interviewer asked about my politics, showing reliability on a resume, and more

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

1. My team is reorganizing and I’m going to report to a peer

My manager called me the other to tell he was making some changes, and I may not like them. But he doesn’t want me to see this as a demotion. He is going to have me report to someone that is in a parallel role to mine. He gave two reasons for this change. One was to consolidate the number of people reporting to him because he’s overextended. The other is to give my colleague an advancement opportunity.

There may or may not be an implicit message to me about my opportunity for growth. I certainly have a hard time putting a positive spin on it. This communication makes me feel as though he is asking me to subordinate my own aspirations to his needs and my colleague’s promotion. But the thing is, I do think he wants me to stay and be engaged and happy. I think he values my experience and contributions. My question is, from a management perspective, wasn’t this a completely unprofessional way to explain the change to me? Other than just looking for a new job or a new manager, which of course I plan to do, is there any recourse or action I should take?

It doesn’t sound unprofessional to me. Being overextended and needing fewer people reporting to him makes complete sense, and is often the reason behind this sort of change. I think you might be feeling snubbed by him saying that he wants to give your coworker an advancement opportunity when he’s not giving you one, but he’s being transparent about his thinking — and his thinking is probably primarily that he needs to manage fewer people, and it happens that your coworker is talented and here’s a good response to both those things. He could have left out the piece about your coworker and let you just think it was about his own workload, but I’d argue it’s better to hear his full thinking. (And really, it’s good to work somewhere that looks for ways to give people more responsibility, even if it wasn’t you this time.)

I wouldn’t look for a new job over this unless there’s been a pattern of you feeling devalued there. At least, give the transition a few months to shake out and see how it goes before you make any serious moves to leave.

2. Interviewer asked about my politics

I grew up and went to college in a notoriously conservative rural state, but as an adult I live in a notoriously liberal coastal city. I’m currently interviewing at a nonprofit that does not have an expressly political mission, but occasionally engages in nonpartisan political advocacy related to its work. (Think along the lines of a homeless shelter that endorses low-cost housing, or an educational nonprofit that supports student loan reform).

Towards the end of a recent interview, the conversation turned to politics (although I tried to steer it away). The hiring manager asked if I had the same political beliefs as my family, which seemed like an odd question. I (truthfully) told her that my family members hold a wide variety of political views. She then asked me directly what my political beliefs were, and I (truthfully) told her that I don’t really identify with either major party. She then told me that this was a “very political” workplace, and asked if I was okay with that. I (again, truthfully) told her that I don’t care so much what a person’s beliefs are, as much as I do that they’re open-minded and willing to think deeply about their own positions. Then I started talking about the intellectual curiosity I’d seen from the team so far and how much I would enjoy working in an environment surrounded by such bright people (trying to change the subject).

The interview ended shortly after that, I felt somewhat coolly. I was expecting to hear back and haven’t yet. Now I’m worried that I handled the situation poorly — but I’m also somewhat unhappy that the situation was sprung on me at all. The political discussion was completely irrelevant to the work I would actually be doing, and otherwise I feel like I’m a pretty good cultural fit. Was her question out of line? Could or should I have responded differently?

It sounds like they’re more political than you realize — possibly not in the explicitly partisan sense (their nonprofit tax status may forbid that) but in the generally progressive/social justice sense — and she was trying to suss out if you’d be in sync with that or not. Nonprofits are different in this way and this isn’t out of line for one, particularly one that does advocacy work. It’s legitimate for them to want to hire people with, for example, strong fluency in/ commitment to racial equity work or a comfort with talking about implicit biases or so forth, if those things are a large part of their culture. Ideally she would have asked more direct questions about those things, but I suspect that’s where she was coming from.

In that context, answering “I don’t care what people believe as long as they’re open-minded and I’d enjoy working around bright people” is likely to signal you don’t have the type of commitment to those issues that they’re looking for. It says “I don’t feel strongly about things you want your staff committed to.” But the fact that your answer was wrong for them (if indeed it was) isn’t a sign that you messed up; it’s a sign that it wasn’t the right fit for you or for them. If they’re looking for people with a strong commitment to X and Y and that’s not you, then this isn’t the right job for you.

3. Demonstrating reliability on a resume

How do you demonstrate reliability on a resume?

It depends on what you have to work with. If there’s something in your work history that will illustrate it (like “reliably opened store every day at 5 a.m. without missing a day in two years”), you can use that. (I don’t love that example because it’s attendance-based, but it’s all I’m coming up with right now.) But you might not have anything so on the nose, in which case it’s something you can address in your cover letter if it’s a key qualification for the job. Note, though, that most professional jobs are going to assume reliability at this stage and will be more focused on other skills (i.e., you won’t need to find a way to explicitly address it). Typically reliability will come through more in subtext than in explicit text — for example, having a solid work history and showing a pattern of drive and achievement. Those things typically take reliability, but they’re more implied than explicitly called out.

4. Should I reply to “thanks!” emails?

What is the etiquette for responding to someone who replies to an email with “Thanks!”? Right now, I usually don’t respond since I’m very much a fan of Inbox Zero and get anxious when I get email notifications for stuff that isn’t inquiries or something important – and even if the other person isn’t an Inbox Zero person, I would assume that they’re also a fan of receiving less email. But I could also be way off on this and be unknowingly leaving a bad impression on someone by not replying “You’re welcome!”

I always appreciate the acknowledgement and of course always respond to a “thank you” done in person. I wasn’t raised by wolves, after all! But email is obviously a different communication medium. I’m aware that this could also depend on the nature of the previous email – for example, I did respond today to someone who emailed me a thank-you for helping with the tech set-up for a meeting they had (I work in IT) and I responded to that since this was obviously more than just a simple “Thanks [for answering my question]!”

You don’t need to reply to “thanks!” emails with “you’re welcome!” — and in fact you should not, as it will annoy people and clog their inboxes. “Thanks!” is the other person closing the loop. You can and should let it stay closed!

5. I don’t want to socialize with coworkers at lunch

I’m a receptionist, so I spend my whole day talking to people, either face-to-face or on the phone. When I finally get my lunch break, I want to unwind with a book or a podcast. I just don’t have the energy to keep socializing. I’m a naturally very shy/introverted person so I really need those moments of quiet to recharge.

Unfortunately, my other coworkers are all very very social, and our only break room is always full of chatty conversation. They always make me a part of the conversation. They’re just being polite, so I can’t really complain, but it is exhausting. I always feel more tired after taking my breaks in there.

I don’t know what to do. I really like the job, but I can’t be constantly “on” 24/7. We only have one break room, and there are no tables outside. I only get a half hour for lunch so I don’t have time to eat out at a restaurant and make it back to the office on time. I can’t really talk to HR because my coworkers aren’t doing anything wrong — plus, our HR department is only one person, and she’s one of the most talkative, so I worry I’d hurt her feelings.

This is tricky because as a receptionist, you don’t have the option of just taking lunch at your desk. And it doesn’t sound like there’s a location other than the break room that will work. So you’re stuck in there.

Given that, headphones may be your best bet. They don’t even need to be playing anything; their role here is to act as a signal to others that you’re not available for conversation (and it’s not even just about being available — a lot of people will assume politeness obligates them to talk to you if you’re both in the break room at the same time, and headphones relieve you both from that obligation).

If it feels anti-social to sit in there with headphones on while others are talking, you can say something at the outset like, “Don’t mind me! I’m going to chill out to music because it’s my one break from talking all day.”

{ 581 comments… read them below }

  1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#1, it may feel less stinging if you don’t think of this as a demotion, but rather, as your coworker being assigned to a PM/lead role without management authority. That’s more of a coordination and communication function designed to ensure everyone on the team gets the support they need, which your boss is telegraphing won’t happen if there’s not some restructuring. If your boss hasn’t been given the chance to hire more folks, then reorganizing duties is one of the only ways to cover everything he needs to have covered.

    Also, have you shared your aspirations with your manager? It may make sense to be very frank with him and to ask if there’s anything he recommends you do to be able to advance professionally, as well. For some reason I get the sense that you’ve hinted at your interest, but I wonder if a direct conversation may make you feel more empowered in your professional development. (I’m of course assuming that there are no problematic patterns regarding advancement opportunities.)

    tl;dr: Absent other information, this is genuinely not about you, your competence, or his faith in your ability to advance. It’s a logistics puzzle he’s trying to figure out with finite resources.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t think it’s actually a team lead with no management authority; it sounds like the peer is getting promoted to an actual management position. (I think you’re reading “reporting to a peer” as meaning the person will stay a peer, but I took that to mean a peer is getting promoted and will no longer be a peer.)

      I agree with the rest of the comment though!

      1. JamieS*

        Do managers generally have the authority to promote someone into being at the same level as the manager? I thought that promotion would, generally speaking, have to come from at least the next level unless it’s a fairly small business. Regardless, “advancement opportunity” doesn’t strike me as a promotion outright. More of a test run before a promotion.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Promoting them to be a manager who reports to them, with their team? Yes, often. Or the manager decided it with their own manager; there’s nothing indicating that’s not the case. In this case, I think “advancement opportunity” means “I want to give Jane an opportunity to advance,” which he then did.

        2. doreen*

          The letter doesn’t actually say the person is being promoted to the same level as the manager – it seems entirely possible that the peer might be in a supervisory rather than managerial role, or is a deputy or assistant manager.

          1. Psyche*

            They aren’t being promoted to the same level as the manager, but it could be that they are being promoted to a newly created level in between the manager and the LW.

            1. HarperC*

              That’s how I took it. We have “team leads” and “supervisors” that are below “managers” or “directors”. That could be what’s going on here.

            2. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Right, exactly, that’s how it reads to me. And that new level can just be “manager” as well. In smaller organizations in particular, that wouldn’t be weird.

        3. ATX Language Learner*

          The department I work in has managers, then group leads under them, then analysts that report to the group leads. The manager and the group lead are not the same level and the group lead is often an analyst that was reported to a group lead.

        4. Emily K*

          The President of our 1,000-person org did something similar a few years back. He had 8 department heads and a chief of staff reporting to him, which turned out to be too much. So he promoted his chief of staff and had all of the department heads report into her. The chief of staff still reported directly to him and the department heads no longer did, but it was still a promotion for the chief of staff (being given more management duties) and not a demotion for the department heads (who still did their exact same jobs but just had a new manager).

          I think you may be thinking of companies with very rigid structure where everyone always reports to someone exactly one level above them in the hierarchy and the hierarchy cannot be expanded to create new mid-level positions – and that’s definitely the case in a lot of places. But in other places, you might have a manager whose reports are 2-3 grades below them, or a flexible structure where a mid-level manager position could be created because there aren’t formal company-wide job grades, just a loose reporting structure.

        5. TootsNYC*

          well, yes, if someone is going to be paid more and have their job description change, it is generally approved by HR/corporate/a more senior manager.

          But the person doing the promoting would be the manager who proposed it, and she would be the one to have all the conversations, and it would be framed as “I’m promoting.”

          Some people might borrow corporate authority and say “We,” but “I am promoting” is totally reasonable wording.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Oh, then I definitely misread! If it’s truly a management promotion, then I feel more strongly that OP should follow up with their boss in a calm, earnest way to talk about advancement and professional development opportunities.

      3. Lynca*

        Even if they’re not getting a promotion, their job duties are changing which means they’re not exactly a peer. I find it helps to view it that way. I’ve seen senior staff where I work (state gov. agency) be assigned people to manage without a promotion. They would do your performance reviews, project tracking, approve leave, etc.

        But that’s because we have an archaic hiring system where you need to have actually managed people to get promoted to a supervisory post.

        1. Ariaflame*

          A system where they can be evaluated for their abilities to manage before actually being promoted into a role that requires them to manage? Given the frequent bemoaning of managers with no skills or experience in this area when they start, I’m not sure that this is a bad idea.

          1. Jadelyn*

            Except that doing it that way puts them into the classic catch-22 of hiring: can’t get hired/promoted without experience, can’t get experience without being hired/promoted. It essentially sets up a situation where you’re forcing employees to leave if they want to advance, and maybe try to come back later once they’ve gotten the necessary experience elsewhere, since they can’t get the necessary experience there.

            It sounds like Lynca’s management staff have figured out a workaround to this, but it’s still an overly-rigid rule that can wind up driving away strong performers who want to advance.

            1. Emily K*

              The sad reality is that even when it’s not a formal rule, most companies aren’t going to hire managers without experience until they don’t get enough applications from managers with experience when they post a management job. Because “hiring this employee without experience” is functionally equivalent to “paying for this employee’s training,” and businesses will almost always try to avoid any optional expenses until they stop being optional.

    2. Jasnah*

      Alternatively, I wonder if OP (and OP’s company) only thinks of seniority in terms of reporting lines. For example, OP’s peer may have expressed interest in wanting to take on a manager role, so the manager gives the peer an easy opportunity to try it out with OP (as opposed to changing companies just to try it and having to work with new people). OP is seeing herself as being pushed down, whereas OP’s manager just meant to move OP’s peer up.

      To compare, recently I began reporting to my manager’s manager. But I wasn’t promoted, my former manager wasn’t demoted, and we are not on the same level. Just the reporting line has changed.

      OP, are you and your manager on the same page about what advancement would look like to you? Are you looking to manage a team or become a subject matter expert but never manage anyone? Does your workplace use other forms of seniority besides reporting line?

      1. valentine*

        OP is seeing herself as being pushed down, whereas OP’s manager just meant to move OP’s peer up.
        This is how I read it and, of course OP does, if the conversation did begin with the lead balloon of “Don’t see this as a demotion,” instead of ending with that, though I would find it odd. I would only see it as a demotion if he also removed signoff duties from me.

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

          Same, I read it as a team-lead sort of situation. At my company (I have no idea whether this is more widespread) a team lead is a kind of deputy-manager role where the team lead still has the same job title but takes on some of the regular 1-1 check-ins, load-balancing, coaching, and so on. The manager stays in the loop and maintains the authority. Generally a person becomes a team lead for a year or two before becoming a full-time manager. And indeed, team leads are often created when the manager is starting to feel spread too thin. That’s how I read the situation that OP’s colleague is in.

          And as such, I wouldn’t see it as a demotion or a vote of no-confidence in OP, and I would ask OP: Have you ever told your manager that you’re interested in management experience? If you haven’t, and your colleague has, then maybe that’s why your colleague got the team-lead nod ahead of you.

        2. Sloan Kittering*

          Well, but to me it suggests that OP could have been moved up into that position, and was not. “Want to give the other position growth experience” is also, “I didn’t feel that you merited growth experience.” I don’t know if OP should leave or not, but it is still being “passed over” in favor of someone else at your same level, unless I’m missing something.

          1. TootsNYC*

            “Want to give the other position growth experience” is also, “I didn’t feel that you merited growth experience.”

            No, not necessarily..

            It could mean, “This person is ready for more growth experience than you are,” but it doesn’t mean the OP didn’t merit growth experience. It could mean that the coworker merits it more than the OP does, but that doesn’t mean the OP doesn’t.

          2. Old fat lady*

            If I were the OP I would be a little worried too. Unless the peer that was promoted was much more senior or had specific other reasons why they were promoted, this IS a reflection on the OP.

            What leads to me believe they were both equal peers is the bosses statement “they may not like it”.

            It’s certainly a statement that her boss does not want to provide the OP with growth opportunities.

            So if both peers were pretty equal, then it’s time to start looking for another job.

            1. Autumnheart*

              I guess I don’t really see it as a reflection on OP, but instead, a reflection on the peer being promoted. I assume the peer was doing some really stellar work and is being recognized for it. It might sting a little to know that someone is outperforming you, and I think it’s worth a conversation to get an idea of what that level of success looks like, so OP can shoot for it if they want.

              The bottom line is that we can’t all be first place, but this is a good opportunity to spell out, if only for yourself, what you want your career to look like over the next few years, and make an action plan for achieving it. You can channel Peer’s success into motivation for yourself.

              1. Emily K*

                Yes, the inherent pyramid structure of management means that some people are going to get promoted further up the chain, faster than others who they were once peers with. There are a limited number of senior positions and when one opens up, the hiring manager puts the best person in it. Over a long enough time scale the highest-performing employees are likely to be picked for open spots more often – but that doesn’t mean the employees who aren’t getting picked are under-performing at their current role. Just that they weren’t the top candidate for the next role beyond their current one.

                If your career goals include moving up, then certainly you might want to research how to step up your game or consider moving on. But if you’re happy doing the work you’re doing and have no particular aspiration to do the next level of work, there’s nothing inherently concerning about not being the first pick for advancement. The boss could still be very happy with your work and eager to keep you in that role even if they thought your coworker was a better fit for the supervisory one.

            2. Curly*

              Thanks for all the feedback. I’m new to this site, still figuring out how to engage. My reaction to this change is based partially on the way it was communicated, and partially on my belief that it does limit my opportunities, at least in the short run.

              I didn’t appreciate the fact that it was expressed as “we are ok with you being unhappy, so we can make others happy”. I would have appreciated a more thoughtful consideration of what benefits they can see for me and my team.

              Also, I have a very different style from my newly advanced peer, and I have concerns about feeling more tension due to differences in approach.

              Bottom line to me: good employees should not feel their opportunities are limited by someone else’s opportunity. A good manager should never create such a situation.

          3. Alanna of Trebond*

            It depends on the situation, though, and what’s meant by “peer” — does OP just mean that they were on the same level in the reporting line, or did they have the same role and job title?

            A colleague and I used to report directly to the same manager. I was in a project manager role, the colleague was a senior individual contributor. I expressed interest in managing more people directly and my manager is spread very thin, so the colleague now reports directly to me.

            He’s still a senior individual contributor (he makes more money and is way more valuable to the organization than I am!). He just didn’t want a management role, I did, and we already worked together well.

            OP’s boss made a rookie mistake framing it as “This isn’t a demotion,” though! That puts ideas in their head that maybe weren’t already there. The way I’d have framed it is “I’ve been spread so thin, and this gives you a manager who has more resources to pay attention to you.”

    3. Mimi*

      I was actually in a very similar situation four or five years ago: The team I was on spawned a sub-team, one of my peers became the manager of the sub-team, and I became only person on the sub-team (which subsequently grew). There were a few differences:
      – I was still pretty junior at the time, and my now-manager was already in somewhat an informal teaching/mentorship role (I was moderately independent at the time, but he had trained me) so the interpersonal aspects of who got the promotion were less weird. (We don’t have explicit grades or categories of employees, and comparative ranking is a bit fuzzy.)
      – I was told by my now-manager, not by our mutual boss. “Team Boss is considering creating this sub-team and making me the manager of it, would you feel weird about that?”

      My now-manager was already doing a lot more of the work of managing than Team Boss, and I didn’t feel that being one hop further from the CEO was a big deal (I would still have the same effective authority to the people I need to be authoritative to), so I said I was fine with it. Overall, it was a very good move. Now-manager is a much better manager and has much more availability than Team Boss, and has been responsive in ways that Team Boss is not.

      I’d say that the only downside to the change is that it may have cemented me in a less senior position — I’ve gotten some indications lately that certain higher-ups still consider me as a junior member of Team Boss’s team, even though I’m now more senior than now-manager was when he became my manager. (This might not have happened if we had had a formal opening on Team Boss’s team, and possibly I could’ve made different choices subsequently, but it’s water under the bridge now.) But even knowing that, I would choose now-manager again, because my experience on Sub-Team has been that much better.

  2. Renee*

    OP5 Do you have a car you can eat lunch in? That’s what I do, the break room is so crowded and loud that I’ll just go in their to use the microwave, and then just go straight to the parking lot and sit in my car with the windows down. This lets you eat your lunch in peace and listen to music or read afterwards. I even know a few people (we get 1/2 hour lunches as well) who would use the time to take a nap in their car!

    1. Amandin*

      This is what I do! I eat in my car, then lay my seat back and close my eyes for the remainder of my lunch break.
      I used to try to eat in the break room, I would tell my coworkers that I was going to relax in silence but they (and I) couldn’t resist getting sucked into conversation. Then I’d leave lunch feeling no more refreshed.

      1. Renee*

        Yeah, some co-workers I’m sure think I’m a bit anti-social, but hey when you deal with people all day and your an introvert, you need some time to sit and do nothing in a 8 hour work day.

    2. AnOh*

      Yea if you have a car, that’s always an option! I typically eat lunch in my office but I know it’s more likely to get interrupted and our break room/kitchen always has people walking through or eating together. So if I’m needing some uninterrupted alone time, I park my car on the opposite side of the parking lot and listen to podcasts while eating. It’s great and I always see multiple people dotted around the parking lot doing the same or napping.

    3. BronzeFire*

      I came here to suggest this, too. I’ve eaten (and napped) in my car through many lunch breaks. Sometimes it’s because coworkers or patrons are too social, sometimes it’s because only physically removing myself from the building will keep me from working through lunch. If you have a car you can easily access during lunch, it’s a great space to eat, listen to whatever you want, make personal phone calls, or do whatever else you need to do in 30 minutes.

      1. Renee*

        I WISH I could fall asleep fast enough to be able to take a 15 nap, but it takes me 15 minutes just to get to fall asleep. But I totally envy people who can turn a 1/2 hour lunch into a siesta.

    4. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

      If you’re in an area with sidewalks/shops/nature, and you’re able, going for a stroll can be refreshing and private. My top three jobs in terms of lunch-break location were, (1) Next to a petting zoo (The baby goats!), (2) next to Central Park (naps on big sun-warmed rocks), and (3) next to a dog park (puppies!). But even a stroll through a more industrial area or walking through a store can be better than small-talk when you’re in a job that requires 8 hours of constant socialization

      1. Natatat*

        One of your jobs was next to a petting zoo? That sounds delightful. And what a morale boost too if you’ve had a hard day.

      2. Renee*

        Oh your so lucky!! I’d love to have a spot to sit outside and each lunch, but my work is right next to the ghetto, and generally not a place you want to sit outside all alone. I mean their was a murder right next to our parking structure a few months back, yep, I’m not eating outside.

    5. curlykat*

      I also used to lunch in my car to have some quiet at lunch time. I really should get back to that instead of lunching at my desk…

    6. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I do this as well, it’s nice because you can also recline your seat and stretch out a bit to relieve the stress from having a seated job. I actually have to do it when my sciatica acts up, it gives it just enough stretch to make sure that I’m not hunched over for the rest of the day.

    7. MoopySwarpet*

      I’ve done this before. I worked at a place where the office staff shared the break room with production staff. The production staff took breaks in shifts so there were always at least 6 people in a small room that only held about 12 if they were all really good friends. The outside area was not very nice (industrial park), but I’d move my car to a shaded area and eat/read/etc. for my lunch break. I wouldn’t have moved my car, but the visual cue of “I’m not here” was more valuable than the 5+ minutes it took to move to/from my favorite lunch spot. I was not allowed to eat at my desk. I had to be completely off for the entire break.

      If a car is not an option, I would second the walk suggestion. Even if it’s just a couple boring laps around the building, you’re out. You might also find a nearby spot that you’ve previously missed. A patch of grass you can sit on. They make some really cool beach blankets (of all sizes) that fold up to smaller than a book and are waterproof.

      1. Parfait*

        I’m starting to think you need to bring a camping chair to your office and take it outside to sit and eat. Get one with a canopy for your own shady retreat.

        1. Kendra*

          This was my thought, too, or something like a yoga mat that you could sit on outside (although depending on what you normally wear to work, that may or may not be practical). Do you think you’d get anywhere by suggesting to your company that they purchase a picnic table or bench for you and your coworkers to use?

          Are there any empty offices or conference rooms that they might let you use during your break? Even if they don’t want you eating in there, you could always do that part in the break room, and then ask if you can use the empty room to read, meditate, rest your voice, make personal phone calls, or just have some quiet time (the reason you’d use depends on which you think your boss would sympathize with the most).

      2. Gin and bear it.*

        Would it be possible for you to take your lunch break at a different time? Either earlier or later than everyone else? As the receptionist, I bet you could even spin it as appropriate given everyone else is on a break.

  3. Allison*

    “I (again, truthfully) told her that I don’t care so much what a person’s beliefs are, as much as I do that they’re open-minded and willing to think deeply about their own positions.”
    That’s cool, and you do seem like a genuinely open person, with very good intentions. I am sorry that this job did not work out, I know how hard it is!
    Unfortunately, some people’s beliefs are actively harming other people. Like the belief that transgender people should not serve in the military, for example. Or that homeless people and the poor have “made bad choices” and should suffer the consequences of that. Or the belief that certain races or religious groups should be kept out of our country, and that refugees should be criminalized, and families kept apart.
    I won’t go on too much – however, I just want to point out that having certain beliefs could definitely make it not okay to work for some non-profits. As they very well should.

    Thanks :)

    1. government worker*

      Conventional norms are such that you don’t show up to a job interview soapboxing with guns blazing. I get what you’re saying, but it sounds like the LW had an understanding that the nonprofit had a more politically tepid outlook than what they actually expect. I’m not sure this explanation of WHY OPINIONS MATTER is particularly helpful in this instance.

      Thanks :)

        1. government worker*

          Huh, that wasn’t my read at all. I don’t see any indication that the LW wondered why someone would care about their beliefs — the question, as asked was “were they out of line?” I have no issue with your advice. All I was saying is being self-righteous in an interview is going to seem weird, generally.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            It’s not self-righteous to talk about your beliefs when explicitly asked by a nonprofit that does advocacy work (which indicates their work is likely values-based).

            1. government worker*

              Again, I didn’t have any issue with your advice. Your advice was good! But I stand by my original comment, which was in response to someone else who made a point that *I* thought was self-aggrandizing. Of course opinions matter, particularly so when you’re interviewing for a position at an organization with a particular mission. Butttttt (Kardashian-sized butt), it is against conventional norms 1) for an employer to be this aggressive and 2) to feel it is necessary to stump for political opinions during a job interview.

              1. Joielle*

                It IS against conventional norms for most jobs/fields to have to talk about political opinions in a job interview – but the point is that it’s not actually that unusual for a mission-based nonprofit, and if they ask, they want to know that you feel as strongly about the mission as they do. In other words, conventional norms don’t really matter here! What does matter is political opinions, because some political opinions are actively harmful to the nonprofit’s mission, and that’s perfectly appropriate to be asked about (even pointedly) during an interview.

                1. MuseumChick*

                  Second this. I think of the Tenement Museum in NY. They do a lot of education work regarding immigration. If you were someone who help political beliefs such as being pro-wall for example, that just isn’t going to work in that particular workplace.

                  Non-profits are a strange world where the “norms” often do not apply.

                2. Observer*

                  The problem here, I think,is not asking about values, but that they fished rather than asked outright.

                  @MuseumChick uses the Tenement Museum as an example. I would hope that instead of asking vague questions based on broad assumptions, they would come out and say something like “Our work requires commitment to respect for immigrants and immigration. That includes opposition to broad anti-immigrant rhetoric” etc.

                  The bottom line is that either it’s relevant, in which case you should be up front about it and explicitly screen for these issues. Or it’s not relevant and you shouldn’t be fishing.

                3. fhqwhgads*

                  What I think was slightly weird (but not inappropriate, just not helpful for either party in context) was the interviewer seemed to be asking in a sort of hedging bets manner, and the OP seemed to be answering in a sort of hedging bets manner. In an interview for a position where one’s personal beliefs are very unlikely to affect the work at all, that’s a very normal response to a possibly unnecessary question. But in a case where it’s very relevant to the role that you be pro-whatever-it-is-they’re-actively-advocating-for, that type of answer at best tells them nothing (which would be its intended purpose in a different interview) and at worst tells them you won’t necessarily have the convictions they need. It would’ve been better if the interviewer had been more direct in the questions to potentially give OP a clearer signal that what they were looking for here was a clear yea or nay. If knowing that OP still chose to answer in a similar manner, then they both got what they needed out of the interaction: knowledge that it’s probably not a good fit. But I get the impression the OP was avoiding answering directly out of the assumption that this usually shouldn’t matter to the work and thus was holding cards close to the vest, rather than the answer they gave being what their answer would be if asked in a situation where it absolutely mattered what the answer was. If OP had known must be pro this or anti that because the work will entail actively advocating as such, if OP were willing to say “oh yes, that’s my position” the outcome may have been different.

                4. Chinookwind*

                  ” I would hope that instead of asking vague questions based on broad assumptions, they would come out and say something like “Our work requires commitment to respect for immigrants and immigration. That includes opposition to broad anti-immigrant rhetoric” etc.”

                  Exactly because assuming one’s beliefs based on your party affiliation in a two party system can lead to faulty assumptions. For example, a traditional Catholic may support something like homeless shelters and single payer healthcare for all but vote Republican due to their anti-abortion stance. Asking a direct question about their beliefs when it comes to a particular mission statement will give you a more accurate response about whether or not they will work well within that mission statement.

                  Ditto for believing you can extrapolate one’s beliefs based on where they live, which is what the interviewer seemed to initially be doing without being explicit (which makes me think that they knew it was wrong).

                  OP, I think you lucked out because this was a red flag about the attitudes this company has about people who didn’t fit their cookie cutter image of what someone who works there believes or comes from. If you had been hired, my experience tells me that you would have had to put up with snide remarks or outward bashing of where you come from. Regardless of how you feel about that place, it is still home and where you family lives and that can be emotionally exhausting (says the Albertan who lived in Ottawa/Quebec for 7 years and heard enough anti-red neck jokes to make me want to become one just out of sympathy).

                5. RoadsLady*

                  I’m with Chinookwind. I can certainly appreciate specific political views when it comes to non-profits, having worked for one myself.

                  But if it’s indeed a norm, the interview should have behaved like it was a norm. (Do you share the same politics as your family says zilch)

                  Be upfront with your non-profit.

                  And yes, political parties can be far too broad a brush to figure out someone’s views and values.

            2. Rebeca*

              The manner in which OP was asked about political beliefs, though, almost was fishing for somewhat of a self-righteous or defensive reaction. It was unprofessional for the interviewer to approach personal ideology in a roundabout way that implies ill of the OP’s family, of whom the interview knows nothing about and aren’t interviewing for the position.

              I also think every non-profit needs workers who aren’t particularly politically inclined, but that’s a topic of conversation for another day.

              1. Rebeca*

                *of whom the interviewer knows nothing about and who aren’t interviewing for the position. Yikes, the typos.

        2. JamieS*

          Except that you can’t gauge whether someone cares about transgender rights, homelessness, or really any social issue by asking whether they share the same beliefs as their parents.

              1. Mookie*

                I would have interpreted the family question differently than the LW herself, although it’s clear why she did interpret it to mean “are your politics informed by your place of birth, do they resemble the majority.” Again, I may be mistaken, but it sounds like the LW is a youngish adult with recent schooling. I felt the question was an opportunity for the LW to demonstrate some experience in navigating politically polarizing settings, and if her work history is heretofore pretty thin and she has no background in activism or advocacy, school or home seem like the obvious default settings. Perhaps feeling her answer was evasive, they then clarified by asking about her comfort level in working alongside people whose philosophy may differ radically from her own. Using one of her own examples, the LW appears to regard affordable housing as a non-partisan issue; depending on how you think the issue ought to be addressed, policy-wise, this may be true, but it’s also true that many solutions to social and institutional problems non-profits exist to address are deeply partisan. Is the LW cognizant of that? Will she be able to follow the organization’s mission on its own terms? Performative centrism and sincere moderatism are, in fact, political positions when practiced honestly. In my mind, the interviewer here wanted to know if the LW could sully her hands by choosing sides when acting in her professional capacity as an ambassador of the employer. She answered that question, whether realizing it or not. The question was not, “are you a hick like your folks?” which is why I think you’re getting at here. It was, “do you have the ability and desire to address the issue the way we do and are you accustomed to donning the appropriately professional gameface around a wide variety of people you need to work beside and collaborate with, but whose values may clash with your own?”

                1. TL -*

                  The question was definitely “are you a hick/redneck/hillbilly” like your folks?”

                  I sincerely, sincerely, sincerely doubt that an interviewee from NYC, LA, or Chicago would have gotten that question.

                2. JamieS*

                  No what I’m getting at is the interviewer clearly made a negative assumption about OP’s parents, and by extension OP, based on absolutely nothing. Being conservative doesn’t mean someone is backwards when it comes to social issues and being liberal doesn’t make someone tolerant or “woke”.

                  Also it should be pointed out that OP never said the nonprofit was advocacy based where the advocacy was to help commonly disadvantaged populations. However if it was, asking questions to gauge OP’s experience working with the disadvantaged population is appropriate. Taking the stance of “your parents must be intolerant hicks who are on the wrong side of this issue…are you as well?” is not.

                3. JB (not in Houston)*

                  @JamieS I don’t know what “backwards” means to you, so I don’t know what you mean you say being conservative doesn’t make you backwards on social issues. But as someone who grew up conservative in a conservative state with conservative family, being conservative by and large means you are on not on the same side of the people working on many, many social justice issues. There are exceptions (even when I considered myself conservative, I was an environmentalist), but that’s what they are–exceptions. I agree with you, though, that the interviewer’s way of approaching this was borderline offensive with the assumptions she was making.

                4. Michaela Westen*

                  As I watch gentrifiers try to take over my city and the otherwise excellent mayor refusing to support rent control, I can say for sure that affordable housing is not a non-partisan issue. I’m mentioning this as an example of how partisan politics can affect any issue.

                5. Observer*

                  @JB (Not In Houston), the exceptions are more common and broader than you think.

                  Beyond that, the assumption that “you live in Red State means you ARE conservative” is also not valid.

                  Beyond that, @Mookie, It think that your interpretation simply doesn’t fly. If the interviewer were really looking for someone who could work with someone whose views they don’t agree with, for the sake of the mission, the OP actually answered perfectly.

                  But, that’s not at all what the interviewer was asking. If your fundamentally non-partisan mission winds up being partisan for any reason, then the way to screen for people is NOT to make assumptions about their beliefs or the beliefs of their family of origin! The OP says that the interviewer asked if they “had the same political beliefs as my family”! This is not about interpretation.

                  You simply cannot claim that the interviewer was not making assumptions. Even assuming actual legitimate concerns, there is NO WAY that this was an appropriate way to address them. It was a question based wholly on assumptions, and when the OP didn’t play to those assumptions the interviewer continued to dig.

                1. Chinookwind*

                  Not if they were aware enough that people sometimes leave their home because they disagree with where they were raised.

                  The question was based on a faulty assumption that says more about the interviewer than anything else.

              2. Mobuy*

                Agreed. Allison’s answer here even seems to assume that conservatives don’t care about the homeless. And yet, we want diversity! As long as it’s not diversity of opinion, of course. Heaven forbid that someone is thinking outside of the organization’s box.

                The point is, the interviewer, as well as a lot of commenters here, have very negative views of conservatives and see them as a monolithic block of intolerance. That just isn’t the case.

                1. JB (not in Houston)*

                  *Some* conservatives may care about the homeless, but many if not most are not going to support the kind of policies and activism that an organization dedicated to addressing the issue are going to advocate for.* Many if not most will oppose some if not all of the policies. And I say this as a former conservative who lives in a conservative area and whose entirely family is still conservative. And it’s not just homelessness. Yes, there are exceptions. but by and large, even if conservatives agree with liberals or leftists that something is a problem, they aren’t going to advocate for the same solutions. So caring about the same issue a nonprofit advocates for doesn’t necessarily mean a person will fit in with the culture there.

                  *Example: in Texas, a number of conservative politicians have begun looking at lowering levels of incarceration, so they are on the same page with that as more liberal politicians there. But the conservatives want to lower levels because of the costs of running prisons and jails, which is not the same reason the liberals have. And their approaches at lowering levels of incarceration have some overlap but certainly arent’ the same, because their reasons for the policy aren’t the same.

                2. Emily K*

                  Yes, political goals are often non-partisan, but the means of accomplishing those goals very often aren’t.

                  Someone can care deeply about homelessness, but believe that private or religious charities should fix the problem rather than government social problems, as one example.

                3. Chinookwind*

                  Mobuy, I agree with you. the interviewer’s question means they only want people exactly like them when it comes to thought patterns. This lack of diversity, unfortunately, can lead to them becoming more adversial to those who they deem as “other” and can actually hurt their mission and they will miss out on opportunities to change minds and work together when end goals are similair. They will also not be able to get an “insider’s view” of what is going on on the other side.

                  Basically, it is a way to look like you have diversity without actually following through on what it actually means.

                4. Jadelyn*

                  “As long as it’s not diversity of opinion, of course. Heaven forbid that someone is thinking outside of the organization’s box.”

                  I mean…gods forbid that a MISSION-FOCUSED nonprofit might specifically want to hire people who SUPPORT THAT MISSION, amirite? When “the organization’s box” is inherently foundational to what they do as an organization, then it seems entirely reasonable to me that they would prefer people who think inside said box to people who think outside of it.

                  Your “so much for the tolerant Left” approach here also presupposes that all political beliefs are created equal and should be equally welcome, and that is…to put it mildly…not the case.

                5. logicbutton*

                  @Chinookwind I think it’s okay if they only want to hire people whose minds they don’t need to change. Especially if they work with vulnerable populations, which are composed of humans, not learning opportunities.

                6. Courageous cat*

                  It’s pretty much almost always the case, sorry. This isn’t “equal but different”. This is “which view causes and promotes harm and which view doesn’t”, at least to most liberals. If you’re conservative, then whether or not you’re personally intolerant (general you), you’re still promoting and espousing the views of those who aren’t and are who doing the most harm.

              3. Chinookwind*

                “The question was definitely “are you a hick/redneck/hillbilly” like your folks?”

                I sincerely, sincerely, sincerely doubt that an interviewee from NYC, LA, or Chicago would have gotten that question.”

                What TL- said bears repeating because there is no like button here.

                1. Working Mom Having It All*

                  As someone who is politically liberal and currently living in a deeply liberal city in a blue state, but who grew up in a conservative family in a red state, I seriously disagree that this question wouldn’t have been asked of someone from NYC, LA, or Chicago. I think it might have been phrased differently, but the reality is that all of those cities have their own inherent biases on many advocacy issues, and someone interviewing people might have changed up how they asked this question based on that.

                  For example, as an Angeleno, I find that while people here tend to vote Democratic and have a liberal outlook on some social issues (legal weed, gender and sexual orientation equality, etc), I would say that a large majority of people here have a NIMBY attitude towards homeless people. There are huge local fights (often within the Democratic party and between Democrat elected officials) about how the homelessness problem should be handled, and a lot of people have attitudes about that aren’t exactly congruent with what tends to be SOP in homelessness advocacy nonprofits. So for an applicant from L.A., the question wouldn’t so much be “do you share the same political views as your family/home state/what have you?” but “do you share the same political views as most other people who live in Beverly Hills, which you have listed on your resume?” or “do you feel like your attitude towards homelessness is similar to the mainstream here in Los Angeles?” or maybe some other question designed to tease out the NIMBY, pro-gentrification, or “all homeless people are crackheads who need to take personal responsibility” folks.

                  FWIW my only problem with the question about politics and family/region of origin is that it doesn’t go far enough and probably won’t achieve the desired result even if the applicant in question is more open to talking about their outlook.

            1. TL -*

              Yeah, I think you totally missed on that part of the answer -assuming that a person (or their family!!!) is a bigoted a-hole (which was VERY much implied here) because of where they’re from is not okay. OP, your interviewer was a jerk and that was not okay of them to do.

              I’m from Texas – I’m from hella rural Texas – and I am on the receiving end of these kinds of comments/assumptions all the time and they are honestly low-key nasty.

              Either they assume that I’m a “good liberal” and it’s all “oh you must be so glad to be out of the hellhole that is Texas” “it must be so difficult for you to be from Texas” or it’s an “Oh god there’s a gun-totin’ redneck conservative in the house and we can’t say anything political at all or she’ll go off.”
              Never mind that I have never yelled at anybody about politics (except with my family, in private) and surprisingly, don’t get into political discussions at work or social functions ever – in fact, if I disagree with someone, I just nod and change the subject.

              If the interviewer was invested in maintaining a specific kind of culture, they should ask every interviewee the same question about it, ie, “This is a very LGBTQ+ friendly workplace who really prioritizes racial equality. Is that in line with the kind of workplace you want to be in?”

              That interviewer was a jerk.

              1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

                The thing is – what kind of a person would say no to a question like that? No, I DON’T want to work in a LGBTQ friendly workplace that has racial equality!” Most people don’t think that they are racist even if they are, and even less are going to admit that they are, and even less than that will admit they are in a fricken job interview. Sometimes you have to be a bit more subtle. I’ve worked with some people who appear to be super nice, and would swear up and down they are open minded and accepting, but would be horrified to find a transgender person in their bathroom or would occasionally chat about building a wall.

                1. TL -*

                  People will generally self-select out though. If you’re told there’s a number of transgender people working in the office during the interview and it’s important to support the trans* community (worded better than that) and the thought of sharing a bathroom with a non-cis person gives you the faints, you’ll probably not take the job.

                  You might not admit that’s why you’re not taking it, but there’s a good chance you’ll decide to work elsewhere if you have any choice.

                2. Guacamole Bob*

                  I think answers to a question like that could be very revealing, even if everyone answers that they want that kind of workplace. How comfortable is the candidate using different terms in their answer? Does their answer stumble around awkwardly or are they able to answer coherently? Do they just kind of shrug and say that an equal workplace sounds good, or do they talk about how their last job really forced them to confront their own privilege and it was difficult but they’re committed to continuing that work? Do they answer in a way that unintentionally reveals their own racism or their obliviousness to racial dynamics?

                  It’s like asking how someone works with difficult people – no one answers that they can’t, but you can learn some things about a candidate by how they answer the question.

                3. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Yeah, you’d be better off digging deeper. For example, depending on what you’re looking for (especially what degree of comfort/fluency with this stuff), you could ask the candidate to tell you about their experience working with people different than them, a time they had to build a diverse and equitable team (if it’s for a management role), a time they had to navigate tricky dynamics around race or other identities, etc. Obviously these will vary based on position and organization. But the point is to get people talking about their experience, not just ask a yes/no question.

                4. Observer*

                  Maybe you need to be a bit more subtle. But starting with baseless assumptions and generalizations does nothing to actually help you get at the truth.

                5. Lobsterman*

                  I’ve met a lot of folks who would shift in their seat and say, wellllllll

                  Better to know.

              2. PhyllisB*

                Yep. I’m live in Mississippi, and in the 70’s I would go visit a friend of mine in Houston, Texas. On one visit a “friend” of hers said to me, “Oh, you’re from Mississippi. That’s where they hate N___?” (Racist word I would never use.) Luckily, my friend said something before I could respond. But I also got versions of that from family in New Jersey, and people in San Francisco.

              3. Name Required*

                Yeah, it’s a bizarre question. I’m from a more rural part of Georgia, and I now live in one of the few more liberal areas outside of Atlanta. I also support immigration reform, free health care, and many other flagship “liberal” values. As does my family. If an interviewer asked me this question, my eyes would probably roll straight out of my head.

              4. some dude*

                I’m a northern california native, and it is a basic part of white norcal dna to assume that anyone to the east of tahoe is a boogety boogety racist. Nevermind the intense segregation that happens in the bay area. It’s part of what I’ve grown to really dislike about white liberalism where you assume this pose of self-righteousness as brand differentiation from “those” people. Ugh.

                That said, in the current climate, applying for a job at a nonprofit in a liberal city that does advocacy, saying “i’m not political” isn’t really an answer. I would love, love, love there to be a way to support women, poor people, immigrants, the environment, etc. without it reeking of progressive politics, but the line has been drawn so harshly by the current administration that being neutral is saying you are ok with the horrific things this administration is doing.

                1. twig*

                  Another NorCal Native here — only I’m from a small mountain town (tahoe adjacent :)).

                  When I was growing up, it was a lumber town. People would here where I was from and assume I was a hick. Now, it’s no longer a lumber town, but a tourist town (see “Tahoe Adjacent”) and people assume I come from money.

                  Other people hear I’m from California (I live in N. Nevada now) and assume I’m from a beach town /don’t know how to deal with winter/any number of “Duuuuuuuuude, California!” stereotypes.

                  It can be interesting

            2. wb*

              This is what got me. General questions about politics are, I feel, pretty inappropriate. Specific questions relating to the goals of the organization aren’t. But those can be phrased in terms of experience with similar organizations, volunteer experience, etc.. This sounded more to me like ‘oh, I see you’re from a conservative state… are you actually a secret conservative? we dont take kindly to your type round here’ and that totally squicked me out.

          1. Kendra*

            That was the part of the question that really squicked me out; you’re not just asking the interviewee to profess a particular set of beliefs on their own, but on behalf of their family, too. There is NO WAY I’d ever feel comfortable doing that; talk about putting words in somebody’s mouth!

            Plus, it’s illogical; sure, the majority of people in their home region might vote a certain way, but “a majority” does not equal 100%; what if their family are all socially liberal atheists? It could completely reverse the meaning of any “yes” or “no” answer the interviewee gave, and the interviewer would have no way of knowing that.

            But let’s assume that the OP’s family were very vocal in the kinds of political views the interviewer seemed to expect, and that the OP did disagree with them. You’ve essentially just asked someone to disparage their family to you, a complete stranger, and you’re holding a possible job over their head to force them to do it (there’s a definite power imbalance). That is…Not Okay.

            If you want to know what someone’s political beliefs are, just ask them, “What are your political beliefs?” Don’t dance around and come at it from such a deeply problematic angle.

            1. OfOtherWorlds*

              “it’s illogical; sure, the majority of people in their home region might vote a certain way, but “a majority” does not equal 100%; what if their family are all socially liberal atheists?”

              Yep. I don’t politically agree 100% with my parents who live in Texas, but on certain issues I’m more conservative than they are! So that question would actually produce a response that’s the opposite of what this interviewer would expect.

              “You’ve essentially just asked someone to disparage their family to you, a complete stranger, and you’re holding a possible job over their head to force them to do it (there’s a definite power imbalance). That is…Not Okay.”

              That’s the heart of the matter, to me. Even if the intent behind the question was reasonable, the way in which it was asked is not. And it says some very ugly things about the interviewer’s worldview.

              1. Vicky Austin*

                I don’t politically agree with my parents 100%, even though we are all Democrats from a very liberal state. I’m a Warren supporter and they like Biden and Harris.

        3. Artemesia*

          I thought Alison’s response to the OP on this one was fantastic. Being neutral and ‘not having an opinion’ is not an option for groups working on social justice issues in today’s political climate. Not every workplace or work mission is a good fit for everyone. It applies to groups working both sides of the street too.

          1. Emily K*

            I’m also sorry to say that, “…as long as they’re willing to think deeply about their beliefs,” sounds a lot like a possible, “I’m going to challenge people to defend/justify their beliefs to me.”

            1. Cece*

              Yeah this.
              OP may be earnestly open-minded, but the way they phrased that open-mindedness is textbook identical to the same way that every devil’s advocate troll ever uses to derail any even mildly progressive conversation online, so I can see exactly why an interviewer in a social-justice focused setting would have probably have read their response as “yet another tiresome, argumentative troll that will constantly derail our underlying mission and prevent everyone else from getting work done”.

            2. Jadelyn*

              Yeah, I’d hear that and assume the candidate is the argumentative type and would be more disruptive than helpful. “I’m fine with everyone as long as they’re willing to think deeply about their beliefs” reads to me as performative centrism with an undertone of intent to interrogate everyone’s beliefs so that they show they’re “willing to think deeply” about said beliefs.

              (What always gets me about the “willing to think about it” stance is that someone holding their line against you and saying nope, this is what I believe and I’m solid on it, doesn’t mean they’re not “willing to think deeply” about said beliefs – it could well be that they’ve *already done* that kind of deep dive on it and you’re not presenting them with anything new to reconsider. My dad always used to pull that when I declined to watch the Glenn Beck and NRA videos he would send me links to – “you have to be willing to hear the other side otherwise you’re just burying your head in the sand!” Dad, I’ve already heard all of this many times before. I’m not going to subject myself to it again just to make you feel like I’m still open to your politics, because I’m not. I’m not burying my head in the sand, I’m just not wasting my time rehashing this crap yet again.)

              1. Arts Akimbo*

                “My dad always used to pull that when I declined to watch the Glenn Beck and NRA videos he would send me links to – “you have to be willing to hear the other side otherwise you’re just burying your head in the sand!””

                OMG yes, this!! The next line out of my extended family is usually some variation of “Wake up, sheeple!”

                1. New Jack Karyn*

                  I have long believed that anyone using the word ‘sheeple’ unironically can be safely ignored.

            3. Burned Out Supervisor*

              Yeah, I hold a lot of beliefs that I don’t think need a lot of deep thought (such as treat others as you would like to be treated, adults should be able to love other adults that love them regardless of gender, we should help the less fortunate). If I worked for a non-profit that supported one of these beliefs, that type of answer might paint the candidate in a somewhat negative light, even if they’re really talking about topics that can be legitimately up for a debate along political lines (charter schools, trickle-down economics, the benefits of legalizing marijuana). I think it would have been better if the LW gave a more tailored response to the interviewer’s question based on the population the organization serves (“I believe very strongly that no one should go hungry in the US, etc”).

            4. Kendra*

              See, I took that statement in a completely different way; to me, that says more that they wish people would think rather than just accepting the dogma handed down to them without question. They’re not going to disparage religion or religious people – they almost certainly have relatives or close friends in that group – but they also don’t buy into the propaganda/”alternative fact” machine without doing any fact- or reality-checking of their own.

              Maybe we (meaning people who grew up in deeply conservative areas) just use different coded language? This is one of the ways someone where I’m from could signal, “I consider myself moderate to liberal on social issues” without getting shunned or having the crap kicked out of them.

              1. Vicky Austin*

                And then there are many deeply religious people who distrust the propaganda/alternative fact machine. Please don’t equate religious beliefs with political ones.

              2. Mia*

                Eh, idk. I grew up and still live in a deeply conservative area, but I interpreted that comment the exact same way Jadelyn did.

          2. PVR*

            But how far should we take the idea that not every workplace is a good cultural fit for everyone? What about the letters from writer who are allergic/afraid of dogs working in dog friendly workplaces? Women working in tech fields? The manager who didn’t understand why it is was a problem to exclude just one of her employees? The recent golf outing letter? Yes, in this specific instance, there may be a more legitimate reason to screen politically, but in general? No. What about people who are not political, who are libertarian, socialist, etc? Should they all be tasked to find workplaces that they are the majority in? As mentioned elsewhere, I once lived in an area that was politically extremely different from my personal beliefs. I would not have been able to find a job if this was an acceptable practice to screen for. In general, and maybe even in LW2’s case, I just don’t think this is fair or in the spirit of democracy. It is, however, extremely telling of exactly how polarized we have become.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              But that’s not really relevant to this letter. This is about a nonprofit advocacy organization that does work that intersects with the political. It’s not about other types of employers.

            2. Yorick*

              Your examples are about “culture” that doesn’t have anything to do with the job. If you hate dogs, it’s an important “not a cultural fit” for you if you apply to a doggie daycare, but a dog friendly culture isn’t so important at other workplaces. If a non-profit organization often has to get into politics surrounding the issue they support, a person who seems non-political isn’t going to be able to work there successfully.

          3. Vicky Austin*

            Very true. I used to work for a nonprofit that wasn’t an explicitly political organization, but it served people from many groups negatively effected by the current administration (i.e., people with disabilities, immigrants, and so forth). So a person who defends everything the current POTUS does wouldn’t be a good cultural fit for that organization. In many instances, such positions would run directly contrary to the mission of that particular nonprofit.

        4. JSPA*

          I suspect there was some confusion between Candidate- Party-Electoral politics vs Issues-Activism-JusticeAwareness politics. That, or OP has one or more relatives who are well – known or are very evident on social media, spreading a message that’s frankly problematic vis-a-vis the goals of the organization. If you are related to David Duke (e.g.) then noncommittal / big-tent isn’t going to be adequate.

      1. I haven’t had my coffee yet*

        I’d be more annoyed that they asked about your family as a way into this – that’s the part that feels inappropriate to me.

        1. Not Australian*

          “I’d be more annoyed that they asked about your family as a way into this – that’s the part that feels inappropriate to me.”

          This was the bit that struck me wrongly, too. In fact, if anyone ever asked me about my family’s politics, I’d have to admit to not knowing; it was something we never, ever discussed, even at election time, and I’ve been with my other half over thirty years now without having a clue which way he votes. Sometimes life is just calmer that way!

          1. nonegiven*

            I’m pretty sure that my parents drove to the polls together to cancel each other out.

            1. Essess*

              Agreed. My mom frequently says that she was put on this earth to cancel out my step-dad’s votes.

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Definitely agreed. It’s a problematic way to ask a question, it’s indirect and vague, and it essentially relies on reductionist, speculative stereotypes about rural folks. There are plenty of people who don’t share the prevailing political orientation of others in the geographic area they’re from, whether they’re rural or urban, etc., etc. Starting with the assumption that the state where OP attended college defines OP’s viewpoints is icky.

            But ignoring the ham-handedness of how the question was posed, this is one situation in which it’s acceptable for an employer to ask questions to determine whether an employee’s beliefs are mission-aligned, or if they aren’t, whether the employee can still excel in advancing the nonprofit’s programs and advocacy.

            1. Kathleen_A*

              I agree that the questions weren’t asked well – and I do think there were almost certainly some unwarranted assumptions mixed in there re. the OP’s family, and the interviewer needs to cut that out.

              But on the other hand…the interviewer was simply trying, in a clumsy way, to find out if the OP was a good culture fit for the office, the organization and the mission. And that’s a good thing, both from the organization’s perspective and from potential employees’ perspective. Lots of non-profits, including the one I work for, have definite political leanings, even if they aren’t affiliated with one party or the other, and it’s really important to hire people who are comfortable with that.

              My own organization tends toward X (fill in the blank however you like!) and while we hire plenty of people who are pretty strongly Y, we have to make it clear to all those Ys that they are going to be dealing with lots of Xes, and if that’s going to bother them or make them unhappy or make them not do the job they were hired for or make them dislike their coworkers or our members, well, this isn’t the workplace for them.

              So I’m pretty sure that’s all the interviewer was trying to do, and while she should have found a better way to ask about these things (we just flat out tell people, “This organization leans X – how do you feel about that?”), both the interviewer and the OP did find out valuable information about each other.

              1. Scion*

                Yeah, but the problem is that sometimes “X” is not something that an organization should be filtering for. In fact, sometimes it would even be illegal.

                Examples of varying levels of problematic Xs:
                -Very liberal/conservative
                -Evangelical Christian
                -“Bro-y” Silicon Valley types
                -White people

                1. Kathleen_A*

                  That’s true. But sometimes it’s something an organization should be filtering for, and most filtering is, in fact, entirely legal. It is indeed illegal to filter people on the basis of race (or sex or other protected classes). It’s not, however, illegal to filter people on the basis of liberal vs. conservative or “Bro-y” Silicon Valley types. Whether a given organization should use those filters is another question, but there are times when filters are justified. I can’t say whether they’re justified in this case or not, but they might be.

                2. JB (not in Houston)*

                  But there’s no indication that the interviewer here was illegally discriminating against a certain group. There’s nothing wrong with trying to find out if the OP would be a good fit and filtering her out if she wouldn’t be. The problem was with the way the interviewer went about trying to do that. Making assumptions about people based on where they are from is problematic. Filtering out people who won’t fit in with the nonprofit’s culture and mission is not.

                3. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  There’s nothing wrong with “we strongly support undocumented immigrants’ right to stay here and are working against policies X and Y. How do you feel about that?” … which is the sort of thing it sounds like this org was (badly) attempting to get at.

                4. Scion*

                  @Kathleen_A and JB (not in Houston)

                  I’m not saying that what the interviewer did was illegal. I’m saying that there’s a spectrum of what “X” can be: from good (e.g. supports our nonprofits mission) to neutral (people who like Game of Thrones) to problematic to downright illegal.

                  There are plenty of AAM posts about the problematic category. For example, the Silicon Valley stereotype. A lot of times, these non-blatantly-illegal categories still play into the illegal categories (e.g. hiring 20-something workaholic partiers can exclude over-40s and/or parents; Good Old Boy clubs can use gold/strip clubs to exclude women).

                  BUT, the issue with these types of discrimination isn’t that it might tangentially, down the road lead to a discrimination suit for a protected class. The issue is that it’s discriminatory for a reason that has nothing to do with the actual job.

                  TL;DR – diversity is a good thing and you shouldn’t discriminate against people for non-job-related reasons.

                5. Emily K*

                  And the converse of this is true, too. We have occasionally gotten letters here from people working at religious charities who are themselves not very religious and run into trouble navigating certain workplace expectations or traditions. A faith-based group shouldn’t refuse to hire an atheist, but it’d be reasonable to inform the candidates that they open each day by reading the Lord’s Prayer over the PA and want to make sure anyone they hire is comfortable with that.

                6. Le Sigh*

                  @Scion “diversity is a good thing and you shouldn’t discriminate against people for non-job-related reasons.”

                  I might be misreading your comment, but in this case, it struck me that the issue in the LW’s letter are job-related reasons, no? You need someone who doesn’t just nod along and say they can get along in this office (and many people will) — you need to probe a bit, b/c it sounds like they need people who deeply understand and agree on these core values and mission.

                7. Kathleen_A*

                  Scion, you are of course right that “diversity is a good thing and you shouldn’t discriminate against people for non-job-related reasons.” However, it’s not always easy to tell what is or is not a “job-related reason” – particularly from the outside.

                  The OP seems to be concerned that the information the interviewer was trying to gather through these rather clumsy questions was information that no employer should be interested in. Well, maybe…but maybe not! And I very much doubt that the OP is in a position to know how important political positions X, Y and Z are to the mission of this organization. We for sure aren’t. But the odds are at least decent that what the interviewer was trying to find out was truly important.

                  She needs to find a *much* better way to ask questions about these things, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t things she genuinely needs to find out about potential employees. And I would submit that it’s important information for potential employees, too.

                8. RoadsLady*

                  Emily mailed it.

                  I’m a bit of a Frankenstein’s monster politically, and it’s very evident that while many on the political spectrum will see something as wrong, they will vehemently disagree on how to solve it.

                  Which is why politics will always have a small place in non-profits.

                  From a values/decency perspective, it’s wrong to make political assumptions or broad brushing.

                  From a practical “this is how we intend to solve this issue” it’s good to know someone’s views and make sure they mesh.

                  I worked at a non-profit that did rub elbows with various churches by virtue of its nature. It was reasonable to ask if an employee was at peace with people of spiritual persuasions. The employee can’t say “my philosophy contradicts yours, change the whole system”

                9. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  @EmilyK, unfortunately religious employers are an exception to the traditional laws around hiring. (Although I do realize you may be making a policy argument, not necessarily a legal argument.)

          3. blackcat*

            Yes, definitely this.
            I come from a long line of southern progressives and activists (including some progressive clergy). I was raised in the Bay Area, and people definitely had assumptions about my family’s politics based on where my parents were from.
            My grandparents made tremendous sacrifices for their beliefs (my maternal grandmother WAS SHOT for driving black voters to the polls. My father was frequently beaten up in elementary and middle school because of his parents’ activism), and I get pretty salty when people make inaccurate assumptions about my family’s beliefs.
            Yes, I am descended from slave owners. I am also descended from people who actively worked to grappled with that history and work for social justice.
            Since I’ve always lived in super liberal cities, I’ve frequently encountered the attitude that all people from red states are bigots. I am a flaming leftists, but I actively avoid other lefty people who have that attitude.
            I think OP dodged a bullet based on how this question was asked.

            1. TL -*

              I replied to this earlier, but it got caught by the filter and I think is probably too inviting of a lead-in into a political discussion (sorry, Alison! Please feel free to not let it out!)

              But yeah, I’ve found the same assumptions of my family, regardless of what their political views are and the fact that my family is out there helping our/their community. They do a lot of good things and it frustrates me when people assume they can judge a person in their entirety by where they’re from or their (assumed or not) political leanings.

            2. in a fog*

              A kindred spirit! Another Bay Area native with Southern parentage here, and the ignorance about the South here is comparable to the ignorance I’ve seen there about California. I agree that OP is seeing the true nature of the organization — not because of the question, per se, but in how the question was asked. Don’t make assumptions about someone’s politics (or their family’s) because of where they’re from.

        2. Jasnah*

          I agree. This sounds like code for “Obviously coming from (Red State) your family votes conservative. So are you conservative too or did you come to (Blue State) to get away from them?”

          There are so many assumptions in that question that are inappropriate. I completely understand and agree with wanting to hire someone committed to their values and all that entails, but basically assuming that anyone born in a conservative area is definitely against their mission/values (whereas everyone in liberal areas are the Good Ones) is wrong, IMO. I see this kind of thinking a lot in liberal areas. It sounds like a coded way to ask “do you share my exact worldview?” and other letters we’ve seen that prioritize culture fit to the point of monoculture.

          1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

            And LW’s response may have been the muddy water that made it worse
            i.e. Your family’s politics cover the spectrum, so where do you fall? Are you closer to some family members than others? Even as far as ‘could certain family beliefs cause problems for us?’ (OMG! LW’s cousin posted on Facebook that the royal family are lizard-people-aliens and we can’t have that linking to our organisation!)
            It’s a stupid question, and a stupid way to ask the question and I think LW handled it the best they could – I’m sorry that means it’s unlikely to work out with a job offer in this case.

          2. Pippa*

            The majority view here seems to be that the question was at best, as PCBH put it, ham-handed, and I generally agree. But it might have been a way to get the interviewee talking about their own political beliefs in a thoughtful way (as opposed to just answering a question about their party affiliation, etc.) When asking about someone’s political beliefs, one way to lead into a fuller answer is to ask how they compare their views to those of their communities – people will often talk more fully not just about what they believe, but what it’s grounded in, how passionate or indifferent they are to certain subjects, etc. I’m a political science professor, so this makes a lot more sense in my work than in an average job interview setting, of course, but as Alison pointed out, a social justice oriented workplace might have a strong interest in knowing this sort of thing, too.

            So the question about family might have been (yeah, likely was) based on stereotyping, but there’s a chance it was a real attempt to get a presumably young person to talk about their values and how they were formed.

          3. That Girl From Quinn's House*

            Yes, and it’s also likely to solicit the wrong reaction. The LW, who admits to being somewhat liberal, had a gut instinct to diffuse the situation, ex: let’s not talk about politics because Trouble Lies That Way and I get yelled at for my views, let’s find some happy common ground instead!

            Whereas if they’d asked a policy-minded question, she could have answered honestly, “I believe in X or Y policies.”

            However, I think it’s best she didn’t get the job, because they’d treat her with suspicion and it would take a long time for her to gain everyone’s trust, if it was even possible for her to do so. I’ve been treated with suspicion for Being Not From Here, and it just makes it impossible to work.

          4. Just Visiting*

            I think it would have been funny if she’d said “no,” been hired, and then it turns out that she’s a conservative who broke away from her parents’ progressive worldview. Would have served them right!

            There’s also a sense (both of that interviewer and in this thread) that liberal or conservative beliefs are a package deal which is definitely not true. I know people who are liberal/progressive on everything but abortion, generally conservative but very supportive of gay rights, libertarian but willing to use government intervention to fight climate change. Trying to discern someone’s take on a specific issue by whether they’re on the red team or the blue team is almost as bad an idea as thinking a random woman is pro-choice (men and women have almost identical beliefs about abortion) or that “people of color” are all progressive (there are massive differences between “races” and they sure aren’t all to the left of white people). And there are a WHOLE LOT of us who support every progressive platform you can think of but cannot stand “social justice speak” and believe it hurts the cause.

            1. OfOtherWorlds*

              I agree strongly with everything you said, especially about assuming that political beliefs are a partisan package deal. Of course, some organizations, generally ones engaged directly in politics, will need people who support a particular party and their platform 100%. But the letter writer wasn’t applying for a job at a political campaign. And turning away people who agree with you about your core issue because they don’t agree with you about everything hurts your cause.

        3. Elmer Litzinger, spy*

          I know if this had been me, they’d have gotten one astonished look then a long diatribe about how small-minded are you that you automatically assume anyone from a conservative state is by default conservative. Because seriously. Then I’d stomp out the door because yeah. Not interested in working with people like that.

          1. Pippa*

            Eh, maybe, but they might have envisioned a range of possible answers. “My parents are hippies from way back, and that’s how they raised me/but I’m more [X],” or “my family isn’t political, but I’ve always been passionate about [Y],”or “yeah, we come from an area that has more of a mix of opinion than people think, so I’m used to standing up for important causes like [Z].”

            The assumption you mention would annoy me, too (but not surprise me), but I’d want to be sure that was actually the assumption in play.

            1. Jasnah*

              But that still means they’re asking about your family’s political beliefs, which is absolutely not relevant. If they’re liberal (too) does OP get a “pass” for being “one of the good ones”? Or if they’re conservative (unlike OP) does OP now have to perform some sort of guilt or regret on behalf of their family?

              The question requires so many gymnastics on OP’s part to get back to the topic, which is do OP’s beliefs support the organization’s mission.

          2. Chinookwind*

            As someone who had something similair to me in a coffee room while working as a temp (so backlash would have been impossible), I can tell you that it is quite satisfying to do just that. The look on that guy’s face was priceless!

        4. Artemesia*

          Me too. And too indirect anyway. My family, particularly my extended family, but to some extent my parents, were racists but we come from an area that is considered ‘liberal’. My honest answer that I don’t identify with my family politically would if anything mislead.

        5. Managed Chaos*

          It sounds like the interviewer was prejudiced against people from the area OP is from, to be honest. I wouldn’t want to work at an organization like that (though it is easier to say as I have a job). Even in “red states” there is typically a large portion of the population that does not agree with the majority.

          If they want to get the candidate’s take on certain issues that impact the mission, they should ask outright.

        6. Falling Diphthong*

          My in-laws were quite liberal while living in a rural part of a deep red state. You’d be way off making guesses based on home address. (And I agree with what was said upthread re blue states having plentiful amounts of prejudice–shopping on my visits to the red state in-laws is always far more integrated than in my monochrome corner of a blue state.)

          A state that just recently… elected a Democratic Senator. Apparently there were a bunch of fairly liberal people there! While the country may be divided, geographically everywhere is purple. If the interviewer had some valid political questions to address she chose a terrible way to broach the topic.

        7. I edit everything*

          I’d probably reply with something like, “Oh, do you know my family? I didn’t realize.”

        8. WellRed*

          I thought that was weird too! Since when do interviews ask about family (I realize that’s not what they were actually asking). It’s also presumptuous to assume parents live in the notorious rural state, just because that’s where LW went to school.

        9. Temperance*

          If someone asked me that question, I would not know how to respond because they are very, very different than I am.

        10. Sara*

          Yes. As Alison said, there are more direct and less inappropriate ways to get at the same information. The interviewer didn’t go about it well but the reasoning behind it makes sense for a nonprofit that sounds like it does advocacy around a particular social issue.

        11. Observer*

          I’d be more annoyed that they asked about your family as a way into this

          Exactly. Wanting someone who shares the most important values of the organization? Sure. It’s important. But when you go about it this way, you say more about your own biases than about the opinions of the person you are interviewing.

    2. Maya Elena*

      Those are all strawmen of complex policy questions, and as such aren’t a reasonable reflection of what someone who is “centrist” or “apolitical”, living in a very left-wing city, believes.

      It is good LW learned that they probably aren’t a good fit for thst job; perhaps they both dodged a bullet.

      1. D'Arcy*

        There is no “complex policy question” whatsoever about trans people serving in the military, given that the military itself concluded so before having its conclusion rewritten by a political appointee.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I read Allison’s comment as providing examples of non-partisan, political positions that could be important to a nonprofit dedicated to serving or advocating on behalf of marginalized issues/communities. I don’t think she was suggesting a litmus test question based on those issues. (But perhaps I’m misreading your response?)

      3. Jasnah*

        I think it’s helpful to the OP in the sense that I think OP meant to say “if your office shares X belief that’s fine, I can work with anyone as long as they’re smart and respectful.”
        And what the interviewer heard is, “I don’t mind if people have beliefs that are actively harming the org’s mission, in fact, I might even share them. And argue with coworkers who haven’t thought deeply enough to agree with me.”

        1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

          That was what bothered me about the LW’s answer – wanting coworkers who are open minded and willing to think deeply about their position – made it sound like she wanted to try to change some positions. Or even that she didn’t like it when people take an absolute stand on things. And to people who work in the social justice arena, some things are worth taking an absolute stand on.

          1. EPLawyer*

            I took the exact opposite from it. She wasn’t going to argue politics in the office. Which most places that is EXACTLY the response you want.

            1. Eukomos*

              That’s probably what she meant, but I have almost word for word heard her reply from teenage libertarian boys in the process of picking a political argument with someone who didn’t want to have it. I can see why it may have set off alarm bells.

          2. Joielle*

            Yeah, the response was so wishy washy I’m not at all surprised the OP didn’t move forward in the hiring. When you’re hiring at a mission-driven nonprofit, the most important thing is the mission, and anyone who doesn’t feel passionately about it is not going to be a good fit.

            1. Kathleen_A*

              I agree. I think the interviewer considered the OP’s answer to be evasive – and it kind of was. Mind you, it’s exactly the kind of answer that would be perfect in many workplaces, but in this workplace, that is clearly not the case. Like many nonprofits (including the one I work for), this nonprofit wants people who are either committed to a particular political position or who are reeeeeeally comfortable working with people who are committed. The interviewer’s very clumsy (IMO) questions were attempts to find out if the OP shared that commitment.

              1. Falling Diphthong*

                I think the interviewer’s questions were on a par with talking fumblingly about the St Louis Blues while hoping the person will respond “The chartreuse monkeys fly at midnight!”

                “So…. you’ve been in geographic proximity to regions that are 40% liberal and 60% liberal” does not translate to “Are you comfortable working with a transgender population?” or “Are you familiar with issues around childhood vaccination?”

                1. Kathleen_A*

                  The questions really are pretty bad – or at least they started out that way. They may have gotten better as the interviewer got more direct – this sounds as though it may have been the case.

                  I wonder if there were…not sure how to put this…kind of implied questions in there – you know, code words that people deeply involved in a particular cause recognize but that aren’t always recognized by everybody else? (E.g. “inclusiveness” means wildly different things to different groups, as does “traditional.”) The interviewer may have been using this line of questioning in the hopes that the OP would pick up on the code and respond in kind. Just an idea!

            2. PVR*

              But having lived in both extremely notorious liberal AND conservative areas, I actually did not find this answer wishy washy at all. Identifying strongly as conservative or liberal might give you insight into how a person feels about certain political issues… or it might not. I know plenty of people who think they are republicans for whatever reason, but who feel strongly about social issues that are more typically identified with Democrats.

          3. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

            Yeah, this. I’ve learned to be wary of people who lead into political discussions with emphasized talk about (other people, never themselves) being open-minded and willing to think about their positions. All too often, it’s code for “I am going to make a serious attempt to talk you out of your current stance.”

              1. General Ginger*

                Yep. “I don’t care so much what a person’s beliefs are, as much as I do that they’re open-minded and willing to think deeply about their own positions” is basically the internet libertarian response, in my experience. Combined with not subscribing to either party, this would read to me as “privileged enough to not worry about what they consider just politics”.

          4. Observer*

            Clearly the OP was trying to get away from discussing politics. And was trying to be open minded. But the interviewer was looking for a specific, but unstated, political response. So the OP kind of flailed around trying to get out of it.

            I do think that if the interviewer is typical of the place, the OP dodged a bullet.

        2. EventPlannerGal*

          I agree that that’s how it may have come across.

          I don’t know if that’s exactly how the OP phrased things in the moment, but if so I wonder if it didn’t cone across as a little patronising? Talking about “bright” people who you want to “think deeply” about their beliefs – if I heard that, I’d probably think that well, they’ve probably already thought deeply about them, why would you assume otherwise? and “bright” is the sort of descriptor you use for a clever teenager rather than professional adults that you are asking to work with.

      4. Nephron*

        So you might have faced a person or organization that was stereotyping you based on your background. You might have also run into a miss-handled interview question that your answer then muddied.

        If your job was at all related to advocating for or interacting with funding organizations (government) or the public they might have been trying to work out what you do with a family member that you disagree with. Do you get in a screaming match? Have you avoided Christmas for 5 years? Do you have polite shallow conversation? Or, do you actually work at convincing them of your point? Can you be in the same room as someone who adamantly disagrees with you?

        Your answer then described yourself as a centrist, which often comes across as lacking passion or interest in issues. If you then came across as someone that did not feel strongly about the goals of the nonprofit they might have assumed you were not passionate about the mission and nonprofits hire based on that.

        1. Natalie*

          Indeed, I was asked about my family’s political beliefs while interviewing at my current work place (reproductive health care), because it’s needlessly polarizing, including among families. The question was a fair bit more artful than LW #2’s interviewer sounds like, but it really wasn’t much different than some other issue that might make it hard for people to stay at the job – long commute, weird work hours, etc. Like it or not, some people do get tired of having to defend their workplace at every family gathering, or knowing our resident protestors personally, and it can contribute to turnover.

          1. Natalie*

            Damnit, I forgot my actual point:

            LW, based on what you’ve written, the interview doesn’t seem to have called out your background specifically. This may well be a standard question for them – I grew up in the liberal city where my office is based and went to a radically left college, and I was still asked about it. I understand it surprised you because you thought of the org as actually non partisan rather than just officially so, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the interviewer was stereotyping you personally.

            1. So long and thanks for all the fish*

              Yeah, I think the OP and a lot of commenters are assuming assumptions about the interviewer’s intent that may not actually be there. “Do you agree with your family’s political beliefs?” Might have been their way to try to get into figuring out anything from “have you ever questioned the beliefs you were raised with?” to “how do you handle disagreements with people about deeply held beliefs?” And having the OP hedge on both questions might have made the employer just give up, if she already had an inkling that the OP wouldn’t work out for whatever reason.

              1. Arts Akimbo*

                Your phrasing just clicked that into place for me, that they might have just been asking a straightforward question. That version of events never even occurred to me until just now!

              2. Jasnah*

                Maybe so. I don’t think that’s the case because the follow up question was “What are YOUR political beliefs” not “how do you handle political disagreements”. If that is the case then a better question would be “tell me about a time when…” instead of invasive and roundabout questions.

        2. Scion*

          That’s certain *a* possibility of what the interviewer was trying to ask (in a very roundabout way).

          Even if it was, what’s the point of that question? Why does it matter how they deal with family members who they disagree with politically? Does that affect their ability to do their job? People’s personal life should be just that – personal (with a few, notable, egregious exceptions).

          1. Natalie*

            I mean, I mentioned a couple of examples right above you. At my org, it’s something that’s come up in exit interviews, so it’s relevant to us.

            In other jobs, it might be relevant to ask pointed questions about working very long hours, or working for an irrational, demanding boss, because those are the realities of the position. This really isn’t that different, it’s just that mission-based NFPs have different norms.

            1. Observer*

              If that’s what you are worried about, that’s what you say.

              “We’ve found that (despite appearances to the contrary), the work we do can be extremely polarizing, sometimes to the point that it gets in the way of people’s family life.”

              Make a statement and let people self select out. And don’t make assumptions about their family (either way!)

              1. Natalie*

                That’s frankly ridiculous. If there’s something very difficult but unchangeable about a job, and you know previous employees have struggled with it, you don’t just mention it and hope for the best. If you do that, you’re not doing your due diligence as a hiring manager. Without having an actual, probing conversation about the issues, how do you know that the candidate a) genuinely understood what you were talking about, b) has actually thought deeply about the question rather than just having a kneejerk “I’ll be fine” response, and/or c) has real concerns but won’t opt out for other reasons.

                I don’t believe the interviewer’s question was perfection on the plate. But the line of questioning is not automatically inappropriate just because it’s about family or personal views. If you don’t like it, mission based NFP is not the right field for you.

                1. Observer*

                  No. Because what the interviewer asked tells them nothing about the interviewee. And it is tottaly based on broad brush assumptions that simply are not valid.

                  If you are really worried that people won’t self select out when they should, you can follow up. Again, you need to be explicit and up front about it. But you CANNOT go on fishing expeditions and maintain any credibility whatsoever.

              2. MusicWithRocksInIt*

                You can’t just assume someone will self select out of something – some people just want a job and would be willing to nod along in order to get it. Also – there is a big gap between being willing to tolerate something for a job and being passionate about it. The organization could be looking for someone who is really compassionate and sympathetic to transgender homeless youth, but the job applicant could be more along the lines of ‘eh, fine, whatever, I don’t get why they couldn’t keep it in the closet for a few more years, but I really want a job and I’m not a bigot or anything’. There are all kinds of nuance to these things.

                1. Observer*

                  So? You still need to be up front and explicit about what you are looking for. NOT make stupid and unfair broad brush assumptions that you try to verify with fishing expeditions.

                2. MusicWithRocksInIt*

                  Those are two different things though. Yes – it is wrong to assume things about where someone is from, and that their family is politically lined up with the color of the state. But there is nothing wrong with pushing someone to make a definitive statement about where they stand on the issue that your organization works for. The ‘fishing expedition’ happened because the OP wouldn’t give them a clear answer, which it was fine for them to want. And yea, they were asking in a super awkward way, but there was nothing wrong about doing the asking, only about how they asked. They are allowed to probe around to get really good picture of where someone stands on the thing they are concerned about.

                3. Observer*

                  The fishing expedition started with the question bout their family. That wasn’t a question about whether the OP is aligned with the mission of the organization.

                  Expecting people to read your mind is definitely a bad idea. In this context it’s just wrong.

              3. LITJess*

                I dunno – I do think it’s a mix. Like in the interviews I’ve done, we ask direct questions about people’s customer service beliefs. But before we ask that question, we have multiple situational questions to get a sense of how people would respond in a difficult situation with a patron.
                Sometimes asking directly nets you nothing more than what the interviewee thinks you want to hear rather than what they honestly believe/how they would behave.
                Long way of saying, I think you need to ask both ways. In couched and direct terms and evaluate from there.

                1. Observer*

                  I can see the situation questions. But, again that’s very specific (or should be) and are things that should be asked of everyone. The scenarios you post don’t need to depend on blanket assumptions about the interviewee, much less people you know nothing about (except, in this case where they live).

                  The bottom line is that you need to focus on the issues that are important to you and be direct about it in the sense that there is a clear and direct connection to the question and what you actually need to know, without intervening assumptions.

                  Say you’re worried about scenarios in dealing with patron who need to have the same thing explained to them multiple times. Presumably, you’d ask some questions based on a scenario – to ALL candidates. You would also hopefully not make assumptions about their attitude (or experience) based on who their parents are or their age vs their parents age. And you also wouldn’t ask vague questions about how they agree with their parents as way to suss out their attitude.

          2. Rainy*

            My husband has interviewed a couple of times with a company that produces adult entertainment material (he’s a video editor and we live in a place without a lot of film industry), and they always ask “How does your family feel about porn, will your wife care that you edit porn for a living, are you going to tell your mother what your job is if we hire you”. They ask those questions because the turnover in adult entertainment production is super high, mainly due to interpersonal issues with family or friends who strongly object to the industry.

            1. PVR*

              But these are specific relevant examples. It does not appear that anything specific was asked of OP. And for all the interviewer knows, despite the fact that OP’s family lives in a conservative area, they may well be very liberal.

            2. Observer*

              No one seems to be assuming what your reaction will be. They know that this can be an issue, but instead of assuming “Oh, spouse is X >insert gender, state of origin, ethnicity or any other identifierinsert gender, state of origin, ethnicity or any other identifier< so they will probably not care" they just bring up the specific issue and ask about it.

              1. Rainy*

                Sure, but the comment I was responding to asserted that the attitudes of friends and family about your work are immaterial and shouldn’t be asked about or considered, and I was pointing out that it’s often the case that attitudes of family and friends about your work will contribute to turnover or your attitude toward your work over time, and if that’s the case–as with many, many jobs beyond adult entertainment and including the types of work that many non-profits engage in–it’s definitely a thing that interviewers should ask about and hiring managers should care about.

        3. Name Required*

          Who cares how I deal with a family member I disagree with? The way I interact with my family is very different than how I interact with my coworkers or the public.

          1. Grapey*

            To someone that works at, say, an anti-racist organization, you don’t think it’s better to hear a white candidate say something like “I confront my family members about race” instead of being the more common kind of person that just avoids their racist uncles at thanksgiving and passive aggressively rants about them online?

            Your family is “the public” to other people that might belong to a population in need. I think it’s an NPO’s prerogative to want people that admit they do the difficult work of trying to educate their family and friends about relevant issues.

            1. Name Required*

              If a person is a new grad and living at home, do you expect them to take the hard stance even if it means being thrown into the streets? Non-profits aren’t known for their amazing salaries. If a person’s grandparent is suffering through end-stage Alzheimer’s and chooses not to confront grandma when she says something racist, do you not hire them even if they have publicly protested, donated to organizations that support the mission, and confront others in their lives? If non-profits are only hiring perfect people who perform their advocacy perfectly, it seems like they won’t be able to hire anyone.

              1. seller of teapots*

                Name Required, no one is asking for recent grads to be kicked out or get into fistacuffs with a grandma with dementia. That’s a big leap to make from what Grapey is talking about.

            2. Jasnah*

              Oof. I would really question the priorities of an interviewer or organization that interpreted “I choose not to fight my troll uncle and instead devote my energy to worthy causes where I can make a difference” as “I don’t know how to educate the public about issues concerning our mission”.

    3. Hey Karma, Over Her*

      Yes. OP, it isn’t that your interview was bad, that you didn’t answer everything correctly or present yourself well. Your interview was fine. They are looking for someone else. They do think political discussion is appropriate in the office, and passionate debates are acceptable. Honestly, bullet dodged.

    4. Jennifer*

      “I just don’t care much either way” is a stance, whether the OP realizes it or not, and an answer like that seems dismissive to people who deal with those issues.

      1. PVR*

        But the interviewer did not ask about a stance on an issue. They asked which political party OP identifies with, which is a very different question.

        1. Jennifer*

          Which is tied to how she feels about the non-profit’s mission, at least in the interviewer’s mind. Saying I don’t care much either way could be perceived as dismissive of their mission. I agree with Alison that the question was poorly phrased, but I also see why the interviewer didn’t like the OP’s answer.

        2. Natalie*

          “She then asked me directly what my political beliefs were”. That’s not asking about party affiliation.

      2. Princess prissypants*

        Yep, this.

        I used to work at a place with a mission to help solve a specific scientific problem that has somehow become a major political dividing point. Anyone who would say something like, “I don’t believe in global warming” would immediately be shown the door. Anyone who answered a mission-focused or even political-focused question on the topic, such as “What do you think of our mission to solve X?” with an a non-committal or dismissive answer – which is exactly what the OP did (from the interviewer’s perspective) – would absolutely not get a job offer.

    5. BananaPants*

      I have to wonder if the OP’s university was of more concern to the interviewer than simply being from a predominantly conservative state. Say the candidate is from South Carolina and went to school in-state – having gone to Clemson doesn’t automatically imply that she/her family are very politically conservative, whereas if she went to Bob Jones University it’s a pretty safe assumption to make.

      If someone attended a school like Oral Roberts, Ave Maria, Pensacola Christian College, even Liberty or BYU, it’s highly likely that their family of origin is politically conservative. That’s not to say that graduates of those schools can’t later shift to a more centrist or liberal viewpoint, but having chosen to go to such an institution in the first place can be a red flag for beliefs that may be out-of-step with the mission of more liberal-leaning or social justice oriented organizations.

      The way the question was asked was ham-handed and awkward, but it’s not unreasonable to want to see if the candidate’s values align with that of the organization.

      1. OfOtherWorlds*

        In that case it would be better to ask the candidate if they agreed with their alma mater. Of course, people blurt out awkward questions all the time, especially when they’re trying to to think and talk at the same time.

      2. Jasnah*

        I would still hope they asked the individual about their personal beliefs in relation to the mission, instead of “do you agree with your university.” That sounds like you could accidentally end up discriminating against people based on religion.

      3. Not One of the Bronte Sisters*

        But I think that was the problem! It’s completely appropriate for a mission-based organization to try to suss out whether applicants are enthusiastically supportive of its mission. But this interviewer phrased the questions really poorly and, in my opinion, did not actually ask what the organization really wanted to know! Or really needed to know. Do you agree with your family? WTAF??? Who cares?? Ask about the applicant’s views on your mission. Ask about the applicant’s ideas on how that mission can be accomplished. Oh, and what are your political beliefs? Wow, was that one open-ended! I could speak for 17 hours straight on that one. I think OP2 thinks she handled the questioning poorly when the reality was that the questioning itself was done extremely poorly.

    6. sfigato*

      Yeah, it’s hard to be neutral when you have an administration that is actively wreaking havoc. This is sort of a “what side are you on” moment in history, and there isn’t a lot of space for or value in fence-sitting.
      I work in advocacy, and the last three years have made it very difficult to be nonpartisan in many areas – immigration, the environment, health care, civil rights, etc. Even though conservative leaning people might be sympathetic to some or all of these issues in their own way, they’ve become default progressive issues because the current administration is so strongly opposed to them.

  4. Shax*

    #5 Sometimes I eat lunch in my car when I need peace and quiet. It stops people swinging by the break room and asking me a “quick” work question when I’m trying to have my break. Is that an option for you?

    1. Bunny Girl*

      I wonder if OP has a park or something near by for when the weather is nice. That’s what I do. If the weather isn’t nice, I have to literally go into the basement of our building for people not to bother me.

  5. nnn*

    #5: Do you have any flexibility about *when* you take your lunch? Maybe you could take it before or after everyone else, at a time when the break room happens to be empty.

    If this arrangement could work for you and you need to make the case to your manager for moving your lunch break, a useful argument might be that it’s particularly important to have a receptionist on duty while others are taking their lunch break, so there’s someone around to help people trying to find or reach someone who’s out on break.

    1. Slartibartfast*

      If they’re reception and the office closes/turns the phone off for lunch, probably not.

      1. Genny*

        They can change when they turn the phones off though and, unless her office handles incredibly time sensitive issues, shifting her lunch break by 30ish minutes likely isn’t going to cause massive disruptions. As long as her requested lunch break is within normal lunch hours (e.g. 11-2), it theoretically shouldn’t be a problem to shift her lunch break. It’s worth at least asking.

        1. Observer*

          Not really.

          If the place actually turns the phone off when the receptionist is taking lunch, then they are almost certainly going to want them to take lunch at the same time that most other people are also taking their lunch. The makes it less disruptive to the company to turn the phone off.

          1. Genny*

            LW knows her place of business best. We can come up with all the hypotheticals in the world about why she may not be able to change her lunch time. The point is, as far as we know, it’s a valid option and one that presents minimal risk to her to inquire about. No need to shoot that option down before she’s even asked.

            1. Observer*

              Well, actually it might look quite bad for the OP to inquire, because it could make them look really bad.

              Of course, they know their workplace and we don’t so they are going to have to make that call. I’m just making the point *in general* that it’s not the slam dunk that it can seem from the outside.

    2. Bree*

      This is a good idea!

      LW, I also wondered if maybe – space allowing – you could suggest your work consider installing an outdoor bench or two? Seems like a low-cost change many people might appreciate.

    3. Hey Karma, Over Here*

      Is there anyway to schedule a conference room? I do that when I want to read or work on something personal. Maybe not every day, but twice a week or so.
      PS: that sucks your trapped there.

    4. OP5*

      I’m afraid I don’t. Since I’m the receptionist, I have to take lunch at a specific time so that others can cover the phones when they can.

      1. Mr. Shark*

        Right. I think it might make sense that the other person covering your phone could be going to lunch with everyone else, and then you time shift your lunch to after that person returns. Since it’s just 30 minutes, it’s not that bad of a shift for either of you.

        The other options is to see if you can find a different space (someone’s office that won’t mind, or a conference room, or some separate space outside the office). Otherwise, the headphones seem like the only real option.

        1. Selena*

          I think an honest approach is needed. I would be open with staff and briefly explain that I need lunch time to relax and not talk. When they interrupt during lunch, I would lightly say, ”Remember this is my quiet time,” and continue to read. I would also wear headphones during this time to have that physical barricade. If this fails after a few tries then I would find a quiet space in the building, whether it’s sitting on stairs, in an unused doorway, across the road – anywhere small and private. Good luck.

  6. Bibliovore*

    Reliability. This is where references come in. Reliability is demonstrated by being at work on time. Following through and completing tasks in a timely manner. Being dependable in returning phone calls and emails. You can ask your references to give examples of your reliability when contacted.

  7. HannahS*

    OP 2, I do think it’s very odd that the interviewer asked you if you agreed with your family’s politics. It seems like a strange way of trying to get at what Alison is describing. I think it’s possible that she looked at where you’re from and was basically trying to suss out whether you’ve changed from a small-town conservative into a big-city liberal, especially because she asked about your family and your political views. I’m not American, so I miss a lot of your political landscape, but I’ve seen litmus tests applied to people in Canada sometimes, from every side (like, not trusting someone from a certain demographic until they say whatever key words signal that they’re One of the Good Ones).

    That said, both of the examples of non-profit work you gave are actually very political, because both require interacting with the bodies that govern those areas. This is basically what “politics” means; just anything to do with governance. So the office is going to be political in the sense that people think and talk a lot about governance and how different governments are going to interact with that non-profit’s mission, and how best to achieve the mission’s goals. It leans towards partisan politics because some leaders and parties are going to support your cause more than others, but it doesn’t centre around peoples’ personal beliefs–it’s still centred around the mission, or at least, it should be.

    As a suggestion, when I’m asked about my political views, I actually list my values, instead. As in, “I believe that everyone is entitled to blah blah blah” and that seems to go over reasonably well. The things I list are things that a government would be involved with, like social welfare, education, and healthcare, but I don’t say which party I voted for.

    1. Sylvan*

      Agreed, and I’ve gotten the same “test” in my corner of the US, for whatever it’s worth.

      I’m from a famously homophobic place. I’m not a homophobe (I’m the homophobes’ target). This is awkward as hell.

      1. WS*

        Same here in Australia – I’m from a poor, rural area and currently live in a slightly less poor but more rural area, so obviously my opinions line up with whatever the speaker thinks of those places.

        1. valentine*

          If the job were advocacy for the homeless, should OP2 have specified, “I believe we should give homeless people the empty houses that are sitting around and orgs that force people to pay for food or shelter by swearing they aren’t trans and submitting to a sermon are committing a violent human rights violation”? The org could be conservative and expecting to hear about OP’s eternal loyalty to their parents’ worldview and how the mission aligns with their walk with Christ.

          Especially if they don’t know which way the office leans, what would have been a good way for OP2 to answer?

          1. Bree*

            Honestly, about their honest beliefs, particularly as related to the organization’s work.

            An interview is about determining fit, on both sides, not playing a game to see if you can tell the hiring manager what they want to hear. If you give the “wrong” answer, that’s a good thing in the long run.

          2. Joielle*

            If they haven’t done enough research to know which way the office leans, they shouldn’t be interviewing! 30 seconds on a nonprofit’s website will tell you that.

            1. mark132*

              From the original post it sounds like she did do some research, and it sounds like the public persona of the group may not match the private.

              1. Natalie*

                It actually sounds like the LW assumed that because the organization is legally non-partisan – not officially lobbying for partisan positions because the tax code doesn’t allow them to – that necessarily meant they were non-political or centrist. It isn’t the same thing at all.

                1. fhqwhgads*

                  Or possibly she assumed because legally the org is non-partisan that it would be a positive for her to appear to be, or talk about how she can be/is as well.
                  She got asked a vague question and gave a vague answer, either thinking it was the “right” answer or because that was her genuine take. Turned out, that wasn’t what the org was after.

                2. mark132*

                  You could be right as well, I read they were more a single issue group. And based on the examples she gave, I would also have assumed them to not have a political litmus test.

          3. General Ginger*

            But they ought to know the way the office leans from the advocacy work they do.

    2. Elspeth Mcgillicuddy*

      Yeah on the weird phrasing. What if the OP answered that they totally had the same political beliefs as their family, and didn’t think mention that their parents were taken to the King marches as small children by their grandparents? Or conversely that they don’t follow their family’s political beliefs, and neglect to mention that it’s because they find those political beliefs embarrassingly SJW? It’s the wrong question to ask.

      It also betrays a most unbecoming assumption that people in rural states are a monolith that can be judged en masse.

      1. Mystery Bookworm*

        “It also betrays a most unbecoming assumption that people in rural states are a monolith that can be judged en masse.”

        Yes – exactly. I was taken aback by the phrasing. Based on my reading it seems quite rude.

        1. TL -*

          I said this upthread, but it happens all the time to me in the Northeast/internationally.

      2. Mookie*

        This is a universal phenomenon all parties across all nations milk and in no way unique to rural Americans.

        1. Chinookwind*

          Yup. Ran across it in central Canada all the time. What was very surprising was the number of people who wouldn’t believe me when my experiences and words did not match their stereotypes.

      3. Name Required*

        And did OP get asked this question because of their race and the area they are from? I have a hard time imagining an interviewer asking a black person from the South if their beliefs “align with their family’s.”

          1. Name Required*

            It’s to illustrate how “not okay” this situation is when it makes less sense to apply the same question to people of different races, sexes, or religions. Especially if a hiring decision is made based on how you answer the question.

            1. neeko*

              But you are basing this on a wild assumption. You don’t know the race of the op nor do you know what questions the interviewer asked people of different backgrounds.

    3. Mystery Bookworm*

      I agree with this. The interviewer was thoughtless and, I think, a little rude in her questionining tact.

      It’s fair for the interviewer to raise the question of politics and indicate that their workplace is a politically-minded one. However, if I’m reading the question correctly, the interviewer broached the subject by asking if you agree with your family which seems strange, unless she happens to personally know your family. I can’t think of how this doesn’t carry assumptions about your family’s personal beliefs based on their location.

      This method of broaching the topic seems inappropriate for an interview. (Or, well, life? If you want to ask someone’s political beliefs, ask their political beliefs, there’s really no need to frame the question around an assumption about their family.)

      1. Smithy*

        Having worked and interviewed with nonprofits my entire career, while the questions could have been asked differently – they may also not come from such an off basis.

        I worked for a nonprofit abroad where the work being done did mean a degree of social alienation from large sections of the community (a proverbial only abortion clinic in a state). Knowing how someone would deal with that kind of community alienation was helpful – not just for the organization but also to let candidates know “this can be really stressful – so you have a community that can support you if more traditional options are taken away?”

        On the flip side of this, I once interviewed with a bipartisan organization and in my final interview with the CEO – he told me that he suspected I was more partisan than I was presenting myself and to go home and really consider if I’d work well in a bipartisan environment. He was right and my “I really want a new job” mode had allowed myself to go further than made sense.

        The questions asked in that way may not have been best – but the OP’s general and less personal responses on politics were likely the greater concern for the organization. And to be frank, the organization believing that they were helping the OP as much as themselves.

        1. Mystery Bookworm*

          I’m not sure you’re really arguing against my point. I think it’s absolutely valid for the interview to probe into someone’s political views, if that’s relevant to the culture.

          However, the interviewer’s approach sounds like it was grounded in assumptions and bias and that reflects poorly on her and her interviewing skills. Especially when it comes to topics like politics, and especially if they’re important to the organization, it’s best to be direct and ask what you want to know.

          That doesn’t necessarily mean OP was right for the job – sounds like she wasn’t! But based on the letter, I feel comfortable saying the interviewer was rude.

          1. Smithy*

            I think that Washi better expressed my point. If the interviewer felt that the OP was being cagey, then other questions were tried to get a more genuine answer.

            I’ve been interviewing where I’ve heard candidates raise fit questions around their politics/social justice perspectives. And to be frank, there isn’t great HR guidance around how to push when you hear one of those orange flags.

            While the questions about where the OP is from and family didn’t work – and I don’t think I’d recommend going that way – the OP’s evasiveness on politics would be a red flag for me.

            1. Natalie*

              Yeah, it’s generally awkward af. My husband works in affordable housing, specifically with a lot of tenant contact, and has answered a lot of ham-fisted questions that basically boil down to “are you racist?” and “okay, great, now how much awareness do you have around implicit racism, institutional racism, and your own biases?”

              People are uncomfortable talking about these topics. They’re uncomfortable probing a relative stranger about their beliefs. But like it or not it can be extremely relevant to the work, and ignoring it or assuming “can’t we all just get along?” type platitudes are the ideal would be antithetical to the mission.

              1. pleaset*

                ‘assuming “can’t we all just get along?” type platitudes are the ideal would be antithetical to the mission.’


              2. Turquoisecow*

                Not to pile on here, but yes. The organization is doing political work, even if the OP thinks it’s not, and the company wants people who are aligned with their values and willing to put in hard work for their mission. If OP doesn’t align, STRONGLY, with the mission, they might not be the best candidate.

                “I just want everyone to get along,” type comments like she gave are fine when asked by 99% of people about politics, especially if you don’t want to get into a discussion or argument. But it sounds like this job is going to be all about discussing politics, so that answer doesn’t really imply the passion they want.

              3. Jasnah*

                Agreed, that’s where I think OP failed the test set by the interviewer. In a way it’s a good learning experience so OP can get used to these kinds of questions and learn to give answers that code appropriately.

            2. Mystery Bookworm*

              Oh, ok. I do see what you’re saying. Yes, I agree with you on OP’s evasiveness. Definitely a red flag for this kind of work and a legitimate reason to not move forward.

              My only objection is the ‘family values’ phrasing.

          2. PVR*

            I disagree that politics should come into play with culture fit—I say this as a liberal who moved to a notoriously conservative area and just needed a job! I would not have been able to work if that was an accepted practice because I guarantee you there was not one single company that leaned left in that area. Did politics come up sometimes? Yup. Was I one of 3 people out of a hundred or so that shared my beliefs? Yup. Was it uncomfortable for me at times? Sure. Did it affect my job or my relationships with coworkers-nope, absolutely not. Now, in the case of LW2 politics may be relevant, specifically in regards to the mission of this particular non profit, but I am very uncomfortable with the assertion I have seen that it should be ok to screen people out politically in general.

            1. Le Sigh*

              Yeah, but your example doesn’t really line up with the OP’s situation. In the vast majority of jobs, politics doesn’t need to come into play at all. I’m a lefty who’s lived and worked in a number of conservative places and I too just needed a job.

              But a mission-based nonprofit job is a different kettle of fish. Advocating for better housing policy or prison reform or reproductive rights isn’t necessarily specific to one party, but it is political advocacy work. This work is often political in nature (while also non-partisan, which is a separate, tax-related thing). And it’s often hard, draining work. So you need people who care about the work and who’s core values align with your mission — because that is literally the work you’re asking people to advocate and work for each day.

              I’m not sure the interviewer handled it well or didn’t — I’m having a hard time telling from the letter. Often people just nod along in interviews when asked if they support this stuff–maybe the interviewer was trying to probe deeper, I dunno. But the answers to this stuff do matter here.

              1. neeko*

                Exactly. I suspect that there is some nuanced intersectionality of issues that probably are coming to play in the culture of this organization.

            2. MusicWithRocksInIt*

              I haven’t really seen anyone in this thread argue that it’s ok to screen people out politically for everyday jobs – just that in this exact case they have good reason to. At most people are saying you need to support the mission of the company – for example you could be screened out of working for a bread company if you think gluten is the reason everyone is fat, or you would be screened out of working for a clean energy firm if you don’t believe in climate change. No one is saying you just need to agree with all your coworkers on anything unrelated to the purpose of the company – but they are looking for people that are passionate about what they are selling. Like that person with the Lego interview where they made them build something – they want people who had passion for Legos.

            3. General Ginger*

              In the vast majority of jobs, you’d be correct. But if you’re, say, completely against the preservation of the blue-nosed llama, I think the non-profit org for the rescue and preservation of blue-nosed llamas where you’re applying to work would find it very relevant — and I would imagine you’d probably not apply there as your first choice.

      2. Washi*

        My guess based on the letter is that perhaps the OP was being a little cagey about her political views (which in a non-advocacy position would be perfectly appropriate!) and the interviewer chose a poor way to try to gauge what she actually believes.

        I sort of understand where the interviewer is coming from in the sense that it can be hard to figure out how to get someone to depart from interview conventions and talk with some passion about their beliefs. When I was hiring for a volunteer coordinator, we needed to find someone who, if they heard a volunteer talking about a client’s “sketchy neighborhood” or something could a) identify what is not ok about that and b) explain to the volunteer why it is not ok.

        So in the interviews, we were always trying to figure out how to get at someone’s beliefs and comfort talking about race and poverty without getting generic “diversity is great and everyone is equal” answers that told us nothing. We ended up going with more role-playing type questions, but it was hard!

        1. Mystery Bookworm*

          I think role-playing seems like a thoughtful approach!

          But I’m also not sure why this couldn’t be broached directly? I’ve volunteered at nonprofits where the sort of scenario you’re describing was brought up and discussed frankly in screening and training.

          I guess I’m confused, because it seems like seeing if someone is comfortable responding frankly and clearly to questions on sensitive issues would be a great way to screen candidates.

          1. pleaset*


            Imagine the comments on AAM about that. Get out the popcorn. That would be wild.

            1. K*

              Eh, I’ve done a bunch of interviews lately for nonprofit positions providing services to at-risk clients and a lot of them have involved components that could probably be described as “role-playing”? It’s not (necessarily) that out-there.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Yeah, role-playing can be fine in an interview — it’s a way to simulate the work and see the candidate actually in action (well, close to it). You wouldn’t do it for every position, but for something like dealing with a client with trait X, it can work well.

                1. pleaset*

                  I’m not judging it’s effectiveness. I’m commenting on the community here’s likely reaction.

          2. LITJess*

            Okay, in experience it’s like this:
            I ask in an interview “what do you believe makes for great customer service?”
            Responses: “Listening to people, patience, taking an interest in others, etc.”

            I ask in the same interview “a patron has shown up at closing with fines on his account, a damaged book to return, two books on reserve ready to pick up, and you’ve just shut down the computers and cash register. How do you assist this person.”
            Some people respond by asking me about our specific procedures/how much leeway do they have/suggesting possible ways they can get this patron at least some of his materials that night.
            However, in every round of interviewing I’ve done at least one person who professes up and down to loving helping people and being friendly will say, “well the library is closed, so I’ll tell them to leave and come back tomorrow.”

            As I’ve said before, sometimes asking people directly “what’s good customer service?” or “how do you feel about homeless people?” will only get you the answer the interviewee thinks you want to hear. Situational or round-about questions aren’t perfect, and just like OP’s interviewer did, they just help fill in a little bit more about this stranger that you have 45min-1hour to evaluate.

            It’s hard to know how the question was asked and I do think OP gave her best possible response. It just wasn’t the right fit for this org. And that’s okay on both sides.

            1. Former Employee*

              I would definitely ask what am I allowed to do/how much leeway would I be given to help the person in this situation. Am I permitted to re-open after shutdown? If not, is there a manual alternative when this occurs?

              As an interviewee, I wouldn’t know what I could do to help the person, but would be very interested in finding out what my options would be if I were the one to get the job.

        2. Sara without an H*

          Yes, I think I can see what the interviewer was trying to do — legitimately — but the way she did it strongly implied some regional or rural vs. urban bias. It was not well handled, and I can understand why the OP was spooked by it. I’m from the Upper Midwest in the United States, and I’ve been on the receiving end of this kind of regional bias while living in other parts of the country, mostly from people who were proud of their “progressive” views.

          It might have gone better had she said something like: ” While we don’t officially endorse any political party — our non-profit status precludes that — Issue X and Issue Y are integral to our overall mission. Most of our staff trend left [right/libertarian], and I know that many of them participate in groups dedicated to these issues on their own time. Anyone wanting to be successful in this role would have to be able to work comfortably in this culture.”

          Or words to that effect.

          1. Washi*

            Yes, it certainly implied bias! I think we’re all in agreement on that.

            That said, I found that a paragraph like your example tends to result in head-nodding and “yes that is fine” because understandably, people want to do well in the interview and not immediately take themselves out of the running. Like Natalie said above, the kind of questions that will get at the answers you want is awkward af, and often you have to ask uncomfortable/pointed questions rather than stating what you’re looking for and asking if the candidate can do that. (But again, no need to bring the family/home state into it! That was a no good, very bad idea.)

            1. Sara without an H*

              Washi, you said your organization went with some role-playing questions. Can you share a little more about that? I agree with you that it’s hard to get people to be candid about this kind of stuff. I’d be curious to hear how you went about it.

            2. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Yes — the deal is that the org may not want people who are just willing to work in that culture; they may want people who will be extremely fluent in that culture and committed to specific values.

          2. CheeryO*

            That’s really leading, though. Anyone who wants the job is going to say, “Of course, that’s no problem.” I can see where the interviewer’s wording could have been better, but it’s fair to try to something from the candidate in their own words.

    4. Connie*

      The OP realizes the example she gave our political. Her point was that they are non-partisan.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Keep in mind, though, that non-partisan for nonprofits mainly means “we don’t electioneer for specific candidates.” It doesn’t mean not taking a position on issues.

    5. Kimmybear*

      I’ve spent years working in and with non-profits and associations and took the interviewers question to be more about the cultural fit of the organization rather than the actual work. I’ve never worked for a political organization and even those with lobbying arms have been pretty politically neutral by lobbyist standards but the staff culture has varied from never discussing politics to environments of constant commentary on the sitting president of the time. If the LW leans one way or another, will they feel comfortable in an office where that side is constantly commented on.

      1. Emi.*

        Or, if you don’t lean strongly, will you feel comfortable in an environment where you’re expected to agree with the commentary?

      2. BenAdminGeek*

        That’s how I took it as well- less “are you committed to our mission” and more “we talk about lots of political topics outside of our mission as part of our culture” and the OP didn’t fit that mold. I’ve only worked in a non-profit for a summer job, but I assume there are non-profits where constant commentary about a wide range of political issues is OK, and some where it would be frowned on. It sounds like the OP dodged a bullet.

    6. Genny*

      When I hear people say their non-profit isn’t political, I typically think they mean it has a localized mission and isn’t one of the non-profits that works on big, national, divisive issues (e.g. abortion, immigration, healthcare, etc.). They might lobby local government for reform in areas related to their mission, but their mission tends not to be something that immediately indicates one party over the other.

      For example, someone could be very conservative and think student loan reform is necessary because high levels of debt affects demand and could cause market contractions. Someone could be very liberal and think student loan reform is necessary because of the burden high levels of debt place on vulnerable populations. In that scenario, it doesn’t matter what your other political beliefs are, just that you agree with the non-profit’s mission. With some of the more prominent and divisive issues, it’s probably going to matter a lot more that you’re all-in on the broad spectrum of political issues indicated by the non-profit’s mission.

      Personally, I think LW dodged a bullet here. It sounds like this non-profit has a bit of a hive mind thing going on.

      1. Natalie*

        You might be making some faulty assumptions there, though – whether or not a non-profit can be partisan (lobby for specific positions, or electioneer for specific candidates) depends on how they’re legally organized, not whether they’re national or local or controversial or not. The American Heart Association, the Red Cross, your local Planned Parenthood, and your local homeless shelter are all 501c3s, so they can do the same minimal percentage of issue-based lobbying and zero electioneering.

        1. Genny*

          I wasn’t talking about legal/tax status. I was talking about common vernacular. Planned Parenthood is technically non-partisan, but if you asked people which side of the aisle they fall on, no one would say “they’re non-partisan” because they’re so heavily associated with a very political movement (whether they want to be or not). The NRA is also technically non-partisan, but very much associated with a particular political group.

          In LW’s case, it doesn’t sound like they were talking about that type of org. It sounds like a much more localized, single-issue type org that you might expect to find a bit more political diversity in because people from across the political spectrum care about keeping the Chesapeake Bay clean. I would expect a Planned Parenthood-type org to screen heavily for political/cultural fit. I wouldn’t necessarily expect that from the local non-profit working to keep the Chesapeake Bay clean. That’s why I think LW dodged a bullet. From their description, it sounds like the type of place that is screening for a particular political viewpoint when that isn’t necessary for the type of work they do.

          1. Natalie*

            My apologies, I didn’t explain myself terribly well. It’s a faulty assumption to assume that a small, local org that’s organized as a non-partisan org is non-political. The Planned Parenthood affiliate and the homeless shelter are probably (in my experience at least) far more explicitly political than a national, corporatized NFP, and would more aggressively screen for political/cultural fit. It may not be as obvious from the outside, but a lot of grassroots or local level non profit work is terrifically political.

            1. Genny*

              That makes sense. I just get weird political purity test vibes from the LW’s description (like you’re either all in on our mission plus these additional viewpoints or else there’s no room for you here even if you agree with our mission), but maybe that’s more common than I originally thought.

              1. General Ginger*

                If you’re hiring people to, for example, work with a vulnerable population, would you want to take the chance on the candidates who say “eh, I guess vulnerable population is OK, I don’t really give it much thought”, or would you prefer candidates who clearly say “protecting the rights of vulnerable population is super important to me”?

      2. That Girl From Quinn's House*

        I worked for three local branches of a federated nonprofit that works, primarily, towards providing scholarships for health and childcare for low-income persons, mainly senior citizens and families with children. You have to be fairly liberal to work there to administer the mission, and have empathy and understanding towards the factors that result in people becoming low income.

        Our national org’s CEO wrote a seven-page long white paper to the Department of Labor under the Obama Administration, opposing the raise of the minimum exempt salary. Because we can give scholarships and assistance to low-income or vulnerable persons, but apparently, when we hire staff persons from within the community we cannot pay them a living wage.

        The hypocrisy was appalling, but I imagine many places operate under such contradictions.

        1. TL -*

          You do not have to be fairly liberal to understand the factors that result in people becoming low income. You have to be empathetic and willing to listen/learn but that is not synonyms with being fairly liberal or even kinda liberal.
          Plenty of non-liberals can and do understand things like generational poverty, bad schools, medical debt, financial literacy coming from family, ect…. They may (or may not) have different ideas on how to address these issues than the fairly liberal but they are empathetic people.

          1. Chinookwind*

            What she said. Conservative does not equal hard hearted, tight fisted, laissez-faire attitude towards people. It means they have a different idea on how to best help people succeed.

  8. Ella*

    #2, There’s also a difference between non-partisan and non-political. Many non-profits are non-partisan, but I’d venture few if any are completely non-political. Your interviewer sounds like they were a bit ham fisted about their questions, but it’s almost always in a non-profit’s best interest to make sure the people they hire share their core beliefs and values. An environmental organizations might be non-partisan, but they still have a vested interest in hiring employees who believe in climate change. Or a social service organization that works with vulnerable populations may not endorse one specific political party, but would need to make sure the people they hire are sensitive to racial justice issues (or, on a more practical and urgent level, aren’t going to call immigration on any undocumented people who use the organization’s services.)

    Treating all people with respect is a great ideal, but what it means in practice can vary widely by person and political persuasion, and it could be disastrous for an organization to hire someone who has a fundamentally different interpretation of it.

    1. LilyP*

      I think this really describes what feels off about that question. Asking about specific political issues that are (maybe tangentially) related to their mission and expecting you to be aligned on those issues is reasonable, but asking about your party affiliation feels more out-of-bounds to me. It’s not totally clear which question she was actually trying to get at, but it sounds like the LW reasonably interpreted it as the latter.

    2. Smithy*

      I just reread the letter, and one thing that stands out now is where the OP mentions that at the end of the interview the conversation started on politics and the OP tried to change the conversation.

      The awkwardness of the final questions aside – I do think that being mindful of there being more politics in lots of nonprofits means that avoiding those questions in an interview will open the door for more awkward follow up questions.

      The OP’s interviewer may not get gold stars for the follow up questions – but it may also be for the OP, avoiding politics in nonprofit interviews rarely reads well. And can often lead to strange follow up.

    3. Jadelyn*

      “Or a social service organization that works with vulnerable populations may not endorse one specific political party, but would need to make sure the people they hire are sensitive to racial justice issues (or, on a more practical and urgent level, aren’t going to call immigration on any undocumented people who use the organization’s services.)”

      This. My org is a financial services and community development nonprofit, which on the surface is not super political – except that the bulk of the communities we work with are immigrant communities, and we do offer our services to undocumented immigrants. So we aren’t going to hire someone who worked at ICE, for example. And I think that’s very reasonable for an organization with an explicit mission, which it sounds like the org OP was interviewing at was.

  9. Oh so anon*

    Dang, OP1, are you me? I’m now reporting to someone who…used to report to me, a few years ago. I’m not happy about it.

    Your boss explained it professionally, but your boss and mine both left out an elephant in the room, which was “and I didn’t consider you for the same position because…” I do believe my (now former, now two levels up from me) boss does value my contributions and was feeling overwhelmed so needed to have fewer direct reports, but he clearly thought this other person was more qualified than I am for the management role. Why? I don’t know; he never explained that to me, and I didn’t exactly feel like I could ask.

    I did confront my boss at the time saying that I wanted to know, given that there aren’t a lot of job openings at that level, what my timeline could look like for getting that promotion myself. He didn’t have much of an answer. So I have been, although not actively job hunting, answering contacts that come my way about higher level jobs at other places.

    The missing piece for you is: how good is your new manager going to be at managing, given that it’s a new role to them? Only time will tell.

    I totally get why you’re feeling out of sorts. I’m there too. In your shoes, I might not job hunt immediately, but do start polishing your resume so you’re ready to hunt if the situation becomes unpalatable quickly.

    1. Green great dragon*

      I have a little bet with myself about which of the people I’ve managed will be the first to be promoted above me. I guess it would be a bit odd to report to theem but it might well happen (I’ve had a ‘dotted line’ manager who was once our team’s shiny new graduate trainee.)

      It’s not a reflection on me and hopefully I benefit from having a good past relationship, albeit the other way round. If we had a bad relationship, I guess that would be a reason to move on.

    2. groovebat*

      This happened to me too. Twice.

      The first time was years ago, and I 100% supported the move because it was clear my peer was head and shoulders the most qualified for the leadership role. I didn’t blink because I knew I would learn a lot from him and I did.

      The second time was more recent, and I had a very different reaction. Primarily because I didn’t feel my peer was more qualified, I had in fact helped train him, and I knew I would end up having to prop him up and be frustrated and angry every day.

      I told my boss in the second instance that I would consider it a demotion even if it didn’t look that way on paper. I was lucky in that he backed off. I now watch said colleague flounder from afar, and while I have been called upon to help him on several occasions, it’s now happening on my terms and is way more visible than it would have been had I been his direct report.

      1. JJ Bittenbinder*

        Yeah, I read letter 1 through the lens of my own experience having a peer who had much less experience in our industry and organization promoted to be my manager. He was extremely charismatic and well-liked, and I’ve always said that I’d love to have him as a next-door neighbor, but he was terrible as a manager. I left within a year and six months later, he was demoted and has no direct reports.

        On the other hand, many years ago, I was the peer promoted to be manager, and I’m sure my former peers had feelings about that.

        Watchful waiting is really the only advice I have. Don’t make assumptions about how it’s going to go, and be aware of any ways you may be contributing to awkwardness or a poor transition. Other than that, keep an eye on your own work.

    3. anna green*

      Ugh, yeah OP1 this totally sucks. It’s okay that you are unhappy about it. Agree totally with Oh so anon that it would have been super helpful if your boss had talked a little about your career path/potential advancement opportunities, because without that info, this can be really deflating. But Alison’s right, it sounds like its not about demoting you as much as promoting someone else, so try not to think of it as a demotion. I’ve been there, and it sucks though.

    4. Pontoon Pirate*

      Yes to the missing piece. I’ve had the bad luck of being the “proving ground” report for three new managers, and frankly, I hate it. I know the kind of manager I gel best with, and brand new ain’t it. I try very hard to be open, gracious and level-headed, but I don’t have the mental capacity to engage in the level of “managing up” that always seems to be required, especially at organizations that aren’t particularly interested in providing a high level of change management or management training support. OP, I would assess for yourself what kind of manager you work best with and try to identify those behaviors in your new boss so you have some positive framing going in.

    5. Super Dee Duper Anon*

      Seriously – I’ve had this happen too. Right down to wanting to give a peer “management experience”. I don’t want to scare the OP, but my situation turned into an absolute disaster (it was a perfect storm type situation). It was so bad that I have a very hard rule that I will never accept a role reporting to first time manager again (I know that’s extreme).

      One thing that I’d strongly give a lot of thought to is this:

      “The missing piece for you is: how good is your new manager going to be at managing, given that it’s a new role to them? Only time will tell.”

      Things that I wish I had considered:
      – what do I know of this person – their work style, their personality, etc? Have you seen them lead any projects or even have you worked on any projects with them – how successfully did they communicate with others involved? That might give you an idea of how well they’ll be able to communicate their expectations to you.
      – how well do they truly understand the work? Do they seem to really understand what/why they do the things they do or are they just checking things off a list with little understanding. It’s going to be very difficult for someone to accurately assess your work if they don’t actually understand the work.
      – Do you think your (soon to be former) manager (or whoever your new manager is reporting to) is going to be able to have the time/resources/availability to provide support to your new manager?
      – Does your company have any sort of management training?
      – Is your company known to correct or tackle difficult situations? Basically – if this new manager is bad at managing will the company address the situation head on (extra training or support right on down to PIPs or removing their management responsibilities).

      If you don’t think they’re going to be a fit for you as a manager and/or you don’t think the company will address the situation if they prove to be an objectively bad manager, then unfortunately, I’d dust off the resume. Give it some time to see how things go, but I’d be prepared to job search if it’s not going well. I know that sounds drastic, but you can’t let the company sacrifice your career and progress/development for a failed experiment that they refuse to correct (if things do go poorly – hopefully they won’t!)

      Also, speak up early if there are issues.

  10. AnotherSarah*

    I assumed OP2 thought they had been profiled in a sense, because of a regional accent–but maybe I’m completely off-base?

    1. EtherITher*

      Not because of accent, but most likely because where she went to college was on her application.

      1. AnotherSarah*

        Makes sense–but regardless, that part is quite disturbing, if it’s the case.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          It’s unfortunately super common, regardless of the university/college (e.g., I’ve seen people dinged for coming from “liberal” institutions and for coming from “conservative” institutions).

      2. D'Arcy*

        To be fair, any reasonable person would think twice before hiring someone with a degree from a place like (for example) Bob Jones University, although in that extreme case you could point to the fact that it’s an *unaccredited* university.

        (Actually, how common is it for the accreditation of the university itself to be looked at in a hiring process? If someone has a resume with a degree from a college that isn’t a recognizable name, does the hiring manager generally look it up, or just…assume it’s a legit college they haven’t heard of?)

        1. Lynn Whitehat*

          I will Google a college I’ve never heard of. Not specifically looking for accreditation, but just trying to figure out what it is. Small liberal-arts college? One of those pseudo-military schools like the Citadel? Is it overseas? I don’t rule anyone in or out based on it, it’s just one more data point.

        2. Ana Gram*

          I do hiring and I google any school I haven’t heard of. I’ve found a few diploma mills that way but, usually, it’s just a legitimate school I’ve never heard of.

        3. Upstater-ish*

          I worked for a ‘70’s era Co op and a person who was too right leaning or who thought Nestle was a great company would have an uncomfortable time working there. I think the specific questions were kind of clunky but Seeing if the applicant was a good cultural fit isn’t wrong

        4. Kimmybear*

          If it’s a place I’ve never heard of (or someplace I’ve heard of but don’t know much about), I usually Google it out of curiosity. It has lead to finding some interesting schools. When unaccredited or diploma mills, definitely affects my perception but not in a quantifiable way.

    2. TL -*

      Just popping in here to say I’m actually doing my thesis on regional accents (specifically, looking at the Southern accent) and if the OP did have an identifiable Southern accent there was almost certainly additional bias that was in play.

      1. Ariana Grande's Ponytail*

        I am not an academic authority on this or anything, but I am a Southerner, and +1000. I just conceal the more obvious parts of my Southern accent/identity until I know people pretty well because it’s not worth the risk. Drives my parents nuts, but I live up north and I don’t need my career hemmed in due to other people’s bias and stereotypes.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I think OP is suggesting that Inbox Zero helps them manage anxiety?

    2. Mystery Bookworm*

      This just made me flashback to when I first set an email and was SO anxious to recieve a message. I felt so certain that all the other kids in my class probably had important messages about – I dunno, tamagotchi and Spice Girls albums.

      My fifth grade self would be *thrilled* to know how many e-mails I get nowadays, ha.

      1. Carlie*

        Oh man, that is going to keep me going the next few times I’m getting swamped. Open email, see 40 unread messages, cue teenaged me inside my brain: “whoa, look how popular you are!” :)

      2. Artemesia*

        LOL I remember a comic strip from the early days of the internet when people in the strip gathered around a screen with ’email from the internet’ at the top thrilled that this amazing message was actually arriving. A million emails later, that one still makes me laugh.

    3. LW4*

      You are correct, but the nature of anxiety is that lots of things aren’t supposed to make you feel anxious but do anyway. :)

      I honestly despise notifications in general out of principle as they break my already precarious concentration, but realize they’re a necessary evil and do my best to manage them in a way that allows me to respond to high-priority items and ignore/shelve less important ones.

      1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        I’m generally not an anxious person, but I hate notifications as well. When I see other people’s phones and they have thousands of unread emails or text messages it makes me crazy. And I use my inbox as a to do list so I despise unnecessary emails. I even hate most “thank you” emails. I’m doing my job, you don’t need to thank me for doing it.

  11. CouldntPickAUsername*

    oh my god number 5. I am in retail sales and my god do I just want 15 minutes of quiet to recharge my batteries. One coworker almost ate his phone one day when he wouldn’t stop trying to shove it in my face. I have a tablet and headphones. Most people take the hint.

    1. D'Arcy*

      Oh geez. If a coworker repeatedly shoved their phone in my face when I was visibly using headphones and a tablet/phone of my own, I’d probably smack it out of his hand onto the floor.

      1. tangerineRose*

        Cringing away can work sometimes. If it doesn’t work by itself, add in a small shriek maybe.

    2. OP5*

      I do wear headphones on my break — But, that doesn’t stop people from talking to me. People just ignore them! So frustrating.

      1. Chinookwind*

        Listening to that description makes me want to cry in frustration.

        If they aren’t taking subtle hints, maybe a sign on a stick stating “OP5 is currently unavailable. If the issue is urgent, please let Reception know. Thank you for your patience.”

        I had a good relationship with the guys at one office and was able to tell them that I wasn’t really there and that the hologram they were currently seeing was unable to take any messages. They laughed and walked away.

      2. General Ginger*

        I’d be upfront then. “Coworkers, I talk to people at reception all day. Break is my quiet time. Thank you so much for being understanding!”

  12. Feotakahari*

    Regarding #2: I once had a job interview at a small investment firm. I thought I had the interview in the bag until the interviewer asked me if I was an anti-capitalist. She explained that she’d had problems in the past with hiring anti-capitalists who turned out to be morally opposed to helping rich people get richer. I tried to deflect out of discomfort, and I don’t think I made a good impression.

    Now I’m working for a company that helps other companies lower their energy usage. It’s not as cushy, but I feel like I fit in better.

    1. Knitting Cat Lady*

      I work in the nuclear industry.

      When I interviewed they did ask me if I had problems with nuclear energy. Fair enough, in my view.

      And once, while I was job searching, my mum sent me a job add that looked very promising. The company landed on my ‘No Way In Hell’ pile, as it was a weapons manufacturer for missiles, scattered munitions, and had produced mines in the past.

      Your ethics play a big part in whether you will be happy with a job.

      And if you’re the lone hippy in a company full of metal heads you won’t be happy either.

        1. Name Required*

          Yeah, I can’t be both?! I love the environment and The Black Dahlia Murder — these aren’t mutually exclusive!

      1. No Tribble At All*

        +1 for the ethics and goals of a company, especially in the aerospace industry too. There’s a sliding scale from “NASA” to “literal arms dealers” and different people have different comfort levels.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      She explained that she’d had problems in the past with hiring anti-capitalists who turned out to be morally opposed to helping rich people get richer.

      And they chose to work at investment firms? Awkward.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*


        Although I’m still laughing over my mother’s assumption that getting into investing would push me toward more conservative financial politics. If anything, it’s done the opposite.

        1. Lord Gouldian Finch*

          Hah! I worked for the NYSE for a year or two. It definitely gave me a very direct appreciation of aspects of capitalism.

    3. MK*

      I sort-off understand your discomfort, but I wouldn’t have fired someone who tried to deflect that question either. I don’t think she was expecting you to wax poetic about the merits of capitalism, just to state that you didn’t consider the work an investment firm does unethical (for the most basic meaning of the word at least). If you couldn’t honestly do that, it wasn’t a good fit.

  13. Maya Elena*

    For LW2: consider yourself as having dodged a bullet. If the setup is in truth that the org is very progressive and you’re not, you won’t get along, your views won’t be welcome, it will be tense for everyone – who needs that?

    If it were an entire industry blacklisting you for a very moderate disagreement with ideological orthodoxy, then that’s something to worry about. But if this is one employer of many, and you at all subscribe to the view that people should be more free than not to associate with who they like, I’d move on.

    1. Sylvan*

      +1. If they’re extremely conservative or extremely liberal to the point of being turned off by such innocuous answers, you’ve dodged a bullet.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Only in the sense that it wouldn’t be the right fit for the OP — not in the sense that there’s something wrong with the organization for seeking to hire people who are strongly committed to their values. (That might be what you’re saying; if so, ignore me here.)

        With the caveat that the interviewer wasn’t very skilled in how she asked.

        1. Cdd89*

          With respect, I think the interviewer bringing her family’s politics into the discussion is presumptuous and out of line. I would agree with the “dodged a bullet” assessment.

          1. Jasnah*

            I agree and I think “not very skilled” is an understatement. I’m reminded of the letter where OP was asked if they were “a person of faith”–these kinds of problematic questions are not just asking “can I trust you?”, they’re asking “I only trust people like me. Are you like me?” The interviewer should have just asked about specific values they need OP to share, not made assumptions about her and her family due to her home state.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Fair enough — that *is* too much of an understatement. The interviewer’s wording is weird and problematic (and has some offensive underlying assumptions).

              I’d say there are two different issues here:

              1. The interviewer’s approach was bad.

              2. The OP didn’t realize a nonprofit that isn’t explicitly partisan might still have a legitimate interest in candidates’ political values (and that the sort of neutral response they gave would be seen as a negative in that context).

        2. someone else*

          Eh, wouldn’t it be a suable thing if it extends into religion? I presume a progressive organization wouldn’t hire someone who has retrograde religious beliefs and admits so, but couldn’t that person sue for lots of $ just for being asked that question?

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Asking isn’t illegal–acting on the answer is. So if someone sues, that interviewer better have kept notes documenting the OTHER reasons she makes hiring decisions.

        3. TL -*

          I replied to you upthread, but this is beyond “not very skilled” and into “I hold a strong bias that is affecting the way I hire” territory. I really, really want to stress that this is not an outlier type of question rural urban-dwellers get.

          And also, rural versus urban constituents are treated very differently (by both parties.) The interviewer was asking a very loaded, inherently prejudiced question that left no room for the OP’s actual experiences, instead of asking about her specific cultural/social/political concerns. “I don’t strongly identify with either parties” can mean a lot of things, especially if you didn’t grow up in or near a big city.

          1. Smithy*

            The questions asked weren’t good – period. However the OP’s efforts to be evasive on politics likely contributed to the interviewer doubling down on increasingly poor questions.

            Nonprofits can often be very informal – and no different from other informal industries – can lead to problematic questions. That being said “I don’t strongly identify with either party” for a nonprofit org’s question about politics is not an answer I’d recommend. Not that it needs to be “I vote X”, but even something like “I vote for candidates that strongly support ABC issues”, but something specific would be more helpful.

            The OP’s answers were equivalent to being in an interview for a religious nonprofit and not feeling comfortable talking about how faith (whether you are or are not that religions) impacts your professional view.

            The interviewer’s questions weren’t good – but I’d counter that the OP should be prepared in future interviews to either talk more candidly about politics or view such questions as being indicative of a bad cultural fit.

            1. Guacamole Bob*

              Yeah, I think in the current political climate in the US, if you’re interviewing for a nonprofit with a stated mission that includes advocacy, it’s going to come across as a little strange to be really neutral. I’ll take OP’s word for it that it wasn’t something really hot-button like abortion or immigration where neutrality or ambivalence about political parties would be automatically seen as a failure to align with the mission, but even on much less immediately controversial issues there are largely different sides or at least a certain degree of required political awareness. Affordable housing is a huge local issue for us and I’d expect a candidate for a related position to give answers that reflected at least some minimal understanding of the local political landscape – it doesn’t align neatly on party lines, but there are a ton of politics involved. For something like student loan debt, maybe an appropriate answer would be something about how the Democratic primary seems to be elevating the issue in the national discourse and so it will be an exciting time to be doing that kind of advocacy. And so on for pretty much any issue that’s controversial enough to have organizations devoted to advocacy on it.

            2. TL -*

              but…if this had been a nonreligious non-profit that serves a majority religious, but non-Jewish- population, and the OP’s last name was Weinberg, and there had a been a similar conversation about whether the OP’s religious beliefs matched their parents… I don’t think we’d be lecturing the OP about not answering the question well, even though, yes, it would be important for the hiring manager to confirm that the person hired would be okay working within a Christian or Islam or Hindu community and the value choices that went along with that.

              I’m not saying that rural (and Southern) bias is anywhere near the same level, historically or currently, with the impact and horrors antisemitism has caused, but it is an actual, documented bias that has been around for a bit compared to the history of the USA. And there are structural and individual harms done from that bias (that interact with heckuva lot of other issues as well.) But I am saying this HM was at great fault here and it’s completely reasonable that the OP did not respond well.

              1. Smithy*

                TL, as bad as the OP’s questions were – from the OP’s letter apparently they followed some earlier conversation about politics where the OP tried to change the subject. We don’t have the questions/answers for that.

                My point is that avoiding politics earlier likely led to the interviewer feeling the need to ask probing questions that were poor. Being evasive upfront on politics is where I’m providing input.

                Depending on the size of the nonprofit sector – talking about more personal stories or journeys to supporting a cause is very common. That can involve your parents or region where you grew up or school or whatever – but talking about it directly is common. Being evasive and using platitudes doesn’t define strong nonprofit interviewing.

                I’m not defending those questions and agree with why in the US they’re problematic. However nonprofit interviews that might push for more personal or intimate story telling isn’t uncommon. Questions like “why apply to Org ABC” are where nonprofits hope to get that mission alignment/personal story. And being surface level throughout isn’t a strong interviewing tactic.

                1. TL -*

                  Okay but I’ve been asked those types of questions as a rural Texan moved urban North and they are always meant in a very derogatory way towards either me or my family.

                  And people’s responses to “Mmm, I think that’s a more complicated situation than the current political debate allows for” is a genuine “oh why do you think that?” if they don’t know where I’m from and some (usually polite) variation of “you’re wrong and obviously prejudiced and I can’t talk about this with you” if they do.

                  That question was not okay. It wasn’t clumsy; it was biased and classist and not okay.

                2. Smithy*

                  TL – the OP asked whether the questions were out of line and whether there was something they could have done differently.

                  For many and perhaps the OP as well, the take away may strictly be “this is not only a bad cultural fit, but also perhaps an HR approach that might indicate some institutional cavalier methods best to avoid.” Because the questions were bad.

                  But around what to do differently – if the OP does want to work for nonprofits like this, the advice still holds that being evasive about one’s personal journey to the cause – regardless of what the specific job being interviewed for is – will not support strong nonprofit interviewing.

                  I had one interview (overseas nonprofit) with lots of questions about my parents and their politics – and the reasoning for it was because there was a genuine worry that candidates underestimated the likelihood of their parents cutting support. Not only emotional but also financial and for the kind of salary offered, it was common for staff to still have some family financial support. And those questions listed out of context would read bizarre but they did come from a genuine hiring fit place.

                  I 100% get that kind of situation isn’t for everyone – not to mention the endless numbers of nonprofits that just generally have the “we’re family” mentality of poor boundaries. But again – overall stronger nonprofit interviewing does mean having some more personal responses around politics.

                3. TL -*

                  @Smithy – no, asking if her political beliefs aligned with her parents isn’t okay. The subtext there is “your parents suck. Do you suck too?”

                  Asking if you have adequate support for an international job is fine; so is asking if that support is likely to change due to the nature of the work. Asking if someone’s values align with the workplace or doing role-playing to find out is find.

                  Asking if someone’s political values align with their parents, particularly in this context, is not okay. It’s really, really insulting.

        4. PVR*

          But your answers all seem to suggest it’s reasonable to assume that political party alignment=belief and/or passion about a certain topic. While there is a higher probability of that being true, I think it’s a mistake to believe that all conservatives wouldn’t be aligned with the specific issues at play or that all liberals would be. I’ve known plenty of “liberals” who are (perhaps unknowingly) racist or classist or ableist or sexist, or Democrats who are pro-life. I also know lots of Republicans who care deeply about LGBTQ+ issues. OP could just as easily consider themselves libertarian or Green Party or who knows, a socialist. Saying they don’t identify as either major political party does not follow that they are not committed to the mission of the nonprofit or care deeply about adjacent political issues.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            No, I haven’t talked about party affiliation at all, and there’s nothing indicating the interviewer did either. I’m talking about beliefs, not party.

            1. Chinookwind*

              Whereas, even as a Canadian, if someone asked me about my political beliefs, I would take that as asking for my preferred party (and that is within a multi-party system).

              Honest question – How else could you answer that question with only a sentence or two?

              1. EH*

                Not too hard, especially if you’re strongly one way or the other. Mine boil down to “I care about other people and want to help them reach their potential – everyone in this country should have a place to live, food to eat, healthcare, and access to comprehensive education.” If I wanted to be extra brief, I’d probably say something like “I’m basically a socialist.”

              2. General Ginger*

                “I believe housing, healthcare, and reproductive choice are inalienable human rights. I’m beyond concerned about the ongoing climate catastrophe, I don’t believe in calling any people illegal, trans rights are human rights.”

                More to the point, “I’m a queer lefty.”

        5. Sylvan*

          Yes, I agree. :) I think the way this interviewer went about looking for a culture or values match was a red flag, though.

  14. Maya Elena*

    For Lw1, it might be a demotion, or a promotion for the other guy, depending on how responsibilities change. But it might be that the demotion is a blessing in disguise: more responsibility and work hours for him, better work-life balance for you; and you don’t have to label it as a demotion on your resume.

    1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Yeah it’s definitely not a demotion. It’s no different than if a Team Lead job was posted, you both applied for it and the other person got it. You weren’t demoted, you just weren’t promoted. Boss did nothing wrong here. And I may be wrong, but based on the letter it sounds like peer is getting the responsibility with no actual promotion (including a salary adjustment). If that’s the case, peer is the one getting screwed over. And even if it’s not the case, I don’t think it’s a red flag to move on unless as Alison said, you generally feel as if you’re undervalued at the company.

  15. Sam Sepiol*

    #5 in my old job the receptionist used to go to the back office to eat. It was usually quiet, at least much quieter than the break room, because everyone was on their lunch. Could that be an option?

      1. Elspeth Mcgillicuddy*

        Would one of your coworkers be OK with you eating at their desk? In a quiet corner perhaps?

  16. LilyP*

    #1 — I think your manager bungled the messaging on this, it’s weird to even suggest framing this as a demotion for you. Your coworker was promoted. Did/do you want a promotion that includes management responsibilities, and have you talked to your supervisor about that being one of your goals? If so you have a good opening to talk about what you’d need to improve to get promoted in the future. If not, you really didn’t lose anything here!

    1. TechWorker*

      I don’t think the managers framing is that off if they know OP was likely to take it in that way/considers themself very much on the same level as the peer? OP is considering quitting over it which is a fairly strong reaction.

    2. Artemesia*

      LOL I remember a comic strip from the early days of the internet when people in the strip gathered around a screen with ’email from the internet’ at the top thrilled that this amazing message was actually arriving. A million emails later, that one still makes me laugh.

      1. Artemesia*

        Sorry this comment above was attached to a post about 5th grade and not getting as many emails as peers. No idea why it ended up here.

        On this point of ‘demotion’ — I think people say what is on their minds and one thing on the boss’s mind is that he is not promoting the OP and perhaps HE does think of it as a demotion but doesn’t want to alienate the OP. I would take it as a huge red flag that my career would be stalled here and would be polishing up my resume and thinking about my future. Yes, see how it goes — but be thinking about career advancement elsewhere if career advancement is the goal. This boss clearly thinks of what he is doing as a demotion.

  17. Less Bread More Taxes*

    OP5, I used to be in a similar situation. Due to bus schedules, I arrived to work 45 minutes early. That was my chill time. I had my laptop out, headphones, etc. when everyone else was eating breakfast. One day two coworkers came and sat next to me, practically yelled so that I could hear them over headphones, and waved at me so I could see them over my laptop. It was almost hilarious.

    I ended up taking off the headphones and saying that this was the only part of my day that I got to spend alone and I preferred it stayed that way, but I’d be open to a chat later if they wanted. So I’d suggest saying something like that. Nice and polite, but making it clear that you need that half hour to yourself.

  18. Akcipitrokulo*

    OP1 – I can understand how you feel disappointed, and maybe a bit miffed, about the situation – but the one bit your manager definitely got right was they way they explained it to you.

    It is much better to take you to one side privately and make sure you are aware of what’s going on and why, than have you blindsided by the announcement when it comes.

    1. groovebat*

      It’s one thing to be frank about needing to reduce one’s own workload. What I quibble with is the second part, which is the “It’s an advancement opportunity for so-and-so.”

      If I were OP, I’d want to know why my manager was prioritizing my peer’s advancement over mine. Manager didn’t say “your peer is a better fit for this role”; manager said it was to create an opportunity for peer. That raises a whole different set of concerns, as in, “I’m more invested in Peer’s career track than yours.”

      1. Colette*

        That’s not really what the manager is saying. The manager can’t promote everyone at the same time, even if they’re equally qualified and equally interested (and the odds are that they’re not). That doesn’t mean she’s more invested in Peer’s career track, just that Peer was a better fit for this job at this time.

        1. Artemesia*

          I think it does. He didn’t say ‘down the road, we are thinking about X for you’ He said ‘I am concerned about promoting Fergus over here, not you.’ If he saw this as one promotion among many, he would have framed it differently — it is Fergus’s turn, but yours is coming. It is a demotion in the boss’s eyes.

          1. Colette*

            The manager is allowed to promote someone without having definite plans to promote everyone else – even if the OP has expressed interest in a promotion, which she may not have done.

        2. KRM*

          And maybe Peer has had explicit conversations with the manager about wanting to move up in responsibility and wanting that challenge, while LW has just assumed that she’d be promoted into that someday. It can really be just that simple! LW, make sure you’ve having the conversations with your manager about what you want in your career progression. I’ve known many people who get angry that they don’t get a promotion or advancement when they’ve never even been clear about wanting it and haven’t put in the work, and the person who got it was clear about wanting it and doing what they had to do to earn it.

      2. Close Bracket*

        I’d want to know why my manager was prioritizing my peer’s advancement over mine.

        That’s what happens? Everybody can’t get promoted into management. Sometimes people get promoted bc they are better workers, sometimes they get promoted bc they are more popular. Either way, there will always be a bunch of people who didn’t get promoted and that’s sort of just life. We don’t all advance.

  19. Introvert girl*

    OP 5, I eat my sandwiches behind my desk and use my half hour to take a walk outside with my dog (as I live very close to my office). You can do that a couple of times a week, say you need some fresh air and always feel completely relaxed after a brisk walk which helps you focus.

        1. Close Bracket*

          If they eat at their desk so they can walk during their half hour break, then they are working while they are sitting there. The barrier to this solution is that they probably aren’t allowed to eat at their desk.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      The ‘receptionist’ part often means food at desk is not allowed. I had a couple of temp jobs that didn’t even allow me a coffee mug.

    2. OP5*

      I would do that if I could! But, I can’t eat anything at the front desk. It’s in the employee handbook and everything.

      1. Chinookwind*

        Are you the only one not allowed to eat at your desk? If that is the case, you could use this point to ask for a special exception with TPTB (probably Office Manager) to let you use a private office or available meeting room for your lunch.

        The reality is that reception has very different working conditions from every other job and, as a result, exceptions should be granted to allow for you to be your best while you are up front.

  20. Clementine*

    Is it totally okay to discriminate against someone based on the political beliefs of any of their family members, even if the relationship is completely non-voluntary? Is there any jurisdiction where this would be illegal discrimination?

    Yes, I think the interviewer’s question was disgusting and classist.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      At the federal level, yes, it’s lawful / ok for private employers to discriminate against an applicant on the basis of political belief, affiliation or activities. Only a few jurisdictions outlaw discrimination on those bases: California and D.C. New York outlaws discrimination on the basis of political activities (but not affiliation or belief).

      (I agree that the interviewer’s question was ignorant and problematic.)

      1. someone else*

        What if that political belief is based on a religious conviction? For an example, what if someone who identifies as pro-life based on religion applied to planned parenthood and got rejected because of it? That person could sue for simply being asked the question, no?

        1. Traffic_Spiral*

          No, because they’re not saying you can’t be christian – just that you can’t be morally opposed to the purpose of the company. A bar doesn’t have to hire an abolitionist who thinks booze is sinful, the slaughterhouse doesn’t have to hire a Jain who believes it’s sinful to kill an animal for food, the pizza house doesn’t have to hire a kosher Jew that thinks it’s an abomination to serve pork or any dairy product that touches meat, the IT company doesn’t have to hire an Amish that thinks technology is evil, and the strip club doesn’t have to hire a hijabi Muslim who will only show her hands and face.

          Basically if you think a company sucks, they don’t have to hire you just because you have religious reasons for thinking you suck.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Abolitionist? I’m distracted thinking you meant to type prohibitionist.
            (Need. More. Coffee, sorry)

            1. Traffic_Spiral*

              Right, my bad. Although, considering many restaurant employment practices, perhaps an abolitionist wouldn’t be too happy there either.

          2. ThatGirl*

            FTR (this is a minor pet peeve of mine) the Amish don’t believe technology is evil, just that it can serve to splinter communities/families. They often do adopt technology when it serves the community. Many Amish use computers in their businesses, for instance.

            1. Evan Þ.*

              Also FTR, in a not-too-different way, a lot of Kosher-keeping Jews are perfectly fine making ham-and-cheese pizzas for everyone else; they just wouldn’t eat them themselves.

        2. Wakeens Teapots LTD*

          If your “religious belief” opposes gay couple adopting children, an adoption agency can legally (and should) reject you from employment — and its incumbent upon them to ask before hiring.

          As a country, we protect your practice of religion, not your practice of your religion on other people.

          1. TL -*

            The question there is: about X% of our adoptive parents are gay/LGBTQ+. We fully support their right to adopt and often support whatever initiatives/advertise to the LGBTQ+community. Can you tell me how you would deal with a gay couple that came in looking to adopt? What specific concerns would you have?”

            Which, again, you should ask of every candidate, not just the ones from the “wrong” states.

            1. Wakeens Teapots LTD*

              I didn’t say anything about states, be they right states or wrong states. I was answering someone else (literal username “someone else”)

              I’m not naive about some liberal folks’ assumptions re entire red state population beliefs anymore than I am naive about a whole boat load of assumptions made about me because I am a liberal who lives in a blue state. Or that my blue state contains many, many people who have beliefs I don’t agreee with.

              But I wasn’t talking about any of that. I was saying, no, your religious belief that gay couples shouldn’t adopt does not protect you from not being hired to help gay couples adopt.

    2. Clementine*

      I didn’t ask about the applicant’s belief, but discriminating on the basis of the applicant’s family member’s belief. Is that legal?

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I answered your question. It’s lawful whether it’s the applicant’s belief or the applicant’s family’s belief.

    3. Smithy*

      While the questions were not good – I’ve interviewed for a number of nonprofits where we talked about my parents views. In some cases it’s been how they’ve inspired me on certain issues/values, and in other cases the interviewers expresses concerns that such a job might create distance between my family and I and whether I was fully aware of that and had support.

      The nature of these conversations in an interview are clearly not for everyone – as is nonprofit work. Especially small nonprofit work. Still don’t think that the interviewer asked great questions – but I understand the motivation to push if you felt an otherwise strong candidate was being evasive about politics.

      1. General Ginger*

        The OP specifically says that when politics came up, they tried to redirect. I can understand the interviewer getting frustrated and asking poorly worded questions to get to the topic in a more roundabout way.

  21. Clementine*

    Re the reporting structure change, I have had that happen, and it was another neon sign that my manager did not consider the team that I led to be important. I liked my former peer/new manager much better, but that wasn’t the point. It was time to find a new position, so I did.

  22. Green great dragon*

    OP1, feels like your underlying thinking is that you and new manager were equal, and now you’re not and that that pushes you down somehow? Not helped by the old manager mentioning it wasn’t a demotion. But another framing is that a new post has been created at a level between you and old manager and someone else got the promotion. So have the conversation about what you need to do to get promoted, but keep others’ promotions out of it.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      It could also be that OP and Colleague were NOT equal, even though they may have had same title.
      Many factors:
      >Seniority in company
      >Past work history
      >Lack of other advancement opportunities

      Also, of course there could be negative factors such as sex, race, nepotism and performance. I don’t want to leap to that at this point because OP does not mention any of those being a factor, only that they saw them as being colleagues of equal status.

  23. Tallulah in the Sky*

    #5 I think Alison’s advice is very good. If people question you, just say “After talking and being busy with people all morning, I like to unwind with a podcast / book”. I’m not in a similar role, but I also need my lunch hour to unwind and don’t want to socialize, telling people I need to do X or Y during this time got them to back of (now that the weather is getting nice again, it’s easier to just take my lunch outside, don’t know if it’s an option for you).

    And if you can invest in noise cancelling headphones, even better ! It really gives you some peace and quiet.

    1. Trisha*

      Exactly. Honesty is the best policy – why not just be straight forward with your colleagues? “I have to be ‘on’ for 8 hours a day, I like to use my lunch as a break from interacting with people. I appreciate you trying to include me, it’s not necessary – I’ll just be over here with my headphones listening to a podcast. Thanks.”

      Your colleagues probably are more invested in chit chat because they sit in their cubicles for the 8 hour workday and want that human interaction.

      Decent people will understand; and indecent people don’t matter.

    2. BethRA*

      Yep. OP, you might even consider just being direct when you sit down – “don’t mind me/don’t let me interrupt, I need some down time so I’m just going to sit here quietly and read.”

    3. starsaphire*

      If you’re not comfortable outright saying you need downtime, you have a great built-in excuse:

      “I’m resting my voice.”

      If I still had to talk 8 hours a day (thank goodness I don’t anymore!) I would absolutely spend all my non-work moments wrapped up like an opera singer with my throat muffler, lozenges, and a thermos of Singer’s Friend (hot water, lemon, and honey) and would be communicating by flashcard.

      1. Jack Russell Terrier*

        Is it all possible to have a written sign saying something – resting my voice and recharging, thanks for your understanding. It could be put in front of you at lunch and you could point at it? Would that be something you could do and might it work?

      2. Paulina*

        Is there someone you could enlist to back you up on this? Someone who’s participating in the conversations, but who, if someone is trying to get your attention (and you are initially ignoring them/listening to something on headphones), could help out by suggesting you be left alone or redirecting the conversation. A one-on-one chat with someone more sympathetic could give you a start at alleviating this problem.

  24. Mookie*

    re LW 2, given the unique context of non-profits plus the age-old practice of infiltrating, sabotaging, or undermining advocacy and activist groups from within, of course one needs to do their due diligence with applicants, press them for their knowledge of the stakes and history of an issue, and elicit from them a commitment to honor a nob-profit’s aims. That’s your responsibility to the public and to the community you’re serving. But you don’t go about doing so by way of stereotypes. I don’t actually agree that that is what happened here, but the notion that politics and the sophistication of one’s politics, in the sense of keen and practiced awareness and familiarity, cannot or ought not be interrogated under these unique circumstances is a misguided one. It serves no one, candidates included, to recruit people not committed to a cause where agnosticism or willful ignorance on the part of one’s colleagues will disrupt the mission or make interactions with the public challenging, adversarial, or demoralizing.

    1. Scion*

      I’m not sure how you can possible believe that the interviewer wasn’t playing into stereotypes when they asked about the OP’s family’s political views. They know literally nothing about the family except where they’re from.

    2. JoJo*

      Even non-profits don’t get to discriminate in job interviews if they were, say, trying to tease out whether OP is religious or even tolerant of religious practices. But fine. Please everyone get on your high horses, liberals can do whatever they want, the advice wouldn’t be different AT ALL of course if it were a conservative organization pressing OP about her possibly neutral or actually liberal politics.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        Yeah, nah, Alison’s pretty good about this, actually. Someone applying to work at the NRA should be fairly committed to their mission. Not a great idea to take on someone who’s on the fence, or even actively opposed.

  25. Retail*

    Op2 – I applied for a county clerk job at the end of May 2015 and then never heard anything. Said oh well, what are you gonna do and moved on.

    About mid-July, I got a call asking if I’d like to come in for an interview. I said yes of course!

    They very very very obliquely asked about gay marriage with a question about being willing to carry out ALL the tasks of the office. Also we now do appointments for marriage licenses. This was a liberal-ish city in a super conservative state and even more conservative part of the state. Surrounding counties were refusing to obey the law, the county mayor supported that, the whole nine yards.

    You never know when “politics” will be relevant to your job – I’m 99% certain at least one person quit in June.

    (I was offered the job but turned it down bc I’d decided on grad school – I got the interview cal while disoriented after an overnight shift and was curious. It also required a car.)

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Can’t really blame them for not wanting to hire the next Kim Davis!

      1. Clisby*

        Yep. And the question here wasn’t whether the applicant approves or disapproves of gay marriage. It’s “Can you do the job?” Just like you could be ethically opposed to hunting, but if your job is issuing hunting licenses, you’d better be willing to do it. Or you could be a devout Catholic opposed to divorced people remarrying – you don’t get to veto their marriage licenses.

  26. Poo & Piglet*

    LW1 – Please try not to see this as a demotion unless your job duties change. I had to deal with a similar situation many years ago. Due to a restructuring, a director who reported to a vice president had their entire area moved to report to me, a senior director (the vp in this case had too many functional areas and direct reports). The director considered this a demotion despite me being clear that their role, responsibilities, and team oversight would not change. Unfortunately, and despite this director having great potential, they chose to be combative and insubordinate resulting in their separation from the company. All that to say keep an open mind. Definitely ask about your opportunities for the future. And please don’t let this seem like a slight, because it may just be circumstance. My best to you!

  27. Mel*

    Receptionist, I feel your pain. When I take a break I need it to be away from the office, but I’ve always had hour breaks, so I could go somewhere.

    When the weather is mild I would highly recommend sitting in your car in the parking lot. I find it to be a blissful cocoon of solitude.

    I used to always sit in my car. When it got hot I would park it under a nice shade tree and that cooled it off nicely, but when my office moved there wasn’t any shade nearby, so I had to sit in a cafe sometimes.

  28. 2230*

    OP2, is there any chance that somewhere you have a social media account that is linked to family members who have views that might have been at odds with the organisation you were applying to? My niece got caught in an interview as she had linked with her cousins on facebook and their father was involved in shady MRA and racists groups and even though she wasn’t linked to him directly, he was linked to cousins (who weren’t racist etc) and it showed in her feed.

    Luckily for her, the interviewers actually put the exact problem on the table. It was a non profit who serviced predominantly POC populations and she was applying for a front facing role. She had thought her profile was private but facebook had changed the privacy settings (yet again) and she hadn’t realised racist uncle’s feed was even showing up near hers. Because she had an excellent industry reputation, they were happy with her answer ‘you can choose you friends, but you can’t choose your relatives’ closely followed by ‘I can’t believe this has happened, I will delete facebook straight away’. She was distressed but got the job. She now has a facebook account under pseudonym as she wants to keep in touch with cousins (who didn’t get to choose their Dad either and who are awesome young people)

    1. 2230*

      Sorry also, if you want to check what is private / showing, you need to use someone else’s account / computer. My niece had checked her own accounts prior to applying for the job as she knew there could be media interviews she had to do etc and that still didn’t work. Hopefully it’s all good your end and just an unskilled interviewer, but might be worth the check

      1. Rikki Tikki Tarantula*

        Or do what I did and make your megaconservative relatives so mad that they un-friend you. “Auntie McBigot doesn’t want to follow me any more? What ever shall I do?”

    2. Polymer Phil*

      It’s a good idea to keep your Facebook locked down as an interviewee, but the interviewer shouldn’t have been poking around on it either. If you discover that the candidate is a member of a protected class, you can’t un-see that, and you open yourself up to discrimination issues.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        If you’re hiring someone for a position where they will be visible to the public, it is perfectly reasonable to ensure their public persona is a good fit for the job.

      2. 2230*

        In my niece’s case, she would have to occasionally do media interviews. In the current climate, the place she was interviewing at was dependant on some govt funding that was provided not because the Govt of the day believed in it, but because they believed they would lose even conservative votes if they didn’t partially fund the service.

        Had a RWNJ journalist whose agenda was to not have funding for this service looked at the FB account, it had the potential to have made headlines in the national press – eg ‘progressive lefty has links to white supremacists’ The non profit would have lost funding, my niece would have struggled to ever get a job again in her chosen passion.

        It’s not right, it’s not fair. But we are where we are.

      3. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I assume that hiring managers search my name on Google. So far I’m lucky that a search on my very common name turns up historic figures, a few professionals, and no felons.

      4. Anononon*

        Everyone is a member of a protected class. Multiple classes! It’s not just being a woman, but discriminating based on sex, or being black, but discriminating based on race. Not only minorities are protected. (For your example, the one thing I can think of is disability, because not everyone is protected under, say, the ADA.)

          1. D'Arcy*

            Age discrimination is the one major exception where the law has been specifically structured to create a “one way” protected class instead of the normal protected characteristic. In addition to the 40+ rule, it is explicitly lawful to favor older employees over younger employees *on the basis of their age alone*.

      5. General Ginger*

        Just about everyone is a member of some protected class, though. There’s nothing weird about looking up your candidates on social media.

  29. Delta Delta*

    #2 – This interviewer might be the worst. There is an assumption baked in that a) because OP is from a certain region that she espouses stereotypically-held views associated with that region and b) that even if she doesn’t, her family must. The truth is that even in certain regions, there are a) people who don’t hold the majority view and b) that even if there is a majority-held view, it isn’t always always consistent across the entire political spectrum. An area may be “red” for, say, farming-related issues, but very “blue” for homelessness-related issues. I live in such a place.

    Run far. Run fast. Actively discourage people you know from interviewing here, because this is zero amount of okay. This is telling an interviewee that she is potentially undesirable because of where she grew up (which we can’t change) and that because of where she grew up her family is essentially trash and she needs to not be like them in order to have the job. Without substantiation, these are some pretty breathtaking assumptions that do little more than to further stereotype and antagonize.

    1. TL -*

      Yeah, a lot of people identify as red or blue not because they think one issue is unimportant or they agree across the board on everything but because they think a specific set of issues (such as farming policies) are most important and they vote primarily on that.

    2. Scion*

      Yeah, I think a lot of people have this misconception that most people in a very red/blue state vote the same way. Generally, even the most red/blue states are only about 60-40 splits.

  30. Emi.*

    #2, Apart from the weird/gross prejudice apparent in the way the interviewer asked the question, I think this is more than just an issue of them being interested in your political views and how they align with the mission. To me, “very political workplace” means you’ll be expected to talk about politics (including partisan politics), your neighbors will have political buttons on their cubes and may expect you to, people will send you political cartoons, managers will make jokes about the “other side” in staff meetings, things like that. And probably a fair amount of this will deal with the unwashed masses of mean dumb hicks like your uncles, haha, you must be so glad to be out of there, right? This sounds exhausting to me, even for political beliefs I agree with, and it sounds like you would too. You dodged a bullet, man.

  31. Emily*

    OP #5: Would it be an option to sit in your car and chill out for a bit? (Not sure if you drive to work.)

    Sometimes I use this tactic when I need some mental free space. I have sun shades I put up in my windshield, so it’s less obvious that I’m there sitting in my car.

    Just an idea.

    If you don’t drive to work, maybe there’s someplace nearby where you could go? I sometimes spend time in libraries near my office — in case you have that sort of option, it’s worth considering. Libraries are generally pretty quiet, and calm. But with only 3o minutes, it may not be feasible.

  32. LQ*

    Talk to your old boss, and your new boss. Have you explicitly told your boss you want opportunities and what you want those to look like? Do you want to be a supervisor? Do you want other kinds of work? If your boss was overextended he may not have been having these conversations proactively, and if you were waiting for him to start them you may have missed out. You may actually get more career development from your new boss/former peer because they have more time since they have fewer people reporting to them, and you have a fresh start to actually bring it up yourself. Plus new boss is new to being a boss and will want to do a good job so take advantage of that, ask for help and guidance. Honestly if they only thing they can give you is “Hey I advocated for myself to get here.” That’s a huge thing for you to learn.

  33. Eleanor Konik*

    Re: asking about whether the candidate shares their parents’ political background… maybe instead of viewing it as some sort of thing where the interviewer assumed things about the parents’ political background, the interviewer was trying to suss out whether or not the candidate had formed their OWN political opinions.

    Furthermore, I completely fail to see how “education advocacy” is “non-partisan” in the letter-writer’s view; there’s a reason that teacher’s unions are pretty uniformly liberal and all but demonized by republican political candidates in many places, and homelessness advocacy is another prime example of the sort of work that I personally consider deeply political. Either you’re advocating for “more charter schools” which is heavily partisan, or you’re advocating for “more money in schools” which is heavily partisan.

    Now if you were talking about a nonprofit that supports animal shelters, sure, that’s pretty broadly “across the aisle,” but education and homelessness are pretty standard liberal causes and I’m not even remotely surprised the interviewer was asking about the letter writer’s politics; I’m only surprised that the letter writer is (young enough?) to think that that sort of advocacy is somehow “mostly apolitical” and that the coworkers would enjoy working with someone who lacks passion about the underlying political implications of their cause.

    1. Scion*

      Then ask about those positions specifically! There are a million issues out there. When people go to vote for a party, they only have two choices, so they have to weigh all the issues and how important they are to the individual. There are plenty of people out there who vote/belong to a party but don’t subscribe to the entire party platform.

      1. Natalie*

        I don’t think anyone is suggesting that the interviewer’s questions were awesome and need no changes. Just giving some context for why they might be asking any questions in a political or family background vein.

  34. PretzelGirl*

    #5- Is there anywhere you can sit outside? Maybe on some steps or bring a picnic blanket and tuck away in a small corner. Otherwise I would prob sit in my car.

  35. ATX Language Learner*

    #5 – can you take lunch at a different time than them? If the answer is no, can you propose it and ask your manager? I’m the same way as you, I see my coworkers for 8 hours a day and often interact with them and have no desire to do anything with them at lunch.

  36. Justin*

    As for #2, it’s a bad way to get at good goals. Your family? What? Some of the people I’ve met with the strongest racial literacy (just one issue, you get my point) got that way to be NOT like their family. And some learned from their parents.

    I’d say the way to do it is to be explicit about the issue in the ad and in the interview instead of this weird backdoor.

    As for your answer, yeah, look, the “oh both parties are bad” thing won’t fly in certain circumstances. And it’s okay (deep breath) if you feel that way, just understand it is unlikely to work well in particular organizations (as well it shouldn’t).

    It was a clumsy interview on their part, but the result was probably correct.

    1. Scion*

      I fully agree with you about your first point. I share the same kinds of beliefs/values as my parents, so I never really had to think critically about them until I went off to college and started meeting different kinds of people. A lot of the people I know who are the most politically active got that way because they were at odds with their parents.

      However, I’m confused why you say that the OP said that “both parties are bad.” All I see them saying is that they “don’t identify with either major party.” Which is not the same thing at all.

      There are plenty of ways for the OP to be supportive or passionate about the agency’s mission without belonging to the major party that primarily supports the mission. For example, a Christian may strongly support homeless advocacy but find them unable to join the Democratic party due to their beliefs regarding abortion.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        Neither person (LW2 or their interviewer) should have brought up political parties. Interviewer should not have brought up family. There are lots of better ways to get at what most of us assume they were trying to get at (does the applicant’s value system align with the organizations’ mission).

        1. Scion*

          I don’t know why everyone is assuming they know what the interviewer’s intent was in asking the question. Yes, asking about mission alignment is way more appropriate than asking about the OP’s and the OP’s family’s general political views, so, in the absence of additional information, should be viewed as the more likely option.

          However, we do have more information: specifically the rest of the letter that the OP wrote. There are, by my count, 3 different questions that the interviewer asked.
          1) Do you share the same political beliefs as your family?
          2) What are your political beliefs?
          3) Are you okay with a “very political” workplace?

          All of those are referring to general political orientation, not specific policy opinions.

          Given the phrasing of those 3 questions, it seems much more likely to me that the interviewer was screening for general political alignment with the other employees (i.e. are you very liberal like the rest of us?) rather than for alignment on the particular organization’s mission (e.g. do you support low-cost housing/student loan reform?).

          As discussed above, this is not illegal. However, I don’t think it’s a good thing (much like most other forms of legal discrimination). I think that organizations should strive for diversity in all aspects.

  37. Spreadsheets and Books*

    LW #1: This happened to me a few months ago. A team member left, which resulted in a restructuring of sorts. Instead of getting a promotion, I was told I would be answering to someone I had trained. At this point, I had been on the team the longest outside of one senior manager, had the most experience in our regular tasks.

    After this happened, the mask started to slip. I learned that my manager hadn’t been communicating any of my skills, abilities, and interest in growth to our department head (who had a problem seeing people past her first impressions). The restructure ended up being unfair to me in a few other ways, and after almost three years in the same role and no current timeline for growth, I was really hurt by it. In that particular role, staying the same level for more than 3-4 years can start to throw up red flags, and that was troubling, too.

    So I left. I started my new job around 10 weeks ago and it’s the best thing I could have done for myself. I got a 21% increase in salary and the title bump I wanted. You understand the situation better than anyone, so if you feel this is going to adversely halt your career growth, absolutely start searching.

    1. Spreadsheets and Books*

      I’ll add that I do believe the other people in my department did want to see me succeed and had some ideas on how to provide future opportunities for me. The opportunity they had in mind for later in the year, however, was essentially giving me a chance to do tasks I had done in my last role and did not really require any kind of refresher on, so I took that as another sign that there was a large communication disconnect. If the things your old manager has in mind to keep you happy and engaged aren’t what you envision for your future, that’s okay, too.

  38. Not Another Anonymous Commenter*

    I know headphones are supposed to signify you’re busy or not wanting conversation but my God, you would NOT believe the number of people who still talk to me normally while I’m wearing them. It’s truly baffling. I don’t understand why you would just start talking at someone who’e clearly wearing headphones and expect them to hear you and respond. And then they act affronted or impatient when I tell them to please repeat themselves because I had something playing and didn’t hear what they said. I’m not sure just wearing headphones will completely work for OP5, especially if she’s already dealing with chatty coworkers.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I agree. She already says she’s listening to podcast and gets interrupted!

    2. Meh*

      I have a coworker who wears earbuds all day every day at his desk. Yet we still need to pop into his office a few times a day to ask him questions & talk about work stuff. Every single time he acts like we’re committing some big personal offense to him, makes a big show of having to take them out to listen to us, like how dare we want to talk to him at work about work stuff. I think it’s ok at lunch or breaks but not all day.

      1. Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk ox*

        That sounds like an individual attitude problem rather than a headphones problem. My coworkers and I all do better working with music or podcasts and it’s not a big deal. If someone knocks on our doors, we take the headphones out and act normally. The dramatic, grumpy reaction is definitely that dude’s issue and I’d wager he’d act put-out by interruptions even if he wasn’t wearing headphones.

    3. OP5*

      Thank you! I’m glad I’m not the only one this happens to. I have tried headphones but it doesn’t deter people.

      I wonder if it’s an age/gender thing? I’m a woman in my 20s, and most of my coworkers are older.

  39. Works in IT*

    This is how I see it too. The fact that my coworker is possibly going to get the team lead position in my department affects me not at all. It’s not sexism, or a sign that my career ism’t going to advance it’s just that he’s been around longer and is therefore more qualified to be the team lead, and there can be only one t

    1. Works in IT*

      That was odd, I didn’t hit the submit button and it posted. I was going to finish up saying that I’m certain that in a few years I’d probably be qualified for the team lead position, but not now, and being upset that my coworker is going to possibly get an opportunity and I’m not feels quite silly, when he’s so obviously qualified for it, and I’m not (yet).

      Is it possible OP1 is just as qualified as their coworker? Yes. But it’s equally possible the coworker is ready for this, and OP1 isn’t ready yet. Or the coworker has expressed an interest in management, and OP1 has been giving the manager the impression that they would rather die than be in any kind of managerial role.

  40. Observer*

    #2- I think that it’s unlikely that they were looking for something like a commitment to social justice or equity or the like. In my experience those people tend to be quite open about their aims and goals. Partly it just seems to be the way a lot of these folks operate. But also because they, fortunately, don’t need to talk in code. There is no legal issue for a non-profit of almost any kind, to have an emphasis on these issues, even if it’s not their prime focus. There is also rarely a social cost. Politics, on the other hand, are a different thing. Hiring based on political / party affiliation or sympathy can create significant legal issues for them. Hence the coded way in which the interviewer seems to have been fishing for information.

  41. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

    OP#2, I’m curious whether your family is known in the area/known in politics, etc. I can see any interviewer at a non profit trying to ensure proper fit.If the non profit is an animal welfare group, I certainly wouldn’t want known trophy hunters on board. Nor would I want someone tied to white nationalists at a racial equality group. Add it the fact that you understandably tried to deflect, I can see the interview going cool. For all the people upset about possible judging from the interviewer, we have no idea if she did or not. Perhaps the interviewer has had bad fits several times by college graduates from that college. Perhaps personal experience has taught the interviewer to be distrustful. Perhaps the OP is seeing through her lens and the questions were actually phrased different’less accusing than she remembers. I think a lot of people are jumping on the ‘interviewer is bigoted/prejudiced/biased’ without having heard the interview or questions.

    1. TL -*

      I think a lot of people (me included) are jumping on the “interview is bigoted/prejudiced/biased” because we’ve been at the receiving end of those kinds of questions and we understood what they were implying accurately.

    2. Name Required*

      If OP’s family was well-known, with very specific and prominent political views, this question wouldn’t be so baffling.

      And yes, a number of us are drawing the most obvious conclusion (instead of searching for zebras) because of our experiences of having folks assume that we are prejudiced/immoral because of where we are from. That is a much more likely scenario that having well-known relatives. It’s a very common experience for those of us who are from rural areas, especially rural areas in the South.

    3. Observer*

      We’re not in the Serengeti, so it makes sense to interpret hoof-beats as horses rather than zebras.

      It’s kind of stretching here to think that the OP would tell us of their geographic background, but not about relevant family background here.

      1. Former Employee*

        Devil’s Advocate here. Remember the person who wrote in about how they were treating an employee unfairly because they were jealous of that person and then with each update things escalated to where the OP had been fired, sued and actually been charged for something in connection with that situation?

        I’m not saying this is equivalent, but I am wondering if this OP either left something out or is unaware that the interviewer has seen something troubling on social media that was posted by OP’s family member.

  42. Cows go moo*

    LW5: There is nothing wrong with politely stating, “Hey, I’m going to eat my lunch and not talk – just need to take a break from talking to people!” Most people will understand that. After you repeat this a few times your coworkers will know to leave you alone to rest.

    I’m not a fan of headphones because I find them annoying when I try to eat. Also, a lot of people don’t take the hint and will continue talking to you even if you wear one.

  43. LS*

    OP #1, definitely give it time to shake out! I had a peer be inserted as my manager at my last job. We’d had a good working relationship, but I was pretty pissed and hurt by the change. It turned out he was one of my favorite bosses, and made sure no red tape ever stopped me from doing my best work ever again! It might work out better than you think, especially if you already have a good working relationship — there’s a lot of trust there to build on.

  44. Roza*

    OP 1, hope it works out for the best! It can definitely sting to feel like someone else’s professional development matters more than yours. A similar thing happened to me, once — I was reassigned to a new manager because I “practically manage myself” and would therefore be easy for the new person to manage. It was a compliment in a lot of ways, but my job satisfaction and career growth at the company took a big hit as a result of the new manager’s (completely understandable) inexperience. I really resented the fact that I was expected to just put up with a bunch of new manager “oopsies” for the sake of that person’s professional development without getting opportunities of my own, especially when the company kept claiming I was so valuable and a high performer. If there are clear requests you can make for training/opportunities that will make you feel valued at the company as well, even if they aren’t an immediate promotion, definitely ask for them.

    1. Iris Eyes*

      I feel like this is probably the logic at work behind why OP. They figure OP is less challenging to manage and is a good manager trainee report. On the plus side for OP is that seeing someone else navigate the position up close they can learn what that transition looks like and have a good thought prompt for thought about what worked, what didn’t, how they might do something else. This could be an effective way of training both at the same time.

      OP actionable advice. I think you should ask for monthly or quarterly one on ones with your now grand boss. Losing access to decision makers and policy setters is a real cost to being down the chain. In that meeting hopefully you can discuss your career aspirations, patterns that are setting your new supervisor up for success or failure (but things you have talked to them about first.)

      And you need to do some work on you. Honestly how you reacted to this makes me think you might not be ready to be promoted. Part of managing and leading people is bringing out the best and setting them up to be successful in their function. There is a colleague that I have some supervisory duties of and who I may someday manage but I am fully aware that the likelihood is that one day he may manage me or be higher up the food chain than I am. When we hired him I knew that this was going to be a role he wasn’t in for five years. I fully expect him to move up but I’m pretty content for now with where I am.

  45. MOAS*

    Re #5, we have one large breakroom along with 1 small private room (primarily it’s for nursing mothers but others use it when she’s not here/not using it). I’ve frequently seen throughout hte years that someone who doesn’t want to talk/socialize will sit and eat their lunch with headphones, not engaging. It doesn’t make them look bad or antisocial.

  46. Kathleen_A*

    Re. LW#4 (the one about those “Thanks!” email replies we all get), I just want to reiterate that Alison is exactly right – you definitely do not need to nor should you reply to every “Thanks.” Every now and then I do, but only when it’s important, for whatever reason, for the thanker to know that I saw that “Thanks!” – e.g., if the person is thanking me for something that was really difficult to do. For routine thanks, an inward “You’re welcome” is all that’s necessary.

  47. mark132*

    Lw2, I wonder if you did read this group correctly. Based on your answer it sounded liked the only person you heard this from during the interview process was the last person interviewing you. It’s possible the interviewer is the one trying to do this, only hire people sharing her political beliefs.

  48. boop the first*

    1. I was wondering why management was framing it as a “Non-demotion” to you, instead of a simple promotion to coworker, until I realized that maybe they were giving the coworker more responsibility but no title/pay change and was trying to downplay it. In this version, coworker gets to feel guilty for getting something “nice” while OP gets stuck with the inferred shame. I can’t think of any reason (other than just really bad communication skills) why management would want to open this conversation with obvious grooming language.

    “I have information but YOU’RE NOT GOING TO LIKE it”
    “It’s not REALLY a demotion…”

    You know, if he just said that he’s giving coworker an advancement opportunity, you wouldn’t have considered any of this negative feedback in the first place. It was specifically suggested to you.

    You get to keep your job the way it is with not much change (unless you dislike your coworker), but your coworker has to have more responsibility with MAYBE no benefit. I’m only guessing b/c why else would the focus be placed so heavily on you? Honestly, I’d rather be you in this situation.

  49. Phony Genius*

    On #4, if there were multiple people in the chain, should each one of them contribute a “Thanks” e-mail? Once one person sends one, the others feel compelled. This is fine with 3-4 people, but where I work, a couple of dozen people might be involved, which can create a Thankvalanche™ that clogs your e-mail.

  50. Czhorat*

    OP1 – this actually sounds good to me.

    There’s a path to advancement from your position

    There is transparency as to the plans, and a deliberate transition process

    There is acknowledgement that it could be emotionally difficult for the one “passed over”. THis is addressed directly and unemotionally.

    That’s the way it should be. Do you have ambitions to move to a more supervisory role? If so, does your boss know? In my experience letting your supervisor know what you want your career direction to be is the first and most important step. You might be best off remaining where you are.

  51. your vegan coworker*

    OP #2, I think I might know what your interviewer was trying, clumsily, to do. I coordinate a nonprofit that doesn’t do anything political in the electoral sense but which takes strong progressive positions on certain topics. Imagine a wildlife refuge that also advocates for environmental justice from a feminist perspective. Imagine also that the team at the refuge is more diverse than the surrounding rural region and includes folks from across the LGBTQ+ spectrum. If I’m hiring someone whose job will be to help maintain the refuge itself, not including any of that advocacy work, I still have to know about their attitudes, both to be sure that they won’t feel uncomfortable working for an organization that takes the stances we take and to ensure that they will not say or do anything that make their coworkers uncomfortable. For me, that means being sincerely opposed to racism and supportive of LGBTQ+ struggles, not just superficially “tolerant” while privately considering your own race superior or your own orientation the only normal way to be. If there’s something in someone’s background that suggests they might have grown up with bigoted attitudes, then I need to suss out how they feel now. It can be tricky! (I still remember the guy who applied for an entry level groundskeeper job wearing a faded confederate flag shirt that he had found in a used clothing bin and swore didn’t reflect any viewpoint at all.) I certainly wouldn’t use the word “political” when trying to get at what I need to know, but I understand that many people use that term as shorthand for things like whether or not you endorse white supremacy or believe that LGBTQ+ people deserve basic dignity. If that’s what your interviewer was getting at, then your hope for people to be “open minded” might have sounded a lot like “very fine people on both sides.”

    1. Observer*

      You’re missing the fundamental problem and providing support to all the people who are smelling bigotry.

      No on thinks that the organization shouldn’t look at overall attitudes, because it’s true that this stuff can be really, really important. But what makes you think that the mere fact that the OP is from a conservative area means that they have bigoted ideas and that someone who is from a liberal area doesn’t?

      If there is an issue that’s important to your organization, and you have a GENERAL reason to worry about it, then you need to explore that no matter where the applicant comes from! Because the geographic background of a person tells you nothing about what kind of attitudes they grew up with, much less the ones they hold today!

  52. Not Me*

    #5 Could you ask HR or the office manager if there’s somewhere you can take your break in a quiet office or wellness room? I’d phrase it as “I love being social all day but I could really use a break from noise and talking to re-charge. Is there somewhere quiet I could take my lunch break?” I wouldn’t say anything about co-workers, just about a quiet place.

  53. voyager1*

    LW1: It is time to leave. It is a demotion. He is basically sidelining you.

    There was a great letter on here not too long about a woman who was told that they promoting a guy over her. I believe the letter was titled “I said EEOC and things got weird”

    LW if you are male then the gender aspect may not apply, but the rest of your letter sounds eerily familiar.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      I think that may be a bit of a leap given we don’t know the sexes of the co-workers and how long the other colleague has been with the company or their level of experience compared to the LW.

      It could well be that the colleague has been there 5 years to LW’s 2 years, in which case the “advancement” makes sense and LW is not being sidelined. Also possible company may not have many chances to advance beyond what the colleague has been given.

    2. Iris Eyes*

      In a healthy company there will be far more people capable of leadership positions than there are leadership positions, that’s a good thing. That means that some people will get sidelined. Every team needs subs on the bench, every play needs an understudy or two. Sure, it sucks to be that person sometimes but that doesn’t mean you aren’t important to the team. You being there ensures a greater chance of success when things go wrong. Keep doing your drills, keep learning your lines and yes keep trying out for a starter position, keep working for what you want. But also come to peace with the need for you being ready and waiting.

      Sure if its a pattern, that could be worrisome but if you can’t understand that the business is going to choose business needs over your personal career aspirations then maybe you should start your own business.

    3. Czhorat*


      Maybe the coworker seems like a better fit to move up, for whatever reason.

      Maybe the coworker had asked for this responsibility more directly than the LW.

      Good organizations are not static.

      1. voyager1*

        When a manager has used language like “ you may not like this” I have never come out for the better. Sorry, but that has been my experience.

        1. Kathleen_A*

          But realistically, how many employees are going to be happy that a peer was promoted and they were not? Some would be, sure – I for example have no desire for promotion because I’d far rather manage projects than people – but far from being a red flag, what “You may not like this” sounds like to me as the plain truth. If he thinks the OP won’t like it, what in the world is wrong with saying so?

          We all comment based on our own experience, of course, and if that’s your experience, Voyager1, so be it. I think you’re reading far more into those five little words than is warranted by the information we have here, but that’s me talking about my experience, which clearly differs from yours.

          1. voyager1*

            I have no idea what proportion of people would be upset seeing someone get a promotion. I have worked with folks who have gotten promotions and I was genuinely happy for them and thought they deserved the promotion. I have also been in positions where I was not excited for the person. It is case by case thing for me.

            But saying “you are probably not going to like this” is probably going to put the LW in a negative frame of mind. Why do that?

            1. Kathleen_A*

              Well, sure – he might not want to start that way, at least, unless he knew for a fact that this was going to be considered undesirable news by the OP. No argument there. My only objection to your comment is that you seem to see it as a red flag, and I do not. A person can be a good boss (and someplace can be a good place to work) even if that boss sometimes says things in a slightly awkward way.

  54. High Tower on Capitol Hill*

    LW2: I do advocacy work for a non-profit and, while we are expressly non-partisan, I was still hired for my political beliefs. I have worked for one party and the other lobbyist in the office worked for the other party. For my position, they only interviewed people that worked for the same party as me so that they could cover all of their legislative bases.

  55. MissDisplaced*

    Op#1: “This communication makes me feel as though he is asking me to subordinate my own aspirations to his needs and my colleague’s promotion.”

    I think you are right to feel this way, and it’s understandable if you do. However, it may not be as bad as you think either. But a lot of this will depend on your relationship with your colleague, how well you work together, and your own goals and aspirations going forward. It may end up that your colleague gets these “reporting” functions, while you will be given other duties or growth opportunities you enjoy or suit you better, and in that way your manager has a “dynamic duo” working for them.

    Therefore, Alison is correct in that you should probably not make a knee jerk reaction and start looking for a new job immediately because of this. Your manager is still your manager, even if some of the reporting now goes via your colleague. However, if your relationship with you colleague is not a good or professional one (and you don’t say whether it is) I would say that you remain professional about this, but start looking elsewhere.

  56. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    #2 – As AAM said , while many non-profits are not political in nature, there are still political influences involved in fund-raising, and carrying out your daily duties. You mentioned something about homeless shelters and low-cost housing.

    Here in Massachusetts – those are INDUSTRIES. Non-profits (on paper) to be sure, but they are businesses and they have political interests and agendas. It is not unreasonable for an interviewer to ask where you stand on issues.

    If you oppose public funding for your company’s activities, or the causes they engage in, perhaps that’s not the place for you — on the other hand, if you’re aboard with the cause, say so.

  57. TL -*

    On #2: how are you supposed to respond to a question that heavily, heavily implies, “your family and hometown suck. Do you too?”

    I agree that the interviewer was reasonable to want to know if the OP’s cultural values aligned but that question would make me really cagey about giving a straight answer as well.

  58. Nanani*

    LW4 – I can relate.
    When I first switched to freelancing I’d get spikes of “anxiety” (I have no diagnosis) whenever my phone did the email ding.
    After all, What if it’s a potential client?!
    Having that spike just to see it was a “thanks/you’re welcome” with no work associated was, shall we say, not fun.

    Some years down the road that’s no longer the case quite so much, but I definitely appreciate NOT getting endless politeness loops.

    All that to say your instincts are correct, don’t reply to emails that don’t explicitly need some kind of action from you, including “Just thanks” messages :)

  59. TootsNYC*

    I certainly have a hard time putting a positive spin on it.

    Well of course!

    Because he put a negative spin on it immediately!

    Once, my direct report (Linda) resigned while I was on vacation. In order to keep her, my boss offered her a promotion.

    When I got back, she called me into her office on the 2nd day and prefaced the whole thing by telling me she expected me to be happy about the promotion, and that I wasn’t to feel threatened by it.

    The thing is, I had LOBBIED to promote Linda earlier!! and she had blasted me for emailing her about it on a busy-ish week.

    The fact that my boss said these things to me told me that SHE thought this would be a reasonable response to the promotion.
    It was really upsetting, and then I did think the promotion was a threat to my position. Which indeed turned out to be true because my boss gave her all the important (and fun) parts of my duties).

    It’s like when someone says, “No offense, but…”–it tells you that THEY think it’s offensive, that they think YOU will be offended.

    It’s also just insulting as hell–as though they think they get to tell you how to react.
    And it’s also insulting because it assumes that you will BEHAVE badly instead of keeping your emotional reaction private and behaving professionally.

  60. Database Developer Dude*

    I’m asking this in reference to OP 1, but as a general question because I’ve NEVER worked in a place where politics were appropriate….

    Is this a normal thing in some workplaces? I’m a software and database engineer, and political beliefs have jack and s*** to do with my job. If you’re an end-user, tell me what the problem is, and I’ll fix it. If you’re a peer, work with me without being a dick, and we’re good.

    What makes political belief filtering appropriate as a ‘culture fit’??

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      If an organization is working on social or political issues and wants to ensure a commitment to their mission.

      If an organization is deeply committed to value X (let’s say racial equity here) and wants to ensure they’re hiring people who are in sync with that — which sometimes means not just “comfortable with it” but “able to push the organization forward.” For example, I work with an organization that’s deeply committed to racial equity, and it infuses nearly everything they do. They want to hire people who will be able to contribute meaningfully to conversations about how equity issues are playing out internally and be comfortable spotting and talking about potential issues of bias/identity/privilege. You can’t do that without explicit conversations in the hiring process.

      1. Database Developer Dude*

        Good to know….but that’s also if the work directly involves the issues.

        What about traditionally non-political types of positions though? If a place is big enough to need internal IT folks, why should it care what the politics of the sysadmin or the dba are? We just want to do our jobs and go home.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          No, in some orgs that’s across the board, regardless of position. In the org I gave as an example, it’s a small organization (40ish people) and everyone there is going to be part of those conversations because it will intersect with your work in some way (hiring, internal decision making, etc.).

          1. Database Developer Dude*

            I’m a software and database engineer. How could politics intersect with my work? What I’m doing right now is standing up a database availability group cluster for all non-SharePoint databases in my current workplace.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              The examples I gave above — you’re going to have a voice in hiring and they want to know that you’ve done work on implicit biases and are comfortable talking openly about how bias plays out in hiring. You’re going to have a role in internal decision making and they want to know that you’ve given thought to how issues of power and privilege and identity can play out there because it’s going to come up. Etc. etc.

            2. Jennifer*

              That’s an interesting question and I’d like to know what Alison thinks. My guesses would be that you still need to interact with people who are different from you to get your job done, and they need to know that you’re okay with that. IT people are just as capable of being bigots as anyone else (not saying you’re one) and they don’t want to find out that you are aligned with an organization that is directly opposed to their views. If it’s an animal rights group, like PETA, they don’t want to find out that you have a second job at a puppy mill, even if you’re just the IT guy.

              That’s horrible publicity for one thing, if that were to come out.

              1. Database Developer Dude*

                I was about to comment that it would be hard for me to be a bigot, because I’m black, but some of us can be more racist than any white person could dream of.

                Big difference though between that and politics. Getting along with everyone is part and parcel of being a professional working adult. That’s why taking a job where politics is verboten to talk about at work is a GOOD thing.

                1. Jennifer*

                  Yes, it sounds like at your company it wouldn’t matter much. Mine either. If I ran a non-profit because I was passionate about a certain issue, it would matter to me if someone I was considering hiring didn’t support the mission or was directly opposed to it, whether they were in IT, maintenance, or accounting. You never know who they are going to meet or have to interact with.

                  I’m black too :)

            3. NerdyKris*

              Well, for starters, they don’t want something you do outside of work to look bad for them. If a non profit is focusing on homeless shelters, and you’re out campaigning for a candidate who wants to shut them down, that’s going to look bad for the non profit. People are going to question its motives. If they deal with undocumented immigrants and you’re openly an ICE supporter, the people they’re reaching out to are going to be concerned that you might turn all their names over to ICE. It would hinder their ability to reach out.

            4. TootsNYC*

              they may also want to feel confident that they’re not going to end up arguing with you about the issues, or that you won’t make derisive comments if you end up near a conversation about the issues.

            5. Close Bracket*

              At such an organization, they want to foster an internal environment of racial equality, not just advocate for it in the outside world. They want to hire people who are committed to understanding how power, privilege, and identity affect how they interact with their coworkers bc those interactions affect the service they provide to others. As someone in a support role, it affects how you provide support and how that support is received.

              The Tenement Museum isn’t just “fostering a society that embraces and values the role of immigration,” it is fostering a workplace that embraces and values the role of immigration. Again with the workplace interactions, most people in the US are descended from immigrants, and some people are descended from people who were brought here against their will (by the Atlantic slave trade, the coolie trade, other things). Understanding this about your workers and actively thinking about what your beliefs on the subject are and how they affect you impacts your workplace interactions, how you receive other people’s inputs, how people receive your inputs, etc.

              It’s not morally wrong to consider these things at all if you want to foster a workplace that values all people and everything that makes them who they are.

            6. Judy (since 2010)*

              Everyone has a line somewhere. Everything is a continuum. I’ve worked in the defense industry, but the company I worked for made items for intelligence gathering. I wouldn’t work for a weapons manufacturer. Plenty of other people do work for weapons manufacturers. Plenty of other people wouldn’t work for the company I did work for, it’s too close to the weapons, because the intelligence gathering is what causes the weapons to be used.

            7. Colette*

              Designing a database and software interface can definitely be affected by politics, from the information you choose to store, the way you store the information, and the way you word forms that interact with the database. For example, what options do you put in the “Sex” field of a personal record? What options do you have for titles (Ms,, Miss, Mrs., etc.)

              1. Database Developer Dude*

                What options do we put in the Sex field? Whatever’s legal at the time. What options for titles? I’d leave that as a text box to fill in rather than limit it to a few choices.

                1. Colette*

                  Those are reasonable choices – but other people would make different ones, and politics would be one of the things that would influence that.

            8. Gazebo Slayer*

              Mookie’s point above about how there’s a long history of spying and sabotage aimed at advocacy organizations would be relevant here, I think. An IT person who was fundamentally opposed to an organization’s mission could be in a position to do a lot of damage.

        2. MuseumChick*

          Alison is correct (as always!). I used the example of the Tenement Museum in NY above. This museum does a lot of education work regarding immigration. Their mission is to, “foster a society that embraces and values the role of immigration in the evolving American identity through guided tours; curriculum and programs for secondary and post-secondary educators; stories, primary sources and media shared on our website; and interactive online experiences such as Your Story, Our Story, podcasts and more.

          This permeates every single position at the organization. If you work in department X, Y, or Z you will be asked my donor/members/visitors/general public about things related to immigration. Even when you don’t typical work with the public it will happen in the rare circumstance that you do interact with them.

    2. MissDisplaced*

      Is it a normal thing in workplaces? No. But given the highly partisan nature of politics lately, it is becoming more so.

      Of course, the mission of certain nonprofits generally makes it easier to discern where they fall on the political spectrum.

      However, there are many private sector companies that lean extremely liberal or conservative or faith-based and it’s not initially obvious. Example: There are a great many companies owned by a certain two brothers… that have made working at their companies political and, I believe attempt the unspoken rule is to hire people who will adhere to certain beliefs and be willing to support their political agenda and party or risk being pushed out. [I heard this from a friend whose company was bought by the two brothers.]

      It may not be obvious initially who owns companies before you interview at them and/or you may not know the owner’s personal affiliations until you really dig or are told explicitly ‘that’s how it is here. I think it kind of sucks it’s to this point in America, but on the other hand I would really want to know this before taking a job!

      1. Database Developer Dude*

        If the job has nothing to do with politics, then it’s morally wrong to use it as a filter.

        1. TootsNYC*

          unless the owners believe that other opinions are morally wrong…

          (look, I agree with you, but I also know that other people have different moral values, and for some people discriminating IS a moral thing to do)

  61. drpuma*

    OP3, suggestions for other resume items that can suggest reliability but aren’t attendance-based:
    Being responsible for assembling/distributing X weekly/monthly/recurring reporting
    Guaranteeing a response time of Z to all inquiries
    Decreasing open investigation time from A weeks/months to Z days/weeks
    Increasing on-time/early project completion rates from A% to Z%
    Decreasing accounts payable/receivable lifecycle from A weeks/months to Z days/weeks
    Basically, anything that shows you can be counted on to stay on top of your (and sometimes other peoples’) sh!t :)

    1. TootsNYC*

      I hate when examples use numbers and metrics. I’ve never worked at a job where metrics were easy to compile.

    2. Wem*

      OP3 here, those are good! I have been struggling to find work since a RIF from Verizon in 2016, and only been able to find a few temp jobs. I was there for 22 years, and I’m just at a loss as to why it’s so difficult to find a job.

  62. Jennifer*

    #2 I think AAM is spot on here. They want someone that aligns with their values. Maybe it’s not completely fair to assume someone’s beliefs based on where they are from, but I think the question itself was fair.

  63. Paperdill*

    Op5: When my team first moved to a new building, at our welcome afternoon tea, the manager for another team got up and said to everyone (who worked in the entire building) “You’ll notice I don’t talk during my lunch breaks – they don’t pay me for my breaks so that’s my time”.
    Now, although, on the surface, this guy came across as a cranky, unfriendly, fuddy duddy, he actually robbed himself to be a very worth manager and a valuable colleague to have. But he wasn’t at work to make friends. So for the next 10 years (when he retired) everyone saw him in the corner of the lunch room, reading his book, we would cordially nod and get on with lunch. If anyone did try to talk to him, he made the same speech.
    Now, I realise this guy was gutsy and didn’t seem very nice on the surface, but the situation worked. We knew he was good to work with and that’s all he needed to be.
    I guess my point is that if you want your own time at lunch, give the physical cues, tell people what you want, and show yourself outside of lunch to be the valuable and lovely co-worker you are.

    1. Paperdill*

      *robbed himself=proved himself
      (Clearly 1am is the wrong time for writing comments)

      1. TootsNYC*

        Thank you, AutoComplete!

        I’m always tapping one letter too late, and the word I wanted has moved from the center window.

    2. TootsNYC*

      I agree, I think there’s some power in telling people, “I really want to detach from people–I’m all peopled out from the reception desk. It’s nothing personal, it’s just that I NEED some time with no contact at all.” And then follow through in the break room.

      Also maybe recruit a person or two to be your advocate in this way.

      1. Paperdill*

        Yes to the recruiting others!
        Now I remember, too, my colleagues would do exactly that for new staff with regards to my colleague who didn’t want to socialize.

    3. Close Bracket*

      I wonder if a woman could make that same speech and be given enough benefit of doubt to prove herself as this guy did. Women are penalized much more heavily for being crusty than men are.

      1. Paperdill*

        That’s actually a really interesting point.
        In my particular situation, most of my workplace are nurses and 90’s female, so the dynamics are not typical of many corporate workplaces (and the colleague in question was a very flamboyant gay man, so I am sure there were a couple of people in my workplace who just decided he was a “cranky gay guy” stereotype, but we can’t avoid everyone from ever thinking anything negative about us.). But, I think, the primary thing is that, during work hours, showing oneself to be approachable, friendly and valuable says a lot).

  64. Squirrely*

    OP #2, it sounds like this interviewer is still working out their interviewer kinks. I work at a educational non-profit/charter schools that has a racial equity statement, and we ask a racial equity/anti-racism question in every interview– student facing, ops, finance, volunteers, everybody! That question can look like “”Why do you think that students from [our neighborhood] historically have not met college readiness benchmarks prior to matriculating?” to “Why do you think it is important for all teachers and staff to keep in mind the effects of racism in their daily work?” to “What is one way you think racism affects the lives of our students?”

    These are definitely all more pointed than the vague “very political” question you were asked, but an interviewee who talked about being able to be open-minded and work with everybody would definitely not advance, regardless of other skills, because of our org culture and values. When my coworkers and I interview, we try to signal and give as many tries to the interviewee as possible, especially because we know that some folks may not be comfortable or know that it is “okay” to talk about race, but if after multiple tries, there’s still not really anything but a non-committal answer, it could (and has) sunk an applicant.

    1. Observer*

      Your questions are a lot more pointed and a lot more useful. They make more sense, are directly relevant to your mission and any prospective employee should be able to understand what you are after. And they do not depend on stereotypes.

      Given that, I would expect a much more specific answer. It’s a very different situation.

  65. Dasein9*

    #2: If the nonprofit works with the LGBTQ+ community, especially LGBTQ+ youth, then personal experience of political differences with family members might be relevant to the job. These communities have a high incidence of family estrangement and rejection and it can be very helpful for young people rejected by their families to work with adults who have been through the difficulties they’re currently facing. (Heck, it can be helpful for adults who are still processing their own escapes to be among people with similar experience.)

  66. Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk ox*

    OP #5 — is it possible for you to take your lunch slightly earlier or later than the usual lunch time? I know I would do that at my last job at times. (I’d also eat in my car in a pinch, but we had a giant parking garage. I might have felt awkward about it if I was next to my building or something.)

  67. InfoSec SemiPro*

    OP #5 – Is there someone with an office you can borrow? This might be a long shot, but sympathetic to introvert needs me would be happy to give someone who needed a precious 30 minutes of listening to the HVAC system and Nothing Else so they could stay sharp for something as full on as being the front face the rest of the day. Or a conference room/breakout room… closet… something with a door and quiet.

    People who do heads down focus work can need the lunch break to actually socialize. People who do a lot of social/emotional work can need the break to be pretty inward facing. Maybe there is someone with a door who can understand and help you out?

  68. literal desk fan*

    As for #5, a friend of mine was a receptionist and had the same issues. Unfortunately, headphones didn’t work, because her coworkers are so rude that they’d talk to her anyway. :( She’d even try to read, and they would still interrupt her. Hopefully yours are more considerate!

  69. Ella Vader*

    LW2, I wonder if you and the interviewers had different interpretations of the word “politics”, so that because of the way you answered, they might be drawing some (?erroneous?) inferences about your potential commitment to the work.

    When they asked about your political beliefs, it sounded like you answered about the electoral part, voting, party membership, etc. And they probably weren’t asking about that – they were asking about your response to issues and commitment to activism about those issues. An answer like “I’m appalled by the evidence of rising numbers of children in poverty in this city. Although I haven’t been involved in conventional politics, I know that the choices made by state/provincial government are important factors in why families can’t get ahead.” or “I’m horrified by what’s been happening in Homestate, and I’m living here partly because it’s important to me to live in a region where diversity is supported.” “I’ve always been able to avoid talk about politics in my workplaces, but I love working with other people who are passionate about the environment and about reversing climate change.” “Yeah, it was really awkward doing my graduate work on abortion rights in a region/family where that was a conversation stopper. I’m looking forward to working with like-minded people here.”

    As for whether the political discussion was completely irrelevant to the work you’d be doing … maybe not, by the definition of politics that I think they were using. I am betting that their definition is a lot closer to “cultural fit”, and they were looking for you to demonstrate that proactively.

    1. Working Mom Having It All*

      Yeah, it seems pretty clear that this question was meant to get OP to open up more about their commitment to this type of advocacy work, with an implicit understanding that there is a political element to it, whether or not it is a red meat red vs blue issue per se, or whether this organization lobbies Congress regularly or the like.

      Honestly it feels to me like an entry level applicant applying to A Job, Any Job, and not really doing their research on the organizations they are interviewing with. Or maybe not having enough of a background in this type of work to understand why this would be an interview question.

      As the interviewer, their answer would tell me that they either aren’t that interested in this particular organization and what we do, or that they don’t have a solid enough background in exactly how this issue is a political one even if it isn’t Capital P Political.

  70. MariC*

    OP 5 This is a sort of out of the box solution, but do any of the nice people trying to include you in their conversations have an office and or quiet desk area? If you are friendly with them, it might not hurt to say “Hey Jane, I’ve noticed you always eat lunch in the break room. I really wish I could have some quiet time at lunch, since I’m at the front all day. Would you mind if I sat at your desk during lunch? No pressure if you don’t want someone else sitting there, but I thought I would ask.”

  71. Chinookwind*

    OP #5, I have been the receptionist and commuted to work, so there was no car to hide in. In summer, it was okay to go out and walk but it meant eating on my feet because I couldn’t have food or drink at the front desk.

    What I ended up doing, either in the winter or when I wanted to sit down and eat, was either booking an empty meeting room or finding a quiet corner in the building (which was doable when we had empty desks – turned out that there were conversation corners in some floors). The emergency exit stairs were also a good spot (once I verified that they didn’t lock behind me).

    If none of these are obvious, it might be worth bringing this question up to the Office Manager. She may know of a quiet space you can access and be sympathetic about you using it (especially if it is a busy reception area and you frame it as needing time to keep from getting a head ache or overwhelmed by all the noise). I know there were times, during the busy tax season, where I had to physically leave the office just to stop hearing the constant ringing and noise (it was enough to make a sane person snap).

    1. Princess prissypants*

      there are almost certainly available spaces somewhere. a lobby, waiting room, empty office, stairwell, something. even if it’s not a place suitable for eating, could OP eat in the breakroom and then skedaddle somewhere more private?

      1. Observer*

        Actually, there are plenty of places where there actually isn’t a space. Also, the OP only gets a half hour. They would have to gobble their food in order to have enough time to actually catch a break if they had to go somewhere that’s not appropriate to eat.

    2. Interviewer*

      I found one coworker routinely eating/reading in the stairwell on her lunchbreak – she said it was warmer in the stairwell than her over-air-conditioned office. Our downtown office building has a large outdoor patio, and a few coworkers will occasionally eat out there by themselves. Some take a walk around the block or across one of the bridges to get some alone time or quick exercise.

      In our breakroom, there is no pressure to eat with people. We have plenty of tables and people who routinely sit by themselves with a book are left alone. If someone does want to join you, shake your head and tell them you are leaving shortly and you really want to finish this chapter. I think if you keep doing it every single day, gradually people won’t bother you about it anymore.

      Hope that helps.

  72. Cafe au Lait*

    Hey OP #5,

    You CAN talk to HR about the breakroom. Don’t frame it as “My coworkers are too talkative.” Instead tell them “As the receptionist I’m “on” all the time. I’d love a place to sit down and mentally escape for a while. Would it be possible to install a picnic table outside? Or open a conference room for lunches as long as no meetings are scheduled?”

    If needed you can always throw in the phrase “to serve a diverse range of needs.” Diversity is a huge buzzword right now; my workplace uses it whenever we discuss mental health, or personality needs, or work approaches.

    1. Chinookwind*

      It can even be as much as “Unlike every other role in the company, I am required to be “on” all the time and do not have an opportunity for quiet or respite. In order to be successful at this job, I need a space where I can have limited interaction with other. Can you recommend any space within the building?”

    2. Observer*

      This sounds like an excellent approach. It’s not complaining about other people’s behavior, while still asking for what they need.

  73. LW4*

    Alison, thank you for answering my letter! If it wasn’t apparent, I tend to overthink things like this, so I truly appreciated such a concise answer. Thinking of it as “closing the loop” is so helpful and I will be reframing those emails in this way from now on. I’m just happy to know I’ve been going about it correctly.

  74. LiptonTeaForMe*

    OP5 I have the same issue although I work in a call center chained to a desk, like you. Because I “have” to talk all day, I don’t want to hear noise, other voices, music, etc. It is like I am on sensory overload (stressed) and without a break, I find myself antsy like I took on the energy of a heavy metal band. Like you I need the downtime. My issue is that I was told I can no longer eat at my desk, so the only other option is either outside or another break room on another floor. From all that I have read on your dilemma, it sounds like you will literally have to either suck it up or stand up and announce that you need 30 minutes of uninterrupted downtime. Good Luck

  75. librarianliz*

    OP #5, is eating in your car an option? I’m in a similar situation as a librarian — I work a public service desk most of the day, and just want a chance to decompress on my breaks. At my last job, those of us who felt the need for quiet on our breaks ate in our cars in the parking lot. That’s not always an option when it’s cold/rainy, but headphones are also a good way to signal you don’t want to chat on your breaks.

  76. FinancialAnalyst*

    OP2 – this same thing happened to me six months ago, except I was hired under one manager then told later the plan all along was to have me answer to my peer (who has one year more experience than me). I definitely felt a little blindsided and I think you’re justified in feeling that way, too. Answering to a more junior person or a first-time manager has the potential to negatively impact your career, regardless of what the reason is for the re-org. First-time managers are not experienced in vouching for their employees and can often struggle with balancing their own aspirations at the organization with their employees’ advancement. This directly affects your ability to get visibility with higher-ups and that will be immediate. More junior managers also have less sway in granting bonuses and promotions, so you will be left with few options if review time comes and you feel like you deserve more. It also puts you in a position where you have to “teach” the newbie manager on how to manage and its tough. Maybe very good companies can avoid these pitfalls, but some of them seem inevitable to me. I disagree with Alison here and think you’re justified in feeling slighted and if you want to look for a new job over this you should.

  77. Oliver*

    OP #2 I will say that the “do you have the same political beliefs as your family” question really rubs me the wrong way. It’s definitely unfair to people from red states; all states have pockets of people with different political bents. (I’m from a county in NY state that always votes red – and there are tons of conservatives in NYC too.)

    Plus, it assumes a relationship with your family that not everyone has. I have a complicated relationship with my family, partially about politics, and I’d prefer a job interview not to mirror my therapy sessions. Plenty of people have abuse or tragedy in their family history, and the implication that they and their family members are a cohesive unit with shared opinions has real potential to strike a nerve.

    That said, I agree with Alison’s advice. If the org does any advocacy around economics/class, those are extremely political! Honestly, the phrasing of your answer: “I don’t care as long as they’re open-minded and think deeply about their positions” sets my hackles off. In a regular for-profit it’s fine, but if you’re involved in advocacy work at all you have to care about people’s opinions, one or the other.

    1. Creag an Tuire*

      I agree (speaking as a bleeding-heart liberal from the heart of Florabamassippi), with the caveat that the question was so specific that I wonder if the interview was hinting about something specific she found troubling: e.g. “We found your Aunt Gladys’s posts about Deporting All Of The Gays To Mexico and we need to be sure you don’t agree with them.”

      I’m just saying OP#2 might want to have a friend check his social media for him.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        Is it likely to do a social media search before an interview? I’d think before an offer is made, possibly.

      2. Observer*

        That’s a different problem, though. It’s basically expecting someone to read your mind.

  78. WKRP*

    OP 1 – I know it’s late in the day, but thought it might help to hear from someone who went through the same thing and actually mine was just a hare more awkward, as I was the most senior person in the department and considered by many to be my boss’s number 2. Anyway, my peer was promoted. I was told my performance was good, that my boss didn’t want me to leave, that I was valuable member of the department. I had my doubts, but I also wasn’t overly bitter about it, more surprised and somewhat embarrassed. After the initial shock wore off, I was fine with it. I got along reasonably well with my new boss (though I had my moments of irritation). In the end, the reorganization didn’t work as well as the Director had hoped. My new boss was transferred and I was promoted. To be quite honest, now that I have the position, I can totally see why my boss promoted my colleague over me and what she was trying to accomplish and it wasn’t because I wasn’t up to the challenge, but because my colleague had a skill set that works well in this position (but unfortunately, some other needs weren’t met). So, it is absolutely possible that your contributions are valued and needed and will continue to be so.

    (To be honest, I sometimes miss my Individual Contributor days).

  79. Rust1783*

    To #2, I recently started a new job at a large and multi-faceted nonprofit organization where easily half of our work is inextricably tied to politics, politicians, political processes, and so on – education funding, homeless services, environmental concerns. We are explicitly barred from engaging in politics, but if I was the sort of person who doesn’t believe collective action is necessary to address these problems, I would be distinctly out of place at my organization. And on the political spectrum, “is collective action necessary to address this problem” is one of the general topics you can use to divide people into categories. It’s not a question of liberal vs conservative per se; in fact, it so happens that our organization is led by someone who used to hold elected office as a republican.

    This is a very difficult thing to suss out in a job interview and it’s truly not about identifying who’s a republican and who’s a democrat. You kind of hope that the sorting happens prior to someone submitting a job application but you can’t assume. Perhaps in your interview, you didn’t signal this in the way that other applicants might. Maybe the person interviewing you was less than savvy about it. Regardless, I think I understand where it comes from.

    1. Rainy*

      I read a lot of the comments asserting that “your personal politics/feelings/beliefs don’t matter as long as you are able to do the job” and couldn’t help translating that to my sector (higher ed), where if, for example, you’re the Title IX office, you probably don’t want to hire someone who in their heart believes that education for women is pointless because they just get married, or if you’re a program working to increase educational access for first-in-family students, you probably don’t want to hire someone who believes that there are groups who don’t deserve to go to college, etc. Would a person who believes these things be *capable* of doing the job? Absolutely. Are they *suitable*? Absolutely not.

      Ideally of course they’d self-select out, but in practice I think they often don’t, possibly because internal, unexamined assumptions can tend to make some people think that a job with political implications that they disagree with is a sinecure–that no one reasonable could possibly believe in this stuff, so the office is basically a big fake stuffed with people who pull down salary to do nothing.

      1. Rust1783*

        Your last sentence hits on something I think about constantly. It’s very hard to explore the depths of these topics because there can be so much bad faith – i.e. I can’t possibly believe the things I’m saying, so this must all be a put-on.

        1. Rainy*

          Yeah. I know I think about it because of my field (and my prior academic discipline was a humanities one, so I’ve been hearing similar opinions for almost 2 decades now), and there really is a lot of bad faith. Even within the university, there are a lot of people who give lip service to all of the stuff that falls under the umbrella of student affairs/student support, but when it comes down to it, just don’t believe that anyone actually believes in X or Y or Z.

      2. Observer*

        Sure. You certainly don’t want to hire someone who is essentially opposed to your mission.

        I suspect that a lot of the people who are saying “your personal politics/feelings/beliefs don’t matter as long as you are able to do the job” are reacting the ridiculousness of the interviewer’s questions, though.

        In your example, you definitely don’t want to hire someone who thinks the things you’ve outlined. But it’s none of your business what the applicant’s family thinks, or how well they get along with the family etc. Nor would it matter what that person’s views on unrelated matters are.

        That’s in addition to the fact, as many have pointed out, that the way the question was framed indicates that it’s based on some really unsupportable assumptions which would mean that any answer the OP would have given would not really provide solid information.

        1. Rainy*

          Sure. Do I think the interviewer did a good job of this based on what the LW is reporting of their interaction? No. Do I think it’s the case that these questions never belong in an interview? Also no. But I think some of how this played out is due to the LW flailing around for a minimally informative response to an apparently poorly phrased question.

    2. New Jack Karyn*

      I agree that in the case of a nonprofit whose mission is at least partly political, it makes a lot of sense to get a feel for a candidate’s position on the issue at hand (and interrelated issues), as well as their overall approach to finding solutions, and their values.

      I will say that the interviewer’s technique was pretty terrible, and didn’t get at whatever she was trying to get at. Either it reflects a regional bias on her part, or there’s something else going on that she needed to make explicit.

  80. theletter*

    Op1 – I’m in that “prove you can handle the responsibility before we give you the responsibility” phase, and I can say managing has its own set of special challenges. I worry about other people’s work. I worry about what will happen when I go on vacation. I worry about what will happen when new people start. I worry about what will happen when I turn my back. I get to sit in meetings where people try to tear others apart. Also meetings where people try to tear me apart. I have to delegate interesting projects to people with less experience. I have to take on very tedious tasks that don’t seem to provide much overall value. I have to listen to other people rant. I have to defend people. I have to explain basic things over and over again. Basic things that should be easy for me to understand go over my head because the bathtub of the mind is almost full here. I have to think about using our tools strategically, in ways we never have before. I have to ask people awkward things. I have to answer for the entire team.

    And somehow I like it? and people say I’m good at it? If nothing else, I know there’s meetings my peers have told me they hate, but I revel in them. Give me a chance to pound my fist, I say! Give me a chance to make those difficult changes.

    If this sounds like you, and not your peer, then your manager has erred.

  81. Janus*

    A former job tried to have me report to a peer because my old boss was overextended. I was fine with it in principle but skeptical about how they would roll it out. We met once and Peer made it abundantly clear that she had been given none of the support and authority to actually make it a good use of either of our time. I approached old boss with the tactic of “Peer will be a great supervisor if you coach her in X, Y, and Z, and brief her on Project A and B!” A couple months later, both me and Old Boss were gone.

  82. Hamburke*

    Peer Supervisor – I know I tend to view things thru rosy colored glasses, but I’d take it as a bit of a compliment. Boss feels that my work doesn’t need his direct supervision and I’m easy enough to manage for a freshly minted manager. Yes, it does sting to not be viewed as ready for a promotion but is that on your career path? have you discussed with your boss how you want your career to progress/where you see yourself in 5 years? Is management even something that you want to do? I know plenty of people who would prefer a job that doesn’t involve directly managing people, myself included.

  83. SomeOldGuy*

    On #2 – I spent my whole career in workplaces that, by the nature of the industry, were dominated by people with politics opposite to my own. Once they found out that mine were different, I was bombarded with negative comments, ridicule, and even anger. It made things so unbearable that I contacted HR and EEO people, and was told something that amazed me: Political beliefs, they said, were NOT “protected” things under the law. Race, religion, etc were, but political beliefs were not. And so they implicitly allowed the harassment to continue. I finally put a lid on it (on the overt manifestations at least) with three magic words that I highly recommend to anyone who finds themselves in a similar predicament: Hostile Workplace Environment. I said those three words to my manager, and the results were very satisfying. Well, up to a point; my annual performance assessments from my managers, which had always been well above average, became well below average. As a result, my raises plummeted. Only after these particular managers had retired or been reassigned did that aspect of things return to what they had been. Unprovable retaliation is still retaliation. No solution is perfect, but maybe (as in my case) the easing-up of daily harassment might be worth it in the long run.

  84. Letter Writer #2*

    I know I’m a few days late, but I finally read all of these. Thanks everyone for the commentary; it’s helped me see this situation from a lot of different angles. There are, though, a few things I want to clear up:

    1. I am not related to David Duke/any other well-known bigots, and while I have conservative family members they don’t use social media. Nor did I go to a school that is well-known for providing a biased education; it was the University of [my home state]. As far as I’m aware, there’s nothing in my social media presence that would raise significant red flags (although someone suggested it might be a good idea to get a friend to check for me and I think I will).

    2. I can see now that the examples I gave in the letter were poor ones, because obviously education and affordable housing do have racial/socioeconomic components, and there are obviously right and wrong answers to questions of equality and social justice. I do NOT believe there are “very fine people on both sides”.
    Just to be unambiguous: the nonprofit deals with digital education and occasionally advocates for an open internet. When I say it’s non-partisan, I mean that their political advocacy has involved protesting against both Obama-era FCC policies and the Trump administration’s repeal of net neutrality. They do not otherwise get involved in political work as far as I am aware.

    3. I did research the organization thoroughly, and am 100% behind their specific mission. I was asked about my commitment to their mission (both digital education and open internet advocacy) earlier on in the interview process, multiple times, and each time reaffirmed my support. While I have no previous work experience in this field, I am extremely passionate about the subject and was well-informed enough to discuss their advocacy in-depth.

    4. In hindsight, I do realize that my response to the last question made me sound like a 14-year-old libertarian, and am slightly mortified by that. While I do get annoyed at dogmatic beliefs on both sides of the aisle, I now realize that the “think deeply” comment was a poor choice and may have come across as aggressive or condescending. That’s definitely not me and not the image I wanted to project.
    I also probably shouldn’t have been so vague about my own beliefs. I definitely HAVE strong opinions, but (as a few people have guessed) I learned years ago that political discussions are usually best avoided unless I know the other person well. That reflex kicked in during this conversation and I probably should have suppressed it.
    Lastly, I shouldn’t have brought political parties into the conversation at all. I *felt* like the interviewer was fishing for information about my party affiliation and so I gave it to her, but I may have completely misread the situation. Several commenters have pointed out that her question could also be construed to refer to political beliefs alone. I should have focused my response on my beliefs about the nonprofit’s work, and not on how I’m a registered independent.

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