you prefer. “I’ve noticed that you are emailing me daily asking for X. I need you to trust that I have not forgotten and will get to it as soon as I can. Please try not to check in on it more than (insert frequency here) unless it is truly urgent.”

      As for your boss, ask her how often she wants you to nudge/nag when you need something and adjust accordingly.

      1. Ashley*

        I like asking in the moment. When I ask my boss if he has an answer on X, my response is when do you think you might or when should I ask you again? This is assuming I don’t know the urgency. When it is urgent he gets texts — y due in 1 hour what are we doing? (I have projects with super strict time limits sometimes so a hour timeline is no joke for us.)

    3. TacocaT racecar*

      What has your boss said about your not nudging enough? I think it depends on the turnaround time for the action: if you need this 250 page report back in a month vs. needing her signature by the end of the week. Do you feeling comfortable asking her what she’s looking for?

      As for your report, be direct! You’re doing her a favor by helping her not annoy her boss by just letting her know. “Hey, while I appreciate the reminders, I prefer not to get them daily, unless it’s something you need the same day and I haven’t already talked to you about it. Can you try to compile all of the reminders for the week in a single email and send it to me on Friday morning? Thanks.”

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      It’s going to vary depending on person and position.

      I have to nag people frequently because my turnaround time is slim most days. However there are things that are non-urgent and get to be held off for a weekly 1:1 situation!

      Your frequency with your boss and your frequency with your report are going to be different. If you don’t need her checking up daily, how about suggesting a 1:1 setup every other day or once a week? It should never be a hard and fast rule, things come up and some things are “now now now”others are “Just make sure it gets done before the month is over.” kind of thing.

      1. Teapot Librarian*

        I think part of what is frustrating me about my employee’s daily checks are that we also talk regularly, and she asks about things during those conversations AND by email, and it is the email that is daily in addition to the in-person. It isn’t a huge deal, of course, either way.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Ah it seems like a peeve issue in the end. You can certainly ask her to choose a ONE! mode of communication.

          It could be her way of reminding herself as well, perhaps she doesn’t do well with verbal reminders so she’s like “okay so I’ll also do a daily recap email as well!” and it’s just over the top because you don’t need it specifically.

          Curiously, have you worked with her for a long time or is she new-ish by chance? Or perhaps there is a change in leadership for your role so she’s used to having to pester the living heck out of her last boss to get things done? Old habits die hard like that.

          I’m going to assume that it’s not because you regularly need more reminding than you think ;) Look at that letter from awhile back where the boss never reads emails and then gets made AF and chastises the employee for missing a monthly bank transfer for not “reminding” her but she did! Maybe your employee had that boss before and she’s covering her own butt.

          I would honestly bring it up in passing and ask her to stop if I were you, just to cut down on your frustration. However if she doesn’t seem to be able to stop, just let it go because again, just overkill more than anything which I agree, is super frustrating to me. I don’t need 75 reminders but sometimes I do need 2.

        2. zyx*

          My company has a culture of using email as our todo lists, so your employee is following our standard procedure! When I talk to my boss about something I need, she generally asks me for an email too so it stays on her list.

          If you need something different, you can just say so. As the boss, you get to determine how your employees communicate with you.

        3. Owler*

          Perhaps you can ask your employee to replace the email reminders with a shared to-do list with due dates. It doesn’t have the in-your-face feeling of email because you can check it when you feel like it, but it also shows that the items are on both of your radars. It could be an electronic version or a physical one, like on a white board.

          That way, you talk about the progress in your check-ins (and maybe update the to-do list jointly), and the employee gets the satisfaction of seeing that things haven’t been forgotten, but you aren’t dealing with the email issue.

    5. cmcinnyc*

      Does your boss have an EA so you can outsource some of the pestering? I usually set up tag-team nudging: Employee A will nudge, get no answer, so I’ll nudge, and then kick it back to A if no action.

    6. Evil HR Person*

      With my boss – who happens to be the CEO therefore, super busy – I like to ask her when I should follow up with her on whatever subject. She’s pretty good at acknowledging that she needs follow up and giving me a good, “If you don’t have an answer from me in two weeks (or whatever), remind me.” Alternately, you can say to your report to please curb the checking-in to once a week (or whatever makes sense). Use that same spiel, “If I don’t give you an answer by the end of the day, come see me first thing tomorrow.” And, if your employee keeps nagging beyond that, you have standing to say, “It’s not the end of the day yet…” or [insert length of time here].

    7. Tortoise*

      I would be asking your employee to save those up for one email or one check in, say weekly or even daily but all in one!

    8. Not So NewReader*

      Definitely do tell your employee what you do and do not need reminders on. Likewise with your boss. I used to tell my crew when I wanted to be reminded. More currently, with the boss I have now I can pick out what has slipped by her and other things she point blank says she wants to be reminded.

      My boss and I use notes with each other for most things.
      The things that suddenly come up AND need her immediate attention, I will interrupt her to get those things done.

      As the years have gone by the sudden interruptions have lessened. For one, I am better at anticipating what is coming next so I can prep the paperwork and just put it in her “do immediately pile”. But I also know what she will say regarding this or that, so I can just handle it myself.
      As we grew used to working together, I would ask about specific things. “Do you still want to sign all Xs or can I start signing them for you?” So some things were put in a group of similar things and we created our own SOP for that group of similar things. She later said she felt very comfortable doing this because I am unusually good at spotting when something appears it might be similar but it is NOT similar, therefore I ask about that one-off.

      I used the idea of one-offs with people I have supervised. “If you see something different than the usual, then ask or tell me.” When they brought me the unusual example, we’d talk about it. Gradually, their questions and needs were lessened substantially.

      The recurring things are the easiest to get a handle on. It’s the once a year things or the unusual things that take a bit more time. And to some extent there will always be things that need reminders.

  6. Move Over Thrawn - Florian Munteanu is BIGGER than you!*

    The Great Outsourcing Experiment has been deemed a failure. Last June we switched to an online bookkeeping service, and laid off the only other office person, our bookkeeper. The result was to overwhelm me with work, far more than I could do successfully, especially considering that I have zero finance experience or aptitude. The service did the bookkeeping, but I was the one who had to process and send them bills, etc. I have learned to hate credit card statements with a fiery passion, too. Matching up line items with receipts and budget codes sounds like such a simple, bloodless process but it is NOT.

    Bills were often paid late; we had to constantly remind the church member assigned to approve bills to do so; then it took two days to process, plus 7-10 days to get a paper check to companies or individuals. They have absolutely no flexibility in their process, and the human assigned to work with us often sounded like a bot. She wouldn’t say a word that was not scripted by her company.

    So now we are hiring an in house part time bookkeeper. And the final cost for this past year? Just my nerves, which are completely wrecked. My reputation, somewhat tarnished by having to tell people constantly that I simply do not have time to do their thing. And the laid off bookkeeper is still without a job. She’s 58, long list of health problems, and is unlikely to find one again, I guess. One of the pastors mentioned the other day he thought that would be the case – and I just looked at him. Nice of you to care so much, guys.

    1. k8isgreat*

      Ugh, my new job surprised me with a lot of reimbursement work and no real training. I HATE having to try and figure out other people’s receipts and which items have alcohol and all that crap. And we use 2 very different systems for different reimbursements and they both suck and are both so tedious. There’s a reason you hire people to do this instead of dumping it on the nearest admin.

      1. Move Over Thrawn - Florian Munteanu is BIGGER than you!*

        Oh, amen, amen, amen. All they cared about what saving money. I was just the nearest, and only, warm body to dump it on.

      2. Bunny Girl*

        Same!!! And we have a couple of our team members who travel abroad and bring me back receipts in a different language and then get snippy when I ask wtf it says.

        1. k8isgreat*

          Yes! And then you have to deal with exchange rates and foreign taxes. No thank you.

      3. JustaTech*

        One time my company got bought by the Evil Overlords (TM) and fired the entire purchasing department and told us that each department would have to do our own purchasing. There was very little training on a very complicated process. During one live (phone) training that had to be *begged* for, the trainers were very rude. “Why are you all finding this so hard? These are standard purchasing processes!” to which my coworkers responded “We’re not in purchasing! We’re scientists! We don’t know any of these codes!”
        The trainers were taken aback and slightly less rude but getting anything ordered was a nightmare for years.

    2. Rainy*

      One of the pastors mentioned the other day he thought that would be the case

      Living those values, I guess.

        1. only acting normal*

          A family friend is a professional musician (and deeply religious): he is being totally exploited by the local churches who are *vastly* underpaying him for his organ and piano playing. Eventually a new vicar sorted out some of it, but others in the area are still delaying/skipping payments.

          1. Rainy*

            One of my friends who’s a professional musician has Things To Say about the way churches exploit church musicians.

              1. Decima Dewey*

                My branch’s guard is a musician. He told me recently that he no longer plays Gospel, because churches except him to play for free. Which doesn’t help any with his mortgage, his utility bills, etc.

        2. Federal Middle Manager*

          Except that many many many churches keep on poorly performing staff for just this reason and the organization as a whole suffers.

          I was on the board for a church that was struggling financially (near bankruptcy) but had a beautiful classic 150 year old building located in a popular destination wedding market. Renting the facility for weddings on Fridays and/or Saturdays only (with no interruptions to Sunday services) would have almost completely alleviated the financial problems.

          The board decided to allow the cheerful but inexperienced church secretary market and book the weddings for a small commission. Based on our market research, 50% of weekends booked would have been easily attainable because we were priced competitively, with the opportunity for both Friday and Saturday double weekends during high seasons. The third year of the this arrangement, the church had only booked 13 weddings for the year. She was given plenty of time to get the hang of it, try new things, ask for more seed money, etc. But clearly she wasn’t a good fit. And the church literally almost folded due to the board’s reluctance to hire someone else or contract this out to an event manager (the larger state organization had to provide emergency loans by the third year).

          1. Move Over Thrawn - Florian Munteanu is BIGGER than you!*

            You’re right, staff has to be able to perform their jobs adequately. But she had been their bookkeeper for over ten years …. Left the banking industry after twenty. She knew what she was doing.

    3. $!$!*

      Is there any chance the laid off bookkeeper will be offered the part time position ?

      1. Move Over Thrawn - Florian Munteanu is BIGGER than you!*

        No. They don’t want her back. It’s true that she was out a lot – I mean a LOT – and that was frustrating, but she did know her trade. They could have worked around that, they just didn’t want to. She’s filling out her disability paperwork now; she has macular degeneration, legally blind in one eye, the other is going too. But, we are a church, we should be taking care of our own.

        1. TooTiredToThink*

          But if she was out a lot and they only want to hire a part time person…. *sigh* Hope everything works out.

        2. FloralsForever*

          i know i’m a little late to the conversation but YES. a place that believes they care about people but then let go of someone who offers value (and needs to be valued) because its “inconvenient.”

      2. Auntie Social*

        So when do they go back to the bookkeeper with hat in hand, and a sincere apology??? And have you said ‘I can’t take much more, we gotta get Miriam back!!”???

        1. Move Over Thrawn - Florian Munteanu is BIGGER than you!*

          Oh yes, I’ve made it known I’m drowning. They just didn’t care. They only paid attention when they started realizing my OT was costing… Now I can’t work OT anymore. I’m so behind it’s impossible.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            It sounds like her MD is progressing far along. It might be that she could not do the work any more, anyway. Not comforting but looking at another solution might be wise. My friend has MD and it takes her forever to read something. She has also lost her ability to scan a page, she has to read every single word to know what is on a page. It’s tiring for her.

            1. Move Over Thrawn - Florian Munteanu is BIGGER than you!*

              She has a special computer bought for her by a state Dept that deals with the blind and often uses magnifying aids. It’s true that long term disability is her only real option, but she’s got a few years left on the other eye.

    4. Grace*

      So they laid off a bookkeeper, then a bit later hired a new one, but they didn’t rehire the old one who was still without a job? Bit harsh. I suppose she might have wanted full-time rather than part-time, but please say they at least offered her her job back!

        1. Move Over Thrawn - Florian Munteanu is BIGGER than you!*

          She would come back if offered. I wanted them to work around her with part time status, maybe flexible hours, but they didn’t want to. I’ve tried to help her.

          1. I See Real People*

            I have heard, so it may not be true, that if you lay off someone due to cuts or outsourcing, and within a certain amount of time you refill the position without changing it, that you must offer the laid-off employee the position first. They practice this at my current company.

    5. Jadelyn*

      CC reconciliations are the WOOOOORST. I used to have to do a similar version of that for a larger company – get the report from the processing gateway, line-by-line to the transactions in the internal database, make sure it all matches up. It was the most tedious and frustrating thing. You have all my sympathies.

    6. MissDisplaced*

      Ouch! That just really sucks for the former bookkeeper. Why can’t they hire her back?

    7. Master Bean Counter*

      Don’t feel bad. Those of us who deal with credit card statements everyday hate them with a fiery passion as well.

      1. Move Over Thrawn - Florian Munteanu is BIGGER than you!*

        The funny thing – years back, different church, I mentioned to our bookkeeper that I thought CCs would be so easy to deal with. ha. She set me straight, now I understand totally. They are EVIL.

    8. Hamburke*

      I’m an oursourced bookkeeper. Just so you know, I often feel the same way when we first bring on a new client. It really takes about 6 months before the process is smoother – I’ve only had one client that onboarded without a lot of stress. But it sounds like you didn’t click with the person you ended up with and they weren’t invested in making the transition and forward process smooth.

      As an fyi, there are things you can do to make credit card statements and bills easier (expensify is one of the products we use for our clients).

      1. Move Over Thrawn - Florian Munteanu is BIGGER than you!*

        I didn’t click, though she seems nice enough. I suspect this particular company probably just focuses on cut rate work and attitude… but I admit I’ve been resentful from the start of this. For my co worker, and for myself.

    9. Mazzy*

      Omg they’re not hiring her back? How much money could this outsourcing have been saving?

      1. Move Over Thrawn - Florian Munteanu is BIGGER than you!*

        About half her salary per year.

    10. Anono-me*

      Maybe I’m too cynical. But if I was the former bookkeeper; I would be wondering about the whole process that resulted in me being replaced by a younger healthier person and consulting an employment lawyer specializing in age and disability issues.

  7. Anonny*

    How long is too long to stay at a job? I’ve been here 10Y but have only received one promotion because there is NO ROOM for growth. There are pros, like a good work/life balance, flex time, fun coworkers. Pay is meh but job is stable.

    I’m thinking this looks bad on my resume through no fault of my own… it’s not my fault the higher ups won’t leave so there’s no room for me to move up. Thoughts?

    1. irene adler*

      Get out while you still can.
      Interviewers will wonder why you haven’t progressed promotion-wise.
      You’ll need to counter this with a show of all the skills you’ve obtained.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      It will vary depending on the hiring manager that it lands in front of.

      My boss was thrilled with my shown “loyalty” and that I stay put until it just isn’t feasible any longer! Others would ask why and start digging at it even more, like it was absurd to them that anyone would leave after ten years and there was some kind of weird underlining reason that I was hiding.

      I just interviewed a person months ago who was at the same company for 25 years and was only looking because of some management changes. We were cool with that, it happens, companies can change a lot in all that time and cause people to want to leave.

      If you’ve tapped out at 10 years, it really shouldn’t look bad for you, you have a very reasonable explanation.

      The only reason it brings some kind of worry into minds is that you may have a harder time acclimating to a new environment but that’s standard stuff in most cases. It’s been something I stay aware of and think “well they haven’t had any change in so long, it makes sense.” more than a flag saying I shouldn’t hire them.

      Please, cast your fishing line and try out the waters. You don’t have to leave just because you start sniffing around but it gives you more ability to know what you may or may not be missing out on!

    3. Natalie*

      I would (and did, when I was in the same situation) prioritize how this feels for your life over how it looks on your resume. It’s okay to not want to grow in your career – plenty of people are happy with a sort of “steady eddie” job that they’ve mastered – and if that’s you then who cares how it looks on your resume? If someone is happy without changing jobs, it doesn’t make much sense for them to get a new job just to strengthen their resume for a theoretical new job in the future.

      But, it does sound like you might be a little bored? Maybe not unfulfilled, but not as fulfilled as you could be? If that’s the case, why not look around and see what’s out there? Other jobs have work/life balance and flex time and fun coworkers, and better pay and growth opportunities. But you won’t know about them if you never look. And if you don’t find anything better, well then, you’re right at the same place you were without looking.

      1. Steady Eddie*

        This is me. I’ve been with the same company for 12 years. In that time I’ve has 3-4 different roles. I’ve had the same role for 5 years. I have continued to advance my skills in that time and don’t feel I know everything there is to know. i can continue to get better. I love my boss, my company and my job. I have a ton of flexibility, great benefits and decent pay (especially for the area I live in). I know a promotion is unlikely unless I move states. I worry a little about if I ever were to have to leave the company what my resume would look like, but right now my work-life balance and flexibility is important for my family. I continue to work on improving my skills, performing well and enjoying my job.

        1. Jen*

          It’s nice to hear that someone else is in the same boat. I’ve also been with my company for 12 years in about 4 different roles, with only one promotion. But there aren’t really any other promotions I could get unless I wanted to go into management.

    4. ECat*

      No good advice, but wanted to say I’m in the same boat! Love my work and coworkers, but I’m in an entry-level position and it feels like I’m continually running into a wall. My workplace is great about encouraging people to try new things, learn stuff, organize events, etc., but not great at providing feedback or higher-level support. I’ve done a lot that I’m proud of, and I’ve learned a lot of procedures, but none of that seems to translate to promotion.

      1. Spreadsheets and Books*

        Do you work at my old job? That’s exactly what I experienced. I was great at day to day tasks and the company was very encouraging about new opportunities but my direct manager was new to management and wasn’t able to give the feedback I needed to move forward, which unfortunately translated to the people above him failing to understand where I stood.

        I left a month ago. I miss my old coworkers and parts of my old job but it was absolutely the right call for me and my career trajectory.

    5. Lady Jay*

      Depends on what you want out of a career. I left a job last year where I loved the work & which was semi-stable (very small org so could go under but I wasn’t super worried about being fired) because I knew that if I were still there in 10 years, I’d be doing the exact same thing as I was doing then. I decided that I didn’t want to spend my life doing the same thing, even if I loved that thing.

      While I miss the work, I know I would have missed the opportunities to try something new as well.

      Ask yourself where you want to be in 10 years. What do you want your career to look like? Then proceed accordingly.

    6. TacocaT racecar*

      I worked at one agency for 10 years and every place I’ve interviewed at since then has been impressed. However, that’s state government (maybe all government/academia?) in general, so I think it also depends on your field, how up to date you keep on the current technology, procedures/policies/practices of your field, etc.

    7. Spreadsheets and Books*

      This can depend on your field. For example, if my field, you’re expected to jump in title every 2-3 years in the early years with a path that slows to every 5-7 years after reaching a certain level. I recently left the job I’d been at for around ~2.5 years for the purpose of a title bump because I didn’t think it was coming where I was and if I managed to stay there for the 5 years my husband and I will be in this city, I thought it would be a huge red flag. If you’re in a field where promotions are at least relatively common, I’d cut bait now. There’s no way to say “I wasn’t promoted because there’s no room to grow” on your resume so on first glance, you just look like an average performer at best.

    8. Mike C.*

      There are two issues here – lack of promotions and length of time. It shouldn’t matter how long you stay at a particular company so long as you are progressing in some fashion.

      Some folks do get really stupid ideas about how “someone who spends a long time at a particular company can’t adapt at a new place”, but that’s stupid and goes against everything we know about someone’s ability to adapt, neuroplasticity and so on.

    9. Alternative Person*

      It’s hard to say because it depends so much on industry norms. 10 years in one job is nothing in some industries and three times too long in others, so you need to work out what is acceptable in your field/area.

      But, if I was recruiting, I think evidence of continued progress/improvement would something I look for in someone who spent a long time at one job. So the promotion looks in your favour, but are there any continuing education opportunities you could take advantage of? Have you delivered any big projects or similar? Can you demonstrate how you have improve from when you started?

      In some cases, people stay in jobs because of other people. Have you had family/health reasons that kept you around for reasons?

      As long as you haven’t rested on laurels for the whole of the ten years, I don’t see a particular issue that can’t be solved with a well written CV and cover letter.

      (Also, I so hear you on limited opportunities. The place I contract for has a severe bottleneck when it comes to management and higher level responsibilities, and there are so many people who deserve the chance but they’re stuck because management is basically bedded in (they’re great but they’re also not going anywhere soon) and the company is basically top of the industry in the area which means going anywhere else would be a pay cut. Your choices are basically stick it out or transfer elsewhere. It’s not ideal)

    10. Southern Yankee*

      I’ve been at the same company 25 years, and I’ve thought about how that might be interpreted on a resume. I have had diverse experience and moved up the ladder during those 25 years, and I am confident I can tell a convincing story about it if needed, so I’m not overly concerned.

      Having interviewed people that had been with one company a long time, the difference in who I hired and who I didn’t was their take on that experience. If I got the sense that they thought very narrowly (this is the only right way!) then I passed. If they seemed aware of and excited about a new opportunity and learning new ways of doing things, and if they were a great candidate otherwise, they got hired. Also, lack of a chance for advancement is a pretty common reason people give in interviews for job hunting.

      If you are happy where you are, I wouldn’t worry about it too much. Of course, you don’t really lose anything by keeping your options open and looking to see what’s available in the job market. You might find the benefits you list plus room for advancement somewhere else, but only if you look.

    11. MissDisplaced*

      I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer. If the company is otherwise a good one, many hiring managers would consider this loyalty and stability. But on the other hand, it may not show that you are growing professionally. However, some roles don’t really require growth and new skills as much as others.

      If you haven’t changed job in a long while, I would make sure that you are still receiving professional development of some type, be it keeping your skills updated or participating in your field via networking or professional organizations and the like. You would fill in your resume with these rather than a standard job progression.

    12. Pebbles*

      My situation is similar: I’ve been here 18 years and have only been promoted twice. It took so long between the first and second time because I had the same manager for 13 years who believed that he couldn’t have (or didn’t want) too many senior level people on the same team. When he left and I was assigned a new manager, I was promoted within a year after I showed my new manager that I deserved one. I still get people who I’ve worked with a long time express their surprise that I do not have a more senior title.

      But, here’s the thing, I can show on a resume that I’ve acquired new skills during that time, that I’ve had leadership opportunities and been successful, I’ve mentored others, and I’m working towards (hopefully!) another promotion soon.

      I’ve stayed because I love the people, the work, and some of the benefits including being paid well. I’ve passively looked elsewhere during some frustrating management changes, but ultimately I’ve found that so far this is still the best place for me. If the pros are enough for you, then there’s nothing wrong with staying a long time. But whether you are looking to get out or not, keeping working on your personal growth by taking on new tasks and learning new skills.

    13. Qwerty*

      You can make this work for you, it all comes down to how you present it. A lot of managers would jump at the idea of a quality employee will stick around for a long time and become an expert in the department.

      It’s easy to cover this when they ask why you are leaving. “I’ve really loved working at my current company, but there isn’t any room for advancement.” You could also emphasize the culture of staying a long time (“Most of the next level managers are lifers, which is great for the company, but can be limiting for professional growth”)

      The people who stay for many years can be invaluable. While there is much advice recommending people change jobs every 2-3yrs, this really only works if there are also people with long term knowledge sticking around to help train them. When someone wants to ditch the weird X process, they need someone to explain that it is necessary because of Y and Z.

    14. Quinalla*

      I was at my first job for 13 years with no promotions as we were too small to have any until the current boss retired anyway. I could still show that I learned and grew in my role taking on more responsibility even though I did not have a promotion. I did earn my engineering license while I was there which is not a promotion, but definitely showed growth in a tangible way.

      As small as my company was, it would have been easy for me to explain why I had not gotten a promotion, but it didn’t ever come up as a question. I was asked why I stayed for so long and then why I was now leaving, but that was a pretty normal question.

      So my answer is there is no right answer, only what is right for you. If you are happy but just wondering, am I missing out? Maybe take a look around at available jobs, maybe even polish your resume and apply if something looks promising and go on a few interviews, sometimes that will help clarify that yup, I’m happy where I am or wait, I am actually pretty excited about trying something new. Sometimes sitting down and just thinking about it is enough too.

      Good luck!

    15. Therese*

      I have this problem right now. I have been here since 2015 and have gotten a few small raises. No PTO or medical is offered. But I have a super flexible schedule. Can get off for vacations unpaid whenever I need to. Can easily get off for doctor appointments. I really need to move on but there are no jobs without having a 2-3 hour round trip commute.

    16. Help me Rhonda!*

      I need some advice, HELP ME RHONDA!

      I a young individual that has have been on the job hunt for a while looking for a permanent career in the professional field and have had numerous phone/in person interviews for administrative assistant positions. I seem to struggle a little bit with my general overall presence during an interview and I am still having a hard time gauging how I should behave in an interview.

      By that I mean – today, at a small indie gaming company I interviewed with, the interviewer cracked open a beer and hung out on a bean bag chair during the entire interview. None of that is an issue for me but it instantly threw me through a loop because it made me feel like I had to be a bro gamer who’s only goal in life was to play video games for a living and not a professional looking for a well-paying, high responsibility job. I have notice this is actually fairly common with modern young companies I’ve interviewed with that have a “lax” atmosphere and it really makes me wonder if I’m to “uptight” for these companies and makes question my demeanor.

      My question is should I maintain the upmost professionalism during an interview (regardless of the type of work), that I’ve been taught to have my entire life even it makes me look like a stiff or should I conform to these “lax” office atmospheres and be “chill” during the interview? I want to show them I care about the job I’m applying for and that I am qualified professional but I don’t want to look like a boring person that can’t have fun.

      1. Batgirl*

        I honestly think that’s pretty rude. If the interviewer wanted a more relaxed feel he should have intimated that ahead of time or at least focused on your comfort as much as his own.

    17. JulieCanCan*

      If you like your job and aren’t itching to get out, why the concern? This site is full of people writing in about leaving jobs because they think it’s what society and work culture tells them they should do. I’m in a job now that is stable, secure, suits my strengths and abilities, gives me autonomy and a nice work/life balance. Pay is fine ( a bit less than I’ve made at MUCH more stressful, crazy environments (ie, places I have no desire to re-live)) and honestly if I stay here forever I’ll be happy. Good benefits, ok commute, nice associates……yet if I were to think about it in the way the “better, bigger, more money!” work culture mind frame, I should soon consider moving to on to a higher position somewhere else. Where I work has no other jobs “higher” than mine in my department.

      I’ve seen the grass on the other side and trust: it is definitely NOT greener. I thank my lucky stars every single day.

  8. Programmer*

    Any suggestions for asking for more money when a temp contract is extended? They want to extend the contract another six months.

    The benefits (health/dental) weren’t described before I agreed to it (my fault) and it takes a pretty big chunk out of my take-home pay. I know I’m underpaid for the market, too.

    1. TacocaT racecar*

      Well, as long as you’re polite about it, the worst they can say is no, right? How long have you been in the position already?

    2. Lepidoptera*

      First, are you an in-house temp or an agency temp? If agency, you need to find out how your contract works. If the company pays a flat amount and the agency takes a slice, then any raise you negotiate is cutting into their profits and they will act accordingly. If the agency gets a percentage, then a raise for you might mean a raise for them as well, and they will be motivated to help you.

      More generally speaking, I’d come prepared with talking points and clear measurable stats/goals you’ve met. Also have market research for market rates (the Bureau of Labor Statistics is great for U.S. stats). Point to your track record, bring up the initial lack of transparency regarding the cost of benefits, and ask for more money. Depending on how your request is received, you could emphasize the merit raise over the COL increase, or vice versa.

      1. Laura*

        Yes. I negotiated a raise as a temp. I had been unemployed for 51 weeks when I got the job. The pay was very low but compared to unemployment I took it. The first time my contract was extended I asked for more as it was my skills that was prolonging their commission. I consulted my boss and she put some feelers out to HR to come up with a number. They tried to lowball it but when I “forgot” to call back one day, they decided to come up to my number.

      2. Programmer*

        I’m pretty sure I’m a flat-rate temp. I’m in the US, so thanks for the information on the Bureau, and all the additional tips!

      1. 1st in Corporate*

        Yes, as a contractor you should negotiate your rate if possible when you are extended. At a minimum every year. Plus if they really need you and ask you to extend, great time to ask.

  9. Wesley*

    So, question on how I should’ve handled this situation better.

    TL;DR: recruiter and company lied to me about where a job was located, and then got offended when I withdrew my candidacy because of it.

    So I’m looking, and a recruiter reached out to me about an interesting sounding job. They said it was located in downtown Manhattan and sent along the JD for it.

    In the interview with the company’s internal recruiter (first one was an agency recruiter), they told me their offices are actually in New Jersey, and they say they’re in the financial district of Manhattan “because it’s just a short PATH train ride away.” She also said that they don’t allow remote work. I was annoyed by this but I let the conversation finish and sent an email saying that I appreciated the conversation but I don’t have any interest in jobs outside of NYC proper.

    I got an email back from the external recruiter saying he was “disappointed in [me]” for “not trying harder to make it work.” And yesterday I got a text from the internal recruiter asking me if I’d reconsider.

    So what should I do? I don’t think telling them to tell the truth on their JD would go anywhere, and I’m averse to giving criticism in writing in case it bites me in the butt in the future — email last season forever, after all. I’m thinking ghost them and leave a negative Glassdoor review.


    1. SOAS*

      That sucks! No t the same but I hate They have no right to say they’re in FiDi when they’re in NJ, even though many people commute, it’s literally 2 different states. Many JDs I’ve seen have said “Greater NY/lower-Manhattan area” and are vague about it.

      That’s unprofessional from the recruiter too.

      1. Wesley*

        I’ve lost count of the number of recruiters for “NYC area” jobs who go silent when I say “can you be more specific? I’m not looking for anything outside of Manhattan or north Brooklyn like DUMBO and the Downtown Brooklyn area.” Understandable why someone would say “NYC area” but straight up lying is a different thing.

      2. SOAS*

        Sorry that was supposed to be, “not the same, but it happens with apartments as well”

    2. Overeducated*

      Maybe just say “thanks but it turns out the commute just won’t work for me”? You don’t have to outright criticize them to send the message you need.

      1. Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way!*

        I agree with this. This is a great way to be gracious and get your point across and possibly not burn a bridge as some industries can be small.

    3. A Simple Narwhal*

      Wow rude. I see no reason to follow up with them again, but if you’re going to leave a negative review I would only do it on the external recruiting company’s page. It sounds like the internal recruiter was for the company was honest with you – told you the actual location, was up front about the lack of remote work options. The external recruiter was the one who told you the job was in Manhattan, and then followed up with that incredibly rude response.

      1. Wesley*

        No, the internal recruiter explained that they say downtown Manhattan because “it’s a quick train ride from the financial district.” They both lied about it. The job description was from the company themselves.

        1. A Simple Narwhal*

          Ah I missed that part, apologies!

          My only thought would be to place some weight on how the internal recruiter said it. Like if it was apologetic, “yea, I know we’re called the Manhattan office, sorry about that, that’s just what the bigwigs tell us to say” maybe cut them some slack, but if it was a genuine “we can say we’re in Manhattan because we’re a train ride away, that’s the same thing and you’re dumb to think otherwise” then yea I’d be frustrated. I’ve worked in places that called themselves “the [big city] office” when we were actually located in a town a 20-30 minute drive away, mostly because no one but our non-local clients would know where we were actually based.

          But honestly those companies were always upfront about it not being in [big city]. I think you can just repeat that the location is a dealbreaker and note to never work with the external recruiter again. And yea, go for those glassdoor reviews.

          1. Wesley*

            They weren’t mean about it, but they were also pretty chill with admitting they lied. IIRC, what she said was “well, we used to be in NYC, but we moved to Jersey, and it’s just a short PATH ride away so it’s almost the same thing.”

            I think I will fire off a response to them (internal recruiter) but keep it cordial. Something like “I’m sorry, but I am not considering anything outside of Manhattan and downtown Brooklyn because of the commute. I wish you and $COMPANY_NAME the best of luck!” And this response will be over email—IMHO it’s another breach of regular courtesy to text me. The only people I expect texts from are friends and family. With colleagues it’s all Slack and email.

            1. A Simple Narwhal*

              I think that’s a great idea, closes the loop in a professional way.

              Also they texted you????

              1. Wesley*

                I work with small and mid size tech companies. There’s a move for them to seem more laid back and “cool” employers, which you probably know. FWIW, I think it’s silly because it’s very forced. This extends to people sending memes in recruiting emails and in some cases, getting texts about interview/application details.

                It’s doubly weird to me because I’m a professional — I try and respond as promptly as I possibly can to everything, and if I’m heading to an interview I’ll keep an eye on my email so I can send/receive any updates, like if there’s a transit delay.

                I’m considering adding a line like “I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but texting comes off as overly direct and familiar, especially as I’ve already expressed a disinterest in continuing the process.” Might not, though.

                1. A Simple Narwhal*

                  Yuck, I dislike even current coworkers having my cell #. Also, I can’t stand companies that want to seem hip and cool. The more you try and seem cool the more I think you’re hiding something! Beer taps and ping pong tables and funky bean bag chairs and food delivery just makes me think you never want/let me leave the office.

                  TBH it’s probably not worth mentioning the texting at this point.

            2. leya*

              yeah, i think this is your best bet, since you probably won’t actually be able to get them to change what they’re telling people – even though what they’re telling people is completely ridiculous. “oh it’s just a PATH train away! oh it’s just another $2.75 on top of the $2.75 subway fare to get to the PATH! what? oh, no, you can’t use an unlimited metrocard for the PATH, silly, you have to pay an additional $89 a month!” ugh. they’re jerks.

        2. Manhattan*

          This happened to me. The job said Manhattan but it was in New Jersey — a part of New Jersey that the PATH doesn’t reach. My commute had 3 transfers and was 1.5-2 hours long. I took the job because I was a bit desperate and they said they were “about to close on a lease in Manhattan.” Surprise, surprise, there was no lease. I left the second another offer came up.

    4. Jimming*

      I think you handled the situation well. You let them know you weren’t interested since the location was different than you were initially told. If you wanted to, you could let the internal recruiter know the only way you’d reconsider is if you could work remotely but it doesn’t sound like that would get anywhere. Location is an important consideration for people and they absolutely pulled a bait & switch.

    5. Natalie*

      Just because they reacted poorly, it doesn’t necessarily follow that you did anything wrong. They lied, you called them on it in a professional and relevant way, and now they’re acting salty. Put it out of your mind, and maybe strike this external recruiter off your list.

      1. OlympiasEpiriot*


        Being a short PATH ride away from Wall St. still is adding compleity to a comute for someone who is looking for downtown Brooklyn or Manhattan. That means getting to the WTC and transferring to another mode of travel. Someone could be coming from SI on an express bus or something similar. Just because it isn’t that far as the crow flies doesn’t mean it “isn’t that far”.

        Nope. Location bait-and-switch.

        1. Wesley*

          Also, NJ Transit doesn’t go to Jersey City Or Hoboken IIRC (think the only transfer points between NJT and PATH are 33rd where you walk from Herald Square to Penn, and Newark), so if you live further out in Jersey, you’re also out of luck.

          It’s a big pain unless you already live close to a PATH station. And going against rush hour traffic means fewer trains, meaning if you miss yours you’re later for work than you’d be if you were going in the direction of rush hour traffic… it sucks for them that they’re not getting as many candidates as they’d like, but it’s not my problem. It’s theirs for lying.

          1. New ED*

            This is irrelevant to how ridiculous the recruiter is but, in case it’s relevant to someone reading this, I wanted to clarify that you can transfer from NJ transit to the Path train in Hoboken. I used to do it regularly.

      2. Blue*

        I agree. It sounds like Wesley handled the situation very professionally – made it clear why they had an issue without going off on them for lying, which would’ve been very tempting to me. I’d consider this done and avoid that particular recruiter in the future.

    6. LCL*

      A different state? The recruiter had the gall to lie about the state the office was in? Me on the left coast is amazed anyone would try this.

      1. Wesley*

        Plenty of people commute from NJ to NYC daily. I don’t know for sure but it’s probably around a million. There’s a good number of public transportation options for it. A smaller but still significant number do the “reverse commute” from NYC to Jersey City. It’s not hard but it’s also an extra step that’s an extra transfer, 20-30 minutes more each way, and you need a different transportation pass for it (you can use a MetroCard on PATH trains but if you get a weekly, usually the better option, you can’t).

        It’s inconvenient enough that most NYC residents don’t want to work in Jersey, hence a lot of job postings will say “New York area” to hint they’re actually in Jersey. The thing is this company straight up lied.

        1. Jennie*

          Plus you can end paying more in income taxes, which can negate any potential extra bump in salary.

      2. Buffay the Vampire Layer*

        I had a similar bait and switch where I applied to a job in SF and when I got the interview info found out they were actually in San Rafael.

    7. Akcipitrokulo*

      “how I should’ve handled this situation better.”

      You couldn’t. You did nothing wrong and were professional at every point.

      You don’t owe them any response. If you wanted to, you could say to internal recruiter “I appreciate that you felt I was in contention for this role, but unfortunately it isn’t possible for me to work in your location.” If you *really* like the role, you could say to internal recruiter that the distance and lack of remote working is a dealbreaker, and see if they come up with any options for you… but be careful with that and make sure it’s in writing what is agreed re remote working.

      And yeah, negative glassdoor review for the accuracy of the JD is reasonable.

      1. Wesley*

        It’s also a tech startup, and I’m a programmer! Something like “we want new hires to work out of the office for the first 4/8/12 weeks, but we allow WFH for X days a week after you pass your probationary period” would make sense, but what I was told is straight up nope, no WFH.

        1. Akcipitrokulo*

          Yeah… from what you’ve said, in your position, I’d give it a miss – but main point is that you were professional throughout, and don’t let their weirdness convince you otherwise!

    8. MsManager*

      Their reaction is so bizarre. Surely this must happen to them ALL THE TIME.

      I would just put t out of my mind and move on.

    9. JJ Bittenbinder*

      I got an email back from the external recruiter saying he was “disappointed in [me]” for “not trying harder to make it work.”

      Of course he is; now he can’t make a commission off of you.

      I had a similar situation where a job was listed as being in my major city, when actually it’s 35-40 miles outside of that city, accessible by car only. I hate that shit.

    10. Psyche*

      I would probably reply that the location really doesn’t work for you and that is non-negotiable rather than ghosting. And leave the Glassdoor review.

    11. Rusty Shackelford*

      I got an email back from the external recruiter saying he was “disappointed in [me]” for “not trying harder to make it work.”

      “And I’m disappointed that you wasted my time by lying about the company’s location. What a sad, sad day for both of us.”

    12. Rui*

      Some recruitment agents feel so entitled these days. Agree with the comment above, you don’t need to show displease with the internal recruiter; just say the commute is not practical for you and leave it there.

    13. Jadelyn*

      You did absolutely nothing wrong. Nothing whatsoever. Both recruiters are being jerks.

      The external guy is “disappointed in you” because he was hoping to make a nice commission from sending you to this company. This kind of thing is why I’m exceedingly wary of external recruiters in general – they are super motivated to place you somewhere, anywhere, because they make money off of your placement regardless of whether you’re actually happy there or do well. I’ve seen a LOT of external recruiters fudge details and sometimes outright lie to hook candidates and reel them in, then get mad when the candidate learns the truth and bails because of the bait-and-switch.

      I wouldn’t ghost them. Just a polite, brief reply to both of them saying “I appreciate your interest, but I’m just not interested in jobs outside of this area, and I don’t anticipate that changing in the future.” If they push after that, then ghost them. But either way – I would leave a glassdoor review, not necessarily being super negative but just being honest that they pulled a bait-and-switch on you re the location, letting others know to be wary of the stated work location and verify that early in the process.

      1. Wesley*

        I think the internal recruiter may merit a response, but I’m still unhappy with them because they texted me. That’s a little too personal, IMO.

        The external one isn’t worth responding to. “I’m very disappointed in you,” coming from an almost complete stranger, is on a totally different level. He had all the time in the world to compose and review his email. I’m not going to bother responding, but I’m going to be warning other people to not work with him or his agency.

        1. Jadelyn*

          Eh, texting is getting to be a pretty common way for recruiters and candidates to communicate. It’s not at the level of ubiquity that email is, but it’s not seen as intrusive by most people anymore.

          1. Robbie*

            I think it’s fair to be put off by it and voice that, especially if you have options. Since Wesley dropped out of the interview process, I’d bet $5 it’s an intentional pressure tactic from a company that’s struggling to get applicants and/or decent candidates.

            IMHO jobseekers, especially if they have options, shouldn’t feel afraid to speak their minds (in a polite way of course). I’m also in tech, and I’ve told recruiters who cold call or text me that I don’t appreciate that and to not do it again. Have those people told other people in their networks “Robbie is kind of abrasive?” Probably. But I also don’t want to work with that type of hyperaggressive, faux chummy, go-getter recruiter, which Wesley’s also alluded to so I’m OK with it.

    14. MissDisplaced*

      Honestly, that recruiter can go pound sand!

      New Jersey is NOT downtown Manhattan. I wouldn’t want to do that commute either if I lived in downtown NYC.
      The company is being misleading. And they KNOW IT. Glassdoor and Indeed reviews!!!!!

    15. Narvo Flieboppen*

      Yeah, I’d leave a review for both and the review for company will make clear to any other job seekers who see it where the job is actually located.

      I had a recruiter email me the other week with an exciting opportunity for employment growth in my local area.

      I look at the job, it’s 1 step below CEO, which is several steps above anything in my job history, in a role in which I have no experience, and only 1,800 mile commute each way. O.o I suggested to the recruiter they had contacted the wrong person, at which point the guy called me in my office to discuss the job.

      He was not overly happy when I told him my very blunt thoughts on the prospect and my lack of interest in commuting most of the way across the continent every day. (We own our house and my wife won’t move away from her parents.)

      This thread reminds me, I should go leave a Glassdoor review for the recruiter’s company…

    16. 99 lead balloons*

      Ugh, I’d be tempted to tell the external recruiter “I’m disappointed that I was led to believe the job was located in NYC only to learn in the interview that it’s actually in New Jersey.” but that’s probably not a great idea.

      It wouldn’t hurt to tell the internal recruiter that the location really is an issue for you and you wish to be removed from consideration (best of luck etc. etc. etc.) once more, though.

      1. Allypopx*

        I was gonna comment almost exactly this lol. Be nice to the internal recruiter so as not to completely burn a bridge but the external recruiter I would say something snarky and stop working with them.

        I am not desperate for a job right now though, job hunting changes your appropriate snark levels.

    17. blackcat*

      I don’t see how “At this time, I am only looking for jobs in NYC proper.” as a response is pretty neutral and you can send it without worrying about it coming back to bite you. But I also agree ghosting is totally fine.

      1. Wesley*

        So I’m in tech and in NYC. This market is very favorable for job seekers right now, because there’s more openings than there are qualified applicants. There’s also a certain type of agency tech recruiter who will not take no for an answer—with them, your only hope is to either go silent or send off a very firm note like “I am absolutely not interested in changing jobs. Kindly remove me from your list as I will not be looking for a new job in the foreseeable future and I will not be working with you or your agency.”

        Feels like the winning move here is to not play.

    18. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Just let them stew over it, they are not smart humans to put it as nicely as possible.

      They don’t get to choose what is and isn’t a reasonable commute for you, I don’t care if it’s a “quick train ride”, I don’t do trains personally. If I’m looking for a job in This Area, I want it that area, if it’s actually in That Area, say it. They did this to themselves and you owe them nothing more!

    19. L. S. Cooper*

      I found a job listing for a company that claimed they were in Denver, CO.

      They were recruiting for an office in POLAND. The country Poland.

      Shame, too, because I fit all the things they were looking for. I’m open to relocation but…not THAT far.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        LOL I’ve seen confusion among the different Manchesters (UK, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and many more) but Denver to Poland is pretty huge.
        I don’t suppose they’d let you telecommute all and bring you to HQ 2 weeks a year, would they? That could be interesting!

        1. L. S. Cooper*

          I could work with a couple of weeks a year travel! Heck, I could give them a couple months– I’m a single young person, the only reason I wouldn’t want to move overseas is because I like being able to come home from holidays.
          And also I don’t speak a word of Polish.

    20. only acting normal*

      Er… are they counting the “short ride” from Manhattan to New Jersey as on the clock?! Because 20-30min each way daily *on top of however long it takes you to get to the start of that ride* is a not insignificant portion of your life that they’re being cavalier about.

    21. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Oh my no. The transportation difference between Manhattan and NJ is huge if you’re coming in from one of the outer buroughs, Long Island, or Connecticut. It’s even a big deal if you’re lucky enough to afford to live on Manhattan itself. “JUST” the Path train means you’re at the mercy of a second transportation network.
      Assuming that you stated that clearly at the outset, “I am not interested in dealing with the transportation issues” is more than polite!
      -former New Yorker

      1. theguvnah*

        especially with the poor state of both NY subway AND NJ Transit – i’d be tempted to say “if your company’s execs are financially committed to only supporting NJ governors who actually fix NJT I’d be willing to consider.”

    22. Lilysparrow*

      That external recruiter has some nerve. Disappointed in YOU?

      I’d probably reply that I’m disappointed he ignored my clearly-stated parameters and misrepresented the job.

      What a lunchpail.

    23. designbot*

      Honestly, I’d probably say something like, “Well I’m fortunate to be in a position to be looking for something that works for me as well as it does for my employer, and this situation just doesn’t. If the job location had been accurately represented I just never would have applied for it in the first place. Best of luck with this strategy.”
      Probably too rude for most, but GD I’d be pissed about that! My equivalent is jobs that say they’re “centrally located” and it turns out they’re actually on the westside, which would take almost 2 hours each way for me.

      1. Wesley*

        I think a better way of expressing the same sentiment is “you may get fewer applicants if you update your job postings to reflect that you’re in Jersey City. But each of those candidates will be more engaged and more likely to want to continue the process if they’re given that knowledge up front.”

        But I’d even shy away from that, because it still sounds like I’m telling them how to do their job. If anything, I’d convey that message through someone I knew at the company, which I don’t, in this case.

    24. AnotherKate*

      You did everything fine. This company/recruiter is the sketchy one and I don’t think you need to worry about burning a bridge with them. I don’t think you’d want to work for these jokers anyway.


      A Brooklyn-dweller who would not consider the PATH a viable daily commute.

    25. The Ginger Ginger*

      You could always reply, “And I’m disappointed in you for lying to me about the office locations. Guess nobody’s happy right now.”

      I mean, don’t do that. But man it feels good to think about it.

    26. Kat in VA*

      See also – “greater Washington DC area” and recruiters who won’t tell you what city the job is in. That “area” encompasses Ashburn to Manassas to McLean to Fairfax to Arlington to Alexandria to DC proper to Georgetown. That’s a relatively small area on the map but with traffic here at absolutely Biblical proportions, the difference between a 20 minute commute and a 3 hour commute is huge.

  10. SOAS*

    I got promoted. It’s an expanding department w/in my team/company and I”ll be managing it. I’m nervous but excited too.. A lot of details need to be fleshed out but I will be involved in the recruitment process which is something I Have really wanted to do for a long time.

    Biggest thing on my mind right now…any tips/advice on how to be a good interviewer???

    I’ve been thinking A LOT about the last few people we had that weren’t good hires. I was not at all involved in their recruitment process but I feel like MAYBE if I’d been part of the interview, I might’ve picked up on something? Of course hindsight is 20/20.

    I have been managing a team of 6 remote workers for a few months now but it was more of a slow transition where I was in-between roles, took over from someone else etc. I didn’t interview my current remote team but I have interviewed a few people during the busy season. One was a rejection and two were given the green light. One of them is working out fabulously but the other one quit a few days after training. During the interview, she asked “will I do X?” I said “eventually, but right now we would want you to focus on Y, and X will come after several months.” When she quit she said she thought she would be doing X. I felt bad about it but was told not to and it wasn’t my fault. I just feel like there is way more riding on this.

    I just really want to hire well the first time around. This will be the first set of people I hire as a manager and there won’t be any ambiguity or confusion about my role.

    So, any suggestions? I’d love suggestions on books too, I have Alison’s guide but would love more recommendations.


    1. fposte*

      It’s great if your first hire is great, but it’s not the end of the world if they aren’t, either; it happens. Learn from the past but don’t just fight the last war–you’re looking actively for capability and competence, not reactively for somebody who isn’t like the last bad person.

    2. EditAnd EditOr*

      The most helpful things I found when interviewing:
      – Phone screens.
      A 15-30 minute chat really helps narrow down your shortlist. I tended to ask fairly bland questions, just to get a sense of the person – what interests you about the role; tell me a bit about your career to date, and how it led you here; that kind of thing. But a very quick chat, giving them opportunities to ask more questions too, honestly gave such a better sense of the person than just their CV and cover letter.

      – Practical exercises.
      Simple things like: here is a situation, please write an email to the client that suits the situation. Or: here is a dataset, please manipulate/present it how you think best. Or: Please give a brief analysis of this bit of client work. I used to really stress that it wasn’t a test per se, and there wasn’t a right answer – but that I wanted to see how they would approach it, and what their thought processes were. The key is that last bit was true – for every exercise, I genuinely wasn’t looking for a right answer. If they did something that we’d never have sent out – fine, as long as they can demonstrate their thinking behind it, and that their thinking was along the right kind of lines.

      1. SOAS*

        That’s a good idea about the practicals, I’ll bring it up. This would be for a remote position, so we’d be doing skype interviews. I’m not sure if it’ll be one or two interviews, thing sare still being fleshed out.

      2. Middle Manager*

        I really wish we had the opportunity to request a writing sample or give a brief assignment like you are suggested (especially drafting an email that is appropriate to the situation)! That would be so helpful! I’m in government though, super rigid hiring process. Best I can go on is how they write on their application form, which sometimes rules people out for me, but doesn’t feel like enough to say “this person can write well and make it appropriate to the context audience”.

        1. SOAS*

          I like the idea of practicals. This would be for bookkeeping so I am not sure what a brief assignment would look like as I never had to do that when I was job searching. I guess I am focusing more on the soft skills/attitude rather than the hard skills? The last few people just had really bad attitudes.

          1. Kira*

            If you do practicals, please keep them a reasonable length. I’m currently doing one that is supposed to take 6 hrs. 6 hours! Almost a whole day of work. I’m afraid they’re going to use my work or code somehow. Keep the practical simple – maybe 1 hr of work max.

      3. Minocho*

        Re: Practical Exercises

        I had one interview where there were a few of these, and I didn’t realize that what added value to the interview was them hearing my thought process, not just me getting some technical detail correct in this off the cuff tech test at an interview. Now I would better understand that, of course, but it frustrated the interviewer.

        So the stress that you want to hear their thought process and how they consider / prioritize / organize things is as important as whether they come out with a reasonable solution can really help the interviewee understand what’s happening better, and give you both a better experience!

      4. Loubelou*

        I agree practical exercises, they have been the deal breaker for me between two otherwise similarly strong candidates. It showed that one who could really talk the talk actually didn’t know how to do a critical task, and the other who had less (but more interesting) experience did a great job. But I would warn you not to look for quality formatting/grammar/spelling in these kinds of things if you are giving people a short time limit. As Minocho said, the important thing is that they can walk you through their process. In reference checks you can ask about the general level of quality of their work.

        Something else I have found hugely helpful is scoring. Give each essential and desired trait/experience a value and then score candidates accordingly. This has shown me that candidates I really *liked* actually didn’t have the skills needed, and has demonstrated competency in less interview-savvy candidates.

        Best of luck!

    3. Mr. Tyzik*

      Have a few questions prepared, but also be prepared to not ask them. I’ve found that keeping the interview somewhat conversational helps a great deal. Listen to the applicant and don’t be afraid to probe deeper for details or to ask followup questions on an answer. You may not get through all your prepared questions, but you’ll have a sense of how this person ticks.

      Congrats on the promotion!

      1. Federal Middle Manager*

        Similar idea, my best two pieces of advice are: Don’t ask leading questions and give the person time to think and answer. If you ask a question that clearly has a “right” answer, then you won’t learn much about the person when they give you some variant of the “right” answer (like, What would you do if you saw another employee do something unethical?). But also, interviews are WEIRD. It’s not a normal conversation and there’s a lot of pressure on both sides, so give the applicant time to think about your question, don’t just jump in with clarifications to fill the space if there is a pause.

    4. Putting the "pro" in "procrastinate"*

      I’m still learning how to hire, but here are a few bits of advice that help me:
      Think carefully about what type of skills you want the candidate to have for the particular job, and ask *specific* behavior-related questions that will help elucidate those skills. For instance, are you looking for someone trainable? Ask them to tell you about a time when they had to learn a new subject or a new skill, what was their approach to learning, how did they go about it, and what lessons did they get from that experience that they will apply the next time they had to learn something new. Or, ask them to tell you about a time when they got feedback they didn’t agree with. What did they do about it? Or, are you looking for someone who can keep a lot of different balls in the air and be self-driven about time-management? Ask them to tell you about a time when they had to manage several projects under time constraints. Ask them to tell you how they kept themselves organized and made sure nothing got lost in the shuffle. And again, ask them what they learned from the experience that they will apply next time.

      An important piece here is that you are asking them to tell you about how they behaved in situations that already happened, not to speculate on how they would behave in hypothetical situations (except for the “how will you apply this next time”) part.

      The tricky part is narrowing down the two or three skills you really want the person to have for the job. Is it an editing or accounting job where attention to detail important? Is the job customer-facing so that keeping a smile on even when having a bad day is important? Is it a job where priorities change on a dime so being flexible and responsive is important? And so on.

      One last piece of advice: Check references before you hire. If you have doubts or questions about any specific skills, it’s a good opportunity to ask the reference about them. Ask the reference how the person rates relative to other people they’ve worked with at the same level. Ask the reference if they would hire the person again.

      Good luck!

    5. Southern Yankee*

      Half the battle is wanting to hire well, so kudos to you. The other suggestions so far are great. I like detailed questions about key skills (i.e. “tell me about a complex Excel spreadsheet you created” will give you a much better idea of their skill level than “intermediate Excel” on resume).

      Best advice I can give after a lot of hiring experience: Pay attention to your spidey-sense. Sometimes you just get an odd vibe that makes you think something is going on under the surface. Hiring can seem very judgmental, especially when you can’t put your finger on what is making you pause. But when I’ve ignored the spidey-sense, it has bitten me. It really helps to have multiple people interviewing. Usually, we could figure out what caused that tingle once we compared notes. I’ve known groups that use multiple people to interview, but the hiring manager would essentially discount a negative opinion if they didn’t share it, which more often led to a bad hire.

      Just be careful that the unknown discomfort is not do to culture/race/gender factors. If you do have diverse interviewers, it helps avoid an unknown bias.

      Also, no matter how good you are, you are going to get it wrong sometimes. I’ve had a few people that were excellent at interviews but were terrible employees. I’m better at spotting it now, but it happens.

    6. Jadelyn*

      The biggest piece of advice I can give is, be super, super clear with yourself about what you NEED this person to have in order to be good at the role, vs what you’d like them to have. Maybe you’d like someone with a degree and 5 years experience, but the degree isn’t strictly necessary. Maybe you’d like someone who’s worked with this specific software, but what you really need is just someone who’s used this type of software before.

      Then, arrange your questions around those must-haves first of all. Ask follow-up questions where you need to, in order to get a good idea of what the person really brings to the role. “Tell me about a time when” questions are your friend. Steer clear of the gimmicky questions like “What fruit would you be?” and stuff like that. I’d stay away from “what are your strengths/weaknesses” also, they’re not *gimmicky* per se but they also don’t tend to net very useful info.

      Would it be out of place at your organization to ask a more experienced manager to interview with you? My org does that for new managers or less-experienced managers; we’ll have either the hiring manager’s manager, or another manager with more hiring experience join the interviews and work with the primary hiring manager. They don’t make the decision, but they can help make sure critical questions get asked and appropriate needs get screened for.

      Lastly – if you have a hire that doesn’t work out, don’t beat yourself up too much. Even great hiring managers sometimes pick a dud. It just happens sometimes.

      1. SOAS*

        What if my boss and I are at odds with each other over what’s nice to have vs must haev?

        I don’t think I will be doing them straight off the bat, I believe others will be involved so it’ll be nice to have that.

        1. Jadelyn*

          Then the time to discuss that and get clarity on what you need and want is now, before you even start interviewing folks. Have the conversation with them – lay out what you see as must-have vs nice-to-have, explain your reasoning, and ask them why they’re prioritizing different things.

          If you can’t come to agreement, then the real question is, does your manager have/intend to exercise veto power over your hiring choice? Because if so, no matter what you think, make sure your candidates meet the boss’s must-haves, even if it means they’re short on some of the things you feel are must-haves, otherwise you’re going to find someone you love and your boss is going to veto them because they didn’t meet the boss’s criteria. I’ve seen that happen before, unfortunately.

          1. SOAS*

            Got it, thanks! I just finished and sent over the JD to my boss and we’re going to meet sometime next week, so hopefully I can get more clarification. I did mention that the JD wasn’t final it was just a firs tdraft and I can retool it to their specifics.

            1. Loubelou*

              Scoring! See my comment above. If both interviewers do their own scores it is really helpful for objective discussion and comparison of candidates, and also helps specify why you think a certain candidate is particularly strong.

    7. Fortitude Jones*

      I just really want to hire well the first time around.

      This is a nice goal to have, but it’s not always realistic. Sometimes people who look amazing on paper and who interview well completely fall apart once they’re on the job. Then there’s the fact that, from a candidate’s perspective, you don’t really know for sure if you’re going to mesh well with a job until you actually get in and do it. The person you hired who said she thought she’d be doing X probably took the job thinking she’d be okay doing Y for a while until she could do X, but then realized that she hated doing Y in practice. If you keep hiring and every single person you pick ends up being a dud, then I think you should start looking at your hiring practices closely. But for now, it sounds like you’re doing a decent job.

      1. SOAS*

        Yeah.. my manager just told me I’m going to mess up once in a while , LOL. that it’s normal and not worry too much. I just came out of a busy season stuck with 3 bad team members so that experience has made me sore. Also I jus t learned that the company never really checked references before…explains a lot.

    8. Working Hypothesis*

      A few things to prioritize, IMO:

      1) Preparedness. Ask them about what they know about your company and see how much research they’ve done. Give them some of the interview questions ahead of time to see if they come in ready to knock those out of the park. Try brief practical exercises that can be done with minimal effort or with a lot of effort and see how much they put into them.

      2) Represent the downsides of the job bluntly. Tell them what excites you about the place, but also what drives you crazy about it. Don’t try to sell them if they aren’t easy to sell because they like what you’re offering. DO make sure they know the good sides of what you’re offering, so that they know what there really is to be excited about… but you actively want them to self-select out if this isn’t going to be a place they’ll love to work. (If there are simply not enough people who will love to work on your team, that is its own problem, and you need to figure out how to make your team a more attractive place to work.)

      3) Unless you absolutely have no choice, forget about people who already have the specific skills for the position and instead find people who love to learn, who want to expand their skills in your direction. Learners are going to go beyond what you need of them right now, and be ready for what you’ll need of them down the line, too. And they’re usually loyal to those who give them a chance to expand their range.

      4) Do not hire assholes under any circumstances, no matter how perfect their skill set. Ever.

  11. It's all a chimera*

    Well it’s Friday and they may have a reduced workload or schedule by today.

    Some find this therapeutic for them, to help others. There’s always time for that.

    When at work, does one really work all the time? Not really. I find this is a great diversion from even the most casual Friday.

  12. Dame Judi Brunch*

    At Old Job, we vented (complained) to our coworkers a lot. A lot. Now that I’m not working there, it’s really jarring to hear complaining of that level.
    So I try really hard to curb myself. It’s difficult but I’m working on it! My current coworker is still experiencing PTSD from the old place (we work together at awesome new place) and is still stuck in complain mode. Should I talk to her? Or let it ride and figure she’ll eventually snap out of it?

    1. Phighting Phlox*

      Some people move on. If it’s really a post-traumatic experience they need counseling (perhaps Short-Brief Focused Therapy that focuses on a specific issue to move forward). It’s not ok for her to take you with her down the negative journey due to your association w/ the previous organization. It’s ok for you to set boundaries such as, “I hear that XYZ was traumatic and upsetting. I want to support you as you move through this transition. But the complaining makes it hard for me to move forward.” If she says, ‘You don’t care,” try to show you care in other ways that don’t include entertaining her complaints. Physical boundaries may need to be implemented such as if she comes to your desk, it’s a no complaint zone. If she starts out with a complaint, you have to stop or re-start the conversation in new way. Perhaps your positivity about the job, her work, your work will help override her negativity.

      Put your O2 mask on for both of you

    2. Anna Canuck*

      Talk to her. Leaving a bad work environment is like getting out of a bad relationship – if you don’t learn from it, you repeat it.

    3. Venus*

      I would talk to her. Complaining that much isn’t healthy for her mental state, and it’s going to make everyone else less interested in spending time with her.

    4. MissDisplaced*

      Yes, you should say something to her. You don’t need to be harsh, but she needs a push to reframe her mindset after the OldJob.

    5. Blue*

      I would probably say something, but I would make it my issue. Maybe something like, “I’ve decided to make the effort to be more positive about work so the crap from Old Job doesn’t keep dragging me down or poison me for the new job, but it’s been hard to break that habit. I’d really appreciate it if you’d help me minimize the complaining about work happening around me. I think that would help a lot.” It sounds like that fits with what you’re trying to do, and if she goes along with it, it’d likely end up breaking the cycle for her, too.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        Great script. This should let the coworker know that her endless complaining is no longer welcome without you being mean.

      2. Loubelou*

        Yes, this is great! There’s the potential there that you could inspire her to do the same, and even if not she hopefully won’t feel judged or maligned for expressing her feelings.

  13. Queen of the File*

    Just wanted to say that although the OP’s situation regarding Mandatory Trauma Poetry at work was horrifying, the comments that resulted were the highlight of my week. So many people here are hidden talents!

    (I hope this is appropriate for the Friday thread–my apologies if it isn’t!)

      1. OlympiasEpiriot*

        But, I don’t think I’d want to hear them. I’ll bet they’re made up of a ukulele, spoons, and an accordion with a guest clogger for special occasions.

        1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

          I bet I can learn spoons! Who wants to join me on the ukulele and accordion?

  14. Cameron*

    Help me find a new career path! I am so sick of sitting in front of a computer or in meetings all day, every day. Criteria:

    *Pays at least $60k in the DC area
    *Doesn’t take more than 2 years or $60k in student loans to enter the field
    *Good work/life balance (I want to have some flexibility for my kids)
    *Involves interacting with people/patients/kids/community
    *Ideally in the areas of health, education, science, environment, or community

    Does such a unicorn exist? What kinds of roles are less about sitting at a desk, more about interacting and helping people? (FWIW I already have my MPH, but am willing to pursue another certificate or degree.)

    1. Argh!*

      Check where you can limit by DC area & by salary. Maybe something will be there that appeals to you.

      1. Cameron*

        I’m actually currently a federal government employee. So far, every single government job I’ve encountered at GS-13 level is just sitting at a desk, but I’ll keep looking. ;-)

    2. Hooray College Football*

      Medical or pharmaceutical sales perhaps. I did it in the 80’s (pre-law school). Jobs are posted, but I was recruited by another sales rep (he got a commission). Base pay plus commission, so be certain to review that. I was lucky enough to get in on the ground floor at Glaxo (before they were GSK).

    3. Not today*

      What kind of work have you done? Have you considered a government job? I work for the Commonwealth, albeit in Richmond. Been a state employee for 12 years-ish, over the last 15. Got into my current field in 2012, from a customer-service/data entry role. I didn’t surpass $60k until this year, but NoVA pays a lot better than the rest of the state. There are state certifications you can get, but you usually have to already be in a job performing procurement functions to take the classes to get the certifications, so that can be difficult. Also, the state does base salary offers on previous salary, so if you’re making way under $60k, they won’t offer that much. Most commonly, they’ll offer 5-10% raises, but occasionally more.

    4. SezU*

      What is your degree in? That might help determine how much additional schooling you would need, if any. If you don’t have a degree, can you share a little about your experience level? You’d be surprised what you can parlay into other industries!

    5. dealing with dragons*

      one of the things I’m looking to move in to is product ownership/management – for the most part the requirements are field knowledge and some kind of technical expertise in what the product is made out of. For me that’s websites, but can also be a physical product.

      I like it cause I still get to solve problems but I’m also not enjoying being a glorified code monkey, even at a senior SE level.

    6. NightQueen*

      What about a school speech-language pathologist? Healthcare, pays well, interactive. If you can find an opening in a school, it could be great for working the same hours as your kids.

      1. College Career Counselor*

        Cameron would need to return to graduate school for at least two years (not sure of the costs), and then do a clinical fellowship year under another SLP to earn the Certificate of Clinical Competency (potentially at far less than $60k). Make sure you look at how many SLPs are in an area first (and what the pathway is into the schools.) There are places where SLPs are very scarce, however, so it can be a good path!

      2. School Psych*

        I’m not an Speech and language pathologist, but I work on teams with school-based SLPs. Working in a school related service job(SLP, Psych, OT) is a fun, interactive job, but we also go to lots of meetings and spend a good amount of time doing paper-work. Report writing, meetings with parents and meetings to collaborate with other people on your team are a big part of all the healthcare type jobs that are in school settings. I actually think paper-work and documentation is part of many jobs where you’re interacting with kids, patients and the community. I work with several people who spent part of their career working in hospitals or community settings and transitioned back to working in the school setting because the paperwork and caseload requirements were similar, but schools had much better hours. There is good work life balance working in schools and having the summers off is really nice. I don’t think working in any of the school related service roles would get the OP away from spending a lot of time in meetings and in front of a computer. I spend all day in meetings about 2 days a week and most of those meetings also include our school speech-language pathologist.

    7. OtterB*

      I work for a not-for-profit in DC that, among other things, runs programs for graduate students to encourage diversity in our field. I don’t know about the salaries for the program staff, though I suspect they are lower than your target. But those staff are out working with students, with the faculty volunteers who present the workshops, with hotels etc. We like people with some knowledge of our field but we’re usually happy with someone with a knowledge of any kind of STEM. So maybe some kind of “program associate” position at an organization relevant to health or health education?

    8. CheeryO*

      With an MPH, I would look into local health departments and state health agencies, in addition to federal agencies. I do think you may be looking for a bit of a unicorn – I’m in environmental public health, albeit on the engineering side of things, and everyone wants a well-paying job with a lot of field time – so think about what’s most important to you. Higher pay and more flexibility generally comes with more meetings and emails, even in a role where you’re highly engaged with the community (either the public or a regulated community). I will say that even being able to get out of the office once or twice per week makes the desk time SO much more manageable, especially if you have control over your own schedule.

    9. sange*

      1) Advising or working with a healthcare/MPH graduate program at one of DC’s many universities
      2) Medical billing or administration
      3) Working as a patient advocate at a hospital
      4) Grantwriting for a hospital, lab, or university – or administering grants
      5) Visitations for social service or adoption agencies. Not sure if you would need additional credentials, but a family member used to do this and she had an MPH background. She visited foster homes and potential adoption families and interviewed/screened them on behalf of agencies. She loved it.

    10. Accountant*

      Nursing? You can get your RN with an Associates degree, high demand, good paying and can be working with patients all day.

      1. Loubelou*

        I agree. I work at an NGO as a programme manager (in my role this is managing programmes remotely and also grant writing, but all of this is bearable because the subject is so interesting and I know I’m making an impact on something I care about. I am about 80% behind the desk/meetings, 10% out and about in my city and 10% international travel. My salary would be around $60k in dollars.
        The added bonus is that NGO offices tend to be far more casual in tone than business/government offices, and the work-life balance can be great (as long as you get a place that is good at this – ask lots of questions at interview!!).

    11. Working Hypothesis*

      Licensed massage therapist! I’m in Seattle, so not sure what the DC-area training requirements are, but nowhere in the USA requires more than two years of training, and it typically pays between $45-$75/hour depending on whether you’re working in private practice (and therefore paying for your own studio, liability insurance, laundry, marketing, etc) or hired by a clinic or spa. You can make over $60K pretty easily if you work even a moderate number of hours. And it’s an awesome job for people who want to help others and don’t like sitting behind a desk… you’re the one health care professional whom EVERYONE wants to come see! :D

    12. Christina*

      This is a very specific suggestion, but what about working at one of the Ronald McDonald House houses? Definitely interacting with people, health background could be helpful, though I’m not sure what the salary would pay for a house role

  15. Art3mis*

    Are there reputable resume services out there? I have a friend that really should get help with her resume. I’ve tried to help her and make suggestions, but she thinks there’s nothing wrong. It’s overly detailed and has jobs that are irrelevant going back to when she was a teenager.

    1. irene adler*

      Would she listen to the resume service if they told her the same things you’ve told her?

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I would never pay someone to review a resume, I think they’re all scams. You’re putting a lot of faith in a stranger who may have little to no training or bad advice, like we’ve seen here countless times. It’s all so subjective, it’s not something you want to waste money on. She won’t listen to a friend but would if someone pretends to be a “professional”? Yikes, that’s her real problem right there!

    3. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Honestly, the best option you can do is to give her this website and let her figure it out. Because if she refuses to listen, that’s on her. Some people just have to fail on their own.

    4. Middle Manager*

      Does she have a college degree? I know sometimes college career centers can be a mixed bag in the type of advice they give, but I actually had a really good experience not to long ago with an Alumni Career Services Staff person at my alma mater. There was nothing terrible about my resume (I don’t think, anyway), but it was helpful to get a second opinion and she made a few suggestions that I think helped improve it.

    5. Drago Cucina*

      Your public library may free resources. We have an online resource where you submit your resume and a live person reviews it and gets it back within 24-48 hours. We also have periodic resume labs where we review and help format resumes. My youngest son has used the online resource. He didn’t believe me when I told him he didn’t need an objective on his resume. Look, the professional stranger said the same thing!

    6. ContentWrangler*

      I think you’d have a hard time convincing her to pay for a service if she thinks nothing is wrong with her resume. Have you tried showing her yours as a comparison? Or do you think she would listen if she just heard about the problems from an “objective” third party?

      Ultimately, you can’t fix this for her and it’s not your responsibility. It sucks to feel like you could help someone but they won’t let you. But, you can’t make her do anything.

    7. Not My Real Name*

      Try your state’s department of labor. They usually have a free service for this.

  16. Mbarr*

    Hey – how can I support my friend? We work at the same small IT company, but on different teams.

    My friend/coworker is a gorgeous woman. She wore a t-shirt with a fox on it last week, and overheard someone from afar (from a different team) joking about how it was appropriate cause she was a foxy lady.

    She told me that it made her uncomfortable (fair), but that if the comment had come from someone on her own team, she’d be alright with it. (For context, her team is filled with Good People we’ve known for nearly a decade, and she feels safe with their sense of humor – e.g. if someone made the same joke, she’d know they were teasing her, and not commenting about her personal appearance.)

    1. How can you reconcile accepting these kinds of jokes from one group of people at work but not the other?
    2. How should I have responded? (I just told her that her uncomfortableness is understandable, and their comment was inappropriate.)

    For context: She’s had a couple of instances at previous workplaces where men have made inappropriate comments or done inappropriate things that made her uncomfortable enough she started to dress “protectively” (e.g. switching from nice dresses to jeans and sweaters). She even had to lodge and HR complaint against one employee. So she says jokes like this trigger her.
    Further context: I’m also a woman. I definitely want to support her, but I don’t know how to address the double-standard.

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      1. It’s pretty reasonable to have different boundaries with people you’re close to than with people you’re not. It’s not fundamentally different from, say, how I will tease my coworker about how long she spent using a phone with a very badly cracked screen — I wouldn’t dream of saying such a thing to someone I didn’t know well, because it would be rude as hell and potentially tread on uncomfortable financial sensitivities, but I knew that for her it was just inertia and we’d talked for weeks about how she kept meaning to go get her phone replaced but kept deciding at the last minute she didn’t want to go do it yet.

      2. It sounds like in the moment you responded just fine. You affirmed that the comment was uncomfortable and validated her discomfort. I don’t think you need to do anything differently.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      It’s not really a double standard. Do you accept teasing from family members that you wouldn’t from total strangers? Do you have making-fun-of jokes you share with your friends that you don’t with acquaintances? It’s really quite normal that she would be okay with her own team making a joke that some rando from a different team shouldn’t be making.

      1. AnonEMoose*

        Agreed. Having different boundaries with different people is entirely normal.

        In the context of the science fiction convention I volunteer with, I’m very fond of wearing corsets as part of my evening attire. I have male friends who can walk up to me, give me a hug, and comment on said corset in…let’s say…frank terms. And that’s ok with me, because they’re my friends, and I know they respect me and my boundaries.

        Someone who doesn’t have that relationship with me…it wouldn’t be ok. Your friend’s situation is similar. With her team, she knows it’s a well-intentioned joke from someone she knows respects her. She doesn’t know that with this other person.

      2. Kiki*

        I agree that it’s not actually a double standard. It also sounds like the commenter did not intend for your coworker to hear the comment, which makes it extra uncomfortable. It makes me wonder how often these people are talking amongst themselves about your coworker’s looks.

        I think you’ve done a great job of being supportive so far. And maybe lay-off commenting on her looks for a while? Or at least make sure you’re not commenting on her looks more than you are about your more average coworkers? Even if it’s good-natured and received just fine, I imagine it could get old.

    3. Rainy*

      It’s not a double standard to be okay with something from friends that you aren’t from strangers.

      I’m fine with hugs from friends, but I don’t want every rando on the sidewalk to come up and hug me. That’s not a double standard, it’s having boundaries. She’s allowed to have boundaries.

    4. Coffee Bean*

      I think it is completely reasonable to have a double standard, and nothing you need to address.

      Those that called her a “foxy lady” were being inappropriate, and that is uncomfortable in a work environment especially from people who she doesn’t know well. Like you said, if someone from her team or someone she knew well called her that then that makes it less problematic because she could then sense if it was a comment on her appearance or meant to be a joke.

      As another woman myself, I think this is a case of asking her what she would want from you as support. I would ask her what she wants you to do. You can let her know that in this context you agree that it should make her uncomfortable, and then ask what would make her feel more comfortable. Would she like you to say something to them? Mention it to HR? Take her out for coffee and try and just forget about it for an hour?

      Best of luck to your friend! Comments like that really suck.

    5. A Simple Narwhal*

      I think your response to her was fine. But I don’t think there’s a double standard to be addressed, it’s just the natural difference in meaning a comment has when it comes from different people with varying levels of closeness.

      Like if a good friend/significant others says “hot damn your butt looks amazing today” to you versus a stranger off the street – with a friend/SO, they know you, there’s a connection and history, and you know them well enough that it is a genuine complement, and they know you well enough to know that you would take it as a complement and be flattered. Whereas with a stranger, there’s no history or connection, they don’t know you, they don’t know you as a person, and you don’t know if they see you as a person or just a piece of meat. You also don’t know if there’s danger or expectation behind that comment.

      Same thing with the coworkers she knows vs those she doesn’t. If the complement came from a close coworker, she knows that they see and treat her as a competent coworker, a person with skills and thoughts and feelings. A complement from them says “hey person that I know and respect, here is a comment on your physical appearance, it is just one of the many good things I know about you”. The coworker she doesn’t know? None of that background, none of that acknowledgement of her as a complete person, no comfort that they’re just teasing, and no guarantee that all they know or think about her is her looks.

      So yea, I don’t see a double standard. I hope this workplace works out better for her than her previous ones.

      1. A Simple Narwhal*

        Ah sorry, didn’t mean to pile on! There weren’t any responses when I started mine.

        But yes, I agree with what the others are saying, plus what Coffee Bean said about asking what she would like for support.

    6. Mbarr*

      All the replies are helping!

      My panic right now is realizing that *I’m* probably the inappropriate one. I tend to have a very joking sense of humor, and I take my queue from others.

      E.g. If I hear Jose tease Jane about something and they laugh, I think, “Oh, they have a good sense of humor.” Then I’ll use that as a gauge for my own sense of humor. (I start small, and depending on the reactions, I’ll figure out if they’re comfortable with my humor, or if I have to dial it back.)

      This makes me wonder how many people I’ve horrified/offended. :| But really, how else do you figure this stuff out?

      1. Akcipitrokulo*

        Taking your cue from your own relationship with them helps :) and starting small is probably good – also as well as paying attention to their reactions, pay attention to the jokes they make in return.

        But in general, it’s best to err on careful, and remember in the workplace even if you aren’t offending the other person in a conversation, you could be upsetting other people around you.

      2. Jules the 3rd*

        Well, if you’re doing offensive humor (aka insult humor, eg, referencing people’s appearance, personal attributes [eg weight], race, ethnicity, gender), you could just not do that. Even if the person you target has a ‘good sense of humor’, bystanders can easily misunderstand. Try humor based on your pets or other animals, or on sportsball teams.

        Insult humor normalizes harassment, discrimination, and abuse, just like ‘locker room talk’. Do you really want to be part of that?

      3. Batgirl*

        I think you’re ok because you’re starting small which means building a relationship. If there’s a relationship you’ll know their preferences. You can’t go in cold and joke about something potentially problematic like someone’s appearance or sexuality if the person concerned isn’t able to tell you, as a friend, those jokes are no good as far as they are concerned.

    7. Akcipitrokulo*

      It’s not a double standard :) Friends get to tease me about things strangers don’t, and my partner gets to tease me about things friends don’t. It’s OK to have that!

      The important point is that you don’t make jokes unless you KNOW that the person involved is OK with it. And, tbh, that means in this situation making sure not only that it would be welcome, but that it is said to them, not to a third person.

    8. buttrue???*

      I have to disagree with the double standard issue or maybe point out that there are nuances. It’s not as simple as if it’s from people you are familiar/comfortable with/know it’s okay but not okay from others. Everything is about context, tone, and subject. I worked with a woman years ago who would accept much higher level of flirting, sexual innuendo from those she liked than from those she didn’t. And this was from people she worked with every day. So to accept Foxy Lady from your office mate but not from random guy who works in the next office is okay. But it’s not okay if she will accept it from John but not from George who you work with equally.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        But it’s not okay if she will accept it from John but not from George who you work with equally.

        Yes it is – if she doesn’t like George as a friend, but she sees John as a buddy, then sure, she can want George to not be too familiar with her in the workplace due to the absence of that relationship. Basically, everyone gets to make their own boundaries when it comes to stuff like this.

      2. M*

        Yeah so, this is nonsense, and dangerous nonsense at that.

        Flirting is a two-way street, and if you’re going to flirt with someone, it is on *you* to ensure that they’re on the same page as you – and to be alert to the possibility that may change. If you’re not doing that, it simply isn’t flirting – it’s harassment. That’s because women – *and* men – get to have different boundaries for different people, based on the nature of their relationships with people. Sometimes, that’s simply about a relationship being more jokey and close – having a different shared history, more overlapping interests, personalities that just vibe better together. Sometimes it’s about a relationship being more *fraught* – that one party feels the other party has a poor sense of boundaries, for example, and needs to have them clearly drawn and never blurred. The thing is: people *get* to make those decisions, because flirting – or light-hearted mocking humour – is something that has contextual meaning: they’re shared communications, and the implications they carry depend on the nature of the relationship between the two people.

        The furphy that flirting is just a thing you put out into the ether – rather than a thing that’s directed *at another human being*, who has a right to have opinions about it – causes real harm. It devalues the lived experiences of those being harassed or bullied, it often causes workplaces and social groups to fail to take action against harassers and bullies and it makes it easier for harassers and bullies to self-justify their behaviour. It’s not OK, and you need to stop.

    9. Qwerty*

      1. I’m guessing if her teammate made a joke she didn’t like, she’d be more comfortable telling them to knock it off. It’s also has an element of laughing *with* someone instead of *at* them. A teammate would have been saying it to her, including her in the teasing, and which also gives her the option to say she doesn’t like the joke or the teammate to see if she liked/disliked the joke. Instead, it was overhearing someone talking about her and her body, which made it inappropriate. They weren’t teasing her, because she wasn’t even in the conversation.

      2. Affirming her feelings was a good first step. Beyond that, it might be good to ask her what kind of response she would like, since she’s run into issues with this before. Some people just want a friend to vent to, other people would appreciate suggestions on how to address the problem. Would she be comfortable saying something to person who made the comment? Or her boss or their boss? Would she like you to go with her for support? Or she may just want you to do exactly what you did – be there for her and care about her.

      I do recommend documenting this and any other instances/comments that you see. Not because I think this will turn into an incident report, but if down the line a pattern emerges or things escalate, it is helpful to have. Usually people don’t start documenting issues until they reach the point of wanting a report, and having something that says who made the comments and who else was part of the conversation helps speed things along. (Or shows that the commenter is different each time, but the same manager is always in the conversation encouraging that kind of talk, for example)

      1. Qwerty*

        Also I would encourage you not to think of it as a double-standard! Everyone has different relationships for each person in their lives, but that doesn’t erase the base-line standard.

        Since you are in IT, think of it in terms of permission levels. You set permissions for users as a whole, specific user groups, and sometimes individual users get exceptions. The coworker is in the general user pool – he has to obey standard workplace norms. Your friend has elevated her current teammates to a work-friend user group, where she’s more comfortable with them making jokes that cross into friend level. If her significant other happened to be working for the company, no one would call it a double standard that her boyfriend/girlfriend could kiss her but other coworkers could not!

  17. What did I get myself into?*

    I’m almost at the end of one week into my new job as an Executive Assistant. This is my first time as a true EA – I have held senior admin positions before where I supported several senior staff, but I usually had other responsibilities and projects I managed at the same time.

    My new boss seems like a nice person but she is also very, very busy. I feel like I have barely spoken to her all week and I am constantly questioning or second guessing my actions. I try to touch base with her when I can, but we are both back and forth between two offices, and she commutes back and forth between two cities. She is out of the office almost as often as she is here, and when she is in the office she is almost always in back-to-back meetings.

    I just received word that I will be given access to my predecessor’s old email inbox, which I feel will be immensely helpful. In a previous job I would use downtime to look through old emails to figure out if I was missing anything important, and often times I was! However, I’m wondering if there is anything else I can do at the moment to better support my boss in these early stages, while I’m still figuring things out?

    I don’t know her preferences or all her needs yet and am trying to learn. I already messed up once and made a scheduling error but fortunately it was fixable. My boss’s schedule is jam packed and I manage her calendar, so I’m trying my best to stay on top of things and be aware of all upcoming appointments and meeting requests. I’m feeling a little overwhelmed because I haven’t been given much direction, but I suppose this could be normal for this position. If anyone has advice for me, I’m all ears!

    1. Four lights*

      One week is such a short period of time–and with the amount of work it makes sense that you feel overwhelmed. I would try to keep the lines of communication open with your boss as much as possible. Maybe see if you can schedule some sit down time with her. You could also directly ask the best way to approach her if you have a question about her preferences.

      1. What did I get myself into?*

        Thank you for your input! We are scheduled to meet this afternoon, however a member of the Board just called and will be dropping by so that visit may cut into our time considerably. My boss told me she prefers text and she seems pretty responsive so far, however I also do not want to overload her. I try to limit texting when I know she’s driving or in an important meeting (however I’m still trying to figure out what constitutes an important meeting!).

        1. Four lights*

          And that’s where you can say, “Let me know if I’m texting too much, let me know if I shouldn’t have interrupted you…” She sounds like a good boss, and I’m sure she knows that there’s a learning curve. As long as you’re actively trying I’m sure you’ll figure it out soon.

    2. AudreyParker*

      I just had a temp gig that put me in a similar situation and really stressed me out – even after a month there I was still learning new things and ways to keep up with the exec’s schedule, so while it’s frustrating, it’s not strange you’d feel this way after a week. I realized people often forgot that I was starting from scratch, so wouldn’t always give me direction or background that I really needed, which meant I had to force myself to ask way more questions than I was used to having to ask. One thing I did was keep a list of questions I had rather than count on remembering; if I had been a permanent employee, I’d also have asked to set up some 1:1 meetings so we’d be guaranteed to talk. I’ve also had positions where I just had to send an email “digest” of questions periodically so I didn’t feel like I was barraging them all day long, you might ask if that kind of thing would work with her. Writing things down in general helped: I started creating a reference doc for whoever came next and that turned out to help me figure out where some gaps were as well as serve as my own ongoing reference. I had access to my predecessor’s inbox and that turned out to be SO invaluable that I made sure the (permanent) employee who took over from me had both that and my inbox to reference. Is there another EA there that worked closely/frequently with the previous EA? If so, they might have some insight as to how they worked with your boss or how she operates (I was fortunate to have this resource & it was helpful as well). Ultimately, I think it’s par for the course that there’s going to a learning curve as you adjust to a new boss & company, especially if they’re not always in the office, and there’s just a certain amount of trial and error that figures in… and lots of deep breaths.

    3. Da Lizzy*

      Are there other EAs that can give you a sense of what the priorities are and give you a sense of the lay of the land, who’s who, etc.? It’s a challenge to try and get information from someone so busy and some people work better with an EA than others. I say that cause I’ve been an EA for years but for the past few years I work with someone who is very self sufficient and not a great communicator… it’s been a challenge…

      That being said, it’s been a week. I would give myself a break, these things take time, to build a relationship, learn all the information that you will need and also build trust. Use your time with her as efficiently as possible and try to get a sense of what she needs most, what is most important for her in providing her support and you could maybe ask her if she has any tips or anyone she would recommend you ask for information or questions when she’s not available. Maybe a weekly one-on-one to check in in person, see if that sounds feasible to her. What did her previous assistant do well that she’d like you to continue doing? I once had a boss who in-between every meeting wanted to check in, when he came back to his office… I had another who asked me to not to come into his office more than once a day. Some are callers, others are more email, text, IM…

      I’m sure looking through the emails and hopefully getting some direction from her will be helpful. Best of luck and congrats on the new job!

    4. ManageHer*

      Former EA and former manager of EAs here.

      Since your executive is in so many meetings, I’d spend a significant portion of your time right now scrolling through the past year of her calendar. Take note of:
      *Recurring meetings she’s in
      *The people she meets with most often
      *Themes (lots of meetings about the budget in July; a recent focus on the strategic plan, etc.)

      If you don’t know what a project is, poke around the company intranet or shared drives until you find some documentation. If you don’t recognize a name, look them up on the org chart. It’s way easier to make informed decisions when you know that – if you know she has 3 check-ins with Anthony every week, you can probably cancel one if there’s an emergency board meeting, but you wouldn’t punt Anthony if they’re working together on a budget that’s due in 3 days.

      Even when they have time, it’s often difficult for executives to proactively articulate what they want – good admins make their work look effortless and feel seamless, and it can be hard to give explicit instructions on how to do that. So I’d honestly recommend just doing the thing you think makes sense when possible, then checking in later on whether you handled it correctly. You’ve got admin experience, so your instincts are likely strong. This is hard! But very worth it.

      1. A Bag of Jedi Mind Tricks*

        What MangeHer said. Get familiar with your Exec’s calendar–learn the recurring items. Do the same with phone calls. Take note of who calls often. Then when you do get time with her, ask her what’s very important and what’s sort of important. When you get access to your predecessor’s inbox, take note of what was asked of her and who did the asking. Introduce yourself to those folks. Explain that you are new and still learning the ins and outs of the job. Get to know your Exec’s rhythm and how she does things. Also observe how the others in the office approach her. It sounds like she doesn’t need a lot of hand holding (which, imo, is good. ). By the second or third month into this, you should be comfortable with the job. I’d be interested in an update :-)

    5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Try to remind yourself that the first weeks and even months into ANY job is challenging and a huge learning curve. So you have to be kind to yourself and know that there will be things to learn but once you have the knowledge, it’s in there for good and then your toolbox starts to fill up as you go.

      Keep your eyes and ears open, talk to people and do your research [you’re doing that it sounds like, so remind yourself nothing happens overnight and you will never pop into a role you’re going to grasp immediately, even with decades of training]. I’ve done this, I’ve fallen into spots where there’s a lot to pick up but after the ball starts rolling, it collects all the bits of knowledge you’ll need along the way.

      Look at files and notes from the previous EA if possible. Ask others if they’re available. Work with your executive to carve out even small bits of time to touch base and know what she expects from you.

    6. EA in CA*

      Congrats on the new role! It sounds like your executive and mine could be interchangeable. What I found really helpful early on was making it a point to routinely sit down with her at least once a week (either in person or remotely) while you are learning the job. That way there is a dedicated time for both of you to connect. That would be your opportunity to review outstanding items, get your answers to tasks, etc. Her success depends on you being successful in your role and as her primary support, it super important that you get as quickly up to speed as possible. Having access to your predecessor’s emails will be super helpful. See if you can also get access to her calendar as well. Then you can see what her rhythms are like (did she had regular 1 on 1 with executive, what other meetings was she attending, etc.)

  18. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    Wicked fast typing skills, knowing things off the top of my head due to the experience and being absurdly efficient in my general daily duties. I streamlined procedures and we’re mostly automated, I just have to catch glitches or special circumstances. I’m usually here on “stand by” and unless we’re hiring for a role or fish out a special project, I’m just twiddling thumbs until things land on my desk.

    We all work at difference paces and have different jobs, so it really depends on the size of a company, how theyr’e staffed and if we’re dead with work or not.

    Two years ago, my job would never have allowed this kind of downtime. I was working 60 hour weeks and all that time was running and processing the workflow of 3 people, no joke.

    1. blaise zamboni*

      I knew this was a nesting fail when I started reading, but part of me hoped you were just confidently starting a post with a list of things you’re awesome at. I’m not sure what the post you replied to was, but that’s a mood we can all get behind.

  19. Gene Parmesan*

    Update on my job situation. (I’ve posted here the last two weeks because I was negotiating salary and deciding whether to accept an offer.)

    I decided to take the offer. Although the highest salary they could offer ($63K) is lower than my current pay ($72K), it was a good move for me for several reasons. One, the new place has a very generous retirement plan that allows me to scale back my 403b contributions quite a bit and still come out ahead on retirement contributions. Two, the new job is much closer to my house and I’ll be saving on gas/mileage. Three, I see a better future at the new organization because I’ll have more opportunities for career advancement there, plus the organization is doing better and my current organization is struggling.

    Thanks for the comments and insights.

    1. Lucille Bluth*


      (sorry. I had to.)

      Good luck in the new gig, I hope it goes well for you!

    2. Fortitude Jones*

      Congrats on the new job! It sounds like you made the best choice for your situation – well done.

  20. TheseOldWings*

    I have a question about temp agencies. I have spent the last 2 years home with my kids, and now I also want to make a career change. I thought that temp agencies would be a good way to get a job fairly quickly and get some current experience back on my resume, but it seems I have basically been ghosted by both agencies I spoke with. The first one had a marketing position available (I have an advertising background), but the company said they weren’t interested in interviewing me. She said she would send me jobs that I may be interested in, but I never heard from her again. The second agency had what I assume was a “bait and switch” ad to get me on board with them, and they sent me another job possibility, but then when I followed up after a couple of weeks of no contact, they said it had been filled internally. I asked about another position that was listed on their website, and that had also apparently been filled internally. She then sent me another job and said she would get my information sent over, but it’s been over a week and I haven’t heard back. I

    t’s been several months now that have gone by, and I guess I assumed that with temp agencies, they basically confirm you aren’t a total idiot and more or less just place you at a job. Even if that isn’t the case, I at least assumed that they would be frequently sending me open positions and off to interview with companies, so I’m really confused. Am I wrong about the nature of temp jobs, or is there something about me they aren’t interested in? I have an excellent employment record and have never been fired or laid off from a job, so other than the 2 year gap I have, I’m kind of at a loss.

    1. RainToday*

      I don’t know much about temp agencies, but just wanted to sympathize. Any time I’ve applied to a job with one, I’ve gotten a quick call back saying they wanted to discuss an “exciting opportunity” with me. The exciting opportunity is just a chance to confirm everything on my resume and answer a few questions so they can supposedly find a job that fits my interests. Then they never get back to me. The two times I actually went in for an interview it was a bait and switch for a much worse job than what I applied for.

      The last time I applied for a job with a temp agency, the guy e-mailed me four times and called me four times over two days about a job he was “working on.” He was being annoying and desperate, so I told him I could schedule a call if he wanted, but he needed to send me information on the job first (salary, title, location, responsibilities) so I could see if I was actually interested in it. His response was “Forget you! You can find your own job!” I don’t see why anyone likes temp agencies at all.

      1. irene adler*

        Actually, what you wrote about asking for salary, job title, location, responsibilities is a very good way to determine if you should spend time with the recruiter contacting you. Only spend time with one if they actually have a job opening to discuss.
        I’ve noticed that newer temp agency recruiters do a thing where they call persons they have resumes for, just to get an update on their situation. Then they switch into a “tell me what kind of job are you looking for” mode. A total waste of your time. I gather they may have to meet a quota on these calls. One guy left me close to a half dozen messages, using the very same script each time, imploring me to call him back to discuss “opportunities”.

        1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

          Yes, this. Back some years ago, I applied to a temp agency. They offered me one day’s temp work (a day I had a doctor’s appointment scheduled, with too short notice to reschedule it) and when I didn’t accept it, I never heard from them again.

          Except every 8 months or so for the next couple of years, I’d get an email saying, “Hi, this is [name of new person]! I’m handling your resume for Staffing Group now!” wanting to redo my intake meeting.

    2. irene adler*

      The job search is really up to you- even with a temp agency.

      Does your resume exactly match the skill set indicated in the job description? Or does the resume reader need to make the connection between something in your background and the specific item in the job description?

      IOW, are you viewing the job description in hopes that they will train you for much of the asked-for skills? Or do you specifically possess the skills asked-for? An excellent employment record is nice, but your resume must answer the question: “what can you do for the employer?”

      FWIW, what you experienced with the temp agencies is normal-given you don’t match the job description. Ouch, I know.

      Suggestion: find a professional organization(s) in the industry you wish to work in. Then find out if they have regular meetings in your immediate area. If so, attend. Network. Ask for advice, mentoring, resume suggestions, job tips, where to go to pick up needed skills, etc. Folks will be happy to give advice.

      1. TheseOldWings*

        So, my resume definitely does not match up exactly with what the job descriptions are, but most of these positions are entry-level or low-level administrative jobs. I have excellent soft skills, and I’m highly proficient with technology, Office, etc. but I may need some training on specific programs they may use in other industries. I guess my point is that if they want someone who already has more dedicated experience, that’s fine. But I would rather them tell me that!

        I will check out the professional orgs, thank you!!

    3. Garland not Andrews*

      It has been a while since I worked for a temp agency, but all the ones I worked for required you to call or email weekly letting them know that you are still available.
      Most handle a lot of people and keep an updated list of “Who is available this week”. Of course this is for true temporary work and not so much for temp to hire.

    4. AudreyParker*

      I’m working with an agency right now, but it took me to get one to even call me back and put me in the system. I’ve found it works a little differently now than it did the first time I did temping (when I got a couple of full time jobs through temp-to-perm opportunities) – I don’t know if there are just more people doing it, or companies are more selective, but it’s been harder to get connected AND get assignments. Once I signed up, I periodically got calls from random people there presenting opportunities that were often not my skillset – I think sometimes (for temps) they just want a butt in the seat and aren’t looking at your full profile. Eventually, the guy I initially interviewed with called with a longer term opportunity that I had to do a short phone interview for and did get placed in; once that ended, it took a few weeks to hear about something else that I’m still waiting to hear back about.

      So, things to remember about temp agencies: 1) total numbers game with them, they are focused on serving their *clients* not you, so you are one of probably many with similar qualifications, it just depends on how many job orders they receive that fit your skills how often they’ll reach out 2) definitely keep checking in with your primary contact (or however they’ve directed you to do so) to remind them of both who you are and your availability so you’ll be top of mind 3) the positions on the website are often filled soon after they’re posted, so don’t reflect real availability, unfortunately 4) the more specific or high level your requirements are, the longer you might wait for an opportunity (i.e. I said I was open to admin positions and a fairly low hourly rate for temping-only just to make it more likely I’d get temp work). If I was waiting for a permanent or temp-to-perm gig that actually totally fit my skills & permanent pay needs, I’d probably still be waiting.

      Best advice I can give you is to make sure to stay in touch with them and try to connect with several, but don’t count on them to guarantee opportunities. I’m lucky I’ve had some good chats with my contact so he remembers me, and between that and getting good feedback on my last placement he’ll keep reaching out with (sometimes) random things so that I know he’s looking out and maintain the relationship, but there are a lot of variables in play.

      1. TheseOldWings*

        I’ve been following-up every week or so and I’ve also told my contact that I’m open to really any position they are looking to fill and any contract length. These mostly seem to be low-level administrative and entry-level jobs. Thanks for your thoughts!

        1. AudreyParker*

          Yeah that’s pretty much my experience, too – I was getting calls for $13/hr on the other side of town to be a receptionist (yeah…nope). I think the majority of the need is at that level, and then you have a random collection of higher-level positions that it is a crap shoot as to whether you match the specs and are pulled in before other similar candidates. They may be more likely to hit up people who actually ARE at that level than people like us because they think they’ll be happier in the low-level placement or their needed experience is more immediate (i.e. I can’t remember the last time I had to use mail-merge!)… these are my theories, anyway. Wish I could be more helpful, but at least you are not alone in having this kind of experience with them.

    5. PhyllisB*

      I haven’t used a temp agency since the 90’s, but the two services I used were slightly different. At both you submitted a resume and had an initial interview so they could get a feel for what positions you qualified for/were interested in. After that, at Agency #1 if you weren’t working, you came in and signed a log indicating that you were still interested. They would contact you if they had anything come up they thought you would be successful in. If you didn’t sign in, no contact. Agency #2 after initial interview, you were expected to call in every Monday and let them know you were available and to see if they had anything for you. Perhaps they are expecting you to contact them?

    6. PhyllisB*

      Reading this reminded me of an experience I had with a temp agency. Not the two I already mentioned. This was some years later. When I went to sign up they didn’t seem very welcoming. Perhaps they didn’t really want older applicants. (I was mid forties at this time.) Anyway, they wanted me to take a competency test(fine) so they asked me to format a document. While I was in the testing room some woman came in and sat down close to me and start fiddling with the keyboard on a word processor and then turned to me and said, “I don’t want to interrupt you, but did you hear about that wreck?” I was trying to concentrate, but be polite at the same time so I just said no and continued what I was doing. Well, then she started adding details. I don’t remember what all but something about a ten car pile-up and multiple injuries/fatalities, ect. Well, of course this upset me and made me lose total focus. Then she got up and left…and I had made a complete mess of my test. And to make matters worse,I discovered this “accident” never occurred. I never could figure out what the motivation was for this. If this happened now I would probably request another chance citing the upset, but I was so thrown off by the initial attitude they seemed to have toward me, and the fact that what she was saying was so horrifying that it really didn’t occur to me to make such a request. Has anyone ever had an experience like this?

      1. TheseOldWings*

        Wow, that’s crazy! Maybe someone who saw you as a threat to getting temp work? What a truly bizarre situation.

      2. Da Lizzy*

        no… I thought it was pretty bad at one agency, while one of two in the waiting area that someone who worked there went up to the receptionist in front of us and starting acting like they were begging for a job… the guy never looked at us and the receptionist looked very uneasy but it was a true low moment for me, in what the paradise of looking for a job and thinking maybe temp to perm would be a good idea.

        but nothing like you describe… wow.

          1. PhyllisB*

            Oh, and surprise, surprise. I never heard a word. I did call once and was told quite rudely that if they had anything, they would contact me. I really never understood why they seemed so set against me.

    7. Lilysparrow*

      The things that helped me work successfully with temp agencies were
      1) To be open to a wide range of positions and industries in the short-term, even if it doesn’t match my long-term goals.

      2) Be very direct that your first priority is getting some work quickly. Then back that up by checking in frequently and accepting anything you possibly can.

      Seniority/track record, and convenience, drive temp placements. They always try to fill a job with someone they already know, and won’t work their way down the list to you unless everyone else is booked or unavailable.

      If you want to get further up in consideration, you have to call or email and check in frequently. If they can match you to an open job without having to work down their roster, they will.

      They are being paid by the employer to fill seats. The way to get the best roles is to make their job as easy as possible.

    8. Frankie*

      It really, really depends on your particular location, situation, and temp agency, sorry to say. I had great luck with one temp agency and terrible luck with a couple of others. Some agencies (or the companies that contract with them) are just looking for warm bodies who will work for very little pay. Others are looking for quality temp-to-hire candidates with specific backgrounds. It can be tough to know from the outside what an agency’s MO is. A few years ago one agency reached out repeatedly but then never contacted me again after I told them I’d be looking for “x” hourly rate, which was kind of low for the position and my career experience. Some of them are really looking for the bottom of the barrel, unfortunately. The less they have to pay you, the more they get to take home.

    9. Moonbeam Malone*

      I’ve had very mixed experience with temp agencies. Some of them do have jobs ready to basically “hand out” to competent candidates, for places that do large volume hiring (call centers, manufacturing, temp data entry) but especially if they’re hiring for a bunch of smaller companies they do tend to get less responsive. They often have a TON of candidates in their hiring pool and lose track of them easily. If they haven’t had contact with you in the last two weeks, even if the ball was in their court, they often assume you are no longer available. I actually had a job through an agency once I was all ready to go for, was supposed to start, but then never heard back with my start date after I’d completed my on-boarding stuff. When I did follow up with the agency they casually told me there’d been a processing error on the employer’s end with one specific thing that could’ve easily been corrected if they had just..let me know… Ultimately I did wind up doing that temp job but it was weeks after I could’ve started and only because I called them to find out what was going on! Definitely keep following up with your agencies, and doing so often. It’s a very different case than when you’re following up with a potential employer. They actually do need the nudging and reminders. BUT. You might also want to look for another agency if neither of these are working out for you. (And continue job searching on your own.)

    10. A Bag of Jedi Mind Tricks*

      Wow!! I can relate. I can remember back in the mid-’80’s -Early ’90’s you could just call up a Temp agency, make an appointment with them. They would test you on your skills and sign you up. Sometimes that same day, they would call you and tell you that there was a temp assignment available, ask you if you wanted it, you said yes and off to work you went (for a day, a week, a month or Long Term). In most cases, no interview was required. And if the Client Company liked you, they would hire you. Things are soooo much different now. trying to get signed with a Temp agency is like applying directly with a company for a full-time job. Then IF you do get signed with an agency, trying to get an assignment is another chore. You now have to interview for a temp position. I say all of this to say. Don’t give up. Try and sign on with a few more agencies. Hopefully, you’ll sign with one that will be proactive in getting you assignments.

      1. AudreyParker*

        Exactly! I was coming at it with memories from the 90s/early 2000s and it was a real shock to discover how difficult it is to even get in the door now when I was thinking of it as my easy fallback if other avenues didn’t pan out… At least a lot is done online & via Skype now, so the logistics are easier :|

    11. Deb Morgan*

      I skipped over using temp agencies and just looked for temp positions on job boards instead. I got a temp-to-permanent hire job that way.

      1. 1st in Corporate*

        Exactly. This is actually exactly what temp agencies do. They often Troll the job boards to see what companies need help, and then their sales team contacts the company to see if they can provide candidates. You’re actually much better off in many cases just contacting the company directly. Then if they hire you I will pay you th troll the job boards to see what companies need help, and then their sales team contacts the company to see if they can provide candidates. You’re actually much better off in many cases just contacting the company directly. Then if they hire you, The company will pay you through an agency.

    12. Elizabeth West*

      I sympathize also. I had a great gig at one temp agency here about ten years ago; they sent me on all kinds of assignments and I even worked at their office now and then. But the last time I tried, they and all the others just took my info, gave me the clerical assessments, and then *crickets*.

      Except for Kelly. They kept calling me for logistics jobs where I’d have to figure people’s mileage, after I already explained about my stupid f**king dyscalculia and for which I was in no way qualified for due to many other reasons. God, what a waste of time they were.

    13. LJay*

      From what I’ve heard about temp jobs you need to be aggressive in following up with the recruiters. Like, calling every morning to ask if they have anything for you sort of aggressive.

      Then, once they place you once or twice and they see you’re not a flake or an idiot, you won’t have to be so aggressive because you’ll be a known quantity that they want to place and get paid for.

      I think it also probably depends on the types of positions you’re looking for. The method I mentioned worked for friends, but they were looking for basically any sort of office work – data entry, receptionist or admin assistant, etc. If you’re specifically looking for something in your degree area it will be more difficult for a couple reasons. First, it’s a narrower set of jobs than just anything. And second, if your marketer is out for a day or five days, whatever they were doing will likely just wait until they come back and no temp will be hired. However, if your receptionist calls out for one day or 5 days they likely need someone to be brought in to cover because it’s not like the line of people calling on the phone or waiting to enter the door can just be put off until they get back.

    14. Executive Assistant to My Dog*

      I’ve had really mixed experiences. I’ve had a temp agency bring me in for an interview, act really enthused when the interview went well, have me sign an I-9 as well as other papers so they could set up interviews for me, and then totally ghost. Wouldn’t even reply to a check-in email. On the flip side, I have also had a staffing agency flood my voicemail with so many interview offers that I woke up to a full voicemail inbox and they started sending me emails about it. BEST DAY EVER. I loved them. Clearly their employees were paid a great commission for placements because there were 5 people competing to send me on interviews ASAP. (I’m not trying to humblebrag here – they were obviously racing to get their commission. Everybody wins!) This was only a few years ago, so my first point is: try another agency if you can! Bigger agencies are usually better.

      Here’s an important question: are you using a temp agency or a staffing agency? IMO, staffing agencies are more likely to be helpful for what you’re looking for. They will have more things you’re looking for, like temp-to-hire jobs and entry-level permanent placements.

  21. Kimmy Schmidt*

    Inspired by this week’s “why can’t I wear shorts to work” post.

    What items of clothing do you see as Not Professional (the more irrational the answer, the more fun). What professional clothing norms do you break, or desperately want to break? What item of clothing were you shocked to learn wasn’t professional?

    You can pry my maxi dresses from my cold, dead, unprofessional hands.

    1. Emi.*

      I don’t know how irrational this is, but I believe that for work clothes, once the fabric starts it should keep going continuously until it’s completely done. Things like cutouts, keyhole necklines, cold shoulders, etc somehow look way more unprofessional to me than even off-the-shoulder tops.

      1. fposte*

        Oh, that’s an interesting way of phrasing it–I was thinking that strappy backs can look less professional, too. (I also think maintenance is a pain on clothes like this, so I’m happy to climb on board.) But does this extend to shoes too, or do Mary Janes fly below the radar?

        1. Emi.*

          Flat or with low heels, especially with a sort of hippy look: I don’t think they’re unprofessional although I personally find them ugly. But Mary Jane pumps look really sexy to me! They have for as long as I can remember. I think it’s Pavlovian conditioning from how common they are in sexy Hallowe’en costumes.

        2. Temperance*

          I’ve seen some gorgeous, work-appropriate flats with an ankle strap, although I’m not sure that crosses into Mary Jane territory.

          1. fposte*

            Though ankle-strap shoes used to be beyond the respectability pale, which I don’t really understand.

        3. Lepidoptera*

          I think the Mary Jane strap is “extra” in that the shoe would otherwise be a plain flat. A slingback shoe has a strap at the back that replaces the heel of the shoe, so that seems different. Thus, “adding versus taking away” is the mental barrier for me.

          (Note that I find this more of an interesting thought exercise than anything else, so please excuse the pedantry.)

          1. fposte*

            Oh, yeah, I’m totally going down the pedant hole on this myself. For me I think I just don’t see shoes the same way as body clothes; Mary Janes are actually pretty conservative to me (I mostly also see them with a lower, chunkier heel).

        4. stellaaaaa*

          Can someone explain to me how you wear Mary Janes? Do you wear socks that show underneath or nothing? Many years ago I found a pair of Mary Janes that were so comfortable and beautiful… But I didn’t buy them because I just couldn’t figure out how to wear them in a work environment.

          1. SignalLost*

            Over tights, or you can get ankle socks or the nylon foot covers and wear them without tights. The ankle socks I get are not the one with the little ruffle; it’s a low sock that rides below my ankle bone. I wear them when I want to wear closed shoes but no tights.

            1. CatMintCat*

              Every time I’ve tried those socks, they end up in a crumpled uncomfortable bunch around my toes. I have no idea how to make them actually stay on my ankle!!

      2. Anonish*

        I’m probably old before my time but we have a lot of very young salespeople who sometimes shock me with how they dress in the summer. If your dress is backless and hip-length, and might actually be a bathing suit coverup, I think it should not be worn to work. (Also our office is aggressively air-conditioned so I don’t know how these women aren’t FREEZING.)

      3. Sled dog mama*

        I completely agree, something about cold shoulder shirts in particular just screams un professional to me. Then again getting me into an even knee length skirt without tights, or leggings underneath is impossible (I don’t care if others wear them, I’m just not comfortable). I seem to have a the more skin covered the more professional I look attitude towards my own wardrobe.

    2. KatieKate*

      Sneakers!!! I will wear sneakers all day unless I have to talk to people who aren’t my co workers. My feat are under my desk, who cares???

      1. OtterB*

        Me too! Or even if I have to talk to non-coworkers, unless it’s really important. When I first started this job, I commuted in sneakers and then changed when I got to the office, but after a while I realized that nobody ared and happily stay in my sneakers-with-custom-orthotics. My feet thank me.

      2. Marion Ravenwood*

        Absolutely yes to sneakers. I do keep a pair of smart flats to change into if I need them for meetings etc, but I wear my Converse pretty much constantly at work otherwise.

      3. CheeryO*

        Yes! My office is on the more casual end of biz cas, but most of the women wear flats or nice boots or sandals. At some point I noticed that half of my male coworkers wear dad sneakers (you know, white New Balances) on the daily, so I started wearing sneakers too. My feet are much happier for it!

      4. JustaTech*

        Yes this! When I’m in the lab it’s sneakers or flat boots. If someone tried to make me not wear sneakers I would wear Danskos (chef/nurse clogs).

      5. SusanIvanova*

        Nobody has ever noticed that I’m wearing solid black Reeboks with my choir blacks.

      1. Drago Cucina*

        +1 For some reason they irritate me. I’d rather see a nice sleeveless top than the cold shoulder look.

      2. Nye*

        Me, too! But that might just be because it’s such an obvious trend that very clearly will run its course and then be forgotten. Much like zoot suits and legwarmers, I think cold-shoulder tops will become an invaluable tool for carbon-dating photographs in the future.

        I think where I come down is that ideally, work clothes should be more on the classic than on the trendy side unless you work in a particularly trendy industry.

        1. Rainy*

          Cold shoulders come in and out. They were really popular back when I was in high school, and then again about 6-7 years ago, and now they’re back.

        2. Dowager Countess of Downton Abbey*

          Wow, zoot suits. That’s really a throwback, hepcat.
          Of course, leg o’mutton sleeves were considered scandalous in my day…..

        1. Snarktini*

          I will NEVER apologize for wearing sandals to work! I’ve worked in multiple states and environments and never worked anywhere that open shoes weren’t ok. (Except when I had a “hosiery policy” way back when. It wasn’t a rule we couldn’t wear open toed shoes but it was a personal rule for me since it looks dumb to wear hose/tights with open toe shoes.)

        1. fposte*

          Oh, I had really nice pumps that I donated after I walked down an echoey utility stairway in them.

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          For the record I hated wearing corduroy pants as a teen because I swear the bullies could hear me coming.

      1. Lepidoptera*

        Agreed, but for context I often use PPE at work. I’ve spent over a decade needing steel toes for parts of my job, so it’s hard to reprogram my brain to see open-toed heels as work appropriate!

        1. Curmudgeon in California*


          My first jobs were in laboratories, and then I did field work, with appropriate PPE. Close-toed shoes, preferable leather, not fabric, are my “standard” by habit.

          If I’m in a total geeky t-shirt & jeans office, I might wear sandals. Maybe.

        2. Incantanto*

          Same. So much women’s fashion advice is on skirt based outfits, and I cannot wear that in the lab!

      2. Kittyfish 76*

        I have a few people where I work that will walk around in bare feet! Yes, they have shoes, but they’re kicked off under the desk. I find this both unprofessional and dangerous.

        1. A tester, not a developer*

          Ew! I see the stuff that gets kicked up from the carpet when I’m walking in black shoes. I don’t want that crud on my feet!

          1. Fortitude Jones*

            Exactly. But I have coworkers who treat the office like it’s their home and don’t seem to care.

      3. WellRed*

        I loathe flip flops with an unreasonable passion and they have no place at work. Unless you work at a pool.

        1. I Work on a Hellmouth*

          Even then. Flip flops are groooooosssss! (Sorry, flip flop fans! Know that I don’t judge you for wearing them, I just have a visceral physical reaction when I see them—or mandals— being worn, but I do my best to not let it show on my face.)

        2. Batgirl*

          (don’t read this while eating) I used to sit next to a rival reporter at local council meetings and not only would she would wear flip flops but she would pick her toes if bored.

      4. Person from the Resume*

        Flip Flops are not professional. I don’t care how you might dress it up.

        I’ll admit, about 15 years ago I wouldn’t even wear them in public (except for beach/pool). I’ve totally accepted that they have become acceptable in public and embraced them, but they are never above the most casual and shouldn’t be worn into work or church or anywhere dressy.

    3. Rainy*

      Cargo shorts. I wouldn’t want to wear cargo shorts in the office, but it irritates me that the men in my office wear cargo shorts in the summer but the women in the office cannot because they aren’t “professional enough” on women, somehow. Men can go buy a $5 pair of cargo shorts at Old Navy and wear them all summer, but the only shorts that are acceptable for women are the suit shorts that cost $60 or more.

      (I work in a more casual higher ed office so the summer dress code is even more relaxed than the regular dress code but…CARGO SHORTS?!)

      1. Drago Cucina*

        No, I have explicitly said, ‘No cargo or denim shorts.’ I have told men and women they may wear nice, knee length shorts at the library. One of my sons used to be a legal runner and in the summer the law firm encouraged him to wear nice shorts and a polo.

    4. Nanc*

      I don’t know that it’s really unprofessional but the cold shoulder and slit sleeve tops for women drive me nuts! If it’s cold enough for long sleeves, have actual sleeves! When they first started popping up I always assumed some poor soul had accidentally torn their shirt and didn’t have time to run out to the store.

      1. Kimmy Schmidt*

        I don’t like the cold shoulders either. It’s a personal hang-up but I think they’re so unflattering and weird.

      2. Sam Sepiol*

        You’ve reminded me: short sleeved jumpers (aka sweaters). Is it cold enough for a jumper or is out warm enough for short sleeves?! IT CANNOT BE BOTH.

        1. OhGee*

          I am a person who needs torso warmth more than arm warmth, so I love short-sleeved sweaters.

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          If my shoulders get cold, my neck tends to cramp up. If I get hot I tend to get cranky.
          Shirt sleeved light knit cardigan for the win.

      3. Temperature Keeper*

        You know the “warmth value” of sleeves (a term I just made up that means “how much it warms the wearer” COMPLETELY depends on the fabric of the sleeve, right? So, I mean, the cold-shoulders top is likely not made of flannel, you know that, right? It’s usually light rayon or polyester, and adds little to no warmth to the wearer?

        1. Nanc*

          I’m in the Pacific Northwest. Trust me, there are flannel cold shoulder tops in the workplace!

    5. Kimmy Schmidt*

      I will say that I work in an academic library, and both higher ed and libraries are fields that are not exactly known for high standards of what is considered professional.

      1. fposte*

        Yeah, similar, and you have to go pretty far before I’m an actual “no.” Decent shorts are fine, sandals are fine, and those aren’t gendered allowances. No workout clothes, I guess, including sports bras on their own and leggings as pants. Oh, and no pajamas.

    6. Corky's wife Bonnie*

      My co-worker was so thrilled about the boots her sons bought her for Christmas she wore them in the office one day. They were high heels and went above the knee. My first thought was “stripper boots.” She hasn’t worn them since though. As for myself, I don’t break the norms much but will occasionally wear sneakers when the foot problems I have are acting up.

      1. CupcakeCounter*

        I wear knee high boots all the time to work but over the knee boots are stripper territory and highly unprofessional. I wonder why that is????

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          Srsly – because strippers would have a hard time getting out of thigh-high boots. And do boots really work well on poles? Inquiring minds want to know.

          I see them and think ‘superhero boots’, but I am a geek.

          1. Hobbyist poler*

            Depends on what the boots are made of. Vinyl or leather? Sure. Cotton? Not so much.

        2. designbot*

          because knee high boots meet a standard office-length skirt, but knee high boots need a much shorter skirt (or perhaps leggings?) to see their full length. Plus, they just make you think of someone’s thighs, and thighs are an outside-the-office topic for sure.

      2. WellRed*

        I had a coworker come in wearing stripper boots once. She had gone clothes shopping with her 18 yo daughter after losing some weight. She only wore them once, I think she realized they were not the best office choice.

        1. Overeducated*

          I have one coworker who has pulled them off, but I think the keys were a) they were plain other than the silhouette, b) she is quite tall so they didn’t look as ridiculous as they would on someone my height, and c) the rest of her outfit was very modest, low key, and appropriate for a business casual environment (something like dark leggings, a long professional looking sweater or tunic or something with a high neck, and nice jewelry). Most of us couldn’t do it.

      3. PhyllisB*

        Not work related, but I bought a dress that I knew would look great with boots, so I asked my husband for black suede knee high boots for Christmas. My two daughters were shocked!! They kept saying “Mom!! You don’t REALLY want knee high boots, do you?” I mean, I know I’m 68 years old, but does that mean I can’t look stylish? Well, finally I lost my temper and said, (yelled) “It’s not like I’m asking for thigh high red leather boots and a bullwhip!!” My (88 year old) mother cracked up. BTW, I received the boots, and they look lovely.

    7. LaDeeDa*

      That is one of my favorite topics we have ever had. I really love fashion.

      I love maxi-dresses and wear them all the time, but they are in my “Not Professional” category. I wouldn’t wear one to work.
      My offices are business casual, depending on who I am meeting with I wear anything from jeans to a suit. I often will wear my suit with a solid white, black or gray, high-quality v-neck t-shirt with my suit, tucked in, with a statement belt, and usually a bright or patterned heel.

      1. Yorick*

        I sometimes wear one on a casual day. Or I have one that I think looks professional enough with a cardigan.

        1. LaDeeDa*

          Can I ask what kind of shoes you wear with your maxi dresses? I think because all mine are casual and I wear them with a really casual sandal (almost always a flip flop) I have a hard time picturing them with anything nicer than what I wear with them. LOL!

          1. Fortitude Jones*

            I wear mine with wedges and espadrilles, sometimes strappy, open toe sandals with a chunky heel. It’s a very cute, put together look and isn’t at all super casual.

    8. Amber Rose*

      Shirts without sleeves. Even if it’s not spaghetti straps but a couple inches wide. Cover your shoulders. :<

      1. Kimmy Schmidt*

        I think this particularly topic is one of the more fascinating to me. I cannot seem to locate “professional” tops I like with short sleeves. They all look frumpy as heck to me. Every single work shirt I own is either long sleeved or sleeveless.

        1. Coverage Associate*

          I am finding professional short sleeve shirts are more rare and more expensive than long sleeve.

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            SRSLY. I think it’s a fashion thing. 15 years ago, I could find the exact short sleeved shirt I liked in 2 – 3 different stores. It was 1/4 – 1/2 sleeve, with styling like a jacket – medium heavy fabric, slightly fitted, tailored hem at the hips, 4 buttons, neckline around the collarbone. I had red, brown, grey, and 2 black ones. Wore them all the time (with occasional scarves for variety) until I gained too much weight.

            I have been hunting for replacements for them for at least 6 years now, and nada. zilch zip nothing. I got close with a brown one, but the neckline is too low. They’re all made to go *over* something, and yeah, US South, that’s just not realistic.

        2. Snowglobe*

          I agree! All of the short-sleeved tops I find have absolutely no shape to them and just hang down. But I can find sleeveless tops that are fitted at the waist and look really cute. Why?

          1. CheeryO*

            I think because the idea is to wear them with a cardigan or blazer on top, so sleeves are just added bulk. This drives me crazy too, because I work outside in the summer but still need to look semi-professional. I absolutely hate exposed armpits, so I’m always on the lookout for nicer short sleeved tops.

            1. Snarktini*

              Armpits! It’s totally ok in my field to be sleeveless but I am not very comfortable with it. I don’t have good arms, so that’s a reason but at the end of the day not wanting bra or armpit to show is ultimately what keeps me from wearing tanks professionally. Once in awhile when it’s super hot, maybe.

        3. KX*

          Cap sleeves look perfectly professional on the right blouse, I think, but perhaps you read those as “sleeveless.” Or perhaps my standards for professional are too SoCal!

        4. ClumsyCharisma*

          Yep, I resort to a sleeveless dress shirt and a shrug. Our dress code says shirts need to go to the end of your shoulder but I still don’t reel right wearing sleeveless in the office.

        5. Fortitude Jones*

          I can. Calvin Klein makes some really lovely shells that are sleeveless and very professional looking when worn with a blazer or cardigan.

          1. Fortitude Jones*

            Nevermind – I read that wrong, lol. Yes, short sleeve professional shirts are indeed hard to find these days. It’s either long sleeve, three quarter sleeve, or sleeveless.

    9. Not today*

      I don’t think it’s bad unprofessional, but I have a rather delightful story from a terrible time in life. My husband (now separated) had stage 3 rectal cancer in 2015. We went to see his radiation oncologist pretty regularly, as one does during cancer treatment. And this doctor (Dr. Eichler for any Richmonders!) would be professional dressed from neck to shoes…except he’d always have “fun” socks on. They weren’t professional at all, but when you’re seeing cancer patients all day, I guess he got to bring in a little bit of fun on his socks.

      1. Bananatiel*

        My oncologist always wears fun bowties (cancer-free now just have regular check-ins). I dated a resident briefly and he was workshopping what his “fun thing” was going to be in his otherwise conservative uniform. Apparently it’s a thing among some doctors!

      2. LaDeeDa*

        This is a thing at my company. All the men who are in areas of the business who have to dress more professionally, they ALL wear funky socks.

        1. Bostonian*

          Yep. My husband is in sales and he calls them “power socks”. The crazier, the better. I call it peacocking.

      3. Anonish*

        My periodontist always wore fun socks! I think it’s nice to know that the person doing your gum graft has a sense of humor.

      4. Kimmy Schmidt*

        I love this!

        My boyfriend is a pretty snappy dresser in a more conservative industry and always has fun socks.

      5. RandomU...*

        I guess this is one fashion and professional rule I break.

        I dress fairly boring at work most days: Black dress pants, patterned but neutral color silk blouse, neutral cardigan/black blazer (Why yes this is my work uniform). Here’s where I break the rules… I love mary janes with funky heels and I wear them with bright patterned wool socks. Now neither the shoe nor my socks are typically visible by anyone, but I’m not ashamed if they do peak through. (How’s that for being a rebel (with cold feet in the winter)).

        My ridiculous pet peeve in professional wear… men who don’t wear undershirts. Yes it’s usually apparent. Yes it drives me up the wall… No, it shouldn’t… and yes I’m judging you for this.

        1. Buffay the Vampire Layer*

          I’m with you – undershirts are extremely necessary in the workplace

    10. Justin*

      We are more casual on Fridays and jeans are allowed. I don’t really do it because I don’t prefer it but they can look fine on others.

      But my coworker comes in with a button shirt (obviously fine) which he always proceeds to leave unbuttoned with a t shirt (usually with superheroes on it) showing. I don’t care about the superheroes (it could be anything), but I feel like we just come off looking sloppy if that’s how we represent ourselves. Fully understand that we live in the time of hoodie CEOs but we don’t work for such a company.

    11. NicoleK*

      Leggings. My workplace prohibits leggings, but many women still wear them. Myself included.

      1. Middle Manager*

        I don’t mind leggings under a dress, as a substitute for tights, particularly for people with modest dress standards. I do agree that they are disqualified as “professional” when they are a substitute for pants though.

    12. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Leggings by themselves (under dresses, long tunics, etc is fine). Unless you’re working out or we’re sleeping together, I do not want to see your butt in full resolution. Work, home, etc.

      1. Bostonian*

        Hahahaha. Or your cameltoe. I recently started doing the leggings/boots/long tunic look, and I am always looking for long shirts to add to my wardrobe specifically for that reason. It needs to cover everything (which isn’t hard for someone 5-feet-and-change tall).

    13. Bananatiel*

      I totally wear yoga pants to work every Wednesday and I don’t even care anymore. We have an office yoga class that day and I can’t be bothered to change my entire outfit, especially the way our bathrooms are. I wear long tunics over the yoga pants and just change into the sports bra/top for the class. I noticed that even my boss has started doing it!

      On the shorts topic though– I started this job in October and I’m really curious to see how casual it gets in the middle of summer. Hoping I might be able to pull off bermuda shorts if I can get away with yoga pants in the winter!

      1. Kittyfish 76*

        Office yoga class! That sounds awesome. Where are these work places? Certainly not near me.

        1. Batgirl*

          My school does a free yoga class for staff on Fridays which is really helping stress levels. We can’t do casual dress but we have proper changing rooms.

      2. MeMeMe*

        I wear yoga pants every single day, but always with a long top and cardigan that cover my butt (usually to mid-thigh) and “business casual” shoes (like Clarks). (Hey, I’ve gained almost 50 pounds in the last 3 months due to medication and no other pants are comfortable, and I don’t like wearing skirts.)

        No one has ever said anything to me about my pants being inappropriate, but I do work in academia in a non-public-facing role, and there’s no official dress code here.

        The yoga pants I prefer are Reebok’s Fitness Essentials Regular Fit Pants, because the fit is slightly loose in the thigh, the inseam is 32″ (my inseam measurement), and the material is sturdy and opaque, so they look like, well, “non-gym-wear” knit black pants. (JJill and Eddie Bauer sell similar, more professional, knit black pants, but their inseams are too short for me.)

    14. Schnoodle HR*

      I’m an HR Manager and wear hippie skirts all the time. Long, flowy, flowers and patterns. I work in manufacturing. I strap on my steel toes when I go on the floor.

      That said, I find cold shoulder tops or cutouts unprofessional, and really tight jeans. At the same time, I don’t care that much about it. As long as you’re mostly covered, meh.

      I’m glad sleeveless shirts/dresses are getting more common.

      1. SignalLost*

        I mean, that’s thing. I just usually can’t be bothered to get worked up about what people are wearing, as long as they don’t do something as egregious as show up in swimwear (don’t ask) or with obscenities, threats, or exceptionally violent language on their clothes.

          1. SignalLost*

            I worked at an Amazon fulfillment center. They had a pretty minimal dress code, which they didn’t enforce AT ALL other than PPE (closed shoes and they provided gloves, vests, eye protection, etc). They also don’t cool the building – we were lucky to be in a newer building that was supposed to stay at 60F – so heat was a real issue, especially if you were picking on the 4th floor. One woman wore shorts (fine) and a bikini top (highly not fine, even for Amazon, where people wore basically anything). It’s an arbitrary line, and that was the only instance of them enforcing their stated dress code I know of, but they went for the fact she wasn’t wearing a bra and it was very obvious, I heard. They treated it as her wearing underwear as outerwear. I’m not convinced they would have said anything if she had worn a bra under it.

            It was frustrating all around. I tried complaining about the guy with the Oathkeeper shirt, the guy with the band shirt that praised sex with dead women, and the guy wearing A CAPE AND BANE-STYLE FACEMASK IN A HEAVY-EQUIPMENT FACILITY, and got nowhere, because apparently if the dress code was enforced it might be unevenly enforced and then someone would sue. Because a largely immigrant, ESL workforce making $14.00/hr in the era of ICE is gonna sue, and meanwhile, again, here’s Warren with his pro-necrophilia shirt.

    15. SignalLost*

      Due to working in overly casual industries on the west coast, I can say with certainty that pajama pants are unprofessional, by which I mean “you can certainly wear them to work but I will judge you hard and you will be found unprofessional.”

      Bustle dresses are in between (yes I know someone who wears them; I’ve worn one to work for Halloween once). If you can sit down without it becoming a production, you’re fine. If you long for a chaise longue so you can sit more comfortably, you are OTT. Trains are right out. Corsets depend on how much skin you show and whether you can drive in them (bench seats help). Basically, you should not have to change INTO your work outfit when you get to work unless you’re going in early to use the gym.

      SCA garb can have the occasional place, if you are not client-facing. Tudor gowns are only for exceptional events due to sleeve length (that was another Halloween). Fannish items are fine. Swimwear is a hard no. Fannish swimwear is still no. Sarongs over leggings are awesome.

      I don’t know. I dress like a goth businesspunk Disney princess, so I have no answers. (I was going to wear my tiara today but I have a dr appointment and my blue, teal, turquoise, green, and pink mohawk is Quite Enough.) But I do have a great tee shirt I got at a thrift store that’s hot pink with three giant lilies on it that I’d love to consider professional but I can’t because it’s got a LOT of glitter on it and the glitter sheds.

      1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        ….fannish swimwear? All I can think of in this category is mermaid tails. (If you can’t walk in your outfit, and you can walk when not wearing your outfit, your outfit is not work appropriate.)

        1. SignalLost*

          I have seen some things, man. I have Seen Some Things.

          (Granted, it was an Iron Man swimsuit that I would have bought in a hot minute if I swim ever, but I have still Seen Some Things.)

        2. Nerdling*

          Her Universe has a number of fandom-inspired swimsuits (there’s one patterned after Ariel from The Little Mermaid, and I’m pretty sure I saw both Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel ones, too).

        3. JustaTech*

          Think Geek had (has?) a line of Star Trek The Next Generation themed swim suits (one- and two-piece). I kept meaning to get one.

      2. AnonoDoc*

        Physician here.

        Please wear your tiara with your multicolored Mohawk.


        1. SignalLost*

          Ha! I have 7 years of healthcare to catch up on (today was the starter pack where they took All The Blood, gave me a surprise!EKG, and did some other stuff I hadn’t expected). I will be back in soon, and I will wear my tiara!

    16. boredatwork*

      Shoes that make a “flip-flop” sound.

      My favorite thing I do is basically wear a glorified blanket around the office all day. It’s very lumpy/unattractive and no one’s idea of business casual.

      1. Lepidoptera*

        My boss bought me a leopard-print Snuggie for Christmas, which I wear to the printer across the hall as a fabulous cape. The A/C in here is insane.

    17. Garland not Andrews*