taking notes on an iPad during an interview, the poo police, and more

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

1. Can I take notes on an iPad in an interview?

This happened to me two years ago, but I’m still not sure what to make of it. I had signed up for government-sponsored interview training, where they teach you how to prepare for an interview and practice with you through roleplay. It was a great class, very useful, and I learned some great skills. Then one of the two instructors mentioned to the class that we should always bring a nice notepad and pen to take notes during an interview, as opposed to some crumpled copier paper and a chewed up pen. Since looking professional and presentable was the topic, I asked if it would be acceptable to take notes on an iPad instead.

Well, that sure started something! The instructor got incensed and argued very passionately that this would be a terrible thing to do, that flaunting luxury electronics signals that I don’t even need a job and that it would make me look like a gadget-obsessed teenager instead of an adult professional. The other instructor chimed in and tried to talk the first one down arguing that it was 2017 and iPad and phone note-taking weren’t all that remarkable anymore. They argued back and forth for quite a while and they both … felt very strongly. I never really got an answer either and seriously did not want to push my luck. Just to be on the safe side, I never used my iPad or any other device to take notes in interviews anymore.

Still, two years later, this freaking haunts me. What do you think?

The instructor who was incensed is weird. Taking notes on an iPad isn’t “flashing luxury electronics”; it’s using equipment that’s standard issue in a lot of offices. And “it’ll look like you don’t need a job” is an incredibly odd viewpoint.

That said … I’d be wary about taking notes on a tablet (or a laptop) in an interview. You generally shouldn’t be taking so many notes in an interview that you need more than a single sheet of paper and a pen (otherwise you’re too focused on note-taking and not enough on the conversation and on maintaining the connection with your interviewer). Plus, you risk the interviewer wondering if you’re distracted by other things on the device and not fully paying attention; a lot of people feel like a device pulls your attention away from the conversation in a way that paper and pen doesn’t. (I’m not endorsing that viewpoint and personally would be fine with a candidate using a tablet — but there are still a lot of people who wouldn’t be.)

2. The poo police

I used to work at a resort hotel with a spa. I have friends who still work there. There is a general rule that no employee may use any of the public guest bathrooms at the resort, so over 100 employees are restricted to a couple of bathrooms near the service entrance.

Spa employees work on a very strict schedule (about five minutes between services to walk guest back to the lounge, clean the room, and hopefully take a drink of water). It takes about two minutes just to walk to the employee restrooms in the main hotel, so spa workers have been allowed to use the guest restrooms at the spa itself.

They still can, as long as they don’t poop in there. Literally. There is a new mandate that spa employees must go to the employee restroom at the main hotel to poop. Since we’re talking four minutes of walking and five to ten minutes of using the restroom, this will make the employees run behind schedule.

I do not question whether this is legal; unfortunately there’s no doubt, given the state this resort is located in. My question is: what on earth should an employee do in this situation? Risk being written up for answering the call of nature, or risk being written up for falling behind on the schedule?

Ideally, neither of those. The first thing to do here is for them to talk with their management, ideally as a group, point out the problem, and make the manager pick: “We can either use the spa bathroom in those circumstances or be five minutes late to the next appointment. Which do you want us to do?”

And perhaps someone can suggest a one-month experiment with an ample supply of Poopourri.

(Also, I’m dying to know how this new rule was communicated, exactly how they worded it, and how they intended to enforce it.)

3. How do I apologize for doing bad work while dealing with depression?

Recently, I was called in to my supervisor’s office and informed that they wouldn’t be offering me an extension on my contract. This contract is one that is nearly always renewed indefinitely, so this was certainly a punitive action. They are letting me finish out the current contract term (a few more weeks) but I will be no longer working here after that. They cited a lot of problems with my work, mostly surrounding a lot of missed deadlines that caused customer complaints. I completely understand their decision, and I’m not disputing that I really dropped the ball with this.

I’m not normally this terrible of an employee. I even won a competitive award for my work at this same company only a few months ago! However, I’ve been struggling lately with near-crippling clinical depression that has necessitated me seeking therapy and starting medication. Even though I freely admit that I didn’t meet the requirements of my job lately, I’m somewhat proud of myself for even managing to get out of bed and go into work at all — it was that severe. I didn’t disclose this to my supervisor or HR because I incorrectly thought that I could work through it and get things done, and I was hoping that when the new meds kicked in, I’d be back to my old self and excelling at this work again. That didn’t end up happening, at least not quickly enough to salvage this contract.

I want to email my supervisor and explain what has been happening, but I’m not sure how to approach it. I don’t want to seem like I’m making excuses or begging for my job back; I was already thinking about moving on from this position on my own, and I’ve been lucky to already have something else lined up for when this contract ends. But I do feel like it’s important for my supervisor to know that the problems I’ve been having don’t reflect my normal work ethic, and that I honestly feel bad about letting them down. How can I word this so that I don’t seem like I’m disputing their decision or job-begging? Or should I just let this go and not bother them with explanations?

Don’t do this in email. Have a face-to-face conversation with your manager and say something like, “I want to let you know that I know my performance really suffered in the last few months, and I understand your decision not to renew my contract. I didn’t want to leave without giving you some context for what happened. I’ve been struggling with some health issues that have made the last couple of months really tough, and it clearly affected my work. I’m getting treatment and am hopeful about where things are headed, and I wanted to let you know what’s been going on so that you didn’t have to wonder. I’m not saying this to ask you to reconsider the decision — I’ve lined up other work starting in a few weeks. But I’ve liked working with you and respect the organization and care about your assessment of my work! I hope my track record from before this happened hasn’t been erased by the last couple of months, and I’d love to be able to stay in touch in the future.”

Not only will this probably give you more peace of mind, but it might open the door a little wider to you working with them in the future, and could make it easier for them to give you a good reference down the road.

4. Am I wrong to delete so many emails?

I am a compulsive de-clutterer in every aspect of my life, which extends to my email inbox. I use my inbox as a to-do list. Once I’m done with an email either by replying to it and/or completing a task, I either 1) move the email to a project-specific sub-folder in my inbox for safekeeping, or 2) delete it. I initially estimated that I keep way more emails than I actually do, because in doing the math on what’s in my inbox vs. my trash folder, I keep only 7% of my emails.

Over the years, I’ve been told by multiple people never to delete any emails because they serve as written documentation of business, but my brain can’t fathom the thought of having over 10,000 emails a year in my inbox! I’ve also been told that at some point after receiving tens of thousands of emails, Outlook will refuse to store any more and I’ll need to back them up externally (or has technology evolved enough that this is unlikely to happen?). In my 10-year career, I can only think of a handful times that I’ve been burned when I have to refer to an old email, but Outlook has automatically deleted it from my trash folder. Is it true that I should keep all emails as a record of business? I could just move them to a “Crap That I Probably Won’t Need Again, But Will Keep Just In Case” folder.

You absolutely don’t need to keep all emails. In addition to the obvious deletions like “there’s cake in the kitchen” or “I’m going to be out next week,” in most cases you probably don’t need to keep routine back-and-forth on minor details of projects (like “can you try increasing the font size on the cover?”). But it’s smart to keep emails that contain key decisions on projects and processes (in case you or someone else has questions about them later), process instructions (in case you need to check them in the future), and correspondence that could potentially be helpful later on (for example, I archive all correspondence with job candidates, because I might want to review it if they apply again in two years).

That doesn’t mean you need to have an elaborate system of dozens of folders in your email (although at least a small number of folders is usually helpful), but if nothing else you should at least have an Archive folder where you send things you might conceivably want to refer back to in the future.

(And of course, if your company has internal rules on what to store or not store, those trump anything I’ve written here.)

5. How do I handled already-booked business travel when I resign?

At the beginning of this year, I applied for a conference travel scholarship from my current job around the same time that I applied for a different job (in the same town, double the pay). I received the scholarship with the stipulation that it had to be for a specific conference this summer. Unfortunately/fortunately, I’ve also gotten pretty far into the hiring process for the job I applied to. Now I don’t know what to do if I get the new job, because the start date for it is a month earlier than the conference, and my current job has already purchased the flight tickets and booked the hotel. If I get the job, how should I handle this with my current company? Should I offer to repay my current job for the money they’ve spent? Could I see if they can take it out of my last few paychecks? Should I try to delay the start date for the new job? I feel so guilty, because I appreciate what my current job has done for me, but I don’t want to sacrifice this new opportunity.

Do not offer to repay your company. These are business costs for them, and it’s really normal for people to resign with pre-paid business travel still outstanding. Often companies are able to get those travel costs refunded (nearly always with hotels as long as there’s enough notice, and often with airline tickets as well, depending on what type of ticket they purchased). But even when they’re not refundable, this is a cost of doing business. Employees leave, get sick, have emergencies, etc. and travel plans get canceled. That’s just how it goes.

I think you might feel like this is different because it’s not a trip they were sending you on for a work project, but rather a conference that you asked to be sent to. But they agreed for business reasons, it’s business travel, and the same rules apply.

Once you resign, when you’re talking over logistics, you should say, “Obviously I won’t be able to go the X conference in July. I really appreciate you being willing to send me, and maybe there’s someone else who would want to go instead. (And then stop talking, so that you don’t get nervous and offer to cover the costs.)

{ 405 comments… read them below }

  1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#4, I’m like you—having a cluttered inbox (or even a more-full-than-necessary inbox) stresses me out. I also delete a lot of my emails, but I’m also under several mandates to preserve some of those emails for 7–10 years.

    So my advice would be to continue to file everything related to “business documentation” in project or client-based subfolders. Or a huge “junk I prob have to keep” mega-folder. You’ll likely have to archive your email from time to time, even if your storage limits are super high. But Outlook makes that process fairly simple (although searching your archive can be a bit more work than searching your current account), and you can ask your IT folks to help you set this up to back periodically or by % data stored in your inbox.

    I know it’s less than ideal, but sometimes having a system for it makes dealing with email preservation easier.

    1. sacados*

      Yeah I’m a big fan of the inbox-as-to-do-list system. My company uses a Gmail based system not Outlook so it works somewhat differently, but what I do is
      – set up filter rules so that emails are tagged with labels based on subject line/mailing lists/etc
      – ALL emails go through my inbox first
      – I give each one at bare minimum a quick glance, then mark as read and archive anything that requires no action from me; it’s still there and tagged with the labels so I can easily search/refer back to it as needed
      – Anything that does require action from me stays in the inbox until it’s done

      I’ve been at my company for 8 years, and I still have emails from 2015 — and it would be even longer except periodically I run up against Gmail’s storage limit (30gb) and have to go back and delete some of the oldest things.

      I completely get where OP is coming from with wanting to keep the inbox clean — I’ll never understand people who can have 1,000 old unread emails in their inbox, that would drive me CRAZY.
      But I also am pretty paranoid about actually deleting anything, especially since in my role it’s not unusual that I would actually need to refer to old emails, even months or years later.

      1. Jimming*

        My work uses gmail, too, and I just archive everything and use the search feature if I need to find it. It’s nice not having to bother with folders. I do use tags occasionally for important things.

        1. Autumnheart*

          Oh my goodness. Thanks to your comment, I just realized, “Outlook has an archive function!” and I just cleared more than 3000 emails out of my inbox. I’m also a person who hates having an overflowing email inbox, but I’d basically given up. You’ve restored my sanity!

      2. Annie Moose*

        This is exactly my system! (and I really miss Inbox, which encouraged the “only keep important things in your inbox, archive the rest” method) It’s exceptionally rare for me to have more than a dozen emails in my work inbox at any time, but I know the rest are all safely archived if I need them.

        My rule of thumb is:
        1. Is there an action I need to take regarding this email? If so, leave it in my inbox.
        2. Is this a reminder about an upcoming event or future action? If so, leave it in my inbox.
        3. Am I waiting for a response and may need to follow up later? If so, leave it in my inbox.
        4. Do I already have an email on the same action/event/etc.? If so, archive the earlier one (or the less-useful one) so I only have one email per topic in my inbox.
        5. Archive everything else.

        At least once every morning, I archive anything that is no longer relevant since the previous day and review my new emails.

        It took some time to get set up this way, but it’s easy to stay on top of, unless you legitimately have dozens of emails on different topics every day that you need to follow up on or otherwise address in the future. (if you’re immediately addressing them, you can just archive them as you take care of them)

        (I use the same system for my personal email, but because I use that for a much wider variety of things, I tend to have more in my personal inbox at any given time.)

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          A dozen emails in your work inbox….. that might be my definition of a dream job.
          At times I have had 200 open *deliverables* …a combination of supporting a half-dozen groups with frequently shuffled priorities and overly-lean staffing practices.
          Stating it that way I can see that things are getting a whiff of toxicity!

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            I’m pretty fully loaded, and keep about 40 emails marked using a system very similar to Annie Moose’s, maybe 50 at EOQ. 200, yeah, that’s a *lot*.

          1. Jadelyn*

            Yeah, I keep an “active pending” folder for stuff that I can’t get rid of yet, but can’t move forward until Something happens on it.

            I also rely heavily on Outlook’s “clean up conversation” function to weed out old copies of an email string.

            1. Galloping Gargoyles*

              Thank you for the tip on “clean up conversation”. I need to explore Outlook a little more I think, even though I’ve been using it forever it seems like…

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            If you use GMail, then I’m a huge believer in the Boomerang tool. I use a similar system as yours, but I “boomerang” the “waiting for” emails so that I’m prompted to follow up if there’s radio silence.

            1. IWishIHadAFancyUserName*

              Google recently launched Snooze and Send Later features to GMail, reducing my need for Boomerang.

          3. Typhon Worker Bee*

            I colour-code my Outlook inbox and calendar by project, and I have a colour category for “waiting for response”. I usually mark my request/question emails in my Sent folder, which tends to get less cluttered than my Inbox, and go through them once a week to see what can be cleared and what I need to follow up on.

        2. King Friday XIII*

          I do basically this except I use the Snooze option for things that are future things if I can’t do anything about them now. (And I ALSO miss Inbox so much. Biggest hit from Google since Reader went away.)

        3. Ron McDon*

          This how I handle my work email too (Outlook).

          I occasionally scroll down through to make sure I haven’t forgotten anything. If there’s something I need to deal with but not yet (e.g. I need to order this item but not until next week), I mark it as unread so it flags it up as something I need to do when I come into work the following week.

    2. Feline*

      I save all business emails to Outlook folders. Microsoft is encouraging companies to do away with the .PST files that let you save your emails offline, and that worries me. I dig up 5-8 year old emails at least once a month. Most recently:
      * Why did I do X? This email you sent in 2015 saying we should do it that way.
      * There’s an inquisition about why is this incorrect piece of information in this client-facing reference document that caused clients to accidentally delete data when that information is not in the underlying source materials. Why did you write it that way? Jane in the development group told me to explain it that way in 2013 in this email.
      * The document from 2016 you need to refer to on the shared drive is corrupt? I have an email with the final review of that document attached.
      Those archived emails have saved my bacon so many times. I have over time developed a somewhat ridiculous folder system in mine, but you can just dump everything into one folder and search. Outlook’s search is fairly powerful and can help you narrow things down by multiple criteria (from a specific person with a certain keyword, is from:”john smith” about:”keyword”).

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        For me, it’s ‘who’d we buy that obscure part from, 3 – 5 years ago?’

    3. Escapee from Corporate Management*

      OP4, I do the same–in fact, my goal is Inbox Zero. I am pretty ruthless in deleting emails and have never had a documentation problem, as I apply a simple rule: is there anything in this email that I will need to reference. If yes, I save it in a folder. Then, at least once a year, I go back and quickly scan the folders to see if any emails are older than a year and I’ve never looked at them. Often, the project is done and all we need are the files I’ve saved to the network. I don’t just erase the emails; I can delete the entire folder.

      1. Observer*

        Just because you haven’t looked at something in a year, doesn’t mean you won’t need to later.

        Depending on who you do business with and how, you may find yourself needing to find stuff from years ago.

      2. CR*

        Same, I love the Inbox Zero philosophy. If there’s an email sitting in my inbox, that’s a bad thing! I can’t fathom that people just let hundreds or thousands of emails just sit there.

      3. Gumby*

        Even if I haven’t looked at a particular email in a year, or more, I still keep them if they have substantive information. Which really came in handy recently when someone wanted us to justify certain costs from 3+ years ago on a project which was completed 1+ year ago. It isn’t a common request – but when it happens it can be a hugely important one.

    4. Pete*

      Keep all your work emails. Delete only those permitted by your employer’s Document Retention Policy.

      Be wary of the Outlook archive feature unless you have assurances that archive file is backed-up. At the small places I’ve worked the IT department would only back-up the common servers not the individual local hard drives which is where the Outlook archive file, by default, would have been located.

      1. Silence Will Fall*

        Also, check your company policy. Our IT policies do not allow .PST files (Outlook archives) to be created or stored on company devices.

    5. kittymommy*

      I keep several email inboxes, both for myself and others. Due to simple volume of them I do delete anything over 3 months old in all inboxes except mine. However as I am in government all email correspondence is saved on external servers and actually gets automatically deleted after a few years and just saved on the server.

      For my email I have several folders but I do delete non- important (think accepted responses to calendar invites) and/or junk email (we get a lot of solicitation sine were government). I think I currently have about 60,000 or so undeleted emails right now.

    6. archive everything*

      I have been at my company since 2012, receive a ton of email, have never deleted any of it, and never once have had an issue with space or inbox performance in Outlook.

      Inbox zero. Archive infinity.

      1. Tammy*

        There used to be a limitation in older versions of Outlook that a .pst file (which contains your Outlook data) couldn’t be larger than 4 GB, and Outlook would basically stop working if you hit that limit. Since Outlook 2010, this limitation no longer applies – the technical maximum size of an Outlook data file is now something like 4,096 TB – so you should never run into the limit. (However, your employer can restrict this size further via Group Policy, so if you encounter a limit, check with your IT folks.)

        1. Qosanchia*

          As an IT folks, I should point out that, if you let your pst files get anywhere near that size, we will cry. A lot.

      2. Smiling*

        Because of the nature of our work, we need to keep all project related emails for infinity, but dump all non-important (non-project related) emails. It’s very often that someone says, “We need to dig up the specs on the thingamajig that was used on project X.” Then, we pull up an email from 2007 that has the specs in it.

        We’re using Outlook 2010/2016 in our office. It has a limit of 20GB per PST file. Thus we usually create a separate PST file for each client and then create project folders within that PST. I have over 25 PST files that collectively total to about 85 GB.

        I only load the ones that I’m currently using, but the “archives” are always there if I need them.

    7. Jaydee*

      Archive is your friend! Both outlook and Gmail allow you archive emails. They leave your inbox and go into the archive. When I used Outlook at my last job, I would create a new archive folder for each year so things weren’t totally unwieldy and so I could delete the oldest archive folder(s) if server space became an issue. My current job uses Gmail, so some things get tagged and everything gets archived.

      1. Myrin*

        Probably a stupid question but I always mean to ask when the topic comes up and then I forget about it – what’s the difference between “archiving emails” and simply “putting emails into XY folder”? Is “archiving” a specific process? Does it automatically compress the files or similar?

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          In GMail there’s no difference, but in Outlook archiving is a separate process that stores old emails in a different file format than your normal emails (while still allowing you to access them). My archive is automatically compressed, and the biggest benefit at my job is that it takes my emails off of our server and stores them under a different drive (with physical backups).

          1. noahwynn*

            Although Outlook now also has the Archive button that acts like Gmail and just saves it in a folder called Archive. It stays in your main mailbox though, not in that separate archive mailbox that the auto-archive function in Outlook creates.

        2. Emily K*

          I have an “archive” folder, but Outlook also automatically archives my emails after 3 years. They take up less space that way, and they’re still fully searchable from within Outlook on your laptop – but you can’t access them from your phone or webmail anymore.

    8. VictorianCowgirl*

      I manage my emails this way as well, and practice Inbox Zero, but also print important emails to pdf and store in my file directory in the cloud, so I’d say about 10% of the emails are printed to pdf as well. This allows me to compile folders with all relevant documentation included and centralized.

      I do however pay a premium for storage online. :/

    9. Emily K*

      It might be that I was an early adopter of Gmail, but I’ve never worried about the volume of emails in any of my email accounts – I guess I’ve always figured I can go back and delete stuff later if I start to get close to my limit and get a warning, but until that happens, I might as well just keep everything. (Well, mostly – as noted I do delete “there’s cake in the break room” and “quarterly fridge clean-out warning” type of emails that truly have no relevance a day or week later.)

      But I also make a point of regularly zeroing my inbox several times a week – that’s how I know I haven’t overlooked anything, because nothing leaves the inbox unless I choose to file or delete it. Like suggested here, 95% of my emails I just highlight in mass and drag to a folder I created called “Archive.” I’ve been at my job 7 years getting up to 100+ emails a day during the week and still haven’t run out of space, and I’m constantly searching my email to see if I have any information on X thing that has come up that I might have dealt with, or with something related, and benefiting from having the archive folder there.

      My total set of folders is 1) Archive, 2) Reference (very important emails like login details, travel itineraries, or org-wide communication guidelines that I want to be able to quickly find without having to use the search function), 3) Press releases/news clippings (source material for marketing copy), 4) Compliments/awards (nice emails to look at on a hard day), and 5) Mailing lists (all the professional development stuff I subscribe to that I want to be able to search in the future in case we start trying something new that I think might have been discussed on a professional blog or magazine at some point in the past, but I don’t want it bloating my search results when I’m looking for actual/personal work email in my Archive folder).

    1. JKP*

      And since the guests also use the bathroom, how would they know *who* had done the pooping?

      I’m envisioning being a spa guest using the bathroom and overhearing an employee walk out of the bathroom and call out a CYA the other staffers: “Guest pooping in the bathroom. Don’t blame it on me!”

    2. TechWorker*

      +1 I would definitely just ignore this and claim it was a guest, what they gonna do..?

    3. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

      I’m almost as reluctant to reply, but I’m prepared to bet i) skidmarks (not everyone is fastidious about cleaning up after themselves – and this goes as much for guests as staff) and ii) a guest complained about said skidmarks (which means it wouldn’t matter if it was guests or staff who used it last – staff are held to higher standards, because they’re the only ones management can shout at)

      1. Grand Mouse*

        I thought skidmarks only applied to underwear…? If people are checking staff’s underwear there are even bigger problems

        I clean bathrooms and genuinely cannot think of what you mean, and how that would be a common problem and be pinned on staff.

          1. Liz*

            yes, this. Our toilets at work aren’t the best “flushers” and many times I’ll go in to use the ladies room, and am confronted with the “remains” of someone else’s poo, in the bowl.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          At the risk of TMI….I have to beg to differ. It’s entirely possible when you have too MUCH fiber and too little water.

        2. Jennifer Thneed*

          It’s more about toilet bowl shape and volume, honestly. Which there’s way more variety in that I ever knew, until I had to replace a toilet a couple of years ago.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Some toilets–especially the low-flush ones–just aren’t designed to wash away the evidence without a brush. And from reading here I’ve found some people care that the former person didn’t wash away the remains of the evidence evidence with a brush. Me, I’m just glad they flushed.
        Was it here that someone reminisced about their college dorm in Europe with the “poop shelf of doom”? I’ve had that phrase ring through my mind in far too many public rest rooms since reading it!

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            I’d kind of like to know where I heard the phrase but I’m kind of afraid to have that in my Google search history!

        1. Kelly L.*

          There’ve been massively heated arguments on here and elsewhere about whether to brush away your “evidence” after pooping, with the two sides not always realizing they’re talking about two very different setups.

          I think it’s a US vs. Europe thing, for the most part. The US has a lot more water in the bowl, there’s rarely a skidmark, and if there is, a second flush usually takes care of it, and there’s usually not a brush sitting out where a customer could use it even if they wanted to. Europe has less water, sometimes a shelf, and a brush sitting out so you can deal with it yourself.

        2. Mrs. Mary Smiling*

          My family referred to them as the “show me” toilets! I’m going to have to share “poop shelf of doom” now, though, because we thought it was just us being weird and American about it.

    4. LGC*

      That’s MY question. I know how you could police it in theory, but all the ways I can come up with are impractical. (Plus, most of the adult population sits down to use the bathroom regardless, so that muddies the waters.)

      Also, although OP hints at it, I’m not sure whether this IS legal in their state. OSHA states that bathrooms need to be immediately accessible and sufficient for the workforce, among other things. There isn’t enough info either way, though.

      1. valentine*

        that muddies the waters
        And how.

        I don’t get the elimination-based separation of staff and guest. Smells like classism.

        OP2: Float the idea of designating a guest bathroom as staff-only. If they’re so overrun that this would be a hardship, they can stagger the appointments better.

        1. Hotel GM*

          It’s 100% a classist thing, although I’m almost certain that management didn’t give up with this policy in a vacuum. A troubling number of guests would prefer staff be house elves, an I imagine it would only be worse at a full service property that caters to upper middle and upper class guests like in the OP.

          1. RabbitRabbit*

            Yup. I saw a hotel front desk worker say that they got a number of guest complaints because those guests had to see maintenance workers.

            See them. Like they’re supposed to fix things by magic. Not complaints about the work being done or noise or anything (the work wasn’t in major guest areas), but just seeing workers.

            1. Hotel GM*

              I have to admit, I do have a somewhat similar policy, but about smoking rather than bathroom breaks. Staff have to use a separate smoking area from our regular designated smoking areas. Guests get really salty if they see staff smoking on their breaks.

              1. Lance*

                Because if they’re smoking, they’re obviously not working, and clearly they should always be working!

                Yeah, it’s ridiculous.

            2. Emily K*

              See also: Cashiers should not have a drink or a snack with them at the register. The sight of a servant doing some small thing for herself on serving time disgusts the wealthy.

              I had more than a few managers over the years who would look the other way about drinks or snacks as long as you didn’t let a customer see you with it, so you could take care of your thirst/blood sugar when you had 2-3 minutes before another customer queued up instead of holding out til a scheduled break time when you could leave the register.

              1. Not Me*

                There’s also the fact that an uncovered drink could be spilled and make a mess/ruin electronics

                1. Emily K*

                  In the places I worked it was definitely driven by customer complaints and not worries about messes – the managers didn’t actually care as long as customers didn’t see us.

          2. Seeking Second Childhood*

            When I was a kid, I thought that’s what was what was meant by the 3 doors in a row : men. women. custodian.

          3. Not Me*

            I disagree. The guests at a spa are also paying for a quiet/relaxing/escape from reality experience. Having staff using the restrooms means more people in the restrooms, and possibly it means making a guest wait for a restroom. It’s kind of like having staff park at the back of the parking lot and leaving the “good” spots for customers. It’s not because staff are sub-class to the customers, it’s to give the customer the best possible experience.

            1. valentine*

              If the staff aren’t sub-class, then scheduling would include and even prioritize them in the consideration of bathroom traffic. Spa staff should get the closest bathrooms because they’re freaking tired and have to stay near the rooms. Staff should park closest to the door because they’re freaking tired and some have to leave in the dark.

              There’s no good reasons employers don’t support workers’ rights to refreshment and relief. (And space, because if grocery store register aisles weren’t like cattle chutes, there’d be plenty of room to spare the electronics from spills and to have comfy chairs.)

              1. Not Me*

                Yes, they should make bathrooms and breaks available to them. Asking them not to use the guest bathrooms doesn’t make them sub-class though. A lot of time policies like these are made by people who don’t have line level information about how it will impact staff or business. That’s not the best way to do business but it doesn’t equal discrimination based on class.

                Same with your other scenarios. Providing security for employees leaving after dark for example. Assuming discrimination it pretty ridiculous.

            2. OPNumberTwo*

              The staff at the spa would actually be delighted to have a bathroom that is not shared by guests. It’s really awkward when you’re a service provider and you meet your client in the bathroom after graciously excusing them from their massage. The staff is only using the guest bathrooms because they’re under extreme pressure to pick up their next client a few minutes after dropping off the previous one.
              The posters who mentioned classism aren’t entirely wrong, though. It actually is a resort where staff are treated very much as “servants” and not as “humans.”

      2. MicroManagered*

        I know how you could police it in theory, but all the ways I can come up with

        I am dying thinking about about someone “coming up with ways to police” who pooped in the bathroom. How many ways do you need?! Hilarious… :)

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          I am imagining a disservice to Elizabeth Barrett Browning: “How Do I Police Thee? (Sonnet#2)”… anyone inspired?

      3. That Girl From Quinn's House*

        The OSHA law states that workers shall not walk more than .25 miles to use the restroom.

        1. fposte*

          OSHA isn’t a law, though; it’s a government body. Are you maybe finding some state regulation?

          1. fposte*

            Ah, okay, you’re looking at the OSHA sanitation standard. The quarter-mile thing is actually for agricultural workers, not all workers (that’s why there’s also guidance about transport for mobile workers, with the maximum standard being 10 minutes). That being said, their guidance to “Avoid imposing unreasonable restrictions on restroom use” would seem to be relevant here.

        2. Psyche*

          It doesn’t seem to be that the bathroom is too far away, it is that they only have five minutes. Seems like the problem would be fixed if they made it 15 minute breaks instead of 5.

          1. OPNumberTwo*

            Yes, you’ve nailed the problem. However, the spa absolutely will not change breaks to 15 minutes because their intention is to book every hour on the hour to maximize the number of clients seen in a day.

        3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          The average person walks 4mph leisurely. So that’s 1 mile per 15 minutes. So that’s less than 4 minutes for a quarter mile. The average walk is 2 minutes, the bathrooms are pretty much reasonable distance if you want to go by that standard [despite it being for agricultural workers as noted by the other comment!].

          So yeah, they’re not walking that far in reality. It’s just the time suck of 3 minutes there, 3 minutes back plus the 5 minutes or whatever doing their business/cleaning up etc.

      4. fposte*

        I’m not clear what the OP means by “bathrooms”–OSHA guidelines would generally mean 6 toilets for between 111-150 employees, so if she means the employees have two gendered bathrooms with three stalls apiece, that’s likely to be meeting the standard. It also doesn’t sound like a distance that’s hugely different from, say, mall employees or outdoor facilities, so I doubt that the distance is a legal problem in its own right.

        It’s just a workplace problem because there are closer toilets and a monumentally stupid rule. (Honestly, I think the management would have been better off just keeping to the ban rather than trying to single out functions. And where does changing a tampon/cup fit into this rule?)

      5. Hey Karma, Over here.*

        OP. Please suggest someone start urinating then run down the hall to pass gas in the staff restroom, then run back to finish urinating, but then realize, it wasn’t a drill and run back to the staff bathroom.

    5. Allison*

      If someone’s been in a stall for a while, and making noises suggesting strain (grunting, huffing, puffing, etc.), and there are plopping noises or farting, followed by a bad smell, it’s often apparent. Sometimes people linger in there so no one knows they’ve been pooping, so the issue might be that they’re smelling up the place, and no one wants to know the spa employees are humans who poop, or they might be worried about employees “hogging” the stalls.

      1. Jennifer*

        Lol, we know what pooping sounds (and smells) like. I think they mean after the pooper has left the bathroom.

        1. Heidi*

          They would need some sort of Poo Patrol that monitors employees when they go to the bathroom to make sure they are not pooping. Otherwise, you couldn’t prove that it wasn’t a guest who had pooped. I’m guessing they are not going to do this, so they are probably going to catch people randomly and punish them as an example or they are expecting employees to snitch on each other. Not cool.

          1. Cat Fan*

            This conversation has made me think of Bill Murray eating the candy bar out of the pool in Caddyshack.

          2. CmdrShepard4ever*

            You need to hire an outside consultant (because you can’t trust any of the current resort staff) who hands out keys to the bathroom so that they only hand out keys to the guests. Of course when the consultant needs to use the bathroom they will be expected to walk the 2 minutes to the staff bathroom and leave the guests bathrooms unusable for 10/15 minutes while they make it there and back.

            Or you can schedule resort guests in shifts of 2 hours to be the bathroom monitors and only hand out keys to other resort guests, you can give the guests who sign up for bathroom duty a discount on their stay.

    6. Olive*

      For some reason while reading #2 (pun intended) I imagined some weird lurker just waiting for the poopertrator in the hallway to say something like “I know what it is you did in there.” In a quiet and sinister voice.

    7. OPNumberTwo*

      I am OP#2 (goodness, it’s a very fitting number!)
      Apparently a guest complained of a fecal smell in the locker room and the manager was able to determine by glancing through the cracks of the stall that the offending pooper was wearing the spa uniform as identified by its color. This, in my opinion, is the worst offense committed in the entire scenario, as the employee’s privacy was violated by the manager.

      1. Bowserkitty*

        This is TERRIFYINGGGGGGG. In my home country (USA) I HAAAATE public stalls like that because you can typically see through the crack. Japanese public bathrooms end up like little closets and it feels so safe and anonymous and secure…

  2. Engineer Girl*

    #1 – the goal is to be unobtrusive. A folio with paper and a pen is very low key. An iPad is more distracting (and a laptop even more distracting still).
    It’s harder to take quick notes on an electronic device.

    1. Zombeyonce*

      I interviewed someone that took notes in a small notebook. It worked really well because he could take quick notes and then close the book. It allowed him to show he was focusing on our questions when not writing and gave him the added benefit of privacy about what he was writing since he could close it. It also fur in his pocket!

    2. Doctor Schmoctor*

      What about using a stylus? That way it will be more obvious that you’re taking notes and not tweeting, or whatever.

      I’m old school. I prefer a pen and paper. They’re cheap and don’t need batteries

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      It’s harder to take quick notes on an electronic device.

      That was the first thing that struck me–a tablet doesn’t have an external keyboard. It’s good for consuming other content, and maybe sketching, but not for writing.

      Echoing Zombeyonce’s point–they can probably tell if you’re sketching bunnies vs words on your notebook page, but on an electronic device it’s harder to tell if you’re staring fixedly at it because you’ve got a video running in the corner that is way more interesting than this meeting.

      1. blackcat*

        Some of the new Surfaces are actually really good simulating paper for note taking.

      2. Mimmy*

        That’s a fair point. However, iPads can support bluetooth-enabled external keyboards (I don’t know about other tablets). That said, it is probably best to keep things simple (as I envision myself fussing with my iPad and external keyboard during an interview for which I’m already nervous about :/ )

        1. Parenthetically*

          Yeah, I immediately imagined someone sitting down and pulling out their iPad and setting up the special case and getting the keyboard synced up and running and just… no. Pen and paper. Rigmarole free.

          1. LunaLena*

            I prefer pen and paper myself, but I don’t think it’s necessarily true that using a tablet involves rigmarole. I have a Surface Pro 3 and purchased a keyboard that was made for it. It plugs directly into the tablet and activates instantly, and is not connected by Bluetooth or require any syncing. I actually almost never disconnect the keyboard, since it functions as a cover as well, and mostly use the Surface as a laptop since it has a built-in stand too. The keyboard is really as good as any built-in keyboard, and I’ve had zero problems with it.

            I swear I’m not a shill for Microsoft, but I know many people at work who use this exact setup for taking notes at meetings, and it’s really not a big hassle at all.

          2. Emily K*

            Eh, I might raise an eyebrow because it’s unusual but I wouldn’t be put off by it. My first thought would honestly probably be that they might have a disability that makes it much easier for them to type than hand-write notes. Personally it wouldn’t bother me as long as they were engaging in the conversation with thoughtful responses that show they’re listening, which is the same standard I hold the hand-writers to!

      3. RandomU...*

        I exclusively take handwritten notes in my iPad and have been for probably 4 years or so now. I can say it’s honestly no different that jotting notes down with a pen and paper.

        When I first started using a notepad application, it was a little clunky mostly because the stylus pens were all 3rd party, but once they got a little more reliable it got better. Then when apple came out with their pencil, it’s now seamless.

        That being said, I think I would still opt for a folio type thing for an interview mostly because it would allow me something to tuck a few extra resumes in. But even with that being said, I wouldn’t bat an eye if someone pulled out an ipad and wrote some notes.

        I would be a little ‘huh’ if they started typing notes on it or their phone. So I guess there is something to that.

        1. MoopySwarpet*

          Which app are you using for handwritten notes? I used to have one I absolutely loved, but it’s been abandoned and is not compatible with the newer operating systems.

          1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

            Not the previous poster, but I also have been taking handwritten notes on an iPad throughout the entirety of graduate school and in work and pretty much everywhere since the advent of the Apple Pencil, and for me, the gold standard is Notability. Blank papers, lined papers, graph papers, of varying line widths, plus the ability to import and edit PDFs. You can also add pictures, web clips, all kinds of goodies that I’ve never really dug into much.

            1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

              Forgot to add – a recent update also added handwriting-to-text functionality that I’ve found pretty reliable. I don’t have completely terrible handwriting, but I definitely get sloppy when I’m rushing, and it’s still usually pretty on-point.

          2. RandomU...*

            Noteshelf is my favorite. I love the functionality and the organization of it.

      4. LunaLena*

        I don’t know about not being good for writing. I knew someone in college (over 15 years ago now) who had carpal tunnel, so he couldn’t type or write for extended periods of time. He preferred to take notes during lectures on his laptop, since he had a tablet and stylus and could switch between writing and typing as needed. My ancient Bamboo Wacom tablet, which I bought over ten years ago, also came with a handwriting-to-type function and worked the few times I tried it (I mostly use it for digital painting, though, so I haven’t tried writing on it that much).

        My current Surface Pro 3 also came with a stylus and writing function, and while I wouldn’t use it since I prefer pen and paper, I did try it out for fun a few times and it worked surprisingly well, considering I have weird handwriting. I also know several people who take notes on their phone (especially if they have a Note) or tablet, and while it wouldn’t be my cup of tea, they seem to enjoy it.

    4. Seeking Second Childhood*

      What no one’s pointing out is that the interviewee wants to make a good impression.
      Apparently a % of people on this list think tablets are inappropriate.
      No one thinks paper notepads are inappropriate.
      So the path of least resistance seems to be use a paper notepad — unless you have a reason to need a tablet* or if you or actually want to demonstrate your comfort with technology.
      (*I think someone with hand tremors would find tablet notetaking apps helpful. It might not be something you’d *want* bring up in an interview, but if it’s visible anyway, I could see bringing it up first to show it’s not an issue with today’s tech.)

      1. Creamer with my coffee*

        I agree an interview is your first impression and if the people you are interviewing see using an iPad as inappropriate they are not going to tell you they are going to just not hire you. It doesn’t matter who is right about this only what your interviewer believes.

    5. Old Biddy*

      Some places make you sign NDA’s before interviewing or don’t permit camera phones onsite. If you and your tablet are inseparable, it may give the wrong impression. I stick with a paper notebook for that reason

      1. Julia*

        Good point! What if they make you leave your tablet and you have no pen and paper with you?

    6. Skittles*

      It’s just as fast as a piece of paper. I actually take faster notes when typing on a laptop because I type much faster than I write. I actually switched to taking handwritten notes on my iPad mini because I found that I don’t retain as much of what I’m hearing when I’m typing out notes in real time. Handwriting my notes on the iPad is just as quick as handwriting them on paper, only I can sync my digital notes and access them from other devices.

    7. Sarah N*

      I would also worry about notifications popping up and distracting the interviewee, even inadvertently. Even if you are 100% focused on the interview and not using the tablet for other things, what if your friend texts you distressing news or your email program alerts you that you’ve been offered an interview at another employer or your news program let’s you know we’ve dropped bombs on Iran (etc. etc.). I feel like there is just too much potential for something legitimately upsetting or even just slightly distracting to pop up on the screen in the middle of the interview, thus throwing you off your game. Better to have all electronics tucked away so that it’s not an option.

      Also — as this thread will attest — even if most people won’t mind iPad notes, some will — so it’s just not worth the risk. There are zero people who will be offended with you taking notes on a piece of paper.

    8. The Disapproving Brit*

      OP says he never got an answer – I’d say the division it caused IS the answer. Nobody is getting angry at a candidate with a nice notepad.

  3. Friend in Alaska*

    Another concern with using a tablet for interview notes: will the interviewer think you are recording them? Best to stick to paper.

    1. Feline*

      Some employers are strict about not allowing employees to have personal electronics, including phones, with you at work. I would be cautious about iPad notetaking unless I was sure this was not one of those employers. This can include things like call centers who deal with credit card numbers, parts of the banking industry, and defense contractors. I’m sure there are others.

      1. StressedButOkay*

        And there are a decent number of government/military buildings that simply won’t let you bring in electronics at all. So if you come prepared with an iPad, you’d have to leave it in your car or a locker they provide you.

    2. Escapee from Corporate Management*

      This brings up the issue of making an impression. I love wearing jeans and that’s what I usually wear in the office, but when I interviewed, I dressed up. I wanted to ensure the interviewer knew I took the job and interview seriously. I also didn’t know what their view was on jeans. I view using an iPad in an interview the same way. I love my devices. However, when I interviewed, I used a paper pad (in a portfolio) and pen. If had been using my iPad, I would have neither recorded the interview nor looked at other apps, but I didn’t know what the interviewer would think. Using paper & pen eliminated the risk of unintentionally making the wrong impression.

    3. Sanagmo Girl*

      Government worker here. We only allow a piece of clean paper and a pencil that we provide and then collect at the end of the interview. (I hate the junior high vibes in our interview process but I didn’t make the rules, the state General Assembly did.) Electronic devices are not allowed because they could be used to record the interview.

      1. TechWorker*

        Wow! Better not hope the interviewee wants to refer to anything later then when making a decision..

        1. wittyrepartee*

          I suspect this depends on the level of government. It would totally make sense in a place that has security requirements.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Reason 2346 why I’ll go ahead and stay working for privately owned businesses. Yikes all the way to Yikes Town and back again.

  4. JR*

    I’ve sometimes used an iPad to take notes in an interview, but I use it with the Apple Pencil, not a keyboard. It doesn’t feel any more obtrusive than a paper pad and pen, and that way, my notes are all in one easy-to-retrieve place. But I still tuck a notebook and printout of my questions in my bag, in case I have any issues with the battery or something along those lines.

    1. JR*

      I also don’t typically start taking notes, with the exception of a quick note or two, until the “what questions do you have for us” portion of the interview.

    2. sacados*

      Ooh, that’s a good idea!
      Like AAM says, it doesn’t exactly “make sense” but I definitely see how typing notes would feel more obtrusive than writing with a pen (or digital pen).

      1. JR*

        I think it’s a matter of screen placement. When you use a laptop or an iPad with a keyboard, the screen is vertical and between you and the person you’re speaking with. When you use it with the Apple Pencil or use a regular notepad, it’s flat on the table. One note, though – the first few times I used it this way, the tapping of the pencil on the screen was WAY too loud. It’s gotten much better as I’ve made a point to write more lightly.

        1. Ganymede*

          I used to work in theatre where everyone scribbles on their playtext. I taught a workshop for some teenagers recently and they all dropped their heads down and thumbed away at their phones at one point (general notes, so no physical book).

          I was taken aback and told them not to get their phones out during direction, but they told me they were taking notes. I told them to use a pen and paper in future because using a touch screen keyboard means you have to look down all the time – writing with a pen you can look up towards the end of a word or phrase and remain connected with the room.

          I really didn’t want to be confronted by a row of the top of people’s heads, it cuts you right off.

          1. Artemesia*

            it also overtly or subliminally makes the speaker feel like they aren’t being paid attention to — like when your lunch partner plays on their phone, or students surf the web during class. I can guarantee that if a classroom of students is ‘taking notes’ on computers that most of them are surfing.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              Yes to both of these, as signals that someone isn’t focused on you. There’s a stereotype of people sunk in their electronic device in the same way they’re sunk into a book, oblivious to the world around them; “sunk into my sketchpad” isn’t a thing in the same way.

            2. Free Meerkats*

              My wife and I had this discussion a couple of weeks back over a breakfast out. Her view is that it’s OK for me to read the physical newspaper while we eat and chat, but it’s rude for me to read exactly the same newspaper on my phone.Literally the only difference ti the media I’m reading from.

              So when we go out, I take the paper with me.

            3. Emily K*

              In grad school I had a seminar with one of those “eccentric” (crotechedy) old profs. First couple of classes, at least half of the group would pull out laptops for notes at the start of class. There were only 10 or so of us in the class, and we were PhD students there because we wanted to be there, not undergrads there because our parents sent us, so the idea that anyone would have been surfing the internet during that time was not an issue.

              Our prof didn’t like those students “having a screen in between” each other or themselves and him, but he made the mistake of thinking his feelings about that would be supported by the majority and on the third or so class he put it to a vote whether we would ban laptops from the seminar. Nobody voted for the ban…everyone either wanted a laptop there or didn’t especially care about someone else’s laptop. As grad students we were practically glued to the things 24/7 anyway, I think we were all just acclimated to seeing each other “with a screen in between” so it didn’t make a difference to us.

          2. Jadelyn*

            You actually can look up while you’re typing if you’re experienced with your phone keyboard. Someone who texts a lot, or uses their phone for social media conversations, may well be able to have the same glancing-up-and-back-down connected-to-the-room affect as a person using a paper and pen.

            To me, it’s an accessibility thing. There’s a conference I go to annually, and in past years I’ve used the physical notebook they provided in our swag bags to take notes in sessions. The problem is, that fills up…maybe the first eight of the notebook? And so now I have to keep this notebook around just for those few pages, or tear them out and file them somewhere, or transcribe the notes to a document on my computer for future reference, and I’m ADHD enough that despite the best of intentions, I will never remember to actually do that.

            This year, I dedicated a tag on my blog for the conference and took all my notes as posts on my blog using that tag. I type faster and more legibly than I can scribble in a notebook, and now I can access those notes from anywhere, on any device, anytime – and there’s not yet another mostly-empty notebook taking up space on my desk. And yes, I was able to look up in mid-sentences or at the ends of posts to “stay connected with the room”. So what’s true for you regarding your ability to look up while writing vs look up while typing, may not hold true universally, and I’d caution you against making blanket statements based on your experience.

      2. Antilles*

        I think it makes sense when you imagine yourself as the interviewer.
        When I see you pull out a pen and paper (or a digital stylus), it’s immediately obvious that you’re taking notes – the motions are distinctive and obvious.
        When I see you start tapping away at the keyboard on your phone, the first thought is likely to be that you’re texting someone or checking Facebook or whatever – because all of those things (a) look exactly identical to taking notes and (b) are far more common than using the Notes app. That’s why it feels more obtrusive, because “ugh she doesn’t even care enough to pay full attention” looks exactly the same as “taking notes”.

    3. Armchair Analyst*

      In ~2012 I attended a “how to interview for a job” class and an older woman, say, ~50ish, asked if she could use her iPad during an interview to show that she was adept at new technology. I actually thought it was a great idea!

      1. CountryLass*

        As above, I think if it is being used with a pen that would be ok, but not using the in-built keypad. To me it would just put up a boundary, but maybe that’s just because all of my jobs have been ones where personality counts, so anything that causes a barrier between me and the personal I am dazzling with my witty repartee and personality is a bad thing.

      2. LaurenB*

        “Older woman” is 50-ish? Yikes.

        Using an iPad is just no big deal for people that age. It’s hardly newsworthy and it doesn’t demonstrate that they are technology-savvy.

        1. ChimericalOne*

          There are definitely stereotypes about people who are “50-ish” or older and new tech, so while it might not be “newsworthy” to you that older people can use iPads, it’s definitely a concern that’s out there for both employers and older job seekers (and, truly, it’s not something that all older people are comfortable with — which I say as someone who has tried to assist numerous older people at my church with the iPad + Square reader that us “young folks” introduced for use at the church’s bookstore).

          It doesn’t show a high, high level of tech-savviness, but it does demonstrate a certain minimum threshold. And, depending on what kind of job you’re applying for, that could be enough.

          1. automaticdoor*

            Regardless of those stereotypes, a person who is 50 is not an older person. They’re middle-aged. It is NOT a weird thing to see middle-aged people using technology.

            1. ChimericalOne*

              It’s not a “weird” thing if they can use an iPad. But it’s also not an uncommon thing for people that age to struggle with one or feel less comfortable with one. The more educated your circle, or the more tech-exposed it is, the less you might see this. But I see it a ton.

              1. Jules the 3rd*

                I think ‘less educated, less tech-exposed struggle with touch tech like iPad’ is going to be fairly independent of age until you get under 25 yo or so; touch screens didn’t really penetrate the mass market until LG’s phone in 2007; anyone over 10yo or so in 2007 has had to learn that tech as a New Thing!, which is actually independent of age.

                You can make a case that the younger a person is, the more New Things they’ve had to learn, and the more comfortable they are with learning them, but that’s not actually supported by studies (or those videos of teenagers and rotary phones…).

              2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                That idea of 50s is incredibly outdated! 50-somethings these days could easily have been using the internet since they were in college. No one I know in their 50s is uncomfortable with an iPad (!).

                Good lord. I can only assume y’all are extremely young if that’s what you’re picturing for 50.

                1. Indigo a la mode*

                  Cheers. My mom, who’s 51, launched the first e-commerce site for Procter & Gamble in the 90s. My dad, who’s 51, is a Principal Program Manager at Microsoft. In fact, most all seasoned highers-up at tech firms were born in the 60s – they’ve been working with high tech since insane innovation began in the 80s!

                2. Emily K*

                  I absolutely think that’s true now, but the commenter did say this happened around 2012. The iPad came out in 2010, IIRC. By 2012 there was some decent market penetration for tablets, but they were still seen more as “luxury electronics” as the person in today’s letter described it. I just found a stat that in 2018, 53% of US adults owned a tablet, but in 2012 only 18% did. I think in that sense, anyone who owned an iPad in 2012 was signaling a certain amount of affinity for new tech and gadgets, and that early adopter/tech affinity tends to go hand-in-hand with tech savviness.

                3. Jasnah*

                  “50-somethings these days could easily have been using the internet since they were in college.”
                  Mathematically and practically speaking, I think it would have to be 40-somethings, since a 50 year old was born in 1969, and would have been 20 in 1990 when the WWW was created–don’t know how much familiarity the average person would have had with it then!

                  Of course it’s possible to be familiar with technology since way back but there is a reason people talk about “digital natives”–young people often have a different relationship to technology, like how fast they adopt new tech, what kinds of tech are popular, what purposes they use it for, etc. Grandparents are technically using Facebook but there aren’t many 30-40 year olds on Snapchat. So bringing an Apple Pen or iPad with the latest notetaking software shows a comfort with technology that would surpass most people, especially older people who are stereotyped as behind on technology.

              3. bluephone*

                Same, I can think of quite a few 40+ year olds in my extended social groups (fairly middle class and well-educated) who might use a tablet or smartphone daily but wouldn’t even think of using it to say, take notes (with an external keyboard or stylus and notetaking app), run spreadsheets, set up a Square card reader, etc. If you told them their ipad/iPhone/whatever could do all these things, they’d be like, “really?! wow! Are you some kind of tech wizard??”

                I envy the commenters who are friends and family with tech-savvy people over the age of 45

              4. soon 2be former fed*

                Ageist much? I’m in my sixties, completely comfortable with technology and sometimes tell younger users things. Please don’t stereotype and then double down. Ugh.

        2. automaticdoor*

          Yeah, there are Gen Xers in their 50s! It’s sort of like the millennial stereotype where it’s assumed that we’re all college students — nope, a lot of us are in our 30s and married with kids now. I might see tech savvy being a good thing to display if you were maybe 70 or older because of ageism, but come on, even my 80-something great-uncle is on Facebook (and still working full-time!). This isn’t the olden days.

        3. ChimericalOne*

          Also, considering that age discrimination laws kick in at age 40, “50-ish” is definitely “older” for a job-seeker.

      3. Not Today Satan*

        If anything, to me iPads are “grandma technology”–they’re so intuitive that lots of otherwise tech illiterate people (including the elderly and toddlers) use them well. I definitely wouldn’t assume an iPad users is adept at technology.

        1. Jasnah*

          This is a great point. I know plenty of tablet users who can’t work a menu bar.

    4. TardyTardis*

      How does the Rocketbook work for this? I got one for my daughter one Christmas but she said it wasn’t as good as she had hoped it would be.

  5. mark132*

    For taking notes I have a nice hardbound notebook. I’ll write questions and answers in there I use it to take notes from doctor appts etc as well. It works well and it’s easy to carry. I don’t have a problem with an iPad, but I find a paper notebook just works better, if I’m taking notes electronically I need a real keyboard.

    1. EH*

      I’m a bullet journal person, and that’s what I use to take notes in an interview – but as folks have said above, I also pretty much only take notes on responses to my questions, and those are almost exclusively at the end of the interview.

  6. mark132*

    My company has any email deletion policy, basically at six months my emails get deleted. I rarely regret this, I simply almost never need to retrieve old emails. The weight of dragging around years of emails isn’t worth the very occasional time I need one.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      We have *projects* that take more than six months. I move all my undeleted emails to an archive after 3 months.
      I’ve lost track of the number of times that the conversation history has been needed for project history.
      Not to mention documentation for cases where someone changes their mind: “X says we got the [deliverable] wrong? I did exactly what X instructed me to do because when I objected they insisted. Hang on, I have the email…”

      1. archive everything*

        Exactly this. I would have been fired several times over, or our company would lose an obscene amount of money regularly, if I weren’t able to search my archive folder and pull up emails from years ago. Even seemingly trivial emails to me have ended up being important.

        I’m genuinely perplexed by the comments about the problem of ‘dragging emails around’ for more than a few months, yet the solution is to somehow find the mental energy (and time!) to tend to every single email they receive and decide what to do with it. The single archive folder is the answer. Out of sight, out of mind, and no regrets.

      2. iglwif*

        Seriously! Where I work now, my projects are usually (though not always) wrapped up within 6 months, but I used to work in publishing, and … nope nope nope.

        I can’t tell you how many times my butt, or someone else’s butt, was saved by the quick retrieval of an ancient email message documenting a decision that nobody present could remember making, or a request from an author that they claimed never to have made, or evidence that we’d sent someone something they claimed never to have received, or …

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          At least once my email-packrat habits kept my VeryBigCompany from having to stop production (and possibly pay a penalty). Digital storage is cheap by comparison.
          A regulatory audit showed that some ThingsInProduction didn’t match the official file of ThingsApprovedForProduction. I was able to pull up emails acknowledging receipt of our ThingsInProduction — they checked, found their glitch, and updated their official file.

      3. Kyrielle*

        Yeah, I think it depends very much on the environment. More than once, we saved a lot of effort because of a years-old email that let us say “oh, yes, we did X but you won’t find it in the code because we did it using Y without any code”.

        (OTOH, there’s also the question of “what happens in the case of lawsuit and discovery” which was behind a change in the email policies, for shorter retention, and I can understand that too. You can be in the right and still have an email or two you wish hadn’t been saved.)

        1. Anonysand*

          At OldJob we dealt with FDA regulated clinical studies. Those studies could last upwards of 10-20 years on average, and our document retention policy was basically “nothing gets deleted.” Everything was archived in case of an audit or FDA investigation, even down to the smallest notes. If someone came in to a new job and deleted the majority of their emails every few months? That would be a huge red flag (and potential fines) if the company got caught and possible grounds for termination.

      4. only acting normal*

        My last project as lead lasted 8 *years*. That’s not even very long here.
        Yes, I have a lot of retained emails, in folders in an archive. Sometimes I even need them. But my inbox I keep down to maybe a dozen, 20 max.

    2. ThursdaysGeek*

      I don’t have a good long-term memory, so I use my emails (and daily notes) as an extension of my memory. When projects are finished (which can take longer than 6 months), the folder is moved to an archive folder, but I don’t delete them. I can’t count the number of times being able to refer to an old email has helped me. Co-workers come to me for documentation, because I always seem to know why we made decisions and what those decisions were.

    3. TardyTardis*

      That’s idiotic–when you’re in an environment when you have to keep records for seven years (cf taxes, regulatory whatsits, and all that), that should include relevant electronic records as well. That reminds me, I need to store my health payments spreadsheets in the cloud, because that’s relevant to federal tax deductions and an Oregon tax break for older people.

  7. Bowserkitty*

    OP#3, sometimes it IS a big deal just to get out of bed. I am proud of you for coming through it. I love the advice Alison has given and I hope you provide us an update down the road. Keep fighting.

    1. JJ Bittenbinder*

      I agree!

      Back in my early 20s, I lost 2 jobs due to horrible depression that rendered me unable to get out of bed some days. Mental health conditions are absolutely life-threatening illnesses and managing them takes a lot out of a person.

      I did actually go back and tell my supervisor from one of the jobs referenced above what had happened. Like the OP, I’d been a solid performer prior to getting ill, and it was really important to me to clarify with her what had happened.

      Wishing you well, OP3!

      1. OP #3*

        Out of curiosity, how did your supervisor react? I have a meeting to talk to mine later this week (after Alison’s advice!) and I’m kind of terrified to talk about it!

    2. OP #3*

      Thanks for the support! Things are getting better, and the new position I’m starting after this is a very exciting one so I’m hoping everything is on the ups!

  8. AspieGirl*

    OP #4, why not just create a folder labeled something like Complete and archive everything there that you think you don’t need (that isn’t worthy to delete automatically like all the thanks or cake is in the kitchen emails)? That way it is out of your inbox, but it doesn’t automatically get deleted.

    1. Read It Again Sam*

      They literally ended their letter by asking if they should do just that. So…

      1. AspieGirl*

        Yeah, I’m not understanding why you wouldn’t just take that approach and what the opposition is to it. Like why delete at all when that is an option and why ask if you should delete or store? If they’re buried in a sub folder somewhere, you’ll never see them and it is essentially the same in how the inbox is viewed. Theoretically if you’re afraid of quantity issues slowing down your system, you could just create a new folder for each year and then delete the entire folder after so many years have passed.

    2. Robm*

      I have project folders, as most of my work is project based. My inbox is pretty clean normally, project work goes to the correct folder, personal stuff (e.g. career development type notes from boss) to a personal notes folder, etc.

  9. AcademiaNut*

    I applaud Alison’s thoughtful number of the questions today.

    Also, for #2, I’d be really tempted to bring in a chamber pot.

  10. Startup HR*

    OP#4, I agree with Alison’s advice and would like to emphasize a subcategory of “correspondence that’s potentially helpful down the road”: internal policy changes/exemptions. For example, you have a llama handling certification, but they usually want employees to have a llama wrangling certification. If you get an exemption, keep the email. Same goes for if they change llama certification requirements and grandfather yours in. It’s a good idea to keep any documentation for anything like this in case you need to prove it later.

  11. Nny*

    What would the proper etiquette be if LW #5 still wanted to attend the conference, either for her own development or for her new job if it’s in the same field? Would it be reasonable in that case for her to reimburse the company for tickets and reservations that she was still planning to use or would she be better off cancelling and going through the hassle of rebooking everything from scratch?

    1. Forrest*

      Probably depends on the company and their financial systems? The company may not be able to process a reimbursement from the employee in a way that is auditable, but others will have more flexibility.

      1. Beehoppy*

        And depending on the conference, her registration may show her as a representative of Company A – which would be printed on her name badge.

      2. Southern Yankee*

        As a former auditor, I literally cannot imagine a way to process a reimbursement from an employee that is not auditable. A cancelled check from the employee with a note “reimbursement for conference travel” or a similar note on the deposit entry (either paper or quickbooks like system) would suffice especially if the company was small enough to have only those options. Now, the company might not want to bother, so that might be an issue.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I wondered that, because at some conferences, attendees also present.
      I imagine it would get really tricky if an attendee were supposed to present something developed at FormerCompany!
      Society for Teapot Creators, regional conference. OP’s presentation: “Using 3D printer prototoypes to finalize design of a new llama-shaped teapot”

      1. AnnaBananna*

        Nah, it’s really not that big of a deal – unless maybe the presenter is SUPER well known and the company they’re at is a major draw. But for us normal plebs, you’d just update your slides to include your new employer and call it good.

        – previous conference planner and attendee

    3. JLCBL*

      Yeah, I read this as the LW still wanting to go to the conference, especially since they considered pushing back the start date of the new job. I do see this as complicating matters (and some degree of justification for offering to reimburse company 1).

    4. RandomU...*

      If I were the LW and I still wanted to attend the conference here’s what I would do.

      1. Talk to current employer and explain that I still would like to attend and offer the following:
      -Arranging with the conference to refund the conference fees and pay out of pocket… this would be easiest for the company to handle the reimbursement.
      -Buy plane tickets and book hotel using personal funds. Allowing company to cancel hotel (probably without penalty) and cancel airfare -usually would mean a ‘banked’ ticket and a nominal change fee (both name and difference in fare).
      2. If the company wants to send another attendee, I’d walk away from it and then just book my own way and register on my own for the conference.

  12. Tyche*

    Yes to this.
    The idea is to be quick and take brief notes, not to register all the information from the interview in paper.
    If you use a tablet please make sure it’s well charged and has enough battery, and it’s already on, so you don’t have to wait to switch it on.

  13. CouldntPickAUsername*

    #2: Depending on where you are there may be one more option. Do you take any prescriptions? if you do read all of the side effects and see if any of them mention causing trips to the bathroom basically. If so then you might have something to fight this with in your case.

  14. Knitting Cat Lady*


    Alison, I see what you did there.

    I have IBS. There are times that when I have to go, I need to go now or I will shit my pants. This has happened before. Walking 5 minutes is way too long.

    Is there a way to hint that this policy might be in violation of ADA?

    1. MK*

      Unless a specific employee has a condition that requires immediate access to a bathroom as an accommodation, no. Even then, they would be obligated to allow that particular employee to use the guests’ bathroom, not everyone. Unfortunately, this is a problem created by lack of planning: if you don’t want your staff to use the same restroom as the customers, you need to have basic staff facilities in every building of your resort.

    2. Annette*

      ADA and “hunt” are like oil and water. You have to spell it out to pursue accomodations.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      That’s a disability that might not go with providing spa services. The masseur just doesn’t go off for 5-10 minutes in the middle of the massage.

      1. fposte*

        Yes, there are plenty of workplaces where you don’t have the opportunity of bathroom access within 5 minutes, if only because you have to wait while somebody else finishes.

    4. cheluzal*

      Try being a teacher with IBS. Can’t walk out, can’t wait for someone, can’t always make it in between the 4 minutes….I have walked out of gifted/honors teenagers who were angels before just to survive.

      1. valentine*

        I’ve never understood this (and the same for some parents). Does the teacher’s absence create an immediate threat to life?

        1. JediSquirrel*

          In some states, it’s now illegal to leave students unsupervised in school.

          That said, when I was in high school, we could see our biology teacher becoming more and more stressed. He would leave the room, go have a smoke in the teachers’ lounge, and come back looking as calm as ever. Those were the days.

  15. Zombeyonce*


    This could be a problem not just because using a far-away toilet it makes you late, but some medical conditions mean people don’t have long to get to the bathroom (like Chrohn’s) and I’ll bet employees with those issues would really not want to out a medical condition they’ve been able to keep private until this new policy appeared.

    It might be helpful to bring up this possibility even if you don’t know if anyone has this problem because a new person could be hired with it at any time and making bathroom access difficult (when that’s unnecessary) us pretty terrible.

    (I love that Alison seems to always make poop questions #2 in lists.)

    1. TL -*

      I’m going to guess that people who regularly have to go now now now probably aren’t going to be working in spa services, where you can’t leave the appointments to go take care of business.

      But it’s worth bringing up anyways.

      1. fposte*

        Similarly, having to disclose a disability if you need an accommodation is pretty standard. I mean, I have Crohn’s and I’m happy to lend it if healthy people want to use theoretical group Crohn’s as leverage in a situation like this, but it’s not unreasonable of an employer to say “we will be happy to engage in the interactive process with any employee who discloses a need for accommodation, but we’re not going to change the rules to assume the need for accommodation in advance.”

      2. OPNumberTwo*

        I, um, have had a lot of digestive issues, and I work in spa services (formerly at the resort we’re discussing). Being in a room for an hour or more without being able to leave to use the restroom was quite distressing. No way would I have made it to the hotel bathroom after performing a service!
        Turns out a lot of my digestive problems were due to extreme stress working for a really awful corporation. I switched to a much more low-key place where bathrooms are freely accessible, and now I don’t have to sprint out of a client’s treatment!

  16. Hufflepuffin*

    I have a quarterly reminder to clear out my email folders, at which point I trash anything in my archive that I don’t need, and archive anything in my sub-folders that isn’t current any more.

    I also empty the trash daily or I feel ill!

    I’m also in the UK so have to delete some stuff under GDPR.

  17. Myrin*

    #1, I agree with Alison and other commenters about why it might be preferable to simply use a little book and a pen to take notes, so I won’t add to that.
    However, I do want to point out that I think you simply managed to inadvertently strike a nerve with this particular instructor – it definitely sounds like she had some weird hang-up around tablets or maybe Apple in particular or maybe electronic devices in general, something like that. So really, if it helps you any, I give you permission to lay this to rest and not let it haunt you any longer, since the instructor’s response was all about herself, not you!

    1. Liane*

      The instructors–both of them–made clear that they had little knowledge of professional behavior. One of them berated you and ranted in general and both of them argued in front of their students. So I wouldn’t take any of what they said seriously.

      1. boo bot*

        I would give a pass to the second one (who argued against the “iPads are the new private jets” woman) just because if I were teaching a class and my fellow instructor said something wildly incorrect, I would feel that it was my responsibility to communicate to the students that it was wildly incorrect.

        I wouldn’t start out trying to have a major argument, obviously, but I also wouldn’t want to instantly back down and end up giving the impression that the wildly incorrect perspective was reasonable.

    2. MK*

      Yeah, I can understand someone coming strong with “don’t play on your electronics during interviews”, but this instructor’s thought process derail into luxury items and money and who needs jobs was frankly bizarre.

      Also, am I odd in not being able to tell a luxury device from a 100 euro generic tablet from across a table?

      1. Observer*

        You’re not odd. But, in most cases, the people who can’t tell the difference treat all electronics like luxury devices.

      2. wafflesfriendswork*

        Honestly, maybe years ago a tablet would have been a luxury item, just like an iPhone would have been a luxury item. They’re so much more prevalent now that I find his comment about it being flashy and signaling you don’t need a job(???) super odd.

        1. Observer*

          Even two years ago it was odd. Not just as the “luxury item” but the whole idea of needing to look like you “need the job”. It makes me wonder about the rest of their advice.

          1. IrisEyes*

            As icky as it is savvy businesses do want employees that are just a little desperate for the job. It is much easier to control people who can’t afford a month lapse in pay.

            1. Jadelyn*

              …I mean, yes, a *certain kind* of business does want desperate employees, but “savvy” certainly isn’t the word I’d use to describe them. Most of the words I’d use are considered impolite in professional company.

        2. MK*

          Oh, I think there are still tablets that are “luxury” items; there are some with prices into the thousands that would easily qualify (unless you need it for work, I suppose).

          1. Working Mom Having It All*

            Even the higher end tablets out there aren’t, like “independently wealthy” luxury items. It’s not like LW is asking if it’s OK to fly in on her private jet or whether she could telecommute from her villa in the south of France.

    3. Jaybeetee*

      I wonder if this interview class was directed towards those who were unemployed/collecting assistance of some kind, trying to transition back into work? If so, it’s possible that instructor got hung up on someone showing up to an interview with an iPad, along the lines of “people at the food bank with SUVs and iPhones.” The idea that if you can “afford” such a device, you don’t need to be there?

      Which is still absurd. Even if someone is collecting assistance, it’s possible they bought an iPad if they’d been previously working, or received one as a gift, or bought it cheap used, or whatever. Same as cars or cell phones. But that’s one angle that makes sense to me regarding the instructor.

      1. Natalia*

        Good point. Also some jobs provide their employees with ipads. People forget that sometimes those folks who are collecting assistance may have been doing OK before they were on assistance. They may have purchased that SUV and then lost their job. They may be borrowing that car or someone bought it for them. Same with the ipad or cell phone..they may have purchased it when they were working, got it as a gift, it was provided by a past employer..who knows?!

        1. Jadelyn*

          That’s the part that always got me. I grew up, not wealthy exactly, but certainly upper-middle class. When I left school, I had a couple of nice Coach and Michael Kors purses, a high-end smartphone, etc – because my parents had bought those things for me. I certainly wasn’t independently wealthy. And I wasn’t able to find work right out of school, so within fairly short order I was in a bad way, financially speaking – but you wouldn’t have known it to look at me, I still looked like someone who could afford expensive bags and electronics. That didn’t change the facts of my financial circumstances. You just really can’t tell.

      2. LW#1*

        Yes, this was a mandatory class for unemployed people collecting benefits. This happened in Belgium, there’s a lot of free government programs/classes to get people back to work as soon as possible. The iPad was a gift from my fiance at the time, who had saved up for months to get me one. I wanted to get as much use out of it as possible since he’d been so generous. But it’s not something I could have afforded on my own.

        And for what it’s worth, while there is some minor sneering about people on assistance from the smallest and pettiest corners of the country, it’s not like in the US where being unemployed and/or poor is seen as some sort of moral failing. Most people will be between jobs at some point in their lives and need assistance and there’s really not much stigma attached to it.

  18. Elizabeth*

    OP #3. The other reason you should talk with the supervisor is to provide them with some education and perhaps help the next person who comes along and has a health issue. The next time a similar situation arises, the supervisor might be prompted to talk with the person and say “Hey X, I’ve observed this. What’s up? What can I or this organisation do to help?” It might make all the difference for that person.

    1. Delphine*

      Yes, I think it’s important in these situations for supervisors and managers to be knowledgable and aware. There is so much stigma around mental illnesses that employees aren’t going to be forthcoming (and shouldn’t be expected to report their struggles) unless they know how their boss would treat them once they found out.

      1. OP #3*

        These are great points. I’m usually very private about my depression (which is how I got myself in this mess!) but even though it’s hard for me to talk about it, maybe this conversation will make it better for others in the future.

  19. Wintermute*

    I save all my email. Maybe it’s because of what I do but I’ve had by butt pulled out of the fire more than once when a manager asks “why did you do this?” about some action I took and I can just forward an e-mail from an engineer saying “per Fergus, that was the appropriate action”.

    I keep three major folders “How-to and guides”, “policies, directives and instructions”, and “completed requests and projects”. Then I have two general folders: “archive” and “not my stuff”

    The how-to and guides is where simple “this is the way you do this” “here’s your login for this new website” and other technical stuff goes. It contains anything that gives me directions on the “how” of how to do my job.

    “Policies, directives and instructions” is where I store anything about what we’re told to do or not to do in a management sense. For example “this is how you restart a teapot stamper” would go in how-to, but “this is the policy for teapot stamper restarts and when you need to call an on-call engineer” would go in policies/directives/instructions. This also has stuff about workplace rules they’ve promulgated and whatnot. This section has saved my sorry behind more times than I can count. It also contains instructions my boss has given me, also very handy if I’m asked to justify my actions to other people “I won’t be able to finish your request on time, because Jane told me that I am to prioritize this other project” and I can provide proof if they push. This stores stuff related to the “why and what” of how to do my job

    Completed projects contains just that, very useful when I update my resume and even more useful around performance review time when I’m asked to justify what I do with my time. This stores stuff about what I’ve done.

    “not my stuff” is where anything that doesn’t actually involve me goes, general FYIs sent to larger mailing lists than needed, co-workers out-of-office emails and whatnot.

    and “archive” is anything else unimportant.

    It works for me and I really can’t count the number of times I’ve been the hero of the hour when I was able to pull out some useful information, find someone’s cell number that’s not in the oncall list but is in their email signature, or found the initial release documentation on some piece of equipment. I’ve also covered my own butt more times than I can possibly imagine, in both little ways (“I e-mailed the proper team according to our policy so don’t complain to my boss I’m not keeping you in the loop”) and big (“I followed the procedure you specified two months ago for just this occasion” and the boss puts down the pen and stops filling out the disciplinary form)

    1. Wakeens Teapots LTD*

      I save all my emails (except the “cake” variety) AND I don’t folder them. Just checked, I have 170,000 emails in my Outlook, either in or sent. I don’t folder them because I can find anything I need via Outlook search easily so why would I want to folder them. (I understand folders are an important organizational tool for many people, I just don’t need them myself).

      I use my email library constantly. I am involved in many things with many different people and I can’t imagine not having it. It is an extension of my brain, memory extension.

      1. Wintermute*

        I use folders because in my role I get tons of routine reports. More than one set of servers sends me hourly status reports, every time someone reboots some servers I get a flood of mails, on top of that I get three shift handoffs a day, numerous requests forwarded to my entire team and handled by someone else (hence my “not my work” folder), etc.

        Some co-workers file away all the routine reports into a sub-folder to avoid clutter but given the firehose I’m subjected to I find it superior to pick out what I KNOW to be important and have a place I know it will be, and divide it up so that I know where to go based on what I’m looking for. It matters when I need to go find something and I’m like “okay I know it was from december or maybe november, and it was about teapot controllers, and when I search for “teapot controller” I get 2,500 results for that time period.

        1. Wakeens Teapots LTD*

          I get that, totally. I actually delete my daily reports (I get 5 daily ones, early am) after I review them (guess I don’t save everything), because I could never ever find one if I needed again via my method, and I can always have a report recreated for me or pull data manually myself should the rare need occur to refer back.

          If I needed to keep them, they would be foldered!

        2. OP #4*

          YES! I completely agree on that one. Every time I search for most project-related keywords, Outlook tells me that my search returned a large number of results and I spend far too much time scrolling through the list to narrow it down. Search isn’t often super effective for me unless I’ve already done the legwork to file emails that will likely be useful in future.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        YES. I set up search folders in my archives so they’re ready if I need to search within them.

      3. Willis*

        This is what I do too. Reading this thread made me think maybe I’m doing something horribly out of sync with how I should be managing my email. Glad to see the “no system” system works for others too!

        1. Wakeens Teapots LTD*


          Reading through everybody, it seems to be personality + job dependent. Plus, I’m not kidding, it really is a capacity extension of my brain memory. A few minutes ago I’m like, hmmm, whatever happened with that ruler project (remembering that there was a ruler project but not anything else about it except people). I searched “[name] [name] ruler”, came up with the email trail, and then emailed intelligent questions on status (as opposed to “hey, whatever happened with the ruler project”).

          I have my hands in wayyyyyyyyyyyyy too many pies to try to folder stuff like that by topic in any useful fashion, even if I were the folder sort.

    2. Project Manager*

      Yep. I still get questions about projects from 10 years ago or more, and it has saved my heinie many times to be able to pull out an old email.

    3. Triumphant Fox*

      Such a good comment about keeping track of the projects you’ve worked on! I need to come up with a better system of documenting my performance over time. Things move so fast and we do so many new things – I find it hard to remember what I did two years ago.

      When I was in a role with 7-8 clients at a time, each with multiple projects running simultaneously, I set up my email to automatically send emails to separate folders based on the sender/recipient, so I could keep my clients separate. It was helpful to have a view of the last few weeks/months of correspondence with their whole team, which wasn’t as easy to see with just a search feature. Now I just let my inbox fill with the search feature because I’m the client and I don’t need to keep things so separate.

  20. 867-5309*

    I echo this comment not just for OP #5 but for everyone: (And then stop talking, so that you don’t get nervous and offer to cover the costs.)

    The number of times I’ve talked myself into or out of something because I couldn’t stop rambling… UGH. Once I was talking to a manager about news of downsizing and my friend at the time said, “And don’t offer something stupid again so they decide yours is the role that can be eliminated!”

    1. Wintermute*

      You’re spot on. I’ve seen SO many people talk themselves OUT of what they were trying to talk themselves into by saying one paragraph (or even sentence) too many. Know when to fold ’em. I’ve seen people kill sales, blow interviews, and generally fail to be persuasive by not knowing when to stop.

      Silence is intimidating and people want to fill it, a lot of persuasion, intimidation and negotiation and even interrogation tactics rely on that psychological fact.

      Learning to be okay with silence and not over-sell is probably the #1 thing most people can do if they’re just starting to try to develop these skills.

      1. Jadelyn*

        Amen to that. Learn to let a silence ride. It’s going to be awkward, it’s going to feel uncomfortable. Let it. You can gain the conversational upper hand when you need to, just by falling silent at the right moment.

      2. wittyrepartee*

        Teaching trick- just wait for people to answer questions. If it takes a really long time, keep waiting. Maybe ask less questions in the future, but someone will answer if you wait long enough.

  21. sherlockstea*

    #5, is it possible to get travel insurance to cover this, just like when on personal travel you can get travel insurance?

    1. Forrest*

      I work for universities in the UK, and I’ve been told by one of our accountants that it’s one reason why the university prefers to book accommodation and travel for staff, rather than having staff book their own and claim on expenses. Large organisations will usually have an ongoing contract with a specific travel provider, and a fairly generous cancellation/refund policy will be part of the contract. Specific travel insurance is probably not required in that situation.

    2. OP #5*

      I’m not sure. I work at a US university and my department booked it through a service that is partnered with the university, so it is most likely that if (Allison and all, I’m thankful to hear that that’s possible; I’ve somehow managed to go my whole life without having to book my own hotel, so my old job getting their money back was what I was most worried about) they can get the money back it will go back to the department. I’m no longer very inclined to go on this trip. For one thing it would be right after I started a new job and I would like to concentrate on getting familiar with that new environment, and for another thing the new job has a very strong travel allowance, so I would most likely go to the same conference through them next year.

      Thank you to all who have commented.

      1. catwoman2*

        This happened to me, but it was a conference you had to be selected for (so no one could go in my place). They took the money for it (it was $500-ishUSD?) out of my last paycheck. I was uncomfortable asking my new place – they didn’t budge it for it and were sending me to a different conference. The new job let me have the time for it. I wasn’t thrilled, but it worked out ok.

          1. catwoman2*

            Can I ironically note that the employer was a law firm with a labor practice? They nickel and dimed a lot of their staff. The irony was my director wanted me to go, but I wasn’t as interested. I did make some good connections!

  22. Asenath*

    OP 4 – I’m the opposite to you; maybe it’s partly personality and party part of the job. I keep all emails (well, other than “thanks”, notices to all users that are irrelevant to me or time-limited, and similar things. I keep them in an (I admit it) rather complicated series of folders, sorted by year, and archived annuals. Most I have never needed to use; others have saved me time spend re-inventing the wheel. I think a lot depends on what you personally feel comfortable doing (whether you’re a saver like me or a de-clutterer like you), the proportion of the emails you get that contain important information as opposed to the notice for a workshop intended for other departments (I get a small percentage of obviously irrelevant emails) and the type of work you do. I have certain bits of my job that come up annually, or even less frequently – every 3 years, every 6. So next time it comes around, it’s a guarantee that I’ve forgotten details – even though I have now a work-in-progress manual that in theory will, when finished, cover the procedures. I’m quite motivated to keep everything related to this part of my job.

    So, in short – it depends a lot on you and your job. If your process works for you, fine – just keep anything containing evidence that you requested or you completed something that might later be questioned. If you have a job where it’s helpful to keep more tha 7% (like I have), keep them.

    1. Pete*

      A reply as simple as “Thanks” or “k” might be enough to show someone at least knew something and perhaps even approved of it.

      Keep all the emails.

  23. Lucy*

    #4 and the responses are giving me palpitations.

    I don’t think I delete any work emails (though I do move some to Junk or Clutter as appropriate, probably under 5%). Every single email with an external contact is saved to the file server in the cloud – either to the case file if it relates to an individual case, or to the contact file if it’s more general. So for example an email from a supplier giving their new price list gets saved to that supplier’s file; an email from client asking a question about the content of their application gets saved to the application file. The original email stays in my inbox, which grows and grows … If I want to see if Wakeen has emailed me about curry combs I search my inbox for “curry comb” which is much quicker than trawling the entire file server; if I want to see what Sally thinks about the case due next Friday, I check that case file instead of trawling my entire inbox – and more importantly anyone else in my organisation can search it as well, and doesn’t have to ask me for help.

    That’s in an industry where emails are frequently discoverable, though. The consequences of deleting emails from your inbox could be very expensive and damaging indeed.

    As far as using an inbox as a to-do list goes, that makes me a bit twitchy too. In Outlook you can simply click and drag an email from a mail folder to the “Tasks” tab, then add comments or attachments to it, set deadlines and reminders on it, and from there run customised daily/weekly/monthly to-do lists to manage your time effectively. It’s hugely powerful. Just flagging an email gives you nearly none of that useful function.

    1. Asenath*

      I try to keep my inbox down…not quite to zero, but as close as I can manage. This morning I have 25 emails, and I can see at a glance that 4 of them are not important and can be filed immediately, another 3 or so are quick jobs and the remainder are things I’ve put on hold because I am busy with other things.

      Searching though – like you, I find that searching is easier in folders than in the mass of emails I’ve accumulated. Years ago I read advice to keep all your emails in one folder and find what you wanted using “search”. That wouldn’t work for me at all. Not just do I have a LOT of emails, they’re often to the same people, but on different topics. If I want to find out what Cersei said to me about llamas, searching on either will give me far too many options, and even combining search terms isn’t always helpful – I find it much easier to simply go to the llama folder for 2017 and search there.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        One point — you can set up a permanent search folder named “llamas” to free up the search-a-term function to only within that AND still let you display “everything that came in on 5/14/2019” . I’ve found that later to be useful when someone says “why did it take 3 weeks to complete my TaskX” — sort by date can show that three new-product introductions were back to back ahead of low-priority TaskX revising an existing product.

    2. Project Manager*

      Yes! Outlook’s Tasks function is fantastic. I don’t know how I’d keep on top of my work without it.

  24. SezU*

    Re #1: We have one of these trainings/panels coming up. I’m almost tempted to plant the iPad question just to see the response!

  25. KP*

    No. 2 — Maybe ask what techs for internet or cable service do? Or maintenance for apartment complexes? Or UPS employees, or plumbers, etc? It is general policy not to use the restroom in a business or individual customer’s location/house/apartment PERIOD. I do remember a news article about the planning and problems for maybe FedEx drivers. (On the other hand, restaurant employees, for example, often have access only to the same restrooms as customers.)

    1. CmdrShepard4ever*

      I did not realize certain service people are not allowed to use customer’s bathrooms. I understand delivery people UPS/FEDEX not wanting them to knock on individual peoples homes to use the bathroom since they normally do not come in. But it seems weird not to allow cable/internet/plumbers to use a customer’s bathroom since they are already in the house. I try to always ask cable/internet/plumbers if they want a drink of water (disposable water bottle if I have it to take) and to use the bathroom and I think I remember some people taking me up on the offer. But individual company policies can vary and some people might just disregard the policy if they are explicitly invited to use the bathroom. I can imagine there are some shitty people (pun intended) who would invite a person to use the bathroom and then complain about it to corporate.

      1. Wendy*

        My partner is a cable installer and they can be fired for using a customer’s bathroom. They are meant to pack everything up, find a public bathroom, and then go back and finish the installation. He’s had stomach issues in the past so our meals during the week are very bland and boring because he doesn’t want to be caught short at a clients house and have to choose between potentially being fired or shitting himself on the way to find a bathroom.

        1. CmdrShepard4ever*

          How does the company enforce/know this happens? The only way I can think of is a customer complaining? I can kinda see the logic in preventing them from asking to use the bathroom, but if someone specifically “ask/invites” them to it seems crazy to still not let them do it.

          Is there a way to let them know I really don’t mind and call to complain?

            1. valentine*

              You could be a secret shopper or you might mention it in passing and it’ll get around to someone who wants to make trouble for them.

        2. OPNumberTwo*

          Goodness, I’ve had stomach issues and I feel sorry for your partner. I understand why the company has the policy, but it puts him in a difficult situation!

  26. Probably Nerdy*

    Let me just say – Poopouri and its various knock-offs are amazing. That and the good old “courtesy flush” are life savers for any office.

    1. Allornone*

      I agree! I’m so happy Alison gave it a plug. Marvelous product! (and yes, if I’m without it, I’m the courtesy flush is your friend).

    2. KP*

      Ha! One year I bought a selection just based on names I thought were hilarious and suited for certain family members, and gave them as stocking stuffers. What surprised me was how these same family members a few weeks later would RAVE about how well these things worked. I really wasn’t thinking anyone would actually use them.

    3. Snarktini*

      I struggle with the courtesy flush! I do use it sometimes, at work or in a public place, but it makes me cringe because I grew up in Tucson where water is rather precious. I have a hard time with the idea that our delicate sensibilities outweigh water conservation.

      1. valentine*

        There are probably people who flush before use. By not courtesy-flushing, are you really conserving anything?

        1. Jennifer Thneed*

          I’m not Snarktini, but I’m confused? Yes, by not courtesy-flushing, I am saving the water that the flush would have used. And it doesn’t really matter what other people do or don’t do. I can’t know what choices they make anyway.

          I also grew up (and still live) in a place where water is precious and droughts are a Thing. I didn’t even realize until my teen-aged years that there are places where it rains year-round.

  27. PM Cat*

    OP3 is very topical for me. And I wish you good luck!

    I had depression for nearly a decade when I was younger which shifted to anxiety for the last 10 years. I have been able to manage through therapy and thought I was making improvements. But this last year has been pretty trying (late nights, work through weekends, holidays followed by a new job with more responsibilities in unfamiliar realms) I’m burnt out to the point that I think my depression is back. I’m constantly tired and everything actually got worse aftwr returning from a vacation. I lost motivation to work or do anything at all. I’ve been making excuses to work from home more. Luckily my work load lessened recently… I’m not sure how long this will last and how I’ll be when work ramps up again.

    Would any one have any recommendation? Sorry if this is the wrong place.

    1. Reba*

      PmCat, there is a much recommended guide on Captain Awkward for keeping afloat at work while also getting your mental health sorted out.


      If you know you want to stay in this job, what about using this time of lower workload to really develop strategies for the high workload times? Think about what you need to get through that and maybe also consult your therapist for ideas. Good luck.

      1. OP #3*

        This is a great guide! I obviously don’t have any recommendations myself since we’re in the same boat, but at least know you’re not alone. Solidarity!

  28. CupcakeCounter*

    If you knew you were looking to leave your current org why would you apply for the scholarship at that time? I get business expenses and there is no guarantee that you will get the job you applied for but for some reason that seems like a bad faith ask since I would assume those funds would have been allocated to someone who was planning on staying with the org. I could be completely wrong but since you specifically applied for something vs a “hey we want to send you to X conference” it seems off to me.
    Obviously this is moot if you applied for the scholarship and then a great opportunity was dropped in your lap and the timing just kind of sucked or if you had hoped to go to a conference significantly earlier but they mandated a particular conference (which you sort of indicated).
    Hopefully this didn’t sound like an attack on the OP because I really don’t mean it to but for some reason it rubbed me the wrong way.

    1. OP #5*

      No, I totally get what you mean. I applied for the scholarship about a month before I applied to the job, with my original intention being to stay at this current job for another year or so. At the time of applying for the job, I did it more for cover letter/interviewing practice, as I didn’t see myself as a very strong candidate. However, now that I’ve moved further in the hiring process and learned more about the responsibilities and goals for the role, I’ve found that I’m a stronger candidate than I thought.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      I don’t find it a “bad faith ask” even if the OP applied for the scholarship *after* applying for the job. You never know if you’re going to get a job, and you shouldn’t plan your life around the two birds in the bush and ignore the bird in your hand.

    3. Colette*

      Depending on your skills, field and what you are looking for, it can take a long time to find a new job. It’s not a good idea to put your professional development on hold while you’re looking.

    4. Wintermute*

      You never know how long a job search will take. You’re not obligated to put any and all professional development on hold just because you MAY find a job at some point that MIGHT make you an offer which you may or may not accept and that just might happen to mean you can’t make the conference depending on how long of a notice period you can give… sheesh.

      Also, it’s a convention that goes both ways, your employer rarely, if ever will ensure the timing of a layoff is “good for you” you aren’t obliged to give them the courtesy they won’t extend to you.

  29. singularity*

    OP#1: I think it might depend on the employer and what the job entails. If you’re expected to use and be proficient with tablets and other technology as part of the job, they’d probably see it as normal to take notes on an iPad. If it were me, I would ask my interviewer if they had a preference and see what they had to say. Their response might reveal a lot about workplace expectations and culture. Also, I’m sure if taking notes using a device is easier than taking them by hand, (like if you have carpal tunnel or issues with fine motor skills) then it wouldn’t be an issue, but that’s a whole other topic.

    1. Yorick*

      I think it’d be pretty weird to ask the interviewer if I should take notes on an iPad or with pen and paper

      1. singularity*

        ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ It’s mostly on the person who got the interview to decide if they think that’s a relevant question to ask. I think it depends on what kind of position you’re interviewing for and what type of company it is.

  30. Workerbee*

    With Outlook, it’s a fair bet that your org still retains even your “permanently deleted items” for 15-30 days, and there’s a way to keep things beyond that, too, with retention policies and such. It’s all down to what’s configured with Exchange. And that’s as much as I know. :)

    I’ve noticed that folders containing fewer items than I thought should be there would have a message: “There are more items in this folder on the server: Click here to view more on Microsoft Exchange.”

    Other times, there’d be an empty folder and a “We didn’t find anything to show here” message.

    So it’s still at your own risk, but if an emergency crops up, there’s still a chance a friendly IT person could recover it for you.

    I just went through a self-serving, therapeutic email purge at work as one of the few things I could control.

  31. Sharrbe*

    Re: pooing in the wrong bathroom. For people who sit down to pee, you often think you’re going in there for just #1, but #2 happens. So even if you’re trying to abide by the letter of the law (as ridiculous as that law may be), you can inadvertently fail. What happens when this unexpected but unauthorized pooing occurs? Report yourself? Hide in shame? To try and regulate bodily activities is ludicrous. What next? You’re not allowed to have a period during the busy season because its too inconvenient to take care of?

    1. singularity*

      Unauthorized pooing! *insert crying with laughter emoji* In all seriousness, it’s a really weird policy that’s impossible to enforce.

      1. valentine*

        You’re not allowed to have a period during the busy season
        Probably expected to do this off-site and off the clock and there are people who think you can hold it but choose not to, hence the products, and other weird stuff.

    2. Fergus*

      That was what I was thinking. At least half the population sits when they pee. What if it starts to pop it’s head out (turtleling?), what then?

    3. OPNumberTwo*

      “Excuse me, ma’am, I’m here to report myself for unauthorized pooing under Addendum 3,786 to the Employee Handbook. It was a complete accident, as I only intended to urinate, but unfortunately nature took its course.”

  32. Jennifer*

    How do they plan to find out who pooped? What if the boss goes on a rampage about it, only to find out a customer was the offending poo-er? Why is customer poop of a higher quality than employee poop? Isn’t it all poop?

    I agree, just put some poopourri in the stalls and hope people take the hint. I understand not wanting customers to have to go into a foul-smelling bathroom, but poop happens. I also want to know how this was communicated.

    I just imagine the manager standing outside the stall holding a clipboard as the pooping employee emerges, shamefaced, the evidence of their indiscretion circling the air around them. “This is your second unlawful poop. Your third will result in termination!”

    1. Asenath*

      I’ve heard that in some places they do DNA testing to match local pooches with the evidence some dog owners don’t clean up.

      It wouldn’t work if the toilet criminal flushed, I suppose!

        1. Jennifer*

          First, ew! And second, that seems like a huge waste of money, when they could just invest in poopourri.

      1. Jennifer*

        If a dog owner doesn’t clean up, why would they give a sample of their dog’s DNA voluntarily? It makes me sad people have this much time on their hands.

          1. Jennifer*

            We’re getting way off topic…but I clean up after my dog but I’d still refuse something like this on the basis that it’s ridiculous and an invasion of privacy.

        1. InsufficentlySubordinate*

          All dogs are required to submit DNA samples in my apartment building. If poo is not cleaned up, a sample will be matched to the DNA records, and they will be fined $500 dollars. Too many occurrences of not cleaning up and you can be evicted.

          1. noahwynn*

            I lived in an apartment complex with this rule. It did seem to force people to clean up their dog poo.

    2. OPNumberTwo*

      I posted further down, but the memo was communicated via handwritten note left in the employee breakroom. I really don’t know how enforcement could possibly be implemented, but having worked at said resort, I’ve seen many policies that lacked boundaries and common sense.

  33. Jennifer*

    #1 Sigh. Some people need to join us in the 21st century. I agree that a notepad and pen sends a better message, but the fact that that one instructor got so angry about it is really, really weird. I don’t understand why some people are so resistant to technology. If you don’t want to use an iPad, fine, but don’t judge someone else for using one.

    1. Ashley*

      Yes! I also love that they were of the opinion that having/using one implies you don’t need a job. Yes, this $400 device that I saved up for over a year to buy means that I don’t need a job. *eye roll*

      1. Jennifer*

        Or that potentially was a gift. Or is really old that I’ve had for several years because I can’t afford a new one. Yep, I’m really rolling in the dough. Have Jeeves land the helicopter when I’m ready to leave.

        It’s just SO judgmental.

      2. No Green No Haze*

        If this was in the US, there is a strain of Puritanism in our society that often seems to translate to a kind of ethos of personal austerity out of sync with actual economics. “Poor people have refrigerators!” “You shouldn’t have a smartphone/tattoo if you’re receiving public assistance!” Never mind how old or out-of-date the appliance/device is, or that a smartphone is a substitute for, not an addition to, a personal computer or tablet, or that the tattoo was inked at a time of previous prosperity. Some people think you need to conform to some sort of Dickensian ideal of gruel-based poverty or you’re not worthy of escaping it. If you don’t look like you’re “in need” of a job, somehow you shouldn’t be applying?

        When this kind of thing gets tangled up in questions of professionalism — treating the interviewee as some kind of supplicant for the favor of the mighty — is when I see a big red flag. This woman needs to simmer down. Both teachers crossed some boundaries in arguing about it in front of students, but instructor #1 is the crazy pants one.

        1. Jennifer*

          Yes, I have noticed that too. I remember a woman saying she was struggling to pay for her prescription meds when someone “helpfully” pointed out that she managed to pay to get her hair done. The woman responded, “My prescription is $600. A box of hair dye is $6 at the drugstore.”

          I swear people think if you’re “poor” you should sit in a dark empty room all day and only consume bread and water.

          Plus, in this example, just because someone is looking for a job it doesn’t necessarily mean they are out of work.

  34. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    #1 – I realize we’re in 2019, but if I was interviewing someone holding an iPad, even if it was just for taking notes, I’d think they were distracted and not fully focused on the interview, because let’s be honest, how many people have you encountered that have an electronic device in their hand are also 100% focused on your conversation?

    #4 – I am also one who HATES having too many emails in their inbox. And I have (just counted) 25 folders (with some sub folders) for saving emails for future reference. I also go to my Deleted items folder every once in a while, and delete everything more than 3 months old. No, you do not need to save everything (unless your job requires it for legal reasons). Whatever you’re doing is fine.

    1. Observer*

      because let’s be honest, how many people have you encountered that have an electronic device in their hand are also 100% focused on your conversation

      Totally depends on the context. I’ve taken notes on a tablet, and it meant that everyone had the meeting notes within minutes. That tablet is no more, but I’m a bit sad because when someone is taking notes on paper, it often doesn’t get promulgated, or gets out slowly enough to make a difference.

      1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        Taking notes in a meeting is completely different from taking notes during an interview. I haven’t taken notes on paper for a meeting in years, because I can type faster than I can write. But in an interview, your focus should be on those asking the questions, and with a smart device, your attention is likely to be taken away at any moment, and IMO gives the impression that you’re aren’t fully invested in the interview, i.e. you don’t really care about getting the job.

    2. Lexi Kate*

      In the 10 years I have been in a position to interview people and I have never had anyone take notes in an interview. So I agree if someone did I would think they were doing something else and I most likely would put that as a mark against them. (I work in Finance, Fortune 500 company I mostly interview for CPA’s and Actuary’s)

  35. Amy*

    I was in a meeting yesterday where the presenter was demoing some features of our new CRM app. Her phone screen was projected on the SmartBoard. And every few minutes, she got some kind of alert – a text, a calendar reminder, Webex invite, a pop-up from Ring that her garage door had opened, something from her banking app.

    It was incredibly distracting. Sure, some people will remember to shut down all app alerts + put into airplane mode before a big meeting but more often than not, that doesn’t happen. Even if you have, the interviewer might not be sure of it. Pen and paper can help telegraph that the interviewer has your attention.

  36. Tasha*

    I continue to be amazed at employers who institute pooping policies for employees. What, it’s a “high-end” place and customers will downgrade them if they enter a bathroom only to discover a lingering smell that indicates someone used it for its intended purpose? High-end places don’t deal with sewage or trash? SMH.

    1. Asenath*

      I was chatting with a clerk in a convenience store years ago, and she mentioned her employer didn’t like her to go to the toilet at all, because she had to lock the store while she was inside.

      I’m reasonably sure it is and was illegal not to allow toilet use at all, but it was a small, economically depressed town and job were hard to come by. And the owners would have pointed out that they did, of course, have a toilet available.

  37. Observer*

    #1 – Thanks for a reasoned and reasonable take on the matter. I could see it going a lot of different ways, but I think that overall, your take should work well for most situations. And, best of all, it’s actually based in reality.

    Did anyone notice the “it looks like you don’t need a job” thing, though? Are you supposed to not wear nice clothes etc. so that you look like you need the job? Are the only people who “need” a job people who can’t afford nice things? That line just hit.

    1. TootsNYC*

      and do you want to get the job because you need it the most? Or because you can do it the best?

      Ditto, do you want to hire someone just because they need the job, or because they can do it well?

      I think it’s important to make opportunities for people at lower incomes to move up (if an applicant wears a knit top under her blazer instead of a silk shell, for example; or to hire someone with crooked teeth because they couldn’t afford braces). But it’s not a charity!

      1. Dollis Hill*

        ” hire someone with crooked teeth because they couldn’t afford braces”
        Errrrrrrrrm what? Am I missing some sarcasm here or are you being serious? I have slightly crooked teeth, but I’ve chosen not to correct them, not because I can’t afford it but because I don’t mind having crooked teeth and it honestly doesn’t affect my life in an way at all. Crooked teeth aren’t an indication of a low income.

        1. Grace*

          I have slightly crooked teeth and I had the option to get braces *for free* (all hail the NHS) and I still chose not to, because I have a slightly misaligned jaw – that causes absolutely no pain or discomfort – and I didn’t much fancy having my jaw broken and having to wear an external fixator.

          Unless you have visibly rotten or cavity-filled teeth, how do someone’s teeth reflect their income? To be fair, we’re not big on artificially white teeth on this side of the Atlantic. We think it looks a bit creepy. I suppose that’s a class indicator for some people.

        2. TootsNYC*

          I was just trying to think of an appearance thing that people might react to that could be linked to class or income.

          And perfectly straight teeth can be an indicator of winning the genetic lottery (like mine), or they can be the result of having the money for braces (when I was a kid, braces were mega expensive, so having picture-perfect teeth was often an indicator that your parents paid for braces).

  38. ThatGirl*

    Re: #4 – I keep most emails (exceptions for “cake in the kitchen” and “auto replies from the service desk” type stuff) and try to sort them into folders every so often.
    Meanwhile one of my coworkers is a compulsive deleter, and while I have no problem with Inbox Zero in theory, we’re in customer service, and keeping older sent and received emails can be really helpful and good – I have a (virtual) paper trail of correspondence, and she doesn’t.
    So I guess the question is: would deleting your emails ever come back to bite you in the butt?

  39. pleaset*

    “I’ve been told by multiple people never to delete any emails because they serve as written documentation of business”

    This is, in general, wrong.

    If something is actually important to the business after some period of time (perhaps a few months or a year or so), it should be saved and filed properly. Email is not a proper archive – it’s typically not accessible to other colleagues.

    Email is good documentation of what is happening now, as things happen live or recently. But a few years from now – no. Save important emails in proper places.

    1. Amethystmoon*

      My workplace has a 1 year rule. I archive it on the group drive and go in at the end of every month to delete the previous year’s month.

  40. Willowsunstar*

    #2 could get the company in trouble if an employee has a medical issue. And yes, there are medical issues related to going to the bathroom. People should not have to disclose them, either.

  41. TexasThunder*

    We use gmail at work.
    I delete nothing.
    I have zero anxiety from a full inbox (I have 5,815 unread emails right now), and so I find clearing it out more hassle than it is wirth.

      1. Angelinha*

        My boss has over 30,000 unread emails. I hate even seeing her inbox because it gives me so much stress. She’s unfazed.

      2. IrisEyes*

        My personal email is about at that level. 90% of the emails I get are marketing or newsletter or whatever. Nothing that is in any way significant or deserving of any time or attention from me.

        1. soon 2be former fed*

          Not even a microsecond to delete? 30,000 unread emails would drive me insane. I bet there are important messages that are getting overlooked.

    1. Asenath*

      I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t handle 5,815 emails in my inbox, and I certainly couldn’t handle leaving them unread!

    2. TexasThunder*

      I work in tech. I get emails every time there is a change to product development page, every rescheduled meeting, every time we have recorded a call, every external marketing mail.
      It isn’t worth the psychic effort of deleting it.
      if I want something I just search for it.

      1. TootsNYC*

        Or, if you want something, maybe that’s the thing you file, and the inbox is just the dregs that are left.

        1. TexasThunder*

          Not worth the effort to file for me.
          Bear in mind filing is just the way it is shown to you. In the background it is just tagged with a category
          It’s still searchable, filed or not.

          I understand the impulse to file… my wife glares at my screen when she sees it.

          But I just don’t feel worried by it.

      2. A Non E. Mouse*

        Same (gmail), and same (IT). I’m at 9000 unread, a crap ton saved in folders or just archived, and I just use search if I need something.

        Some stuff is filtered automatically and doesn’t cross the inbox (I just know what label it’s in for later, when needed), but most crosses my inbox and I either archive or just…leave.

        I keep the majority of emails, because if I vaguely recall X Product Email mentioned something about Y changing, and that topic comes up, I can just search and find that relevant email, and dive into the topic then, even months later.

        It really stresses some people out to see it, but the search function has basically eliminated any need for me to file emails away.

    3. Skittles*


      No folders, labels (other than Gmail’s defaults), etc. Gmail’s search function is good if you learn the terms they use. Folders never made sense for me because a lot of my emails deal with different projects, clients, etc. I can find just about any email I need faster with a search vs trying to remember how I filed it away somewhere.

      1. Observer*

        This is what I like about the way Gmail handles this – they don’t really use folders, but rather tags. So you can tag an email multiple ways and then archive it. That gets it out of your inbox, but also makes it easy to look up stuff by “folder” and you don’t need to choose ONE folder.

  42. Mimmy*

    #1 – Maybe I’m a bit old-fashioned, but while I do have an iPad, I brought pen and paper to the interview for my current job. I even asked if it was okay to take notes.

    I can see how taking notes on a mobile device can look like you’re not fully focused on the interview given their ubiquitous usage. I do think the instructor’s reaction was way overboard. I’d say if you really want to take notes on an iPad, mention that you brought the device for that purpose and ask if it’s okay.

    1. Observer*

      I’d say if you really want to take notes on an iPad, mention that you brought the device for that purpose and ask if it’s okay.

      Exactly. This way people don’t assume that you are just playing.

  43. Delta Delta*

    #4 – As an attorney, I have to save a ton of stuff. I also get a little anxious if I see a little red bubble on my phone showing any sort of alert or emails. Here’s the system I have created for myself, which seems to work:

    Junk/mailing lists, etc – gets deleted almost immediately. (why do I need 4 emails a day from the same clothing retailer? I don’t!) It’s joyful.

    Active cases – those emails and related threads hang out in my inbox so I can search for them easily across devices.

    Closed cases – the emails get copied into the clients’ electronic folders and the whole thing gets saved. Then that way I always have them if I need them, but they’re not clogging up the inbox.

    I worked at a law firm that used Outlook (I use google products now) and I was all about making folders. But then I had a whole big string of folders and that didn’t always work very well, either. So, I like my current system. My current inbox is around 9300. But, it’s a combined inbox (I have 4 different google emails for different things) so it’s not so bad.

  44. Nymeria*

    #3 really hits home because I was let go for depression. I also see that the response mentions a “health issue”, and not depression. This kinda bothers me. Are we going to keep up the stigma and not say what it is? Why can’t we say we feel depressed, just like we feel like we caught the flu?

    In my case, I was dealing with extreme stress outside of work at a vet clinic, had to switch back to an old medication I had been on previously, and it did not go well. I felt drugged all the time and tired . My boss dragged me in and said my performance was low (in spite of getting a stellar review a week before). They said I could take off some time to finish my paper/ recover, but the day before I was supposed to come back to work they called me and said don’t come back.
    I talked to job advocates later and they have said what they did was illegal and I could have challenged them, but it was too much to bother. The upside was a day later after being fired I got a huge art commission, and a few days later took an impromptu trip to Mexico (a bit too hasty. turns out I’m bipolar 2.. Who knew).

    Since then, I have been very aware of how much we hide mental illness, and that poor performance is hard to tease apart from bad episodes. I hope this changes.

    1. Observer*

      I don’t know that I’d want to talk about dysmenorhea, IBS or almost any other medical condition either in this context. It’s different if you are actually dealing with it and need some support, because then the details matter. But when your just giving some context in a way that doesn’t require direct action, it’s just generally TMI.

      1. Nymeria*

        I don’t know if it’s TMI, since saying you have a cold or bronchitis isn’t TMI. (Also, I want to be clear I am not expecting the OP to be more open. I am just saying from personal experience of how to be closeted about having mental illness and how I would love to be honest with my bosses on why I am unwell) I am just wondering on a personal level why it is socially ok to say you are home sick with a cold, but not with a mental ill day.

        1. Close Bracket*

          “I am just wondering on a personal level why it is socially ok to say you are home sick with a cold, but not with a mental ill day.”

          Bc people suck. There are all sorts of double standards based on a combination of how things have always been and completely arbitrary standards, eg, it’s ok to introduce the person you are having sex with as your boyfriend/girlfriend and want people to refer to them as such but not ok to introduce the person you are subbing to as your master and want people to refer to them as such. It’s ok to wear skirts but not shorts of the same length. It’s ok to forbid amethyst earrings but not amethyst wedding rings. On and on.

          1. Close Brackets*

            It’s ok to write notes on a paper with a pen but not to type the exact same notes into a tablet. It’s ok for staff to pee in the guest bathrooms but not poo in the guest bathrooms.

        2. Colette*

          I think it is TMI in this situation. If the OP had mentioned it as she was struggling, it would have been OK, but doing so after the fact isn’t going to help deliver her message, and may hurt as it could easily come across as making excuses or trying to justify what happened.

          Let’s say my job involves delivering packages. I have to deliver 30 packages a day. If I come in on Monday and say “I sprained my ankle”, my manager can work with me to figure out how to modify my workday. Maybe I do a different job for the day, or they change the expectations so that I only have to deliver 15 packages since it will take me longer.

          If, however, I say nothing and only deliver 15 packages, my manager wouldn’t likely be happy with me if I then said “oh yeah, I sprained my ankle”. It’s too late for that information to change anything.

          I know that depression in particular makes it difficult to take action to get help, and the situation is what it isbut the particulars of what health issue the OP is struggling with isn’t likely to make a difference with the manager.

    2. Colette*

      It doesn’t really matter to the business whether it’s depression or fainting spells or a flu that lasts 3 months. It’s OK to be vague, since it’s not information the boss needs. The OP can be as open as she wants in general, but the more specific she is in explaining what happened, the more likely it is to sound like an excuse.

    3. Laura H.*

      The “health issue” usage is because one doesn’t have to be explicit about the condition if they don’t want to. But one can be as specific or vague as they like- it comes down to the LW’s preference really.

      It’s not intended to continue the stigma of mental illness being behind closed doors, but I can see how it would feel that way.

      1. Nymeria*

        I wasn’t referring to OP, which may not have been clear… I’m just speaking to my own experience of having to hide my mental illness. I personally have had to lie about many things, which I wouldn’t do if I had a chest cold or even a colonoscopy.
        OP can be as vague as they want, but I just wish we could in general be more open about it.

    4. Close Bracket*

      “Are we going to keep up the stigma and not say what it is?”

      Some of us are. You have to balance general advocacy for people to be open about their mental health issues vs. the impact of any given individual from actually doing that. I’m sure OP is aware that openness might help reduce stigma, but it’s not her personal responsibility to be open.

      “Why can’t we say we feel depressed, just like we feel like we caught the flu?”

      I agree. There’s not really a difference. I hope this changes, too.

      1. Liza*

        Yes, this. Reducing stigma through taking about MH is great, but people affected shouldn’t feel pressured to disclose. They are going to bear the brunt of any fallout. One could argue that LW is in a somewhat more advantageous position given that they already have a new job lined up, but it’s really up to them to consider how much or little they wish to disclose about their situation, and to feel out how that might go given the work culture and attitudes of the managers.

        1. OP #3*

          I am VERY lucky to have a new job lined up–I would be absolutely panicking if that weren’t the case. As far as ending the stigma, I’m fairly open about my struggles with depression in my social life in an effort to shine light on the problem, but I am not open at work because I don’t want to show weakness (and because one of my two managers wouldn’t want to hear about it–see my comment below). That’s something I’m working on with my therapist as well. Since things are getting better for me, I think I will be strong enough in the future to fly the stigma reduction flag at all times, but it’s still hard for me to talk to higher-ups about it.

    5. OP #3*

      I totally get what you mean. It also depends on the manager, I think–I actually have two supervisors and after Alison’s advice I’m meeting with each of them separately. Manager #1 is more sensitive to employee health/life circumstances, so I’m planning to be open with her about the fact that it’s depression and what that means, in the hopes that it will help open conversations in the company or at least make it easier in the future. Manager #2 is very much a “I don’t care about your life, just your work” kind of leader, so she’s just going to get the “health issue” version Alison suggested. I don’t think M2 would care to know the details, and she would probably interpret it as even more of a strike against me if she knew it was “just” mental health. It sucks, but that’s still the world we live in. I definitely hope that changes in the future. (Also, sorry about your crappy experience, but yay for art commissions and trips to Mexico!)

  45. TootsNYC*

    #4, decluttering an inbox

    But you ARE keeping the important emails!

    I either 1) move the email to a project-specific sub-folder in my inbox for safekeeping,

    This is actually MUCH more efficient than leaving them in your inbox!

    I think that you have been doing this so long that you would have discovered if you had deleted something you shouldn’t have.

    I work in publishing; we have “map” of the publication showing which article/chapter goes on which page. When the map changes, it’s dangerous to keep the old one around, because they can look so similar. I always fold them in half lengthwise (so it’s clear to me they’re trash) and throw them out. I was taught this in my first job ever, and I’ve discovered it to be important over the years.

    At a new job, I did this, and the editor I was working with scolded me, “You never throw out the old map!” She’d been getting on my nerves anyway, treating me like I didn’t know anything at all (I just didn’t know THIS job), and I got snippy.
    And I said, “I have been doing this job for decades. I know what I’m doing.”

    So when people pressure you, push back. Don’t argue about whether you should keep emails; attack the point that they should be telling you how to do your job.
    “I have developed this system of years of trial and error. I know what I’m doing.”

  46. ITisnotEZ*

    As one of my compliance officers stated : “Email is NOT documentation. It’s communication.” At our place of business (insurance – related industry) we have a 45 day retention policy for email, and emails will be deleted beyond that point. If it’s information that needs to be archived, then it gets saved in our e-doc administration system, knowledge-base, or in a departmental file-share. Those items are reviewed on a yearly basis and purged if no longer relevant or superseded by updated information.

    While the retention policy is outside of my control and certainly not applicable to other businesses, I find that it enforces a set of best practices and general good habits. How many times has an email server or inbox been corrupted, causing the loss of data? By practicing good archival techniques, such disruptions have minimal or zero impact to business information continuity.

    1. noahwynn*

      Ours is 90 days, unless they are in a folder that you’ve specifically changed the retention policy on. The goal is to have documentation exist outside of an individual’s email. If I’m working on a long term project, the risk assessment, project plan, or whatever should be updated as the project moves along. I don’t retype meeting minutes, but I do drag a copy of the email into the project folder.

  47. Seeking Second Childhood*

    I had another thought for OP2. Holding off on #2 often leaves humans prone to gas — NOT what you want a customer to encounter while lying on a table at a luxury resort! I’m almost surprised employees aren’t encouraged to use the chamber pot before picking up clients.

  48. June*

    Question related to the question about paying back business expenses after quitting. My employer paid for some college credits for me this semester, all in a lump sum. I resigned my position with my last date two weeks before the end of the semester. I was asked to pay back a portion the tuition they’d paid, equivalent to two weeks of classes. What do you all think? Was this odd or expected? Should this have been a cost of doing business they should have assumed?

    1. fposte*

      While it’s not unheard of for tuition reimbursement to be dependent on length in a workplace, that should be stated up front with the granting of reimbursement. This sounds like it was entirely retroactive, which is pretty shady. I think it would be fine for them to have such a policy, but they have to tell you about it in advance; otherwise I think they really should be eating the cost.

      1. Amethystmoon*

        It is normal and also is sometimes in fine print. Check the original form you signed and probably also had to get your manager to sign, before sending to HR. The company I work for makes sure you know up front and doesn’t hide it.

    2. Me*

      That’s completely normal and different from a cost of doing business. In fact, if you go back through the documentation or personnel rules, there’s almost certainly a statement that for every semester of benefits you use, you must work for the company x amount of years or pay the money back.

      Frankly you’re lucky you only have to pay back 2 weeks.

      The point of education benefits is to benefit the employer from a more educated workforce. The employee also benefits. It is not a mutual benefit if the employee stays while the employer is paying and then quits and goes and works elsewhere with the new employer reaping the benefits.

      1. June*

        Thank you for sharing your knowledge! Does your perspective change at all knowing that this was a temporary position that would have automatically ended six weeks after the semester ended? Basically, it was never meant to be a mutual benefit to create a more educated workforce, but rather was a great perk to draw strong candidates.

        1. fposte*

          Then frankly I’m surprised it came with a tuition reimbursement at all. Is there anything in the employee handbook or elsewhere in policy about this tuition reimbursement benefit?

        2. Close Bracket*

          But you didn’t stay until 6 weeks after the semester ended. If you still have the documentation covering tuition benefits, I encourage you to go back and read it. Tuition coverage is usually contingent on things like grades and tenure. Expecting you to pay some of it back if you left without satisfying the contingencies sounds quite standard. Consider this an expensive lesson in reading the documentation and understanding your benefits.

    3. Lexi Kate*

      Its normal, and most likely in something you signed. Honestly it is nice that your company is only having you pay 2 weeks back, and not the entire tuition since your not fulfilling your temp position.

      Our company quit paying tuition up front and only do reimbursement after the class is passed with a grade c or higher.

  49. Sara without an H*

    Hello, OP#3 — I’m sorry you had this experience, but you seem to have landed on your feet. Congratulations!

    Alison is right that you need to have this conversation with your manager face to face, rather than by email. Brace yourself for the likelihood that your manager will respond by saying “WHY didn’t you TELL me??!!!”

    Whether it would have been practical to talk with your manager earlier is something you obviously know better than I do. (I recognize that depression may make this more difficult than some other medical conditions would.) But if any of my employees was going through something that would put them off their game — illness, legal troubles, housing difficulties, whatever — I would want to know as soon as possible, so that I could adjust their workload, schedules, etc.

    But by all means, do talk with your manager now. If there’s an HR person, you may want to loop them in as well. By giving them some context for what happened, you may keep yourself eligible for future work with this company. If you don’t, your name will always have an asterisk next to it.

    Good luck for the future and a continued good recovery.

    1. MatKnifeNinja*

      I know two people who had similar discussions with their managers after being fired. One was for bipolar disorder, and my cousin who has ASD.

      Both bosses said a variation of, “What do you want me do with this information, and are you planning on taking legal action?” Totally not what the people disclosed had in mind.

      You may think you are clearing the air and easing your mind. Both managers got really defensive, clammed up and left a huge gap of uncomfortable silence.

      You may have a heart felt discussion with closure, or a person looking at you with no emotion asking, “Why do I need to know this information”, figuring out the worse case scenario in their heads.

      Personally, I’d just move one. I scorched Earth one job to a mental health episode. Anything I would have said to my particular boss would have just been a dump truck of uncomfortable, and he wouldn’t have cared anyway.
      In his mind, I wasn’t his problem anymore, and I was burning up his time for no good reason.

      Good luck in the future!

      1. Observer*

        That’s why Alison’s script is good – it explains why the person is having the conversation, it avoids information that could make the boss worry that they could be headed for a problem and makes it clear that the person is NOT planning to sue over this.

  50. Mediamaven*

    Regarding LW 4 and emails, I’m the opposite. I do keep all of my emails and do have some folders, but the majority just hang out in my inbox forever. We are a client based business and we have about 30 plus clients, so I feel that creating a folder for all of those plus other internal things creates a colossal waste of time and can make things harder to find if you need them. Outlook has a fantastic search function if you need to locate something and you don’t need to go to multiple different folders. I have a colleague who creates rules for every single email – they all get shuffled automatically to different folders, which means for her to read her emails she has to look through 40 different folders to see what’s new and make sure she’s responding in the right order. She tends to lose things, not respond when she should and the amount of time it takes to set up all that stuff seems excessive. I did research on it and there are many articles online that say doing this is unproductive and wasteful, and my IT guy said the same thing and that when everything is in a folder it can’t be archived. To each his own, but I don’t understand how all the building of folders, filing, and moving between folders saves any time at all.

  51. Veryanon*

    Email inboxes – I use the flags in Outlook to flag things I need to follow up on or that require some action from me that will take longer than just responding to the email. I also set up folders for each case/project I work on and move all emails related to that case/project to the correct folder. I’m a compulsive deleter as well, but since I work in HR, a lot of what I handle is subject to records retention rules (in case of future litigation), so I have to keep most of the emails I get. I find that at least organizing them so they’re not just sitting there makes me less anxious.

  52. Person of Interest*

    I save any significant project-related emails into the appropriate project folder on my shared drive – that way they become part of the resources and documentation for that project if I need them. I don’t have that many folders in Outlook, except as I use them for filtering incoming messages like newsletters that I will read and delete in batches.

  53. the elephant in the room*

    #1: It’s weird how people still view technology. I read books on my phone on my lunch break sometimes and I get comments (albeit, always from someone Of A Certain Age) about my generation’s obsession with texting. My husband uses an iPad to take notes at work because he was going through so much paper it was ridiculous. His coworker got PISSED at him because, in her mind, she was slammed and he was “playing” on his iPad. He did, at that point, show her his notes and she realized she was wrong. But still, people DO tend to see electronics and associate it with fun and games instead of work. So…I guess I’d be cautious during an actual interview.

    1. JustaTech*

      There are still some people (hopefully a declining population) who see smartphones (or even any cell phone) as a “luxury”. As in “that person is poor, they shouldn’t have a cell phone”. Never mind that most people *only* have a cell phone, and how else are you going to get a job without a phone and email?

      I guess there are some objects that started as luxury items/status symbols but now are so cheap and ubiquitous that everyone has them now, but some people haven’t noticed the change in price/value.

  54. moss*

    For the depressed coworker, you can apologize to your manager if you want but for your coworkers, just let it go. I had a coworker recently who constantly dropped the ball and then constantly apologized. I don’t know what he was dealing with and I don’t really care. Him dropping the ball caused my work to look bad. And the constant apologizing was emotionally exhausting for me because he put me in a position where I had to take care of him and sooth him. NOT something I want to deal with at work.

    I feel like you’re trying to fix or justify it but in a business setting this is not needed. Your work wasn’t up to the standards they needed, and that’s on them to decide. If you go back and try to explain why, you’re bringing in personal aspects that don’t really belong in a professional setting.

    1. Delphine*

      I completely disagree. The OP has a serious illness that affected her work. She is not making excuses or apologizing (nor does she need to “justify” having an illness so severe that it impacted her professional life), she’s providing context. This is important for two reasons. One, it provides a reason for what might have been a sudden dip in work quality. Two, it gives the organization an opening to be more aware in the future so that if this happens again, they are able to react and possibly provide support to the employee, instead of losing someone who might be a great worker.

      And I find it a little concerning that you believe that “personal aspects” like illness don’t belong in a professional setting when it’s not possible for people to leave their illnesses at home.

    2. OP #3*

      Good point about the co-workers. I have already apologized to my co-workers who were personally affected by me dropping the ball. For most of them, I just went with “health issue” and left it at that, but I did confide in a couple of them who I’m friends with outside of work that it was mental health. , However, I was careful to just explain once (matter-of-factly) and then let it go. I agree that constant apologizing would have just made things uncomfortable!

  55. JSPA*

    febreze (the least scented sort you can find–free/nature, or there’s a pet version called Zero Odor) pointed upwards between stall and the door). 2 squares of toilet paper atop the water before, to prevent skid marks and splash. Poopourri before and after, unless that’s too great a ‘tell.’ Basically, if there’s no sign of it having happened, there should be no objection to it having happened.

  56. SenseANDSensibility*

    One of our managers is that person who has tens of thousands of old emails in their inbox. They can never find an old email when they need to, never delete anything, they have zero folders to move emails to, & most problematic: they constantly overlook current email requests that come in because it’s such a chaotic mess of disorganization. It drives me crazy. Kudos to the OP who wants to keep their email inbox as close to zero as possible, it’s an admirable quality & one I aspire to myself. I have about 10 main folders but probably 50 subfolders where I can move impt emails or responses and always know where I can look to find them if needed. I’m honestly completely baffled why everyone doesn’t do this and why I’m the world someone would want those tens of thousands of emails cluttering up everything. It’s like Hoarders but everything is in the email inbox.

    1. skarlatha*

      I had a manager who had 45,000 emails in her inbox. She never deleted ANYTHING–not even junk, spam, one-line messages about potlucks, automated “delivery failed” messages… nothing. She had me search for something in her inbox once and I’m pretty sure I made a very undignified noise when I opened it up.

  57. Nym*

    Are you even allowed to keep correspondence with job applicants for years in the US? It’s certainly illegal in the EU, privacy concerns.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes, in fact it’s required (for at least one year for most applicants and three years for some categories of applicants), in case there’s a lawsuit where your documentation would be relevant.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Yep. All we have to do is make sure if there’s ever a privacy breech, we have to contact those who we have stored material on to let them know what’s going on so they can track their credit [many companies will offer to pay for the credit tracking for a certain period of time as well so they are less likely to be sued for the issue].

  58. auburn*

    My right-hand shakes when I grip with it and I don’t like to answer questions about it so I don’t take written notes. I also have atrocious handwriting (even long before the hand issue) so if I do take notes I usually can’t read them anyway! I’ve been on two long full day senior level position interviews in the last year and have taken an iPad and used a note-taking app in both and never had an issue. I just say when I sit down and as I take it out say, “sorry, I have a tendon thing in my hand prefer to type notes. Do you mind?”. I’ve never seen anyone wince or anything and got an offer from one place so I assume it’s been fine. I think you could just as easily say “I take better notes with an iPad. Do you mind?”

    Some people definitely have a “device is an intrusion on conversation” thing so I think just asking permission by saying “do you mind” goes a long way with those folks.

    1. singularity*

      This! I have issues with carpal tunnel in my hands and it can be difficult to take notes quickly. If I felt the need to take notes, I’d use a device and not a pen/pencil and paper. I wouldn’t be able to maintain it the whole time if I was having a really bad day.

  59. MissDisplaced*

    How on Earth do they expect to restrict people from pooping in a toilet? That’s what they’re for!
    Good grief some of these companies are bonkers.

  60. Nobody Nowhere*

    #4, I’m also a compulsive deleter, even of e-mails I should probably have saved. To be safe, I keep everything in the Deleted Items folder for 2 months, then go through everything for things that can be permanently deleted. Then I save the rest. This helps when you have an itchy “delete” finger!

  61. StaceyIzMe*

    I don’t think that you can resolve an issue that hasn’t happened yet (somebody being called out for defecating in the guest bathrooms). The time to push back on how the policy was conceived is after its breach has a demonstrable negative impact on an employee. Your friends could either get poo-pourri, push back on scheduled breaks (building it into the schedule of appointments if they are working as contractors), or walk to the other bathroom and wait to see the impact of being tardy. If you aren’t in control of your own bookings and cannot independently build in a reasonable break, then you have more grounds to push back, in my view, and force a reasonable time to be “off duty” fifteen minutes between every 2 or so appointments. What IS it with “hospitality industry” being SO INhospitable to employees? (Because that “policy” is bananas!)

    1. OPNumberTwo*

      I do think if any employee gets written up for pooping, for the love of everything they should get a copy of the write-up, including a written explanation of the evidence against them!

  62. Rachel Amber Bloom*

    I feel like some people would not be okay with an iPad during an interview. If people didn’t find taking notes on an iPad weird I would love to do that. I have really bad handwriting and have to write really slowly. Writing in front of people makes me incredibly self-consciousness.

  63. JDawg*

    Responding to #4:
    Don’t keep too many emails!!! This can set you up for dangerous hacking.

    If someone was able to get into your email, they could read through your emails, learn how you write, then mimic your style to other people in the company, and end up hacking others in the company through your email. This happened at my workplace, and so now we can only keep emails for 6 months.

    So it’s not just dangerous to keep emails that have client/customer and coworker information, but can be dangerous in general.

    1. fhqwhgads*

      Even just six months of emails are probably enough to mimic one’s “style” to sound enough like them. This doesn’t seem to be a realistic deterrent to the type of attack you’re describing. Better to put security efforts to prevent them from getting in in the first place.

  64. GreatNorthernRecordsManager*

    #4….As a records manager, I would bet that your organization has some form of records retention policies. These apply just as much to electronic stuff as they do to paper stuff. Search out these policies and/or talk to the records people. They’ll guide you in what to keep for how long and what can be dumped when. Keeping them too long opens you up to interesting issues during litigation, etc…..but dumping them too early may lead to charges of spoliation of evidence, etc.

  65. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    Fire me for pooping in the wrong bathroom. I want to be able to tell everyone about it later. Including Yelp and Trip Advisor audiences.

  66. OPNumberTwo*

    Hi, I’m the one who wrote in about the pooping (words I thought I’d never say) and I’d like to provide a little more information. Also, thanks for the many laughs I had while reading the comments!
    Alison asked how the staff was notified of the ban on pooping. It was a handwritten note taped to the cupboard in the staff breakroom that said not to poop in the spa bathrooms, and to go to the hotel bathroom to #2. When employees questioned this policy, they were told that a guest had complained about a fecal smell in the spa locker room. Naturally, the employees questioned why they were getting the blame, and the manager said that she had seen someone dressed in the spa uniform inside the stall (thereby admitting a horrible violation of privacy far worse than any smelly defecation).
    As to how the rule would be enforced? I suppose the manager could go peek in the stalls again when she suspects someone is pooping, since she’s already openly admitted to violating the privacy of her employees.
    I do understand that guests of the spa would like to relax and hopefully not be assaulted by fecal odors. Trust me, the staff would be delighted to have an assigned bathroom for employees only. The spa is a separate building from the hotel, with a men’s restroom (2 or 3 urinals and a stall) and a women’s restroom (3 stalls). There is not an employee restroom in the building. This was a flaw in design, and in my opinion it stems from a flaw in the company itself: namely, regarding employees as far less significant than clients.
    There are many more issues with the resort, and I can definitely say I am beyond delighted that I don’t work there anymore.

    1. Fergus*

      What if it;s not poop but a lot of stinky gas, how do you test for a false positive. Someone at this company is a petty tyrant.

      1. OPNumberTwo*

        Unfortunately, petty tyranny seems to be the rule rather than the exception at this place. The poo policing is only one example!

    2. Heidi*

      This is informative. A thought experiment: what would have happened if the manager was spying in the bathroom stall and it was a guest? I’m guessing that she wouldn’t forbid the guest from using the bathroom to poop. She would just use some air freshener and make the place not smell any more. And she could ask the staff to use the air freshener when they are in there so the bathroom doesn’t smell. Which would have been totally reasonable. Instead, she implemented this bizarre rule and made everything more difficult for everyone. I’d be willing to bet that even the complaining guest didn’t expect there to be a moratorium on pooping in the bathroom. Glad you got out of there, OP.

  67. nnn*

    I find it ironic that taking notes with technology is seen as too focused on note-taking and not focused enough on the conversation while taking notes by hand is seen as acceptable, because I literally can’t listen and handwrite at the same time – if I write something down by hand, I don’t retain a word of what else is said while I’m writing.

    In contrast, on a computer I can transcribe at the speed of conversation without missing a thing. It’s full of typos and I need to give it a good thorough spellchecking and proofreading at the end, but I’ve got every word.

    (An ipad would be somewhere in between – faster and therefore less distracting than handwriting, but not nearly as fast and automatic as typing)

  68. That Marketing Chick*

    #1 I’m going to disagree with Ask A Manager on this one! I took my iPad when I was considering leaving Toxic Job, and found it VERY useful to make notes instead of a pen and paper:
    – I can type way faster than I can write.
    – I’m a lefty and have messy writing.
    – I can look the interviewer in the eye while I am typing.
    I actually think it shows a higher level of preparedness, thought and professionalism.

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